If you’re considering getting Global Entry, and want to do it fast, you should make a mini-vacation to Mexicali, BC out of it.
Appointments at LAX can take months, Calexico appointments are available within weeks. After your quick interview, you could drive all the way back home, or you could spend the night in the capital of Baja California.
We stayed at the Real Inn Mexicali, for $75/night, which is about as nice as staying at a $160/night hotel in some other North American state capital’s downtown. We hung out at the pool for a while, because it’s very very very hot there, then we got ready for dinner.
Mexicali has over 345 Chinese restaurants, serving Cantonese food with uniquely Cachanilla additions: chile güeros, a bowl of limes, and ubiquitous caguamas of Tecate and Tecate Light. We walked five minutes to Pekin, which was a little fancier than Nuevo Canton. We ordered the $208 MXN combination, where they kept bringing out rounds of food…
Carnitas Coloradas (Char Siu), Res Estilo Mongol (Mongolian Beef), Sopa Tipo Aleta (imitation shark fin soup), Pollo Mandarin (Orange Chicken), Arroz Cantonés (Fried Rice with shrimp and Chinese sausage), Pollo a la Plancha (grilled chicken in a teriyaki sauce) and Combinacíon China (which was like all the meats and all the veggies in one tasty dish.) We got 2 bottles of Tecate Light and an order of Chun Cun (Egg Rolls.) — We left very full, and had enough leftovers for the next two meals for about $44.
Then we walked a block to Cinépolis Centro Cívico, where the concession line almost wraps around the block. We saw Mujer Maravilla (Wonder Woman) in English with Spanish subtitles for 90 pesos. That’s a blockbuster on opening day for $2.45 per ticket. If you’re a film buff, it’s almost crazy not to cross the border to go to the movies.
The next morning we walked to Sanborn’s in the Plaza Fiesta. There will always be a place in my heart for this Mexican institution. They have a wide range of comfort food on their menu, and each month they celebrate a different region. I got San Luis Potosi-inspired arranchera on my chilaquiles, and Maureen got a club sandwich. We walked out full for about $25.
There’s obviously waaaaay more to do in Mexicali, but we wanted to get back, so we checked out of the hotel at 1pm. We took a 50 peso cab ride to the border, we crossed in 15 minutes, which was faster than I’d ever crossed before (and that was without using Global Entry VIP status.) We stopped at a shop to buy a $5 fidget spinner, and we walked back to the car at Double AA, a few blocks from the border. It’s only $4/day or 100 pesos/day. I’d recommend paying in dollars, unless you really want to get rid of your pesos (cuz it’s like you’re paying $6)
Then we went to the Nike outlet in Calexico, and I got some pretty cool pink & purple running shoes on clearance for 40 bucks. There are some good deals over there.
Then we drove north to Brawley, California, and went to his gastropub in an old building downtown called Inferno. Which has really tasty barbecue and pizza, and they sometimes have concerts — Snoop Dogg played there once. Anyway I got the manager’s info, and maybe we can throw a party there some day. Then we stopped for a date shake in Westmorland, California before driving back to LA.
So that’s a pretty good cheap Southern California / Baja California mini-vacation, that let’s you cross a border, and also take care of some business.