I used to live in San Diego from 2000 to 2003. The rents are very high. The Southern California traffic jams are notorious. The county of San Diego is so spread out, over 50 miles in some directions, that people you might meet at work will live very far from you. I have friends that lived about 35 miles from Hillcrest. So besides the high cost of living, the constant worry of what I would do if I ever got laid off with no extra money in the bank, and the loneliness, I was not having a good time living in San Diego.
I came to Baja for long weekends to stay at a friend's house. In almost no time at all I was meeting people I liked who did not live very far away. Since most of them were retired, they had plenty of time to be a friend. When I started to cry going across the border on a Sunday night I had an insight. Rents in Baja started at $ 400 a month compared to the $ 925 I paid up in the US. I was going to move to Baja. I have never looked back and intend to spend the rest of my life here in Baja.
I moved to Baja 9 years ago this very month of December. A friend recommended using furniture movers who did regular business with the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. This way they were already clear to cross the border with furniture and other like goods. They charged me $ 300 to come to Hillcrest which is close to downtown, go up a flight of stairs, and transport all my goods across the border to my new domicile. I had to pay duty of $ 100. The trick was not to have a large liquor collection or electronics, both of which would have contributed more duty being paid.
I bought my electronics and last minute items like cleaning supplies over myself on a busy Friday afternoon. Since I have a sports car the border guards already were aware I could not be bringing across much contraband like the aforementioned electronics or large amounts of liquor. With a broom, mop, dishtowels, small trash can up front in the passenger seat it was quite obvious I was moving. Using that busy time frame also worked to my advantage as I did have my stereo and computer equipment in my tiny trunk.
One pitfall is to make sure you know where your new home is. I was taken to mine once or twice by my friend. It is a very different layout in this country without the benefit of many street signs or house or business numbers. My movers were astounded I did not know where my new home was. They ended up taking my entire household back across the border and had to bring it back in the next day. I of course made sure by then that I knew exactly where I was going to live.
The first night in a new country, in a new neighborhood with all new sounds was made a bit of nightmare as the electricity was not functioning in my new casita. Turns out the landlady was using my electric box to build another unit unbeknownst to me. It took until the next day to track her down. The sounds of horses and roosters, lots of pickup trucks and cars without much of a muffler system was made more frightening than if I had lights for my new place. I did not even know the layout very well yet, but it was thankfully quite small so I could find my way from my bedroom to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There was some light from outside, but not the streetlights we are accredited to in the United States.
One of the drawbacks of a Miata is the very small trunk. Most people who live in Baja want more cargo space than I have. Some who live here only go across once a month or less. Some once a week. Some people never do, as they have found everything they need down here and do not receive medical services from the US. Potholes, speed bumps and dips in the road for water drain or to slow down traffic are quite common. So cars like mine with low clearance are not recommended. One does not need 4 wheel drive for everyday driving as the toll road from Tijuana to Ensenada is kept mostly free of potholes. The free roads are a bit of a gamble. Most people have SUVS or sedans. Pickup trucks and vans are so useful for the general populace that they are the more likely to get stolen.
If your car is registered in a US state it does not have to be imported to Mexico which is quite expensive. About $ 600 in United States dollars. Plus the car needs to be inspected which could take up to a week. "Luxury" cars like mine are not importable at all. There are restrictions on the age of the car as well, so if you did want to import your car it would be best to check with an expert.
At the very least when you move here you will want to get an FMM which is a tourist visa. It lasts for 6 months and costs about $ 20. You will need that to rent with a lease or to buy property. As soon as you can it is best to get your Immigration document which is good for one year. It is called an FM3 or FM2 depending on your situation. (ie, working or living in Mexico). It protects you as if you were a Mexican citizen. I know of a person who had his car stolen. When he could not prove he lived here the police would do nothing. That does not apply to visitors. Just those of us who live here full time.
Since I live in Mexico, most of what I need done I can afford out of pocket. My doctor costs $ 30 a visit. My medicines come to around $ 50 a month with no copay. copay. My dentist charges $ 30 for a cleaning. And I am about to get cataract surgery on one eye for $ 1400. Many doctors where I live take payments as well. So do mechanics. Credit is handled here more on the honor system. Having a good reputation is all it takes with no interest to pay.
As I said already, I am here to stay!
A good place to get a recommendation for movers to safely transport your good across the border is a reputable Real Estate Broker.