Ahhh Mexico…where the drugs are cheap, the liquor is free flowing and there’s a dentist on every street corner. Actually more like 5 or 6 dentists. That’s right, welcome to Los Algodones, Mexico- a medical haven for thousands of US and Canadian retirees who winter in southern California and Arizona. This tiny border town with less than 6,000 residents is home to more dentists, eye care specialists and pharmacies than most major US cities. Though it’s not the sheer number of services that prompt an estimated 3,000 people daily to flood across the border- it’s the cost. For roughly one-half to one-third of the price you would pay in the US you can get all manner of dentistry procedures, prescription glasses, prescriptions drugs and other various medical procedures.
If the thought of medical care in Mexico sounds scary to you, well you’re not alone. I admit to a healthy dose of skepticism at first. But the truth is that thousands and thousands of people take advantage of these services everyday with quite satisfying results. I perused a bunch of the online forums and reviews regarding Los Algondones and found that the majority consisted of glowing reports of quality work and professionalism. We also received an in-person report from some folks who had recently experienced their own Mexican dental experience. Nina and Paul from the Wheeling It blog, took their first trip to Los Algodones a few weeks ago for a variety of dental work. When we arrived out here on American Girl Mine Rd. where they were also staying, Nina was about to go back about for the second part of her procedure. The way she described it all sounded very safe, professional- and CHEAP. You can read her very informative two-part post about their full experience here. While we’re not quite ready to take the dental plunge yet (mostly because we both dread the any dentist visit- not because we’re weary of the Mexican system), the other services like eyeglasses and prescription drugs sounded intriguing so we decided to go check it out for ourselves.
It turns out that the other members of our motley band of roaming nomads were also interested in an afternoon spent in Mexico. So Tim and I, along with Brian, Cassie & Kris (Poor Leigh had to stay behind to work -yuck) piled in the truck and took the short ten minute drive over to the border crossing. We parked in a large lot on the US side and walked across. Los Algodones is very small- only about four square blocks so getting around on foot is a breeze. The first thing you notice are the men hawking dentistry and eye care services. “You need dental, how bout’ vision?” They wave fistfuls of business cards like dollar bills- trying to entice you to take the bait. The second thing you notice is just how many signs there are for dental and vision services.
A visit to the dentist was not on anyone’s list for the day, but we did want to visit one of the eye care centers in search of prescription sunglasses. Brian had read that Best Optical had a good selection and reputation so off we went. Luckily in such a small town it was not hard to find.
The selection of regular frames was quite good, and the sunglasses selection was just okay. I didn’t end up finding a pair but Tim did, and after a short wait while one of the sales girls ran over to the lab to make sure this particular pair could be fit the lenses he wanted, we were in business. Normally you can get a pair of prescription glasses on the same day (2-3 hour wait) but since it was already afternoon and the shop closed at four we needed to come back the next day morning to pick them up. No problem.
We also hit up the pharmacy where Cassie got a few prescriptions filled for a tiny fraction of what she normally pays in the US. I was so impressed that when we went back the next day to pick up Tim’s frames I brought my own prescriptions to be filled. The cost ended up being one-third of what I pay here! The whole procedure is almost too easy. You go in, hand your prescription to one of the many, many employees, they tell you if it’s in stock and how much it costs, then they get it for you right then and there. No waiting around for whatever it is you wait for at US pharmacies. There are some restrictions on what you can bring across the border as far as prescriptions go, but my run-off-the mill allergy medications were not a problem at all.
Besides medical care and medications the other popular spot in Los Algodones is the liquor store. They have a wide selection, especially of Tequila, and prices seemed to be a bit cheaper than in the US- depending on what state you’re used to buying from. The best part of the liquor store was the free-flowing samples. They had a couple stands set up with open bottles ready to taste. Kind of like Costco at the liquor store.
In between the dentists, optical stores and pharmacies the streets and sidewalks are littered with small booths and stands displaying all types of touristy goods. You want a leather purse, some turquoise jewelry, a ceramic turtle, hats of all kinds, a hammock, colorful clothing, hair accessories, stone lawn art, or a leather wrestling mask? You got it.
By far our most interesting purchase was a couple strips of Goat Milk Lollipops by request for Leigh. She has memories of her family buying them during their annual trip to Mexico and swears by their deliciousness. Hmmm…if you say so.
We really had a great experience in Los Algodones. Who knows maybe we’ll even get brave enough to go back to try out the dental care.
You’re so descriptive, I’m jealous.
awesome! So glad you guys made it down to crazy Los Algodones! Cheers fr te shout-out too!
