Getting through customs and immigration in Vietnam was so easy it was almost funny. No-one even looked at the dog or her papers. I went to the naughty person queue, you now the one, the one you have to go to when you have things to declare. Actually that is the best one to go to as you get through really fast when you use that queue. But this time I really did have something, being the dog. It was just a breeze, they just waved me through. No-one wanted to see anything, the dog, the paperwork or me it seemed.
I spent a good number of hours on the internet planning my vacation and travel within Vietnam. Research and asking questions seemed to be the answer. I assumed I could fly between destinations domestically in Vietnam if I booked a business class ticket. Their web site states the costs for traveling with a Pet in the Cabin domestically and I had checked this verbally while I was still in Korea. This was a good lesson in beware what you read on an internet site and getting advice outside of the country from an airline representative. This is particularly important in Asia where saving face is a huge issue and they will often agree to things that cannot happen in order to prevent any conflict. Yes often actually means no.
When I tried to book an internal flight, a one hour flight from Hanoi to Da Nang, and it appeared the rules had changed for domestic travel with a pet. The hotel I stayed in offered to book the flight for me, and I was fine with that, but then they said there was a problem and that I needed to go to the Vietnam Airlines office. So off I trotted thinking they just wanted to see the relevant Vet Certificates, although I had thought they would still have them on record from the international flight a mere 4 days previously. Three and a half hours later I finally excited the office! It appeared that the web site page stating a price for taking a pet in the cabin was in error as it they did not actually offer that service domestically. I pushed a little at that reply as I had been told by a local that ‘NO’ was the default position and persisting often came with a favourable outcome. So I did persevere, politely of course. I thought it would be resolved and that I was just going through the same rigmarole that I had in South Korea of having to submit all the Vet Certificates multiple times.
The final answer was still no, my pet would have to travel to travel in the hold! Needless to say this did make me grumpy. It had taken them all day to decide this and there was no explanation other than there was a mistake on their web site and that the staff I had spoken to previously had made a mistake…Sorry! End of story.
So I needed to find another way to travel and that left me with buses and trains. I had read on a number of sites (mostly blog based and a couple of years old) that pets could not travel on trains and buses. I’m still not sure about the buses but after a brief email to Vietnam Railways it seemed that I can take Missy Fleur with me on the train! I have posted their lovely response;
Oh yes, You can take it with you to get in train. If you can keep her not noisy and clean J
Many Thanks and Best Regard,
Vietnam Railway System
Cell: +84 904 619 926
Needless to say I printed a copy of this and took it with me every time I boarded a train!
Thank goodness for puppy nappies, the train trips are long! I had read very mixed reviews about the trains in Vietnam but they all stated that the loo was always a problem, usually pretty grotty and smelly, and that the bedding provided in the sleeping cabins was dubious in its cleanliness to say the least. So I was highly amused that the reply from Vietnam Railways made comment about her being clean.
So the train adventure began, and an adventure it was. I booked a berth in a 4 berth cabin for the first 18 hour leg of my trip. You can elect to buy all four berths in the hope of getting the room to yourself but everyone I spoke to said that was nuts as the railway staff used any free berth to sleep in. And I really didn’t have that much of a problem with having to share the cabin. I figured I wouldn’t be getting much sleep anyway. The trip was hilarious. I was sharing with a French couple around my own age who had very limited English and a young German girl with fabulous English. Although I had booked a lower berth I took pity on the French couple as they had one up and one down. She obviously was not going to climb up and he was over six foot tall and it was insanity for him to be up there so I offered them by berth. Although the climbing up and down was a little hairy until I got the hang of it I was glad I had made the sacrifice as the German lass was also ‘upstairs’ and proved to be a wonderful traveling companion. She was having a ball travelling around Vietnam and had wonderful stories to share. I spent much of the trip laughing hysterically, much to the chagrin of the couple below I suspect.
Traveling by train in Vietnam is certainly an adventure but quite doable with a dog, and I think it is an experience to be had by all. Yes, the loo is dirty and smelly, and the sheets are grey not white, but it is such an interesting experience that I think everyone should do it at least once.
Pet Friendly Hotels
Hotel booking can be a challenge when you need a place that’s pet friendly. My first destination was Hanoi and I wanted to book in advance. I just couldn’t face the thought of being in Hanoi with nowhere to sleep, at least the first night! Surprisingly it was actually very easy. I contacted a few places that looked OK over the internet and asked the question. Relying on the Pet Friendly filter on hotel booking sites is never a good idea. I got a positive response from all the hotels I contacted, so I booked the first weeks accommodation. I was warmly welcomed at every hotel I stayed in in Vietnam. The staff all seemed delighted that I had my little girl with me and we often returned home to find they had left a little treat for her in the fridge, cooked and minced chicken, beef and pork were all offered up. And when I asked for a small bowl of rice and milk for her they were so happy to help and wanted to watch her eat rice. They seemed very amused by the fact that it is her favourite food. So Vietnam gets 5 stars (out of 5!) for its pet friendly accommodation facilities.