2-Day Trip to Algodones, for Mexico Dental Work

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: https://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/quick-trip-algodones-mexico-dental-implants-review-dr-rubio/). 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:  https://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/quick-trip-algodones-mexico-dental-implants-review-dr-rubio/

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!!


I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

43 comments on “2-Day Trip to Algodones, for Mexico Dental Work
  1. Avatar hobohounds says:

    If you’re in the situation where you need the bone graft (thus extending the treatment timeframe) but you want to avoid returning during the hot season, it’s always a possibility to wait longer than 4 months after implant is placed to get the abutment/crown. Four months is considered the minimum time to let bone strengthen and heal around the implant, but really the longer you wait the better, and the bone will be even more stable and ready to be put through the stress of chewing.

    • Bob Bob says:

      You’re right hobohounds. That’s what I mean by extending it out over two seasons. I got the bone graft done last January and got the post put in last week, that’s 11 months between the two. My main reason was to avoid the heat but it’s also good to let the bone heal longer and it spreads the cost out over two years as well.

  2. Avatar WTXCal says:

    Hi Bob,
    Must be my lucky day, I think I’m your first post. Great info about Los Algodones. I remember you talking about getting on the health care a short time back. I got on last year,a similar plan to yours, and boy I was pleasantly surprised when my prescription dropped from 240.00 every 3 months to 5.41. Thats with a very high deductible. Just thought i’d share that info. Have a great day. WTXCal

  3. According to the Consulate General of the United States for Tijuana, one must have a prescription from a Mexican MD in order to buy prescription drugs in Mexico. And you must have a valid prescription for those drugs from a US doctor in order to bring the meds into the US. HOWEVER, all this is ignored in Los Algodones. I imagine that’s also the case at some other border towns. http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/tijuana/buying_prescription_medications_in_mexico.html

    One of the downsides I’ve experienced is that some meds are packaged in small quantities in large boxes. For example, one that I need is sold on heavy duty foil cards, 30 to a box about the size of a paperback book. On top of that, while I can get 600MG pills in the US (and was able to the first time I got them in Los Algodones) all the pharmacias now have only 300MG pills. So, I need to buy twice as many pills. And in order to get a decent quantity to last most of the year, I’d end up with a backpack of boxes. Then I need to spend a lot of time removing the pills from the foil and putting them in a pill bottle so I have room in the van. Otherwise, WHEE! Cheap meds without prescriptions!

    As for eyeglasses, when I was there three weeks ago I tried a different place to see how they compare. They told me it would take two weeks to get lenses with antiglare coating, because no one in town could make them. Baloney. I got it before at another place, in two hours. Also, while some eye exam technicians will go endlessly back and forth between various lens combinations until you get the one that’s sharpest for you, some seem to be satisfied with “close enough.”

    If you’re going to Los Algodones, do it before or after high snowbird season (too late now for before) if you don’t want a long wait getting back into the US. Or go bright and early, just as the shops open, so you can get your meds and eye exam and be out of there before the crowds. Before going through the turnstile into Mexico, peek over to the left to check the return line to see if you want to postpone your visit.

    What makes Los Algodones handy is that it’s compact and easily done on foot compared to some of the other border towns. You come out of the point of entry and, bingo, the shops and clinics start right there.
    Al Christensen recently posted…I can see clearly nowMy Profile

  4. Avatar jeremy says:

    Are you concerned about the quality of the drugs? I’ve read news reports of drugs being diluted or mislabeled to increase profit. Also, have you looked into mail order pharmacies from canada or mexico?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Jeremy, you do have to wonder, but everything I’ve used has worked perfectly for me and that’s all that really counts.

      No, I never looked into Canadian drugs because I don’t go to the doctor so I don’t have a prescription. that’ll cost me another couple hundred dollars. And I’m going across anyway for the dental and glasses, I have nothing to gain from ordering them from Canada.

  5. Avatar Myddy says:

    I think whenever I finally get out that way, I’ll do a visit for antibiotics so I can have them on hand for my dog. What do you do with your dog when you go over there? Leave him in the van? That would be my only concern. I have a service dog so I can take her everywhere US, but doubt any laws apply to protect her over the border.
    Myddy recently posted…She-wee female urinal deviceMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Myddy, I always buy a bottle of Amoxycillan when I’m there. A bottle of 100 count 500 mg pills only costs $5 so I always have some fresh ones on hand.