We winter in Yuma, so make regular trips to Algodones for prescription meds. Have never had any problems walking around Algodones. Recently, I made my first venture to a dentist who was recommended to me by a friend. I was in need of a crown replacement. First, you need to know that there are around 400 dentists in this little town–all catering to Americans. They also have 5 dental labs to keep up with the work. Most dentists in Yuma send their dental lab work to Algodones because they’re supposed to have state-of-the-art equipment and the cost is less. For the most part, everything is paid for in cash. Within an hour, my dentist made not one, but two molds of the tooth requiring the crown and I was fitted with a temporary. She wasn’t satisfied with the first one. I then paid $150 cash and was told to come back in 2 days for the permanent crown. Everything was very clean. On my return visit, she checked to make sure the crown was going to fit; applied the dental cement and within less than 10 minutes the crown was seated; I paid my $150 balance and was on my way with instructions to come back if there was a problem. So far, I’m very pleased with my $300 crown that would have cost me around $1000 at home! The people of Algodones are very friendly and helpful. If you ask the location of a business, they won’t just tell you how to get there. They will actually walk you to the location!
I heard today (May 28, 2013) that the border is clamping down on what you bring across from Algadones. People have picked up my meds for me and mailed them to me for some time and they say now they are afraid to do it anymore. Has the restrictions changed?
I love Los Algodones and the People go there 10 to 20 times a year just for the food and drinks and yes I have had Dental work done to great place
[…] to the border, we still had time to order some glasses (I had the prescription already). I’d read a post about Best Optical on the Watsons Wander blog so I went straight there. Their largest selection of frames was in the […]
Just came back to Portland, Oregon from Algodones after having some dental work done. When I lived in Phoenix, Arizona I used to go down there for Meds a couple of times a year. It’s pretty confusing when when you walk into town and you don’t know which dentist to choose when there are so many. I’d definitely recommend it if you don’t have dental insurance. It’s worth the trip.
Without meaning to be negative, let me add a little reality to all the flowery reviews of Los Algodones. We live in Arizona part time and visit Algodones a few times each year. Over ten years, we have gone through six different dentists. One of them told my wife she had six cavities and rolled up her sleeves, ready to start drilling. We passed on that. When we saw our regular dentist in the US, he checked and found that she had zero cavities. Hmmm. Another dentist made an ass of himself, brandishing a large wad of cash and laughing openly, in front of his employees (and us), making us feel like fools for trusting him. Yes, you can get your teeth “cleaned” there for $15… but you get what you pay for. They’ll shine up your teeth alright, but they don’t clean deep enough to do you any good. Finally, we found a real periodontist who knows what she’s doing. She charges a little more than most, but it’s still a fraction of what you’d pay on our side of the border. All in all, the cleanliness and technology of dentist’s offices is better than you’d expect in Mexico, but you need to do your homework before you go. The ones with a barker/hustler on every corner are the first ones to avoid (the really good ones don’t need to advertise – word of mouth is sufficient). The food is good and reasonably priced, and there are a few good places to eat. The Mexican made liquor is a real bargain, but you need to factor in the outrageous Q-Tribe charge for parking before you gloat about your savings, since you are limited on how much you can bring back. Returning to the US can be a painful ordeal, depending on the time of year/time of day. We’ve stood in line for as long as two hours. Other times, 15 minutes. Frankly, I’m not alone in believing that the US border agents drag their feet and make it as painful as possible, in the interest of discouraging people from flocking to Mexico for the bargains (especially prescriptions) instead of paying “big pharma” prices for the same drugs in the US. YMMV. All of that said, Los Algodones is probably one of the safest border towns you’ll ever visit.
Always good to hear the negative along with positive. Thanks for sharing your experience.
What periodontist did you use, Uncle K?
Do you have to have passports to get into algadonas
Yes you need a passport.
You don’t need a passport to get into Algodones… you need one to get OUT (back into US).
Alberta Family Dental is great. They are located Av A and 2nd St, Ste 3 (a small plaza across from the purple pharmacy). Dre. Rigoberto did an excellent job for my husband. He had a 5 tooth bridge placed same day. It was a long day but well worth it. I’ll be going this April to have two crowns done for myself. As for parking state side on the reservation a couple years ago it was 5 dollars. I read a review that parking fees were outrageous so I’m curious the cost for parking now. anyway, I’ve always had a good experience at Los Algodones
Parked in the reservation parking lot today. Cost $6, $10 overnight for a car, not sure if they charge more for larger vehicles.
Parking is $6 per day & $10 for overnight.
Hi, I went to Algodones, MX last week and got a dental evaluation and a quote. I am planning to return to have the work done. Just wondering how to research the dentist to make sure it is all legitimate. Any thoughts? Chris
Chris: You can do a search of Dentist in Algodones and find ones that are guaranteed and that also take credit cards. I found one that has a five year guarantee on his work, he was more expensive than most but still way cheaper than the U.S. I am heading back on the 29th for just a filling.
[…] Watsons Wonder -> A Day-Trip To Los Algodones […]
I went to Dr Magaña, they did 3 crowns couple years ago and i have had no problems whatsoever, i plan on going again for more work, they are honest and professional, stay away from the cheap dentists, you get what you pay for, trust me.
I feel good about so many lovely reviews of Los algodones. Hve never been there. I live in el paso and go to Juarez for the best medical and dental care you could ever have. Forget the USA, getting worse and worse. Dr Moran at nucleodental.com. amazing. Been his patient for years.
Comments are closed.