If dogs are truly a man’s best friend, shouldn’t that mean your adventures together extend beyond your hometown? Pets are a huge part of our day-to-day lives, and with more than one-third of Americans owning a pooch, it’s hard to say goodbye to them when it’s time to go on vacation. The good news is Americans’ top destination, Mexico, is increasingly opening its doors to dog lovers and is growing its pet-friendly tourism.
The Secretary of Tourism in Mexico, Miguel Torruco Marqués, recently inaugurated the 1st World Congress of Welfare and Health and said that the important role that pets have played in our lives has created a direct impact on services provided by the tourism industry since there are establishments that offer ‘pet-friendly’ amenities to make it easier for owners to travel with their dogs.
Traveling with a dog can be an overwhelming process. Not only is international travel full of anxieties, such as commuting, border control, and potential language barriers, but there are often complicated rules and exclusions for animals that add an additional layer of stress.
In recent years, some airlines, accommodations, and restaurants have started to loosen their restrictions and make traveling with dogs more seamless. Travel Off Path breaks down the ways to bring your four-legged friend on vacation to Mexico.
Before You Travel
Unless you are traveling with a puppy under three months, dogs coming into Mexico via air or road will need to be vaccinated against rabies, and you will need to show proof of the vaccination record and its validity (dogs need to be vaccinated against rabies every 1 – 3 years depending on the type of vaccine used and location laws).
Since 2019, Mexico removed the requirement for U.S and Canadian visitors to have a health certificate for their pets, but it is often airlines that dictate these requirements if you are choosing to travel by air. Most airlines flying to Mexico require a health certificate issued by a veterinarian, and these can cost upwards of $320.
Not all veterinarians offer these certifications, so make sure you call ahead to confirm which vet can do this for you. Certain airlines like Volaris don’t require a health certificate when coming from the U.S., so where you can find airlines that bypass this, you can save some dollars.
Flying With Your Dog
Most airlines traveling to Mexico, such as American Airlines, United, and Delta, allow dogs to travel with you on the flight, whether it be in the cabin or checked in as baggage. Below are the rules and restrictions from Mexico’s two largest airlines:
Flying in the cabin
Aeromexico requires a health certificate that has been issued 5 days before travel. If flights are under 6 hours and your dog can fit under the seat opposite you, they are able to travel with you in the cabin. Keep in mind that most of AeroMexico’s flights to Mexico have an average 31 inches seat pitch (measurement between one point of seat to the same point on the seat in front of it), so it can be a tight squeeze for a larger dog.
- Cost: $162 in low-season and $168 in high-season per dog
- Sizing & Weight Restrictions: maximum weight allowed in the cabin is 9kg (19.8 pounds), and this must include the carrier/container weight. The carrier/container must fit under the seat in front of you and cannot exceed 16x12x8 inches, and it must be made of flexible or soft plastic. Only one dog per passenger is permitted, and the dog must be at least 8 weeks old.
- Service animals: service animals must be no more than 16 pounds and be no bigger than 22 inches long and 12 inches tall.
Checking in a dog as baggage
- Cost: $252 in low-season and $258 in high-season per dog
- Sizing and Weight Restrictions: maximum weight of the dog and the container is 45kg (99.2 pounds). The carrier must meet the standards of the airline, such as size, quality, and the ability to lock. It is recommended to check the international requirements here.
The airline offers a little extra seat pitch (around 30-32 inches, compared to AeroMexico’s 31), which is always handy if you’re taking your canine in the cabin with you. Keep in mind if you own a Brachycephalic dog, like a French bulldog, or a small dog, such as a chihuahua, you will need to sign a liability waiver since these breeds aren’t recommended for traveling (see the full list here).
Dogs considered aggressive or dangerous, such as a Rottweiler or Akita Inu, are not permitted to travel in the cabin or as baggage. Currently, Volaris does not require a health certificate if you are traveling from the United States to Mexico, but you will need one for the return.
Flying in the cabin
- Cost: $150 in low-season and $180 in high-season per dog
- Sizing & Weight Restrictions: maximum weight allowed in the cabin is 10kg (22 pounds), and this must include the carrier/container weight. The carrier/container must fit under the seat in front of you and cannot exceed 17.5x12x7.5 inches, and it must be made of fabric or sturdy plastic. Only one dog per passenger is permitted, and the dog must be at least 4 months old.
Checking in a dog as baggage
- Cost: $180 in low-season and $190 in high-season per dog
- Sizing and Weight Restrictions: maximum weight of the dog and the container is 45kg (100 pounds), and the carrier must provide adequate space for the dog to move around.
If your dog is a registered service animal, these fees are waived if they meet the sizing requirements and can fit at your feet. Dogs do not need to be in a container with you in the cabin, but each airline has its own documentation and requirements that need to be submitted before you fly, so make sure you check the airline’s rules. Some airlines don’t allow emotional support animals, so it is recommended to check what the documentation requirements are for each service type.
When Arriving In Mexico
When arriving in Mexico by air or road, your dog will need to be inspected by official personnel at SENASICA, who will check over your dog to ensure it has no signs of infectious or contagious diseases, no fresh or scarring lesions, and no sign of ectoparasites. Make sure you are not traveling with additional bedding or dog accessories, as these may be discarded. You should also only bring enough food for the day of travel.
Traveling With Your Dog In Mexico
Major hotel chains and vacation rentals offer pet-friendly accommodations and will allow pets to stay for free or for an additional cost, but some have certain weight restrictions. Hotels such as The Westin, Hilton, Four Points, and Four Seasons all provide pet policies. Sites such as BringFido.com are a great resource for dog travelers to find dog-friendly stays, and they have all been verified by their editors. Popular booking sites such as Expedia, Booking.com, and Airbnb also provide a feature to filter pet-friendly accommodations.
Most restaurants in Mexico are very pet-friendly, so you will have plenty of options to choose from and might even be treated to a special dog menu (as long as your pup is well-behaved).
Getting Back To The U.S
Just like getting into Mexico, it is the airlines that decide travel requirements, not just the countries. If you are traveling by road, dogs returning to the U.S. (or newly acquainted friends) do not require a rabies vaccination if they have not been to a high-risk country for rabies. Mexico is not listed as a high-risk country for rabies, but airlines require the rabies vaccination to be given at least 28 days prior to travel and to be valid.
Keep in mind that if your dog visited a high-risk rabies country (such as Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Surinam, and Venezuela) in the past 6-months and it does not have an ISO-compatible microchip, it will not be allowed in the United States.
The CDC does not require a health certificate either, but each U.S. state stipulates its own rules, so check your final destination. Many airlines do require a health certificate from a veterinarian to travel, with AeroMexico and Volaris requiring certificates within 5 days of the travel day.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com