It is an easy day trip from Tucson, Arizona to Nogales, Mexico. Depending on how far away you are from I-10, it should take a little bit over an hour to get there.
A nice day trip to a Mexican border town seems like a delightful way to spend the day.
I-10 turns into I-19. You will pass the delightful town of Tubac where all sorts of crafts are available. It is an easy, if dull drive to the Nogales border.
Unless you have taken out the special insurance for your car in order to cross the border, your car will need to remain on the US side of the border. You’ll find lots like Ed’s clustered about the border crossing. The day we were there he charged $4US for the day. A sign pointed out that the fee was for the day and not for 24 hours. It wasn’t clear what the fee would be for over night parking. Ed’s had a clean rest room, too! (Always a bonus!)
Crossing into Mexico could not have been easier. The US patrol pointed the path to take. Walked through the New York City style turn-style and we were on Mexican soil. It should be noted that no one asked to inspect any papers or passports upon entry. There were no lines either.
Once inside the border, a different world had been entered. The streets were dusty and every shop owner called to you as if you were a long lost best friend who came to town only to visit his shop. “Come see my shop.” “Best prices here, my friend.” “What are you looking for?”
Nogales is not a shopping mecca. While there were a few shops selling Mexican carvings, jewelry and other trinkets, there were two main types of stores. It appeared that almost every other store front was a pharmacy or money exchange. Food seemed to be limited to some carts and a few unattractive sit down places. A fair number of bars were seen, although closed due to the hour of our visit. (One could think that they are a major attraction given the anti underage drinking poster seen on the American side of the border.)
The pharmacies all looked the same; the only difference being their size. Every one of them had their windows plastered with hand written signs touting the amazing discounts on this name drug or another. (Yes, ED drugs seemed to be the most popular to advertise.)
Frankly, there was nothing here that could be called an attraction except low cost (compared to prices in the US) brand name drugs. It should be noted that prescriptions are not required in most cases. Sounds like a great way to save some money or buy that drug you are too shy to ask your doctor for. And it could be except for the US border guards greeting you when you return to the United States.
According to a sign I saw, one needs a US prescription to bring back prescription drugs in the US. It is not needed for the Mexican pharmacy to sell the drugs to you. The border guards want to see it. The guard asked me no fewer than three times if I bought any meds. They expect it. Of course, I’m sure that they don’t see any other reason for anyone to visit Nogales, either.
Remember how easy it was to enter Mexico? Leaving wasn’t so easy. There is a single line for everyone that leads to the US border guards. While the time spent on line surely varies based on time of day and day of the week, I spent almost an hour before I got to meet that nice guard who was sure I had Viagra in my pocket.
And remember how easily it was to enter Mexico without showing anyone any passports or paperwork? Be prepared to show your documents. Do not forget to bring them with you. Forget them at home? Turn around and go back to get them. It could be a long struggle to get back home without them As they say, the world has changed.
It was an interesting visit to Nogales, Mexico. It was not one to be recommended. Don’t drive so far and stop in Tubac, Arizona instead.