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Driving Through Mexico With Dogs

We recently found ourselves needing to drive back to our hometown in California with our dogs. Since many residents of Merida (and Mexico) sometimes have the occasion to do the same thing, we thought we would share our experience. With all the negative press about the violence in Mexico, even we, having lived here for nine years and knowing better, were a little spooked about crossing the border. We searched the internet for recent accounts of driving to and from the United States from Mexico, and did not find many. Here, then, is the Working Gringos’ contribution to the store of information that is available about driving in Mexico with dogs.

Sleeping With DogsEscarcega sign

There was never a question that we would bring our two dogs, Mali and URL. The dogs are malixes (Mayan word for “mutt”), callejeros (street dogs), and of course, members of the family. They have lived with us now for almost six years. Our second biggest concern, besides any random violence we might experience, was how to care for them and find a place to sleep with them in a land that considers dogs more like vermin than people.

We set out on a weekday morning to drive from Merida to Central California, where our children live. Our only planned stay was the first night in Villahermosa. From past experience, we knew that driving to Villahermosa was the most we could hope for on the first day. We also had heard that the Hilton, just outside of town on the east and near the airport, accepts dogs. We had our amazing assistant, Beatriz, make reservations for us so that we knew where we would be staying the first night.Campeche Developments

Via Ciudad del Carmen

On this trip, rather than drive through Escarcega and past the turnoff to Palenque, we decided to take the coast road through Ciudad del Carmen. As we were nearing Campeche and looking at the map, we suddenly realized that it might make more sense to go that way (we had always gone the other way in the past). What to do? What to do? We quickly sent a Facebook request to our friends about the best way (they had recently traveled down from the States), and within minutes got the confirmation that this was the fastest route now.

It was about lunchtime by the time we passed Campeche via the cuota road, and we started looking for somewhere to eat. We meant to stop to eat in Champoton, but kept thinking we’d like the next place just a little better… and then before we knew it, there were no more next places! Rather than turn around, we kept going, past the still-being-developed developments of Playa Campeche, Santillana and Playas Palmeras. There actually is a little town of Sabancuy, with a few businesses, and then just beyond that, this mini-resort of Bahia de Tortugas.Bahia de Tortugas in Campeche

A Recommended Stop for Lunch

We call it a mini-resort because it looked like there were a few hotel rooms, a big indoors and air-conditioned dining room and restaurant, and palapa-covered tables outside on the beach. We brought our dogs on leashes out to the beach (pictured in the banner at the top of the page), and found we were sharing the beach and the nearby swimming pool with a group of European travelers who were soaking up the sunshine. It was a gorgeous day and the water was inviting. The dogs got to run on the beach off leash and we got to eat a delicious fresh shrimp ceviche. There were clean bathrooms and even though they charged us $50 pesos each for the dogs, we thought the $411 pesos we spent on lunch was worth it, if only for the lovely setting.

View from Hotel in VillahermosaHilltop Hilton Takes Dogs

From that direction, we entered Villahermosa from the north and had to backtrack to get to the Hilton. By the time we got there, the sun was setting and we were glad to be out of the car. The dogs were welcomed, allowed into the room and there was plenty of space on the top of the hill to walk them around the parking lot and the hotel grounds. We wouldn’t dare let them off leash there, as the hotel is right next to the highway. The sunset view from our walk looked out over the entire city (see the photo on the left). The room was clean and the bed was comfortable. Our room service dinner, the hotel room and the extra $500 pesos for each dog came to $1875 pesos.

Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz and Beyond!Bananas and more!

The next day, we set out to traverse what we remembered as being the worst quality roads on the trip (we did this same trip about four years ago). To our delight, many of those bad roads had been repaired. Right after passing through Villahermosa we stopped at a lovely fruit stand and got some fresh bananas for the drive from one of the vendors along the highway. This would be the first of many stops along the way, where locals set up small puestos (stands) to sell whatever is grown locally. At various times along the trip we bought bananas, mangos, mandarinas (tangerines), honey and pineapple juice.

We did our best to avoid the city of Coatzacoalcos, but somehow managed to go right through it, including paying the $29 peso toll to go over the bridge into the city. Walking dogs on the side of the roadWe remembered having the same experience during the last trip and we’re pretty convinced they have made the signage specifically confusing in order to collect more money! Coatzacoalcos is a fairly unattractive city but one full of services, should you need them, as it is a very important city in the oil industry.

After getting through the city, we did hit some bad roads on the way back to the main highway… roads that were down to one lane due to the collapse of the asphalt into the swamp. Despite that, and the obligatory stop for fresh pineapple juice along the way, we made it to Veracruz by about 3 pm that day. We thought we remembered places up along the beach that we had heard accepted dogs, so we kept on driving.

