Heroica Nogales is a city of 185,000 people in Sonora on the United States-Mexico border. Nogales is a divided community which extends into Nogales (Arizona); the Arizona border runs down the middle of International Street.
Due to its location, Nogales is one of the most important ports of entry for U.S. tourists. The downtown area consists of bars, pharmacies, hotels, restaurants, and a large number of curio stores, which sell a large variety of artesanias (handicrafts, leather art, handmade flowers, clothes) brought from the deeper central and southern states of Mexico. Local dishes commonly available in restaurants include many types of antojitos (Mexican food) such as enchiladas, tacos, burritos with carne machaca (dried meat), menudo and tamales.
Nogales is also known for medical tourism as medical and dental care in Mexico is inexpensive by US standards.
The independent Nogales Municipality, established in 1884, was originally separated from Nogales (Arizona) by a wide, open International Street. After the 1910 Mexican Revolution, it was not uncommon for Mexican townfolk to purchase supplies from merchants in Arizona whenever items became scarce locally.
On 27 August 1918, American authorities opened fire on a Mexican civilian attempting to return to Sonora without US Customs inspection. The Mexicans, angered by years of mistreatment of their people and mistakenly believing their civilian to be lying dead on International Street in Sonora, returned fire. The Battle of Ambos Nogales raged for days with gunfire and multiple casualties; reinforcements were brought in by both sides. Nogales, Sonora mayor Felix B. Peñaloza was gunned down and killed when waving a white truce flag. The US, engaged in the Great War (World War I) at the time, claimed the Mexican armed defence was a German-backed attack on the USA - a spurious allegation which was never proven. The one lasting impact of the battle was the construction of the first permanent border fence to separate the US from México, right down the middle of International Street.
Nogales petitioned the Mexican Congress in 1961 to grant the title of "Heroic City", conferring the community's official name, Heroica Nogales. A monument stands on Calle Adolfo Lopez Mateos in Nogales (Sonora) in remembrance of the Mexican participants of the Battle of Ambos Nogales.
- 1 Nogales International Airport (NOG IATA) (On MEX 15 highway, south of the city). Is a small federally-owned airport with a single runway for general aviation. Like the county-owned (and confusingly similar in name) Nogales International Airport (OLS IATA) in Nogales, Santa Cruz County, Arizona it has no scheduled flights.
- The nearest airports for commercial flights from Mexico are in Tijuana (TIJ IATA), Mexicali (MXL IATA) and Hermosillo (HMO IATA). From the U.S. side the nearest commercial airports are in Tucson (TUS IATA) and Phoenix (PHX IATA).
There is no passenger train service provided to Nogales, Mexico from anywhere in Mexico or the U.S. despite the city's status as a major border crossing for commercial rail freight. The nearest Mexican passenger train station is in Chihuahua and the nearest American train station is in Tucson
- U.S. I-19 South
- Mexican Federal Highway 15D (Carretera Federal 15D) North
- You must have auto insurance that is valid in Mexico. (Most U.S. or Canadian auto insurance will not cover you in Mexico.) If you are simply making a day trip along the border at Nogales, it might be much more of a hassle to bring your car across the border. Insurance issues, and very long waits to cross the border back to the US side (wait times are sometimes in excess of two hours) make good incentives to instead leave your car parked at a secure location on the US side of the border (such as 1 Ed's Parking - which used to cost about US$6 during the daytime).
- Americans may travel up to 12 miles (20 kilometres) inside Mexico without a tourist permit/vehicle permit. Beyond that distance, or if you intend to stay more than 72 hours in Mexico, a permit is required. Vehicle permits are available at the 21 km mark in the immigration and customs office. Passport, drivers license, and proof of Mexican insurance are required for processing an application for a permit. Permits costs M$170 (pesos) and must be paid to one of the banks listed on the application form.
- Rental cars from the US must have documentation granting authorization to the driver on the rental agreement to bring them across the border into Mexico; otherwise, you may be suspected of stealing the car.
- Driving around the city is a real hassle. Expect bumper-to-bumper traffic inside the city, and moderately congested traffic along Highway 15 south. Watch out for jaywalkers at all times when driving along the border.
- Shuttle buses run from both sides of the border daily. US customs will stop and search these shuttle buses for drugs and people attempting to cross the border without paperwork, so expect delays – and questioning by US police if drugs are found in an unclaimed suitcase found aboard.
