Border crossing information

Since we didn’t have a computer during the first week of being in Mexico, I haven’t had a chance to share the details of the border crossing experience. Before we left, I’d researched a number of differnet websites to find information on border crossings, and phone numbers i’d found were not very helpful. Crossing between two countries makes things a bit more difficult, and its not that well documented from what i’ve found. So, if you’re looking for info, don’t quote me on correctness, but this is how it happend in our experience.

We had crossed into the states before by car, and were only required to show our passports and answer a few questions from Canada to the US, and for the dog, it was said that we required an up to date list of his vaccinations (namely rabies), which wasn’t asked for at either time of crossing. Our lab was thrilled to receive a dog cookie from the patrol guy at the window as we drove up, just like at Tim’s or Dairy Queen, he thought. From the US into Mexico (we crossed in Nogales, AZ) is a bit of a different story… Here’s what we were told we would need:

-Passports (we also had photocopies for each border crossing)

-Vehicle registration with proof of ownership or title of the vehicle (made copies of those too, with drivers licence on same page just in case)

-Mexican car insurance (as our Canadian insurance was not valid, we decided to purchase Mexican insurance online for about $500 for the 4 months), FYI, we had to say whether we owned the vehicle or whether there was a lease or finance on the car. If we didin’t own it outright we were told we’d require a letter from the financial institution saying we could bring the vehicle into Mexico. In our case, we were not allowed us to bring our car across without paying for it outright. So, we did end up paying out the rest of the finance term, and in hindsight I think if you checked off that you owned the car, but actually didn’t, the only way they would find out was if your car was in an accident and had to be repaired.  Better safe than sorry I’d say.

-Tourist Visas which we ended up getting just after you go through US security check at Nogales (where you either get flagged for a vehicle Xray or you have to drive a weavy set of pilons through) and then once you pass through there’s a booth on the right hand side, where we filled out our visas and had them stamped. From there you drive another 21km to the actual crossing on the Mexico side where you pay for the visa and do the rest of the paperwork.

-For Nixon (our dog) we were told we would need an update of his shots (requiring an up to date rabies vaccine), and a letter of health from our vet within 72 hours of the border crossing. We were also told to watch what dog food we brough across into the States as they were being sticky about that, but when I called the border patrol guy basically giggled at me. No one asked for a single item of paperwork for Nixon at the Mexican crossing, they noticed him in there, and smiled, then let us go (he looks healthy), which is pretty much how we’d heard it would go. We still got the letter from the vet, but it had been just longer than the 72 hours. For peace of mind we also got him a couple extra things to come down here, a leptospirosis shot (a series of 2 vaccines to cover parasites), and a flea/tick/heartworm med (which we put in the skin between his shoulder blades every 30 days and its good for swimming).  Check with your vet about these before you go. We have a 5 month supply with us. As for dog food we bought a medium sized bag of his regular stuff at home, enough to get through a couple of weeks, although now that it’s almost gone, we’re still looking for a decent brand at a good price. We’ve heard its very expensive down here (3x the price for certain kinds) and you can’t always find what you need, or what your dogs been eating, at least not consistently. So far, i’ve seen Science diet, Royal Canin, and Eukanuba, and I’ve hear Purina’s Pro plan is around closeby as well. It seems more difficult to find the big bags of large breed food.

The border crossing itself: Once you get to km 21, you have to get out and do your paperwork at a series of booths. First, if you haven’t done so already, get the tourist visas and fill them out, get them stamped. Then, go to the photocopy booth and copy them (as well as your vehicle registration and passports if you haven’t done so already for $o.25 each). Then go to the “bank” booth and pay for your tourist visa (about $250 pesos) and your vehicle permit (it seems you can use visa, or cash, US or Mex pesos for these) and you need to show your passports, and vehicle registration or title here. Then go back to the visa booth near the parking lot and have the guy stamp and okay your paperwork, then you are on your way! We were there from 0730 to 0830 and it was very quiet, but we’ve heard that sometimes the lines can be very frustrating especially because its not that clear what you need to have at what particular booth. Oh and dress warm because it’s chilly in the morning (0.5 degrees celcius) and its all outside in the shade. Be patient also, as the process is time consuming.

So, that sums up the border crossing for our trip from Calgary to Bucerias. We took 5 full days to drive here, stopping in Idaho Falls, Las Vegas, Nogales, and Los Mochis (which I don’t suggest) to sleep. Take the toll roads, they are worth the extra money, and watch for cops in Mexico because there are quite a few giving tickets. For gas, you have to pay cash, so make sure you have enough (there are lots of ATM’s around too). We were told not to drive at night on the highways d/t speed bumps, animals, and bandits, so we avoided driving after dark, although some people we’ve talked to say its pretty safe. When we were trying to calculate where to stop overnight in Mexico we didn’t know what the driving situation would be like and our GPS was saying it would take alot longer than it actually did. We did at least 100-120ish on the highways so it helps to know where you can expect to have to stop for the night. We knew of a website with some helpful information on where to stay with dogs (, but some the information is from other sources that have updated them over time, which was a bit limited or had changed since, but we used it as a guide anyway. We ended up smuggling our lab into a motel because we didn’t want to risk not finding a place to stay. We made a bad decision here and don’t wish to share where we stayed as it didn’t feel very safe, but we also noticed it was close to one of the hotels mentioned on the Gringo dog site (but we didn’t see it until later). I think in general the city seemed a bit sketchy, but perhaps a better hotel choice would have been okay for a quick pit stop in a pinch. After talking to people in our condo complex about where they stay (with or without dogs), some towns that have been mentioned are Obregon, Navajoa (a couple with german sheperd stayed near the chrysler dealership), Guasave, and Mazatlan.

If you’ve got any tips to share with us, let us know. Many people we’ve met in the last couple weeks have done the drive many times over the years, and we hope to use them as references for more information in the future.

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