LIQUOR: You can bring one liter of alcohol per person into the US without paying any taxes on it, and most border towns have many liquor stores that sell liquor inexpensively.
MEDICATION: You can purchase prescription medication without a prescription in Mexico and legally bring in up to 50 dosages as long as it is an approved FDA drug (i.e., not an illegal narcotic.) There are many pharmacies ('farmacias') in Mexican border towns that sell both brand name and generic prescription medications for a fraction of their cost in the US. Usually the border officials are fairly lax on the dosage laws.
MONEY: Almost all vendors in border towns will accept US cash and/or credit cards, so there is no need to change US dollars into pesos. When getting dental or other medical services rendered, cash is the preferred mode of payment.
SAFETY: Unfortunately, Mexico has been suffering from drug-related violence recently. However small border towns like San Luis and Los Algodones near Yuma, Arizona, are relatively self contained and distant from the trouble spots. Both towns are accessible by a short walk, and the dental offices are lined up on the very first streets as you enter town. Nuevo Progresso in Texas has also reportedly a decently safe border entry.Another favored border town is Ciudad Acuna, across the border from Del Rio. The majority of the town close to the bridge is predominantly pharmacies and various doctors that cater to senior citizens here in TX. It is not uncommon at all to literally see buses of US travelers and retirees scattered out from Granbury, Brady, Abilene, or Brownsville getting off in Acuna to have some dental work done or buy glasses or medications. Hwy 277 going into Acuna is not a major North - South corridor, so drug trafficking, although it undoubtedly exists there, isn't as prevalent as in Matamoros, Laredo, or El Paso.
TRAVEL: Traveling to Mexico requires a US passport or pass card. Check out this website: travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html . A good introduction to travel in Mexico is traveling with a group of RV's in a caravan. This is especially true if you plan to travel further into Mexico or stay for and extended period, perhaps with your RV. Escapees and others have groups who travel down regularly. Of course, traveling with someone who speaks Spanish can make things more comfortable as well. The most important thing is to educate yourself on your particular place of crossing the border, plan ahead for all possibilities and remember that a trip to the local grocery store can end up in trouble just as well as a trip to Mexico. Do some Internet research on border towns and their businesses and restaurants and ask for tips from fellow RV'ers who've crossed the border or visited doctors, pharmacies and restaurants to get their opinions.
I recently came across a great RVer's blog "Gone With the Wynns." They made this informative video of their experiences with crossing the border, specifically for dental services.
- Although some of the border towns can be a little shabby by some peoples standards, many of the photos like the ones from the video above show doctors offices that surpass even some in the US by way of hygiene and cleanliness.
- Be prepared to be "badgered" by locals selling their wares.
- Although these towns are not necessarily the "real Mexico" they can offer us a glimpse of a rich culture and a beautiful loving people.