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America (Southwest)

Know Before You Go: Big Bend

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Big Bend is one the largest national parks in the United States. At over 800,000 acres, it’s roughly the size of Rhode Island! It’s also one of the least visited national parks, averaging only 300,000 visitors per year. By comparison, Great Smoky Mountains National Park averages 11 million visitors per year, and the Grand Canyon has 5.9 million. The area has many unique activities and sights to experience, but planning for a trip there can be a little complicated due to a lack of information online (which stems from it being one of the least visited parks). So to help y’all out with any trip planning you may be doing, here are 26 things to know before you go: Big Bend edition. Continue reading

Know Before You Go: Border Crossing in Big Bend

Border crossing in Big Bend is definitely one of the most unique experiences you can have in a US National Park. But there are a few things you should know before you go:

1. Bring your passport.

Many people don’t know that the opportunity to do a border crossing in Big Bend exists, so they don’t bring their passport along with them during their trip. Make sure to pack yours if you’re interested in visiting.

2. The port of entry is only open Wednesday through Sunday from 9am to 6pm, but during the winter this may change to 8am to 5pm.

It’s advisable to arrive back to the port at least 30 minutes before closing time. If you don’t make it back before closing time, you will have to wait until the next open day to return. So watch the clock closely if you’re venturing to Boquillas in the afternoon!

3. You can use your American dollars in Boquillas, so don’t bother exchanging any money.

There’s nowhere for you to exchange money in the port of entry (possibly not even in the park), so don’t worry about it. In fact, the locals actually prefer payment in USD.

4. It costs $5/person to take the “ferry” across the river border.

The ferry is actually just a rowboat, and it takes about three minutes to cross the river.

5. After that, you can either walk or ride a truck, horse, or donkey one mile into the town.

Walking is free. Horses run $8/person, donkeys and trucks are $5/person (all round trip).

6. A local guide will accompany you into town and stay close by until you return to the border crossing.

Ours spoke wonderful English and was very kind. We ended up giving him a tip before our departure, which he greatly appreciated.

7. There are a few restaurants, which all offer delicious food, making this a great lunch destination.

We ate at Jose Falcon’s and had some of the best enchiladas ever! We scarfed them down with some Mexican cokes, which was a welcome change from the camp food we had been eating all week.

8. The locals will display handicrafts and souvenirs which are available for purchase.

When you spend money, you’re helping the local citizens. So go ahead and have a beer or two, and buy a cute little wire sculpture of a roadrunner.

9. Be aware of prohibited items.

You can’t bring back rocks, minerals, fossils, anything with animal bones or parts, unfinished wood products, raw meat, fruit or vegetables, bottles of alcohol, or tobacco. They will brief you on this at the port of entry before you depart for Mexico.

10. And make sure that when you purchase Mexican souvenirs, you purchase them on the Mexican side of the border.

Apparently, some vendors set up shop on the US side, and this is a customs issue. We didn’t see this happen, but we heard enough about it that it’s definitely worth mentioning.

11. If you have more time to spend in Boquillas, you can do horse trips to the canyons, hot springs, and mountains.

Most tourists only venture into the town (like we did), but these are also options.

12. When you return, you scan your passport and will be connected to the US immigration office in El Paso via a kiosk in the port of entry.

They’ll ask you the standard questions: What was the purpose of your border crossing in Big Bend? What are you bringing back? Then you’re done!

13. You will not get a passport stamp.

Sad face. For you stamp collectors out there, you won’t get proof of your visit to Mexico, you’ll only get the memories!

Safe travels and happy wanderlusting, friends!

Playlist: Roadtrip Across the Southwest

Playlist-

So you’re planning a roadtrip. You’re going to be in a car for hours and hours and hours, with nothing but the good ol’ open road before you. [With many stops in between of course] That sounds like my kind of trip! You’re probably going to want a good playlist to keep you sane, entertained, and set the mood.

The backdrop of the American Southwest is beautiful and dramatic. The desert is stunning, and I drew inspiration from it to make my playlist for this trip. These were the songs we had on repeat for my adventure through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Even now, when I listen to them (at home, at work, during my commute) I get this intense feeling of nostalgia and I’m transported to the painted desert. You’ll notice there’s a lot of Lord Huron and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Their music was the perfect soundtrack in itself, but I tried my hardest to branch out beyond their albums. Continue reading