Living near the Mexican border has opened up all kinds of new travel opportunities for us! When I lived in Seattle, my Miniature Pinscher, Duke, and I traveled to Canada several times, and it was pretty easy. So, it’s only fair that my Airedale, Bailey, gets to do some border hopping as well.
From Tucson, it’s just 90 minutes to the border at Nogales, Mexico, and the veterinarians in our area seem very well versed on traveling with dogs to Mexico, so preparing for our trip was super-easy. If you are coming from farther away, your vet may not be as familiar with the process, so it pays to do some research ahead of time to ensure you have everything you’ll need. And remember, it’s just as important to get back into the United States as it is to get into Mexico – so be sure you are covered for both directions!
If you are traveling beyond the “tourist zone” which is an approximately 70-mile swath along the border, or if you are staying more than 72 hours in Mexico, you will need to purchase a Mexican Tourist Card. If you are driving in Mexico, you will need to purchase Mexican car insurance, as your U.S. insurance will not fully cover you if you have an accident in Mexico.
U.S. citizens need a valid passport to re-enter the United States from Mexico. If you are traveling by foot or car, you can provide a U.S. Passport card, which is a less expensive alternative to a full passport, but can only be used for land and sea travel from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.
Your first stop when planning a trip to Mexico with your dog should be your veterinarian’s office.
Your dog will need a health certificate prepared by a veterinarian, accompanied by an exam, in order to enter into Mexico. Requirements for the health certificate are extremely specific, so be sure your vet is familiar with the process. Your pup will get a basic health exam to verify she’s is not showing signs of illness, and your vet will check to see that her rabies vaccination is up to date.
We had a small snafu with the rabies verification as Bailey received her vaccination when we lived in Chicago, and the rabies certificate I had did not contain the Manufacturer or Name of the vaccine. You will need both of these, as well as the vaccine’s serial number. If you travel frequently like we do, and see different vet offices, you might want to call and track down this information before your appointment! The health certificate is good for up to six months in the tourist zone, but only good for 30 days if you are traveling further into Mexico. We paid $30 for the certificate, in addition to a $45 exam fee.
With your paperwork in hand, you and your pup are ready to cross the border!
I found everyone in Nogales to be very friendly, and they treated Bailey like a celebrity! A few mentioned that she looks “like the dog on TV.” Mexicans are generally less fussy about letting animals in stores, so traveling with Bailey didn’t hinder me at all. However, in Mexico and other Latin countries, you will often see dogs running loose in the streets. If you have a reactive dog, which Bailey is sometimes, this can be a stressful experience. Long Haul Trekkers has a great article about dealing with off-leash dogs when your dog is leashed. Fortunately, the dogs we encountered in Nogales were easily shoo’d away and we were able to continue our shopping.
The other issue I noticed was an abundance of discarded food in the street. Now, this can be true of any big city, but there was a LOT of mischief for Bailey to find on the streets of Nogales. She got a hold of a rib bone, and I had to be on high alert after that.
Based on our brief experience, I don’t think a border town day trip is the best option for bringing my dog along, and I’ll probably leave Bailey at home next time. However, the seaside resort of Puerto Penasco is calling our name! I think Bailey will love the beaches and there will be more outdoor activities for us to enjoy together. Read more about how to decide when to leave your pet at home.
Ironically, it’s a bit easier bringing your dog back into the U.S. than it is getting into Mexico. You simply need to show proof of a current rabies vaccinations, which is the same as traveling from Canada to the U.S. with your dog. My vet also prepared an “inter-state” health certificate for the State of Arizona, but when we walked back across the border from Mexico, I wasn’t asked to show any documentation.
It turns out we weren’t asked to show our papers crossing the border in either direction, but it pays to be prepared! At the very least, I always carry a copy of all of our most current vaccination records when traveling – you never know when you might need to produce them.
Have you taken your dog to Mexico? How was your experience?