Zona Norte (Tijuana)


If you’re the type of person who’s into the whole sex-industry thing and you find yourself in Southern California or in Northern Baja California in Mexico, you might wanna check out Zona Norte in Tijuana. Zona Norte is the red light district of Tijuana and is known predominantly for its legalized prostitution. The area is also known as La Coahuila in reference to the area’s main drag and there is no shortage of seedy dives peppered on and around Calle Coahuila. Prostitutes regularly prowl the alleyways, referred to as “paraditas” (or standing girls), and there are a number of legal brothels to be found in the area where you can go get a rub and a tug. There is also quite the healthy drug trade throughout the area, so anything you want… if it’s morally, ethically, or sexually demeaning, you can probably find it in Zona Norte. But, shit… that’s what makes it fun, huh?!

Zona Norte, as you can probably guess is located in the northern part of the city of Tijuana, just a few streets south of the Tijuana River. Calle Coahuila is within walking distance of the border, but I definitely recommend that you not walk to or from there at night, especially by if you’re by yourself or only in a small group. I’ve done it, but it’s definitely a dicey proposition. Tijuana is a pretty shady city and bad things can happen there. Take a taxi. They’re cheap. The area lies in close proximity to the main tourist area of Tijuana, Zona Centro, and the main thoroughfares of the two areas, Calle Coahuila in Zona Norte and Avenida Revolucion in Zona Centro, actually come together in the northern part of the city. Due to the proximity to San Diego and the rest of Southern California, it should come as no shock that the area is patronized by a number of US citizens as well as Tijuana locals. A good landmark to orient yourself by is the arch located at the north end of Avenida Revolucion. Calle Coahuila is only a block north of this and most of the interesting shit in Zona Norte is located on this street west of Avenida Revolucion. The main cross street to find the action is Calla Coahuila and Avenida Constitucion.

Probably the biggest draw to the area is the existence of legalized prostitution. The area is referred to as a “tolerance zone” and I think it’s the only area in Tijuana where prostitution is actually legal. It’s not the only area where it exists, but it might be the only place where it’s not against the law. Either way, it’s tolerated in Zona Norte. There are a number of guys who would rather weed through the bullshit and just pay for a piece of ass. I mean, you pay for it one way or another, whether you’re slipping a girl fifty bucks for a blow job or taking her to dinner and a movie for the same reason. If you don’t want the extra fluff, Zona Norte might be just the place for you. Sex workers in the brothels and on the streets are required to have permits and must undergo monthly health checkups to ensure that they’re not giving out more than they’re taking in… so to speak. The individual brothels themselves are also subject to a number of legal regulations ensuring cleanliness and other miscellaneous criteria. From what I understand, the majority of the prostitutes in the area are of Mexican descent, but there are a chosen few American girls who come to the area to legally practice their chosen profession, since, for some reason, prostitution is still frowned on in the US.

Tijuana epitomizes the type of city in which you wanna watch your ass… literally and figuratively speaking. This is especially true in Zona Norte. There’s a pretty heavy police presence in the area, as well as an actual police station, so Zona Norte is a relatively safe area in reference to violent crime… as long as you stay on the main drags. The key word is “relatively”, though. You still need to practice a fair amount of diligence. And, don’t trust the cops just because they wear a uniform. Police corruption is rampant in Mexico and it’s not uncommon for police in Zona Norte to accuse an innocent person of a crime in order to extort money from them. For instance, you might find yourself being accused of attempting to buy drugs for something as simple as telling a pusher that you’re not interested. I mean, you talked to him. You must be buying drugs, right? You fuckin’ junkie!! You don’t have the same rights in Mexico that you have in the States or whatever country you might be from. If you find yourself the target of police corruption, choose your words carefully. Police in Mexico cannot legally take you to jail without first taking you to see a judge. You can insist to see one if you’re being wrongfully accused. You’ll definitely want to do so if you’re accused of something major. Don’t be a dick about it, though, or you’re liable to get all sorts of fucked up. Be polite but firm. Weigh your options, though. It might just be easier to buy ‘em off. Sometimes paying the “fine” is easier than going through the bullshit to show that you’re not guilty. Only you can decide that. But, make sure you have a picture ID with you. Cops will ask for it when they make contact with you.

Obviously, crooked cops aren’t the only ones you’ve got to worry about in Zona Norte. If you stay on the main streets, you should be relatively safe. Make sure you stick to the areas where pedestrian traffic is heavy. You might have to deal with pickpockets, but that’s way better than the shit that waits for you down a dark alley. Especially the ones north of Calle Coahuila. Go down one of those and you might not come back. If you’re a tourist, just accept the fact that you’re a target and be extra careful. Try not to walk by yourself. Be wary of anyone who approaches you. Try not to look confused. The more out of place you look, the more attention you’ll attract. Be extra careful at night. You want to avoid the side streets at all cost after sundown. Also, if a woman approaches you, you might wanna check for an adam’s apple. Some of the “girls” down there are packin’ way more than you are. And, finally, I recommend you keep to yourself. Don’t go lookin’ for trouble and if it finds you, you might wanna think about conceding. Getting punked out is a lot better than getting dead! There is an overabundance of machismo in Latin culture. Mexican men in general are very alpha, and since you never know what the next guy is packin’, it might just be best to stand down. Guns might not be legal in Mexico, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Not only that… knives aren’t illegal and are pretty prevalent. Trust me… you don’t need any new perforations in your body. I’m guessing you’ve got enough holes.

