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TJ Border Crossing, Dec 14
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jblum

Since 13 Jul 2008
278 Posts
Hood River
Obsessed



PostSun Dec 07, 08 9:01 pm    TJ Border Crossing, Dec 14 Reply with quote

I'm crossing the border on Sunday, Dec 14 on the way down to Barilles. Is there anyone else who was thinking about crossing the same day?

Safety in numbers...

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Pete

Since 29 Oct 2007
780 Posts

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PostMon Dec 08, 08 9:01 am     Reply with quote

"Uhhh...I'm gonna have to go ahead and, uh, disagree with you on that one."

Shameless obscure movie quote, but seriously, I'm not sure all these ideas of caravaning are really the best move. I have two stories of caravans being carjacked in TJ, but have not heard of any for solo drives. I think the banditos are targeting larger groups, for a bigger haul with less effort.

I have been to Baja several times over the past few months, and other than the twinge of anxiety in my gut when we go through TJ, nothing much has changed. Of course, all it takes is once to get dead. Shocked

Anyways, back to the point, not sure that caravaning is the solution to be safe. Based on my purely circumstantial and anecdotal analyzed evidence, there are several things that you want to avoid. I think these things are common sense, but I have seen many who either don't know any better, or think they are immune. These are things that I have been doing for the last 25 years of going to Baja to keep a low profile.

1. Keep all of your gear inside your vehicle. Personally, I feel this is THE most important rule to adhere to. No surfboards on the roof. No motorcycles hanging off the back, no trailers full of ATV's and mountain bikes, etc. Out of necessity on my last two trips, I have put on a roof box, which I wasn't overly comfortable with, but I feel this is still better as it hides the surfboards and stuff inside, which in my opinion scream "I am an American with piles of cash, Ipods, cell phones and other stuff you want" quite loudly.

2. Drive the oldest vehicle you have. Who is going to get pulled over first, the guy in the brand new Sequoia, or the guy in the '79 Toyota pickup? Don't wash it for weeks. Anything you can do to minimize your appearance of wealth and detract from your standing out in a crowd WILL help.

3. Don't drive through TJ or any other border town in the wee hours of darkness in the morning. Both carjackings in caravans were also in the early morning hours, around 4:30 or 5:00 am.

4. If you see flashing lights behind you, don't simply pull over right away. Take a hard look at who is pulling you over, and if it appears to be a real police vehicle. Obviously, this is much harder to do at night, another reason not to drive through TJ in darkness. Once you determine that it is a real police officer, pull over in a crowded area. Like in front of a liquor store, gas station, toll booth, anything where there are other people, and it's not just you and the pursuit vehicle in the middle of no where. Again, both incidents above were "simulated" police pull overs, complete with flashing lights, etc. When the "suspects" pulled over, they realized that there were no police, only banditos. The last trip I made, I discussed our plan of action if we were to be lit up in TJ with my passengers. I made sure they understood, and were comfortable with the fact that I AM NOT STOPPING, until I get to a safe place. If the pursuit vehicle was unofficial looking in any way, I was going to do my best to out-run and out last them.

5. Bring someone along who speaks Spanish fluently. Yeah, I know not everyone is going to be able to do this, but if you are in a sticky situation, this will be worth it's weight. I am lucky that one of my travel mates has talked himself out of jail without paying any bribes or getting anyone else involved, just by his wit and mastery of the Spanish language. (BTW, he went to jail for getting in a traffic accident). Take it upon yourself to learn, if you don't have one of your crew who does. It might just save your life. At the least, it will allow you to communicate with the Federales in their native tongue at the checkpoints, which tends to put them at ease.

6. I debated even mentioning this, as I hope no one is stupid enough to do it these days, but leave your drugs at home. I have seen Federales with dogs sniffing around vehicles at the inspection stations you will pass on your way down. Maybe they are just their personal pets that they bring to scare people, but you don't want to find out that they are the real deal. It's just not worth it. Leave your weed at home.

Anyways, I'm no expert, just a guy that loves Baja, and can't quit the habit. This is the way I manage my risk. If you load up your '79 Toyota pickup with an old shell, and all your gear inside the back of the truck, my prediction is that you will be fine. Take the 2008 Chevy Silverado with a big cab over camper shell, towing a boat, with your SUP strapped to the roof, and your chances are much more likely that you will have trouble, IMHO.

Best of luck man. Here's to many more safe and sane Baja trips.

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jblum

Since 13 Jul 2008
278 Posts
Hood River
Obsessed



PostMon Dec 08, 08 9:07 am     Reply with quote

Pete,

Thanks a lot for your helpful advice. We're taking down a bunch of stuff for a friend's house, and don't want to declare the stuff we're taking down (avoid the duty, basically). Many people have told us TJ is the way to go because its faster and fewer stops with more cars going through. The other option is Tecate, which I understand is safer, but also more likely to get pulled over and inspected. Do you have any advice on this?

