Updated: January 2004
INTRODUCTION: Some years back, the multifarious demands of the O'Toole Empire brought me to San Diego for the first time. After concluding my business, I was in the mood for a little adult entertainment. (Besides, I had given the flight crew of my G-IV the night off, which prevented an immediate departure for my next destination.) I had never been to TJ, so I soon found myself wandering the turista strip along Avenida Revolucion. Enticed by barkers promising all manner of carnal delights, I foolishly patronized a number of clubs in that area. All were disappointing and scary clip joints interested only in separating me from my money. I departed unsatisfied and wondering where the TJ legends had gotten their start.
On a subsequent visit I used my barbarous Spanish to make inquires to my cab driver. I learned that on my previous visit I had done practically everything wrong. He gave me some excellent advice and introduced me to the gentleman's playground that is the Zona Norte. About the same time, one of my technical staffers recommended the Internet as a useful business tool. That was when I discovered Usenet newsgroups and the concept of a document which answered frequently asked questions (FAQ). It occurred to me that others could benefit from my TJ experience. And so it was that the TJ FAQ came to be. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the years since I first posted this FAQ, the amount of information about the Zona Norte available online has exploded. Much of it is very detailed and very accurate. And frankly, much of it comes from gentlemen who spend far more time in TJ than I. My goal here is not to supplant that information, but rather to provide a primer for the total novice who speaks no Spanish and who is ignorant of the basic logistics involved in a typical evening trip from the United States to the Zona Norte and back. The idea is to get you south of the border and get you laid with a minimum of risk, drama or expense. If you follow the procedure described below, your TJ sojourn will be easy and fun. Armed with this information, there is no need to be concerned about traveling alone or an inability to converse in the local language. As you will read below, a few common sense precautions will keep you perfectly safe. So to reiterate, there is no need to pay somebody to be your TJ "guide," because these directions are well and truly idiot-proof.
PLANNING YOUR TJ TRIP: If your goal is to have the best possible selection of girls, you should plan to visit Friday or Saturday night after 9:00 p.m. when the Zona Norte is going full blast. Granted, lots of gentlemen will be there as well and the two clubs I recommend can get pretty crowded. But I genuinely like wading through a club packed with gorgeous girls where I know I can fuck any of them I want. If you don't like crowds, Thursday and Sunday nights are good alternatives. The action on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights can be uneven, but in the years since I first posted this FAQ the popularity of the Zona Norte has grown to where the action runs seven nights a week.
The Zona Norte also operates during the day, albeit at a less frantic level. If your circumstances are such that you have no choice but to visit then, your best bet will probably be the Adelita Bar, which has a day shift of girls who arrive about midday and remain through happy hour. (More on the Adelita Bar below.) Finally, keep in mind that the pleasures of TJ mix nicely with the less carnal tourist attractions available in San Diego and points south. So this FAQ includes some lodging information for those interested in arranging overnight accommodations during a vacation. If you're a local, or you're just going for the night, skip ahead to the section entitled "Crossing the Border."
LOCATION: Tijuana is just south of San Ysidro, California. From most points near downtown Los Angeles or from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), you can drive the approximately 150 miles to TJ in about three hours (depending on traffic) by going south on I-405 to I-5. From San Diego, you can drive the approximately 25 miles in about 30 minutes on I 5. While you are in San Diego, renting a car is the most convenient way to get around if you don't mind the expense. But if you're trying to economize, or if you're concerned about drinking and driving, it is surprisingly easy to travel by public transportation. From LA to San Diego, there is Amtrak rail service. Call (800) 872-7245. And from San Diego to San Ysidro, there is light rail (trolley) service that will take you from just about anywhere to the border quickly and comfortably. See: http://www.sdcommute.com/RiderInfo/trolley/index.asp. The trolley does not, however, service the airport. Rather, you'll have to take a shuttle bus to the trolley station, before heading south. See: http://www.sdcommute.com/riderInfo/routes/992.asp#. For general information on public transit in San Diego and points south, surf over to: http://www.sdcommute.com/.
LODGING ADVICE FOR THE NOVICE: Gentlemen who are traveling on a tight budget often contact me to enquire in respect of whether they might economize by lodging in Tijuana. I generally recommend against this. A perfectly serviceable single room in Chula Vista within walking distance of the trolley can be had for about $50 per night. In Tijuana, unless you stay in a frightening dive you'll pay in the vicinity of $40 per night. To be sure, that's a $10 savings, but the Tijuana accommodations will be considerably more Spartan and the atmosphere less secure. And unless you stay in the Zona Norte proper (which I don't recommend for novices) you are will have to hire taxis to get around Tijuana. Of course, some people are unconcerned with creature comforts and they enjoy soaking up local culture, Spanish phrasebook in hand. For them, I have a brief discussion of TJ hotels below. For everybody else, especially the newbies, I include the following discussion of lodging in Southern California.
