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Tijuana/Zona Norte

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Tijuana : Zona Norte
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Tijuana/Zona Norte

Zona Norte Banner.jpg

Tijuana's red light district, known locally as Zona Norte, is directly north of the popular tourist zone in the Zona Centro and immediately south of the San Diego border line. This zone is primarily residential, except for the main stretch of the red light district, on Calle Coahuila, between Avenida Constitucion and Avenida Niños Heroes. Commercialized prostitution is regulated, legal, and highly visible in this area.

A police station in the middle of the red light district and the presence of numerous police on foot make the area reasonably safe, though if you wander into one of the many secluded pedestrian alleys you place yourself at risk. Be aware of your surroundings and do not travel alone into unfamiliar neighborhoods. Acting touristy in Tijuana's red light district is very likely to draw attention from predators. That said, safety is not a huge concern here as long as you mind your surroundings.

Get in[edit]

From San Diego, cross the San Ysidro border, and walk toward the arch: The arch is located at Revolucion and First Street, officially known as Calle Artículo 123. Keep walking west toward Av. Revolucion, and you'll find yourself in the Zona Norte. Stay alert to anyone following you on this route as muggings sometimes occur on First Street.

From the Tijuana Arch at the corner of Av. Revolucion and Artículo 123/Calle Primera (1st street), turn right (north) onto Revolucion. You will pass Tijuana's "Premier" gay club on your left, Motel Diaz on your right, and finally, Taqueria Alebrije, just before Calle Coahuila. This part of the street is safe to walk at night because it is very well lit, except for the street signs, which can be difficult to see at night. But you can recognize the corner at Calle Coahuilla and Revolucion easily by checking for a few landmarks, including an Oxxo convenience store, Hotel de Santiago, and La Tropa Bar. Turn left (west) at that corner and you will be on Calle Coahuilla. Then you're just one block away from all the action. Once you reach the next block at Av. Constitucion, you have two choices, head straight forward, towards Hong Kong, or take a quick, fun tour around the core of the Red Light District. From Calle Coahuila, if you turn left (south) at Constitucion, you will see a block full of "Paraditas" (standing girls), lining the sidewalks trying to make eye contact with you. Turn immediately right at the next corner onto the large alleyway, Callejon Coahuilla, where the vast majority of the street prostitutes are standing and waiting. Photography in this alley is met with strong opposition, from police and locals, so use your better judgement and respect the privacy of the sex workers.

The walking path is an exciting trip with friends, but if you're traveling by yourself for the first time, you may want to take a taxi or a nice Uber (need mobile internet), which is especially recommended if you are unfamiliar with the area or are travelling after dark. If you have never once used Uber before, it's worth it in Tijuana. Newer, safer, nicer cars at cheaper prices than taxis. Use promo code "TELCEL" to get your first Uber ride free.

If you have local internet service or can access a free WiFi hotspot, then Uber is the best transportation option in Tijuana. Luxury and standard options available in the Uber app. *Uber prices are in pesos. $30 MX = ~$2 U.S. dollars.

See[edit][add listing]

The red light district in Zona Norte is home to Tijuana's largest collection of strip clubs, which also serve as brothels. Most of the larger gentlemen's clubs operate adjacent hotels with VIP suites that are rented out in 20-minute to half-hour intervals. Tijuana's red light district, also called La Coahuila (named after its primary street) has been designated as a prostitution tolerance zone by the local government.

Some of the more popular strip clubs and adult entertainment associated with Tijuana's Red Light District include:

  • NB Elite Men's Spa, a premium massage spa which looks completely unassuming, offers private rooms and ultimate comfort in a truly upscale environment; Via Rapida Poniente #4246, Plaza Jardin, Zona Rio, Tijuana. Approximately 2 blocks northwest of the Plaza Rio Mall and CECUT (Tijuana's Cultural Center).
  • New Body Gentlemen's Club, Tijuana's premium strip club with a full bar and massage parlor featuring private VIP rooms and high security; this local favorite is on the corner of Calle Octava (8th street) and Av. Miguel F Martinez, just 3 blocks west of Av. Revolucion.
  • Adelita Bar, more commonly referred to as Adelitas, is one of Tijuana's oldest clubs.
  • Hong Kong Tijuana, a relatively new addition to Zona Norte, is one of the busiest strip clubs in Tijuana; on Calle Coahuila near Av. Ninos Heroes.
  • Mermaids, this longer-running gentlemen's club looks more like a bar inside but there is a small central stage with a dance pole for strippers. Mermaids is a great hybrid serving up a mix of the bar experience with the feel of an intimate strip club. The bar is located in the very middle of Calle Coahuila, next to the convenience store, Oxxo.