- Buses are the main mode of public transportation within Mexico. There are several bus companies – two of the main carriers are Auto Tufesa and Estrella Blanca. For Executive lines see TAP.
Most people simply park their cars in Nogales (Arizona) and walk across the border into Mexico. Typically, you won't even notice any border police on the Mexican side of the border so entrance into the city is fairly easy.
If you are walking across the border from the United States into Mexico, do not forget your passport, US Passport Card, or your alien registration card (commonly called the "green card"). You are required to have such documentation to return to the US. An enhanced driver's license is acceptable documentation for entry to the US, but the few US states participating are clustered on America's northern border (Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington State and New York State).
To enter into Nogales from the US border crossing (if you are using a baby stroller or wheelchair), you'll have to walk against the traffic of people entering from Mexico (don't worry, the US border police do this all of the time, and you won't have any problems at all entering Mexico this way - there's a entrance into Mexico for such visitors). If you don't you have to pass through a turn-style walkway which will be impossible to pass through with a stroller or a wheelchair.
- Those walking across the border into Nogales with either infants in a stroller, or those who utilize a wheelchair for transportation will find out quickly that the walkways in Nogales are uneven. Otherwise, it is very easy to walk around the city.
Most people visit Nogales to buy some inexpensive goods, purchase duty-free liquor and tobacco, or undertake inexpensive medical and dental tourism. Dental services are of good quality and utilized by thousands of visitors annually; pharmacies also charge far less than corresponding American prices.
One of the primary reasons Americans come to Nogales is to shop. There are many quality goods for sale, and many handicrafts on offer. Fakes are plentiful, so buy only if you think you've negotiated a very cheap price and don't mind the possibility that your item isn't genuine. There are also many finer shops throughout the city for those who are seeking something a little nicer.
One of the most colorful places to pick up a bargain is from the scores of street vendors who set up along the two blocks of Pasaje Morelos, about a block from the border crossing. This is a repainted alleyway which has been converted into an open-air pedestrian shopping strip. Even if you are "just looking", you will find 1 Pasaje Moreles an interesting walk, although you may also find it to be a bit crowded. There are also a number of shops a block further west along 2 Alvaro Obregon, near the intersection with Campillo.
While all prices are listed in pesos (M$), these are typically displayed with the same "$" monetary symbol as the US dollar. Expect some laughs at your expense if you mistake one currency for another. Most merchants however prefer US dollars (paper currency, not coins) over Mexican pesos. Carry enough cash for your purchases for the day, as credit cards are not as widely accepted as they are in the US. Beware of giving a very large US denomination bill for a fairly cheap item (like a $10 or $20 bill for a $5 item); carry smaller bills with you.
It shouldn't be too hard to engage in commerce if you don't speak much Spanish. Although many people (usually police and merchants) do speak some English, you'd be wise to learn some basic Spanish phrases before visiting Nogales. You'll earn more respect and be rewarded with better prices when shopping. Haggling is expected for most purchases in the market, so don't be afraid to make an offer. Just make sure you've looked around and asked for prices before you blindly make a first bid: folks know when someone's looking to buy something as the word spreads quickly. Haggling is never done in a restaurant/bar or a supermarket (where the listed prices are fixed and not negotiable).
Other items to look for:
- Mexican vanilla extract is very good.
- Mexican Coca-Cola is a nice treat to pick up to bring back to the USA, as it's made with sugar cane rather than the corn syrup typically used in US Coca-Cola.
While in Nogales, make sure you stop to have lunch or at least a snack.
- 1 La Hacienda del Caballo Rojo, Av Álvaro Obregón 140 (Centro), ☏ . Su-Th 08:00-22:00, F Sa 10:00-03:00. If you like Mexican food you are in for a treat here. The tortilla chips are fresh and crispy, and the salsa hot and spicy – a great and an inexpensive lunch given the exchange rate.
- 2 La Roca Bar & Restaurant, Plutarco Elías Calles (Buenos Aires Oeste), ☏ (Mexico), (US). Su-W 09:00-18:00, Th-Sa 08:00-23:30. Can't miss it, as it's right on top of the hill at the borderline, over the walkway overpass. Family-owned restaurant featuring Sonoran cuisine. Expect prices to be in the US$20 range, but don't try to negotiate with the owner or waiter to get a lower price – haggling typically is conducted nearly everywhere else where commerce is conducted, except in restaurants.
