Daily Life / Driving With Dogs Through Mexico

Driving With Dogs Through Mexico

Driving With Dogs Through Mexico

19 October 2010 Daily Life 40

Editors Note: The following is an account by one of our readers of traveling from Vancouver, Canada to Merida, Mexico by car with two dogs in the spring of 2010. We get inquiries all the time about traveling with dogs, so we thought this would be of interest to many of you. Of the airlines that fly to Merida, Continental is the most dog-friendly. On their website, you’ll find information about how to fly your dogs on their airline, and there are English-speaking personnel at the Merida airport that can discuss options with you. But flying isn’t for everyone… or for every dog. Driving through Mexico with dogs presents its own problems, and this articles addresses some of those issues. As always, we welcome your comments!


Moving to Merida

My wife and I finally made the move to Merida after almost 4 years of planning and research. We drove 7,300 km to move to a city that we had visited only once. Even though we had only been to Merida one time, I had read and researched the city for many hours. I estimate that the time I spent researching the city and the surrounding area clocked in at over 2000 hours.
In planning our move, our original thought had been that we would fly from Vancouver to Merida, shipping only a few belongings (mostly books). However, and this is point of this article, we quickly discovered that one of our dogs, Lucy, would not be able to fly. We could find no airline that would fly her into Mexico (we even checked FedEx!). Lucy is 3 years old, and an English Mastiff that weighs in at 191 pounds. Not only was her breed on the “no fly” list, but the only crate that she fit into was bigger than allowed by the airlines. Our other dog, Josie, was no slouch either. Josie is an 8.5 year old yellow Labrador Retriever and definitely runs with the Big Dogs.

Gotta’ Drive

Since our dogs are family and we would not dream of moving to Mexico without them, we resigned ourselves to driving to ou new home. We mapped out a route using many different programs that took us from Vancouver, BC to Merida via the quickest route. We also considered various options for crossing the border, hoping to drive the safest route.

To Mexico

We decided to cross to Mexico at Nogales, Arizona. The customs check at the border was not thorough or intimidating in any way. They did not check the dogs or their papers (though of course, we had all the shots and documentation from our vet in Canada, in both English and Spanish). The crossing did take a little longer than e had planned, so our first night in Mexico was spent in the next big town that we came to, Hermosillo. 

We checked with a couple of hotels upon entering the city and were greeted with the same refrain: “No, they did not allow dogs in the rooms. No, they did not allow dogs period.” One kind person suggested that we check with the San Sebastian Hotel, luckily. We went there, and sure enough, they said “No problema!”. They asked if we had crates, which we did.  But in the end, we did not have to keep the dogs in the crates. The guards and the staff at Hotel San Sebastian were super, and we can highly recommend that hotel.

Towards Mexico City

The next morning, we left Hermosillo and drove to and through Mazatlan, and then headed east. When we drove through Mazatlan, we experienced the most aggressive street people.  After being asked again and again to have our windshield washed, we just rolled down the back window and our dear sweet Mastiff let out a couple of deep barks. What do you know? No more street people! A few of them yelledCujo!in fun, and we were on our way.

We made it to Culiacan for the second night and stopped at the first large hotel on the road into town. The manager at the Hotel Zar checked with his boss and they too said no problema. Hotel Zar, as you can see from the photo, was actually a pretty nice hotel. The dogs were welcomed there. Though most of the other guests seemed to steer clear of us when they saw two such big dogs, we were able to keep them in our room and walk them around the grounds with absolutely no problems. We weren’t charged extra to keep them with us, either.

From Culiacan we drove on to Guadalajara and found another Zar hotel on the way into town. Again, there was no issue with the dogs and we had a good place to spend the night.

Through Mexico City

Our biggest challenge occurred the next night. We drove through Mexico City, which was a challenge in itself, as we were pulling an8000-pound cargo trailer (we have a lot of books!). We managed to navigate through the city, though we hear that there is now a way to circumvent it and we would have if we could have. After making the crossing, we continued on to Puebla. 

We checked with the Holiday Inn in Puebla, which we had read was dog friendly. They weren’t what we would call dog-friendly, as they offered only to put the dogs in their crates in a storage room for the night. This was totally unacceptable to us, so we continued on. We were getting tired, and finally we decided tocheck out a truck stop motel on the edge of town. This appeared to be the kind of motel that could be rented by the hour, with all the places that a car or truck could park hidden from view. The place was quiet, they accepted the dogs and it actually worked out just fine.  At this hotel, we had a very basic room, which was clean and cheap ($260 pesos for the night), and we were all happy.

The Last Stretch to Merida

The final day, we woke up and set off to spend our last night in Villahermosa. Again, we had read that the Hilton there allows pets. Just in case, we called ahead and they said that they would take the two dogs. The Hilton in Villahermosa is actually a very nice hotel and they no dog issues. We were able to keep them in our room, walk them around the grounds and even through the lobby a few times. They did charge us a nominal fee, but it was small enough that we can’t remember what it was.

We Made It!

