We’ve been staying in Yuma, AZ for the last several days. It’s only a few minutes to the Mexican border from here, so we decided to go visit for a day. Algodones is the northernmost town in Mexico and has the highest concentration of dentists, optometrists, and pharmacies within a 4-block radius in the world. Snowbirds who flock to Southern Arizona for the winter go to Algodones for prescription drugs, eyeglasses, and dental work for about 1/3 the cost of similar services in the U.S.
Crossing the Border
We did some research before our trip and found out most people park on the U.S. side of the border then walk across. The parking lot is run by the local Indian tribe and costs $6 for a day. It’s only a 5 minute walk from there to the heart of Algodones, so we followed the crowds and did the same. We got to the parking lot around 9am and were in Mexico by 9:10 even with a meandering 5 year old who like to poke along.
We weren’t sure what to expect when we crossed into Mexico and thought we might have to go through some sort of customs check. When we walked through the border, there was a small sign next to the sidewalk indicating a customs inpection point, but there was nobody there and we walked right by after a quick stop at the bathrooms. It seems a custom inspection is non-existent to enter Mexico, at least at this part of the border. The kids pointed out how different things are in Mexico when they noticed a bathroom attendant handing out paper towels outside the bathroom doors.
This little border town is pretty small with the main tourist area being a square about 4 blocks wide. As we started walking along the sidewalks we were politely approached every few steps by men offering to show us to the best dentist, or the best pharmacy, or where to get eyeglasses. We were also swarmed with women selling jewelry and trinkets for the kids. We were the only Americans with kids that I saw there. The other tourists appeared to be older retired Americans or Canadians.
Since Angie and I both needed new glasses, we did stop in at several optometrists to try on frames. We both ended up finding frames we liked and both ordered a pair. I got a free eye exam with my glasses since I didn’t have my prescription or glasses with me. The optometrist told us to come back in 2 hours to pick them up.
We proceeded to stroll around the sidewalks and look at all the different souveneirs. We bought a few small items for the kids, a couple bags, and a nice blanket. Then we stopped for lunch before heading back to the optometrist to pick up our glasses on the way out.
Crossing back into the U.S.
We had heard the lines going back into the U.S. can get quite long — up to an hour or more in the afternoons. We were done with lunch, shopping, and eyeglasses by 1pm, so we headed over to the U.S. customs checkpoint. Thankfully we beat the crowds and only waited about 10 minutes to get back across. Clearing customs was pretty fast and a non-issue. We just showed our birth certificates an IDs, told the agent what we bought, and we were waived along.
Our little trip to Mexico was short and sweet and a good educational field trip for the kids, who got to learn a bit about another country first-hand.