How and When Not to Give Money to the Child Beggars of Tijuana, Mexico

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Who can deny those pretty little faces that beg or offer candy for money? When you first cross the border into Tijuana, Mexico, a crowd of precious, desperate children will greet you with chicklets and flowers with yells of “Dollar, dollar, dollar!” That soft heart of yours may hand out as many “dollars” as you can, however the generosity has to end somewhere or you will not have money for shopping. As you walk down on Tijuana’s Revolucion Avenue, you will be confronted with more children that are aggressive and persistent. I ended up just giving the kids money just so they would leave me alone. Again, if you have a soft heart, you will feel sorry for them and give in. however, the children knows this and this is where your trip will become uncomfortable and unpleasant. To be sure that you can a wonderful experience in the most visited border city in the world, please follow my advice about the beggars.

If you have to, know when not to!

It may be Okay to give money to a child or two, but when you get on the main tourist street the children work in groups of 3-6. They do this because they know you are most likely to hand out dollar bills to all of them, than rejecting 1 or 2 and feeling guilty for it. So you must avoid the groups all together, which is not easy because they will come from behind you to directly in front of you, blocking your pathway. That is when you have to firmly say,”No money!” Then you must proceed to walking and not give them anytime to work on your conscience with their convincing broken hearted faces.

Do not wear “I Have Lots of Cash” tacked on your forehead!

The children flocked to my dad something terrible. I found out later it was because of all the gold he was wearing, along with his expensive shoes and sunglasses. I am not sure if these children are schooled on whom to beg, but they are very clever and know what to look for. I am talking about some as young as 6! I suggest put the jewelry in your purse, bag, or car, better yet, leave it at home! Dress casual or if you have the nerve, dress like you absolutely have nothing!

Don’t pull the dough out your money bag!

If you buy something from a vendor on the street, do not pull money out you wallet in front of a bunch of kids, I noticed the children like to hang out by where you can get your photograph taken with the Zebra/Donkey. I saw one of these on every corner. When we did decide to take the $5 photograph, the kids circled around asking for money. If you have to have a picture with the zebra, have the money ready from you pocket, do not pull it out your purse or wallet because the persistent kids see it as your money bag and believe you have a lot more in there. My dad reached in his pocket and handed the man the $5 for the picture, then put up both his hands and politely said to the kids, “See no more money!” My father would put $5 in every pant or shirt pocket, but kept his wallet on his waist in his pouch.

Never accept free candy or gifts!

The favorite things the children like to sell is the candy “Chicklets”, they figured you would rather buy the candy to help them out, versus them just begging you for the money. The candy it self is probably worth no more than .25, however they want $1 for it. The girls like to sell roses for $1 which is pretty reasonable. I got suckered really well by this beautiful little girl. I had already gave out all I was going to give to the kids that day, so when she approached me to buy one her roses, I said, “I can’t, I have no money left.” She said with a smile, “For you, free! Free!” I said, “no honey, that’s O: K.” She insisted that I accept the rose. My dad and I was almost a block away when I heard yells of, “My dollar, my dollar!” It was the girl that gave me the rose chasing me down, demanding her dollar. People were looking at me wondering what did I do to that poor little girl, I was so embarrassed. I was rambling so fast through my purse to give the girl a dollar for the rose that she insisted that I take for free. She took the money and quickly ran away. My dad just could not stop laughing at how I just got humiliated and played in front of a crowd by such an unsuspecting little girl. So never, ever accept any candy, roses or gifts from children in Tijuana.

One thing I want to point out is, according to my father, tourists, and, the children pick pockets, especially the groups of little girls that sell the roses. They attempt to distract you while one picks your pockets.

The best thing to give them is a firm”No!” Even though it is hard to pass up the kids, you have to understand they do this everyday and know the tricks of the trade. According to the Baja Mexico Tourism Department, giving the children money will not help them and suggest not give them any cash. I would suggest if you want to give to the children, bring them clothes or toys you no longer need or want, or give them food.

It is not over yet!

When you return to your car to leave Tijuana you may believe that you are finally free of the beggars, but as you head for the border you will be bombarded with a bunch of teen age girls slumping over your car with window wipers and a spray bottle. They will be eagerly wiping your car windows. You will never see them coming and it will happen so fast, that you are never given the chance to decline such service. Of course then you will feel obligated to pay them for doing the job even without your permission. The only way to stop this is, not pay the teenagers unless they ask first and then is given permission to wash your windows.

If you make yourself aware of these issues, follow these tips and be ready to say “No Money!” when confronted by the little child beggars, your trip to Tijuana, Mexico will be a pleasant one and you will leave with wonderful memories instead of memories of being annoyed and harassed.


Billy Hicks
Baja Mexico Tourism department


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