Travelling with a Dog in Asia – Korea Specific


Little Beach, Hoi An

I have moved a few times with my little Yorky and so far I have managed the process on my own. . Most of the relocations have been within Asia so I thought I’d share a few insights on carrying a dog in the cabin with you that I have gleaned along the way. So far we have moved from South Korea to Vietnam, then to Thailand, to Russia, and back to South Korea, so those are the areas that I can share a little information about. You MUST always double check the information though as the rules and regulations can change very quickly and what works today may not work tomorrow, especially in Asia, but a little research via the internet can usually give you the updates.

There are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to ensure both you and the dog are happy with the outcome so you need to get started on the process early. Every destination has its own set of rules and regulation so you need to do some good research if you are going to do this on your own. There are a lot of companies that specialize in pet relocation, but there is a cost involved in using them and its not actually that difficult to organize it all yourself if you have time and energy. It will certainly save you money.

My little girl is very small, a real handbag size dog, so she can travel with me in the cabin and that certainly gives me piece of mind. Most airlines that allow ‘Pets in the Cabin’ (PETC) have a size/weight restriction and you need to check that carefully, most also only allow one pet per passenger. All pets must travel in an approved travel container (usually a bag for in cabin travel). These are easy to buy and do not have to be expensive.

Missy loves her bag ...

Missy loves her bag …

My first step is always to search for an airline that will allow ‘Pets in the Cabin’. I have used Vietnam Airlines who allow PETC between certain destinations only, so you need to check your destination carefully and you need to purchase a Business Class ticket.  The web site suggests that this includes the cost for carrying a pet, but it does not. You still have to pay to carry your pet and this is done at the airport when you check in.  Korean Airlines also allow PETC but in all classes of travel, as do Thai Airways. Thai Airways seems to allow a heavier weight than most. There is always a cost for this service but it is quite reasonable and varies between carriers so is worth looking into if you have a choice of carriers. I paid about $US35 to carry my little girl on Vietnam Airlines in 2012, and around $US60 for Korean and Thai Air.  Missy Fleur and her bag weigh just under 3 kilos.

In all cases the carriers require that you contact them and register the request to carry a pet in the cabin.   As long as your pets vaccination are up to date booking itself should prove relatively simple.  The time frame for registering a request varies between airlines and cannot usually be done via the internet so you will need to either phone or email them. I tend to rely on email as there is often a language barrier and email filters this as they allocate you to an English speaker. I made dozens of call to the Vietnam Airlines Seoul office and it took about two weeks before I finally found someone that had very limited English that could verify my booking was secure, and that I could carry my little girl both internationally and domestically with them. It was the first time I had done it so I needed the verbal confirmation – it’s the last time I have tried using the phone as it usually just turns into an exercise in frustration.

Most airline will ask for a copy of all vaccination certificates, the dimensions and weight of her travelling bag, photographs of the bag and the dog, and the dog’s weight when you register a request.  I’ve attached the confirmation details they sent me;

Vietnam Airlines headquarters has confirmed pet in cabin service already.

Please note that Vietnam Airlines apply PETC regulation as below.

1. Passenger must be in possession of valid health papers for the pet. Please bring all document to the airport.

2. Pet and container is not included in free baggage allowance, therefore passenger should pay PETC charge at the airport.

3. The pet must not have an offensive smell or otherwise cause annoyance to other passengers.

4. Final acceptance is always subject to Captain’s approval and removal to cargo compartment may be Order at any time.

So what paperwork do you need? . You cannot relocate a pet without having a file full of documents and there is a cost attached to every document you need. These documents make up what is referred to in Europe as a Pet Passport. If you ensure you always have your pet’s vaccinations up to date this is just a paperwork exercise. My little girl was born in Korea so I had always made sure she was vaccinated for everything.  Rabies is an issue in Korea, it is very well controlled, but I certainly wasn’t going to take any risks and so she was up to date and I had only used one vet so it was a simple, if slightly costly, exercise.  Most airlines, and destination countries, want a full list of every vaccination your pet has had including the date, dose and batch number. Rabies is the big one, the last vaccination has to be within 12 months of the leaving date and no more recently than 30 days prior to travel.  Many destinations also require that dogs are micro-chipped.

Fleurs Vaccination Certificate -edited for blog

A Korean Veterinary Certificate

Most good vets will actually have the documents you need and will be able to guide you in the process. In all the locations I have lived in I have found a vet that speaks English.  Most vets training in Asia have to speak some English as much of their study is in English. Vietnam might be the exception, but there are two fabulous vets there, one in Hanoi and one in Ho Chi Minh City who both trained overseas. I did not need to use a vet in Hanoi so I can offer no first hand experience but I used Dr Nghia in Ho Chi Minh for the relocation to Thailand process and he was fabulous.  His English is perfect as he trained in the UK.  He is kind, caring, knowledgeable and very helpful.  I would certainly recommend him very highly.