The next day we made it to our new home in Merida, with our two big dogs and with relatively few problems getting them there. We found along the way that there are hotels that take pets in Mexico, although they were a little surprised about the size of one of our dogs (but, to be fair, most people are). We discovered the Zar hotel chain which accepts dogs as a policy, an independent hotel, the San Sebastian, in Hermosillo which was very accommodating, and the Hilton, a hotel chain that accepted dogs but cost quite a bit more. And we discovered that, in a pinch, truck stop motels (also called “auto hotels” or “no-tell motels”) as they are quite easy going when it comes to dogs in the rooms. Our average cost for the hotels was $60 a night, which we think was quite reasonable. And now we’re here, dogs and books and all!

Check here for locations of the Zar Hotels on their website.



  • Khaki Scott 9 years ago


    I made the trip, more than a few times, with 3 dogs and a cat. I have friends who have made the trip with as many as six cats. So not to worry. Cats are ok.

  • Leslie 9 years ago

    What about traveling with two cats? Will dog hotels take cats aw well? I could sneak them in,have before but would prefer not to.

  • Leona 10 years ago

    Thanks for your account of your trip. We are traveling to the Yucatan for a two month vacation Jan. 2012. It was great to hear that you got there fairly drama free and traveled with dogs. Whenever we hear this we get less anxious about our trip. We have overnight reservations along the way, so we are as well prepared as we can be.

  • MANDO 10 years ago

    hey Jono, I hope you find someone that will provide you with that. for I will need that info myself, because I plan to move (partial) to merida mysself in the next 3 yrs so looking forward to some answers please!

  • MANDO 10 years ago

    Hello everyone! my wife and I are seriously considering moving to merida in the next 3 yrs. as soon as I retired from my job LAPD and although we have never been to merida, we plan to visit next yr to check out the the city and its surroundings. and would really feel better if I had some info from any one in regards to places to visit (points of interest). And talk to people that actually live in Merida, by the way my wife and I are both mexican nationals and now USA Citizens and both have been living in the USA since we were children so we are not considered true mexicans! by the locals....as crazy as it sounds lol but I seen so much of merida kinda and research so much that I totally in love with this city even if we have not been here....oh we have travel to Cancun many times so we are thinking its kinda the same weather if any one here can send me some info it will be appreciated thanks..

  • CasiYucateco 10 years ago

    Simply have up-to-date health certificates for the pets. They are required -- but frequently not checked -- at the border. There is no problem bringing your dog and cat in a car. No broker is necessary if you are driving.

    Most recommend that you stay on the US side over night, cross the border get the car sticker, etc, early in the morning, then get through the border area as far as possible on the first day. Use only major highways, no side roads or shortcuts or tarrying in small towns in the border region. Do not drive at night in the border region. Following these simple precautions, others have reported no problems. It is recommended not to cross at El Paso / Cuidad Juarez due to the concentration of problems there.

    Accounts of crossings and discussion can be found on www.YoListo.com and more information on www.rollybrook.com --- look at this page and find "All About Your Car in Mexico" http://www.rollybrook.com/Page%20Directory.htm#Useful

  • Jennifer 10 years ago

    Thanks for all the great information. We are planning on heading for San Miguel de Allende on April 1st and staying for 6 months. Of course, we only want to go if we can take the dog and cat. The dog cannot fly in cabin since she is too big, she would have to go cargo. We spoke with Continental, they said we had to pay for a "broker" that helps get the dog through customs and all. Lots of red tape....
    Our other option is to drive from Denver into Mexico. Is it possible to get into Mexico with both the dog and cat? Do you have to hire a "broker" to get through customs if you are driving? How safe is the drive, we are driving a 2005 Lexus but don't want to be a target.....Any advice would be appreciated.

  • Jono 10 years ago

    HELP! My wife and I are excited to be moving with our 3 year old son from Arixona to Akumal/Tulum. We are totally relocating full time. The problem is that every way we look at it, moving our household belongings, or even just some of them is either amazingly costly, dangerous, or just plain impossible. We read things like - the mexican laws allows us to bring only 5 toys for our son and that my father in law cannot drive one of our cars for us and that we cannot afford a truck to take our stuff down, we'll get hassled personally for driving and should expect that a foriegn car full of goods will likely be a target for bribes or crime.... WHAT SHOULD WE BELIEVE? I have found NO movers who will get us down for under $12000 and that is HALF our stuff. Do we really need to give everything away and buy everything new? is taking our cars down really that hard??? HELP HELP... please post suggestions or companies or people I can talk to...

  • TerriLee & Martha 10 years ago

    Martha and I are planning on driving to Merida the first of next year from the East Coast of the USA. I want to take our dogs (a Boston Terrier and a Rottie) but she thinks it would be too difficult. For me, I think having the Rottie along would make me feel safer since I think two women traveling in Mexico may be asking for trouble. My question is, what about finding a place in Merida that would let us have the dogs there while we spend two week in our future home? We are going there to find properties so we won't have a place of our own yet.

  • Beryl 10 years ago

    Two things.
    When we flew our huge malamute here from Seattle, Continental said that his crate was too big for the planes coming into Merida, so he had to go to Cancun. My husband drove there to get him and it took eight hours to get him through Customs.

    Some years ago, I used to travel back and forth with my dog. Almost no hotel allowed dogs, so I would stop in the no-tell motels and Chick and I would watch porn and see ourselves in the mirrors on the ceiling. The plastic covers crackled under the sheets, but otherwise things were fine.

  • K 10 years ago

    Thanks for the article. I am happy to now taking my dog is not impossible!

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