Getting Around Town.
Where Are You Going And How Do You Get The Right Bus There?
The city busses in Tijuana DO NOT come equiped with maps and schedules to tell you where and when and how. Fortunately, they DO run on set routes and the bus route you ride today will probably be running tomorrow. THE TRICK IS finding out which bus goes where!
To tell where a bus is going, well, ask the driver! But, if you don't speak Spanish... or if the bus is zooming toward you and won't stop unless you wave it down... what do you do?
Answer: LOOK ON THE WINDSHIELD. Practically every bus will have its chief destination or destinations posted on a small sign, or written in soap right onto the windshield.
YOU WILL NEED TO KNOW: (1) Where You Are Going, (2) What Is The Important Destination There or Beyond There, and (3) What Are The Bus Abbreviations -- "CAM CEN" or "CAM CENTRAL" means Camionera Central (the main bus station and an important destination for all travelers), "AERPTO" means aeropuerto (airport), "PAL" or "PALACIO" means City Hall, and "CENTRO" means downtown.
There is another way to know where a bus is going -- listen for the greeter to shout out the destination. Many busses come equiped with friends/acquaintances of the driver, or hucksters looking for tips, who jump on and off the busses at important stops and shout out the destination. Often these are the singers, entertainers, donation solicitors, who work/entertain the busses, performing this info-service for the driver. Example: at the "LINEA" bus stop near the border (next to a traffic circle beyond the Sea of Taxis) you will hear a constant stream of shouting, "Centro Tercera, subile subile..." which means "downtown Third Street, get onboard, get onboard." Those, incidentally, are the busses which will drop you near Revolución Avenue.
If you aren't willing to play this game of reading moving windshields or listening to the bus shouters, we suggest that you consider hiring a Taxi Especial to take you wherever you are going. At least you can be sure you will get where you want to go, although it will cost you more than a bus. If you don't speak Spanish, talk with your driver BEFORE getting into his cab, to make sure you understand him and he understands you. Bargain before getting in. And when you get out, don't forget to tip him for whatever courtesy he has shown you.
In addition to your standard big-city bus, there are also hordes of minibusses and vanbusses going every whichway. They too will have their destinations written or posted in the front window. These little busses are collectively known as Calafias -- a curious name with a separate history.
We emphasize again that the cost for a taxi is often worth the expense, considering the ease of access -- and knowledge of the city -- which the drivers can offer you. Many speak good English, too.
But if you speak a little Spanish, the fact remains that during the day, bus service is excellent, although crowded at rush hour, like big cities anywhere.