SOCAL LODGING: Obviously, there are numerous hotels in all prices ranges in San Diego. See http://sandiegan.com/cgi bin/database/search.cgi?20,Hotels for a pretty good list. So if your vacation involves seeing the sights of San Diego by day and spending your evenings in Tijuana, you can definitely stay in San Diego. If, however, TJ is your primary focus, you can save some travel time by staying in one of the communities between San Diego and the border: National City, Chula Vista or San Ysidro. For luxury accommodations, I highly recommend an all-suite hotel in the National City/South Bay area which was recently acquired by the Red Lion group, (800) RED-LION or http://www.redlion.com. For about $100 per night, you can get a one-bedroom suite with an ocean view and breakfast. The same folks run a hotel across the street. Rates there are in the $70-80 range.
Slightly farther south is Chula Vista. If you are not going to rent a car, this is where I recommend that you stay. More specifically, I recommend that you stay at one of the motels that are clustered around the intersection of E Street and the I-5. Why? First and foremost, there is a trolley station right there. Second, next door to the trolley station there is a visitor information center where the folks can answer any tourist related inquiry you may have. Third, within easy walking distance you'll find numerous restaurants in all price ranges serving all manner of cuisine, and a several small shopping centers where you can find a grocery store, liquor store, laundromat, drug store and numerous other kinds of businesses. In other words, everything you could possibly want is within a ten minute stroll. In Chula Vista, my favorite places to stay are the Days Inn, (800) DAYS INN, at about $60 per night and the Motel-6, (619) 422 4200, at about $40 per night. There is also a Travelers Inn & Suites that looks nice from the outside, (619) 427-9170, but I have not stayed there. All of these places are just steps from the trolley station.
NOTE WELL: As discussed more fully below, trolley service between the border and points north is sporadic between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. is sporadic at best. So if you are a real night owl, you should consider renting a car or staying in San Ysidro within walking distance of the border.
If you are going to have a car, your lodging options in Chula Vista are more expansive. See http://www.usa lodging.com/motels/califs/ChulaVista.htm for one list, or use any of the travel related web sites. Stay away from the Ramada. The place is a dump, the staff is rude and the rates are outrageous. Finally, if you want to be within walking distance of the border, you can stay in San Ysidro. You won't find much in the way of luxurious lodging there. But there are several modest motels available that are clean and comfortable. The consensus favorite seems to be the Travelodge, (619) 428-2800. However I have received several reports of the staff there divulging credit card numbers to criminals who then make unauthorized charges. Caveat emptor and pay with cash if you stay there. There is also a Motel 6, (619) 690 6663, and a Ramada Limited, (619) 690-2633.
TIJUANA LODGING: If you have your heart set on staying in Tijuana, you should know that a full description of all the hotels available in TJ is beyond the scope of this FAQ. Suffice it to say that if you are willing to pay upwards of $100 per night, you can find luxury accommodations in TJ that are as comfortable as any in the United States, Europe or Asia. The Hotel Real del Rio in the upscale Zona Rio neighborhood is popular with travelers who desire first-class lodging. There are also excellent resorts further south in Baja California.
At the other end of the scale, there are numerous hotels in TJ where you can rent a room for as little as $20-30 per night. These hotels, however, are *extremely* basic. Often there is no air conditioning, television or telephone. Moreover, you'll probably need to speak some Spanish to deal with the proprietors. If you are a bilingual, adventurous type of guy who is unconcerned with creature comforts, these hotels are an option. But frankly, I do not recommend them. If you have your heart set on staying in Tijuana at a comfortable hotel without spending a fortune, the best value can be found at the La Villa de Zaragoza Hotel, which is located at 1120 Avenida Madero, between 7th and 8th Streets. (Behind the jai alai emporium, which should be on most maps.) Rooms are about $40-75 per night and feature the usual creature comforts such as air conditioning, television, and telephone. In addition, the staff speaks English. Call them at 011 52-66-851-832 or surf over to http://members.aol.com/hotellavilla/.
CROSSING THE BORDER: If you are using the trolley, just head south and stay on until you get to the last stop at San Ysidro. CAUTION: The last northbound trolley is at 11:30 p.m., except if you visit on a Friday night. Then the last northbound trolley departs Saturday morning at 1:00 a.m. For the latest trolley timetable, go to http://www.sdcommute.com/RiderInfo/t...trolleymap.asp. HINT: If you find yourself needing northbound transportation when the trolley is not running, you can usually find a taxi near the trolley station in San Ysidro. The fare is about $25 to the motels I recommend on E Street in Chula Vista and probably double that if you go all the way to downtown San Diego.
