Map of Tijuana- Mexico

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Tijuana is the largest city in Baja California and on the Baja California Peninsula and center of the Tijuana metropolitan area, part of the international San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan area. As an industrial and financial center of Mexico, Tijuana exerts a strong influence on economics, education, culture, art, and politics. As the city has become a leading center in the country, so has the surrounding metropolitan area, a major industrial and paramount metropolis in northwestern Mexico. Currently one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in Mexico, Tijuana maintains global city status. As of 2015, the city of Tijuana had a population of 1,696,923.

Tijuana is located on the Gold Coast of Baja California, and is the municipal seat and cultural and commercial center of Tijuana Municipality. Tijuana covers 70% of the municipality but contains over 80% of its population. A dominant manufacturing center of the North American continent, the city maintains facilities of many multinational conglomerate companies. In the early 21st century, Tijuana became the medical-device manufacturing capital of North America. Tijuana is also a growing cultural center and has been recognized as an important new cultural mecca. The city is the most visited border city in the globe; sharing a border of about 24 km (15 mi) with its sister city San Diego. More than fifty million people cross the border between these two cities every year. This metropolitan crossing makes the San Ysidro Port of Entry the busiest land-border crossing in the world. It is estimated that the two border crossing stations between the cities proper of San Diego and Tijuana account for 300,000 daily border crossings alone.

Tijuana is the 40th largest city in the Americas and is the westernmost city in Mexico. According to the 2010 census, the Tijuana metropolitan area was the fifth-largest in Mexico, with a population of 1,784,034, but rankings vary, the city (locality) itself was 6th largest and the municipality (administrative) 3rd largest nationally. The international metropolitan region was estimated to be just over five million in 2009 and about 5,105,769 in 2010, making it the third largest metropolitan area in the former Californias region, 19th largest metropolitan area in the Americas, and the largest bi-national conurbation that is shared between US and Mexico. Tijuana is becoming more suburbanized like San Diego; during the 2000s the drug violence had residents moving out of the congested urban core into isolated communities within the municipality and beyond, as evidenced by 2010 Census figures and growth patterns.

Tijuana traces its modern history to the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century who were mapping the coast of the Californias. As the American conquest of northern Mexico ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Tijuana’s new international position on the border gave rise to a new economic and political structure. The city was founded in July 11, 1889 as urban development began. Often known by its initials, T.J., and nicknamed Gateway to Mexico, the city has historically served as a tourist center dating back to the 1880s.

Population: 1,696,923 (2015)

According to the 2010 census, the Tijuana metropolitan area was the fifth-largest in Mexico, with a population of 1,784,034, but rankings vary, the city (locality) itself was 6th largest and the municipality (administrative) 3rd largest nationally.

Language

Spanish is the dominant language in Tijuana, as it is in much of Mexico. However, English is spoken by almost everybody in the city’s tourist hot spots (such as Avenida Revolución), as well as by some taxi drivers and the Americans who live in the city.

Currency

When traveling in Baja, it is usually better to pay for goods and services in pesos, rather than in U.S. dollars. Although U.S. dollars will be accepted at most larger businesses from Tijuana to Cabo, the exchange rate when paying in U.S. dollars can be significantly less than the official rate.

Geography

Tijuana is the western-most city in Mexico, and consequently in Latin America, and the 2nd largest city of northern Mexico. Located about 210 kilometers (130 mi) west of the state-capital, Mexicali, the city is bordered to the north by the cities of Imperial Beach, and the San Diego neighborhoods of San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, California. To the southwest of the city is Rosarito Beach, while to the south is unincorporated territory of Tijuana Municipality. The city is nestled among hills, canyons, and gullies. The central part of the city lies in a valley through which flows the channeled Tijuana River.

Housing development in the Tijuana Hills has led to eradication of many seasonal mountain streams. This lack of natural drainage makes places within the city vulnerable to landslides during the rainy season. The varied terrain of Tijuana gives the city elevation extremes that range from sea level to 790 metres (2,590 ft).

Tijuana is noted for its rough terrain, which includes many canyons, steep hills, and mesas. Among noted canyons in Tijuana are Canyon K and Canyon Johnson. Large Tijuana hills include Red Hill (Cerro Colorado) and Hill of the Bees (Cerro de las Abejas) in the eastern part of the city.

The city is located near the terminus of the Tijuana River and within the Tijuana River Basin. The Tijuana River is an intermittent river, 195 km (121 mi) long, on the Pacific coast of northern Baja California in Mexico and Southern California in the United States. It drains an arid area along the California–Baja California border, flowing through Mexico for most of its course and then crossing the border for the last 8 km (5 mi) of its course where it forms an estuary that empties into the ocean. The river’s lower reaches harbor the last undeveloped coastal wetlands in San Diego County, and some of the last in Southern California, amidst a highly urbanized environment at the southern city limits of Imperial Beach.

