Traveling with my dog in Mexico


Mexico, along with the United States and Canada, is the country I have spent more time with Cocaí and, therefore, the one I know the most about when it comes to drawing conclusions about what it means to travel, and live, with your dog here.

We are going to divide this section into three parts, corresponding to the three stages of our Mexican experience. We will talk in each of them of the journey made, the duration of it, and the means of transport used. Then, already at a general level, I will describe the sections of accommodation, establishments, others, papers and final assessment.

1. YUCATAN PENINSULA AND CHIAPAS

JOURNEY

Madrid – Cancún – Puerto Morelos – Playa del Carmen – Tulum – Akumal – Felipe Carrillo Puerto – Bacalar – Reserva de la Biosfera Calakmul – Escárcega – Emiliano Zapata – Palenque – PN Palenque – Misol Ha – Cascadas de Agua Azul – Vuelta a Escárcega – Champotón – Campeche – Mérida – Progreso – Chichén Itzá – Cancún – Playa del Carmen – Cancún – Monterrey.

LENGHT OF THE TRIP

Three weeks.

TRANSPORTATION

Bus. Only from Cancun to Playa del Carmen (and from Playa del Carmen to Cancun on the way back), taking advantage of the fact that we had the cage (Cocaí traveled in the cellar. Also, some drivers let us come on board, like this van on the route Emiliano Zapata - Palenque (Coqui traveled with me), as well as several pick-ups (passenger vans) in the areas surrounding Mishol Ha and Agua Azul Waterfalls. In Chiapas area you can try to get on the buses/trucks, surely more than one will tell you that there is no problem.

These trucks are very common in the mountains/jungle between Palenque and Ocosingo, Chiapas

Hitchhiking. Once we left the kennel in Playa del Carmen we started the adventure with our thumbs. Sometimes it was fast and sometimes not really… That is the common rule when one travels in this way. It is usually more difficult to travel with your dog in Mexico than, for example, in the US or Canada. You can read more about traveling by finger in Mexico in this post.

Coqui sheltered in the shade while I asked for a ride

2. MONTERREY AS A BASE POINT

JOURNEY

Monterrey – El Salto (Zaragoza)

Monterrey – Ciudad Victoria

Monterrey – Querétaro - Guanajuato

Monterrey – Saltillo – Cuatro Ciénagas

Monterrey – Puebla – Cholula – Oaxaca – Santa María del Tule – Mitla – Hierve el Agua – San José del Pacífico – Puerto Escondido – Laguna Manialtepec – Puerto Suelo

Monterrey – Real de Catorce

Monterrey – Sierra regia

LENGHT OF THE TRIP

4 months.

TRANSPORTATION

Cars of friends. Above all, with Pepe, with whom we went to places like El Salto, Ciudad Victoria or Real de Catorce, in addition to go for a couple of one or two-day-hikes through the beautiful sierra regia. We also went with some friends to Cuatro Ciénagas from Saltillo, and to Guanajuato (from Querétaro) with Vero.

On our way to Guanajuato!

Blablacar. Congratulations to all the dog travelers who want to know Mexico, because they will have a good ally in Blablacar. I find it especially useful for leaving big cities, such as Mexico City, Monterrey itself or Guadalajara. First, because it is in the cities where it is more complicated to ask for a ride (I mean hitchhike), and second, because it is where most trips from Blablacar come from. The car sharing app came to the country of tacos and tequila (and so many other things) a couple of years ago. It was perfect for me during my studies in Monterrey, since traveling by hitchhiking was not very viable when it came to be back on time for classes. In this way we went to Puebla and Querétaro (and returned from these places to Monterrey). It works very well, although it is true that it is still not as popular as in Europe, so there are not so many trips published yet. But it is something that will go further, I am sure.

Returning to Monterrey thanks to BlaBlaCar

Rental car. When my friend María came, we rented a car in Puebla and toured different places in Oaxaca. No anti-dog policy from the rental company.

