Humans love to travel and live in all kinds of different places. For us dogs, wherever we find our humans, that is our home. We want to be with you and that is why I am writing this blog. I want to make it as easy as possible for humans to bring their best furry friends with them when they come to Mexico.
If you are coming for a short visit, it may be better to leave your dog at home with someone you trust to give them plenty of love and care. If you are coming for an extended stay or planning to move here, do not leave us behind. You can do it and you will be so glad you did once you are sitting in one of Yucatan’s charming parques, sharing a taco with your dog and listening to the mariachis. Trust me on this. Especially the sharing a taco with your dog bit.
Get Ready to Go!
Who loves stress? Nope. Not a single dog and only a few humans. You know the types. I think we are all in agreement that you want your journey to Mexico with your pet to be as enjoyable as possible. The way to make that happen is by planning. Most humans, if they have done their research by reading a blog like this, find that their trip to Mexico with their pet goes smoothly. Well, take it from a Mexican street dog – not everything goes as planned, especially when you are crossing international borders. So, let us get started by helping you and your pet to get prepared for the trip.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (No trains really, just sounded good.)
Some humans drive their pets to Mexico. Some humans fly their pets to Mexico. Some humans do a combination of both. I know that humans have short attention spans these days, so I will try to keep this section brief.
First you need to decide how you plan to get here. Even if you do fly, at some point you will need to be in a car or van. Here are the things you need to think about when deciding how to travel.
Some people only fly within their own country or within Mexico. They fly to the US border, bring the animals across, and then fly to Yucatan or wherever they may be going in Mexico. Airlines in the US and other countries have their own policies regarding what you need to fly with them. Those policies will be quite different to the policies of airlines within Mexico. If you are flying across the border, the airlines will have even more different rules. Make sure you triple check what your airline’s up to date policies are for traveling with your pet both domestically and internationally.
For example, some airlines have age limits, restrictions on breeds, and moratoriums on carrying pets during certain parts of the year. Most US airlines no longer allow emotional support animals to fly in cabin, while Mexican airlines still allow them as of the writing of this article.
I am just a dog. I have been on a plane, in the hold, on a domestic flight in Mexico and I have been in cars. I will not try to tell you which the best way is to travel here, and humans seem to have many different opinions on it. I will just share some of those opinions and let you decide.
Mo Swatek, who has a great deal of experience in transporting dogs for rescues brought her own pets with her from the US by plane. She does not feel comfortable with transporting dogs by road. She explains, “Many people think that flying your own dog is a huge challenge or terribly dangerous for our pets, that is not true. Today our pets fly in a special pet area, away from normal luggage, in slots prepared to keep the kennel in place, air-conditioned and the same pressure as in the cabin. The fatality rate on pets traveling [by air] is below 0.02%. On road transports the risks are far higher but as the pet owner is responsible himself and can’t blame others, you often never hear of the disasters, but I saw for years people losing dogs during road trips and others arriving at our clinic severely dehydrated or with heat strokes because the car had broken down.”
On the other hand, Maggie Cale, who had done everything right in terms of preparing her dogs for the flight, found it to be quite a stressful experience for them and for her. “So [we had] two already really stressed dogs and when we landed and had to take the dogs for paperwork to be checked, it turned into a shit show. The man that needed to record everything was a one finger typer. They had a security dog in the room with them. So, with all dogs on high alert barking and screeching because another dog was smelling their crate, it took over an hour for the one fingered guard to finish.”
If you have a giant breed of dog, a pet that gets stressed easily, a restricted breed, or if there is a moratorium on flying at the time you are planning to travel, coming by plane may not be the option for you. If you decide to drive into Mexico with your pets, you will have a lot more preparation. You will need to make sure you are able to bring your car in legally and that it is ready for the drive.
