Algodones is a bustling little town full of white-haired Americans saving money and having fun! American dollar are so important there, it's probably the safest place in North America!

Algodones is a bustling little Mexican town full of white-haired Americans saving money and having fun! American dollars are so important there, it’s probably the safest place in North America!

A few posts ago I talked about getting health insurance, but that’s only part of the health picture because many policies don’t cover dental, eyeglasses or even prescriptions. If they do cover them, you’ll still end up paying a lot because of the deductible. My solution is getting all those things done very cheaply in Mexico, so cheaply it’s much less than most insurance deductibles or co-pay. Every year about this time I go down and get it all taken care of at once.
I just made my first trip of the season down to Algodones on Dec. 17 to take the next step of finishing my Dental Implant procedure (you can read about the first step here: Plus, my eyes have been in a rapid state of change so I was desperate for new glasses. Finally, it was time to get another years worth of prescription drugs.  All in all, it was past time to go!

Dental Work

If you remember, I’m right in the middle of getting Dental Implants which is a four or five step  process:

  1. A Dental Implant is screwed directly into the bone, however, if there isn’t enough bone left you need a bone graft to build it back up. Then you have to wait 4 months for the graft to heal. I had a graft done on my lower molars last year and it’s now healed so I’m ready for the next step.
  2. Once the bone is thick enough, a hole is drilled into the bone and a post is inserted into it. The post is below the surface of the gum so you can’t damage it while it’s healing. This too has to be left for 4 months to heal. The bone actually grows around the post and it becomes as strong as the original bone, root and tooth. I had this done last year on my top Implant, and I had it done this week for the bottom one.
  3. After the four months,  another post is screwed into the post that is healed into the bone. this one is actually above the surface of the gum and I can feel it with my tongue. It needs to heal for one month. That’s where I am now on the top Implant, waiting for it to heal.
  4. After the month you go back and  have an impression made for the crown that will be attached to the outer post. On January 21st, I’ll go back down to Algodones and get the impression made for the crown. It’ll take two weeks for it to be ready
  5. Two weeks later I’ll go back and have the crown attached and the top one will be all done.

Because it’s such a long process, if you’re thinking about getting it done in Algodones, you really need to be located  pretty nearby. Here in Quartzite/Ehreneberg I’m about 100 miles away so driving down and back in a day is not difficult. But if you are far away, it could be a lot of driving or flying.
Also, if you’re in a van you need to plan around the heat, being in 100 degree temperatures in a van is a misery I avoid at all costs.  If you  need a bone graft, it’ll take a total of about 10 months and you will be there when it is extremely hot. If you don’t need a bone graft it will take almost 6 months and you may be able to avoid the extreme heat. Here’s a schedule to get it done in one season. Every year is different and it could still be extremely hot in either November 1 or April 15 so you just never know. Generally this is your best chance to avoid the heat. And, if worse comes to worse, you can stay at a cheap motel while you’re there and use it’s air conditioning.

  • November 1 — get your first post into the bone
  •  March 1 — get the 2nd post that is above the gum
  • April 1 — get the impression for the crown made
  • April 15 — get the crown attached

Or, you can do what I did and spread it out over two seasons. I was never there when it was really hot. In fact this last trip was cold and rainy so I wore a coat the whole time. The entire process costs $1600 and by spreading it out over two seasons you only have to pay half at a time; last December, 2013 I paid $800 and this trip I paid the other half. My dentist, Dr. Rubio, does take credit and debit cards. You can get it done cheaper in other places in Algodones, but I consider Dr. Rubio to be by far the best and so I was willing to pay a little extra. Here is my blog post about why I chose DR. Rubio and how you can find him:

Many snowbirds go across the border just to have a cheap lunch and people-watch.

Many snowbirds go across the border just to have a cheap lunch and people-watch.


My eyes have been getting worse so I’ve bought a new pair of glasses every year for the last 4 years. I’ve always gone to the same shop but this year I changed and went to Best Optical, they have several stores in Algodones.  My glasses cost $109 total price and that includes the eye exam. In the USA, if you go to Walmart, the eye exam alone is $65 so I only paid $44 for the glasses. I got:

  • Titanium frames: I don’t know for sure if they are or not, but they are very light and I can bend them to the shape of my head. Because I molded them to fit me, these glasses fit me extremely well and are staying on better than any other pair I’ve ever owned.
  • Bifocals: The tech did a very thorough job with the exam and my eyesight is perfect with them! He was also very careful with where he put the reading part; I’ve had some techs put it too high or too low but these are just right.
  • Transition: They go from clear glass when I’m in a dark place to dark glass when I’m outside or in a bright place.

I also paid $20 more to get a second pair with the same frame but just with reading glasses. When I’m reading I like a full pair so I don’t have to tilt my head.  The glasses turned put great, they fit me perfectly and my eyesight is as good as new! I’ll go to the same place next year.

Prescription Drugs:

There isn’t much too say about getting your prescription drugs down there. They are the same drugs as in the USA except they are pennies on the dollar. I always buy a years supply so I don’t have to buy them again. There’s no prescription necessary so you don’t even have to go a doctor if you already know what you need.
There are rules about bringing them back into the USA:

  • No prescription is necessary.
  • You can only bring back a 3 months supply per trip
  • You can only buy for yourself, you can’t buy for anyone else.
  • Of course, you need a Passport to go back and forth into the USA.
  • I’m sure there are extra rules for heavily controlled drugs, but I’ve never bought them so I don’t know. I have bought anti-depressants for a friend and they are no problem.

Those are the rules, but the way it works is that if you don’t take too many, they won’t ask any questions. The only time I’ve had a problem was my first trip through before I knew I could only buy for myself. I bought a big sack full of drugs for my mom, my step-dad, my sister and myself. That big bag got the Border Patrol agents full attention! He asked if they were all for me and I said no, they were also for my family. He could have refused to allow me through with them but he let me go but said don’t do it again. I never have!! On this trip I has a total of 15 bottles on each trip, 10 were for me and 5 were for friends, and the Border Patrol agents didn’t bat an eye at that so I had no problems.

Camping and Parking

Pretty often you’ll have to stay overnight and fortunately there’s an abundance of BLM  land so finding a place to camp is easy. You get off of Interstate 8 on exit 166 in California to go to Algodones and right on the corner is the Q Casino owned by the Quechen Indian Tribe. You can camp at the casino or there are many places along the road on the north and south side of the freeway. I like more privacy so I get off on Exit 164 and camp on BLM land near there. You can see that in the map below.
To cross the border I always park at the Quenchen Indian Tribes Parking lot and walk across. They charge $6 for the day but it’s so close, easy and safe I always do it for the convenience. There are many Mexican police officers in town and everyone is polite and friendly. I’m convinced you’ll never have a safety issue at Algodones! All the barkers trying to sell you stuff takes some getting used to but it’s not a problem for most people. Because  it’s so much fun, and  extremely safe, you won’t regret the trip.  Best of all, you’ll save lots of money!!