- 1 Salón Regis, C/ Municipio de Benito Juárez 34 (Regis Hotel), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. An iconic local drinking establishment. It is full of history, and any waiter will gladly explain to you the origins of the bar. There is also a VIP room in the back which is reserved exclusively for bullfighters, but any waiter will gladly let you in if you ask nicely. Be sure to try the Indio beer, which is delicious.
- 1 Fiesta Inn Nogales, Av Calzada Industrial Nuevo Nogales 3 (Parque Industrial Nuevo Nogales), ☏ . Offers amenities such as a pool and fitness center, plus a great selection of food and drinks. Free Wi-Fi and parking.
- 2 Hotel Fray Marcos, Campillo 91 (Centro, 5 min from the border), ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 13:00. This very popular third-generation family run hotel offers drinks and tapas at their bar, and also hosts a restaurant and nightclub. Has a designated smoking area, free Wi-Fi and parking, and pets are permitted on request. US$40+.
- 3 Plaza Nogales Hotel, Avenida Álvaro Obregón 4190 (Carretera Internacional Km 6½), ☏ , toll-free: . In an industrial area near city center and Mexican Federal Highway 15 south. Room service, tennis courts, pool, event/meeting rooms, restaurant and bars. Looks OK on the outside, but rooms show some signs of neglected routine maintenance (like leaky faucets or toilets); the quality of the rooms is typical of a hotel in an old part of a city. The on-site restaurant is open all day and serves national and international cuisine. US$50+.
Mexico is not part of the North American Numbering Plan. It has its own country code, +52. The area code for Nogales is 631.
Mexican and U.S. Customs are open 24 hours a day for any questions. US Customs may be reached at +1 520-287-1410.
Dial 00 + country code + area code + number for outbound international calls from México; dial 01 + area code + number for Mexican domestic intercity calls.
Dial 011 + country code + area code + number for outbound international calls from the United States of America.
- As with other communities along the US border, there is a danger posed by drug traffickers and criminal gangs; see the country and region articles for details.
- It's best not to drive alone on Mexican Federal Highway 15D (between Nogales and Hermosillo), or at least be extremely vigilant and aware of your surroundings on this route. Night-time driving along this route is not considered safe, and should be avoided if at all possible.
- The area is prone to flash-flooding during the monsoon season, so keep the weather in mind during your visit.
- Do not advertise wealth, and don't flash cash or credit cards. You do not want to draw the attention of beggars looking for a handout or thieves looking for an easy mark.
- Never bring firearms, live or spent ammunition, or any contraband weapon (even something as innocent as a Swiss Army knife) across the border into Mexico. In doing so, it will land you into jail very quickly without any sympathy from the Mexican authorities.
- Walking around the city of Nogales in sparsely populated areas at night, especially alone, is extremely foolish. Use common sense and use the same level of precautions you would normally use in other large metropolitan cities to avoid being a victim of crime.
- Be cautious when buying prescription medicine in Mexico and attempting to import it into the U.S.. Typically you do not need a prescription to purchase medicine in Mexico. Nonetheless, be sure you have a valid doctor's prescription preferably from a U.S. doctor (and maybe a Mexican doctor), and always check ahead with the U.S. Border and Customs.  Attempting to bring prescription drugs into the U.S. without such documentation may get you arrested by U.S. Border police, or at the very least, have your medicine confiscated.
- Never attempt to purchase narcotics such as Valium, Vicodin, or Morphine from a Mexican physician without a legal U.S. and Mexican prescription. If you do so, you (and in some cases the vendor who sold the drugs as well) will get locked up in a Mexican prison for up to 15 years for possession or sale of a controlled substance. If someone is luring you to make such a purchase, don't do it. Always assume it is a setup either by undercover police or an unscrupulous pharmacist working with a corrupt police officer to extort money from you.
- Drink bottled water or bottled pop/cola and avoid ice cubes or bring your own bottled water from the US side of the border if you're worried about getting "Montezuma's Revenge" (or travelers diarrhea). Take standard precautions to minimize the risk of becoming infected by not consuming food or drink from food stalls on the streets.
- 2 United States Consulate, Calle San José s/n, Fraccionamiento los Alamos, ☏ , fax: , ✉ nogalesACS@state.gov. M-F 8AM-3PM.
- The US operates a Consular Emergency Line at +1 202 501-4444 (or +1-888-407-4747 toll-free in US/Canada); the US Embassy (Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, Mexico City) is reachable on +52 55 5080-2000 ext 4440 (8:30AM-4:30PM, M-F) with some after-hours emergency support for US citizens.