When you get off the trolley at the San Ysidro station, you'll be on the east side of the port of entry complex, which straddles a gigantic freeway carrying northbound and southbound traffic. (I know there isn't any ocean nearby, but the U.S. government still calls it a "port" of entry.) The southbound pedestrian gate into Mexico is on the other side of the freeway, on the west side of the port of entry. To get there, look for some angled ramps like you'd see in a stadium. Walk up the ramps, and then over the pedestrian bridge to the west side. Go down and ramps, turn right and you'll see a set of turnstiles marking the southbound pedestrian gate into Mexico. It's easier than I make it out to be. Just follow the crowds.
If you have a car, I STRONGLY recommend AGAINST driving into Mexico for a number of reasons. The insurance on your personal car is NO GOOD in Mexico, so you'll have to buy special Mexican auto insurance. Don't think you can avoid the problem by renting a car. If you drive a rental car into Mexico it is an express VIOLATION of the rental agreement. So if anything happens to the car, you are PERSONALLY LIABLE, EVEN IF YOU BOUGHT THE INSURANCE OR LOSS/DAMAGE WAIVER! And even if you surmount these obstacles, it's rather difficult to find your way around and safe parking is very scarce. In fact, secure parking in TJ will usually be so far away from where you're going that you will have to take a cab anyway.
BEST BET FOR DRIVERS: Drive down to the border, park on the U.S. side, and walk across. Then take a taxi to your TJ destination. To do that, go south on the I-5 and get off at the *last exit before* the border, which is marked with a green and yellow sign reading: "Camino de la Plaza _ Last USA Exit and Parking." Go six-tenths (0.6) of a mile along the exit ramp to the four-way stop. Go straight through the intersection and you'll see several parking lots on your right. Their prices vary depending on proximity to the border and day of the week. I recommend the last lot on the right before you reach the street's dead end. You'll usually pay $7. HINT: Do not leave anything visible in your car which would tempt the smash-and-grab crowd.
IF YOU PLAN TO SERIOUSLY IMBIBE: Be aware that efforts to arrest drunk drivers are intense in and around San Ysidro. The police are well aware that lots of people return from Mexico after drinking then drive home from the parking lots near the border, and there is political pressure on the cops to do something about it. I have received reports of traffic stops by San Diego Police officers between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., in which a trivial traffic violation serves as a pretext to check for intoxicated drivers. Moreover, the California Highway Patrol sometimes sets up a sobriety checkpoint on the entrance ramp that connects to the northbound freeway.
Obviously, you should be not be driving if you are impaired. But you can lessen the odds of getting stopped by the San Diego police by parking on the east side of the port of entry, in any of the lots near the San Ysidro trolley station. From those lots, the entrance ramp that connects to the northbound freeway is just a few yards distant and you will be less exposed to pretextual traffic stops. However, you will still have to look out for a sobriety checkpoint operated by the California Highway Patrol on the freeway entrance ramp. Those checkpoints are usually visible from the parking lots or the freeway overpasses, so there is no excuse for blundering into one unaware. If you see a checkpoint in operation, you may be tempted to get on the freeway using another ramp slightly farther north. I recommend against this because it's reasonable to assume the SDPD will be on the lookout for drivers doing that. Instead, you can usually find a taxi near the trolley station, or on the street that crosses over the freeway about 50 yards north of the trolley station. No matter what the fare to your hotel, it's infinitely cheaper than getting arrested. And you can easily return the next day using the trolley to retrieve your car.
ENTERING MEXICO ON FOOT: From the west side parking lots, exit the lot, turn right on the sidewalk and walk to the dead end of the street. From the east side parking lots, follow the crowd toward the port of entry complex, which is just past the trolley station. You will see a series of ramps that leads up to the pedestrian bridge crossing over the top of the freeway. Go up the ramps, across the bridge and down the ramps on the west side. There you will see two big noisy turnstiles that mark the southbound pedestrian gate into Mexico. After passing through the turnstiles, you will find yourself in a rectangular pedestrian plaza that is about 200 yards long. Although there is a small government checkpoint about halfway down the plaza, there is usually no inspection of southbound pedestrians by Mexican officials. (Needless to say, however, the Mexican authorities reserve the right to search you. So don't be a bonehead. Leave your contraband at home. That includes all manner of weapons, including knives and pepper spray.) If you are not traveling beyond Tijuana or staying longer than 72 hours, you are not required to obtain a government-issued tourist card.