One of the places we stopped to walk the dogs was right next to Mexico’s only nuclear power plant, Laguna Verde. There was a lovely stretch of well-maintained green grass there, as well as a great view of the beautiful mountains. That part of Veracruz looks a lot like parts of Hawaii. Past Laguna Verde, past towns with signs about evacuation routes in case of a meltdown, past miles of pastureland with pink-blossomed trees… it was all beautiful, but there was nowhere to stay. Now it was getting to be 5 pm and we were getting a little nervous. We were tired and had no desire to drive after dark.

Got Lucky North of Veracruz

When we finally saw the first hotel, we decided to stop there and see if they would accept dogs. The hotel was called Boca de Ovejas (Mouth of Sheep)… perhaps the equivalent of Sheepshead Bay? Working Gringa walked past the two swimming pools and the manicured lawn and asked the bored receptionist in her best Spanish if they wouldn’t please accept dogs? Por favor? He shook his head. She insisted that they were older dogs, well behaved, short haired, very clean… and it was getting dark. Please?

To her surprise and delight, he relented. The fact that there was only one other couple in a hotel that looked like it had at least 40 rooms probably had something to do with it.Beach run at Boca de Ovejas

For $800 pesos, we had a large room on the ground floor with two beds, a TV, an air conditioner and a bathroom. The best part, however, was that the hotel was right on a lovely beach with black sand… another reminder of Hawaii. The beach was far enough away from the highway that we felt comfortable letting the dogs off-leash and we spent a beautiful sunset hour walking and running and playing there. A welcome respite after a day of driving! Dinner ($520 pesos) was outside, with the dogs lying at our feet, and the fresh fish was as good as it gets. The stars sparkled, the night was warm and the service was bemused. We were extremely happy to have found a place that in many ways even topped our Hilton stay in Villahermosa, and we started to feel confident that this trip was going to be a piece of cake.

Not so fast, there, cowboy.

Tuxpam, Tampico and Ciudad Victoria


The next day we got up early, had a quick run on the beach, and headed out by 7 am. We made it into Ciudad Victoria by 7 pm, after NOT getting lost in Tuxpam (we consider this a minor milagro (miracle)….)and only getting lost once in Tampico. Yes, we traveled with the most up-to-date Guia Roji maps of Mexico, but the map did NOT match the territory in Tampico. Still, we made it out without having to ask anyone directions and without getting stopped by the police. It was a long day of driving and we needed to sleep.

Ciudad Victoria was our planned stop for the night so that we could get an early run at the border the next morning. The city was the first place we saw armed military who appeared to be permanently stationed in parts of the city. At one hillside hotel that we passed, we saw a young soldier, barricaded behind sandbags with his loaded machine gun, perusing the passing traffic. We decided not to stop at that hotel, and instead headed for the exit road out of town towards Matamoros, where we planned to go the next day.

The most modern hotels in Ciudad Victoria are clustered around the exit to Monterrey, not too far away. We went to numerous front desks, tried our usual pleading and got absolutely nowhere. None of them would accept dogs, but finally one kind soul suggested we go to the auto hotel a few blocks over. We had heard that those hotels would be amenable to dogs, but had only seen one or two in this town, and they didn’t look amenable even to humans, let alone dogs. At Motel Plaza, we found an understanding manager, who agreed to let us keep the dogs with us, as long as they stayed in the garage. These hotel rooms include garages, so that people can go there and no one will recognize their car. Of course, this fit our bill perfectly. We put the dogs in the garage with their food and dog beds, and kept the door between the closed garage and our very clean hotel room open. Everyone was happy, and if the dogs crept into the room in the middle of the night, no one was the wiser. The room, plus a pizza and a few drinks that night (delivered to the room, of course), was a mere $750 pesos, with the room itself costing only $360 pesos. Sorry, no photos. This place is strictly private!

Run For The Border… But First, A Few Tacos

We were up before dawn, dogs walked, bags packed and ready to go by 6 am the next morning. As we drove towards Matamoros, we did see a few hotels that looked like they might have accepted dogs, but we were glad we had stayed at the Motel Plaza. Despite the hard-as-a-rock bed and the questionable pizza for dinner, we Driving down the roadcould have ended up driving that dusty stretch towards the border at night with no place to sleep… not a pleasant prospect.

About 50 miles from the border, we got hungry and decided to stop for gas. The Pemex station that had looked normal from a mile away turned out to be shut down and closed. (We later found out the owners had been arrested and sent to jail for participating in illegal activities). Next door was a small house that advertised Machaca and Tacos de Carne Asada. We decided to eat there. Mario, a big strapping man of about 30 years old, came out to greet us, dressed in an apron and ready to cook the carne asada. We ordered one order of machaca (to see what it was like…) and two plates of tacos. The machaca came out first, served by Mario’s mother, a silver-haired matriarch with a flowery apron. Mario’s 8 year old daughter set the table (one fork and one tiny tiny napkin each), and then hung around to chat. Mario’s 16 year old son brought us the Coca fria that we shared. While we ate the machaca (delicious dried beef mixed into scrambled eggs, with white corn tortillas and a jalapeño salsa served on the side), we heard a passionate telenovela on the TV inside, accompanied by the family calling and back and forth to each other. When we asked where the baño was, the 8 year old escorted us to very clean bathrooms in the backyard, labeled Damas and Hombres, and surrounded by a flock of free-range family chickens.