Also, we need to get visas because we're flying back. Can we do this in La Paz or elsewhere, or does it need to be done at the border?

Thanks again for your post. Much appreciated!

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Pete

Since 29 Oct 2007
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PostMon Dec 08, 08 9:57 am     Reply with quote

I don't see a problem going through TJ. Never been through Tecate, so can't comment on that.

Not sure about the visas. You need your Passports to get back whether you fly or drive. If you have those, you should be fine.

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genek

Since 21 Jul 2006
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East Po
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PostMon Dec 08, 08 10:03 am     Reply with quote

You need tourist Visas once you leave the border zone which is around San Quintin I believe. You should be able to pick those up at the TJ border, walk over to bank (also at border) to pay for them, walk back and get them stamped. Sounds stupid, but that's the process. Everything is within 200ft of each other.

If you're going cross after sunrise (maybe 7am) and keep cruising until dark to get far away from the border which is more dangerous from what I can gather. That's what we did with 2 cars and it was fine.

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Wyo Kiter

Since 09 Mar 2006
148 Posts
In a VAN, down by the RIVER.
Stoked



PostMon Dec 08, 08 10:25 am    tecate Reply with quote

forgive the mispellings I am on a German Keyboard
I always go thru Tecate, this time I stayed at a friends in San Deigo, just minutes from TJ, but still drove the hour or so to Tecete. I cross just after 8 am so I can stop and get the visa. you have to stop to get it because noone is going to make you do it and you might have problems when you cross to BCS in Guerro NEgro.

you have to pay of the visa at a bank. There is a Banorte in Ensenada, in the Walmat,Home Depot parking lot. This was s good place to stop and check the rig as it is a gringo sized parking lot big box style. Plus the road from Tecete to Ensanda is the Routa de Vino, wine counrty and there are a few winerys worth stoping at and pickig up a case or 2 for the winter.

When I was in the immagraton office in Tecete there was a tv with the news on and the story was of violence and drug wars in TJ. I told the Immagration officer that this is the Reason I am in his office in Tecate and not in TJ. Tecete is a amall town an you are out of town before you know it. Just be sure to be on ALTO patrol as the stopsigns tend to be hidden. I feel that tecete is worth the extra time, because hell you are driving 2-3 days anyway what is a few hours for some peace of mind.

also good avise on the rig, drugs etc. My truck looks like a piece of shit in the states but looks pretty sweet here.

play the part, keep only a few dolllars in your wallet, an hide the rest in the dash or something. I took about 250 usd in pesos (enought for gas and food for 2 days of driving) and left the rest in the bank as you can access the money from an ATM (make sure your card will work in MEX as most banks have a foregn block you will need to have lifted for your time here) when you are here. then I keep all but 40 dollares (in pesos) in a wallet with old expiredcancelled credit cards, etc. This way I feel if you have any troble just forfit the wallet and move on.

one other thing, a friend suggested bear spray, I bought a can of it at REI, it looks like a fire extinguiser if you peel off the lable, and you can keep it handy, just in case you need to use it as it will take some one out with out haveing to use a gun.

BUT for me this drive was very uneventfull as have been most of my drives. just plan for the worst and hope for the best. see ya when you get here, the wind has been good.

PEACE

PS I had my truck and a 19 foot catanmarran, no one has ever stoped me before for an inspection and not this time either. Just as long as you have sproting equipment and such it shouldn,t be a problem. but if ysour friends have you bringing tv,s bathroom fixtures, lights etc then you may want to have your friends take their own risks.

Crossing in Tecete is super fast, at 8 am you will be the only one there, and going back is quite fast. I have only crosssed at TJ once gong down, on the way back I went tru Tecete, and have repeated that route ever since. Also I made it from Tecete to Gureeo negro beforw sunset the first day...


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Last edited by Wyo Kiter on Mon Dec 08, 08 10:33 am; edited 1 time in total

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tstansbury

Since 06 Jun 2006
649 Posts
Rowena and P.C
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PostMon Dec 08, 08 10:31 am     Reply with quote

At solo sports (the outfitter for san carlos) They said they always go thru Tecate now.

