Importing/Exporting Pets From Vietnam

20 05 2011
Ve Nha

Are we going home yet?


Somehow it seemed relatively easy to import our three dogs into Vietnam. Yes, we did hire a pet-forwarder in Dubai to take care of all the paperwork but we didn’t encounter too much hassle at customs in Hanoi. All we needed to make sure was that our dogs were current on their rabies shot and they had a clean bill of health. I am not sure if Vietnam has restrictions for certain breed types, I know Dubai did so please check.


Fortunately, the U.S. is a non-rabies free country, so there is NO quarantine requirement for bringing the dogs back into the country. Sadly, many other countries require that pets be quarantined for up to six months depending on the country (e.g. of rabies-free country: Australia, U.K. Hong Kong, Singapore, Jamaica, St. Lucia, to name but a few). We thought it would be fairly easy getting our dogs out of Vietnam. Wrong! The biggest problem was our largest dog who weighs 54 kilos (105 lbs). He uses the Vari-kennel 700 Series for Mastifs and other big dogs. No planes flying through the Pacific could accommodate such a large kennel. The largest kennel size permitted on flights over the Pacific is the Vari-kennel 500 series (40x 27x 30 inches), a total of 97 inches. We were able to book our other three dogs as “checked baggage” on United Airlines for $250 per dog. Depending on the route/plane a passenger is allowed up to 4 dogs. The route was from Saigon to Hong Kong to Chicago to Orlando. A long and grueling flight for the dogs, with over 25 hours fly/transit times.


1. Transit Permit for Hong Kong. You can download the form on their website. One-page, easy to fill out. For three dogs it cost around $75 USD. Once the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative/ AFCD receives it, it takes them 5 working days to process. I sent mine to Hong Kong via  FedEX, they got it the next day. Now, through my moving company Asian Tigers, I arranged for the permit to be sent back via TNT courier because I simply cannot trust something so valuable and critical to the Vietnamese postal service. In all it took about 1.5 weeks. Since the permit is good for 1 year. I would do it sooner than later. NOTE: MUST SEND HONG KONG DOLLAR/ MONEY ORDER VIA HSBC… I went to one of the few branches that does it…. right by the church/ Highlands Coffee… near-ish to Vincomm Mall… but since I didn’t have an account with HSBC and they wouldn’t give me a money order, I had to get my friend who is an account holder to help me out!
2. International Health Certification (7 day window before you leave). Some airlines WILL accept Dr. Nghia’s certificate. Lufthansa and United Airlines did NOT. The Health Inspection Office is in Thanh Binh District, Dr. Nghia has the address. It cost 65,000 dong to process and 24-hours. You will need a copy of your passport/ visa/ e-ticket/ Pet Book inside first page and shots page/ also bring along your transit permit in case they want to see it. You will ALSO need to bring your dogs for inspection. Mine sat out in the taxi, panting until the officer came around to looking at them. Surprisingly, they were pretty nice… BUT bring along somebody Vietnamese and leave some “tea money”
3. Rabies Vaccination no less than 30 days no more than 1 year (I believe you are good on that).
4. Micro-chip. I know that the U.S. required that our dogs have a micro-chip when we exported them from America but they do not need one coming in.. yet United Airlines specifically asked for their microchip number… so it is best to have!

5. Other Transit Permits. My friend flew her dog via Taiwan to Canada on EVA Air and she needed to get a transit permit from Taiwan as well.

6. Most Pet-Friendly Airline Out Of Vietnam. Avoid Vietnam Airways at all costs. They had no clue in how to handle/transport and I would be scared to leave something so precious in their care. I knew a few people who have used EVA Air from Vietnam to transport their dogs to the U.S. but their routes are limited. But a good option. Overall, we were very, very happy with United Airlines. The HCMC staff was VERY professional and courteous. Everyone did a great job in handling our fur-babies.

Hello Kitty

Are we there yet?


I was hoping to save money and do all the paperwork myself for my remaining dog. I’ve flown enough times with them I had a good understanding of what is required… however… do NOT ATTEMPT to book your dog via cargo by yourself. There is a serious racket going on in Vietnam and they either refuse to deal with you or give you the wrong information on purpose so you are forced to use one of their freight-forwarders (Cathay Pacific: next blog will discuss this horrible, unscrupulous affair). Save yourself the trouble and vexation. Go with Santa Fe Moving Company. Anh Vo is the owner/ pet re-locater. They did a good job in getting our big dog out of Vietnam. Of course not without many hurdles e.g. Lufthansa Cargo HCMC is completely uninformed and clueless which resulted in me having to contact the Frankfurt office time and time again to get clearance for my dog.


Santa Fe took care of procuring the International Health Certificate on my behalf. I was responsible for making sure my dog was current on his rabies and that he had a microchip. The pet-forwarding company handled all other paperwork from airway bill to export permits.


As two of our dogs are old, I had a bunch of diapers sewn onto their mattress pad so they could relieve themselves during the flight without sitting in the cold wet urine for 25++ hours. I also froze their water in their tray the night before, along with their drip bottle. I affixed a bag of dry food to the top of the kennel and their paperwork (copies of the original: transit permit, rabies cert, health certificate, my passport page, microchip info, airline ticket). My friend took a photo of her dog along with basic information of her pet and pasted it on the kennel..


Never give your dog tranquilizers or calming aids before a flight. Veterinarians strongly discourage this as the animal tends to get more dehydrated and anxious when they wake-up. Also, certain breeds are banned on certain airlines, check ahead. I made the serious mistake of labeling my MUTT as a Mastiff-Mix… he has maybe 10% Mastiff in him, the rest is a combination of 54 other dogs. Well, the airlines refused to fly him because my paper had the word “Mastiff” a breed banned on their flight… eventually we were able to get him cleared.. but it was a harrowing experience.


I always hate to imagine what my dogs endure on these flights.. what the cargo hold is like… but there is NOTHING we can do about this. Dogs are much more resilient then we think. Plus, as my friend said, “what are you worried about, they get more leg room then we do!”
living in Vietnam




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