The plates of 6 tacos each were more than we could eat, but we did our damnedest because they were delicious. The total bill came to $130 pesos and after leaving a generous tip, and a special tip for the diminutive waitress, we were on our way. What a perfect Mexican experience: friendly people and great food in humble surroundings. Hasta pronto, Mexico! And thanks for all the tacos…

OK, Now We Can Cross

We stopped in Matamoros for a last fill up of gas, and though the gas station attendant was kind and could speak both English and Spanish fluently, we were treated strangely by the people in the store, and the other gas station attendants. We decided to get out of this strange place that seemed to be neither Mexico nor the United States, and headed for the International Crossing.

We got there at 10:30 in the morning and the crossing was practically empty. Note to Self: Cross on a weekday during mid-morning! We chose the shortest line, noting the signs with a word ‘Sentri’. We thought this was a Spanish word we didn’t know yet, but as it turns out, it’s a special program for people who cross the border daily and we were in the wrong line. The border guards told us there would be a ticket the next time we made such a transgression, and then our truck was pulled into the station for inspection. The dogs were greeted, but no one asked to look at their papers which we had so conscientiously obtained. Our passports and visas were inspected, and we gave them a comprabante (a JAPAY bill) for our address in Mexico, but apparently Welcome to Texasthis was only for the Sentri paperwork they had to file. They gave a cursory glance at our belongings and then sent us on our way. The whole thing took less than an half an hour, and would have been ten minutes if we hadn’t been in the wrong line.

Welcome to Texas!

Now, there it was… Welcome (not to the United States but…) to Texas! The next few days were long days of constant driving. We stayed at La Quinta Hotels in San Antonio and Flagstaff because they accept dogs without batting an eyelash. The rooms were clean, the beds were comfortable (certainly, the dogs thought so…) and there were easy places to walk the dogs next to the Dogs sleeping at La Quinta Hotelhotels. It took us another three days of driving to get to the Central Coast of California.

The Cost of Driving 4300 Miles

For our own edification and to share with our readers, we kept track of what we spent. The entire trip was 4300 miles, from Merida, Yucatan to San Luis Obispo, California. We were driving a 14 year old gas-guzzling SUV and pulling a 1-ton trailer. To get from Merida to the border took us three nights and three days, and cost $8,320 pesos, $2,468 pesos of which was for gas. At about 12 pesos to the US dollar, that would be about $695 USD and $210 USD respectively. We traveled about 2000 miles in Mexico. To get from the border to our destination in California was another 2300 miles, and cost us $542 USD in gas. The gas prices are about $2.80 USD in Mexico, below $3.50 USD in the heart of Texas, and are above $4.00 USD a gallon in California at this writing.

Now, to head back to Merida!! (This time, we’re going to fly… )

****

Bahia de Tortugas in Campeche

The Hilton in Villahermosa that accepts dogs

Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant in Veracruz

Hotel Boca de Ovejas north of Veracruz

Guia Roji Maps of Mexico

The Sentri Program – Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (phew!)

La Quinta Inns – dog friendly lodging, unfortunately only in the United States

 


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54 Responses to “Driving Through Mexico With Dogs”

  1. Glad you all had a safe trip!

    Looks like URL and Mali didn’t mind too much from their restful poses on the bed!

  2. They took full advantage of every hotel room along the way :-)

  3. I am glad to see how you love your dogs! I think everything gone well because you are very nice people. I’m yucatecan from Ticul, and for me is a problem also to travel with my German Shepard Dog “Huter” we need more hotels that accept dogs, and more places to take care our dogs in Merida if we need to travel.
    thanks for your story.

  4. I love the part about eating the machaca and tacos with the family! That’s the Mexico we love! Interesting reading, thanks!!!

  5. So glad that you, Jim and dogs arrived safely! Wish we knew about your experience before my son made the trip. A young man traveling alone with a dog is not greeted as warmly as you, and, for the record, we agree with you take on Coatzacoalcos. To be avoided with or without a pet!

  6. GREAT ADVENTURE / and a great narrative that was very conversational and engaging…LOVE READING your stuff!

    I can hardly wait for another “adventure” story from you and Jim.

    Hope you enjoy your stay in Calif…but hurry back to Merida.

