By Barbara Pinto
For quite sometime now, my friends and I have heard nothing but praise and giggles from our classmates in UC San Diego who have already gone shopping in the Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana. Sick of constantly hearing them gush about the number of shops and the variety of items to choose from, we finally decided it was time to come down to Tijuana ourselves to see if they really have something to boast of when it comes to shopping.
Honestly, I wasn’t really up to driving all the way down to Tijuana and spending God knows how many hours cramped in a small Ford Lynx with five other people. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out we were already in the Avenida Revolucion after a mere seven or ten minutes from the international border. The short travel time made me think we were just driving towards another mall or shopping area in San Diego. At that moment, I was thinking that if this shopping trip turned out to be an enjoyable experience then I would definitely keep on coming back since it’s so near anyway.
What I saw when we got there was nothing like what I had in my mind earlier. I was expecting a street lined with boutiques and shops maybe with a couple of stalls and vendors littered in the sidewalks. Who would have expected that the Avenida Revolucion was an entire district composed of eight blocks. The colors, sounds, smells, movements and the magnitude of the entire avenida was beyond overwhelming. There were stores, curio stands, shops, boutiques, stalls, street-side vendors, carts, emporiums, and malls lining every street and alleyway. We passed shops selling bags, jewelry (mostly beautiful silver pieces), leather boots and jackets, ponchos, bottles of tequila, perfume, artworks, craft products, food, ceramic pots, medicine, native rugs, furniture pieces and items I don’t even know. Even before going out of the car, we decided we better look for a hotel to stay in since we are definitely not going to be able to do even a quarter of the Avenida Revolucion in just a single day.
Thankfully, we found a charming little inn just a block from the avenida. There were plenty of other hotels and motels near the shopping district but since it was a Friday in the middle of June, there were lots of tourists and vacationers crowding the large hotels. We left the car in the inn and they lent us three push carts so that we won’t have to carry most of the items we buy during our trip to the Avenida Revolucion.
For that first day of shopping, I planned to spend just $400 and another $400 the for the following day. In the U.S., a mere $400 would not have been enough for a decent shopping trip in the mall since everything is always so expensive. But in the Avenida Revolucion, I was able to purchase two colorful summer dresses, a genuine silver locket with a turquoise-beaded chain, a toe ring, a large brown leather shoulder bag, a great snake skin belt with a large belt buckle, denim pants, a silver and brass picture frame, three second-hand books, a nice wood and ceramic jewelry box, a pair of flip flops made of native materials, and a couple of hair bobbles with my $400. There was even a small change left from my money enough to buy a yummy fish taco for lunch.
Halfway down our shopping spree, I was already bargaining like a pro. Your money is sure to go a long way if you known how to bargain well in Tijuana. There were stores and shops though were no bargaining were allowed so I suggest you ask someone first before you start bargaining for something to avoid embarrassment. I was so caught up bargaining my way through every store we went I didn’t realize the next one we went in had a sign of their no-bargaining policy stuck on the door and the walls. The store attendants thankfully were very polite when they told me the store did not allow bargaining and we were able to laugh off my embarrassment.
We finished shopping at around eight in the evening, and although our feet were throbbing and our arms were limp from carrying dozens of plastic bags, you could tell from the content smiles of my friends that it was a day well spent. We went back to the hotel, ate a dinner comprised of baked lobster with vegetables, spicy chicken wings with a kind of salsa, stuffed peppers called chilles relenos, quesadillas and dulce de leche for dessert. And although I was completely, I had trouble going to sleep cause my mind kept going back to Avenida Revolucion and ideas for the following day’s shopping trip kept popping up until I finally fell asleep.