At the southern end of the pedestrian plaza, you will see two sets of turnstiles - one on your right, and one straight ahead. Continue straight ahead and pass through those turnstiles. On the other side you will find a large cab stand and a number of drivers, almost all of whom speak English, standing around soliciting passengers. Hire a cab and tell him you want to go to Adelitas (ah-day-LEE-tas). Tijuana taxis do not use meters, and you are supposed to be charged a flat fare of $5. But once in a while, the driver will ask for more and feed you a story about gas prices going up or something. This is especially common if the driver sizes you up as a gullible tourist. You can generally avoid this fate by speaking Spanish (even halting, high school Spanish) and/or by sitting in the *front* seat of the cab, which is a local custom. But even if the driver asks for more than $5, my advice would be to pay the extra buck or two. It's not worth bickering over such a small amount of money. Also, be sure to carry exact change. Unlike the bars in the Zona Norte, which cheerfully accept dollars and honestly make change, cab drivers are less diligent in this respect. Finally, some cab drivers will try to talk you into going to a massage parlor (which of course offers more than a massage). He's only doing it because the massage parlor pays him a kickback. (Which, if you're dumb enough to go, will be added to your bill.) So politely decline such invitations and insist on going to the Adelita Bar.
SAFETY ALERT: You may be tempted to save the cab fare and walk from the pedestrian entry over the bridge into downtown TJ. THIS IS *EXTREMELY* DANGEROUS AND YOU SHOULD NEVER DO IT! The neighborhoods you must traverse are not exactly the nicest parts of TJ. And there are bandidos who lurk along this route who specialize in robbing unwary foreign pedestrians. Be safe not sorry. Pay the taxi. Ditto for your return to the border. Again: WALKING BETWEEN THE ZONA NORTE AND THE BORDER IS *EXTREMELY* DANGEROUS! Plain enough?
WHY NOT AVENIDA REVOLUCION? By following this plan, you will be eschewing the main turista drag along Avenida Revolucion. When it comes to commercial sex establishments, you will not be missing a thing. It's important to note that prostitution is officially illegal throughout Tijuana. In the Zona Norte, however, there is an government-sanctioned "zone of tolerance." As a result, everything is open and aboveboard. Not so along Avenida Revolucion, where, in deference to the tourist trade, the official prostitution ban is enforced (albeit with varying degrees of vigor). Granted, prostitution continues there. But the need to hide it from the authorities makes it a dirty, depressing outlaw scene. IMHO, most of the strip clubs and hooker bars along Avenida Revolucion are dives that specialize in stealing from gullible turistas. The facilities are seedy, the drink prices are outrageous and they frequently don't make honest change. As for the girls, most are ugly, many are she-males and lots of them are very skilled pickpockets. Even if you're lucky enough to find a decent one to go with, you'll pay a fortune for a scarifying experience in a dingy room. So stay away from the Bambi Club, the Unicorn Club, the Isis, the San Souci and others of their ilk, no matter how insistent the barkers out on the street may be. (Also avoid anyone who is hawking a "donkey show." This type of entertainment doesn't exist.) If you simply must begin your evening on Avenida Revolucion, I suggest you visit one of the numerous "college girl" bars and tune up by leering at the 18 year old SoCal sweeties. Or visit to Madona's, which is a pretty good strip club that permits lots of "hands on" contact with the dancers. Then hop a cab to the Adelita Bar. (Again, walking is NOT recommended.)
THE COMMERCIAL SEX SCENE IN THE ZONA NORTE: When you get out of the cab at the Adelita Bar, you will be in the middle of the Zona Norte, so called because it's north of downtown. (Occasionally, you'll see it described as the "Zona Roja" or Red Zone.) As I noted above, prostitution is officially "tolerated" in this area, so everything is out in the open. You'll see numerous bars crowded into a several blocks. Most of the hooker bars make an effort to look like a place to go dancing. There is a DJ (or in some places, a live band) a dance floor, and a few girls sitting around. Occasionally, you'll see a strip show of sorts. But usually it's no big deal. Some of the girls do no more than dance with patrons and sit at their table in exchange for a small amount of money, or in exchange for buying them drinks on which they earn a commission. And there is a market for that kind of service from guys who are only interested in drinking, dancing and chatting. But most of the girls are hookers. Complimenting the hooker bars, the Zona Norte also features numerous small hotels that rent rooms by the hour. You strike a deal in the bar and then go to the hotel to consummate the transaction. Unlike the furtive commercial sex scene in most U.S. cities (and along Avenida Revolucion) it's all very above-board, organized and convenient. The Zona Norte generates lots of dollars in an economy that sorely needs hard currency. So nobody is going to do anything to hurt the hooker trade.
Now you might be tempted to stumble from bar to bar looking for a girl who strikes your fancy. But there are dozens of places, and as I explain below wandering around the Zona Norte can be risky. Even if you managed to check out all the tiny bars on all the various side streets, you would almost certainly conclude the vast majority of the girls in the Zona Norte hooker bars range from ugly to just passable. (See, however, my disclaimer on beauty and the eye of the beholder, below.) You get what you pay for and most of the bars in the Zona Norte cater to locals who don't have much money.