Traveling with your own car from time to time is appreciated

3. FROM NORTH TO SOUTH AND FROM SOUTH TO NORTH

JOURNEY

Monterrey – Huasteca Potosina – Papantla – El Tajín – Casitas – Puerto de Veracruz – Tlacotalpan – Catemaco – Puerto Ángel – Mazunte – Zipolite – Puerto Escondido – Parque Nacional Laguna de Chacahua – Marquelia – Zihuatanejo – Playa Linda – Morelia – Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca – Pátzcuaro – Tzintzuntzan – Guadalajara – Tepic – Mazatlán – Hermosillo – Bahía Kino – Nogales - Arizona

LENGHT OF THE TRIP

40 days.

TRANSPORTATION

Blablacar. We used it to leave Monterrey towards the beautiful Huasteca Potosina. Also, on the way Morelia - Guadalajara. We tried, then, to leave Guadalajara with the application, but we did not get anything for the dates we needed.

Hitchhiking. We hitchhiked most of the way. The entire trip through the towns and natural areas of the Huasteca Potosina, all of Veracruz from north to south, parts of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacán, the long stretch from Guadalajara to Culiacán, and from Hermosillo to the border with the States. It was an amazing adventure.

Asking for a ride through northern Sonora

Bus. Some buses let us get on them. For example, in a stretch from the interior of Oaxaca to the beach, from the entrance of Laguna de Chacahua Park to Marquelia and, the longest and most important, from a gas station near Culiacán to Guaymas. The excursion to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary was also done by bus (buses), but I left Cocaí in Morelia with a friend.

Thanks to this bus driver that turned a blind eye we advanced several hundred kilometers to the north

Cars of friends. The brother of my dear professor Gabriel gave me a tour around Puerto de Veracruz and took us to Tlacotalpan. With my friend Aydalith and her friends we went to Bahía Kino from Hermosillo.

ACCOMMODATION

It was a very long trip and with several different stages. We did a bit of everything.

House rent. We spent three months renting a house in Monterrey.

Houses of friends. We had several friends on the way: Marisol (Playa del Carmen), Pepe's family (Ciudad Victoria), Andrea and Fersa (Puebla), the brother of my professor Gabriel (Puerto de Veracruz; he also got us a “roof” for one night in home of a friend of his near Tlacotalpan), Miriam (Guadalajara), Aydalith (Hermosillo).

At Andrea's house, in Puebla!

Couchsurfing. We only did it three times, but all three worked great. The pattern was the same for all three occasions, writing a few hours before going and receiving an affirmative answer immediately. Not only were they fast, but also excellent people. We had three incredible and cool hosts. The first “wey” was Pepe, who received us in Monterrey when we arrived from Cancun. We stayed a week... And then almost a month before we finally left the city! The second was Richard who welcomed us in Guanajuato for three nights. It was cool because he had the house full of people, everyone coming for the Independence Day. The third was Eder, with whom we stayed a week in Morelia, including the New Year.

At Pepe and Tecate’s home

Cocaí at Eder’s home with his two little devils

Spontaneous Couchsurfing. That is, without the application. People we met on the way and offered us a roof, or a piece of the garden where we could put the tent. For example, in Emiliano Zapata (crazy story here... read my diaries!), or in the Huasteca Potosina with Estephany and his family. But if someone is worth of carrying off the award is the Ortegón family, who rescued us from the road and adopted us for almost a week in Mérida.

Getting to know people like these is the best thing to travel

Estephany's mother says goodbye from her house

Camping. We camped in the three parts of the Mexican trip. Both in official campsites and doing wild camping: beaches, forests, city squares and even gas stations. In the "first part" we pitch our tent in Puerto Felipe Carrillo, Bacalar, Calakmul, Mishol Ha, Cascadas de Agua Azul, a gas station somewhere between Escárcega and Champotón, and Cancún. In the stage with Monterrey as a base, we camped in places like El Salto, Real de Catorce, Cuatro Ciénagas, Puerto Escondido and several places along the sierra regia. In the third one, we used a lot the tent: Huasteca Potosina, Casitas, Catemaco, Mazunte, Zipolite, Puerto Escondido again, Chacahua, Marquelia, Playa Linda, a gas station somewhere between Guadalajara and Tepic, and Mazatlan. My experience tells me that camping in Mexico is safe, despite all the stories you can hear. I am currently writing a post on traveling with a tent in Mexico.​

