Homeward Bound! How to get a Dog From Thailand to the UK
The start of a long trip!
Getting a dog from Thailand to the UK is not easy. Searching the internet throws up a multitude of conflicting information and this can be daunting for prospective travellers. We recently left Thailand after living there for two years, and were determined that our dog would be with us every step of the way. As an ordinary family with no veterinary experience, we were unsure where to start or what procedures to follow, so this article details the steps that we took to bring our dog back home to the UK.
For the purposes of pet travel, Thailand is classed as a 'third country' which means that extra regulations apply when preparing your dog for travel. The best advice is to start the procedure early. We were due to move back to the UK at the end of June 2016, so we started preparations in January 2016. Our first step was to consult the advice of DEFRA, the government department in the UK which is responsible for regulating Pet Travel between the UK and other countries. Using the DEFRA Pet Travel website we worked out what steps needed to be followed and in what order (NB. It is important to keep this site under review throughout the procedure as regulations may change overnight.)
Preparing your pet
We started the first step of the process in January 2016. Although our dog had previously been vaccinated, we started the process from scratch. The first thing to do is find a vet who undertakes micro-chipping. Lots of Thai vets offer the service however it is important that the type of microchip they use is an ISO-approved chip. As we were living near Pattaya we found an animal hospital on the Sukhumvit Road who were able to do this for us. We had the microchip implanted in early January and were provided with a certificate to verify this. We also had the vet scan the chip with a reader to check this had worked. One week later, we returned to the veterinary hospital where our dog was given a rabies vaccination. Even though our dog had previously been vaccinated against rabies, we needed to ensure that a new one was given in order to be validated by microchip. We also obtained a new vaccination card at this point. One very important point here, is that when completing the vaccination card, the vet must record date of vaccination and expiry date, but also stamp this with their licence number and sign the entry on the vaccination card by hand. These initial steps were reasonably cheap and cost around 1000 Baht.
Following the rabies vaccination, a minimum period of 30 days must be left (the 30 days start the day after the vaccine has been given) before a blood titre test is carried out. This gives the rabies vaccination time to work. We left a period of 40 days and then returned to the animal hospital where a blood sample was taken from our dog. The blood must be sent to a DEFRA-approved laboratory in Europe for analysis. so the procedure was quite costly and set us back 14,000 Baht. The animal hospital we used sent the sample to an approved laboratory in Germany and then we needed to wait a number of weeks for the result. There are companies in Thailand who have Facebook pages offering blood testing services- they will send samples to an EU Laboratory for around 12,000 Baht, taking the cost down slightly. Once we received confirmation that our dog had passed, we received a Titre Certificate to show that our dog was good to go! Once you have followed these procedures, you must then wait a minimum period of three months from the date that the blood sample was taken, before you can travel with your pet.
Arranging your pet's travel
Once our dog had started the process of getting ready to fly, we started to consider the best way to get her from Thailand to the UK. We learned through the DEFRA website that it is not possible to fly with a pet as excess luggage directly into the UK. Pets must travel as cargo and cannot accompany their owner as luggage. This inevitably ramps up costs. Initially we contacted several shipping companies in the Bangkok area for quotes and were quoted around £2,500.00 for a medium-sized dog. This included the flight crate and the handling costs in Thailand, but not the ground handling fees in the UK, which we were told would be around £500.00. Paying another £3,000 was not an option for us, so we needed to find a cheaper alternative. After researching on the internet, I discovered that many street dog charities in Thailand avoid flying rescue dogs directly into the UK and instead fly to Europe and then travel into the UK by ferry. We decided that this was the route to take as it was significantly cheaper.
- Travel Crate: Once we had decided to fly to Amsterdam with our dog, we needed to obtain a travel crate. This must be airline approved and meet the specifications of the airline you are using-this information is usually published on the airline's website. We found a pet shop in Bangkok which sells travel crates. These can be purchased by mail order or as we found useful, they are happy for you to visit the store with your pet to try the kennels for size. We purchased a travel crate and water bottle for around 5000 baht.