Patricia Russom Quinones gives some insight into what preparing her car for the trip involved when she and her husband brought their four cats with them to Merida. “We took the Honda [Odyssey] to our mechanic and told him what we planned to do, and he gave the entire car and overhaul which included new tires, air conditioners to the tune of about 5,000 US. We took the captain’s seats out of the back. We left them in storage where the rest of our things were. The third row folded into the floor, so we were ready to pack the car up and go. Luckily, our decision to drive was made possible by the fact that I had gotten a temporary visa and my spouse had received a permanent visa. So, we would be allowed to bring our car in on a TIP (temporary importation permit) for 4 years.”
How you choose to travel with your pets is a very personal choice and there will be many things that factor into making that decision. If you want to drive but are nervous about doing it on your own, or bringing your own car may be difficult, there are services that can help you by driving you, your pets, and even your belongings or by providing you with an escort.
Getting Your Pets Ready
Your Pet’s Health
Once you have decided how you plan to travel, you need to get your pets ready for the trip. This includes their physical and mental health. The good news for people brining their pets into Mexico from the US or Canada is that Mexico no longer requires a health certificate. From other countries, a health certificate is still required. But Yay! If you are coming from the US or Canada.
Wait! But no! If you are flying internationally from the US or Canada, the airlines will probably require you to have a health certificate anyway. Shop around humans. There are a wide range of prices for health certificates depending on the veterinary practice. If that is not difficult enough, each airline has a different policy about how long before you depart you need to get the certificate.
Aside from the health certificate, which you should not need if you are crossing the land border from the US, there are other health related things you will need to think about like up to date vaccinations. Most airlines will require a rabies vaccine, at the very least, and it will have to have been completed around 30 days before you leave. While you do not need proof of worming or a rabies vaccination if you are crossing the land border with your pets, I am going to share my opinion, as a dog, of course.
If you love your dogs, you should probably have all their vaccinations and other preventative health care up to date, especially if you are traveling to Yucatan, where parvo, distemper, and heartworm are common. There are also a number of tick transmitted diseases, so having a plan in place for tick and flea prevention is a good idea too.
If you are coming from any other country, you will need to present an international health certificate from a licensed veterinary surgeon with professional identification on the letter such as a license or identification number which is not older than 15 days. You will have to have evidence of a rabies vaccination and treatment for internal and external parasites. That means ticks, fleas, and nasty little worms.
Whether you come in by plane or car, your dog will be inspected at the border. If they find anything that gives them reason for concern, or if your paperwork is not correct, your dog could very well end up in quarantine until everything is resolved to their satisfaction. This is important to know if your dog has any type of skin disease, has had a recent surgery, or has healing wounds. All of these can raise alarm bells during inspection, so make sure you have detailed information about this from your vet on officially headed notepaper with their licensing and identification details.
Your Pet’s Comfort
Travel kennel – It is highly likely that whether you fly, drive, or both, at some point your pet will need to be in some sort of contraption designed to keep us safe and from running around causing havoc. Choose wisely human. If you are flying, check and triple check with your airlines what their requirements are. You may be able to use a soft sided kennel if your pet can fly in cabin with you, but you will need a proper, airline approved, travel kennel if they are going to be in the hold.
Whatever type of kennel you are using there are two important considerations. It needs to be large enough for them to sit, stand, turn around, and lie down in comfortably. This can be a challenge when traveling with large breeds and may be a reason you have to drive instead of flying. Secondly, you need to make sure your pet is used to a travel kennel and not freaked out or stressed when locked inside.
Start getting your pet used to a travel kennel way ahead of time. Puppy trainers recommend you start training your puppy to be used to a travel kennel while they are still little. If you did not do this, then you need to start working on it at least a few months before traveling. I love my travel kennel because humans showed me what a safe and comfortable place it can be. Here are some handy hints to help you get your pet used to their travel kennel.
- Leave the kennel in a place where your pet likes to rest and feels safe.
- Feed meals in the kennel, only starting to close it once your pet starts to relax.
- Place their favourite bedding in the travel kennel to get them used to seeing it as a safe space.
