We heard that one of the things that drew so many RVers to Yuma was the availability of good yet inexpensive medical care across the border in Mexico. With changes to Bob’s retirement benefits, we wanted to find out if all we’d heard was true.
Los Algodones, Baja, Mexico, is 20-30 minutes away from Yuma and it was the easiest border crossing we’ve experienced — including several trips into Canada from various border points. We parked at the huge lot provided by the Quechan tribe — just $5 for the day — and walked across the border. Going into Mexico was as simple as walking through a gate.
We were immediately surrounded by buildings bearing huge signs advertising pharmacies and doctors’ offices — dental and vision, primarily. Everything was in English.
Even the street vendors spoke English. And they were everywhere.
These stalls set up along the sidewalks meant you had to run the gauntlet just to get from point A to point B. Everyone had the same come on: “Special price today, just for you my friend.”
It didn’t take long before we saw that they all sold basically the same things: some pullovers that said Los Algodones, purses, sunglasses, jewelry, some clothing and other items that weren’t much different than the sorts of things you can find at Pier 1, unfortunately. All prices were in American dollars, just to make it easy on everyone 😉
But for the most part, they all drove a pretty hard bargain, and though Ellen gave in with some silver bracelets and a pair of abalone earrings, Bob drove a harder bargain for a pair of sunglasses.
We made two visits to Algodones, first to check it out and second for a dental cleaning appointment. The first time there we ate at the El Paraiso where their fish tacos were delicious and inexpensive.
Though showing some aging, even the tiled restrooms were pretty enough for a photo:
Later we learned that if we thought the vendors were aggressive on the streets, the local officials had at least barred them from coming into restaurants and other places of business to hawk their wares.
A fellow RVer told us she’d bought a necklace from a street vendor then decided she didn’t want it and returned the next day to get her money back. She found the same vendor — she’d gotten his name when he kept calling her “friend” and she said, “If we’re friends, I should know your name” — and insisted on a refund. After much verbal arm-twisting she got her refund.
The next year, back in town for her medical appointments, the same vendor approached her again with his usual speil. “Don’t you remember me?” she asked when he tried to sell her something.
He smiled and said, “Yes, you my friend I gave a good price to.” If he remembered the returned necklace and refund, he didn’t let on.
We chose Angel’s Dental for our cleaning and found the office tucked into an open-air courtyard not far inside the border. All of the offices around the courtyard were dental or medical offices; people waited on benches and chairs outside, and two women sat behind a long table where they had a coffee pot set up.
The office was tiny: a bench built into the wall was wide enough to sit two people, and the receptionist sat behind a small window through which we could see one of the two chairs for patients. When Antonio, the dental hygienist, was ready, he poked his head through a curtain to let me know it was my turn.
The entire set-up reminded me of visiting the dentist ten or so years ago. Everything was clean and in working order, just older than we’ve gotten used to in the states. Instead of using a suction hose, we spit into a small basin. Another chair sat empty behind Antonio, and next to it another hygenist (or dentist, perhaps) sat reading. Antonio and the receptionist spoke excellent English, and the experience was nearly identical to dental cleanings I’ve had in the states.
For $30 each, we had a thorough and professional dental cleaning. It made me wonder if US dentists, investing in the latest and greatest equipment all the time, are really worth the extra money. Are the latest bells and whistles worth excluding hundreds or thousands of potential patients who can’t afford to pay for them and don’t have the insurance to cover them?
Oh, and the people working there? Most are US trained. Same education. Good equipment. Great prices.
There’s a lot we can learn from the dental clinics that are doing such a good job just on the other side of the border.