Guest post by Vivian Harvey. Vivian has lived in Mexico for 15 years and has traveled extensively through this country as well as Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala. She now spends four months each winter in Panajachel, Guatemala and travels with her dog, Sadie. You can find out about her educational travel seminars by going to her website.
Six years ago my son and his family gave me a long-haired miniature blonde dachshund, Sadie, and she is by far the best gift I’ve ever received. Sadie and I now go just about everywhere together. As soon as the suitcases come out, Sadie hops in, never wanting to be left behind. On our four-month annual trek to Guatemala each winter, a number of people ask me about the in and outs of travel with a dog; here’s what I’ve learned.
Each country’s requirement is different — Sadie has been to Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala, and for each of these I read the guidelines as listed on the countries’ web sites for “animal importation.” None of these countries require a quarantine period of time, but each has specific requirements, with Guatemala’s being the most detailed (and expensive).
Each airline has different requirements
We generally fly on United Airlines to Guatemala, but for flights within the United States, different airlines have different requirements as to cost, size of dog, and advance notice. As soon as I make my own flight reservation I contact the airlines directly to make the reservation for Sadie. Getting through a large airport is sometimes a challenge, and the dog carrier on wheels I have is worth its weight in gold. United won’t allow any other carry on bag (though I do have my purse and computer with me) which I consider unfair since I have to pay for the dog. Sadie weighs about 13 pounds, and most airlines seem to have a weight limit of about 18 pounds to travel in the cabin with me. On the advice of my vet I give Sadie a mild sedative, and she sleeps most of the trip and doesn’t require a “relief stop” as long as the connecting flights work out to be relatively brief.
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Getting back into the United States has even more requirements — For Mexico and Guatemala, Sadie had to be checked by a local vet in country and papers filled out as to her health, not a big deal, but essential paperwork to show at Customs in the United States.
These have to be timed to be done fairly close to the departure time.
Be sure the place you’re visiting is dog friendly
I stay in Panajachel each winter, and the hotel and restaurants are quite dog friendly. This is not true of other places in Guatemala, and if I go to Antigua or Guatemala City, I get a dog sitter for Sadie for the day or overnight. Before my first winter in Panajachel, I asked the management of the Hotel Regis if I could bring a small dog, and it took a while to get the permission, but now Sadie is a member of the family there, and she enjoys the warmth and hospitality of Guatemala as much as I do.
Keep the food consistent
I have found the type of food that Sadie eats at home to be available in Guatemala for about what I pay at home, though it’s a bit of a task to get it. This was a concern the first year I went to Guatemala and I worried a bit about locating a good vet, both in case of illness and to be sure the “going home paperwork” was all in order. It turned out that this was not a problem, good vets in Antigua and Panajachel.
The overall cost is not insignificant
With the additional vet costs and “official paper work” (both in the US and in Guatemala) of about $300, the flight costs (total of $250 round trip on United Airlines), and occasional dog sitters (about $150), this not something which I’d suggest for a short vacation. But for a lengthy stay of four months and for the companionship of my dog, taking Sadie with me is well worth the price. She is also a great conversation starter, both with local people and with other tourists, and I suspect that more people in Panajachel know Sadie’s name than know mine.
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