Trip Report: San Diego, California, USA & Tijuana, Mexico

San Diego, California – also known as the birthplace of California. San Diego is also home to thousands of Naval sailors and Marines. As you drive through Harbor Drive you will see plenty of U.S. Naval ships docked at the U.S. Naval port. While in San Diego you should take some time to visit the U.S.S. Midway, the famous San Diego Zoo or simply take a quick hop south of the Border to Tijuana, Mexico.

Upon arrival to San Diego International Airport, you will proceed to baggage claim then exit the airport and cross the cross walk where you will see signs for rental cars, shuttles and public transportation. If you are renting a car the company will provide a shuttle from the airport to their location (5 minute drive) where you will be able to pick up your vehicle. Once you cross the crosswalk you will see signs for rental car shuttles, once you are there keep an eye out for the company you have reserved your vehicle with.  There is a free public city trolly, inquire at the information desk at baggage claim for further details.

San Diego Zoo:
If you are a 90s kid you will probably remember seeing the San Diego Zoo on television. If not, just know that San Diego Zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the United States. The zoo was founded on October 2, 1916 and has about 100-acres of land. Currently, the zoo hosts over 3,700 rare and endangered species.IMG_3980

Hours: Monday-Sunday, 9am-5pm (until March 9, 2014) – open even on Holidays.
Basic Admission: $46 and includes:
–       Admission
–       Express Bus & Skyfari Aerial Tram (Chairlift ride)
–       Guided bus tour
Approx. Length: 2-4 hours
Top Exhibits: Outback, Northern Frontier, Panda Canyon, Urban Jungle, Elephant Odyssey and much more!
Address: 2920 Zoo Drive in Balboa Park, San Diego, California 92101
Phone #: 619-231-1515

Old Town San Diego:
If you’re in the mood for some authentic Mexican food then make sure to pay Old Town San Diego (Fiesta De Reyes) a visit. There are a few souvenir shops and a handful selection of restaurants. The food was delicious and very fresh. There was a live Spanish band playing and people dancing to the live music, it was truly a great atmosphere to be in. Our waiter was friendly and answered any questions that we had about the menu or location – they fluently speak English and Spanish. We personally ate at ‘Casa De Reyes’ but there are more restaurants in the vicinity. If it’s a little chilly or wet outside worry not, they have heating lamps to keep you warm and covers to keep you dry.IMG_3984

Parking: Street & parking lots – FREE!
Price: Most plates are under $20

U.S.S. Midway:
The U.S. Midway was commissioned a week after the end of World War II and was the largest ship in the world until 1955. The Midway served during the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. The ship has been decommissioned since 1992 but for a decent price you can enjoy a tour of the ship. There are tours of certain parts of the ship given by knowledgeable tour guides, most who are retired veterans who volunteer on-board. The museum hosts 60 exhibits and 29 restored aircraft’s, the museum also provide headsets for a guided tour at no additional cost.IMG_4008

Regular: $20 | Online: $18
Students (w/ID): $15 | Online: $13
Seniors (62+): $17 | Online: $15
Youth (6-12): $10 | Online: $8
Retired: $10 | Online: $8
Active Duty: FREE

Parking: $10 next to the museum. Other parking is available nearby so keep an eye out.
Approx. Length: 2-4hours.
Address: 910 N. Harbor Drive San Diego, CA  92101
Phone #: (619) 544-9600

*There is a food stand and ride simulators for an additional fee.

Tijuana, Mexico (San Ysidro):
If you have a free day or about 6 hours of free time then you should go south of the border to Tijuana, Mexico. Depending on where in San Diego you are it should take you anywhere from 5-30 minutes. If you do not want to drive (do not recommend driving), you can park your car about 1-2 blocks from the border and walk across. Going into Mexico they will not ask you any questions, you literally just walk through. Once you walk across the border, ask the locals for the bridge to downtown Tijuana, they will be harassing you to enter their pharmacy or dental office. Do not waste your money on a cab or shuttle; the walk across the bridge to downtown will take no more than 15 minutes. Once you are there the locals will try to get you to enter their shops or restaurants. I do not recommend walking far from the main roads, as it could get dangerous. The food is cheap; we ate a full course meal with drinks for about $8USD. Once you are done eating and shopping a bit, head on back to the U.S. side, just follow the signs and make the ridiculously long line. There is no express line for U.S. citizens, you have to form the general public line unless you have a U.S. passport card (not book), SENTRI, U.S. resident card or an enhanced drivers license. To cross the border to the U.S. you should expect to wait in line 2-3hours as it is one of the busiest border crossings in the United States. On another note, you do not need to exchange US dollars for Mexican pesos, as almost everyone will accept U.S. dollars, just be careful not to get ripped off in the exchange, most smartphones have a free currency converter app. During most of your time in Tijuana you should have U.S. telephone service since it’s so close it spills over but be watchful of it.

Our Stay:
Hotel – Best Western Plus Otay Valley, Chula Visa
We stayed at the Best Western Plus Otay Valley, which is located in Chula Vista, it was a nice hotel near the Tijuana border (5 miles or so), and right next to the I-805 highway, so yes it was a bit noisy though we hardly noticed it. Being so close to the highway meant we could get to the city center in about 15 minutes. The hotel was very cheap but very clean, well kept and the staff was friendly. At check-in make sure to ask for a non-smoking room if you do not smoke. The hotel has an exercise room, a pool, business area, and an amazing continental breakfast. The breakfast included yogurt, juices (cranberry & orange), coffee, scrambled eggs, sausages, muffins, bagels, cereal and waffles – all this included in the room price. Parking is free and there is always a spot available near your room.

Rental Car – Hertz: A yellow shuttle will pick you up from the airport just look for signs outside of baggage claim for rental car shuttles. I suggest that you sign up for Hertz Gold Preferred club online so you can get points for your rentals and have an easier checking in experience.

Airline – American Airlines: Our preferred airline.

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