I just booked a bus tour going to Ensanada from San Diego on Saturday (Holy Week 2011) for me and my wife. Ensanada is about 70 miles south of the border - and there have been some "bad press" about Tiajuana (drug cartel gunfights) so I decided a bus tour might be more reliable and with less stress, than driving with my own car. Our friend though drove to Tiajuana a few weeks before and did not have any problems.
The tour was about $75 (COACH AMERICA + lunch and margarita included), and this can be booked on-line with some $5 discounts sometimes, but I just decided to book through Expedia since I felt comfortable booking through them with my elite status. The tour of course includes hotel pick-up but we were not staying in a San Diego hotel, but we just gave them the city where we were staying and they told us where to wait. In our case, we were in Chula Vista and they had us go to the 24th St station (22nd St and Wilson) trolley station in National City. Parking free at station. But if you at the Harbour place departure area (8-830 AM), the parking there is about $15.
The big bus with COACH AMERICA Sign was prompt at 7 AM. Our nice driver and guide GREG is white but lived in Mexico himself. Very jovial and guided us well through the tour which stopped first at Rosarito, then Ensenada and then Mexico.
Overall, a great idea to go here with a bus tour, which also included a nice lunch (yummy selection of fish with mango sauce, fried squid or steak...) + a free small margarita
The U.S. Departments of State announced that all U.S. citizens, Canadians, citizens of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, and citizens of Mexico will be required to have a passport or other accepted secure document (such as a Border Crossing Card) to enter or re-enter the U.S. by January 1, 2008. SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST programs are anticipated to be still accepted.
The new travel requirements will be rolled out in phases. The current proposed implementation timeline is as follows:
December 31, 2005 – Passport or other accepted document required for all travel (air/sea) to or from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central and South America.
December 31, 2006 – Passport or other accepted document required for all air and sea travel to or from Mexico and Canada.
December 31, 2007 – Passport or other accepted document required for all air, sea and land border crossings.
When you drive across the border from San Ysidro, take the toll road. It will take about an hour and half give or take 10minutes after you pass the border. Follow the signs to highway 1. The road is safe and pretty well maintained. People will speed up to 100mph even though most stretches only allow a max of 110 Km/h. Be on the look out for stopped cars and very slow moving cars as well as keeping an eye on the rear view mirror to get out of the way of people going too fast. Watch out for the occasional pot hole. You will have to stop and pay toll of $2.20 (around 25 pesos) 3 times before you get to Ensenada.
You can stop in Puerto Nuevo for fish tacos or lobster. If you'd like to head to the wineries, you can take highway 3 east toward Tecate for the Ruta de Vino--it's about 20 miles from the highway 1-highway 3 connection to get to the vineyards. The scenery is nice--especially in the spring time. I only feel comfortable driving during the day in Mexico because I'm not too familiar with the areas in between and there are some stories of crime. But, I've never had any trouble. Your biggest worry will be a few pot holes.
When you are coming back try to come early in the morning as possible as the border crossing can back up and delay you and an hour or 2 and sometimes 3 hours.
Taxi rides are safe and drivers charge fairly in most cases. However, if your taxi is un-metered, be certain to agree upon a price before entering the cab. Again it is a cheap form of transport in ensenada area. taxis in mexico particularly in the ensanada area are many but some do have taxi stands where the taxis wait for passengers. the main taxi stand in in front of San Nicolas Hotel at First Street (Calle Primera and also known as Avenida De Lopez Mateos) and Guadalupe 1530 Ensenada, Baja Mexico.
ENSENADA YELLOW CAB
Telephone 011-52 (646) 178-3475 * 011-52 (646) 176-1901.
Located downtown, and at the San Nicolas Hotel.
Custom trips to La Bufadora, Ensenada Wineries, Estero Beach, plus custom city trips!
Headed for a drinking binge at Hussong's? or at Papas & beer or the strip clubs? These folks will drop you off and pick you up! flag down rate is 20 mexican pesos.
Construction of the Ensenada International Airport will begin on December 2008.
It'll be located on the Mesa del Tigre at 360 meters above sea level.
