Seriously considering an overseas move but we have 4 dogs and 2 cats, and I noticed that many places have small apartments / condos as their primary form of housing. I’d like to be near / on water, reasonably near a town of some size, and in a dog-friendly community where aI can get a place with a decent sized yard (one of our dogs weighs 100 pounds and needs to run a bit in addition to the exercise I give her). Which destinations are better for families with pets? We’re looking at Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Portugal, Lake Chapala, Ensenada and Spain. Any tips about moving overseas with a large pet family would be appreciated.
Suzan Haskins – IL Editor
You probably already know that to move your pets anywhere internationally, they will need all their vaccinations (rabies given 6 months prior to the move) and an international health certificate obtained and notarized by your state ag department 10 days ahead of your move. And you def need to work this out with the airlines ahead of time… not certain about this but they may require one adult per pet on board.
That said, you could drive to Lake Chapala or Ensenada and not have to deal with the airlines at all. And those would be great places for pets. (Our 90-lb. lab lived with us at Lake Chapala, as well as in San Miguel de Allende and Merida, Panama, and Nicaragua.) Any of the places you’ve mentioned will be fine for animals, you just need to find the right property. Panama does have a 45-day in-house quarantine, which is really no big deal.I would not, though recommend living in Panama City with your dogs as that will probably be apartment living and with that many dogs, it would be tough. But you could go to Coronado or another area of the country and be just fine… plenty of homes with yards available.
Jason Holland – IL Roving Latin America Editor
I’ll chime in about Costa Rica. It’s a very dog-friendly country. Lots of qualified and low cost vets. You can get specialty dog foods… all that stuff. There are many different housing options here, including homes with large fenced yards. If you’re trying to rent, you might have an issue having so many animals. But I do plenty of people with large numbers of pets who rent. So it’s a matter of finding the right landlord.
The process of bringing pets into the country is easy. As Suzan mentioned, there is some paperwork to be done. You can find details on Costa Rica here: https://internationalliving.com/2012/06/how-to-travel-with-pets-to-costa-rica/
There is no quarantine. But you should check with the airlines on any restrictions or regulations.
Glynna Prentice – IL Mexico Editor
I’ll chime in with the others. As they’ve noted, you can take your pets to any of the countries you mention, so I won’t repeat what they’ve said–all good advice.
But given the number of pets you have and all the paperwork involved, Mexico makes a lot of sense in practical terms. Keep in mind that you can drive your pets to Mexico, whereas for anyplace farther away you’ll probably be flying. Your big dogs will definitely need to go in the pressurized cargo area, and depending on the country the airlines can charge up to $200 per pet… and that’s assuming that they travel the same time you do. As someone mentioned, there may also be a limit on the number of pets any one individual can fly with. Also, there are embargoes over traveling with pets in the hold during summer season, and the risk of a pet’s going astray during travel rises a lot if you have connecting, rather than a direct, flight.
So these are all things to keep in mind. I have friends who travel with their large dogs, and I travel with my small dog in-cabin, so people do travel with their pets all the time.
Ann Kuffner – IL Belize Correspondent
Belize is a dog and cat friendly country. There is no quarantine requirement in Belize. I’ve responded to another similar question on this forum, about the requirements when one moves a dog to Belize, so I won’t repeat the details again. But here’s the link to BAHA, the government organization that controls movement of animals in and out of Belize. http://www.baha.bz/animal_health.html. Feel free to search for my prior post on this topic.
You are right that many expats live in condos in the popular beach towns, such as San Pedro/Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker and Placencia. A condo would definitely not work for your family. Few homeowners associations would allow you to keep this number and size of animals in a condo. So you’ll need a house with a yard.
Here are my suggestions, if you decide you’d like to pursue moving to Belize:
– Consider beach towns on the mainland first, as they have more homes with property/yards. And they are less expensive. Consider Corozal and Punta Gorda, which are less expensive and have more houses than condos. If you were willing to move off the sea, San Ignacio would be great, and inexpensive.
– If you want to look at Placencia and the cayes, look for houses on the lagoon, or a few blocks from the beach. That’s where the houses with yards are and the rents are more reasonable. We have a decent yard for our two dogs. But we live 3 blocks from the beach, on Ambergris Caye.
Jessica Ramesch – IL Panama Editor
International Living Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch here. As my colleagues have already provided a wealth of info, I’ll only add a few things about Panama.
Firstly, it’s a common misconception that Panama City is all skyscrapers and few other options. For five years I owned a home in the Clayton sector of the large, green Ancon district of Panama City…just one of the areas in which you’ll find mostly houses and low buildings. Lots of families in Ancon…and I’d say more than 50% (maybe as much as 80%) have dogs. A few of the rentals on the market are not cat-friendly (usually furnished ones). I rent (unfurnished) and have two cats.
Dogs and cats tend to be welcome in all the countries featured in IL publications (birds, for example, are much more difficult to relocate with), so…knowing that that won’t be an issue, you may have to consider other criteria to narrow down your list of potential countries (climate, etc).
I’ll add that the paperwork can seem overwhelming, no matter which country you move to, but if you just take it one step at a time it’s actually quite an organized process and not too onerous.
Panama’s “in house quarantine” is on the honor system…officials generally allow you to leave the airport with your pet, with a request that you keep your pet indoors for 40 days.
Finally, pet owners in Latin America can seem much more lax than in “First World” areas like Western Europe or the US/Canada. For example not everyone here is great about picking up after their dogs (people are learning but no one gets all bent out of shape if someone fails to comply). Your neighbors are likely to have dogs that haven’t been perfectly trained, so sometimes they will bark into the night. Locals do not view this as a problem.
Availability of pet foods, meds, and good vets is excellent in Panama.
Hope all our replies have helped give you some insight.
Best of luck with everything,
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