Shopping is one of Tijuana’s main attractions. Some 15 or 20 years ago, people would cross the border to go drinking and carousing, but now shopping and dental work are more likely to be the cause—although drinking and carousing are still available for those who wish to do that! This city has changed a lot in recent years: it’s cleaner, more culturally interesting, and has a renewed culinary scene. Shopping options are plentiful and varied. Whether you’re looking for street stands selling typical trinkets, traditional markets with produce, foodstuffs, and piñatas, upscale boutiques selling quality handcrafted items, or shopping malls with clothing, electronics, and more, you'll find it in Tijuana, with prices generally quite a bit lower than north of the border.
U.S. citizens are allowed to bring back $800 U.S. worth of goods, including one liter of alcohol, tax-free. This exemption is for visitors who stay a minimum of 48 hours and only apply once every 30 days. If you've spent more than that amount, you may be required to pay duty on your purchases.
Tijuana has a reputation for being a very dangerous city; however, most visitors don't experience any crime on their visits. It's important to keep in mind that it is a massive and busy border city, and you should take safety precautions as you would in any large city anywhere in the world. Don't wear expensive jewelry or flashy clothing, keep valuables to a minimum and out of sight. In general, you'll pay less if you pay in pesos, so keep some cash where you can access it easily. If possible, tuck your passport and credit cards away on your person in a hidden pocket or money belt.
These are a few of the areas that offer the best shopping opportunities in Tijuana.
Plaza Santa Cecilia
This lively plaza at the top of Avenida Revolución near the iconic arch is dedicated to musicians' patron saint, and you may come across mariachis or other musical groups performing. The colorful banners of papel picado enliven the atmosphere. You’ll find many vendors selling typical souvenirs such as T-shirts, keychains, and refrigerator magnets (a lot of these are imported, not made locally), as well as some pottery and traditional Mexican wooden toys. The vendors here can be pushy and may call out to get your attention. Have cash easily accessible for purchases, and be prepared to haggle—it’s part of the fun. You can also stroll, browse, and grab a snack or a drink. This is a good spot to start your shopping in Tijuana, but dedicated shoppers will want to explore beyond this touristy area.
Tijuana’s main drag is filled with shops and boutiques. You’ll find drug stores with low-cost prescription medications as well as shops selling leather goods, clothing, jewelry, cigars, Mexican handicrafts, and more. There’s quite a mix here, with some shops selling cheap souvenirs, but a few establishments sell high-quality goods. A few to seek out include Hand Art for clothing, including embroidered blouses and dresses, guayaberas, and other textiles like tablecloths and cushion covers. Shop 12 has a wide variety of fine handcrafted leather items, and The Emporium has a selection of handicrafts and decorative items from around Mexico.
Pasaje Rodriguez and Pasaje Gomez
These passageways are a couple of examples of Tijuana’s urban renewal. What was dark and, for the most part, abandoned alleyways are now filled with murals, cafes, and small shops and often host cultural gatherings. You’ll find vintage clothing, book and record shops, art galleries, small restaurants, and craft beer bars. The colorful walls make for a favorite spot for Instagram pics. This is where the young, hip Tijuanenses hang out, and it’s a very different feel to TJ’s more touristy spots. Pasaje Rodriguez is located off of Avenida Revolución between Calle 3ra and 4ta, and Pasaje Gomez is off of Avenida Francisco I. Madero, both in the center of Tijuana.
This is Tijuana's biggest and most well-known market. You may find tourists here, but it's really catered more toward locals. It's fun to peruse the vast assortment of things for sale. Some of the products you'll find include produce, dried beans and chiles, candy, Mexican chocolate, mole, crafts, flowers, pottery, piñtas, and more! There are food stalls where you can sample traditional Mexican snacks from different areas of the country. It's busiest early in the day, and that's the best time to go to see the locals doing their shopping. It would help if you have pesos on hand for any purchases you make here.
Plaza Río Tijuana
Plaza Río is a pleasant, indoor/outdoor shopping mall in the Zona Río, conveniently located very close to the Tijuana Cultural Center (CICUT). It has a wide selection of clothing, sporting goods, electronics, cosmetics and shoe stores, Soriana and Sears department stores, a Cinépolis movie theater, and a food court with a selection of fast-food restaurants. There are also Sanborns and Toks sit-down restaurants and a play area for children. The mall has an outdoor gathering area where events are held. There's paid parking, at around 10 pesos per hour.
Mercado de Artesanias
A big market specializing in handicrafts, the Mercado de Artesanias is a bit off the beaten path but offers a good selection of handmade items, including ceramics, leather, tin work, jewelry, Day of the Dead decorative items, shopping bags, baskets, and more. Some of the artisans are at work in their stalls, so you can see how things are made.
This modern shopping mall is located near the Hipodromo race track. It’s pet-friendly, so great for shopping if a furry friend accompanies you. The koi pond in the central plaza has turtles as well as fish. Oh! Zone on the second floor has a roller skating rink, bowling alley, climbing wall, and arcade games, and there’s also a Cinepolis movie theater. There’s a Walmart SuperCenter as well as a variety of smaller shops and boutiques. The selection of restaurants includes Carl’s Jr, Applebees, and more. Be sure to check out the views from the upper level. There’s paid parking in an underground garage.