A Quick Trip to Mexico – Nuevo Progreso
Located about 40 miles from Mission, TX, Nuevo Progreso is a popular tourist destination in Mexico. Not because of its beautiful scenery or beaches but because this tiny border town draws tourists for its artistry, good food, pharmacies and 180 dental offices.
We questioned whether being adventurous in crossing the border was worth what we thought might be a potential risk. In doing some research I discovered that before 9/11, two million pedestrians crossed the international bridge into Nuevo Progreso every year. Afterwards things changed, and security concerns and growing drug violence played a role in a drop in tourism. In 2010 the number of tourists dropped by 40 percent in the midst of media reports about drug violence in Mexico. Today, numbers are back up with about 1.5 million pedestrians safely crossing the bridge annually for business or pleasure. Reassuring were other conversations we had with other resident winter Texans who make frequent trips to this popular spot. The general recommendation was that crossing the border into nearby Reynosa was not advised, but Nuevo Progreso was no problem and also supported foot traffic.
Crossing into Mexico on foot isn’t something new for us. Many years ago in our younger days on a business trip for Motorola we ventured into Tijuana from San Diego, CA on a weekend with two other co-workers. While we were making our decision to go or not go, we reminisced about the panic we felt as we went through the turn styles – what if we couldn’t get back in? Although the panic quickly passed, it was still a little disconcerting. Just spending a few hours walking around was quite the experience. And needless to say, we had no problem returning to the good ol’ US of A.
Of course taking a vehicle across the border just for a few hours was not worth the trouble, instead we would park the car on the US side in the parking lot (all day parking is only $2) adjacent to the international bridge. Passports were the only items we needed, not for entry into Mexico but mandatory to return to the States.
Well, if safety was a concern to anyone, you certainly wouldn’t know it. Being the week between Christmas and New Year, it sure was busy with pedestrians and cars were backed up at the Customs gate waiting to head into Mexico. Glad we were walking!
Joining dozens of other people, we walked across the international bridge, stopping halfway across to take a photo of a large plaque marking the actual border between America and Mexico. At the turnstiles, we dropped in our 25¢ each, then stopped at the duty free shop where we perused the offerings (primarily perfume, liquor, cigarettes). A $7 bottle of Kahlua was tempting as it seemed like a good deal but we decided against buying anything.
We knew beforehand that many Americans cross the border to have dental work done or to buy pharmaceuticals, but we weren’t prepared for what we saw. Every other storefront seemed to be a dental office with signs advertising implants, root canals, crowns, cleanings and any other dental procedure you could name. Pharmacies were also a dime a dozen. Aggressive street peddlers tried to hustle visitors to have some type of dental procedure performed, to purchase drugs or to even have botox treatments.
We’ve read blog posts about having dentistry done across the border and know that it is a lot cheaper, probably about 1/3 or less of the cost of those same services in the US. Whether here in the US or in Mexico or any other country for that matter, there are good and bad dentists and you can have a good or bad experience. Obviously you have to do your homework and research the dental clinic or a particular dentist. We met several folks who come here regularly for dental work, some even flying in. Rob said he would consider it but me, no thank you!
As far as pharmaceuticals are concerned, you can pretty much buy any drugs except for controlled substances without a prescription. However, you might need to produce a prescription when you cross the border back into the US. Once again anyone thinking of doing this needs to do so with caution and must do their research. Counterfeit drugs are always a possibility too. Although many drugs may be manufactured by the same company that provides them to US buyers, there are weaker regulations in Mexico. But, as shown in the photo the cost is exceptionally low, for example a 120 day supply of over the counter Omeprazole (Prilosec) was just $5 – the US equivalent (Sam’s or Costco) would cost about $45.
Souvenir shops and sidewalk stands had offerings of Mexican handicrafts, clothing, jewelry, leather goods, blankets, and sunglasses at what seemed to be reasonable prices. We politely declined the street peddlers trying to entice us with haircuts, massages and facials and chuckled as we walked by a limpiabota (shoe shiner) who offered to shine Rob’s shoes. Guess he didn’t notice that Rob was wearing sneakers.
Finally tired and getting hungry, we started thinking about lunch and decided to eat at Arturo’s which had luncheon specials for $6.95 and a buy one Margarita, get one free special. Nice decor! Once seated, the usual chips and salsa were served. Our choice for lunch was the “Salsa Verde” Pork, tender pork strips in a light tomatillo sauce, served with rice and beans and of course, a Margarita. I know, I know, photos of Mexican food certainly don’t look very appealing, do they?. Food was delicious and service was very attentive and excellent.
After lunch we headed back towards customs. Oh, oh, it’s going to take awhile – there was a very long line of people (and an even longer line of cars). While waiting we started a conversation with an elderly couple (she was 90) who visit Nuevo Progresso at least once a month to buy their pharmaceuticals and/or go for dental work. They have been doing this for years without any problems or issues. I think we waited about 45 minutes before we finally made it through Customs. Despite the wait, it was easy peasy, just showed our passports, answered a question about what we had purchased, then we were back in the USA!
Interesting and enjoyable day! A few more trips to the park for more bird watching, then it was time to head for our next destination. More about that in our net post!