Let’s not fuckin’ kid ourselves here… if you’re going to Zona Norte, you most likely have a penis and you’re looking to do something with it. That’s what the nightlife in Zona Norte is all about. One of the more popular venues is Adelita Bar, located between Constitucion and Niños Heroes on the south side of Calle Coahuila. This is a good destination to tell the cabbie at the border to take you to. Not only is it so well known that just about every cab driver will know where it is, but you’ll land right in the center of the action when you get there. The Chicago Club, just north of Calle Coahuila on the east side of Avenida Constitucion, is another popular joint. And, if you’re looking for a strip club similar to those you’ll find in the US, check out the Hong Kong Bar, a few doors west of Adelita Bar on Calle Coahuila. A couple of other joints that are supposedly worth checking out are Delicias Bar on Constitution and the Miami Bar in Callejon Coahuila, which is an alley just off of Calle Coahuila. I know I said to stay out of the alleyways, but this one will probably be pretty heavy with foot traffic. It’s not your typical alley. Also, you can find La Tropa, The New York Club, Las Chavelas, and Bar Tropical on Calle Coahuila. From what I understand, Playboy XXX is a pretty shitty place. I can’t say for sure, cuz I’ve never been there, but that’s the word I’ve heard. If you’ve got an alternate opinion, feel free to let me know. If you wanna check out just a regular bar, Cantina de Panchos, just east of the intersection of Avenida Constitucion and Calle Coahuila, offers karaoke all day and serves a few different beers on tap, one of the few places in the area to do so. There are a few other bars in the vicinity. You’ll just have to look for them.

The way the situation usually works is that each of the clubs will solicit working girls to hang out and offer a bit of company if you buy them a drink. At the more popular clubs, most of the girls will speak English, but this isn’t always the case at the smaller places. Same with the staff: English speakers at the popular joints, not so much at the smaller ones. No matter how much English that the working girls or the staff members speak, though, you can bet that they’ll know enough for you to place a drink order or negotiate a few services. Drinks aren’t cheap, though. They’ll probably cost you as much twice as the price as many of the other tourist destinations in the city, but if you come early enough, you’re likely to find a number of two-for-one specials. This deal is pretty common… at least during the day. One more thing of note: it is generally assumed that a woman in Zona Norte is a prostitute… especially if she’s by herself, even if only for a short time. Women should not be left alone for any reason in Zona Norte. They’re likely to get accosted by potential suitors or, even worse, approached by the police to see their prostitution permits. If this happens, you’re in a world of hurt. Avoid this situation at all costs. Women should stay in groups, no matter what… even if it’s with only one other person.

Normally, I wouldn’t include a section on where to eat or where to stay in any of my write-ups. That’s not really what we’re all about around here. There are a million websites for that. But, Tijuana and especially Zona Norte are different animals, so I feel I’d be a bit remiss in my duties if I didn’t at least offer a little information. First off, you’re not gonna find any sort of high class eating establishment in Zona Norte. The only real recommendation I can give is to do what the locals do. They know where the good grub is. If no one else is eating at a place, I don’t recommend that you make yourself the guinea pig. If there’s a line, it must be good. Well… at least good enough. If you’re as scared as I am about eating in Mexico, I suggest you avoid the local cuisine all together. Head south from Calle Coahuila on Avenida Constitucion and you’ll find a couple of American fast food joints. When in doubt, go with what you know.

Finally, if you’re looking for a place to stay… go to San Diego. If you feel that you absolutely must stay in or near Zona Norte, be very wary about which hotels you stay in. If you’re paying twenty bucks or less per night, don’t be surprised if you’re shit disappears from your room when you’re not there. I’ve heard of a few relatively reputable hotels – the key word being “relatively” – but stay at them at your own peril. The main hotel in the area is Cascadas 2000, located on the corner of Calle Coahuila and Avenida Niños Heroes. Hotel Hacienda de Santiago, on the corner of Calle Coahuila and Avenida Revolucion, also has a decent reputation. A few other places are Plaza do Oro Hotel on Revolucion, Hotel London, also on Revolucion between Calle 5ta and Calle 6ta, and Hotel Jerez Suites, a bit further west, just off of Calle Coahuila on Avenida Mutualismo. Any one of these places can probably be had for around forty bucks and are relatively safe. One suggestion, though: no matter which hotel you stay at in Zona Norte, I recommend that you bring your own sheets. You might get some that are stained with the blood of a dead crack whore.

Okay… just kidding.

All right… that’s about all I’ve got for you on Zona Norte. There’s a fair amount of trouble to be had down there. I don’t think you’ll have much of a problem finding it. I recommend you hit up the pharmacy before you go. Pick up a big box of Trojans… and maybe even think of wrapping it twice.

Have fun… and good fuckin’ luck!!