Roadtrips and visa runs

Our route from Lake Chapala to McAllen, TX

Our inaugural Mexican visa run is upon us.

Has it really been six months already?

We wish we could fly up to Seattle to visit my dad, but unfortunately our car also has obligations. It’s got a 6-month vehicle import sticker that needs to be turned in as we leave Mexico and replaced when we return. This must be done at one of the aduana (customs) offices along the border.

Road trips used to have a bit of magic about them.

  • Me, chatting with Mark or staring out the window and pretending for hours on end. Like I used to do as a kid when my Dad and I made our annual pilgrimage from California to Vancouver Island for a week of salmon fishing, raspberry picking, and orca spotting.
  • Mark, settling happily into a long drive.
  • Scout, mainlining movies on her laptop and scoring occasional junk food from gas-station stores. It’s food she doesn’t actually like, but being on a road trip makes it special and interesting. And, fortunately, she usually remembers pretty quickly that she doesn’t actually like it.
  • Archie, perching on my lap—the only place high enough for him to see out the window—watching the world whiz by in a blur.

However my enthusiasm for long drives has waned, replaced by a weary ambivalence. Perhaps it’s because we logged so many miles in Europe and Turkey last year. Or maybe it’s because Mexican hospitality doesn’t extend to dogs. It can be stressful finding an affordable-but-not-creepy hotel that will take Archie.

During our recent trip to Querétaro, we couldn’t locate the hotel (miles out of town) we’d booked ahead of time. Darkness fell as  we stopped at hotel after hotel, only to be turned away because of the dog. Panic had settled over the Subaru. Talk of sleeping in the back of the wagon with Archie made everyone a bit tense.

At one last hotel we tried again. It was nearly 10 pm, and we were all bone tired.

The young fellow behind the counter shook his head. Desperate, I begged—really begged—in raggedy Spanish for my small, quiet, clean dog to stay. The man took pity, invited his colleagues to huddle, and after a few minutes of whispered exchanges, Archie was invited to stay along with a $1000-peso deposit. I nearly wept out of gratitude and relief.

Hopefully this time the road will rise up to meet us and our dog.

Wish us luck!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kirsty Bartholomew March 10, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Good luck – looking forward to hearing about it on the other side!

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2 Living Outside of the Box March 11, 2013 at 12:27 am

Oh, how nice that they conferred and allowed Archie to stay! I can understand their hesitation. Personally, we can tell if cats have stayed in a room we stay in…b/c our noses gush and eyes weep all night! They’re probably thinking more about the messes…but there are other factors that can’t be controlled that affect other people’s stay as well. It’s so nice that they were willing to bend for you, though! Good luck with the border run!

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3 Renee March 11, 2013 at 8:22 am

In my perfect world, all hotels would have designated pet rooms. Then allergic guests won’t be inconvenienced, but the families with pets would have a lot more options.

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4 Jen March 11, 2013 at 9:18 am

Exactly! Make perfect sense! We’ll even pay extra! Geesh!
Safe travels!

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5 Tom Medsger March 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

Greetings to all the D’Antonis, including Archie, of course,

Thanks for this latest, Renee, an instructive, realistic, and personal account of your adventures, as always. I also enjoyed the story of your butterfly stopover in Michoacan.

Since coming back to L.A. from Querétaro, I think of it every day, all day, and especially on Sunday mornings, one of my favorite times there. I go to El Arcangel, a small corner cafe near the Hotel Hidalgo, for freshly baked muffins and really good coffee, with sun streaming in the windows.

I have already signed up to go back in February 2014, and I was also glad to see on the Global Volunteers web site that they have resumed the two-week programs in Dolores Hidalgo. Dolores is also well worth doing, a grittier complement to the more urban and sophisticated Querétaro experience.

Have a good visa run. I look forward to hearing about it!

Best wishes,
Tom Medsger

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6 Annie André March 18, 2013 at 7:29 am

How stressful. I hate doing visa runs. It’s one of the reasons why we chose to get a long stay visa in France so that we could come and go when we please with out that added stress of having to leave just because the stamp in your passport is a ticking clock. I digress, funny, i never new that Dogs were not welcome. I just assumed that they would be more accepting of dogs. We see dogs everywhere here. Just yesterday I was in the grocery store and saw a small dog in a lady’s purse as she handled the tomatoes.

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7 Renee March 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Annie, yes long-stay visas are so much easier. But I’m not sure we’ll be in Mexico long enough to warrant one. We’ll probably be here another year, and then head to Ecuador and destinations further south. After that, back to Europe (quite possibly France) or Turkey.

You’re right, France is wonderful for dog owners. Our lives were much easier there, dog wise.

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8 Susan Ramirez July 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Hi! We are just about to begin our own adventures in Mexico, with our dog Quincy, hopefully this coming week. We were not aware of the USDA certification. I have read on the USDA website that Mexico does not require it. But the vet that we just went to in Galveston, Texas said they do, so we had the vet fill out the necessary paperwork and off we sent it overnight to the USDA, with overnight return envelope pre-paid enclosed. But we forgot the fee! Aargg! So, as I did more research I came upon your blog (thank you very much for sharing your experiences- it helps others like me)! So now I am thinking of using the form that the vet filled out alone (in case the MX officials actually happen to check it) and seeing if there is a quick and easy way to get the USDA their money without having to wait too long. I offered PayPal, Chase Quick Send, credit card, etc in the email I just sent. 🙂

Next is the travel within Mexico. I have been worrying about hotels that accept dogs. Have you made a list of the hotels where you’ve stayed? I’ve only seen one website with hotel recommendations within Mexico. I also have the idea that for more than 1 night stays, we will likely rent from VRBO. I have seen many vrbo rentals in vacation spots that are dog friendly. Please share information if you have it. Dogs are dogs in Mexico, not so much an extension of the family like in some parts of the world. Even dogs that are treat well and beloved. My Mexican husband is going to have a readjustment period, I think. He’s been away 16 years and has transformed into a “gringo” with our dog, who is definitely a “person” in our family!

Susan, A Fellow Wanderer

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9 Renee July 9, 2013 at 11:28 am

Good news. If you use a vet in the border zone (Texas, New Mexico, or Arizona) and their name, address and license info is printed on the certificate, you do NOT need the USDA signature! Here is a USDA link to the regulations for pet dogs entering Mexico.

Yes, I can recommend hotels. Sadly they’re not always easy to find but they’re out there. And it’s great that your husband (and you?) speak Spanish, because some hotels are flexible if you can chat with the manager about it.

Are you a member of the “On the Road in Mexico” facebook group? If not, go join. I’m an admin there. We have a list of dog-friendly hotels. We drove to Texas recently and stopped in Zacatecas or Saltillo, so I’ve got recommendations for pet-friendly hotels in those cities.

What’s your destination in Mexico?

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10 Susan Ramirez July 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Oh! I see! I will join. Great. We will end up in Pachuca, Hidalgo. But we are stopping to visit my sister in law in Saltillo on the way and we plan to travel whenever possible while we’re here (for a year to begin with). So…Gracias!

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