Having no dental insurance, we decided to join the thousands of other RV’ers (and other non-insured folks) who travel to Mexico for dental and vision work. The cost of dental and vision work in Mexico tends to be anywhere between 50-75% of the cost within the U.S. so dental tourism has become a huge draw for many without dental insurance. There are at least 3 cities well-known for medical tourism: Mexicali (Baja California), Nogales (near Tucson), and Los Algodones (near Yuma).
Since we were already at Quartzsite, Los Algodones was the closest option for us. Also Los Algodones seems to be the most popular choice for most RV’ers which means there was a lot more information online regarding dentists and people’s experience.
Yeah, I know, it’s Mexico and it’s cheap which sounds pretty shady. Like dentists in the US, it’s important that you do your research before you randomly pick someone. I’ve certainly had bad and good dentists in the US and it’s the same thing in Mexico. Surprisingly, many of the dentists in Los Algodones have either received their dental education within the US or else continue their education through US accredited universities. There is a lot of good information online regarding mexican dentists: What Clinic and Dental Departures provide reviews, rv bloggers often post their own experiences, and even tripadvisor has a Los Algodones forum.
Since I had to get two implants done (let this be a lesson to those who eat WAY too many sweets!), I did a fair bit of research to hopefully avoid becoming one of the horror stories I read online. We decided to visit Dr. Eva Urena (well-liked and highly rated from everywhere I checked) and the periodontist that works in her office, Dr. Luis Barrera. She is awfully popular so it’s necessary to make an appointment at least a few weeks in advance. We were very pleased with her office, personnel, and (so far) the dental work.
Getting into Los Algodones is easy. There is a large parking lot on the U.S. side run by the Quechan Indian Tribe and it’s $6 to park the car for the day. From there, you literally walk across the border and that’s it. Los Algodones is only around one square mile and caters to tourists so you’ll find all sorts of vendors, hawkers, and of course dental, pharmacy and vision businesses. Some of the restaurants smelled great, but when you’re jacked up on Novocain it’s never fun to eat so we had to pass on trying the food. The town feels very safe and we did notice various military personnel around the perimeter. Since it’s such a huge source of income, I’m assuming the Mexican government doesn’t want any incidents to scare off the tourists.
Even getting from Los Algodones back to the US isn’t that difficult, just make sure you have your passport. The line at customs moves pretty quickly and usually we waited less than ten minutes, though once when we returned in the late afternoon the line was very long and took around an hour.
Since implant work takes a few trips, we had to stick around Yuma for about three weeks. Instead of staying in one place, we decided to split it between a resort and boondocking. The resort was great since they had a nice hot tub and pool, plus fast wifi at the main area which meant I was able to update all my apps (sometimes it’s the small things in life that mean so much). Then we spent some time boondocking and enjoying some quiet time without others nearby.
We did get to experience our first rodeo while in Yuma. It’s different and definitely something to enjoy but I think once was enough for us. We watched the bucking broncos, bull riding, steer roping, trick riding, barrel racing, but I think we liked the mutton busting the best! Mutton busting is where 3-5 year olds ride a sheep until they fall off. These kids are made of some serious stuff; after falling, most just got up and shook it off. Here’s a short video:
Yuma’s weather makes it a peak destination for snowbirds in the winter. We’ve been here two winters now and definitely agree the weather is perfect. Unfortunately we have to be back in the summer to follow-up with more implant work. That means experiencing 110+ degrees and hoping the RV will stay cool enough with both air conditioners running full-time… but it’s a dry heat, right?
Great post. Informative and will help ease some unnecessary fears for those who so far were not willing to venture into similar medical tourism. My family and me have done similar, just our destination were few former Yugoslav republics in Europe where dental service has been literally, in most of the cases, 10 times cheaper than it is in US, but at the same quality. Allowed us to combine vacation adventures with very affordable dental service, regardless of the fact that we do have dental insurance here in US which we use for emergencies i.e. treatments that can’t wait. Enjoy your trip with hopes that when you are in that area next time you get to enjoy some local delicatessens.
Thanks! Yeah, I have to admit that medical tourism is always a little bit scary. It’s good to hear about good experiences from others, even in other countries. It does astonish me how incredibly expensive medical services are in the US. I’m hoping we enjoy the food next time too!
The first time we went to Los Algodones we couldn’t get into the place we had been referred to, so went elsewhere. They had the audacity to tell me I would need 5 fillings. Seeing as I only had one I was bit sceptical, so I got a second opinion and no I didn’t have any cavities. So the second time we booked the referral dentist in advance as we knew my husband needed a crown and a deep clean. Because it was so sensitive he then needed a root canal. The root canal cost $250, the crown $200 and the deep clean $150 per quadrant. X-rays and normal clean $25. Everything went very well. A lot cheaper than what we would pay at home.
Yikes! I’m glad you were able to get in to see the referred dentist the second time. I’ve definitely heard some horror stories about dentists so it’s always nice to hear the good stories. I am incredibly impressed at the cost of services in Los Algodones too!
I just discovered your blog 2 weeks ago. I read all the blogs and really enjoy following your travels. We are first time RVers – we bought a very gently used Fleetwood Bounder 32W. We previously owned a trailer that we kept full time near the beach and a 40′ boat so we are familiar with outfitting the interior – double stick Velcro to hold soap dispensers, napkin holders and cut up yoga mats (the thin ones) instead of shelf paper! I have learned so much about the camping, campgrounds, and boondocking from your blogs and can’t wait to get started. My husband is retiring at the end of the year and we plan on traveling for months at a time to see as much of this country as possible. We live in the same town as my daughter and her family so I can’t go full time because I need to see my granddaughters as much as I can. Sorry to go on and on, but I love reading your blogs. One last question – how was Lake Havasu? I’ve read mixed opinions about it. Safe travels, Jean
I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed our blog. It sounds like you already have a fair bit of traveling experience under your belt. I totally understand about spending time with the family, I miss seeing my family regularly but there’s just so much to see out there so it balances out.
We liked Lake Havasu, there’s hiking and lots of water activities to do. It’s quiet (unless it’s spring break) and it’s a medium size town so there’s not a lot to city activity but it’s a nice low-paced place to enjoy. I still have to write a Lake Havasu blog so I’ll be sure to put as much detail in there.
Enjoy your soon-to-be travels! Hopefully we’ll cross paths down the road.
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Very impressive blog. Thanks for sharing.
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