La Zona, also known as La Zona Norte also known as La Coahuila ( actual name of the street ) is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods and home to Tijuana's infamous red light district. La Zona Norte is sandwiched between Tijuana's downtown and The United States border, making it the first or last ( depending how you see it ) neighborhood in Latin America. The geography alone makes it a special place in the world, but that's not even the tip of the iceberg for all the things we can find here.
There are different faces to La Zona, all equally as interesting , some a bit shocking but all of them make it what it is, a wild place where anything can happen as well as a dark place that needs much help from local authorities to help it clean up. La Zona is a neighborhood, where families live, schools operate and people live their lives. La Zona is a flea market, one of the best of the city, happening on Sundays or Mondays, La Zona's flea market ( known in Spanish as "Sobre Ruedas" ) is filled with treasures for a very cheap price. La Zona is the part of Tijuana where 200 men and women are deported from the United States into Mexico daily, causing a world of problems for living and vagrancy. La Zona is the most drug addicted part of Tijuana. Heroin and meth tolerance zones run right along the riverbed and on the border with the States. It is a scary part of Tijuana that has been around for years and little has been done by local authorities to help better its decaying situation.
La Zona is also home to dozens and dozens of strips bars, brothels, hole in the wall dive bars and crazy s red light street folklore that makes it crazy and interesting all at once. There are a thousand places to party here and the intention of this guide is to give you an idea of how to have a really good time and not get into trouble while doing it.
That being said, I would like to give you guys a WARNING. The Zona Norte is not for everybody. I love to party after hours there with my amigos but I am a local, I speak the language and know what to do and where to go. If you don't have tough skin I don't think you should go there. Not everybody can stomach the environment. There is prevalent drug use, prostitution and even hints of human trafficking right out in the open. If you feel you can stomach Tijuana's wild side or have been there before, these few tips I will give you are very helpful and will keep you out of trouble.
DON'T GO ALONE
Going alone to this place makes you a target for crime. Sure it's pretty safe and there is a heavy police presence but the Zona is full of junkies, meth heads and thieves that pry on innocent victims. Group travel is way safer and very unlikely to be targeted for theft. Also, what the hell are you doing going to the drugs and prostitution zone alone anyway? You are probably going to end up doing something you regret very much and might find yourself in a stinky Tijuana Jail cell by morning, and who the hell wants that? Don't go alone!
DRUGS AND PROSTITUTION
Enough has been written about the "new" Tijuana with all its beautiful beaches, exquisite Baja Med cooking and wine country. La Zona Norte is the exact opposite of that. This is the stereotypical Tijuana that has been known for years. I would recommend you DO NOT partake in either drugs or prostitution here. Having sex with prostitute is creepy and scoring drugs is only going to get you thrown in jail. The purpose of this "how to" guide is to direct you towards places that will give you a lasting impression of fun and memories of a wild night. That being said, giving dollar bills to girls while striping is perfectly acceptable, fun and you are contributing to the local economy as most the girls working in La Zona are moms. Sexy right?
Don't drive here ever. Sure there are plenty of paid parking lots where you car will be safe but cops are mean in the Zona, they are looking for a nice car full of drunk tourists to get a couple of bucks off of. TAXIS are the way to go, they are everywhere and cheap. Don't drive, you are going to drink, take a cab.
I love la Zona Norte but my favorite thing to do there is dance and drink the morning away at a Tijuana institution of partying, LAS VALENTINAS. Nestled away in the Callejon Coahuila is a magical place full of very different people and incredible dancing, Las Valentinas is not a strip club, you will see no stripers on a pole here. What you will see is the number one choice for Zona workers ( yes that includes stripers and prostitutes ) patrons and randomness galore for having a drink after work. The place is amazing; I have given the dj a 20 dollar bill at times so he could play SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND three times in a row. The later you get here the more fun it will be. I have left the bar at 7 am and there is still 100 people dancing in there. Anything goes and the only word I can fully describe Las Valentinas is MAGIC. This is my favorite place in La Zona Norte.
North Americas longest running and biggest brothel, Adelitas is simply that, a brothel. It is a little bit sad to tell you the truth. Many long faced women of the night smoking cigs and looking like they want to leave and have a drink at las Valentinas as soon as their shift is over is what I see the most, that and loads of horny American sex tourists being perverts.
Unless your group is all men, I would not recommend this place to party at.
This place makes the live sex show I saw once in Amsterdam's red light district look like Disneyland. Hundreds of stripers doing whatever they can for those tips, all the maquiladora Korean executives with two girls at a time and yes, even live lesbian sex shows are happening
24 hours a day, 7 days a week in this place. It is the Roman Circus in there or crazier. However, the music is great, the shows are good and giving dollar bills to stripers in Tijuana at 5 am is a special and unique experience that everyone must enjoy at least once in their lives. The drinks are pricey and these will girls will steal your Iphone ( keep it in your front pocket and never take it out) but the experience is unforgettable.
You are drunk, really drunk, its 6am and you need a taco but think La Zona Norte is to dirty to eat at, wrong!!!! There are burrito vendors on the street outside of Adelitas that have delicious and fresh burritos for you at a dollar a piece. Also, There are two great taquerias on the corner of Hong Kong, one is a actual corner business with tables and waiters. The other taco shop is even better, but you are just going to have to take my word for it because it looks very street. It's just a street car about 20 feet north of the corner taco business. The tacos here are excellent, it is open 24 hours a day and you can really feel the hustle and bustle of the red light district eating a few tacos here.
Hope these tips have been helpful! Enjoy you time in La Zona Norte!
*Follow Tony Tee on Twitter @tonyteefiesta