Do[edit][add listing]

Be cautious and aware while in the Zona Norte, much as you would in a not-so-nice area of any major city. Zona Norte is full of people who will take advantage of tourists who appear to be unfamiliar with the area. Often (but not always), Mexicans who speak good English in this area may be criminals or other undesireables who may have been in the United States illegally and deported back to Mexico.

In particular, police in Zona Norte can be corrupt and may target tourists and accuse them of crimes in order to extort fines (bribes) from them. Some say you should be polite but firm and not pay the "fine" and insist that they take you to see a judge, which is the only legal way they can take you to jail. Others say that it is easier to just pay the bribe and not waste time negotiating with the police. The decision as to whether to pay the bribe or politely refuse must be made individually based on each person's comfort level.

Be careful when speaking to people in the Zona Norte, as police may accuse you of attempting to buy drugs if you are seen talking with known drug dealers, even if you simply told the person you are not interested in buying drugs. Again, the "fine" issue may raise its head.

  • WARNING : One area which requires special caution is the southwest corner of Calle Coahuila and Avenida Niños Heroes, near the Kinkle Bar. This bar is a known hangout for transgender women who can be quite aggressive and who are notorious pickpockets. Be extremely careful to guard the contents of your pockets around here, and be very suspicious of anyone who approaches you.

Be careful possible C.B.P. Setups.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Zona Norte is generally not a location for shopping other than food, drink, drugs and "companionship". One exception is Saturdays, when there is a street market stretching four blocks on Avenida Mutualismo between Avenida Articulo 123 and Avenida Internacional. This street market has stalls selling all manner of foods, household goods, CDs, movies, tools, clothing, drugs and more.

DO NOT try to buy drugs in the Zona Norte. It is an area well known for street drug sales and the local police know most of the dealers. You WILL be busted if you attempt to buy drugs here. Keep in mind that as long as you are polite and treat the police with respect, you should be able to pay an "on the spot" fine directly to the officers. Be subtle, and thankful to them, or they will just throw you in jail.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Dining in Zona Norte is not generally considered high class, but that doesn't mean you won't find some amazing food here. There are numerous small eateries along Calle Coahuila, and food carts which serve street tacos and similar "finger food". Be cautious when selecting food carts; however, a reasonable rule of thumb is that a cart that is busy, especially with native consumers, is generally more safe. The locals know where the good food is.

  • Taqueria Alebrije A nicely decorated medium-size restaurant serving dirt cheap, delicious street-style tacos starting at MX $10 pesos each (U.S. $0.75 cents) - Tacos adobada, asada, suadero, etc. Indoor and outdoor seating, with a full menu, including tortas, street tacos, and other traditional Mexican dishes, plus fresh bottled Horchata. Find them on the walking path north of the Tijuana Arch, right on Av. Revolucion where it meets Calle Coahuila, next to La Tropa Bar. It's best to try tacos Alebrije ON YOUR WAY to the red light district, because they close between 11pm-midnight, depending on customer volume. Go for it. You can't beat $10 pesos/taco. Taqueria Alebrije is the undiscovered dining gem of Zona Norte.
  • Viejo Lobo (Old Wolf), a small kitchen and hole-in-the-wall eatery embedded in the exterior of Mermaids Bar. Serving a variety of delicious international dishes, including their popular empanadas with shrimp. Surprisingly, one of the best places to eat in Tijuana's Red Light District. There is no sign outside, so look carefully, it's easy to miss.
  • La Perla (The Pearl), at the corner of Calle Coahuila and Niños Heroes. Mainly seafood, with live music some nights.
  • Red Light District 24 Hour Street Tacos, at the corner of Calle Coahuila and Niños Heroes, right across the street from La Perla. Most popular street tacos in Zona Norte, busy with customers at all hours of the night.
  • Sonoras Grill, on Calle Coahuila across the street from Adelita Bar. Grilled meats in various forms, including tacos, torta sandwiches, quesadillas, and traditional steaks. Most meals include salad bar.