  7. Sounds like you had a fun trip, I hope you will contribute your pet friendly hotels to the people who are maintaining a great database at:

    http://gringodog.com/pet-friendly-hotels-mexico/

    All the best,

    Nancy in Mazatlán

  8. What a great article with tons of relevant info – thanks so much for taking the time to update the driving info for all of us. Enjoy California but Merida misses all 4 of you!!

  9. Wow – what a trip – glad you guys made it back safely. I will be traveling with a 1994 Chrysler LeBaron and was glad to hear that your car made it back safely, along with you and your dogs.

  10. Loved your travelogue with dogs. Thank you. We drove from Nova Scotia, Canada, to Monterrey,NL, with our little Max, and sometimes had difficulty finding a dog friendly hotel in the US. What we have found especially interesting and a pleasant surprise, is the warm response from our new Mexican neighbours to our little, well trained, groomed and enchanting Dachshund. The local children are absolutely fascinated by him and cluster round the gate to pet him and give him treats. I’m guessing they just don’t ordinarily get this kind of intimacy with dogs. I recently turned my back on him for just 10 seconds and the little devil squeezed through the gate railings in pursuit of the next door cat, with whom he is keen to become acquainted. Realizing he was missing I ran frantically into the street calling his name. Several neighbours came out in response to join in the search and finally, a very disgruntled Max was retrieved by a girl from her back yard where he had indeed been getting acquainted with their (very well-looked-after) cat.

  11. Although we have taken the “Gulf route” in the past we have been told that it is safer to stick to the cuotas because of the drug wars. It is definitely muy barato to follow the coast up so maybe we will do that. Also, we have taken both routes south from Campeche and found the coastal route to be slower. What has changed? There was one town that seemed to have a tope every ten feet!
    We have also stayed in autotels with our perrito and found them to be very clean. Probably because they are used several times a day and are cleaned often?

  12. Dig this story…thanks so much for tracking it so well, along w/ the prices.
    Hugs and welcome back to CA!!

  13. Am usually happy to read the details of road trips to or from Merida and the USA, and am particularly happy when the experiences are as positive and pleasantly related as yours! I note you did not try transversing the barren landscape and roads within Mexico along the border westward (barren except for around El Paso and various small towns east of El Paso). No Big Bend National Park.

  14. This past January, my wife and I drove to Mérida via Brownsville Texas and back. Our relatively pleasant trip was marred by an expensive “mordita” in Alta Mira, just north of Tampico. These corrupt cops are really getting outrageously bold. One of them had slowed his motorcycle down to 10 mph in front of us and after we passed him on the left we were stopped and told this was illegal. This was on a multilane road and they wanted $300.00 USD for having passed on the left! We hemmed, hawed and stalled, pleading poverty and finally got out of there after giving them $100.00. The next morning we proceeded to make a complaint at Tampico city hall. We were told this was common and regrettable and that the locals were also frequently victimized. A new administration and regional council was taking up the problem soon. Not soon enough!

    On our way back to the US in early March, we got into a fender bender in Veracruz. Who would know to stop at intersections with no stop signs or stop lights? Evidently only the locals. No injuries and all involved were very polite. Our Sanborn insurance policy took care of everything, but we had to stay an extra 5 days to get our car fixed locally as per the terms of the policy. So we got a better look at Veracruz than we’d intended. Not a bad town. We also checked out the restaurants at the mangroves in Mandinga, and the Hernan Cortes house in La Antiqua.

    Anyway…stuff happens. It was otherwise a lovely trip along the Gulf coast.

  15. So sorry to hear about the mordita… we were similarly stopped four years ago, twice! But this time, the gods were on our side… or maybe it was the dogs that were on our side :-)

  16. Not really sure what has changed, but the roads seemed great south of Campeche to Ciudad del Carmen and the drive was easy. We would definitely make that choice again. Even the signage through Ciudad del Carmen was good…

  17. Thanks, everyone, for all the kind wishes. We will indeed be back to Merida soon. And yes, Nancy, we will update the gringodog.com website as best we can.

  18. Ellen—Very interested in your drive from Merida to the US via Ciudad Victoria and Matamoros with your dogs. We have driven that route for 5 years and can identify with everything you wrote….especially the not-so-good feeling in Matamoros where we’ve have a misadventure with a transito officer. Really enjoyed this article especially with all the bad press lately.

