Of course our trip to Yuma wouldn't be complete without a trip into Mexico… Why do people travel into Mexico to visit Los Algodones? Well for one thing prescription drugs in Los Algodones can be bought for pennies on the dollar and most don’t even require a prescription!
However most travel into this small border town for the inexpensive dentistry. There is literally a dentist on every street corner. There are more dentists in this small town (less than 6,000 residents) than in most much larger US cities. USA and Canadian retirees wintering in southern California and Arizona flock into Los Algodones, Mexico
Our goal was to pick up a few prescription drugs and to see if I could have the lenses replaced in my favorite pair of sunglasses. We read that the fees for both dental and optical services are slashed to one-third to over one-half off the price normally paid in the US.
We wondered about the quality of work done in this tiny little town but after perusing the internet and reading accounts on forums, reviews and especially other blogs it became evident rather quickly that many feel as though the quality of work performed here is equitable with any done in the good old USA!
As we neared the border crossing we pulled into the big Quechan Parking Lot and paid our $6.00 to park. Much like the border crossing we experienced from Texas into Progresso, this entrance was a short walk across the border through a turnstile and “wallah” we were in another county.
Getting around Los Algodones was pretty simple as most of all the major shops can be found in the four main square blocks.Sadly there were a few older ladies begging and there was an onslaught of local men hawking dentistry, pharmacies and eye care services. “Hey mister, you need a dentist?” “Hey mister, you need new glasses?” “Hey mister, you need a pharmacy?” While the along all the walkways, craftsmen hit up the ladies with “Hey pretty lady, you need a pretty necklace?” Amusingly in the words of the locals, their wares were advertised as “Almost free!”
Our first stop was at the Purple Pharmacy (the pharmacy most recommended to us by bloggers and online forums). Sharon went up to the very busy counter and placed her orders. We saved on average about 40% when compared to just our normal co-pays. We also bought a couple of Z-pacs ($3.50 each ) for emergency needs in case one of us gets a bacterial infection while traveling and are not near any medical services.
The purple store pharmacy also has a liquor store and grocery inside.They have a quite the selection of liquors and the diversity of Tequila was fun to peruse. With tequila prices varying from $3.85 a bottle to over $160.00 per bottle. I felt the prices were a bit cheaper than in the US but no so much that we bought any. We did however partake in a few tastings that were readily available.
We also stopped at the first optical shop (also a part of the Purple Pharmacy) and after speaking with the clerk at the front desk I agreed to have my lenses replaced in my sunglasses for a total cost of $35.00. Even though I had read that Best Optical had a good reputation I went ahead and made a deal with this first one I visited. I could actually get a full set of prescription glasses for as low as $19 but I only wanted my current sunglasses upgraded. We left my glasses after leaving a small deposit with the promise of them being ready in about 2 hours.
So while waiting for my sunglasses we strolled around the town looking at all the signs for for the different dentists, optical stores and pharmacies. Prices seemed to vary a little but not so much that one would save much by searching out the best prices. The streets and sidewalks are covered with small booths and stands selling your typical touristy goods such as jewelry, hats, blankets, leather purses and T-shirts. We weren’t in need of any of their goods but I was on a mission to locate a highly recommended shrimp taco cart.
I couldn’t seem to find it until I saw a long line coming out a side street and there it was, Lupitas Taco Cart. We stood in line and ordered up some shrimp tacos and one carne asada taco. There was a nice selection of condiments to add to the taco (shredded cabbage, salsa, pico de gallo, crema and pickled onions). These shrimp tacos were breaded with a tempura type batter and fried up in a big vat right behind the counter . Two gentlemen took care of the line in no time, one frying the shrimp and fish, the other handling cooking tortillas and assembling tacos. It was fun to watch the process and at only a $1.75 each they were truly a bargain.
I will share a funny story with you though. As Sharon stood in line some customers ahead of her were reflecting that this was their favorite lunch place. They felt however that the tacos looked smaller than they remembered. They asked the busy gentlemen cooking if they were "new". They said no but they insisted that things looked different to them. Well one of the poor chefs left his post to fetch the owner who assured the folks that indeed it was the origional operation. While still muttering, they picked up their orders while Sharon was politely placing her order. If you know Sharon, she smiles a lot so since she was so enamored with the efficient operation she was very complimentary and smiling broadly. Well her tacos were stuffed full of shrimp, so much so that those customers ahead of her asked how in the world she got such big tacos. She just kept smiling and replied she couldn't imagine why......
After finishing our delicious tacos we went over where the artists were using spray paint to create beautiful designs on glasses (hard not to leave with one or two of these but we didn’t). Then it was time to go back for my glasses. We had to wait a bit longer than the two hours but I was reunited with my favorite sunglasses and now the lenses weren’t scratched anymore. Score!
Yep we had fun in Los Algodones and agreed it was another great day On the Road of Retirement… Now we are off to Quartzite tomorrow for the next six nights…