If you are visiting Tucson, it's a great time to consider a jaunt across the Arizona border into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and get a taste of the charm and traditions of Old Mexico. Nogales is only about 60 miles south of Tucson on Interstate 19. Before crossing the border. you'll first arrive in Nogales, Arizona. Yes, these "twin cities" in two different countries share the same name of Nogales.
They also share a rich history that extends back thousands of years ago when ancient Native civilizations passed through the area on trading expeditions. In the 1500s, Spanish Missionaries and Conquistador Explorers came to the area seeking the riches of gold. Hence the area peoples developed cultures and traditions steeped in both Spanish and Indian customs.
The settlements in the area were split when the Gasden Purchase defined the border between Mexico and the Arizona Territory. As we know them today, they became Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
About Nogales Mexico
The estimated 2005 population of Nogales was about 190,000 up from about 150,000 in 2000. It is the third largest city in the Mexican State of Sonora behind Hermosillo and Ciudad Obregón/Cajeme.
Its population growth is partly due to the influx of industry that has come since the opening of the maquiladora industry through the National Industrialization Program, decades before NAFTA. Surprisingly manufacturing now accounts for 55% of the city's gross domestic product just ahead of tourism.
Most of the city seems to be void of zoning laws as you find housing randomly mixed with factories and stores on very narrow streets. However, recently, the southern half of the city has experienced a modern urbanization development which includes shopping malls, wide avenues, and more modern housing.
Despite an obvious abundance of poverty, there remains a refreshing charm of Old Mexco and friendly hospitable people. It's a colorful place and a festive fun place with proud, happy people that love tourists to visit their city.
Shopping In Nogales Mexico
You're going to love shopping in Mexico. First of all you'll discover hand-crafted items that are not available in the US. Shopping in Nogales, Mexico has a flair all its own where you buy handmade crafts, jewelry, leather goods, art, decor, pottery, basketry, rugs, paintings and even furniture for about half of the perceived value.
Once you cross the border, turn right at Campillo Street and walk about three blocks to Obregon Street where you can enjoy all the shopping fun you can handle. There are also quaint side streets everywhere with vendors set up in small stores or under structures of shade or even vendors that spread their wares on blankets on sidewalks.
Unlike the US where customers pay the price marked on the item, in Nogales shopping is all about bargaining. It seems to be a game that is mutually enjoyed by vendors and tourists alike. You ask "how much" and they give you the "list price" which seems to differ at every marketplace. You offer a price that is less than half of the asking price and the vendor makes a counter-offer. Typically after the bargaining has run its course, you end up paying about half-price.
Be sure to play the bargaining game with respect and a friendly attitude. If they don't like you, you will get the "enemy price". Remember, items are cheap and this is how they are able to feed their families, so bargain with that spirit in-mind.
Take cash and keep it secure. Not all places will take credit cards or checks. Plus it is a wise idea to protect personal information, credit card numbers, PIN numbers and checking account numbers. Mexican people are generally very honest and treat tourists in a manner that keeps them coming back. But it is always wise to be prudent as well.
Purchasing Prescription Drugs & Dentists
There are also Mexican pharmacies where you can purchase prescription drugs at substantially less cost than in the US. Make sure you have a valid prescription from you regular doctor specifically written for your usage. You may be asked for that information. Also be sure to ask the pharmacist about the legalities of buying prescriptions in Mexico. Many Americans go Nogales to see dentists and get dental work since dental services are also less expensive in Mexico. If you know someone who has used Nogales dentists, ask for recommendations.
Crossing The Border Into Nogales
Unless you are traveling deeper into Mexico, it is best to park your vehicle on the American side of the border. Fees are nominal and the border crossing is close to parking areas. You must have Mexican auto insurance in Mexico and by parking on the US side of the border, you won't have to worry about buying the separate insurance.
First, if you plan to make your visit any longer than 72 hours, you will need to procure a “tarjeta de turista,” known in the U.S. as a Mexican government tourist card. While a certified birth certificate is often used to cross the border, a valid passport proves citizenship and also can be used as photo identification, which is especially helpful when using cashiers checks. Some travelers use military identification or their voter registration certificate. Visitors to Nogales, Mexico should keep in mind that a driver’s license is not proof of U.S. citizenship.
Note that effective in January, 2008, a passport is required when traveling to Mexico regardless of the duration of time you intend to stay.
Directions To Nogales, Mexico
From Tucson. Take I-19 South directly to the border crossing at Nogales, Arizona which is about a 60 mile drive.
Tips When Traveling To Mexico
When traveling to Mexico, its jurisdiction is the law. Getting arrested in Mexico will not be much fun. So adhere to Mexico laws carefully.
1. Your vehicle must be registered in your name. Be sure to carry all current registration documents.
2. Take your driver's license and one other form of identification. If you have a passport, take it since to is a accepted proof of citizenship. Beginning in 2008, a passport will be mandatory even when driving into Mexico.
3. DO NOT carry guns or ammunition into Mexico.
4. Do not try bring wildlife, plants, fruit, coral or fireworks into or back from Mexico.
5. Do not break Mexican laws. Do not speed, use illegal drugs, carry illegal drugs or get into a fight.
6. Keep receipts for anything you buy in Mexico.
7. US auto insurance does not cover your vehicle or liability in Mexico. Even a simple car accident could carry serious consequences without Mexican insurance. Purchase Mexican auto insurance in advance of your trip.
Be a polite tourist and avoid trouble. Don't break Mexican laws. Just enjoy Mexican hospitality, the sights, attractions and shopping.
Southern Arizona Destinations