Los Algodones, MX – December, 2015 We headed to the very southeast corner of California because we wanted to cross the border for a day to try out a Mexican dentist and check out prescription drug prices and eyeglasses as well. We could have visited Tijuana quite easily from our camp in San Diego but I had researched the border town of Los Algodones and I felt a lot more comfortable going there as opposed to a larger town like Tijuana that has a somewhat sketchy reputation. And it was only a 2 ½ hours away.
Los Algodones exists solely to meet the medical needs of its American and Canadian visitors. There are several square blocks filled with dentists, optometrists, and pharmacies among others. It is said to be very safe and we never felt the least bit uneasy during our visit.
We got to the border at 8 am for a 9 am dental appointment and paid $6 to park right next to the entry. I didn’t expect it to be difficult to get in to Mexico but I never imagined we would walk right in and not even see a single border agent or have to show our passports. We had an hour to walk 3 blocks to the dentist. Since the pharmacy was already open we headed in there first.
PRESCRIPTIONS We were in and out of the pharmacy in 10 minutes. We priced three prescription medications. One would have cost $200 for a month supply and we only pay a $25 copay so we obviously passed on that. A second would have cost $45 for a month, again the copay won. The third cost us $5 for a 3 month supply so we saved $70 over our copay.
We also priced some medications we buy over the counter in the US. Generic Zyrtech was $7 for 100 pills which would cost over $20 at Walmart. We paid $5 for 100 generic Prilosec. You would pay more than $35 for them at Walmart.
You can walk in and ask for anything. You don’t need a prescription. And you can take anything you want back across the border, also without a prescription, except for controlled substances. I read that you can only take a 3 month supply but there is nothing to stop you from returning every day for 4 days until you have a year’s worth. Many snowbirds stock up before they head north
DENTIST We walked on to the dentist office. I chose The Rubio Clinic for our dental work based on recommendations of fellow bloggers and after reading tons of comments following blogs on the subject. Jim and I were both overdue for a cleaning so I made the appointments and was quoted $30 each plus $50 for panoramic X-rays if they were required.
We arrived at 8:30 and were grateful that their waiting room was already open. It was barely 40 degrees out and we were chilled. We were the first to arrive but by my 9 am appointment time the room was pretty fully.
I was the first patient called and was taken to a typical exam room with a very modern, comfy dentist chair. I met the dentist (not Dr Rubio but another doctor) and discussed my teeth and he examined them. I even told him I was willing to have an X-ray to determine if there was anything I should be concerned about. He said he didn’t see any signs of decay that would warrant the expense of an X-ray. Who am I to argue? Then the dentist proceeded to clean and polish my teeth himself with the help of an assistant. I was all done in 30 minutes.
Jim’s appointment was scheduled for 10 but they took him right after me. He had an equally satisfying experience. When he was done I wrote them a check for $60 and we were out the door at 10 am.
I don’t feel like this experience was sufficient for me to form a complete opinion about Mexican dentistry. They did a pretty good job cleaning my teeth but my Missouri hygienist is more thorough. Only time will tell if I have any issues that an X-ray would have detected. I would definitely consider going again but I would never choose a dentist without consulting other’s recommendations and reviews.
EYEGLASSES We ambled along looking for one of two optical offices we had heard good things about, Best or Maya. We stumbled upon Best Optical first. I have been avoiding getting bifocals for more than a year. I wanted to try them out without investing a fortune so I figured this was as good a time as any. I already had a prescription so I didn’t need to see their doctor. I made my choice from the very cheapest frames available. I generally wear contacts so I wasn’t too hung up on what they looked like since I mostly wear them for a little while in the morning or occasionally all day when my allergies are giving me fits.
I was shocked and pleased when they quoted me only $39 including progressive lenses. Of course, the extras were very costly, transitions $80 and anti-reflective $80. So I just stuck with the basics. I also wrote them a check and they said they would be ready in 2 ½ hours. I ended up liking the progressive lenses very much. I will definitely consider going to Mexico when I need glasses again. I checked with Walmart and the very least expensive pair of glasses with progressive lenses would have cost me $120.
SHOPPING & LUNCH We walked around and shopped a bit but honestly we don’t need or even want anything. When shopping in Mexico you are often barraged by street vendors and if you even look at some merchandise they start trying to negotiate a price. I can enjoy it when I’m in the mood, especially if I actually plan to spend some money. But this day I tired of it quickly.
I intended to find some cheap street tacos for lunch. But when we saw patio seating in the warm sunshine and a band beginning to play, we quickly decided to stop at El Gourmet and kill an hour. We asked for menus and ordered Bloody Maries. Surprisingly we were told they couldn’t serve alcohol for another 15 minutes (it was 10:45). That was fine with us but I just never heard of there being a wrong time to drink in Mexico.
The food was pretty good and the bill for 2 large combination platters, 3 Bloody Mary’s, and a beer came to $30. We still had another hour before my glasses were ready so we walked around some more.
LIQUOR I had read that many people purchase alcohol while in Algodones. We are always up for saving money in that department so we checked out a liquor store. We priced the usual suspects and didn’t find any deals. The best deals appeared to be on tequila but that is not something we drink regularly.
I did find a bottle of banana liquor that I had eliminated from one of my favorite drink recipes in order to reduce the number of bottles we drag around the country. It was $7 for a liter and I used to pay around $12 for a smaller bottle. I decided that was cheap enough to warrant its space in the cabinet. The clerks in the store informed us that each person can carry one liter of alcohol across the border but we didn’t find anything else we wanted.
We finally went and waited outside the optical shop until my glasses were done. They arrived close to the promised time and we were soon on our way. We knew there was sometimes a long line to get back in to the US but it took us only 10 minutes to get through the process.
There were no forms to fill out. We had all our purchases out for inspection but the agent barely glanced at them and hardly said a word. We were glad to be on our way home and pleased with what we had accomplished and the money we’d saved.