On our RVbasics email group there has been an ongoing discussion about visiting Mexican border towns. What follows is a compilation of the tips offered by group members.
Tips that will be helpful if you have never been to a border town:
• Walking across the border — Walking is the recommended way to cross the border. The streets are jammed with people walking and you just go with the flow unless you are headed for somehwere specific. If walking isn’t practical it may be possible to take a taxi or charter bus.
• Riding a bicycle in border towns is not recommended. You will have to keep track of it while there and you will also be hindered by car and foot traffic. There is a good chance it will be stolen.
• Driving across the border — In border towns parking spaces are pretty much non-existent. If one can be found it could be on the outskirts of the town with walking distance equal to or longer than walking across the border. Keeping an eye on your car would be necessary if you like your wheel covers.
• Mexican Auto Insurance — Don’t drive your car or RV into Mexico without Mexican Auto Insurance. Mexican auto insurance can be purchase on U.S. side of the border crossing. If you are planning ahead, check with your own insurance company first, they may be able to provide Mexican insurance at a better price.
• At the crossing to Los Algodones there is a large parking lot right at the border. The shopping district is just over the border. There is a charge for parking paid as you enter the lot. There is also a RV park stateside within walking distance of the crossing. Both the parking lot and RV park are on a American Indian reservation.
• People — The people are generally wonderfully friendly and helpful. They are also persistent in trying to sell you stuff. They like to bargain. We crossed into Los Algodones so frequently when having dental work done that the vendors recognized us as we passed by and were very cordial.
• Restaurants — We stopped one day (to try out our new dental work) at a restaurant. The food was good but probably prepared more American/Mexican than ‘pure’ Mexican, for the tourist trade.
• Firearms and ammunition are illegal in Mexico
• English is widely spoken in border towns and U.S. currency is accepted for shopping, traveling or dining. Some dental/medical/optical accept checks on American banks.
• Returning to the United States — During tourist season one year we waited in line almost two hours to pass through the border station at Los Algonones. Usually it is not that long a wait… 20 to 30 minutes. You will need to show your U.S. passport book or passport card to re-enter. It’s best not to joke around with the border agents.
You can bring back to the States $400 worth of goods per person, plus one liter of liquor per month (this includes beer, which only amounts to about 3 cans). Hand-crafted, artistic works, are allowed in duty-free as long as you are not shipping commercial quantities. Uncooked meats and many fruits are not permitted into the U.S.
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