Should you cross the border from the Southwest US into Mexico? It is tempting to cross for a little shopping, some “dental tourism,” or to visit a great little Mexican restaurant. States like Sonora have made things easy, but should you let your guard down and make a visit to a Mexican border town?
Dental and Medical Tourism
Seniors travel on a daily basis from Yuma, Arizona to Los Algodones for dental care, prescriptions and eyeglasses. There are also many dentists, doctors and pharmacies in Nogales, Sonora. So it is hard to believe that some Mexican border towns have a history of violence.
The U.S. State Department, in an article covering Spring Break in Mexico advises common sense. “While the vast majority enjoy their vacations without incident, several may die, hundreds will be arrested and still more will make mistakes that could affect them for the rest of their lives. Using some common sense will help travelers avoid these unpleasant and dangerous situations.
Los Algodones still is considered a safe zone by many seniors. But they will tell you to go during daylight hours and stay in the central shopping and business district.
Watch for Alerts
The State Department issues travel alerts that can keep up updated on areas to avoid. These are usually for temporary situations. Here is the website. However, if you see a Department of State Travel Warning, it is best to stay away until the warning is cleared.
Safety Tips for the Visitor
- Stay in groups
- Stay in the usual tourist areas (gift shops, restaurants, hotel areas)
- Watch your drinking. A person appearing drunk is a sure target for theft.
- Be extra careful to follow the laws. Don’t drink and drive, use illegal drugs, bring guns or drugs over the border, etc.
- Take care of yourself. Bring water over the border to avoid dehydration. Wear sunscreen. Bring a list of your prescriptions and basic medical information with you.
- Have an emergency contact and phone number written down.
- Know the hours of your border crossing point. Not all are open 24 hours.
Documents for Tourist Travel Across the Mexican Border
Getting back into the U.S. is more difficult than crossing the border into Mexico. Make sure you have appropriate documents. A U.S. citizen returning to the United States from Mexico through a land port of entry (by car, ship or by foot) must present a U.S. passport or a passport card.
If you fly into Mexico, you must have the U.S. passport (not a passport card).
When you travel, I recommend carrying a copy of your passport or passport card so that you have your passport number with you at all times. Sometimes it may be wise to keep your passport in a hotel safe and carry the copy with you in your purse or wallet.
If you plan to stay awhile in Mexico, Kathleen Crislip, the About.com Student Travel Writer, has some great tips for planning your trip to Mexico.
The American Automobile Association advises: If traveling by vehicle, buy Mexico auto insurance. U.S. auto insurance is not valid in Mexico, even though some companies extend their coverage a certain number of miles from the border, Mexican officials will not recognize this. If a collision occurs, a Mexican auto policy is the only form of insurance the authorities will accept as evidence of financial responsibility. If you cannot provide Mexico auto insurance, you could be arrested and sent to jail. More from AAA
When You Go Across the Border
After reading all of this you may not want to go across the border, but if you don’t you will miss a taste of border town Mexico that is colorful and fun. If you stay in the main tourist areas, visit in the daytime, and cross back into the United States before late evening, you should have a great time. Of course, watch the news and State Department warnings and follow the rules.