Fortunately, there are two bars that are exceptions to the rule, both of which are Zona Norte institutions: the ADELITA BAR and the CHICAGO CLUB. Details on both later, but first a few words of warning. Pay attention here.
ZONA NORTE SAFETY: Like any urban neighborhood, the Zona Norte has its safe sections and its not-so-safe sections. Fortunately, both the Adelita Bar and the Chicago Club are located in the safest part of the Zona Norte. The Adelita Bar is on the south side of Calle Coahilla just west of Avenida Constitucion. You won't find Calle Coahilla on most TJ maps, but it's easy to find if you remember that it runs east and west, parallel to Calle Primera (First Street) but one block to the north. (There are online maps of the Zona Norte at various sites. Fire up your favorite search engine.)
Along this stretch of Calle Coahilla, you'll see some shops, the entrance stairway to a hotel, a storefront restaurant and the odd shoeshine boy or mariachi musician. In the evenings you'll also see lots people and note a festive atmosphere. Even a TJ novice who speaks no Spanish will be perfectly safe and quite comfortable hanging out in front of the Adelita Bar. The Chicago Club is located roughly kitty corner across the intersection on the east side of Avenida Constitucion, half a block north of Calle Coahilla. Turn right when you exit the Adelita Bar, go to the corner and turn left. The Chicago Club will be on the right side of the street, about 100 feet down. You should have no qualms about traversing the short distance between the Adelita Bar and the Chicago Club. And as I've already noted, the hottest girls in the Zona Norte can be found at these two clubs. So there is really no need to go elsewhere. If you are new to the Zona Norte scene or you are not the adventurous type or you just want to cut to the chase and find the best-looking women, I recommend you restrict your movements to the area between the Adelita Bar and the Chicago Club.
(If you look like a first-timer, you may be approached by one of a number of polite, presentable English-speaking guys who hang out in the Zona Norte and try to scam visitors. These guys will feed you a story about how they have inside knowledge of where the absolutely hottest girls can be found and they will offer to take you to this mythical place. Don't fall for it. At best, they are pimping for some massage parlor or dive bar that gives them a kickback to bring in customers. At worst, they are setting you up to be robbed. If you decline their invitation nicely, they'll leave you alone.)
The remainder of the Zona Norte is GENERALLY safe, but there are a some areas to avoid. One is the intersection of Calle Coahilla and Avenida Revolucion. (About 200 yards east of the Adelita Bar, near the Alaska Motel.) The other is the east side of Avenida Constitucion south of Calle Coahilla and north of Calle Primera. (About 50 yards east and 10 yards south of the Adelita Bar.) Avenida Constitucion is also dangerous as you continue south up the hill. Finally, you should exercise caution near the intersection of Calle Coahilla and Avenida Ninos Heroes (about 50 yards west of the Adelita Bar, near the New York Club and the Manhattan Club). I have received reports of street robberies in these areas, almost always perpetrated by a guy who sneaks up from behind and applies a choke hold until you lose consciousness at which point your pockets are emptied. So whenever you get off the well-beaten path between the Adelita Bar and the Chicago Club, walk in the street and keep your head on a swivel. This will make it more difficult for the bandidos to surprise you from a doorway or sneak up on you from behind. Finally, as I noted above, do NOT under any circumstances attempt to walk to or from the Zona Norte. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. Take a taxi. Lastly, be smart and empty your wallet and you pockets of nonessential valuables. God forbid you should get mugged or pickpocketed, at least you won't lose much.
DEALING WITH LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT: Again, prostitution is officially tolerated in TJ, so you are at no risk for patronizing the bars in the Zona Norte or for going with any of the girls. However, you WILL attract the attention of the police if you act like an asshole. So don't drink on the street, piss on the street, pick fights with locals or engage in other loutish behavior. On a more serious note, the Mexican police are VERY strict on those who carry narcotics or weapons. (And their definition of weapons includes knives, mace and pepper spray.) Moreover, Mexican law permits random searches of patrons in bars. So occasionally the policia will charge into the bars in the Zona Norte and search everyone. If you're carrying any kind of weapon or any kind of narcotics, your are SERIOUSLY fucked. You should also carry some form of picture identification. I'm not sure if it officially required that you do so, but the police are suspicious of persons who don't have any identification.
SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES: In addition to being tolerated, prostitution is somewhat regulated by the authorities, so all the girls are required to get a medical examination every two weeks. When they do so, they receive a certificate from the health department that permits them to work in one of the Zona Norte clubs. The authorities conduct periodic spot checks to ensure that the girls are complying with this requirement. Moreover, as I note below, condom usage is virtually universal. IMHO, these safeguards reduce the risk of contracting a STD from one of the girls in the Zona Norte bars to almost zero. (BTW, the girls you see on the street are generally less diligent about getting their checkups. Avoid them.) Granted, no system is perfect. The regulations can be flouted or circumvented. Bribes can be paid. And accidents happen. So every guy has to evaluate the risk for himself. All I'm saying is that in *my* opinion, the risk is vanishingly small. Whether it justifies the reward is up to you.
