Crossing the Nogales Border

Crossing the border into Nogales, Mexico

pedestrian border crossing

There are two options for crossing the border from Nogales, Arizona to Nogales, Sonora – in a vehicle, or crossing through one of the pedestrian entry gates.

Crossing the Border through a Pedestrian Entry

For me, the town of Nogales, Arizona represents freedom.

Starting with a simple, short walk to the international border, after passing through the turnstiles, you are in Mexico. And from there, you can get to know Nogales, Sonora, or go farther south of the border, to get to know Mexico’s second-largest state, Sonora.

There are two pedestrian border crossings between downtown Nogales, Arizona and the border tourism district in downtown Nogales, Mexico. The crossing at the south end of Morley Avenue is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and crosses over to a Nogales, Sonora area that used to be a bar district, but is now going through a renovation with new professional offices and the Nogales, Sonora landmark restaurant La Roca el Balcon.

The more commonly used crossing at the end of Terrace Drive (which also has ample short-term border parking in the area) will lead you directly into the main Nogales tourist districts, where most of the shops, pharmacies and dental professionals’ offices are located.

The pedestrian crossing starts with passing through one-way turnstiles. If you can’t make it through the turnstiles due to physical limitations or because you’re traveling with luggage or other items too big to fit, don’t worry. There is a button on the wall to the right of the gates, and if you push the button someone in the Mexican Customs office located at the end of the entry walkway will buzz open the door gate located between the turnstiles.

After crossing the border through the turnstiles, after a short jaunt up a tiled walkway you will come to a Mexican customs station, with an inspection table and a metal panel that has a button with a panel that contains a large, square panel of lights. If you are bringing a bookbag, suitcase, shopping bags or other goods into Mexico, stop and push the button.

If the green lights are illumated, continue on your way (unless directed otherwise by a Mexican customs officer). If the red lights flash, put your bags on the inspection table and they will be inspected by a Mexican customs official. If you are bringing duty-free goods across, be aware that there are per-person limits for quantities that can be brought into Mexico – two cartons of cigarettes, for example. And you can only bring one carton back into the United States with you. Read more.

After passing through the customs checkpoint, you’ll walk along a short corridor, usually filled with people facing the other direction, waiting to cross into the United States. At the end of the corridor, you’ll see taxi drivers, who will make their presence known by shouting “Taxi! Taxi!”

If your path will take you into points further into Nogales, tell the taxi driver where you plan to go, and ask for the price. Typically a ride within the city of Nogales will cost between 60 and 80 pesos. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can walk another block straight ahead and board a city bus (a 1970’s-vintage school bus) and pay five and a half pesos to take a slower means of travel.

The buses can get crowded, but they’re definitely an interesting way to see the people and places of Nogales, Sonora, especially when a busker boards to play guitar and serenade the passengers.

Or, if you are just visiting to purchase tourist products, buy prescription medications or visit a local dentist, continue on foot and a short distance ahead to the left you will enter Plaza Pesquiera, an outdoor mall that has a number of pharmacies, dentist offices and curio shops.

Walk through the plaza and you will connect with Calle Campillo, with more pharmacies, curios and a large professional dentistry building two blocks ahead on the corner with Avenida Obregon. Take a left on Obregon and you will find the main drag for Nogales curio shops, as well as some excellent dentists.

Crossing the border on foot into Mexico is typically easier than crossing the border on foot into the United States. Due to heavy demands on U.S. Customs personnel caused by pedestrian foot traffic, during peak crossing times the wait to pass through the pedestrian entry can be as long as two hours.

Of late the lines seem to have eased, but be aware that especially in the mornings, late afternoons, on Saturday and on Mexican holidays you may need to wait a bit longer to cross into the U.S. through a pedestrian entry.

Crossing the Border in a Vehicle

There are two options for crossing into Nogales, Sonora in a vehicle – through the DeConcini Port of Entry in the downtown area, and through the Mariposa Port of Entry, two miles north of the downtown area.

Both ports of entry have the same inspection routine as a pedestrian crossing, although when in a vehicle the two-light stoplight will be triggered by a pressure plate that your vehicle activates as you drive through the inspection lane. If the light is green, you may proceed. If the red light is displayed, you will be directed to a secondary inspection lane.

Good Sam Travel Assist

If your destination is in the city of Nogales, Sonora, the DeConcini crossing will be the most direct entry into the city. Just follow Grand Avenue to the border. Before driving through the complex you may be asked by CPB officials to answer some questions about your trip and how much money you have with you.

And as you cross to the Mexico side, you will pass the redlight-greenlight inspection indicator. If the red light is displayed, you will be directed to a lane for a Mexican customs inspection. If the light is green, proceed forward and you will be in downtown Nogales.

If you plan to travel further into Mexico or to the Periferico area of Nogales, Mexico, take the Mariposa Port of Entry. After passing through the U.S. Customs area and crossing into Mexico, you will have a choice of bearing to the left (straight ahead) or to the right.

If you turn to the right you will see a Mexican customs station with the standard pressure-plate-activated green light/red light that signifies whether you must stop for an inspection. After passing through the station you will be on the Nogales, Mexico periferico, which leads to many of the major maquiladoras and shopping areas, such as Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Walmart and the Nogales Mall.

If you continue straight ahead in the leftmost lanes, you will be driving on a toll highway that avoids the urban traffic of Nogales. The toll road costs about $5.00 (or more, prices are raised on a frequent basis), well worth it to avoid the city traffic. After passing through the toll booths and the nearby Mexican Customs inspection station, the highway merges with Mexico highway 15 near the airport, to the south of Nogales.


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Nogales Border Duty-Free Shops

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Map of the Nogales, Mexico Border Tourism Areas