Camping at the palapa of a family from Marquelia, Guerrero

Rooms: Puerto Morelos, Campeche, Santa Maria del Tule (cheese shop), Oaxaca, Papantla, Zihuatanejo. It is difficult to find accommodations of this type that admit pets. In fact, in most of these that I quote, they did not even admit her, but they made exceptions or let me stay with the condition of Cocaí slept outside the rooms (in Campeche, for example, she slept in the patio).

Hostel: San José del Pacifico.

We felt very comfortable at the hostel in San José del Pacífico. Cocaí could even sleep in the room

FOOD LOCALS AND OTHER DE COMIDA Y OTROS ESTABLISHMENTS

In establishments it will depend on the owner. In general, taquerías and street stalls usually do not raise objections, but bars and restaurants might do. In the latter they will usually allow you to leave the dog out, tied. This also varies between cities and rural areas, which are much more permissive as a rule. Either way, you will have to know how to make it, because you can not let the Mexican flavors escape. It is a crime!

We came to this taquería in San José del Pacífico like four times. Food was awesome, and so was their chocolate Oaxaca!

This palapa beach (Casitas, Veracruz) not only welcomed us, doggy and human, but also delighted us with this delicious fish dish with its tortillas. On the beach, everything tastes better... Yum!

As for stores and shopping centers, I am not totally sure. I used to go to a mall that was next to my house in Monterrey and it was all good, but it is just an example that I can not extend to the norm. That is, you could probably access some places while others not.

OTHERS

It is common that you can access areas of nature with your dog, even those that involve areas of high biodiversity. Thus, Cocaí has been to places such as Bacalar, Palenque National Park (not in the archaeological zone), Misol Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls, the dunes of Cuatro Ciénagas, Nanciyaga Ecological Reserve in Catemaco, Hierve el Agua, or Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, as well as other some places along the Nuevo León mountains. In addition, I saw dogs in the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary (to which Cocaí did not come, she stayed in Morelia).

Playing under the majestic landscape of Hierve el Agua

María and Cocaí in Bustamante, Nuevo León

You can also take your buddy to many areas on the coast. We have enjoyed the beaches in many places, especially in Veracruz, Oaxaca and Guerrero, which is where most beach tourism we have done. We were never told o leave those places. However, in the most tourist areas the opposite happens. Cancun has banned the dogs on all beaches around. You must go to km 32 outside the hotel zone to find the only dog-friendly beach (cats and ferrets are also allowed in case your buddy is a cat or a ferret instead of a dog). Playa del Carmen is a similar case, but it is enough that you go to the beaches next door, which, in addition, are empty (no people). You only have to walk along the beach a couple of kilometers… And there you go, you already have your own Caribbean paradise. As soon as you get away from the tourist area nobody will tell you anything. Anyway, if you want to enjoy Caribbean beaches, the best thing you could do is not going to either Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Go to smaller towns and less tourist (for example, Puerto Morelos).

Dog-friendly beach in Cancún, km 32

Xcalacoco, a few steps from Playa del Carmen

Outside of the most tourist sites your dog will have all the beach for himself (or herlself). Like this one on the coast of Guerrero

On the other hand, your dog will not be able to culturize himself with the ancient civilizations. The archaeological sites DO NOT allow access to pets. There are always exceptions, such as El Tajín (the only pre-Columbian civilization that Cocaí witnessed!), in Veracruz, but the normal thing is that you can not do this kind of tourism with your buddy. Cocaí could not enter Tulum, Calakmul, Palenque, Chichén Itzá, Mitla or Tzintzuntzán. Leaving Coqui at a friend's house, leaving her in the car, asking a friend to stay with her outside (or visiting the archaeological site in turn), or asking a family or local business for taking care of her (could be just as a favor, but also you can promise them you will come have some food in their restaurant or even give them some money) were the strategies that I carried out for visiting these historical places.