- Flights: There are two main airlines that are recommended for flying a pet into Amsterdam, one is a Dutch airline and the other a German airline. Both airlines allow you to fly with a pet as excess baggage into Amsterdam. (If your pet is small enough to go under the cabin seat in a carrier, it may be permitted to travel in the cabin). The Dutch airline goes directly from Bangkok to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam but flights tend to be more expensive, so we booked the German Airline from Bangkok to Amsterdam with a 3 hour stop at Frankfurt. Once we had booked the flight tickets, we telephoned the airline and requested to book our dog onto the flight as excess baggage. It is important to do this as soon as possible as flight spaces for pets are limited. The airline charges for excess baggage are dependent upon the size of the animal's crate and all that was required when booking was to let the airline know the dimensions of the crate. Some airlines charge by weight but this works out more expensive. We did not need to pay for our pet until we arrived at Bangkok airport, and the cost was around £230.00-much cheaper than £3000.00 cargo!
- Ferry: Whilst it is not possible to travel directly with your pet as excess baggage on a flight into the UK, it is possible to travel into the UK from Amsterdam via Ferry. This must be using a route approved by DEFRA, which for us was from the Hook of Holland to Harwich in the UK. We found the ferry company that provide this route online and booked for four foot passengers and a dog. This cost around £145.00. The sailing takes around 6-7 hours and during this time your pet must be placed into the on-board kennel. After booking we decided to add a cabin to our sailing, which cost around £45.00. The journey is tiring so it offers a good rest option.
- Other considerations: As we had been living in Thailand for 2 years we had accumulated a lot of personal items and given the route we were planning to take back into the UK, it would not be possible for us to travel as a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) with a dog in a crate and lots of suitcases. We were fortunate to be able to send back most of our possessions via my employer's shipping benefit. We were then free to travel home with just rucksacks and the dog crate. If you are planning to use this route, travelling light is advised!
Just before leaving
Once you have completed the initial preparations, there are a few more steps to follow in the days before travelling. 24-120 hours before you enter the UK, you must have your vet treat your dog for Tapeworm. The worming treatment needs to contain the ingredient Praziquantel. Once our vet had given this, they needed to record this on the vaccination card and ensure that they had included the date and time given, along with their stamp and signature. At this point, we also obtained a veterinary health certificate from our own vet to state that our dog was fit to travel. As part of entry into the EU, a form called an Annex IV must also be completed in advance. This can be found on the internet and the only part our vet needed to complete was the Tapeworm (Echinococcus) Section. Again signatures and stamps were important. At this stage, we wanted to make sure that all the paperwork was correct, so we found a pet relocation service in Bangkok which supports moving passengers of the 4-legged variety. The gentleman who runs the company was very useful and checked all paperwork via email, before coming to the Livestock office at Bangkok Airport the day before the flight. The day before flying it is necessary to obtain the third country veterinary certificate and export permit from the government vet. We packed up our rucksacks, put our dog into her crate and booked a minivan to take us all to the airport. The Livestock Department is located in the free zone outside of Bangkok airport (see map) and it is best to arrive early as there can be queues. We met the gentleman from the relocation service, who accompanied us into the office and handled the process for us-he is from the UK, but has lived in Thailand for a number of years, which was great for translation purposes. Our dog was checked by a vet and then there is a wait for the paperwork. As were due to fly the following evening, we were able to leave at that point and board our dog with the relocation agent while we went into Bangkok for a final day of sightseeing. The agent brought our dog to the airport the following evening and had prepared her ready for the flight. He had brought copies of all the permits and attached the water bottle for the dog/copies of documents to her travel crate. The cost of the agent checking the paperwork and coming to the Livestock Department was well spent at 1500 Baht. For an extra 1500 Baht, the agent also came to the airport on the night of the flight, to help check our dog in.
The journey back to the UK
- Flying from Bangkok to Frankfurt
At Bangkok airport we took our dog to the check-in counter in her kennel. Whilst waiting she was permitted to come out of the kennel on her lead to stretch her legs before her long flight. We checked in for the flight and sent our bags off before our pet paperwork was checked, we were then directed to the service counter for the airline, where we paid the flight cost for our dog. You are able to pay in cash or on a credit card. We ensured our dog had an old t-shirt inside the crate for comfort and secured our crate using cable ties. We then moved to the Oversize Baggage area where our dog was passed through the X-Ray Scanner and went through into the baggage lift to be boarded for the flight. Once we had lightened the load we proceeded through customs and boarded the flight to Frankfurt. The journey to Frankfurt was approximately 11 hours and upon arriving in Frankfurt, the glass windows looking out over the runway made it possible to see our dog being driven off the aircraft in her flight crate. Frankfurt is a large airport so it is important to leave sufficient time to get to your connecting flight. Upon arriving at the check-in desk for our flight to Amsterdam, I asked a staff member whether our dog had been boarded onto the next flight and was told that she was on the aircraft and was fine. It was then a short flight of around an hour to Schiphol Airport.