  19. I really enjoyed this article! I drove from Canada south via roughly the same route you took to Merida. I was a single woman travelling with my miniature poodle and my kindergarten aged son at the time!
    I too had all my paperwork for my little dog ready and available and was not asked to produce it (neither during entry nor exit). The border crossing both ways was amazingly fast – so fast the first time (heading into Mexico) I thought perhaps I did something wrong. It was just too easy!
    Throughout the coastal drive, I repeatedly had difficulty in finding a hotel where they would accept my dog in the room. At one particular hotel they said he would have to stay in the parking lot, in a hut there. Finally they allowed me to have him in the room in his crate, but it took some negotiating. Then I realised I would not bother mentioning him until the end of the transaction, by which time usually they would make the exception because he was small and had a kennel. I think by that point, after I signed for the room, they were more reluctant to cancel the transaction. I did not have to pay a dog surcharge at any of the hotels I ended up staying at. This was a couple of years ago now, so I will not bother mentioning the hotels, as they have probably either changed hands or policies.
    I was also pulled over for a bribe. I refused to pay it, flat out, and yes it was bold on my part – but I was not backing down. I told them I did not have that much money. That they would have to give me the ticket. They saw I was a lone woman with a young child – which may have played a part in why they backed down. I gave them 200 pesos :) They had wanted 2000. I thought 2000 was ridiculous, too much money for no reason (they said they pulled me over for speeding, which I was not, I was the slowest car on the road). The 200 pesos I gave them would not kill me, and would be something for them to walk away with. It also helps to keep only a little bit of cash in your wallet. The majority of cash in another area unseen. That way if you open your wallet to give them 200 pesos and have nothing left in it – they will back down a lot sooner than if you have 5000 bulging in plain sight. Also speak only English if you are driving a foreign-plated car. After all you are being pulled over for being a gringo, make them talk to you in English, tell them you don’t understand what is going on etc. etc. – trust me it helps!
    I recall the road mentioned by Berta – There was tope after tope after tope - every 10 feet, on a single lane road through the town. You would think I would remember the name of the town, since I spent an eternity driving through it :)
    I have flown back since my epic road trip, but I hope to make the drive down again – it was a great adventure!

  20. Very informative – Glad your trip was safe – Thank you for the information

  21. Very interesting article and trip.

    I have a couple questions, though. Why did you not drive up the Pacific coast? It seems like you went a very long way for an ultimate destination of central California. Second, did you have your Mexican plates on the car? If so, do you think that may have helped avoid mordidas? Did the Mexican plates cause any problems in the USA? Does your Mexican car insurance cover you?

    Thanks,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we hope to someday make a similar journey, but in the opposite direction.

  22. Kim, we didn’t drive up the Pacific Coast because we wanted to get to the US as quickly as possible. It is easier to find places to stay with dogs in the US, so we decided to spend more time driving through the US than Mexico. We were coming from the Yucatan… it doesn’t really matter which coast we drive up, it’s the same distance (look at a map). Yes, we have Yucatan plates on the car. Yes, it may have helped avoid problems. We were stopped once or twice in the US at the stations that check to see if you are importing fruits and veggies across state lines. They probably would’ve just waved us on if we’d had US plates. Instead, they talked to us. Once we opened our mouths, it was obvious we were not Mexican and we were waved through. No, our Mexican car insurance only covers us in Mexico. We had to buy US insurance to cover us in the US.

  23. My Dear Gringo Friends, I’m learning so much from you! I’m reading every bit I can of your comings and goings. I still have to wait for my final trip/move/expate adios from the great NW Oregon. I’ll be driving down all the way to my new home of Merida to find a new life! I sat down and figured out that with my humble PERS retirement and SS monthly’s, I can’t afford to live in the USA (at least figuring NW OREGON) but in lovely Mexico I’ll do all lot right. I’m thrilled everytime I hear about a wonderful trip!

  24. Congratulations on a good adventure. I used to drive back and forth from Seattle several times a year, usually just me and sometimes a dog. My favorite dog lodging story was the time it was almost dark and I hadn’t found a place that would take me and my adorable companion. I forgot what city it was – Tampico, maybe. I pulled into a no-tell Motel, the kind where the cashier is behind a drawn shade so he can’t see you.
    We negotiated with difficulty and he finally opened up the shade. He wasn’t as disturbed with me bringing the dog in as he was with the fact that I wanted to spend the entire night. I had to pay the equivalent of several short stays.
    Chick and I enjoyed the room which had a complimentary bottle of tequila, mirror on the ceiling, x-rated movies on TV, our own garage and lots of grass to walk on.
    I’m excited at the prospect of the Tampa ferry starting up soon, as I am too much of a chicken to drive through northern Mexico at this point.
    Mazel tov. Glad you had a good trip.
    b

  25. Glad to hear you made it safely. We’ve been driving to Houston for a number of years now; for the last 5 years, 3-4 times a year! In fact, I have a detailed travel log for anyone who’s interested (including where the clean bathrooms are) and we recommend Motel Plaza. Now that we’re back in Merida and plan on driving in July, it’s good to hear about a recent trip and updated costs.

