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Old 01-14-2014, 03:35 PM
 
Location: Cedar Park, Texas
1,601 posts, read 2,969,038 times
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Has anyone been over to Boquillas, Mexico from Big Bend NP lately, since they opened up the official crossing? I went decades ago, when there was no official crossing and before they closed it completely, and we loved it. I know that two restaurants and the bar have opened back up and they're still doing the horse/donkey and truck rides into the little town, but I'm just wondering what the feel is now with all the issues across the border. We are taking our passports just in case we do decide to cross.
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Old 01-14-2014, 04:47 PM
 
Location: Houston, TX
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We went there over Christmas break and it was very relaxed. The staff at the border crossing said they hadn't had any incidents since the opening. They told us about 45 people, both tourists and family members, cross into Boquillas on average every day. The crossing is closed two days a week. We went to the Mexican immigration office first and spent a couple of hours in the village. Two restaurants are open; we had lunch at the Falcon. You will need to bring your passports and also some cash to pay for the boat/donkey rides, the guide and food etc.

Last edited by annals; 01-14-2014 at 05:04 PM..
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Old 01-15-2014, 08:29 AM
 
Location: Cedar Park, Texas
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Thanks, annals. I'm glad to hear there haven't been any incidents since they reopened the crossing -- it was such a neat experience to go over and hang out in the little village, and now we want to share it with friends who have never been. My husband is a Texas state game warden and he was going to try to find out from the GWs down there if there had been any problems, but I also thought maybe someone here had been recently.

Did you ride the donkey or a truck into town? Last time, my brother was a college football player and he was too heavy for the donkey, so we rode in the truck. I want to ride the donkey this time!
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Old 01-15-2014, 11:00 AM
 
Location: Houston, TX
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We rode a truck, but there were many donkeys available for rides. There were quite a few other tourists in Boquillas when we visited; one of them was friendly with the restaurant owner and was staying overnight. Another couple had dressed in Santa hats and was giving out presents to the children. I think it's a very safe place to visit.
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Old 01-15-2014, 11:21 AM
 
Location: Cedar Park, Texas
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How much did you pay for the boat ride across and truck ride into the village? Need to make sure we have enough cash in small enough bills.
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Old 01-15-2014, 11:30 AM
 
Location: Austin, Texas
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The week before Thanksgiving, I had a totally fine and worry-free experience crossing into Boquillas prior to getting engaged (back on the US side, and mind you the ring didn't cross a el otro lado).

Passport is absolutely required-I don't think they'll let you down to the river without it. You have to check in and be briefed by a NPS ranger before being allowed to walk down to the Rio Grande. Then, it's $5/person for the boat ride (plus tips). You can take a donkey, truck, or just walk up to the village. I'd recommend either of the first two (again $5/person + tips).

Also, once you get across the river you'll find the official Boquillas welcoming committee where a guide will attach himself to your party. Most are fairly well fluent, and again, they'll work for tips, plus possibly lunch and drinks at either restaurant. Once you get up to the village (and it's a little over a mile through really sandy washes, if you do choose to walk!), you'll have to go to the Mexican customs in a portable building. They'll check your passport and sign you into the country for the day essentially. They'll give you a little slip of paper that they use when you leave, so I'd recommend stashing in your passport.

All in all, it's highly recommended. I'd say plan on at least $25 a person, but possibly a bit more (all $1 and $5 bills too). Once you're in the village, you will be offered to buy a LOT of those little wire scorpions and the cane walking sticks. From almost everyone you encounter, really. Have fun!
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Old 01-15-2014, 11:33 AM
 
Location: Houston, TX
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The boat ride was $5 per person, return trip. There is a man on the other side who sings and sells the tickets. We tipped the tour guide/truck driver $20. The food is around $3-$5 per plate. I would bring at least $60 and maybe more in smaller bills -- there are many children trying to sell souvenirs!

Last edited by annals; 01-15-2014 at 11:53 AM..
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Old 01-15-2014, 12:52 PM
 
Location: Cedar Park, Texas
1,601 posts, read 2,969,038 times
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Thanks for the update, everyone....quite a different experience from back in 1991, when you simply walked down, hopped in the boat, paid whatever you wanted, hopped in the truck, then roamed around freely while eating and drinking. The kids were selling stuff back then, too....I remember bracelets. And I distinctly remember there were NO dogs anywhere in the village...hmmmmmm......then you bought however many bottles of cheap alcohol you wanted and came back over to the US. No checks, no passports, no nada.
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Old 01-15-2014, 02:29 PM
 
Location: Houston, TX
50 posts, read 70,618 times
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This time we saw several dogs, who appear happy and well-fed. A guide is not required, but it's hard to get out of getting one. I talked to a frequent visitor, who knows everybody in the village but is still offered a guide every time he crosses. We just gave the guide a tip and told him we didn't need any help!
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Old 01-21-2014, 03:25 PM
 
Location: Cedar Park, Texas
1,601 posts, read 2,969,038 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by texascycling View Post
The week before Thanksgiving, I had a totally fine and worry-free experience crossing into Boquillas prior to getting engaged (back on the US side, and mind you the ring didn't cross a el otro lado).

Passport is absolutely required-I don't think they'll let you down to the river without it. You have to check in and be briefed by a NPS ranger before being allowed to walk down to the Rio Grande. Then, it's $5/person for the boat ride (plus tips). You can take a donkey, truck, or just walk up to the village. I'd recommend either of the first two (again $5/person + tips).

