Tijuana has a reputation as a city of debauchery, the place to go for those looking for drinking, drugs, and strip clubs. It’s located right on the border, just south of San Diego, and its drinking age of 18 and low prices have always held an appeal for those looking for revelry, whatever its form.
In recent years, the city has undergone a renaissance; although you can still find all of the above if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll also find a thriving arts and culture scene, delicious food, a variety of locally produced craft beers and wines, and no shortage of hip hangout spots. Tijuana’s nightlife is diverse, and there are ample options to choose from. Whether you want to while away the hours in a traditional Mexican cantina, sample artisanal beer in a mellow brewpub, dance the night away in a trendy club, or sip cocktails while you enjoy some people watching, you’ll find something to suit your fancy in Tijuana.
The city does have its share of violent crime, as well as petty crime, but visitors who stick to the better areas of town and follow general safety recommendations are unlikely to encounter trouble. Read on for our recommendations on where to go and what to do, and some general safety tips that will allow you to enjoy all that Tijuana has to offer after dark.
For a chill happy hour or a few rounds of drinks before a night of clubbing, check out some of these bars:
- Tia Juana Tilly’s has been a Tijuana institution since 1947. This spot functions as a restaurant during the day and transforms into a nightclub at night. If you're wanting to catch an important game, there are screens broadcasting sports events, and they also frequently host live music performances. On Fridays and Saturdays, they play contemporary favorites, and on Sundays they play oldies, attracting a more mature crowd.
- Deck 22 is on Avenida Revolucion up a flight of stairs you'll find a large space with a bar and dance floor and beyond that a patio from which you can observe the action on Avenida Revolución.
In recent years, a lot of the action has shifted to Calle 6, referred to as “La Sexta,” on either side of Avenida Revolución. Here you’ll find a hip scene populated by local Tijuanenses, with mainly young creatives, and there are several cool bars and restaurants, including the following:
- Dandy del Sur, a Mexican cantina that dates to the 1950s but is newly cool with a vintage atmosphere. Friendly service, music on the jukebox, and local snacks draw in locals and tourists alike. The management has made it known that any woman feeling in an unsafe situation can order a “Medio Mundo” drink and the staff will look out for her.
- La Mezcalera is a mezcal bar that has a wide variety of this strong spirit made from agave, as well as some mezcal-based liqueurs, but you can also order beers and cocktails. Snacks are traditional Mexican such as tamales, chapulines (fried grasshoppers), and churros. There are three different areas, each with its own ambiance. There are tables on the first level, another room has a dance floor, also with some seating, and there’s a back patio for when the weather’s fine.
When you go out clubbing in Tijuana, you can be sure to have a good time without spending a lot of money. Check out some of the hopping clubs on Avenida Revolución or head to the more upscale Zona Río.
- Coko Bongo on Avenida Revolución caters to a young crowd (18 to 25) and plays hip hop, rap, and pop. It's only open on Friday and Saturday nights. Pay a cover and there's an open bar.
- Las Pulgas is a huge establishment featuring five different areas each playing a different style of music (Banda, Salsa, Top 40, Norteño, etc.) They open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 p.m. until the sun comes up,
- El Alebrije is a large, Vegas-style club playing a mix of electronic music and reggaeton, as well as some old classics. Security is very strict, so expect to be patted down and to reveal the contents of your pockets.
- Rubiks Retro Bar is the place to head to if you’re a fan of music from the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Head down a flight of steps to enter this club and you may feel like you've stepped back in time.
There are plenty of spots where you can enjoy food until late. A few stand-out spots include the following:
- Telefonica Gastro Park is a beer garden located in a refurbished warehouse, with impressive interior design Sample the best of cutting-edge Baja cuisine such as Baja-Med sashimi, vegan tacos, shrimp, and cheese tacos, while you enjoy a local craft beer or wine.
- Tacos El Franc, a no-frills taco joint on the north side of the city in Zona Rio, five minutes from the border that attracts a mix of locals and visitors to enjoy delicious carne asada and adobada tacos. They’re open until 1 a.m. on week nights, and until 3 a.m. on weekends.
Tips for Going Out in Tijuana
- Safety concerns: Pay attention to your surroundings and keep an eye on your drink. It’s better to stay with friends and have a plan in case you get separated. On the street, stick to well-lit areas where there are people. Don’t carry valuables or money beyond what you’ll need. Some travelers choose to keep their cash and credit cards in a money belt and carry a decoy wallet with a bit of cash and some old credit cards to hand over in case they get mugged. For information about current crime levels and safety concerns, read the U.S. Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Council’s Crime & Safety Report for Tijuana.
- Drinking Age: In Mexico, the legal drinking age is 18.
- Dress Code: In general, casual attire is fine, although beach or sportswear, jean shorts, baseball caps, and flip-flops may be frowned upon. If you’re going to some of the more upscale clubs in Zona Río, you may wish to dress up a bit more.
- Open Containers: It’s illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in public spaces.
- Cover Charge and Tips: Some clubs have a cover charge that includes an open bar. Keep in mind that tips are not included, and you may have to tip generously to keep the drinks coming.
- Check prices and check your bill: Check food and drink prices before ordering and keep track of your tab. It’s a good idea to close out your drinking tab after every two rounds to keep things simple and ensure no extra charges are added.
- Transportation: Taxis and Uber are available at all hours. Uber is a safer option, just make sure to verify that the license plate and driver match the description in the app. If you take a taxi at night, as a precaution, take a photo of the taxi number on the side of the car and send it to a friend.