Alternatively, walk a couple of blocks south from Coahuila along Constitucion, and you'll find a street market flanked by a large selection of restaurants, including McDonald's and KFC. Subway has closed down, despite the big sign.

Drink[edit][add listing]

There is no shortage of places to drink in the Zona Norte. Most bars have drink specials (two-for-one is typical) until the evening hours, to generate more business.

  • La Perla, probably the nicest restaurant in the red light district, also has a full bar and drink menu consisting of a large variety of mixed drinks, shots, beers, imported liquor, and cocktails. Free Wifi is also available for guests. Corner of Calle Coahuila and Av. Ninos Heroes.
  • Cantina de Panchos, south side of Calle Coahuila, just east of Constitucion. Draft Tecate and Dos Equis Amber for $2 a pint (as of July 2008), and karaoke in both Spanish and English available all day. This is perhaps the only bar in the Zona Norte that has draft beers.
  • Red Light District 24 Hour Liquor, one major block north of Calle Coahuila, at the corner of Niños Heroes and Baja California. The block leading up to the street, Baja California, was recently lit back up to accomodate for the increase in tourism. There is less risk of danger there, now, due to the increased visibility. It is still advised not to walk this short distance alone, from the main stretch of the red light district to the 24 Hour Liquor Store. Take a taxi, have him wait. Public drinking is not legal, take it to your hotel.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are many very cheap hotels in the Zona Norte, with rooms for $15-$20 a night not unheard of, though these places are as seedy as you would expect. Do not assume anything left in your room will be there when you return. Bringing your own bedsheets is probably a wise move.

  • Cascadas 2000, which has entrances both on Calle Coahuila and Callejon Coahuila (the alley behind), both entrances near the corner with Avenida Niños Heroes. The major hotel in the center of the Zona Norte, it has rooms that are relatively safe and clean, and many of the women who work in the Zona Norte rent rooms here by the week or by the month.
  • Rizo de Oro, entrance on Calle Coahuila next to the Tropical Bar, similar to Cascadas 2000 but a bit cheaper.
  • Hotel Hacienda de Santiago, at the corner of Calle Coahuila and Avenida Revolucion. For somewhat more money (about $30-40), one could stay here. These rooms are "Holiday Inn" quality and are quite comfortable for the area, and most rooms also include kitchens as well.
  • Plaza de Oro Hotel,, Revolucion Avenue, 1 block below the Arch, is safe and clean for $34 per night.
  • Hotel London, between 5th and 6th Streets, for $20-25 per night.

In both of these two the staff are trustworthy, and you can leave your things behind the counter when you check out, and pick them up hours later when ready to return to the border.

  • Hotel Jerez Suites off Coahuila on Mutualismo #450, Tel: 664-685-4951. $15-$25 a night.
  • Hotel Acapulco, (South side of Coahuila between Ave Revolucion and Ave Constitucion). Can Sleep (if possible with all the noise from Ave Coahuila), Play cards with the desk clerk ($10 a hand) or chat (or other things) with Carla from Acalpulco all night. $15 - $20. (32.32.16N,117.02.17W) edit
  • Hotel Santa Cecilia on Calle Artículo 123 near Avenida Revolución.

Stay Safe[edit]

Petty crimes such as muggings and pickpocketing can happen in Zona Norte, even during the day, so it is best if you are with someone else. And while drug violence is often not targeted at tourist, it is still better to be alert. You may unknowingly walk into the cross-fire of rival drug cartels, but this is less likely in Zona Norte than in other, seedier parts of town. Because of significant police presence, Zona Norte can actually be a safer part of town than others, with respect to violent crime, as long as you stay on the major thoroughfares and avoid the alleyways north of Calle Coahuila.

At night, however, tourists are highly discouraged from venturing off of Calle Coahuila and the Coahuila Alley to other parts of the neighborhood. Much of this area is very deserted at night, and you can be an easy target for criminals or police corruption.

One good rule of thumb is, if you are a man, to try to avoid direct eye contact with a local tough guy or young man. By "letting" him stare you down by averting your gaze you are less likely to bring about some macho confrontation, especially if the other fellow is drunk. If you are there to have fun, focus on the fun, and avoid proving your manhood to some local.

Always carry some ID with you (such as a driver's license) because the police will ask you for it if they stop and search you.

Do not walk on Baja California Street on the 'Zona Norte' if you can avoid it. If you must do so, be very careful as it is full of drug dealers.

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