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CraM

Since 15 Mar 2007
4 Posts

Kook



PostMon Dec 08, 08 12:33 pm     Reply with quote

pardon the ignance but what's the deal with the tourist visas?

does everyone need one? is this only cuz yer driving?

never been to mx before - heading down over xmas (flying).

thanks,
-=c

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genek

Since 21 Jul 2006
2165 Posts
East Po
KGB



PostMon Dec 08, 08 12:42 pm     Reply with quote

If you're flying it's part of the deal. You'll fill it out on the airplane or after you land. You basically need one if you leave the border zones or stay there for more than a week or so. They're pretty laid back about it so many people don't realize you need one, but you'll want one if someone decides to check. They should cost somewhere in the $20-40 range depending on where you get em. They're more expensive at the consulate in California than at the border for some reason. Go figure.
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pdxmonkeyboy

Since 16 May 2006
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PostMon Dec 08, 08 12:44 pm     Reply with quote

CraM wrote:
pardon the ignance but what's the deal with the tourist visas?

does everyone need one? is this only cuz yer driving?

never been to mx before - heading down over xmas (flying).

thanks,
-=c


Yes.

Here is the scoop from the embassy:

Tourist Travel: U.S. citizens do not require a visa or a tourist card for tourist stays of 72 hours or less within "the border zone," defined as an area between 20 to 30 kilometers of the border with the U.S., depending on the location. U.S. citizens traveling as tourists beyond the border zone or entering Mexico by air must pay a fee to obtain a tourist card, also known as an FM-T, available from Mexican consulates, Mexican border crossing points, Mexican tourism offices, airports within the border zone and most airlines serving Mexico. The fee for the tourist card is generally included in the price of a plane ticket for travelers arriving by air.


http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html#entry_requirements


http://portal.sre.gob.mx/usa/index.php?option=displaypage&Itemid=111&op=page&SubMenu=

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tstansbury

Since 06 Jun 2006
649 Posts
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PostMon Dec 08, 08 1:50 pm     Reply with quote

they will hand them out on the plane.

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jblum

Since 13 Jul 2008
278 Posts
Hood River
Obsessed



PostMon Dec 08, 08 2:03 pm     Reply with quote

Does that mean I could go get a FM-T Visa at the Ensenada Airport rather than stopping at the TJ border? I think our main goal is to just cruise through TJ without having to stop for visas or anything. We'll have a box on the roof with gear inside it.

Great advice on the wallet with old cards and a bit of cash. I don't know about the bear spray... I think if anyone pulled a gun or whatever, I'd try to give them what they wanted rather than risking the consequences for failed bear spray assault tactics... Shocked

Once you're South of Ensenada, does the trip get safe enough to put boards up on the roof? Its going to be a packed car with all that stuff inside!

Thanks to all for the helpful info.

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genek

Since 21 Jul 2006
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East Po
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PostMon Dec 08, 08 2:12 pm     Reply with quote

I'd get the tourist card at the border. You're not really in TJ yet. It's literally on the right from where the guards stand letting cars through. It has it's own border parking lot and everything is self-contained. You can do it at the port of Ensenada as well I believe, but you'd have to park and get away further from your car potentially (never tried it there). Getting past Ensenada is a good milestone, but there has been an incident(s) of campers getting attacked at Shipwrecks which is further South. You can probably put your boards on the roof, but don't camp in any empty areas that are easily accessible from the highway and frequented by tourists. Once you get South of San Quintin you're probably in safer territory (about 6-7 hours from border I think).
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Mark

Since 20 Jun 2005
3670 Posts
I need my fix because I'm a
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PostTue Dec 09, 08 8:32 pm     Reply with quote

Becareful....
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081209/wl_nm/us_mexico_drugs;_ylt=AhsMl9.NhdCPOgEUWFhVVSgDW7oF

......................................................................................
TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) Gunmen are deliberately killing innocent people with random shootings at bars, restaurants and shopping malls in the city of Tijuana in a new scare tactic that takes Mexico's drug war to new depths.

Hit squads have killed at least 50 people, including around 10 children, since October in an escalation of violence in public places that security officials say is akin to terrorism.

The indiscriminate attacks, including shootings in cinemas, pool halls and restaurants, appear to be an attempt by the weakened Arellano Felix cartel to show security forces and rival gangs that it is still a force despite setbacks.

In one recent attack, gunmen in body armor and armed with assault rifles stormed into Tijuana's popular Crazy Banana pool hall and opened fire on customers, killing four men and a woman.

"We were playing pool and these masked men came in shouting and started firing at everyone," said day laborer Juan Miguel at the scene, wiping blood from his head after the attack. He declined to give his surname.

"Anyone close to them was immediately killed," he said.

City police say none of the pool hall victims appeared to have links to drug gangs, a marked change from drug killings across Mexico this year when hit squads have gone after specific targets even if they also clumsily killed others.

"In fact, we don't see a clear target in any of the recent killings of this kind. We cannot rule out that these are terror-style acts," said Juan Salvador Ortiz, a deputy prosecutor for Baja California state, home to Tijuana.

Police and anti-drug experts believe Tijuana's Arellano Felix organization, which has been hurt by the arrests of former leaders and a turf war with other gangs, is behind the shootings as it desperately tries to hold its ground.