- If they will be carried in the kennel, once they are comfortable in it closed, gradually get them used to moving them around and carrying them in it.
- If they will be in a car or plane, get them used to being in a vehicle once they are happy being confined to the travel kennel. Take them for short trips that end positive. For a dog, this could be for walks, play time, or treats. For cats, this could be for playtime or treats – unless you have an adventure cat, in which case, walks would work too.
- Most veterinary surgeons advise against using tranquilisers to transport animals, but there are treatments such as calming sprays that can help. Talk to your vet and ask what you can do to make traveling in the kennel less stressful.
Crossing the Border
When you arrive by air, you will be expected to go to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office (OISA) with your pet still in its travel kennel, where they will be inspected by an official from National Service for Agrifood Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA). If there is anything in the indoor kennel such as bedding, treats, or toys, those will probably be destroyed. You are only allowed to bring in enough food for your pet for the day of their arrival. So, if your pet is on a special diet, like I am, make sure you can get the diet you need in Mexico or a suitable alternative.
If you arrive by land, your pet probably will not be examined by an official, but do not count on it, so be prepared just in case. If you and your pet plan to cross the border frequently there is a type of pet passport scheme called the “Pet Program – Frequent Traveler”. You should be able to get more information here .
Other Useful Advice
When traveling, whether by car, or air, you may have to find pet friendly accommodation. This can be done by using Airbnb, Booking.com or other such online booking services which allow you to filter for pet friendly hotel policies. Keep in mind that there may be hidden costs, not disclosed when you book online.
Jen Andrade Ward shared her experiences trying to book pet friendly accommodation when she travelled by car into Mexico with her four dogs. “Some hotels wanted a non-refundable fee, some hotels wanted a refundable deposit, and those things weren’t clear at the time of booking. The most I think we paid was 250 pesos per dog, and we were told upon check in that it wasn’t refundable. Like many things in Mexico, it seemed to be up to who was checking us in, as opposed to an actual policy of the property. One place expected us to leave the dogs chained up in the parking garage. That was a hard no for us. We checked out and found another place to stay.”
What you may not know is that there are hotels for humans called Love Hotels in Mexico. Dogs like me can just enjoy our romantic encounters in the park, or on a street corner. Apparently, there are rules and laws that mean you humans are not allowed to do that. Because a lot of people in Mexico live with their family, it can be hard to find any private time. That is why Love Hotels are so common and so popular. Reports are that they are clean and inexpensive and that you and your pets can enjoy things like in room Jacuzzis and mirrors on the ceiling. Most of all, though, they are discreet. This means that you pull into a garage area and close the door, allowing you to go straight into your room. Whether or not these hotels are officially pet friendly is a grey area, but people traveling with their pets find them very convenient.
Patricia Russom Quinones shared her experience of using Mexico’s Love Hotels. “In Mexico we took advantage of the Auto Hotel which have an attached garage, also called Love Hotels. We would pull into the garage and shut the door and the cats would go into the room with us so that they got to stretch their legs, and no one was the wiser. You just have to remember to tell them that you are staying for 12 hours and pay accordingly. Plus, our van was loaded with many other articles and suitcases and we didn’t have to worry about it being broken into.” I wonder if the cats enjoyed the jacuzzi.
Once you get to Yucatan, you will find that it is a very pet friendly place. There are a lot of excellent veterinary practices, pet shops, grooming parlours, and other pet services. You will find that the malls in Merida are pet friendly, as are many restaurants and cafes.
Just remember that there are leash laws. Your dog does need to be on the lead at all times in a public place and always pick up after us. We poop, you scoop!
Yucatan has a big problem with pet overpopulation, so I recommend that you help out by volunteering for or donating to some of the great organisations that do pet sterilisations. And, if you did not come to Yucatan with a pet, maybe you can adopt one here.
If you have any questions about traveling to Mexico with your pet that we have not covered here, please drop us a line. Also, if you have any news or a story to share about your trip, we would love to hear from you.
Save travels. See you soon!