As Downtown Tijuana was built at the bottom of the river valley, the district is subject to seasonal flooding created by drain-off from the Tijuana Hills. During this time, east-bound portions of the Via Rapida (east-west highway) may be blocked off by the Tijuana Police due to hazardous conditions.

Climate

Tijuana’s climate is a semi-arid (Köppen climate classification BSk), with about 231 mm (9.09 in) of annual precipitation. It shows characteristics of the Mediterranean climate (Csa) found to the immediate north, with most of the annual precipitation falling in the winter (between November and March).

During the rainy season, November through March, storms originate from fronts entering off of the Pacific Ocean. January is the wettest month of the year for the city and during this time a periodic event, similar to June Gloom, is observed created by marine layer. January is the coolest month, during which temperatures average 13.6 °C (56.5 °F). In the city April signifies the end of winter and the start of Santa Ana winds – observed in Southern California as well. Though the daytime highs are generally around 20 °C (68 °F), heat waves can reach up to 33 °C (91 °F). The hottest months in the city, also the dry season, are August and September, during which temperatures average 22.0 °C (71.6 °F). Summers are by far the driest time of year since influences from the California Current and the North Pacific High suppress the formation of rainfall caused by the North American Monsoon. As in coastal Southern California, air pollution sometimes occurs during periods of temperature inversion, especially during summer and fall, but (unlike Mexico City) is seldom severe and in recent years has lessened due to cleaner car engines.

Frost and snow are rare phenomena in the city as temperatures are usually well above freezing. Yet, in December 1967, snow fell in the city and in January 2007 feather light snow fell in the east of the city. However, excessive amounts of snow fall have never been recorded in the city. On February 14, 2008 a winter storm caused an unusual snowfall in the upper reaches of the hills of the city. During this time heavy snowfall was also observed in the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County.

The record low temperature recorded in the city was −6 °C (21 °F), while the highest was 49 °C (120 °F).

Crime

Tijuana is well known for being the birthplace and base of the Tijuana Cartel. From 2007 through 2010, Tijuana experienced an unusually high level of violent crime related to gang violence, in part derived from the Mexican drug war and human trafficking. Homicides peaked in 2010, when 844 people were killed, compared to 355 in 2004 and 349 in the first eight months of 2011. Reportedly, the wave of violence resulted from a turf war as the administration of President Felipe Calderón weakened the local Arellano Félix cartel; violence slowed when the larger Sinaloa cartel took control.

During peak years of violent crime in the city, gun battles between rival cartels, and between cartels and the police, erupted in public. In April 2008, police found 1,500 shell casings on various streets after one battle left 13 suspected drug traffickers dead. In 2009 and depending on the source, Tijuana Municipality experienced either 556 or 1,118 murders, mostly as a result of the drug war.

There were 492 murders in 2013, a 48% increase in the homicide rate between 2012 and 2013. This is the highest number of murders since 2010.

Tourism

Tijuana also relies on tourism for a major part of its revenue. About 300,000 visitors cross by foot or car from the San Ysidro point of entry in the United States every day. To lessen the strain on the border crossing, the Otay Mesa Crossing has been boosted to support more traffic and 6-lane highway 905 built in 2012, as well as rapid bus transit coming in the future. Restaurants and taco stands, pharmacies, bars and dance clubs, and shops and stalls selling Mexican crafts and souvenirs are part of the draw for the city’s tourists, many located within walking distance of the border. The city’s tourist centers include Downtown Tijuana including the nightlife hot spots around La Sexta, Avenida Revolucion, souvenir shopping at the Mercado de Artesanías and Plaza Viva Tijuana, Tijuana’s Cultural Center (CECUT) and neighboring Plaza Río Tijuana shopping center, and the city’s best known vices, in the form of its legal Red Light District and gambling (Agua Caliente). Mexico’s drinking age of 18 (vs. 21 in the United States) makes it a common weekend destination for many high school and college aged Southern Californians who tend to stay on Avenida Revolución. Tijuana is also home to several pharmacies marketed toward visitors from the United States, which sell some medicines without prescriptions and at much lower costs than in the US. Many medications still require a Mexican doctor’s prescriptions, available from adjacent doctors’ offices. Businesses such as auto detailing, medical services, dentistry and plastic surgery are heavily marketed and are usually cheaper than in the U.S.

Culture and contemporary life

Many foreigners travel to Tijuana to drink and dance, buy prescription drugs, purchase bootleg brand-name clothing, timepieces, and other personal accessories found globally, as well as manufactured and hand-crafted local curiosities. Locals and regular tourists avoid hassles by visiting the clubs at Plaza Fiesta or other areas of the Zona Río without the crowds, heavy marketing, and occasional tourist misbehavior or outright lawbreaking common on the Revolución strip. However, Avenida Revolución has been known for its proliferation of nightclub shows, primarily catering to casual tourists. While still an entertaining town with an enjoyable atmosphere, locals and tourists alike would agree that it has lost its “anything goes” mentality which it had once acquired, a mindset that was dangerous to tourists, locals, and the tourism industry as a whole.