- Flying from Frankfurt to Amsterdam
Once you arrive at Amsterdam you proceed through Customs before entering the baggage hall. As you enter the area through the doors, on the immediate right is a doorway with a lift. We were told to wait for our dog in this area. Our dog came up in the lift and was very pleased to see us. We then collected our luggage from the carousel. Before leaving this area, you need to proceed through the red Customs channel to declare your pet. The paperwork is checked and they ask about the cost of the pet and preparing the pet for travel. I stated that we had spent around £800.00 and that our dog was a rescue pet which seemed to pass fine. We were directed through and were then in Amsterdam. At this point, you are able to take your pet out of the cage as they have officially entered Europe!
- In Amsterdam
As we were travelling with two children, the journey was tiring so we had booked a hotel in Amsterdam to stay overnight and get some rest. We folded the dog crate down and put our dog on her lead, then caught a shuttle-bus from outside the Airport to a dog-friendly hotel close to Amsterdam airport. Hotels in Amsterdam are expensive, but we found a family room for around £100.00 and paid a premium to have our dog stay in the room. She was relieved to be able to get outside and relax after her time in the crate! The following day we needed to get to the Hook of Holland Ferry Port. It is possible to get a train to the Port, which is the cheapest option, however with our bags and the dog crate we booked a taxi from the hotel. The Hook of Holland is around 1 hour away by car, and I asked the hotel to book a minivan for us, however this was expensive at around £250.00. Upon discovering this, I searched online and found a company who charged £100.00. Our dog sat on the floor during the journey and was not expected to be crated.
- Sailing from the Hook of Holland to Harwich
Arrive at the ferry port early for your sailing and wait by the Supervisor's Office inside the terminal as there are lots of pets that use this route. Prior to the sailing, the Supervisor will come out and take your paperwork into the office. This was the most thorough check that was carried out during the journey. Once paperwork is checked, proceed to the boarding queue for the ferry. You have the option to check-in baggage at this point. We found this useful as there was a sign stating that there was building work at Harwich which meant that passengers would need to take a bus to the terminal. We checked our luggage in, including the empty dog crate. This service is free and means that the bags are delivered directly to the terminal at Harwich, saving the need to carry them on and off the ferry. We went through passport control and then wheeled the bags to the luggage deposit. Once the bags were gone, we walked onto the ferry as foot passengers with our dog. Inside the ferry, you need to go to the information desk on the Main Deck where they provide you with a door code for the on-board kennel. This is signposted and is on the deck below. You input the door code and place your dog into one of the kennels. The ferry company provide water bowls and blankets to put into the kennel. As we had booked a cabin, the benefit of this is that you are able to turn on a TV channel and can see your pet during the crossing from the comfort of your cabin. During the crossing, you are also able to visit your pet at any time and there is a small outdoor deck area where you can toilet your pet. While your dog is enjoying the kennel, there are restaurants, bars and a cinema area on-board for human comforts! Just before arriving at Harwich you can collect your pet from the kennel ready to disembark. We boarded a bus and proceeded to the terminal to collect our luggage, before arriving at UK Border control. Again, our dog's paperwork was checked thoroughly before we were finally allowed to enter the UK. If you follow the correct procedures and all paperwork is in order, there is no requirement for quarantine.
Hopefully, this article has been useful in providing some guidance on the procedure to successfully transport your pet from Thailand to the UK, however please remember to check updated information with DEFRA before making travel arrangements. I am by no means an expert on this procedure, just an ordinary person, who rescued a street dog and was determined to get her home!
Good luck and happy travels!
Getting ready for the long journey home...
Suvarnabhumi Livestock Department
Basic cost of taking a dog from Thailand to the UK (approximate and dependent upon exchange rate)
300 Baht (approx)
900 Baht (approx)
Worming Treatment, Veterinary Certificate
1000 Baht (approx)
Flight Crate and water bottle
10,000 Baht (approx)
Ferry from Amsterdam to UK