Going to Mexico

Visitors head south for more than tacos

Ahhhhh, vacation. Perfect for fun in the sun - and a trip to the dentist?  It’s not an odd combination for thousands of Yumans and visitors who cross the border as much for bargain dental care and eyeglasses as for local color.

Many head for Los Algodones (Baja California), a village just west of Yuma, or for San Luis Rio Colorado (Sonora), a much bigger city to the south. Both have a heavy concentration of dentists, opticians and pharmacies, along with lots of souvenir vendors, restaurants and bars.  A new luxury hotel is currently under construction in San Luis Rio Colorado, which is also the gateway to “Yuma’s beach” at El Golfo.

Since tourists are the focus in these border communities, the currency of choice is the American dollar and English is almost universally spoken.  Most tourist-oriented businesses are within an easy stroll of the border -- and Canadians outnumber Mexicans on busy winter days.

Visitors heading south of the border should follow common-sense safety tips:

  • Travel and shop with a group
  • Don't wander out of the obvious "tourist areas"
  • Watch your alcohol intake
  • Follow all laws and remain alert to your surroundings

During peak season, large crowds of visitors can mean long mid-afternoon waits. Visit earlier in the day - or relax and have a cerveza till the crowds thin!

To Algodones:  Take I-8 west to the Andrade exit, then south about two miles.  The Quechan Tribe has a paved & lighted lot where you can pay to park. More info, LosAlgodones.com

To San Luis Rio Colorado:  Follow U.S. 95 south, about 30 miles from downtown Yuma. Road improvements  on the U.S. side of the border now provide better access and more parking. More info, CityofSanLuis.org, SanLuisRC.gob.mx.

 Getting your self back:

With increased border security, you need more than your good looks to get back into the United States after visiting Mexico, so be prepared!

Citizens of Canada and other countries should bring passports from their country of origin - plus a visa if one was required for your original entry into the United States.

U.S. citizens should bring one of the following:

  • U.S. passport - This is the internationally recognized travel document that verifies a person's identity and nationality, accepted for travel by air, land and sea.

  • U.S. passport card - This new, limited-use travel document fits into your wallet and costs less than a passport, but is only valid for travel by land and sea.

  • Enhanced drivers license - Several states and Canadian provinces are issuing special drivers licenses that denote both identity and citizenship specifically for cross-border travel by land or sea. Check Web site below for issuing states.

  • Trusted traveler program cards - Enrollment cards from the NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST programs are issued to approved, low-risk travelers for travel by land or sea or to airports with a NEXUS kiosk.

U.S. and Canadian citizen children under the age of 16 may also present an original or copy of a birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.

U.S. lawful permanent residents document requirements have not changed - present a permanent resident card (Form I-551) or other valid evidence of permanent residence status.

Other requirements may apply for groups such as Native Americans, military traveling on official orders or merchant mariners - check with authorities in advance.

Need more info? Visit www.getyouhome.gov

Also, updated travel safety information from the U.S. State Department is available online at http://travel.state.gov or toll-free from the U.S. or Canada at 1-888-407-4747 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time, Monday-Fridays).

getting your stuff back:

U.S. residents must declare purchases when re-entering the country, even from a day trip to Mexico.

If you have not used your duty-free exemption in the past 30 days, you may bring back $800 worth of items for your personal or household use, including -- if you're 21 -- not more than one carton of cigarettes and 100 non-Cuban cigars and one liter of alcohol.

If you have used any part of your duty-free exemption within 30 days, different rules apply. If in doubt, ask U.S. border officials before you cross and buy more.

Prescription drugs:

As a matter of law, U.S. law prohibits "importation" of prescription drugs from outside the United States. But as a matter of enforcement, an exception is generally made for declared purchases of FDA-approved drugs in amounts reasonable for "personal use" (usually a 60 to 90-day supply).

If your prescription contains a narcotic or other controlled substance, you may need a prescription from a Mexican doctor to purchase it - and one from a U.S. doctor to bring it back across the border. For details, see FDA.gov or CBP.gov.

There are risks associated with buying drugs in Mexico. Before you do, talk to your doctor and do some homework to find out how to minimize those risks.

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