Great information! I was working in Edinburg, TX last month (flew into Harlingen) and considered border crossing. Reynosa was closer and I didn’t get good vibes from the reviews I read online. Not to mention that it snowed while I was there! (first snow in 13 years) If I ever go back I will try to cross at Nuevo Progresso as you did. I also found the US side of the Rio Grande Valley quite interesting and unique in its own way compared to the rest of Texas. Thanks again for the great info!
Jeff, Yes good move. During our 3 week stay in the Mission area last year we were advised to stay away from Reynosa unless we really knew what we were doing. Also, I don’t believe you can easily walk across there so that means driving which opens up a lot of other potential issues, like insurance, etc. In Neuvo Progresso there are easy access parking lots just this side of the border.
We are in Corpus Christy and would like to take a day trip to to Neuvo Progresso. We don’t have passports. Is that possible?
We had passports, but I think there are other options for limited access. See here
Looks like however there is still a lengthy process to go thru. Advise you confirm the above info with an official on the US side of the border before crossing. Good luck and have fun!
Technically if you are a US citizen they cannot NOT let you back in. I forgot my passport and he let me in with my drivers license after chastising me. I asked before crossing over (walking) and what he told me was correct. Best to take your passport/card if possible.
We plan to visit Progreso next month. Our 12 year old granddaughter will be with us. Do you think it’s safe to take her?
Our visit was a little over a year ago but I doubt much has changed. We felt 100% safe and were in the company of lots of other US citizens, many traveling there for dental work besides the shopping. We don’t remember encountering anything that would be inappropriate for a 12 year old, or any kind of criminal activity. Of all the US folks we talked with there, many make multiple visits per year and no one conveyed anything negative. Just make sure you all have passports or the equivalent. Also we would recommend parking on the US side and walking across.
Yes, she’ll love it. Lots of street vendor items for her.
Yes not a problem. She’ll meet lots of kids and plenty of things to buy for kids.
We travel down for our dental needs to Nuevo Progreso and never have we ever not felt safe, there is alot of police and soldiers present so don’t be surprised when you see a policeman with an assault rifle( all police officers carry them in Mexico) enjoy it and don’t forget to tip the locals as they are very friendly, helpful and courteous. make sure you have your passport on hand or a state issued id with proof of u.s citizenship for crossing back. park on the u.s side and walk across or do as i do and drive over and park in a public parking lot for $3, the drive back takes a little long on saturdays but is not as bad on weekdays, if you want to bring back liquor it’s $3.50 u.s tax for a gallon same for a case of beer
John, thanks for the detailed info!
I am looking at trying Progresso dentists for a couple of crowns.
Any suggestions from folks who have had the same?
Sorry no, don’t have any specific knowledge or recommendations, other than casual conversations with people that were happy with the work they received.
But check out this article from the Wheeling-It blog. Even though its focus is for Los Algonodones, much of the general info and recommendations made are still applicable regarding Mexican dentistry. Good luck!
I’ve been going to Nuevo Progreso for seven years now. I’ve had my dental work done there, shopped there, ate there, drank there, and met a lot of really nice people there. Last month I took my 13 year old son, and boyfriend’s 7 year old son. They really enjoyed themselves. They are very English and American friendly. They take US dollars (Unlike Reynosa, which I will get to in a moment), and the vendors are usually very willing to work with you on discounts, etc. They have a huge array of beautiful pottery, and yes, the meds are far cheaper….I’ve been getting my inhalers from there for years at $2 each, as opposed to $68 in the US, and as the article says, Omeprazole is a fraction of the US cost. Both are daily medications for me, so I have really saved a lot of money buying in Mexico. I love this town, and the people there. Two years ago, however, I did go to Reynosa after someone I met at Bingo Ranch in Texas talked about the town. We crossed the border via auto and when we realized we were in the wrong place, we turned around and had the border patrol officer tell us that we had no business there, it was used as a drug route, and that tourists should use the Hildago International Bridge to access Reynosa markets. He said ‘Don’t f*cking come back here’, so I took that pretty serious. That experience didn’t stop me from going to Reynosa, though. And it was nice….they have a huge marketplace there, but they are not English-American friendly like Progreso. They didn’t want American dollars, they preferred pesos, and hardly anyone there spoke even the slightest English. They couldn’t give us directions…no one. We happened upon one of the drivers for a dental office…he picks people up at the crossing and takes them to appointments. He drove us to the market in the center of town, and he spoke English pretty well. When we went to pay him for the ride, he tried to refuse our money. We insisted, and he went off happy. All in all, though, I would choose Progreso over Reynosa. It’s just a quiet little town with lots to look at, and do. 🙂
Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a detailed comment. Before going across the border, most people we talked to had good things to say about Nuevo but we heard a few negatives about Reynosa. We weren’t aware that the merchants in Reynosa don’t like American dollars and that they don’t speak English there. That’s good to know! You’ve provided a lot of useful information about both places to not only us but to our readers as well.
Just got back from progresso Mexico had a great lunch at snappers great food went to the pharmacy save a lot on meds very safe and friendly will be going back again