  26. Thanks for the article. We can identify with what you experienced and others who have commented. My wife and I have made the round trip from Indy to Merida (using the coast road route) for the last several years with our 2 long haired dachsunds. Just wanted to add that in Tampico the Bonita Inn on the north side of the city is a good stop that accepts dogs. They take a $300 peso deposit which is returnable if there are no “accidents”. They rent 1 BR “cabins” that you drive up to in a large wooded area setting type lot right off the main road (Tampico-Alta Mira 180) that is ideal for the dogs, etc. Also, just north of Veracruz there is a hotel in the center of Cardel on the southwest corner of the main plaza (sorry don’t remember the name) that allowed the dogs for $100 pesos per dog.

    Our trip down this year we flew with the dogs ($250 USD each for the round trip)because of our concerns about the violence up north and driving a new Yukon XL could make us a target. We would like to see the proposed re-start of the ferry come by next year. We have to admit that we did “miss” the drive this year.

  27. Thank you so much for your report, and for the tip about the Bonita Inn. Sounds like a great place!

  28. We’ve planned our trip down to Merida for 2 years but now read about horrible violence along Rt 101. Assume this is the Route that you guys took. What I’m hearing… is it valid since you just made safe trips within the past few weeks?? We really need to drive with 2 dogs and can not fly. We’ve sold everything and almost ready and now this awful violence is reported with mass graves, etc.

  29. Kay, we did travel on Route 101 up the East Coast of Mexico. Though the most recent article doesn’t say so, it is our understanding that the mass graves and the murders associated with them are related to Mexicans that either are in the drug business or that the cartels are trying to recruit to join them. There are few violent incidents against foreigners… far fewer than the murders that happen almost daily in large metropolitan areas like Chicago or New York. We felt and apparently were safe in our travels, and have heard the same from others who have taken the trip recently. The area along the border is definitely sketchy… the place seems to belong to neither country. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, but everywhere else we traveled within Mexico seemed to be just fine, as noted in the article.

  30. Thank you for an interesting article. I was planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta last Nov. but chickened out after reading about the violence in Northren mexico. I was planning on staying six months and had rented a small house just North of the PTO vallarta airport. Perhaps I will drive down the Baha and take the ferry to Mazataland??
    Mexico is such a beautiful Country with very friendly people, for the most part.

  31. Enjoyed seeing this account of your travels driving out of Mexico. I was starting to wonder if we would see the dogs. Glad you had a picture of them as well. We’ll share this post on our Facebook page. Thanks, Rafael.

  32. did the trip this winter, and learned the wonders of the autohotel. Great places reasonable cost for a 8-12 hr stay. next trip we will try and only stay at these, some are quite comfortable and fancy. The hotels along the way over charged us big time. As I kept saying we just need some sleep and a shower. We are traveling not vacationing. happy trails

  33. Dear “working gringos” thanks for your very interesting & descriptive trip through Mexico. I still remember when a carton of American cigarettes would take care of the “mordida” I now carry a Mexican Government booklet given to all those who ask for it that instructs all travelers as to what to do in case of encountering corrupt officials. Take their names; act as if you are about to make a phone call, politely request their address so you may be able to “mail” the required amount of money and flatly refuse to give them any money !! I am now a permanent Merida resident and look forward to visit family and friends in California and other parts of the U.S. I believe the Pacific coast route may be faster and more amenable and yes!! why not leave your pets at a reputable local kennel. Keep in mind that throughout the U.S. there are “no dogs allowed” signs everywhere.!!

  34. I enjoyed reading this very much. I drove down from Michigan to Cozumel alone in 2004. I drove back in 2005 and returned the same year. I took the same route more or less but bypassed Coatzacoalcos by traveling the highway through Minatitlan. (If I’m remembering correctly.) I needed to replace my fuel pump by the time I reached Minatitlan on that northbound trip and luckily I have friends in Naranjito, a suburb. They helped me get my van fixed in Coatzacoalcos. Otherwise I don’t think I would have traveled through it. I laughed right out loud when you said it was a milagro that you didn’t get lost in Tuxpan. My first trip down that was the only place where I was lost and when I read your remark, I laughed right out loud! Is it a typo or did you actually pay 500 pesos per dog in Villahermosa? You said 1,875 for the room and dinner, but of that you said 500 pesos for each dog. Earlier you said 50 pesos per dog on the beach. Was that for the room as well and a typo for the 500? I was thinking it was two different charges. On my trips I had no dogs with me and had no incidents with the police. But that was a while ago. Nice to hear that it isn’t as dangerous as the papers and TV make it sound. My good friends drove to Missouri a few months ago and saw headless bodies lying in a parking lot (might have been that Pemex that you mentioned). Shook them up and they have yet to decide if they want to drive back down. I’m going to suggest they read your story. It might help calm their nerves. Again, really enjoyed reading about your experience.
    I hadn’t heard that the Tampa ferry is going to give it another shot…anyone have info they can send to me? This is the first I’ve heard about it. Thanks! Trudy

  35. Hi Trudy, that was $500 pesos per dog… not a typo. At that hotel, the dogs actually cost more than the people!! As for the ferry, there are rumours, but a lot of hoops for someone to jump through before it happens. I wouldn’t hold your breath…

  36. To “Cay” – April 19, 2011

    We’d very much be interested in getting a copy of your travel log. We are planning a drive down in the Fall – from Tucson to Merida and would very much appreciate the info.

