Joanne, my hiking friend from last year, asked me to go with her to Los Algodones, Mexico.
So, today Monday, 1/15/18 we decided to go. She wanted to look around in Los Algodones and get an idea on buying glasses. I have now been a number of times to this small town in Mexico right on the border of California. I’m also so glad to have the quality time to talk and catch up on our lives from last year.
The two hour drive ends at the Quechan Indian Reservation Parking lot where $6.00 gets you a secure parking lot for the day for the short walk over the border into Mexico.
When I say short walk I’m talking a few hundred feet from your vehicle.
After you go through the turnstile into Mexico you walk through a security building that is set up to scan what you bring into Mexico. Leave your pocket knife in the vehicle like I do. They were not scanning today. After going through the security building the walkway turns to go around the bathroom building. A quick turn into the bathroom will help you later. The Attendent keeps them clean and he will hand you a paper towel too. Leave them some change. $.25 - $.50 is a nice way of saying thanks.
People, especially retirees, flock every day to Los Algodones every day to purchase prescription drugs, (non narcotics), eye glasses, and dental work. This means you will not be alone. There are US and Canadian citizens everywhere you turn.
We entered Los Algodones at the top center. This is the downtown area and the shopping area extends just beyond the edge of my picture. It’s compact so you don’t have to go far for many of the services mentioned above. As soon as you reach the street after the bathrooms, there are people, mostly men, who are pushing you to a particular pharmacy, dentist, or optometrist. They are not rude, pushy, or in your space. They will try to get your attention. They understand English and if mention key words they will jump into your conversation. I wear sunglasses so they can’t see my eyes.
They may hand you business cards for the particular establishment. Their name is on the card as I guess they get something for the referral.
We sat for coffee in this small mall on the main drag. It’s a nice place to sit and have a conversation in a small courtyard setting.
We did some walking around the buildings with covered sidewalks with vendors underneath. I stopped at my favorite jewelry stand where I go to buy some jewelry. The woman knows me as I arrive and is always fair to me as I am to her. Her husband sells blankets and table cloths across from her. Today she is covering both and last time her husband was. I know both. Her booth is on a back street with less traffic and why I go there.
I eventually took Joanne to Best Optical (bottom center) so she could discuss prices for eyeglasses. I too ask for information for eye glasses for myself. It takes 3 hours to make the progressive lens glasses. At a discount over buying them at home. (See downtown picture above) (Note: I have no affiliation with this company. I speak from how I was treated in the past and today. They are professional and not pushy. If you bring your optical prescription they will work with you on your purchase. I’m sure eye exams are available at a separate price. Plan to pay in cash unless you call in advance.
Then some more streetside vendor walking where Joanne looked at leather bags. One bag that she looked at after the attendant took down from peg on wall, was quoted for sale at $120. Joanne decided against it but not without having the price drop to $60. The place I go for jewelry I don’t need to bargain, but bargaining is ok. Just be aware that if you walk away after showing sincere interest you could get a lower price.
Next it was time for lunch and we ate at one of the most touristy places in town. See above. The food was fine and a bit more expensive than the open stand restaurants that I usually go to. They speak English here and the food stands often don’t, but it is in a quaint open courtyard and they have music. Again plan to pay cash in US Dollars, even at the food stands.
Leave a decent tip. You can see the gratitude.
Finally, I stopped at the purple pharmacy before leaving Mexico. Note generic is cheaper and you get much more for your money, but you may need to ask.
You then walk back to where you entered Mexico and on the opposite side of the street is the US border control.
It is about twice the walk back to your vehicle as you are across the street.
My experience is that if you get to Los Algodones around 9-9:30 am AZ time you get in and out early. We deliberately went on Monday to avoid what could be a crowded town and a longer wait to cross back into the US. Plan to eat at noon or just before to get faster service and a good seat, if you choose this restaurant. Try to get to the US border control by 2pm to avoid long lines
A long line can mean about an hour of standing in line. There is usually a man in a white uniform collecting donations before you enter the line to the US. I give him a dollar on the way by. There are often beggars and trinket ladies too. Use your judgement. I find them all polite and grateful for your patronage/gift.
Stand at the doorway of border control of either of the two lines and wait to be called forward. Hand passport and stand where they tell you. I got yo use my Global Entry card vs passport today😀. They will ask you what are you bringing back to US. I said meds and jewelry. He said thank you and that was it.
There is a bathroom on the sidewalk as you walk around this US building back to cross the street to the parking lot. Use them.
Joanne and I stopped for some fuel & grocery shopping in Yuna before heading bsck north to Quartzsite.
I had a great time with Joanne on the day trip to Los Algodones.