tacos sign in los algodones

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While camping with friends near Yuma, we decided to cross the border into Los Algodones, Mexico.   We didn’t have any specific plans during our Los Algodones day trip other than crossing the border, wandering around town, eating tacos and drinking margaritas.  

Crossing the border at Los Algodones for a day trip is an easy and safe introduction to Mexico. 

group pic at los algodones sign
Photo credit @PerpetualMoves

Is Los Algodones Border Open?

Yes, the Los Algodones border is open. It even remained open during COVID but with limited hours of operation.

Border Crossing Times for Los Algodones Day Trip 

During COVID-19, the US border reduced hours of operation from 6 am to 2 pm PST but they are no longer restricted.   

Thankfully in 2022, the US border crossing at Los Algodones is back to regular hours which opens at 6 am and closes at 10 pm. The Los Algodones border crossing closes at 10 pm daily.

The most popular times at the US port of entry are afternoon and evening when most are returning from day trips or dental appointments.    

Wait Times at Los Algodones Border Crossing

Wait times at the Los Algodones border crossing can be very long so plan accordingly. If driving across the Mexico border, wait times can be viewed on the US Customs site.

Unfortunately, real-time pedestrian wait times are not available online.

Prepare to stand in line to get back into the US for more than an hour.   We arrived at the back of the line around 12:45 pm and didn’t get to the front of the line until after 2 pm.  Thankfully the border agents were still working and allowed us back into the US.    

los algodones border

We’d heard horror stories of others being referred to another border crossing 20-miles away with extended hours.  That was not a taxi ride I wanted to take so I was a bit stressed standing in line as the clock ticked past 2 pm. 

line at border crossing los algodones

Los Algodones Day Trip Border Crossing Parking 

The US side of the Los Algodones border is located on Quechan Tribal land.   There is a large paid parking lot located in Winterhaven California for those crossing the border into Los Algodones. 

Parking at the Los Algodones border crossing is $6 per vehicle.  There is a separate lot for overnight parking.  

How far is it from Yuma to the Mexican border? 

Yuma is ten miles from the Mexican border.   It is a great launching place for a day trip into Los Algodones Mexico.  

Can you cross the Los Algodones border without a passport? 

To cross the Los Algodones border, you will need a valid passport book, passport card, or an enhanced driver’s license. This is true of all land border crossings into Mexico

Is Los Algodones Mexico safe to travel to? 

We felt safe wandering around Los Algodones but we have a few tips for those worried about staying safe. 

atrium in los algodones
Photo credit @claytonandjessica

Travel Safety in Mexican Border Towns 

Border towns rely on tourism dollars so they try to keep tourists safe. However, many incidents are purely crimes of opportunity and can be prevented with a little precaution. 

Here are a few safety travel tips for snowbirds planning to make a border crossing in Los Algodones and other Mexican border towns: 

  • Don’t draw attention to yourself. Dress and act in a way that allows you to blend in with other tourists. 
  • Enjoy an adult beverage or two but maintain your senses by not overconsuming. 
  • Keep a hand on your purse or wallet at all times to deter pickpockets. Ladies zip your purse closed when near others and don’t hang it unattended on the back of your chair in a restaurant or bar. 
  • Separate cash into different pockets so you don’t flash a big wad of bills when paying. 
  • Stay within a few blocks of the main tourist areas. 
  • Do not follow street vendors or any strangers to other locations. This can oftentimes be safe but it is an unnecessary risk. 
  • If you are lost, go into a shop to ask for directions. 

Why do snowbirds cross the Los Algodones border? 

Medical tourism is a big business for Mexican border towns.

Los Algodones dentists and optometrists attract many visitors. I read many stories of young Mexicans who completed their medical training in North America and returned home to practice. 

I have heard positive experiences from other full-time RV travelers. 

In 2022, we had a dental cleaning in Puerto Penasco Mexico. We paid $50 USD for an adult dental cleaning in Mexico without insurance. The procedure, equipment and staff were comparable to a US dentist’s office.

We will definitely get our teeth cleaned in Mexico again.

Where to eat in Los Algodones? 

Based on recommendations from a friend, we decided to have lunch at Molcas.   It is a small place but it is very popular.  The tables stayed full during our Monday lunchtime visit.   

They offer tacos, tortas (sandwiches), burritos and more with a variety of meat choices.   Our group focused on tacos and tortas.  Everyone was pleased with their food, especially the house-made tortillas.   Several of the meats on the menu were being grilled on the street side charcoal pit.   

streetside grill at Molcas during our los algodones day trip
Photo credit @rebekahandjared

The prices at Molcas were affordable but not as low as we’d experienced in the Texas border town, Nuevo Progresso.    The tacos were $2 USD each and the margaritas were $6 USD. 

tacos at molcas at los algodones

Most of the group ordered a margarita with their lunch.  They were served in 16 ounce to-go cups and tasted very weak.  However, about halfway through I realized they were much boozier and stronger than they seemed.    

Word to the wise, a second margarita is dangerous at Molcas. 

clayton and jessica  margarita in los algodones
@claytonandjessica at second margarita stop

Shopping on a Los Algodones Day Trip 

Sadly, we didn’t find a big supermarket in Los Algodones like the one we’d found last year in Nuevo Progreso.  

We love grocery shopping internationally and share some of our shopping tips in Grocery Shopping in Mexico: How to Shop like a Local and Avoid Gringo Mistakes.

We didn’t buy anything from Los Algodones but our friends purchased warm fresh tortillas, vanilla extract, and a woven blanket.    It was good entertainment wandering through the markets.  I was tempted by the brightly colored tablecloths but decided it would just add to my laundry responsibility. 

tablecloths and hats in los algodones street vendor

Do I need to speak Spanish to go to Los Algodones? 

No, you do not need to speak Spanish to cross the border in Los Algodones. A few Spanish phrases will be helpful but are not necessary.

Everyone we encountered including restaurant and shopkeepers, all spoke perfect English in Los Algodones.  They had such mastery of the language they were making jokes.  They probably are the same jokes all day every day but they were still making jokes.   I was impressed with their English after struggling to order lunch in Nuevo Progress last year. 

We enjoyed our Los Algodones day trip and would definitely go back for dental work, tacos and margaritas.  Crossing the border at Los Algodones is easy with many great destinations within walking distance from the US.

 Los Algodones YouTube Video

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