Under a nationwide clampdown on drug gangs, President Felipe Calderon has sent thousands of soldiers and federal police to Baja California since January 2007, complicating life for the Arellano Felix clan that became notorious and made a fortune in the 1990s for smuggling cocaine into California, one of the world's top drug markets.

Soldiers have made big drug seizures and captured more Arellano Felix leaders but have failed to stop the violence.

"The Tijuana turf is too valuable to lose. They are doing this to stay in the city, to show their power and ridicule the authorities," said Victor Clark, a drug trade expert at San Diego State University, of the public shootings.

"Empty streets make it easier for them to operate."

HORRIFYING VIOLENCE

Drug killings throughout Mexico have skyrocketed this year, scaring off investment and prompting the United States to send hundreds of millions of dollars to help its southern neighbor.

The number of fatalities has more than doubled to nearly 5,400 people so far this year and 2009 could be even worse, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said on Monday.

The army has warned people in Tijuana to stay indoors as much as possible, angering city residents.

"We cannot live locked up. They are the ones who should be behind bars," Tijuana's Archbishop Rafael Romo told Reuters.

The new scare tactics come amid a shocking level of violence in Tijuana, once a freewheeling city serving tequila, sex and medicine to Americans crossing over from San Diego.

Tijuana has seen more than 700 people killed this year in drug-related violence as Mexico's most-wanted man Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, a prison escapee who leads a cartel from the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, tries to gain control.

The rival Gulf cartel and its armed wing, the Zetas, has joined the fight, fanning out from its home turf across the border from Texas.

The three biggest gangs are using horrifying methods to outdo each other, beheading victims, cutting up bodies, dumping them in barrels of acid and even storming hospitals to finish off targets they had left wounded but clinging to life.

In the first major attack on civilians, suspected drug gang members threw grenades into a packed crowd celebrating Mexico's independence day in September in the western city of Morelia, killing eight people and wounding more than 100.

(Writing by Robin Emmott; Editing by Kieran Murray)

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kyle.vh

Since 11 Jul 2007
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PostTue Dec 09, 08 10:53 pm     Reply with quote

just to keep some perspective, there were approx. 200 murders in DC last year (in 1992 it was almost 500).
DC is 1/4 the population of TJ. So, DC had more per captia murders than TJ last year. (and almost 4x as many murders a decade ago!)
I'm sure we could send mexican tourists some pretty scary American headlines
Wink

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Nak

Since 19 May 2005
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PostWed Dec 10, 08 5:57 am     Reply with quote

Not an apples to apples comparison. There have been 700 cartel related murders in TJ so far this year. That's in addition to the regular murders. Journalists are fleeing the area and seeking asylum in the US. That's not even a little comparable to DC. The Police aren't at all likely to rob & murder you in DC. They just might these days in TJ. Things are getting very, very, grim in Northern Baja. Matters are deteriorating rapidly, and it's a lot worse now than it was a year ago.

In Texas a few years back I was instructing some members of the Honduran Air Force. Two of them drove up from Honduras. They carried automatic weapons and 20 hand grenades. (Apparently, they were able to bribe the legitimate police...) By the time they got to the border they were down to 10 grenades. When someone tried to stop them, they'd toss a grenade out the window & fire a burst over the heads of the banditos. I guess that discouraged further pursuit! Very Happy

I'm not saying don't go. I'm saying have a realistic understanding of the danger involved. It is worse now than it was before. Unlike anywhere in the US, if you are robbed/raped/murdered, LE really isn't going to care. They have enough problems of their own to deal with. Understand that you're dealing with banditos who have zero fear of any investigation/consequences. You are on your own and they know it.

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pdxmonkeyboy

Since 16 May 2006
6080 Posts
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PostWed Dec 10, 08 6:50 am     Reply with quote

kyle.vh wrote:
just to keep some perspective, there were approx. 200 murders in DC last year (in 1992 it was almost 500).
DC is 1/4 the population of TJ. So, DC had more per captia murders than TJ last year. (and almost 4x as many murders a decade ago!)
I'm sure we could send mexican tourists some pretty scary American headlines
Wink



Nak makes a good point. At least in DC you can actually CALL the police and they may show up. When the shit goes down in TJ, or anywhere else in BAJA you can bet that it is going to be you and the attackers, and that is it.

I think the main point is, don't dawdle in TJ, keep a low profile, and be smart. Elsewhere in the Baja >>> DO NOT CAMP ALONE. ANYWHERE. PERIOD.

Sure, people do it and don't have problems; but people bang hookers in Haiti without condoms and don't have problems either.

Take it from me, you don't want to deal with attackers in Baja or the negative effects that will linger for years.

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