      I just answered about Cody in another question, but I’ll repeat it here: I should have told you about Cody. I just leave him in the van. On this trip it was actually cold so it wasn’t an issue. A few times I’ve gone across when it was pretty warm but never so much I feared for Homer. I get their early and go across and come back as fast as I can so it never gets very hot in the van.

      That’s one reason I’m so careful to not go down in the heat. If I had to I would leave Cody home with Judy so he didn’t have to travel or camp in the heat.

  6. Avatar PamP says:

    Good info, Bob. I really appreciate the details you give. I desperately need new dentures but can’t afford them. Given the savings you’ve had with the implants, I’ll bet I could get new dentures for a few hundred instead of a few thousand.

    Good question – what do you do with Cody? I travel with a small dog. ~PamP

    • Bob Bob says:

      Pam, I should have told you about Cody. I just leave him in the van. On this trip it was actually cold so it wasn’t an issue. A few times I’ve gone across when it was pretty warm but never so much I feared for Homer. I get their early and go across and come back as fast as I can so it never gets very hot in the van.

      That’s one reason I’m so careful to not go down in the heat. If I had to I would leave Cody home with Judy so he didn’t have to travel or camp in the heat.

  7. Avatar Fred Wishnie says:

    We stayed in Yuma for a couple of winters and used to go to Algodones frequently. My wife had major dental done and saved many thousands $$. Work was excellent. Can attest also to the drugs and glasses experiences. I can’t understand some peoples reluctance to go there, it’s almost like being in Yuma.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Fred, I’m sure you loved your time in Yuma, I really like it there. Travel in Mexico has such a bad reputation some people can’t overcome that. It’s a shame because they are the one who lose.

  8. Avatar Naomi says:

    Thanks to your previous post about Algodones, I’ve been serw considering a trip there for dental and vision care. I’m not able to do that this season, but hoping to do so next winter. It’s crazy to think that my travel and medical expenses may be comparable or just a bit more than a new pair of glasses in the states.

    I’ve had my bifocal, scratch-resistant-coating Transitions for 3 years now. They cost about $500. The adventure would be worth any additional cost, plus I’d then have a baseline of my dental and vision history established.

    Gotta do it.
    ¡Muchas Gracias!


    • Bob Bob says:

      Naomi, you can save $400 on the glasses alone and that’s enough to pay for an airline ticket from nearly anywhere in the country to Phoenix. Of course you’d have to rent a cat and stay in a motel, but it’s easy to save that on drugs and dental and still save a lot of money on top of it. You’re right, that would pay for a whole vacation.

  9. Avatar Elaine says:

    Hey Bob,

    What I like most about your blog is that not only are you telling us about your adventures,but you give out a lot of very good and useful information. You must be one of the 3 wise men. Merry Christmas.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Elaine, thank you very much for your kind comments! I really do try to think of things I can tell people that will make their lives better. We all need all the help we can get to make it through this life.

  10. Avatar Dan, phx. says:

    Hi Bob, you mentioned needing a passport. I thought I remembered on one of Randys post saying you can enter Algodones with only a drivers license. Is this correct or not, Thanks Bob for the Info.

    • You just walk into Mexico without showing any ID. The problem, since 9/11, is getting back into the US. You’ll need a passport for that.
      Al Christensen recently posted…Tis the seasonMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Dan, under certain circumstances you can. If you are an American citizen they’re going to let you back in without one. But it’s going to be a huge, time-consuming hassle you don’t want to go through.

      I happen to know the story Randy is talking about. He has a passport but he went through and forgot it. He told the agent that he forgot it and the agent looked it up on the computer and there it was with his picture so he let him through. If you are ever in that exact situation, you are good.

      You need a passport to return to the USA from Canada or Mexico.

  11. Avatar Ken in Anaheim says:

    I’ll just throw this in : Another cheap source for glasses, AFTER you’ve got your exam results is Zennioptical.com . No passport required .

