A number of our friends and family have expressed concern for our trips SOTB (South of the Border), to Nuevo Progreso, MX. There have also been warnings from the State Department, that travel SOTB may not be safe. I can only speak from personal experience, and say there are certain areas of any metropolitan city in the USA that one should be careful and prudent. I dare to say that ANYONE going into East Los Angeles, at night, flashing large amounts of money, would and could be a target of unscrupulous activity. The same is true SOTB. With that being said, I thought a photo essay of the trip across the border and back might ease some of the concerns our friends and family have for our safety.
Approaching the bridge at 9:30 AM this morning showed very little traffic, pedestrian or auto, in either direction. One thing I did notice was some freshly paved asphalt about 3” thick that had been laid in the southbound lanes, with numerous sensors and cameras surrounding that area. I have heard, but not confirmed, that these sensors, beneath the asphalt can sense the density of steel in any auto or truck, and if that “number” is greater than the manufactures specs, it will trigger a vigorous inspection by Customs and Border Patrol agents, that will assume the vehicle may(?) be trying to smuggle weapons SOTB to aid the drug cartels. Any importation of weapons or ammunition is strictly prohibited, and if caught, can result in long term imprisonment for the perpetrator.
Another set of sensors imbedded can actually track US currency, via the new magnetic strip placed in the currency. It is legal to take up to $10K US SOTB, but it must be declared. Any amount in excess of $10K is strictly prohibited. This action is a joint effort by US and Mexican authorities to prevent US dollars (drug money) from entering Mexico and being turned over to the drug cartels for operational expenses and to purchase illegal weapons. There is a $2 fee for vehicles to cross the bridge. For those that choose to walk across, parking on the US side is available for $2 for an all day pass. (Click on any picture to enlarge)
Pedestrians can cross for only $0.25 by merely placing their quarter in the turnstile, and walking across. There are not inspections or special permits/visas of any kind for pedestrians. If you have the dinero, that is all that is necessary.
The walk across the Rio Grande River is about ¼ mile.
Halfway across the bridge is the “Official” International Border with this sign of recognition.
As you descend into Mexico, there are a few young children and mothers yelling for pedestrians to give them “a nickel”. Some people do, others don’t. Most of the young children are at the bank side of the bridge and stick their baseball caps between the supports of the bridge in an effort to extrapolate a “donation”.
Upon entering the Immigration and Customs area in Mexico, pedestrians aren’t even noticed. Just walk on through with no questions asked.
Pictured below is our neighbor, Carl, here at the park, with his “Harem” Jane, Carla and CC, at the entrance to Nuevo Progreso, MX.
Within the first block after crossing the bridge, you will notice the presence of the Mexican Military, armed and almost nonchalant about the coming and goings of the gringo’s.
This is the main street of Nuevo Progreso (NP), with numerous shops; mostly dental clinics and pharmacies, general merchandise stores, and restaurants. There is no need to exchange dollars for pesos, as dollars are the preferred currency here. According to long time Winter Texans, the prices in NP are somewhat higher this year when compared to last. There is much speculation, that the increase is due to paying the Cartels to stay out, OR, that many of the businesses are actually owned by the Cartels and they have added about 10-15% to last year’s prices. When we asked a few of the business owners about these theories, they all told us the same story, “NP is too small of a town for the Cartels to be interested in.” The real truth probably lies somewhere in between these theories, but either way, we have never felt threatened in the least.
Mainstream pharmaceuticals are definitely less expensive SOTB; on average about 60-75% less than in the US. Tequila is also a real bargain, as we have seen top quality brands such as Patron Anejo or Gran Centurion Anejo, or any premium Scotch, Gin, Vodka, Canadian, or Burbon, selling for about a third to a forth of their cost north of the border. There is no sales tax in NP, so the price posted is the price paid in stores. Street vendors are, as always, willing to “deal”; and will shout out “almost free today”. Even with the $1.25 per liter the State of Texas charges to import distilled spirits, it makes them a desirable purchase, to consume, or, as we do, give as gifts. (OK, we consume a little, but that’s all).
With shopping done, it’s time for lunch. Prices at most of the restaurants are comparable to the US. The real bargains in NP are at the sidewalk taco vendors, or the smaller cafes scattered around, where two can dine for as little as $5, excluding margaritas, which can be found for as little as $1 each.
As we head north to the border, passing many stores, street vendors, and an occasional beggar, we can see the Mexican Military.
Make sure you have your quarter for the fee to cross the bridge; if not, there are attendants that will make change for you. For those of you driving, the charge for the bridge crossing is $1.95.
This afternoon, we left Mexico about 4 PM, and the foot traffic was almost non-existent.
OK, better have your passports handy as you enter Customs and Immigration, pictured below. This is the only time you will be asked for any identification. The agent will also ask what items you are bringing back that you have to declare. My advice is to be honest, as the alternative may not be pleasant; seizure of item, and/or a hefty fine for trying to smuggle items into the US illegally. I have personally witnessed some that carry liquor across in shopping bags, and do not declare it, thus saving the $1.25 per liter Texas tax. IMHO, $1.25 is not enough to risk the hassle; if you can afford $10 - $30 for a bottle of liquor, you can afford to pay the modest tax.
Well, that’s all folks. You have successfully crossed into Mexico at Nuevo Progreso, and back into the US. You are now able to find you car and drive to the destination of your choice.
Until next time, take care and stay well…………