Since we were so close to the border while in South Padre Island, we wanted to take a day trip to Mexico. I researched and determined our best option was the Nuevo Progreso border crossing approximately 60 miles west of South Padre Island.
Check out my South Padre blog to find the best happy hours and early-bird dinners on the island plus lots of activities for Winter Texans.
Nuevo Progreso Border Crossing
We made a full day of our Mexico trip and would recommend the adventure to anyone who is curious.
Nuevo Progreso is a well-developed Mexican border town that is connected by a bridge to Progreso Lakes, Texas. The bridge is named the Neuvo Progreso-Progreso International Bridge.
Can you cross Nuevo Progreso border without a passport?
To cross the Nuevo Progreso 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 Nuevo Progreso Mexico safe to travel to?
We chose to drive 60 miles to the Nuevo Progreso border crossing because it is one of the safest Mexican border towns in Texas. We felt safe wandering around Nuevo Progreso but we have a few tips for those worried about staying safe.
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 Winter Texas in Nuevo Progreso 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 Winter Texans cross the Nuevo Progreso border?
Medical tourism is a big business for Mexican border towns. Nuevo Progreso dentists, surgeons, and doctors attract many visitors. I read many stories of young Mexicans who completed their medical training in North America and returned home to practice.
We did not need any medical or dental procedures so I can’t speak to them but have heard positive experiences from other full-time RV travelers.
Nuevo Progreso Dentists
We were propositioned by several Nuevo Progreso dentist offices offering $20 teeth cleanings. The facilities we saw thru the storefronts looked clean and professional. If I decide to get Mexican dental work in the future, I will definitely get a personal recommendation before choosing a dentist.
While RVing in Mexico in 2022, we got our teeth cleaned in Rocky Point and were very pleased. An adult cleaning was $50 USD cash and the equipment, office and staff were comparable to an American dental experience.
How to Cross at the Nuevo Progreso Border
We chose to park and walk across the Neuvo Progresso border crossing rather than drive our car. Crossing the border on foot was super easy. We paid $2 for all-day parking plus a $1 pedestrian toll per person. Our transactions were easy and painless because we planned ahead and had the exact change in hand.
What should I buy in Nuevo Progreso?
When crossing into Nuevo Progreso, many visitors buy medications, food and/or drinks.
Out of curiosity, we wandered around several shops including a few pharmacies. I was surprised by the number of English-speaking people buying medications. We saw antibiotics, steroids and several other common medications being sold at very low prices.
One fellow shopper said he visits Mexico once a year and buys z-paks of powerful antibiotics so he didn’t have to go to the doctor to get a prescription when he gets sick. We save antibiotic magic for when we really need it so we did not buy any.
I personally bought 2 salbutamol (blue) rescue asthma inhalers for $2 each. The ingredients are the same as my previous inhaler which cost $25 at US pharmacies with insurance discounts. Update in 2022, I priced the same inhalers in several locations in Baja and Sonora and the prices have increased. I paid $7 each for similar salbutamol rescue inhalers in San Felipe Baja California in early 2022.
We also had a lot of fun shopping because we like to try new things and the shelves at the El Disco Super Center were full of snacks we had never seen. They also sell pharmacy items, beauty and home care products, pottery, tiles, baskets, home textiles, clothing, and souvenirs.
Full disclosure, my mom and I both enjoy grocery shopping so you might not love the shopping part as much as we did. We spent over an hour wandering around this store, translating labels, and choosing items to take home. We both left with a large shopping bag full of goodies.
A few of our favorite purchases were spicy wing sauce, garlic-chili peanuts, and small disks of caramel-like candy. Sadly, we didn’t find all of the same treats when traveling in Baja. Some items are definitely regional specialities.
Where to eat at Nuevo Progreso border?
If you are like me, you want to know where to eat at the Nuevo Progreso border. Because, why go to Mexico for a day trip if you aren’t going to get a delicious meal.
Where do the locals eat?
I researched where to eat at the Nuevo Progreso border because I wanted a less touristy location. I wanted to go where locals eat. We decided to walk a few blocks off the main street to Cafe Sanchez.
It was a small family-owned café full of locals having lunch. Perfect.
Our attempts to understand the menu with Google translate and our limited Spanish were comical. Our kind waitress spoke very little English. A bilingual lady eating a few tables away overheard our conversation and took pity on our poor Spanish skills. She asked our waitress a few clarifying questions and told us her favorite dishes.
We would have eventually managed to order lunch but I was thankful for the kindness of a stranger. Our group had four large entrees (enchiladas and tacos) including sides and sodas for $16.
Easier Dining Out Option
If you are looking for a little less adventurous dining experience, the El Disco Super Center Market on the main street has a large bar and restaurant attached.
We enjoyed their margaritas and micheladas (seasoned clamato juice and lager). The dining room was full with a long wait time for tables but it was very easy to access and the staff spoke English fluently.
What not to buy in Nuevo Progreso?
To confirm what not to buy in Nuevo Progreso, read the US import limit signs in the parking area before crossing at the Nuevo Progreso border.
At the time of our visit in 2020, we were allowed limited quantities of alcohol and tobacco. No fresh fruit, vegetables, plants, or animals were allowed back across the US border. This was no longer true in 2022 as we brought many produce items and seafood back to the US with us. However tempting I would not buy the cactus leaves or other fresh produce being sold by street vendors unless you’ve checked the current restrictions.
Produce deals near the Nuevo Progreso border
After crossing the border into Texas, we visited Mikes Fruit Stand. The roadside stand is about one mile from the Nuevo Progreso border on the US side.
They had containers of blackberries for $0.50!!! The same 6 oz containers are $2.99 at the grocery store. I restrained myself and only bought 2 packages.
They had good prices on a large variety of fresh produce and we bought several items. Mike’s Fruit Stand is definitely worth a stop.
Is Nuevo Progreso worth visiting?
Our Mexico day trip across the Nuevo Progreso border was a fun adventure. I would recommend the outing for anyone interested in visiting a border town whether for tacos and margaritas or an affordable root canal.