    • But you can’t get them in two hours. And you don’t know how you’ll look in the frames. 😉
      Al Christensen recently posted…Tis the seasonMy Profile

    • Avatar raz says:

      zennio sent me the wrong glasses. when i wanted to get the correct ones they claimed i would have to pay half of the purchase price. weeelll i decided no. i was afraid i would end up with 2 pairs of the wrong glasses and another 50% charge.

      zo has a+ better business rating. 151 closed complaints. i would say that is an unmitigated lie. but it isn’t when a company buys an a+ rating your complaint is closed or at least mine was. bbb just said that bbb had closed my complaint as resolved. when company’s buy a membership, they get special privileges.

      i’m a master plumber and some of my buds do this. wikipedia has a review. if you had luck with zo, well god bless you. i did not. caveat emptor.

      ice cream raz

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Ken, I know people who use them and are happy with them. problem is, I’m a hands-on kind of guy, I want to put the glasses on before I buy them.

  12. Avatar Scott Cotner says:

    Your timing on this post is great Bob. As I write this I’m camped at the “Q” casino. Spent yesterday across the border for dental work and sightseeing. The casino parking is quiet at night but lots of peeps so not much privacy. No problems crossing boarder. I have also used Dr. Rubio. Highly recommend. Also Dr. Bernal is wonderful. (Actually who I use now. In 7 yrs using Algodones for glasses and dentist have never felt unsafe or had any kind of problem.

  13. Avatar sassypickins says:

    Bob, thank you so much for this information. Very comprehensive, reassuring and most helpful.

  14. Avatar Canine says:

    A few days ago I read an article about what each state was worst at. Arizona’s worst aspect was that they had the worst dental care as in people didn’t take the time to get dental care. I call shenanigans on that as I can’t imagine Arizona residents having some of the best teeth around with the nearby, quality, inexpensive dental care available to them.

  15. Avatar raz says:

    it only got up to 66 deg today. leave the windows down a little or do like we do, we let the car run all day and night with heat or ac. dog doesn’t seem to mind.

    i do service work. my heater has run 24/7 for weeks when it gets below 0f. i paid for the gas. it’s mine.

    i thought about making up some off the wall way to take care of the dog, but i like bob. what he does is great. thank you bob.

    ice cream raz

  16. Avatar Carl Nutter says:

    What months can you go into Mexico to avoid the busy times of the year?
    If, I understand you correctly when it is hot weather, people do not go into Mexico? I don’t really like large crowds, and I can take the heat. So, what months are the best to avoid crowds?
    This is great information! It would appear that America could fix the health care problem, just by having less regulations! What a great thought ? I guess no one has ever thought about doing more with less?
    Stay healthy, go to Mexico!
    Bob, please keep traveling and writing !

    • Bob Bob says:

      Carl, December through February are the busiest, November and March are next and then October. That happens to coincide with the heat. Snowbirds flood into the area around Yuma to get out of the cold and while they are there they go to Algodones to get cheap medical.

      If you are okay with the heat, going anytime but those should clear out the crowds. People will still be going there, just a lot less.

  17. Avatar Tom says:

    Bob, I know you get a lot of thank you-s but I have to add mine. When you started talking about Mexico medical, I considered it among the most valuable information you’ve posted. I don’t say that lightly because so much of what you provide is invaluable. From how to find a BLM campsite to going to the bathroom, thank you!

    I do have one question I didn’t see anyone ask, when you talk about staying in a cheap hotel, are talking about staying in Algodones, Mexico? If you are do you have any tips? Do you really have to avoid drinking the water in Mexico?

    My wife is very leery , but after reading your posts and the comments on this I would differently go there for medical.

    Thanks Tom

    • Bob Bob says:

      Tom, with the cost of glasses, prescriptions and dental I agree, for most of us this is very important information. I’m glad I can share it with you.

      I was talking about a motel in Yuma. I don’t know if there are any in Algodones or not. To be honest I don’t know if you should drink the water or not because I just drink Pepsi. I’d play it safe and not.

      I can understand why your wife is leery, Mexico has such a negative reputation you automatically think that if you cross the order you will be in great danger. Algodones is the exception. First, you never go more than a 2 blocks into Mexico and it is so full of police and soldiers there is no danger at all. American dollars pour into the town and they won’t do any anything to risk it.

      I just don’t know how you can convince her of that. Good luck!


  18. Brilliant piece of information.

  19. Avatar Dorothy says:

    We’re glad to hear you had such a positive experience with dental treatment in Mexico and you also saved a lot of money. 🙂 Are you planning on visiting other countries, perhaps in Europe? A wide range of high quality clinics there.

    PS. Great blog. We wish you great and safe travels. 🙂

  20. Avatar EleanorB says:

    Do you need to make dental appointments ahead of time like you do in the states? If so, how far ahead do they need to be made?

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