Gringo : Tourist Information : Transportation

Taxis -- de Ruta y Especial.

by Michael Arthur and Daniel Charles —2004 Revision

  1. Difference Ruta/Especial/Libre
  2. Ruta Fares
  3. Hours of Service.
  4. Sardinas.
  5. Various Routes.
  6. Taxis vs. Busses.

  1. Difference between Route Taxis and Especial Taxis and Taxis Libres.
  2. Taxis "especiales" or "libres" :

    What most gringos say is a taxi -- a privately hired taxi, one you hire take to get yourself to a specific place -- is here called a "special" taxi, un taxi especial -- without meters -- or, since 2003, you can also take advantage of the new "Taxi Libre" service which is NOT "free" (i.e NOT "gratis") but it IS metered, and usually costs between half and three-quarters of what the "especiales" will charge you. But most of the libres are much smaller cars.

    There you are at the sea of taxis beside the island of tacos. "Taxi, amigo?" they ask, offering to drive you away to Revolution Avenue for only five or seven dollars. These are also the guys on every corner of Revolution Avenue, waiting to whisk you back to the border or other pLaCeS for a "massage"... please remove your wallet and put on a full-body condom.

    From the border you can go to the beach -- Playas de Tijuana -- for maybe ten dollars, or Rosarito for twenty or thirty. Anywhere else in town from five or ten dollars AND on up, depending on the distance. CECUT and Plaza Rio from the border or downtown should be only five or seven. Of course, remember that prices change (upwards) as time goes by! The new (2003) Taxi Libre service should be about half that, or two thirds. And, paisans, don't forget to tip if the driver's good and helpful or polite. These guys struggle to make a living in the face of fierce and constant competition, and any tip is helpful, no matter how small.

    Taxi Libre - Ando por Tijuana

    If you want to get to an exact place, with a minimum of trouble and crowding, lots of leg room in front and in back, and are carrying a lot of luggage, or if you are a group of two or three or four, and especially if you don't mind paying for comfort and convenience, then un taxi especial is the way to go. One of my best friends here, and in fact the first I made, back in March of 1999, was a taxista especial, who worked nights from in front of Plaza Viva Tijuana on the pedestrian route from the border to downtown. He has since changed to a seafood restaurant along Matamoros boulevard.)

    Contrariwise, if you are only one or two and don't have much luggage, but you want to go straight to a specific place and not worry about finding your way there via bus or route taxi, but still save a little money instead of the convenience of a more expensive especial, then maybe a Taxi Libre is the way for you.

    Los taxis de ruta :

    But, when a Mexican in Tijuana says the word "taxi" or talks about riding in "los taxis," he or she usually does NOT mean an especial. They are talking about the "route taxis" -- los taxis de ruta.

    Taxis de ruta are fleets of sedans and station wagons (the wagons can hold two or three more passengers than a sedan). They run on set routes all over town. Every route has its name and colors (some colors duplicate in different routes -- ojo!). Most -- not all -- routes radiate from downtown Tijuana ("el centro") and reach into the various suburbs and colonias of this sprawling city. If you walk around downtown and see lines of people waiting on different blocks to crowd into lines of taxis, well, you've just seen a route-taxi boarding zone. There are dozens of these boarding spots within a block or two of Revolution.

    Taxis in each route ("ruta") are painted with a particular color scheme, and each route can be called by two names: its destination and/or its colors. For example, to get to his girlfriend Maria's house in La Mesa, Gringo Michael takes the Red & Blacks -- los rojo y negros (or more simply "the reds" -- los rojos) -- which leave from 4th and Constitution and run out "the boulevard" (Agua Caliente Blvd., which then changes its name to Diaz Ordaz Blvd.) to La Mesa, 5 & 10, ending up at Presa or Clinica 27. These are most often referred to as los rojos.

    Another line which Michael used to take when he lived in Playas, the cream & yellow taxis to the beaches, are most often referred to by their destination: taxis a las playas.

    Confused? Email us

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  3. Fares
  4. Ah yes, the cost. Here is where the taxi de ruta wins hands down over the especial. Most rutas are seven and a half pesos in the daytime, and more after nine or ten at night.

    EXCEPT: if you can't get a taxi filled with paying customers, you will have to all agree to pay more. When Michael first moved to Tijuana, he lived at the beach and came home late from work, ten, eleven, even twelve midnight. If there were only three or four riders for the beach, well, they would each have to pay ten, fifteen, sometimes twenty pesos apiece.

    EXCEPT #2: Longer routes like Rosarito (from Madero between Third and Fourth) charge more than a dollar.

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  5. Hours of Service.
  6. Depending on demand and profitibility and custom, the taxi co-ops run many hours; some go all night and all day.

    Go to Top.

  7. Taxis de Sardinas (?!)
  8. Well, you should be able to imagine this: a typical American station wagon, front seat, back seat, and tailgate. In the front, the driver and two passengers. In the back seat three, or often, four passengers crammed in tight. In the back/tail, two or three passengers. Add in peoples' bags and boxes, and voila! A Sardine Taxi -- un taxi de sardinas.

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  9. Various Routes.
  10. There are too many ruta-taxi routes to put on one page. Your best bet is to find out for yourself, or from someone who travels the taxis regularly, well, like us, yes, who have found out these few routes. Just for starters, consider these:

    Gringos & Tijuanenses: Please SEND US your Favorite TAXI routes. We want to post as many as possible.

    If I tell you there are hundreds of others, would you believe it? Well, hundreds of other taxis. Thousands. On dozens of routes.

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  11. Taxis vs. Busses.
  12. Why take a taxi de ruta instead of a bus? Good question. Multiple answers. Michael sometimes takes the bus, sometimes takes the taxi. He tells us that his reasons, and reasons his friends tell him, are as follows.

    Busses usually aren't as crowded -- except at rush hour. That's why he will take the bus. Well, that and it's easier to read or write on a bus. And he & Dano always be readin'n'scribblin' yes.

    But then, taxis are usually faster, and there are more of them. Since they are smaller they can manouver more quickly through that famous Tijuana traffic, and they don't stop unless someone wants to get on or off (same as a bus, but with fewer seats, fewer stops, eh?).

    The price difference is only one and a half pesos (Mexican), like fifteen cents (busses are five-and-a-half pesos, most route taxis cost seven pesos) WATCH OUT PRICES ARE ALWAYS CHANGING!!!!! Except late at night, when taxis cost more. But there are no busses running late at night.

    Michael says repeat that: There Are NO Busses Running Late at Night. Not all route taxis run 24 hours, but some do, if they can get a car full -- otherwise you pay more.

    But the chief reason is speed, and the vast number of routes that the taxis de ruta run.

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