I've heard it will be capable of receiving big airplanes such as the Airbus 380.
A four-lane highway will link the new airport with the seaside city of Ensenada.
A Polar route to Europe is being planned and also routes to Hong Kong and other Asian cities.
I got this information from: http://www.ensenada-baja-vacations.com
Please, if you know more details about this future airport, post them here. We are anxious to enjoy faster Ensenada travels.
Though we had every intention of crossing at San Ysidro and taking the scenic toll road, we played way too long at In-ko-pah and Desert Tower. The owner there told us the crossing at Tecate was smooth, the road good, and the drive safe and pretty ... so to save a little time that is where we crossed.
Off of I-8 we took Hwy 94 from Campo, and little Y intersection said 'To Tecate' and about 1/2 mile later we were in line for the border crossing.
The 2 lane hwy from Tecate to Ensenada was in great condition, and so beautifully green! This route took us through the wine growing region of baja. We had no problems going on down. On the way back up we did get in a line of cars at a Mexican Military road block, but even that was easy to pass through once I got over the young faces and large weapons. The entry back into the US was pretty quick - I'd say about 30-40 minutes all together. We each had proper papers, and we got pulled for secondary screening so that added the extra time. Without the extra attention we'd have gotten through in 20 minutes or so.
I have made the trip back and forth to San Diego many times on the toll road both in the day and at night and so far have not been stopped once. I have noticed that SUVs tend to be stopped more than cars.
Some general tips that may help avoid problems:
1. Don't drink and drive.
2. Don't drive an expensive vehicle.
3. Have proof of mexican insurance before you cross the border.
4. Don't speed (limits are posted in KPH and change frequently).
5. Remember that the left lane on the toll road is for passing only.
6. Always wear your seat belt.
7. Make sure your registration and driver's license are valid. Your vehicle can be impounded if these are not current.
8. Using a cell phone while driving is a traffic violation in Baja California.
9. Watch for cross walks, pedestrians have the right-of-way.
When you cross the border in one of the nothing to declare lanes, you will get a random green or red light (if you get red you need to pull into the inspection lane). After crossing stay towards the middle lanes, but be prepared to exit on the right for the Ensenada Scenic Toll Road (MEX1). You will pass through three tolls (Currently 26 pesos or $2.50 USD on the way down to Ensenada, which is worth it because the free road will take much longer. There is also one agricultural inspection south of Rosarito, which I hear they may be removing soon.
Taking one of the ABC busses to Ensenada is easy and inexpensive (currently about $9 one way). They leave the bus terminal every half hour from early morning to 9:30pm at night.
After walking across the border you will pass through the first border turnstiles, take a right at the intersection and walk through a second set of turnstiles. Cross the street, turn left, and walk past all the yellow taxis and the McDonalds towards the Plaza Viva sign. The station is easy to find, it's on the street to the right just past the Taxi Libre pickup behind the large building with mirrored windows.
TIP 1: Don´t let anyone direct you to other busses, which may not be as nice and may take longer with frequent stops. ABC is the bus line you want. These buses are nice and comfortable with plenty of room and they usually show a movie on the way. If the bus is full you should take your assigned seat.
TIP 2: You can request to sit on the right side of the bus, which will give you a better view of the coastline.
TIP 3: The bus usually makes a stop before getting to the bus terminal near Ave. Juarez which is about four blocks from the main tourist street, which can save you several blocks if you are walking. You can ask the driver to identify the stop close to Ave Juarez.
The ABC Bus terminal in Ensenada is located at the corner of Riveroll and Decima (10th street). A taxi ride between the tourist zone (Lopez Mateos/1st. street) and the terminal is currently $5, however if you don't have much luggage it isn't too long of a walk.
Ensenada is an easy city to walk, and we did a lot of it during the three days we spent there. However, on the morning we visited La Bufadora and regions south of the city we took a taxi. Taxis are easily found along Paseo Calle Primera, the main tourist drag. We thought the rates were reasonable and our driver, Humberto, was very friendly and eager to please.