How nice these Totonacs, that allow me to visit their archaeology and their mysteries

As for making excursions or tours with your dog, my experience tells me that they are quite permissive in the country. We made several excursions. One it was to the Ecological Reserve of Nancyaga de Catemaco, in which a boat crossed the entire Catemaco lagoon to the Reserve, and there we stayed in a campsite. The tour was just about the boat, the rest of it we did on our own. We also took a boat tour through some mangroves and beaches around Casitas, Veracruz. Another excursion was in the Huasteca Potosina, a multi-adventure one. It involved parts in bus and parts in a rowboat. Besides Cocaí another dog was in the boat.

Tour to the Tamul Waterfalls in the company of this nice family. (Photo provided by Issablea Aguilar)

Finally, to mention that from my experience of getting around the city of Monterrey with a dog I discovered the Uber/Cabify applications (like private taxis, but much cheaper). They are usually fine with dogs. It only happened to me once that the driver who came to pick us up left, the rest always gave us the service. These applications also work in other large cities such as Mexico City or Guadalajara. No way to get around by public transport.

DOG DOCUMENTATION

They asked me for Coqui’s documentation when we landed in Cancun and, in the same airport, the workers from the Agriculture and Livestock Service filled out her file. All good, very relaxed. Also, as papers are going to be asked at the borders, I recommend rabies vaccine and other lethal viruses such as parvovirus (especially for puppies and young dogs). There are many stray dogs.

ASSESSMENT

We have lived and traveled in Mexico for 6 months. Only in Canada have we been for a longer time. I consider that I have plenty of information to make a fairly realistic assessment of what it means to travel with a dog in this country, as well as to give advice to future travelers. In general, we could say that Mexico is not the easiest place to travel with your dog. Both the transport and accommodation are major obstacles.

In Mexico, as in most countries, it is difficult to travel by public transport, unless you have a cage, or you are in rural areas, where you can try your luck. However, the good news is that there is Blablacar that, although it will not take you always anywhere you want (it is not magic either) it is a tool that will be very useful. Traveling by hitchhiking with your dog in Mexico is very cool, but you also have to admit that it is hard. First, because people distrust the issue of the narcotrafico, and secondly because, although they like dogs, canine culture is not the same, in general, as many countries in Europe or the United States may have. Many people do not conceive that someone will take their dog on a trip and you may find it difficult for them to take him/her with them in their cars. You will need to arm yourself with patience and have a positive attitude to make it more bearable! In any case, there you have those two options, which you can even combine as I did, making some parts raising your finger and others with Blablacar.

As for accommodation, it is not easy to find dog-friendly rooms either. In rural areas it will be easier. What does seem to work well is Couchsurfing, with which you will not only save you money, but you will meet some great weyes. On the other hand, we will always have the tent. In Mexico there is a free way to camp almost anywhere: under the palapa beach of a family, in the mountains or forests, in some town’s square or park, at a gas station... A tent is the best advice I can give you (for any dog destination, not just Mexico): it will always be there to get you out of trouble in a difficult situation (eg you do not find anything in the city or you get stuck on the road) and it will give you the freedom to go several days on a trip to the mountain or wherever. I never felt in danger camping in Mexican territory. On the contrary, I felt protected by its inhabitants.

In summary, the pros and cons:

  • Pros: Availability of Blablacar to travel (especially useful between large cities). Couchsurfing works very well (although I only did it three times, in which it worked perfect, many of my friends agree with me). Freedom to camp almost anywhere you want.

  • Cons: Difficult to get rides. Not many accommodations that admit dogs. Many stray dogs (better care than in other countries, but still fleas and others are lurking). Strict access to National Parks and, especially, to archaeological sites.

  • Degree of difficulty to travel: 7.

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