Let's see. So far you've read about how to avoid getting mugged, getting arrested and getting a STD. Cheerful material this is not. But necessary. Use your common sense and follow the FAQ and you'll be just fine. The risks are actually very, very low. Fortunately, things pick up from here. Now you're going to read about getting laid by some of the hottest girls in the world.
THE ADELITA BAR
Noisy, crowded, hot and loud, the Adelita Bar is pure South of the Border. The second you step inside, you'll be greeted with sights, sounds and smells that are all Mexican. By Zona Norte standards, the interior of the Adelita Bar is quite lavish. (The mens room, complete with full-time attendant, is positively spotless. Throw this guy a buck for his hard work.) Music comes from a DJ and it tends toward Tejano, Conjunto and Norte. There is ample seating and they usually have soccer or some other sports on TV. (Like you go there to watch the game. Not!) Beer or a tequila shot is priced at about $2.00. At those prices, you can afford to give your bartender or waiter a $1 tip per round. If you do, you will receive cheerful and efficient service unknown in los Estados Unidos. Like the other Zona Norte clubs, the Adelita Bar works on the dance hall format. So there are two dance floors in pretty constant use by the Mexican guys and the girls. Some nights, they will sometimes have a few of the girls do a short strip show on the front stage. It's nothing spectacular.
Before I describe the girls in the Adelita Bar, a brief disclaimer is in order. I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So I will disclose up front that my taste runs toward the Norteamericano ideal of female beauty and within that paradigm I prefer petite women with a slim figure and "fine" facial features. (For example, American actresses Jennifer Love Hewitt, Moira Kelly and Kerri Russell.) I am well aware that many Mexican women have curvier figures and "broader" facial features. And I'm aware that lots of men (not necessarily all of them Mexican) prefer that look. So when it comes to my comments about the looks of the Zona Norte girls, as they say on the Net YMMV. And don't forget that on a busy weekend night, the selection will be good enough that you can almost certainly find somebody who you think is gorgeous, no matter what your type.
In the Adelita Bar, it's unlikely you'll find the stereotypical tall, blond swimsuit model. Many of the women are short, dark and, to be polite, "curvy." Many are of Indian heritage. If that's not your preference, watch out for the miracles that can be accomplished via pushup bras and the clever use of clothes. But don't despair. On a typical weekend night, you'll find at least 60 girls to choose from. So if you're patient, you can find somebody that appeals to you. Look for the young, quiet one hiding in a corner and indulge your high school girl fantasy. Or go for the hard-bodied girl with the golden skin and the skin-tight minidress. Best of all possible finds if the truly gorgeous young thing just starting out. Sometimes, these girls start at the Adelita Bar before moving on to the more upscale Chicago Club. But often (especially if she doesn't speak much English) the girls will remain at the Adelita Bar, with its predominantly Mexican clientele.
Most of the girls, if they are not sitting with or dancing with customers, stand around. Different girls gravitate to different spots out of habit and whenever they are in the bar they stick to that one spot. A few circulate, but most park in one area and wait to be approached. For reasons I do not understand, the hottest girls in the Adelita Bar congregate in an area that has become known as "hottie central." To get there, go in the front door and walk straight ahead parallel to the main bar on your right. At the end of the bar, look up and you'll see a TV set suspended from the ceiling. Under the TV set, and in about a 10 foot radius, is hottie central. On a busy night, hottie central is jammed with girls and guys standing shoulder to shoulder. It's like being at the crowded fraternity party, only you can fuck any girl you want.
Usually, the girls are not bashful about talking to you. This is especially true for Norteamericanos who are alone. Some guys like this, some don't. I think it's fun. Where else can you have a young girl walk up and grab your ass while she tells you how good she can suck your cock? Hint: Don't be concerned if you fail to see a girl you like straight off. The selection of girls at the Adelita Bar is constantly changing. Frequently the selection at 2:00 a.m. is superior to what is was at 10:00 p.m. So be patient. You may discover somebody totally hot in the wee hours. Strategy: Don't sit at a table. Instead, buy your drink at the bar and wander around the club. You'll get a better look at the girls and you'll have a chance to chat with the friendlier ones. While you are listening to her sales pitch, I've found if you keep smiling and talking, your hands can roam a little and the girl won't mind. This of course is the reason you're in the Zona Norte: to get away with doing things that would get you slapped anywhere else. The girls' English ranges from pretty good, to virtually non-existent. But don't let the language barrier keep you from the girl of your dreams. Almost all can speak enough English to negotiate a price and get you laid. If you choose, you can buy your girl a drink, but there's usually no big hustle to do so.