Karen and I tacked on our three day visit to Ensenada to a week we spent in San Diego, California. We chose to take the bus with Baja California Tours, and were very pleased with the value and service we received. Our tour, included bus transportation with a pick-up at our hotel in San Diego, stops in Tijuana and Rosarita Beach, Mexico, one lunch in Ensenada, and two nights lodging. All of this cost less than just two more nights at a moderate hotel in San Diego would have been.
The ride to Ensenada and back was an easy one along a modern highway, with wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Baja countryside to the east.
Pemex gas stations are the only official outlets where you can purchase fuel in Mexico. These are full service stations and the attendant should handle the pump, and they will also check oil, tire pressure, etc., if asked.
Basic unleaded gasoline is called "Magna" and is measured in liters (1 gallon = 3.3785 liters).
Be prepared to pay for your fuel with cash. Although some Pemex stations close to the US border may accept US dollars, you should expect to pay for your fuel with Mexican currency. Be aware that some gas stations in Mexico have been known to attempt certain 'rip-off' ploys. To avoid being ripped-off, make sure the fuel pump is set to $0.00 when you begin fueling. Also, pay attention to how much change you should receive in return when paying for your fuel. Gas station attendants have been known to intentionally give tourists the incorrect amount of change.
If you ask the attendent to do any extras like check your oil or tire pressure, a tip 5-10 pesos (~50 cents - $1) is customary.
No Rebase: No passing.
Curva Peligrosa: "Dangerous Curve" (someone got hurt or killed to "warrant" the dangerous curve sign)
Poblano Proximo: Town Near. - reduce your speed
Ceda El Paso: Yield right-of-way
Encruzamiento de Ferrocarrilles: Railroad crossing (Traffic is supposed to come to a full stop at railroad crossings)
Vado: dry washes that cross the road, Vados can fill with flood water from a distant storm in a matter of minutes
Cuesta Peligrosa: "Dangerous Grade".
Un Sentido: One Way Street
Alto: Stop Sign
Ganado: Cattle crossing
It’s only about a 120 mile round trip from San Diego to Ensenada so gas should not be an issue, but if you plan on doing more driving, here is some information about fuel in Mexico. The price of fuel is uniform throughout Mexico, with the possible exception of some border areas where fuel may be priced to reflect competition across the border. The only seller of fuel is Pemex, the nationally owned "Petroleos Mexicanos" oil monopoly, and they normally accept only cash at the Pemex stations (i.e., no checks or credit cards).
The unleaded gas in Mexico is called "Magna Sin", and is supposed to have an octane rating of 92. This unleaded is sold from the green pumps. Beware, a leaded gas, "Nova", is still sold in Mexico from blue pumps.
Diesel fuel is readily available due to the large number of trucks on the highway - however, don't confuse the green Magna Sin gasoline pump with a diesel pump as might be the case in the U.S.. The diesel pumps are purple or red, and are usually found on a separate island - the marking is "Diesel Sin." The usual warning about water in diesel fuel applies more so along the Baja highway. Try to use only the large stations which have a lot of truck traffic that keeps the fuel from sitting in the tanks for long periods of time.
Be careful during holidays, as there may be gasoline supply problems, especially in the central region of the peninsula. There are also large convoys of RVs periodically traveling the highway. One friend passed 50 of them line together. If you try to go to the station after they filled up, they may be out, if you are lined up with them, you may be there the rest of the day. Gauge the distance to the next station and the likelihood that there will be gas at that station - do not rely on the distance measurements printed on the blue or green gas pump signs along the highway. Imagine that the next station is out of fuel, and think about what you would do if that turned out to be the case.
The Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) is an organization belonging to the Federal Secretary of Tourism that provides medical first aid, mechanical services, including basic mechanical supplies. They drive radio-equipped vehicles and their main function is to help tourists who experience car problems along any of their patrolled highways. You won't be charged for their services, but you will be charged for parts, gas, and oil. They patrol the highway daily, from dawn until sunset. If you have an emergency while driving call the Ministry of Tourism's hotline (078) and ask them to contact the closest Green Angel. If you are unable to call them, pull off the road and lift up the hood of your car. Chances are good they'll find you