Thursday, April 17, 2014
Getting Glasses in Mexico...I'm Not Joking
I recently went to visit my parents. They live in Sun City, Arizona, and they are old. Therefore, in this country with it's out of control medical costs, and prescriptions that are absolutely unaffordable, they had to find a solution to their problems of medical care. This is the most amazing thing I've ever seen when it comes to meds and doctors.
Welcome to Los Algodones, Mexico. This place is only seven miles from Yuma, Arizona on the Mexican border in Baja California. This is where people go to handle their auxiliary medical issues. This place is full of opticians and optical services, pharmacies, and dentists. There are lots of dentists. You can get your stuff done for a reasonable price, and still have a good time. All you need is a passport.
The Purple Pharmacy is probably the biggest one in town. Here you can find all the top dollar meds at one tenth of the price generally speaking. Some of them are even cheaper.
So, is the care and product as good as the states? That's always a question, so we put it to the test. I took my son to Gala Optical to get an exam and possibly some new glasses. He was about due for an exam anyway, and when in Rome...well, we tried it out.
Javier was our optometrist. He was educated in the states. He actually just moved back from Winterhaven, California where he used to live and only commute across the border. He finally decided that it was just easier to move back there. He looked at my son's eyes, finding that his old prescription was just a little off. My son picked out designer frames and transition lenses for his new glasses. They were a way higher quality than his old glasses. Javier sent the whole job out to their local lab to have the glasses made. Two and a half hours of my life was all this cost me until the glasses were done. My son said that he liked them better than the ones that had cost me a fortune at Lens Crafters at home and the whole thing only cost me $85.00. Beat that. Nice people, good service, and prices that you cannot match at home. What's the problem with healthcare? Maybe it isn't the insurance. Maybe it's us suing doctors all the time. That's why they practice here. They don't have to pay all the malpractice insurance, because they don't get sued. Think about it.
But medical stuff is merely part of the adventure for anyone in Algodones. You can get your hair cut, get liquor cheap, party, eat and shop. It's a great little place sitting right on the border.
Do you like to shop on the street? In my travels I've found that shopping from the street vendors is one of the most fun parts of the trip. In Algodones, the vendors are amazing. They love to haggle, they want to make you a deal and they are really nice. If you buy something from them, they will tell you the whole history of the town and how it became what it is. I have a ring that got me just that story.
Los Algodones is an old town. Many years ago, there was nothing there but a border crossing. It wasn't nearly as well known or popular as Tijuana, and the locals were barely getting by. They had nothing. As Americans began to pay more and more for healthcare because of the lawsuits, and research costs for the pharmaceutical companies to make the FDA happy, the world started to change. Someone got the idea to offer the doctors and pharmacies a solution. So a successful and growing town was born. Now, people come from all over the country to get their medical work done. You don't need a prescription to get your meds. You won't find a lot of pain killers hanging around there, but if you have high cholesterol, breathing issues, heart problems, erectile dysfunction, etc. you can get your meds for cheap. Real cheap.
It's easy to go there. All you need is a passport. They have a parking lot all set up at the border that will cost you six bucks for the day. Then you follow the fence to Mexico, and you are in town. There are no checks going in. There are checks coming out of Mexico.
While you're waiting for your glasses or whatever, make sure you check out all the local shopping. I saw everything from a shop full of leather gun holsters to gelato. There are t-shirts and other clothing, including the brightly colored embroidered blouses and dresses that you would expect to see in Mexico. They have beautifully painted vases, plates, rocks, and so forth that are painted right in front of you. They will make your kids a name bracelet. The shopping is great. They know that the Americans love their sports teams too, and that football heads the list. You can get almost anything form a rock to a backpack to a ceramic skull all designed with your favorite football team's logo on it. They also have jewelry, sun catchers, blankets, mailboxes and a ton of other stuff for football fans.
But don't think that trinkets are all you can get. The wall art is amazing, made from metal and ceramics. They have furniture, clothing, and everything imaginable. Most of it is made by hand. It's wonderful, and if you know how to haggle, it's reasonably priced.
Eventually, you will want a Margarita, or a beer, or some food. We stopped a couple of times at El Paraiso to do this. El Paraiso has been around since 1947 and has sprawled all over the place. There is the restaurant, but it also has a huge court out back that's part of the restaurant. I wasn't quite sure where it all ended to be honest. But, no matter how big the place really is, the people there are fabulous. Just like all the people that I met in Los Algodones, the folks at the restaurant are nice and friendly. They don't seem to mind us Americans sucking up their time and air at all.
We had a huge bowl of nachos to go with our Coronas and Margaritas. This is my first foodie picture. I don't go much for it, but it was a really pretty giant bowl of nachos.
At any rate, the doctors are good. The pharmacies are good. The glasses are good. The people are friendly. The shopping is great. The artwork is plentiful. The football lobby is well represented. The food and drink are good. It's a great experience and everyone should give it a try.
The one thing that you have to be prepared for is the reentry into the United States. You go through a labyrinth of gates and fences and a building. You are checked out to make sure you didn't bring anything stupid across the border. Your passports are scrutinized before you are allowed entry. It's the most intimidating border crossing I've ever made. For anyone that says that we aren't doing enough at the border, you may be wrong. This one here closes at night with the biggest locks on the sturdiest gates that I've ever seen. This border crossing is secure.
All border crossing experiences aside, come and spend the day in Los Algodones, Baja. It's a wonderfully light and happy experience, and you can get some great medical services too.