Difference between revisions of "Juarez"
Revision as of 01:38, 20 July 2010
A passport is required to enter the United States from Juárez. Juárez is part of Mexico's zona frontera, and no visa or passport is required to enter from the United States. Pedestrians are rarely stopped or asked for identification. Vehicles may be stopped at random - usually indicated by a red light at the border crossing. Your vehicle may be searched if stopped, and the most serious matter is if you carry a firearm or ammunition without a permit to do so, even one spent shell casing may result in serious charges. Highways exiting Juárez have checkpoints that do require foreigners to present a visa. If you do not have one, you may fill out a tourist card at the checkpoint.
Near the Stanton Street bridge in downtown El Paso, most visitors that come for a single day choose to park on the US side of the border and walk across the bridges as to avoid dealing with traffic, lack of parking in the city center, and long waits for vehicles reentering the United States. Parking is generally $3.00 U.S. near the bridges.
Abraham González Airport (IATA: CJS, ICAO: MMCS) offers flights to several destinations in Mexico, including Chihuahua, Monterrey, and Mexico City. El Paso International Airport (IATA: ELP) is the most convenient airport for U.S. travelers .
Juarez is a large Mexican city located in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. While you are undoubtedly in Mexico, you are nowhere near the tropical Mexico with beautiful beaches and Aztec and Mayan culture many people expect. Juarez is home to the Mexican Vaquero (Cowboy) culture and you will be more likely to encounter people resembling cowboys than any other vision of a Mexican one might have. However, Juarez is rich in the northern culture of Mexico, and most travelers will find this more charming and realistic than the culture they experience at many other locales that are not off the beaten path in Mexico.
There is a public bus system in Juarez; however, it is not very easy to use and is often overlooked by tourists. In general, buses have their final destination on a board in the front window. They make frequent stops, and often run in close succession to one another; if you miss a bus, another of the same route is likely to appear in a matter of minutes. Many routes continue to run overnight - exercise extreme caution on buses at night, and buses that go into poorly policed barrios of the city (especially to the west and south). In recent weeks, buses have been targeted in attacks - mainly aimed to collect protection money for route operators.
Taxis are abundant and inexpensive, but always ask for the ride fee and if possible ask two different drivers to get the best fare. Taxis are not metered - and initial fares may be given based on one's perceived ability to pay (a tourist or wealthier Mexican may be quoted a higher fare). However, most sites of touristic interest in Juarez can be reached by walking in the historic center. Upon arrival in Juarez it is likely that most foreigners will received by a plethora of taxi drivers offering to drive them to the market. While the market cannot be seen from the border crossing it is a relatively short walk - after crossing the Santa Fe street bridge, walk down Avenida Juarez to 16 de Septiembre, turn left and then walk about seven blocks (street blocks are much smaller in Juarez than in neighboring El Paso).
Most larger businesses have parking lots with attendants that will ask for a nominal fee ($0.25 US, or two to three pesos). Watch where you park; cars that are illegally parked on streets may have their license plates removed by a transit cop. The idea is to ensure you will pay the fine before leaving the country (and your plates should be returned after doing so). If this happens to you, the ticket should indicate where to pay your fine, should you chose to do so (you should be able to re-enter the United States in any event, though you may face some added complications with a missing plate).
Juarez is unlike many border towns in that it is a major city with over a million inhabitants. However, most foreign tourists will still enjoy the same elements of stereotypical Mexican culture that they do in other border towns such as Nogales, Tijuana, and Nuevo Laredo.
Typical Mexican souvenirs such as blankets, pottery, and trinkets themed in Mexican culture.
Make sure to haggle as it will be expected. If you act disinterested, or begin to walk away, you should get quoted a lower price. The merchants speak English and are constantly encountering Americans so you will not seem very foreign to them if you are not Mexican yourself. Goods may range from kitschy trinkets to high quality artesan-made glassware, pottery, jewelry, leather goods, and woven cloth. Most markets also have good food and drink, and musical entertainment.
Don't forget the "burritos"
Be aware that you can't drink in public places or in the street, ask before.
Juarez has its fair share of local and international hotels. However, many travellers will find it easier, and much safer, to spend the night across the Rio in El Paso, as it is a large American city with all the usual American services.
Mexican authorities report that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the city since January 2008. Additionally, this city of 1.6 million people experienced more than 17,000 car thefts and 1,650 carjackings in 2008. U.S. citizens should pay close attention to their surroundings while traveling in Ciudad Juarez, avoid isolated locations during late night and early morning hours, and remain alert to news reports. A recent series of muggings near the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez targeted applicants for U.S. visas. Visa and other service seekers visiting the Consulate are encouraged to make arrangements to pay for those services using a non-cash method.
Though authorities in both Juárez and El Paso have tried to curb underage drinking, the downtown districts do fill with intoxicated club and bar patrons at night, many of these patrons are under 21 and over 18. A drunken fight or barroom confrontation can escalate into serious violence, so be careful. High-end clubs will very openly discriminate against anyone who looks like "trouble" (shaved heads, tattoos, gang clothing, or even a working class appearance), but they should be safer to visit. At times, there will be suspicious activity in high-end clubs and bars. If you see this going on turn the other way. Also keep in mind, in traditional Mexican bars or cantinas, unaccompanied women may be seen as "fair game" or may even be rather unwelcome - bars known as "Ladies Bars" are more accepting and tolerant of female patrons.
While sampling Mexican beer and tequila is highly recommended for a tourist, it is probably wise to avoid heavy drinking in an unfamiliar border city. It is also best to keep a close watch on drinks in nightclubs, as they may be spiked by strangers.
Currently, Juárez is being patrolled by the Mexican army, in an attempt to crack down on crime. Mexican military personnel are generally professional (in comparison to the police), if intimidating with their automatic weapons. Stop at any checkpoints. Driving through a checkpoint may result in gunfire. Juarez municipal police are to be avoided, as most are tied to criminal gangs and engage in extortion, kidnapping, and contract murder. Federal police are perhaps just as corrupt, but are less likely to engage in "petty" crime directed at tourists. If you are in danger, actual military personnel are the best option.
Juarez is notorious for police setting up traps to pull over motorists or, sometimes, question people leaving bars and clubs. This is done so "mordidas" or bribes are offered. While bribes are widespread, don't immediately assume a $20 bill will get you out of any situation (especially with military agents). Most police officers will at least go through the formality of writing a ticket, asking questions, or writing a report before any "arrangement" takes place.
One serious word of caution. Do not be caught with any type of weapon in Mexico. This can include a small pocket knife, or even ammunition or bullet casings. American motorists have been jailed for driving into Mexico with spent ammunition casings in their car trunk.