Friday, March 26, 2021
Crossing into Mexico at Nuevo Progreso
Sparky decided that some RVers in SE Texas might want to know about crossing into Mexico so she is devoting a blog to that. We crossed over one time previously to today to experience the visit, did not enjoy it too much and thought we probably wouldn't go back. That all changed when we met some RVing acquaintances from years ago who are living down here for the winter. We met up with them for dinner a couple of nights ago, and they shared why they like going over to Mexico a couple of times a year. Meet Barb and Butch Brooker.
We met them more than ten years ago for about 15 minutes at that time. Barb and Sparky share a love for blogging and photography, and even have the same kind of camera. They have kept in touch by reading each other's blogs and following on Facebook. They were our tour guides for today. Barb and Butch shared the common story that RVers tell that they go to Mexico for cheap medications. The best and safest crossing people say, is at the International Bridge into Nuevo Progreso. It's about a 35 minute drive from Sunshine RV Park in Harlingen, TX.
Get this.....You can cross over the border and buy many, many medications WITHOUT A PRESCRIPTION OR DOCTOR VISIT, including pain meds, at greatly reduced prices. Sparky needed some dermatological skin creams, a muscle relaxer refill, and some pain meds for her bad sciatica. Some people think of Mexico as the illicit drug capital of the world, but retirees look at Mexico as having the least drug/big Pharma regulations, and therefore can save a TON of money by purchasing their meds there and getting dental work done for a fraction of the cost by US trained dentists. How does 20.00 sound for an excellent teeth cleaning procedure?
Then we got to the Mexican side, we passed through the guard station who checked Barb's generously sized handbag for possible illegal stuff going INTO Mexico by the scan machine. Barb checked out fine. Sparky's small fanny pack was not looked at at all. And we were in the town of Nuevo Progreso, just like that.
There are about three main blocks of touristy stuff and hawkers on every inch of both sides of the sidewalk down the main street They sell the usual purses, handbags, cute fabric tops, sports team hats, leather belts and shoes, etc., on the left, and on the right are storefront after storefronts of pharmacies, spas and general stores.
As you walk down the street, vendors for each of the pharmacies and spas try to hawk their services and hand you their business cards--they speak very good English for the most part--"Mani? Pedi, milady?..." Or, they rattle off their drugs in the pharmacy for sale..."Viagra? Prilosec?" Yes, you can buy Viagra on the street for pennies compared to prices in the US. The manufacturers are the same, everything is just in Spanish on the labels. The streets were quite crowded, but most everyone was wearing masks.
There was some pretty tile work that Sparky saw while in town--the prettiest and most colorful part of town was the tile work.
The town is not pretty. It's run down. There is trash everywhere. If you are looking for a beautiful Mexican holiday visit and a chance to experience Mexican culture other than the food, it's not here. There are LOTS of street vendors selling fresh Mexican foods and snacks. Barb said that all the buildings of recent construction there are only partly finished. They will probably never complete them, because the town has to pay taxes once the buildings are finished, so they don't finish the job. This is a hotel that was started years ago, and never completed.
Barb and Butch guided us to Hector's pharmacy. It was a couple of streets over and several blocks down in a tiny, really tiny storefront in an abandoned plaza that used to host lots of stores and an active bar/restaurant. In its heyday, it was quite the noisy, busy marketplace but now was an abandoned Mexican "strip mall", we'd call it in the US.
The only other inhabitants of this little abandoned mall was an office of some sort where someone was still conducting business and had a little watch guard.
The first time visitor would be very leery of buying anything, especially medications from a little tiny shop like this, or having dental work done in a little office with makeshift chairs and in a questionable location where most people are struggling to make a living, but thousands of US citizens visit Nuevo Progreso every year to get medications and have dental work done at a FRACTION of the prices the bloated pharmaceutical/medical industry charges in the US.
Barb and Butch have been coming for YEARS to get medications and dental work done, and they are very comfortable with where and who gives them the services. You would need recommendations from several people for sure, to feel comfortable getting the work done here, but there are excellent dentists and trustworthy pharmacies in Nuevo Progreso. There are also a few nice stores in between the rougher parts of the town.
After lunch, it was time to head back. Crossing back into the US is a little more involved. You need an enhanced driver's license (the ones with the gold star) and a second form of ID. A passport is great, of course, and even an expired one will work. You just need a backup ID. They say you can go through just with a driver's license with the enhanced features on it, and Eldy did ok with just that the last time, but Sparky was asked for a second form of ID this time. (A birth certificate works, or a regular passport, which Sparky had). You also need a quarter to pass through the turnstile as you cross from Mexico back to the US heading for the border patrol check station. There's no change machine.They ask you what you are bringing back. Sparky had one pain medication that is the lowest tier on the controlled substances list in the US, but she had two bottles. You can only have one bottle per person, said the pharmacist, so Eldo carried one in and Sparky carried the other. The guard asked what Sparky had and she answered "arthritis medication" (the pain meds) and "skin cream". You lower your mask so they can take your photo. If you wear glasses, sometimes they will ask you to remove those. If you buy booze in Mexico, you declare it and pay taxes on it once you are past the border patrol check station. The guards seem to ask the women more questions than the men, in our experience. Sparky was asked after declaring the meds, "And anything else?" Nope. Eldo was not even asked what he was bringing back in his little black grocery bag. Are you sure, hombre, you don't have anything else to declare? "Nada", says E.
And we were back in the U.S.! Thank you Barb and Butch for guiding us through the town today and helping us find our way back to Jessica's for a nice lunch....Tomorrow, we leave for the Houston area, and Sparky is HAP-PEE to be heading towards cooler temperatures. We will miss the wonderful birding opportunities here, especially with the bird migration just starting...but hey, it's on to more adventures and sights to see, and things to do...Bye for now!