tacos sign in los algodones
Destinations,  Mexico,  RV Travel

Los Algodones Day Trip: How to Spend a Day Across the Border

Travel date February 2021

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

group pic at los algodones sign
Photo credit @PerpetualMoves

Border Crossing Times for Los Algodones Day Trip 

During COVID-19, the US border has reduced hours of operation from 6 am to 2 pm PST.  Regular border hours are 6 am until 10 pm.    

Prepare to stand in line to get back into the US for more than an hour.   We arrived to 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 Parking 

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

We did not need any dental procedures so I can’t speak to them but have heard positive experiences from other full-time RV travelers. 

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 lunch time visit.   

They offer tacos, tortas (sandwiches), burritos and more with a variety of meat choices.   Our group focused on the 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 also 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.   To find out about our shopping haul in Nuevo Progresso, check out our blog. 

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? 

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.  However, we’ll wait until after COVID so the border crossing would be less stressful with longer operating hours. 

3 Comments

  • Martha Whitfield

    Sounded like fun. I crossed the border many years ago when on a work trip with Randy. The ladies who traveled with their spouses and some guys who skipped class got on the bus (someone had prearranged) and went with us. That was my first time having Chili Rellenos — they were delicious. Hard to find them as good in the states. God bless you guys.

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