We knew when we decided to stay in the Rio Grande Valley that we would end up in one of the border towns of Mexico.. Even with all the hype surrounding the drug cartel’s heinous activities in Mexico we really felt that there wouldn't be a great deal of difference in traveling in most of Mexico vs. the USA.
Some places in both countries have unsafe areas that we plan to avoid and here as anywhere we knew a little research was a really good idea. Many of the border crossings in the Rio Grand Valley are generally considered unsafe. The only exception is the town of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico. Nearly everyone we spoke to including the border patrol said a day trip to Nuevo Progreso, Mexico was fine but the advice was to simply stay on the main drag, have a good time and come back before dark.
We met a nice couple at an activity here in the park that said they were going to go to Mexico. We asked if they would mind having some tagalongs since as newbies we could learn from them where to go and what to do in Progreso. They said they'd love company so the next morning a short 33 mile drive east from our park put us at the international bridge that crosses into Nuevo Progreso, Mexico. Just before the bridge there was ample parking for $2.00 per car. Once parked we walked toward the bridge and paid 50 cents per person into the turnstile for entrance onto the bridge entering into Mexico. Once across the bridge you are in Mexico.. it really is that simple. We were forewarned of the need to bring our passports for reentry into the USA.
Now if you have ever been into a border town in Mexico before then you know that they are all very similar in appearance since they are primarily set up for the tourists in the area closest to the bridge. Nuevo Progreso, Mexico is not any different. All along the bridge walkway we saw several hands holding baseball caps asking for any spare change. Also many other Mexican men and women were just below the bridge also asking for change to be dropped down to them. Upon entering the actual town there weren’t any others begging from the tourists. There were however plenty of niña's, little girls, trying hard to get us to buy whatever they were selling and we also saw occasional elder women selling Chiclet (gum) for a donation. And yes those appear to be sausage links being sold out of the trunk of a car in the above photo.
The town itself was colorful and lively with a great representation of the colorful Mexican heritage and culture we enjoy. The streets were lined with venders selling everything from jewelry to cowboy boots. The stores were predominantly composed of shops selling trinkets and pottery. Yet there were dozens of pharmacies selling cheap pharmaceuticals. Some of the pharmacies were free standing whereas others were within the trinket shops. There was also an abundance of dental offices and inexpensive optical shops.
We were primarily there to just look around and price a few dermatological prescriptions for Sharon. We didn’t have much success but after comparing prices on one of her prescriptions for Retin-A we found a pharmacist that had a great value for the product. The price was about 50 percent less than in the USA and the tube contained twice as much product making it 75 percent cheaper overall. A five dollar Z-pack (for future sickness insurance), a couple bottles of rum and we were good to go. While waiting for the scripts we were told we could go into the bar (with live music) next door for a free margarita and so we did…
Exiting Mexico took a lot longer than entering did. Each visitor must go through customs one at a time and declare any purchases made. Since we bought some booze before heading back we also had to pay a liquor tax which was quite steep at $3.75 per bottle nearly negating the value of buying in Mexico. So make sure you account for the taxes on booze when pricing it while visiting Mexico.
We enjoyed our day in Mexico with a good Mexican lunch, a few margaritas, and a few laughs with our new friends from Rochester, NY. Will we go back? You bet we will…