Also, once you get across the river you'll find the official Boquillas welcoming committee where a guide will attach himself to your party. Most are fairly well fluent, and again, they'll work for tips, plus possibly lunch and drinks at either restaurant. Once you get up to the village (and it's a little over a mile through really sandy washes, if you do choose to walk!), you'll have to go to the Mexican customs in a portable building. They'll check your passport and sign you into the country for the day essentially. They'll give you a little slip of paper that they use when you leave, so I'd recommend stashing in your passport.

All in all, it's highly recommended. I'd say plan on at least $25 a person, but possibly a bit more (all $1 and $5 bills too). Once you're in the village, you will be offered to buy a LOT of those little wire scorpions and the cane walking sticks. From almost everyone you encounter, really. Have fun!
Now that we're back from our most recent trip to Terlingua, Big Bend, and Boquillas, I thought I'd update....

As stated previously, you DO need a passport (or passport card) but we didn't have to show it upon leaving the US (I guess if you don't have one, you simply don't get back in or you have to figure out how to get in illegally!). The NPS park ranger reminded us that natural minerals/rocks/food/alcohol cannot be brought back into the US and then we were off. She had also told us to be back across the river by 4:30 because the border closes at 5pm -- the federal website I had checked said 6pm, so be sure you double and triple check beforehand in order to avoid being stuck in Boquillas!

You then make a pretty but very sandy 1/4 mile walk down to the river where one of the "official"--yes, they're wearing nametags and shirts now--rowboat operators paddles you across the Rio Grande for $5/person roundtrip. You can either buy a ticket at Rio Grande Village or from Victor, who is set up at a table right where you land. We did the latter -- be sure to save your ticket for the return voyage! Victor will also pressure you rather hard for tips "for the singing man" (him) even though he never sang while we were floating across or standing there.

Then, as before, you decide whether to walk the (sandy) mile into town, ride in a truck for $5/person, or ride a horse or burro for $8/person. They assigned us a guide but we told them we had been there before and didn't need a guide, and they were fine with that. Upon arriving in the village, you must go immediately to the Mexican immigration facility (a big white US Border Patrol-looking place with white trailers behind it) where they will scan and stamp your passport, and give you a small piece of paper. KEEP THIS PAPER because you must turn it back into them before you leave Mexico.

There were a few kids trying to sell the woven bracelets but with a simple "No, gracias", they went away. We did buy two really pretty beaded wire "sculptures" for $5 each from Paloma, one of the vendors set up outside her house. There were also various textiles and embroidered bags for sale, but it was not nearly as pushy as I remember it being back in 1991.

After being processed by the Mexican officials, we went to the old familiar Jose Falcon restaurant for delicious giant burritos and tacos, and beer. I believe the tacos were $5 for a plate of 5 SMALL ones, and the burrito was $7 or so....but it was huge and delicious, especially when combined with both the red and green sauces and the chopped jalapenos/onions they put on the table. The beer was $2.25/bottle, so not the bargain that it used to be! The guys were still hungry after their plates of tacos, but we were short on time so they didn't order more and we didn't offer to share our burritos! We tipped very well, as the service was great and the food was delicious.

The restaurant is now run by Lidia Falcon and her husband Bernardo, who were super nice and very willing to show me all the improvements they've made since reopening the border. The bathrooms were clean, and there is a nice new uncovered patio that overlooks the river in the back. Bernardo also showed me the three hotel rooms they have in the back -- $40/night and while not fancy at all, they were neat, clean, and had bathrooms with running water inside. He said it is a great chance to stay there and then walk to one of two hot springs that are on either side of the village. The gift shop is also open right next to the restaurant, with various souvenirs and textiles.

There is another restaurant across the street, also run by the Falcon family, and we were told they had a different menu...but again, we were short on time and didn't get to check it out. The Park Bar is still there, stocked with beer and a few bottles of liquor, but it wasn't nearly the happening place that it was decades ago (although the pool tables were still there). Juan Valdez (the man with the beard) died a few years ago so he is no longer a fixture in Boquillas. Jerry Ureste, a Boquillas resident who told us he is a member of El Diablos, a firefighting crew that works in Big Bend NP, began talking to us and showed us the church and the school (to the right of the church). We grabbed some beers and walked up and down the street a bit more to take pictures before heading back to be processed out by the Mexican officials. (I asked what happens if didn't return the paper to them and he said you would be flagged and detained if you tried to enter Mexico again...) After finishing that, Jerry drove us back down to the river and we tipped him a few bucks each, because he was just so nice. Again, keep your boat ticket because you have to give it to Victor in order to get back into the rowboat to the US. And again, Victor pushed for tips for himself even though he wasn't singing!

Upon arriving back at the border patrol station just up from the river, you have to scan your passport in front of a kiosk, stand on a yellow line and look into a video camera, then talk to a customs/border patrol agent from El Paso by phone. Basically they ask you if you have any items to declare and if not, they tell you to have a nice day and you're done. They did ask two members of our party to remove their sunglasses and reading glasses, though.

It was a fabulous, relaxing day spent in Boquillas and I am very glad they reopened the crossing! The town was just as friendly and welcoming as ever, the food just as good and the beer just as cold, and it was VERY safe. Out of respect for the villagers, we didn't wear any flashy jewelry and of course we were dressed very casually for our day in the park. We tipped generously, said "Hola...por favor...gracias" regularly, and just really enjoyed our time across the border. I really look forward to our next trip down there, when we will plan better and be able to spend more time in Boquillas.
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