If you seem to like her, she will ask you if you'd like to "go to the room," or "go to the hotel" which is their euphemism for doing business. If you say yes, she'll quote you a price, generally $40-60. If you are quoted more, the girl has sized you up as a gullible tourist. Politely counteroffer, keeping in mind that once you get to the hotel you will be required to pay an additional $11 for the use of the room for 30 minutes. The price quoted by the girl is usually includes 30 minutes of her time, which typically takes the form of oral sex, followed by intercourse to a single climax. Note I said "typically." Some of the Zona Norte girls, especially the new ones who are just starting out, will decline to perform oral sex. If this is important to you, it would be wise to ascertain in advance if oral sex is available. You can also arrange a 60 minute session by paying a higher fee to both the girl and the hotel. "Special requests" (bareback blow job, anal, etc.) are negotiable as well. Just be sure to come to an agreement in the bar so that there are no misunderstandings or disappointments when you reach the room. Don't be embarrassed about haggling. Amiable negotiation is practically a national sport in Mexico and the commercial sex trade is the whole purpose of the Zona Norte. Provided you are polite (a quality that's *very* important in the Mexican culture) you don't need to worry about offending the girls by asking for what you want.
East side of Avenida Constitucion, just north of Calle Coahilla, roughly kitty-corner to the Adelita Bar. In my view, this is easily the premier hooker bar in Tijuana. But watch out, the action here can be VERY uneven. On Friday and Saturday, you'll find 40+ girls. Sunday and Thursday, you'll see 20-30. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday can be slow. In fact, it's possible to find the club virtually empty. My theory is the hottest girls do well enough working three or fours days a week that they sometimes take the rest of the week off. Nevertheless, even if you're worried it will be slow, the Chicago Club is a mandatory stop during any Zona Norte excursion. But be aware that the time you visit is important. Even on busy nights, the Chicago Club is usually empty until 9:30, and it takes another hour after that for all the girls to wander in. Peak selection will be from 10:30 to 1:00 a.m. After that, the girls begin to drift off, but the club stays open until nearly dawn.
The Chicago Club caters to foreigners with money, especially Asians. If there are numerous Asian guys in there when you visit, you can be assured the girls will soon appear. Somehow, the word just gets around. When you first walk in, a waiter will try to steer you to a table. Insider tip: Politely decline on the pretext of going to the men's room, then choose your own table. Do NOT sit at the bar. That's where most of the girls hang out, and they get a little peeved if you sit in "their" place. Ditto for hanging out in the alcove near the coat check. The majority of the Chicago Club is pretty dark, which makes it a little tough to get a good look at the girls. For the absolutely BEST view, sit in one of the small booths that surround the dance floor. (My favorite is the one near the ladies room, because eventually all the girls walk right past you.) If you would rather play the high roller, sit at one of the elevated booths up against the wall. Very Las Vegas.
The center of the Chicago Club is dominated by an step-up wooden dance floor with the usual disco lighting. Unlike the other Zona Norte clubs, there is no Mexican music here. Nor is there a band. It's all recorded techno-dance stuff. When the spirit moves them, or the manager insists, the girls will dance either by themselves or with the customers. This gives you a chance get a look at them in slightly better light. On busier nights, they also have several strip shows. Every few hours the DJ will dim the lights and starting yammering away in Spanish and English. Then several girls will come out one at a time and do a strip act, which culminates in them being topless. The quality of the strippers varies. Some nights, you get average-looking girls who just seem to be going through the motions. Other nights, the women are hot and the show is hotter. If you take a fancy to one of the dancers, you should know that some (but not all) of them *just strip.* Which means that you're wasting your time trying to get them to go with you. On the other hand, some ARE working girls. So it never hurts to ask.
The vast majority of Chicago Club girls are taller, thinner, better dressed, better made up and simply better looking than the other women in TJ. (Although some girls at the Adelita Bar, especially those in hottie central, are catching up fast.) And as a rule, the Chicago Club girls speak English slightly more fluently than their Adelita Bar counterparts. Therefore, unlike many of the girls you'll find the Zona Norte who are desperate for business, the girls at the Chicago Club sometimes have more offers than they can accommodate. As a result, they are occasionally somewhat selective. Why? Because they can be. Some of these girls are so stunning, they can pick and choose among guys. I've seen girls sit at the bar all night and turn down every last guy who approaches. I have seen others arrive, go with one guy, come back, go with another, and call it a night in two hours. So beware, the competition can occasionally be tough.