    Thanks

  37. WE are looking at driving to Merida and would be coming from southeast/Atlanta. What would be the best route? WIll have our dogs!!

  38. Maggie, the dogs will not be a problem coming over the border. Just keep in mind that it is harder to find places to stay with dogs in Mexico. There are websites that list places that accept dogs. You could also check on YoListo.com to speak with people that have just made that trip recently. Buen viaje!

  39. I can’t tell by article WHEN you last traveled but my husband and I are considering driving to Merida in a new U.S. plated vehicle but am worried a bit on our security. We live in Baja and would cross over on ferry and go thru Guadalajara. Would appreciate ur opinion or if you know of recent travelers’ experience. Also, how long can you keep a U.S. plated car in Merida?

  40. In our opinion, the worst part of Mexico to travel in is right at the border. Our experience is that the rest of the country is very safe, and the roads are good. Just take the normal precautions and you should be fine. Also it is our understanding that your vehicle can be in the country as long as you can… it’s status is tied to your visa.

  41. Was the cost including the hotel and food, or was it just the tolls and the gas?

  42. That was hotels, food, tolls and gas.

  43. We are driving to Vancouver from Belize beginning of July, with 4 dogs! 3 westies and one big friendly shepherd. Intended route is Villahormosa, Puebla, Queretaro or Sin Louis Potosi, Laredo.
    Does anyone have advice,tips, including pet-friendly places.

  44. @ Retirees: I just did the drive north in February with two large dogs and three cats. The site below is a very good reference and I used it, with success, basically along the route you are taking. Definitely call the hotel ahead to confirm that they will take dogs inside the room and fees. As accepting dogs may simply mean ‘if they are kept in the car’ overnight -I did run into that. (Not any on this list, a dog friend recommendation) Also, as you must know, try not to drive at night and map out your dog hotel before dusk. Especially around Puebla right now, crazy highway construction.

    http://gringodog.com/pet-friendly-hotels-mexico/

  45. Thank you for your feedback!!

  46. I would be most obliged if you could send us your road map as we will be doing this trip in reverse next month.

    caroline

  47. If you made the trip in early 2011, the road comments are sadly out of date for the trip from Champoton to Villahermasa. The road between Champoton and Escarcega has been newly repaved/upgraded (2013). Between Escarcega and Palanque, alot of construction has taken place in the past two years with many kilometers of new divide highway. After having driven down and up from Eastern Canada to Merida each year for the past fifteen years, hauling an RV, my wife and I look at each trip as an adventure!
    Avoid Tuxpam, Tampico (use bypass), and Veracruz as the local police look upon us as cash cows waiting to be milked. If stopped, ask to take their picture, refuse to speak Spanish, and have your partner (pretend to) make a phone call to the Federal Police. Nine times out of ten, this will have them tell you to drive safely and send you on your way. NEVER ALLOW YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE TO LEAVE YOUR HAND!

    Alas the l-o-n-g little town on the coastal route with the topes every ten meters has not changed.
    Trip from Merida clocked 2130 km. cost $5510 pesos fuel with $1446 pesos for tolls .
    Cross the border early in the day, drive only in the day time, follow the posted speed limits and enjoy the Mexican country side. 500 km from border, you are as safe or safer than in the US!

  48. Brian, thank you for this update. A lot changes in two years, so yes, parts of this trip story are out of date. But now, thanks to you, we have the updated information!!

  49. Hola fellow Mexico travelers. We made the trip from the Texas border to Tulum twice, once in 2012 with our two dogs and cargo trailer, and once the summer of 2013 with the dogs. We used the toll roads thru central Mexico both times. The roads are excellent and you make good time. As has been the experience here, traveling with dogs is a challenge. We had two nights in hotels that allowed us to bring the dogs into the rooms. One used a deposit that was returned easily after the room inspection the following morning. The other was a late night, talk the inn keeper into letting us bring them in the room. The majority of the time we have used the motor hotels. We pull in, I hop out and negotiate for the room and pay. My husband and dogs are in the vehicle, and hopefully not doing anything to cause notice. After we pull in, we close the garage door and we are good. We have to make sure we have had our meal and the dogs have been walked. Hate to do it this way, but there are few options, especially with hound dogs, even though they are well behaved and quiet.

    I love driving through beautiful Mexico, and have never seen anything to feel threatened. DO NOT pay bribes, it only encourages the practice. We have been stopped for ridiculous offenses, like not having a cage for the dogs inside our vehicle or driving with a trailer thru a town. We politely insist that a ticket be issued and we are sent on our way. One time the police did ask us to borrow a pen to write the ticket with, and we said no. He cheerfully wished us on our way, me laughing all the way. It is all part of the adventure, right?