Tijuana is also known as the birthplace of the “Tijuana Special,” which is a classic Tex-Mex dish consisting of enchiladas, rice and refried beans. This dish was popularized by Tippy’s, an American Tex-Mex restaurant.

Transportation

The city maintains a variety of transportation methods to assist in dealing with its ever-increasing population. Tijuana’s traditional forms of mobility include predominantly air, car, and rail transportation methods as the city lacks a port. All means of transportation within the city accept both Mexican Pesos and U.S. dollars as payment currencies, but no other foreign currencies. Local public transportation in Tijuana is run by semiprivate companies, and has one of the most complex, or perhaps unorganized networks. Two important Mexican federal highways end in Tijuana, one of them is Federal Highway 1, which runs south through the Baja California Peninsula through Rosarito Beach, Baja Mar, and Ensenada before ending in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur. From Tijuana to Ensenada, most travelers take Highway 1-D (scenic road), a four-lane, limited access toll road that runs by the coast starting at Playas de Tijuana. Mexican Federal Highway 2 runs east for 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) near the international border, currently as far as Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.

The Tijuana International Airport (General Abelardo L. Rodríguez IA) is the city’s main airport and serves eleven airlines with destinations across Mexico and a few into Asia. Tijuana International is also one of the busiest airports in Mexico. Aeroméxico introduced intercontinental air travel between Tijuana and two major cities in Asia: Tokyo in 2007 and Shanghai in 2008. With several private road lines, U.S. and selected Canadian destinations can be reached via the San Diego International Airport, located about 35 kilometers (22 mi) north of the international border.

The city’s main bus station is in its eastern borough. There is a small terminal downtown which serves a few Mexican bus lines and U.S.-based Greyhound Lines and Crucero USA. Another bus station is located near the border with frequent services to Ensenada, and other major cities including Mazatlán, Culiacán, Hermosillo, and Guadalajara. Major bus lines operating in Tijuana include Azul y Blanco de Magallanes (Blue & White) and Transporte Efectivo Express de Tijuana – TEEXTI; modernizing system originally intended to phase out the other lines that partially introduced but ceased and merged with Azul y Blanco.

In 2006, Tijuana underwent a major overhaul of its existing system of guayines, or shared fixed-route station wagons, forcing the replacement of the guayines with new models of vans, serving as fixed-route taxis. Major transit hubs include Centro (Downtown Tijuana), Otay, Soler, and the Cinco y Diez avenues. Taxi lines operating in the city include Free Taxis, those that do not maintain a specific route; Economic Taxis; Diamond Taxis – black or yellow cabs; and regular taxis maintaining a set route. There are as many bus lines and routes as fixed-route taxi ones or calafias, and new routes for buses, taxis or calafias are frequently created, due to high demand of public transportation. Public transportation service is inexpensive, with bus tickets at maximum, USD $0.75. Fixed-route taxis are somewhat more expensive, depending on the taxi route, reaching USD $2.00. Bus, taxi and calafia lines and routes are distinguished from one another by their vehicles colors.

From the U.S. side, San Ysidro is the southern terminus of San Diego’s municipal bus and light rail (San Diego Trolley) systems, providing public transportation to and from the Mexican border with Tijuana. The newly rebuilt San Ysidro trolley station is located directly next to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility. Tijuana is home to the world’s busiest border crossing with about 300,000 people crossing the border between San Diego and Tijuana every day. Queues take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more to cross to the United States, on non-US holidays, with wait of a few hours on US national holidays or some Mexican holidays. Expect street vendors during the wait. However, after clearing customs and immigration formalities, Interstate 5 is a major 8–10 lane freeway from San Ysidro to downtown San Diego, Los Angeles, and north to the Canada–US border. Interstate 805 branches off from I-5 just north of the border, and takes a more easterly route which bypasses downtown San Diego, rejoining with I-5 in the northern part of the city. From the Otay Mesa border crossing, Otay Mesa Road takes drivers west to connect with both I-805 and I-5.

Planned light rail and BRT system

In January 2009, the City Council and the Ministry of Communications and Transportation announced a new light rail system for Tijuana, something which had been envisioned since the 1990s during the time of mayor Osuna Jaime. Despite spending millions of pesos on studies, the project never gained traction until the late 2000s (decade).

Currently the project proposes to build the first light rail line along the Tijuana River (which is actually a canal) – Route 01: San Ysidro-El Refugio. Route 02 would run from Santa Fe to Downtown Tijuana, a bus rapid transit line running along Blvd. Cuauhtemoc Sur. Up to 6 other routes have been proposed.

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