Baja Skinny: A Local Answers Frequently Asked Questions About Ensenada
Located less than 100 miles south of the International Border at San Ysidro, the Mediterranean-like seaport of Ensenada is situated at the end of a picturesque highway on the Pacific Coast of Baja California Norte. Ensenada’s proximity to the border has for many years made it a natural choice for stateside visitors looking for a convenient and reasonably priced Baja getaway. Here you can enjoy the best of both worlds, from bucolic natural beauty to world-class wining and dining, as well as the other sophisticated pleasures found in this modern city located near the gateway to populous southern California.
But despite its close proximity to the U.S., many folks still have questions about visiting the Ensenada area. So in order to clear up any confusion, we’ve provided answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Do I need to get a visa in order to travel to Ensenada?
If you are staying less than 72 hours, you do not. The area between Tijuana and Punta Colonet is a tourist zone that does not generally require any additional documentation to visit within that time frame. Of course, you should always have a valid passport in your possession, but that is required by the Department of Border Protection in order to cross the border coming back into the U.S., not by the Republic of Mexico.
Will my cellphone work in Baja California Norte?
These days, many of the larger carriers feature international calling privileges in their monthly service packages. If yours does not, chances are that you may still be able to place a call to places north of the border using your phone; but make sure that you find out how much you will be charged before doing so. Sometimes this type of service extension can run as much as $1 to $1.50 (U.S.) per minute. Calling from a local pay phone can often be similarly expensive.
What about Internet access?
Fortunately, Wi-Fi access is widely available between the border and Ensenada, since numerous restaurants, cafes, hotels and even a few shops in the tourist zone use this convenience as a vehicle to bring business into their operations. With the current proliferation of phones, pads and notebooks that are carried by so many people on both sides of the border these days, such widespread access is considered by many to be a necessity.
Do I need a license to go fishing in Baja?
As in almost every region of Mexico, those fishing from shore, the rocks or any type of land based platform such as a pier, dock or wharf can do so without the need for any type of license. Those fishing from boats, however, must have a current, valid Mexican fishing license in their possession for each passenger aboard any boat that is also carrying any type of fishing gear. This means everyone, even small children, regardless of whether they plan to do any fishing. Fishing licenses can be obtained at all Baja Department of Tourism Offices, as well as at sportfishing landings and most tackle shops.
What about emergency situations?
Just as in other industrialized countries, there is any emergency number available in Mexico that will immediately link you with the police and other authorities. It is ‘066’. Although many dispatchers may not be bilingual, you can often be transferred to someone who can speak English simply by politely asking “Servicio en Ingles, por favor?” If your particular situation should require the assistance of the American Consulate, you can contact the Tijuana office by calling (664) 977-2000. They are located at Paseo de las Culturas S/N, Mesa de Otay, 22425 Tijuana, BCN.
Is it true that Baja Norte healthcare professional offer quality dental and medical services at a fraction of stateside prices?
There are, indeed, a growing number of individuals from the U.S. who visit Mexico for medical reasons. Over the past few decades, the number highly trained dentists, physicians, surgeons and other healthcare professionals in Mexico has grown exponentially,particularly in the state of Baja California Norte. Many of these individuals have been schooled in the United States and have set up their practices south of the border, which allows them to offer extremely competitive pricing while maintaining a high professional standard.
Can I use my credit cards in Ensenada? What about paying in dollars as opposed to pesos?
Most of the larger business, hotels and restaurants in Ensenada will happily accept credit and debit cards from major carriers, except for Discovery. However, the majority of smaller operations will accept only cash. While most stores will accept U.S. dollars, the exchange rate that they offer is not always the best. It is often a good idea to pick up some pesos at one of the local cambio kiosks, whose rates are generally advertised on prominent neon signs outside of the establishments.
What if I encounter severe mechanical issues while visiting Ensenada, and need to return to the U.S. without my vehicle?
Fortunately, there is excellent bus service between Ensenada that offers regular carriage to Tijuana and the border every few hours from the downtown terminal. The trip usually takes less than two hours and costs under $15.00 per person.
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