I am a bit of a control freak, and I’ve lived in Asia long enough to need to double check everything, so if you are like me and you want to make sure you have everything you need you will also find all the documents are freely available on the internet. There is no need to pay for these documents. There are a number of web sites that will sell them to you for anywhere between $14 and $30 US dollars, but I really don’t see the need to pay for things you can easily locate yourself.

The basic list of the documents needed to create a Pet Passport are;

A Veterinary Certificate and a Vaccination Record

For dogs the usual list of vaccinations required includes;

Rabies, Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus and Para influenza

Most airlines also require a Health Certificate signed within, usually, 10 days of travel. This is a last minute check for the airlines to make sure your pooch is fit to travel, doesn’t have fleas, and will manage such a trip.

All the destinations we have traveled to allow a pet that is fully vaccinated to enter the country without any quarantine period. We simply had to see the Quarantine office at the exit point and at the entry point.

If your vaccinations are up to date the cost is not huge, and there is no quarantine period to go into Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or Thailand. The whole process is a little onerous and time consuming, but worth it to be able to take my little girl with me.

Korea Specific

(I’ve got separate posts for Vietnam and Thailand as the page was getting just a bit too long.)

Interestingly the issue of having to see the Quarantine office to take my little girl out of Korea was not well publicized. Fortunately I was told about this early and I then spent a number of hours researching this on the net. I have yet to find a place that actually says you have to do this!  There is lots of information about bringing a pet into Korea, but little about taking one out.


Your pet has to be seen by a vet at the Korean Quarantine Office with 48 hours of travel and this can only be done at the airport or a shipping port. The Quarantine offices web site states that they are only open from 9 am until 5 pm and the process must be completed at least three hours prior to travel. As my flight was due to depart at 10 am I thought I was going to have to do it the day before I travelled. not a fun prospect as it was a 5 hour round trip for me.   Fortunately I mentioned this to my vet and she assured me I would not have to make an extra trip to the airport to meet this need. She phoned the office on my behalf to double check that there would be someone there to see my little girl.  She told me that there was an officer on duty for all the hours the airport was open and that there was a phone number on the door if the office was closed and a Quarantine office would come no matter the hour.

The phone number for the Incheon (Seoul) Airport Quarantine office is ( +82 )032 740 2660.

I arrived at 7 am and the whole process took less than 10 minutes. It was not expensive, about 10,000 won (in 2012) for her to see the vet and have the paperwork signed off.

4 thoughts on “Travelling with a Dog in Asia – Korea Specific

  1. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you make this website yourself or did you
    hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking
    to design my own blog and would like to know where u
    got this from. thank you

    • Thank you Rose 🙂
      I have used WordPress for some time now and all the bells and whistles are a part of the blog themes they offer as a part of membership here.

      I do subscribe now as the annual fee is, I think, very inexpensive and it allows me a little more freedom in the appearance. Having said that, I used it as a free site for the first 6 years I used WordPress. Once I was really comfortable with it I elected to pay the annual fee so I could tweak it a little more.

      WordPress offers a huge range of themes to choose from and the ability to personalise them, even the free themes. I am no tech guru so I used the tutorial sites offered a lot and found it very easy to find out what I had to do. The forums are helpful as well, and people here are very willing to guide you when you ask questions.

      You can start with a free theme and then upgrade it any time you want. I really liked that aspect of WordPress and I never felt pressured to pay for a site. There is so much you can do without having to spend a lot of money, so ‘d say jump in and have a go. You have nothing to lose 🙂

      I have been very remiss since I returned to Korea and have not been updating it as often as I should, but work has kept me very busy. Hopefully I can start to blog regularly again soon.

      Feel free to ask if there is anything I can do to help, although as I said, I am really just a beginner but I might be able to point you i the right direction 🙂

    • Hi Elizabeth! I’m happy to hear that.

      South Korea was certainly the easiest place with a pooch and Russia is proving to be the same. It seems little companions (and big too actually) are very welcome here and I have met some lovely people while taking Missy walking.

      Forget Thailand (for a whole lot of reasons) as the issues with dogs there is just too hard. I had problems just taking her for a walk as there are so many stray dogs and they are not friendly and almost ever vaccinated against anything. Three teachers I know were bitten just walking home, and then spent weeks having Rabies shots. Landlords are also very reluctant to rent condos to people with dogs, which is actually hilarious given that most westerns dogs are cleaner than many of the local tenants (not my words, the words of a landlord that did allow me to rent her condo ….).
      Vietnam was also very easy as long as you stick to the main centers where vets are very accessible and very good.

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