I haven't been to Mexico in a while, what's it like?
Tijuana specifically and Baja Norte generally aren't what they used to be. Starting in 2011 or so there's been a surge in economic development. Roughly 45% of Tijuana residents are middle income, earning $15,000-$45,000 USD per year.
At the moment, there's a growing food culture throughout Baja. Tourists from the U.S. and Mexico are coming to the area to enjoy innovative restaurants, take beer and wine tours, and explore food truck parks.
That doesn't mean there aren't problems. With 1.7 million residents TJ is a major city with real struggles. While there is a growing middle class poverty remains as a persistent struggle for some.
Generally speaking, Tijuana and Baja are safe for visitors. Violence against foreigners is rare. Most of our trips will be in Ensenada, which is a large city but not nearly as big and busy as Tijuana. When we met with an Ensenada pastor we asked him to describe his city. He said, "It's chill." As we moved around Ensenada and Tijuana we noted how safe the areas were. Local residents took general precautions like locking things up to prevent theft but there was not a heightened sense of security precautions taken or even a significant police presence. Baja is a late night culture and families stayed out in public well after dark without concern. (Much later than our mission teams will stay out!) Families casually strolled or visited restaurants until at least 11:00 PM on weekends, enjoying street performers, street food, and relaxing in public places.
Since our trips are partnering with and under the authority of the local church, our staff and local pastors are aware of any issues that might impact your safety. This is one of the great advantages our trips have, you aren't acting alone, you're traveling and staying with locals who know how to avoid danger whenever possible.
Teams will stay in secure buildings, if needed we'll hire security at night, we will take practical steps to keep teams aware from dangerous areas. Please know we are aware that safety is a concern for trip leaders so we'll take every precaution reasonable.
Organizationally, we get twice daily information from the U.S State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council. If there's a problem in Baja we'll know about it.
Getting Around in Mexico
It's our preference that you allow us to take care of transportation in Mexico. Your team will walk across the border and meet your trip leaders just on the other side. It's super easy!
Your trip leaders can meet you on the U.S. side and walk you through the border and directly to our transportation. Really, really easy and safe.
There are a few reasons we prefer to provide transportation in Mexico:
- We will provide local transportation for your team. (Vans, busses, etc)
- Whenever possible we want to hire local workers. Hiring local transportation companies is a great way to practically invest in the local economy.
- Local transportation is safer than you driving personal vehicles.
- We want you to focus your energy, as a leader, on your ministry. Driving in Mexico is similar to the United States but navigating brings unnecessary stress on your trip.
- Driving your vehicle into Mexico comes with additional costs for insurance. (Most rental companies don't allow vehicles rented in the United States to go into Mexico)
- Crossing the border at the end of your trip in a personal vehicle takes a long time, frequently 4 hours or more.
Note: If your team must drive their own vehicles, we'll be happy to work with you. While we prefer to provide transportation we understand some teams will drive.
Crossing the border
We'll provide more details as your trip gets near. In short, if your team is using our transportation you will either park your vehicles on the U.S. side of the border or you'll be dropped off at the pedestrian walkway near the border if we are picking you up at the San Diego Airport.
Next, your trip leader will meet you on the U.S. side and together, teams will walk across a footbridge into Mexico.
When leaving, the process will reverse. Your team will be dropped off at the immigration line to enter the United States. If needed, we'll provide transportation on the U.S. side back to the airport.
Why do we do it this way? Simple! We don't want you to waste an entire day in line crossing the border. Walking across is much, much more efficient than driving.
Do we need passports?
Yes, passports or passport cards are a really good idea. We'd encourage you to read up on the requirements directly from U.S. Customs and Border Control as the requirements change. We'll walk you through this during our pre-trip consultations.
Do I need to exchange money?
No, both the U.S. dollar and Mexican Peso are common throughout Baja. We find it's easier just to bring dollars.
Where will we stay?
Whenever possible you'll stay at (or very near) your the church you'll be partnering with. Your team will bring air mattresses and sleeping bags and you'll sleep on the floor. (Separate quarters, of course.) Once your team is officially partnered with a local church we'll provide more information about your specific sleeping arrangements, pictures, etc.
Teams that wish to stay at a local hotel can do so for an additional fee.
Food will be prepared for your team right at the church. We'll employ local cooks and you'll be very happy about the food. During the consulting for your trip we'll work with you to meet any dietary requirements your participants may have.