Here's how to stack the odds in your favor: When you get your drink, be CERTAIN to tip at least $1 per round. If you're with a group, $2 per round would not be out of line. Try to remember who your waiter is, and show some loyalty by ordering all of your drinks from him. (The management of the Chicago Club must believe the old "they all look alike" nonsense. So the waiters wear a name tag that has a number on it, presumably so that you can keep them all straight.) Sip and stare and listen to the pounding dance music. Repeat as necessary. When you see a girl that strikes your fancy, tell your waiter you would like to buy her a drink. He will ask her to sit down with you. While it's OK to approach a girl directly, and to dispense with the ladies drink, IMHO using the waiter to invite the girl over for a drink works best. If the club is busy, or if the girl is totally hot, she is likely weighing competing invitations. Moreover, you might be seated where it's impossible to keep her in sight as she circulates throughout the club, or when she returns from the hotel. So it helps to have the waiter on your side. If you've tipped him well, and he thinks he's going to get another tip from the girl's drink, he'll plead your case for you. The girl's drink will run you about $8 and if you throw the waiter $10, he'll be most pleased with the $2 tip. Chat for a while, then strike a deal.
The Chicago Club girls charge slightly more than their Adelita Bar competitors. Expect to be quoted $50-70 for the standard 30 minute half and-half session, plus $11 for the use of the hotel room next door. Given their status at the top of the TJ hooker food chain, the girls at the Chicago Club are more likely to open with a demand in excess of what their willing to ultimately accept. Again, you should politely counter with something in the $50-60 range. Barring exceptional circumstances, even the hottest Chicago Club girls will usually do a standard session for $60. But remember, if you've got your heart set on something out of the ordinary, politely ascertain in advance if the girl will perform this service.
Like the girls at the Adelita Bar, the girls at the Chicago Club will insist that you wear a condom during the session. If the hotel is busy, when your 30 minutes is up they will remind you of the time limit with a knock on the door. But if it's slow, or the girl tells them to bug off, they're not real strict about enforcing it. On your way out, one of the guys who cleans the rooms will solicit a tip of $1.
RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES: When you've had enough fun, catch a cab back to the border. Same fixed fare of $5. The driver will usually let you off at the same cab stand where you hired a cab at the start of the evening. But you cannot retrace your steps because the pedestrian walkway from the USA into Mexico is one-way southbound. To return to the USA, you should first use the pedestrian bridge over the southbound highway into Mexico from the USA. This is an arch-shaped concrete structure that usually has a couple of food vendors at the bottom of the ramp. There is also a hard-to-spot sign up on a pole indicating "TO USA." When you get to the other side of the pedestrian bridge, you will see a highway with about 20 lanes of traffic headed northbound into the USA. Use the crosswalk to go across the highway to the sidewalk on the east side. Then walk north along the sidewalk, past a few shops including a drugstore (where they sell the best macaroons in the world) to the doors into the large border crossing complex. You will go down a long corridor until you come to the pedestrian inspection area maintained by the U.S. authorities.
Some cab drivers will save you a few steps by dropping you off on the east side of the traffic headed north into the United States. This is known as the "Sentri" location. From there, just walk north about 100 years to the doors into the border crossing complex.
Leaving the United States was easy. Getting back in is a *little* harder. In the language of U.S. immigration law, the burden is on YOU to prove "beyond a doubt" that you are "entitled to enter." If you are a U.S. citizen, 99 percent of the time they'll take your word for it. Nevertheless, since 9/11 the inspectors require some kind of picture identification. Often they just glance at it, but sometimes they will run a brief database search for you using a terminal they have right there. If they aren't convinced you are a U.S. citizen, they always have the option of making you prove it. A passport is perfect. If you are a U.S. citizen of Hispanic descent or you have a "foreign" appearance or accent, they will question you more closely. Be sure to have whatever documentation you need. If you are a foreign tourist visiting the U.S., you must present your passport (with U.S. entry visa) so they know you are not trying to sneak into the U.S. via Mexico. They will not, however, stamp your passport with an entry cachet unless you ask. Sometimes, they'll ask you to make a "customs declaration" by asking what, if anything, you are bringing back from Mexico. For the rules on what you can and cannot bring back from Mexico, check out the U.S. Customs Service web site.
Once you are admitted to the USA, you will leave the pedestrian inspection area through doors straight ahead. (There are restrooms there, but often they are closed.) At this point, you are on the EAST side of the highway. If you took the trolley, you'll be just a few steps from where you board for the northbound trip. Ditto is you drove down and parked on the east side. If you drove down and parked in one of the west side lots, however, you need to cross over to the other side of the highway. To do this, once you get outside the building, make a hard right, almost a u-turn. You will see a series of ramps that leads up to the pedestrian bridge that crosses over the top of the northbound and southbound highways. Descend the ramps and you'll see the west side parking lots.