  50. Hello! My husband, I and 3 dogs are looking to travel from Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras in late fall, early winter 2014 and are curious if there are any folks traveling the same route which would be interested in traveling in a convoy…we drove from Eagle Pass to Tulum in Dec 2013 & back to the USA in late Jan 2014. We drove a F150 with 2 paddle boards on top & bikes on the back!!!

    Our route which was easy down 57D and found dog friendly hotels along the way with lovely accommodations of the most part….We took a rest day in Queretaro on trip South, and on the way back stayed a few days in San Miguel de Allende.

    Trip South:
    Piedras Negras to Satillo (Hotel Rancho El Morillo) http://www.ranchoelmorillo.com
    Satillo to Queretaro (Hotel Casa Azul in Historic Center)
    Queretaro to Puebla (Intercontinental Hotel)
    Puebla to Villahermosa (Hilton)
    Villahermosa to Escarcega (160 miles in 7 hours-short day very bad road conditions due to road work) Gran Hotel Colonial (best hotel & pretty grim)
    Escarcega to Puerto Morelos (via Champoton, Campeche, & Merida)

    Trip North:
    Tulum to Merida (Hotel Delores Alba)
    Merida to Cuidad del Carmen (Hacienda Real Hotel)
    Cuidad del Carmen to Cordoba (Comfort Inn & Suites)
    Cordoba to San Miguel de Allende (Posada del la Aldea)
    San Miguel de Allende to Satillo (Hotel Rancho El Morillo)
    Satillo to Piedras Negras

    Hotel Rancho El Morillo in Satillo is an amazing family hacienda run by 2 sisters & they have an amazing chef, Irma, who has worked there for 43 years. One of the best meals in Mexico & our dogs were WELCOME, too! The ladies make their own tequila with a pear in the bottle!

    TRAVELLING THE COASTAL ROUTE CUIDAD DEL CARMEN VS ESCARCEGA WAS MUCH QUICKER FOR US, EVEN WITH THE TOPAS!!!

    We would probably shorten the travel South by a day…Super EZ with dogs & they were a great distraction @ the federal police stops on the tollways!

    Tip: If you are needing gas soon & are on the toll road, get gas when you see a station.
    It might be a long time before more services are near!!!

  51. “Karen” who wrote on August 8th, 2014:

    We are traveling with our two dogs from Indiana to Merida (beach area outside of Progreso) from Eagle Pass in November. Our rental begins on November 15th, so would like to arrive either on that date or very soon after. Please let me know if this might work for you to caravan. Also, is there a list of motor hotels in that you know of? I know the Hilton in Villahermosa will accept them with deposit. But other than that I don’t have any idea of where we might be overnighting. Will an overnight in Saltillo be necessary? The hacienda sounds wonderful!
    Thanks…Judy

  52. I did drive from SoCal all the way to Merida along the Sonoran Coast with my beloved pit-bull. I did not have any issues… I just drove in the daytime because of the bad reports I was told about. After Mazatlan I drove as much as I could, due to bad weather conditions. My Tom Tom never let me down as I updated it with the latest maps available and have a Guia Roji 2014 Mexican Road Edition, which I used to highlight my route. From Guadalajara I mostly avoided toll roads. The driving was slower but I really enjoyed the back roads and the chances to stop and take some pictures. I’m planning to take a trip again some time next year to bring my cruiser from California. Thanks for sharing !!!!

  53. “Judy” wrote on August 27th, 2014. Thank you for your post…sorry it has taken me so long to reply…to answer your questions:
    There is not a list of Motor Hotels that I know of. We used the Mexican 2014 Road Map book, as well as, our Navigation system. A couple of times the Navigation took us on a more rustic route which was quicker. We had very little issue with the dogs…used bringfido.com which was a great guide. An overnight in Saltillo would not be necessary if crossing the border very early, then it is easy to get to Matehuala to stay overnight. On our journey last year we got held up at immigration for a bit waiting on a car permit, so arrived in Saltillo near dusk and decided not to drive at all during evening hours. The hacienda in Saltillo is wonderful!

    What day do you all plan to be in Eagle Pass and will you spend the night there?

  54. Hello, I am curious what people think about the recent (August 2014~ http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/mexico-travel-warning.html ) travel advisory/warning put out by the US State Department? I was looking forward to driving from the US down to Mexico City with the family (dog and 4 kids) but the reports about all the border states, unavoidable, are a bit worrisome. Would a dark Van/SUV type car loaded with kids, and topped with rooftop carrier be too much of a sitting duck? From the recent posts above, it seems people aren’t so concerned with the travel advisory. Perhaps it’s not so dangerous. Has anyone changed their travel plans based on these warning?

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