Visiting Los Algodones, Mexico for dental, glasses, and prescriptions is a fun and easy option that allows you to save a lot of money while enjoying a different cultural experience.
Los Algodones is located in Baja California, Mexico just across the border from Yuma, Arizona and Winterhaven, California. It is a popular destination for “medical tourism” south of the border that has a long reputation for being a safe location with steeply discounted prices compared to the U.S.
My question tends to be the opposite: Why not Mexico? Canada and Mexico are natural international destinations for U.S. nomads and travelers as they are both border countries that are also considered to be friendly allies.
Geo-arbitrage is also a factor when visiting Mexico. The exchange rate and differences in costs allows U.S. travelers to stretch their dollars a lot further while supporting local street vendors and healthcare providers south of the border.
Why Los Algodones?
There are plenty of border towns that offer street food and a variety of healthcare services at affordable prices, so why Los Algodones? In my case, I happened to be in the area already as I was in southwest Arizona for winter. I also had the opportunity to visit with friends who had been to Los Algodones previously so they were able to show me around.
Entering Los Algodones
Visiting Los Algodones is surprisingly easy. From Interstate 8 in Winterhaven, California (just across the border from Yuma, Arizona), take Exit 166 for Route 186, Algodones Road, and the Quechan Casino. Follow Route 186 south to the US-Mexico border (about two miles), and then park for the day in the Quechan lot that literally sits on the border. You can walk down the sidewalk and through a turnstile into Mexico. No ID is required to enter Mexico.
It is possible to also drive in Los Algodones, but parking is quite limited so most people simply park and walk across the border.
As of February 2021, the Quechan tribe is constructing a new RV park along Algodones Road immediately north of the parking area. This location will allow camping within walking distance of Los Algodones.
Shopping in Los Algodones
You will find nearly countless pharmacies, vision centers, and dental offices within a few square blocks in Los Algodones, along with many street vendors. Some of our favorites are:
- Lupita’s taqueria - “A” Ave
- Mary’s Pharmacy - “A” Ave between 2nd St and 3rd St
- White Dental - Sonora Plaza
- Northwest Vision Center - “A” Ave between 3rd St and 4th St
- Expect to save a considerable amount of money. In my experience, I saved about 80 percent compared to U.S. prices for medication and dental care. My glasses were also considerably less expensive than in the U.S.
- Dental and vision services are fast. It is not uncommon to have glasses, partial dentures, etc. ready the same day.
- Bring cash. Many vendors only take cash, and those that do accept cards often charge an additional fee due to the costs of International card processing.
- Be aware of border/customs rules. For example, you may bring back only one bottle of liquor per person each day, and may bring back only three months worth of a particular medication per person. Many people return on subsequent days to purchase additional items.
- You do not need a prescription for medications in Mexico. Just visit a pharmacy and let them know what you need.