How to Take Your Dog From Chiang Mai to Trat

Transportation and accommodations can be frustrating to find for pet lovers in Thailand. Here is what Zala and I discovered on our journey to the opposite end of Thailand.

Bangkok Airways is the only airline that will fly 45kg of (Dog+Crate) as checked luggage. Bangkok Airways has always been real great about keeping Zala out of the sun and minimizing her time in a crate the best they can. And as a bonus, I get fed a full meal and as many drinks as I can hold during a 55 minute flight. Meal price is included in the ticket with 21 meal options to chose from ranging from Muslim meals prepared in accordance to Halal rules to gluten free.

Unfortunately, only Bangkok Air’s airbus 319 and 320 can transport Zala’s large crate. The ATR 72 is the only airplane that flies from Bangkok to Trat, and it will only accept a 80 cm long x 45 cm wide x 65 cm crate with a max combined weight of 20kg. Bangkok Airways is the only airline that flies from Bangkok to Trat.

From Bangkok on down, the journey must be completed on the ground.
There is no train.
The cheapest transportation service is the bus. According to a few reviews, individuals have taken cats and puppies in small crates and stowed them below with the luggage.
This is not an option for a 70lb Dutch Shepherd.
The next option is to rent a car. To my knowledge, there are no car rental options in Trat. Any car rental would need to be returned to Bangkok or Pattaya. This is not great option for those choosing to stay in Trat for a long period of time. The drive is at least 5 hours long.
The last option, and most expensive, is a van service. Renting a vehicle with a driver is common in Thailand. You can even rent a songthaew for a day if you wish. The only driver service I found that was willing to transport my big dog + luggage was Bangkok Beyond.

My driver (Tony) was waiting for me at the airport with my name on a sign. I had an entire minibus at my disposal. Zala was allowed out of her crate, and she got to hang her head out the window and enjoy the ride all the way down to the bottom of Thailand. I was given complimentary drinks and essentially free rein to ask for bathroom breaks and meal stops as I pleased. If I had not been anxious to get to Trat before nightfall, I may have taken advantage of this luxury.IMG_0379

The cost of this van service was 5550 baht. This is a lot of money to pay in Thailand for a simple trip from Bangkok to Trat. But the cost of a plane ticket including all my excessive luggage (Zala) is roughly the same amount as the van service and this was a trip my dog got to enjoy instead of being cooped up in a stuffy box.

Your options are a bit more limited in Thailand, but it can be done. I honestly believe Zala and I enjoyed our van journey more than we ever would by skipping over in a plane.

How To Select The Perfect Travel Dog

From our struggles to our triumphs, Zala and I have learned the harsh reality of navigating the globe with an International Dog. Size, weight, and breed are very important factors to consider before you select your future travel companion.

Small dog breeds are the easiest to travel with. Many airlines allow small dogs (and cats) to fly in the cabin with their passenger. Quite a few hotels allow small dogs or are easily persuaded to make an exception. Many trains, buses, and metros (particularly in Europe) allow small dogs to ride free if they remain in their carrier. Little dogs often slip under the radar (pun intended) and are allowed places no other dog can go. For example, the opera in Monaco is open to dogs under 5lbs. Our friend Montecristo Travels is a fantastic resource for individuals who wish to travel with their small dogs.

Medium dog breeds can be transported in a cost effective manner contrary to popular belief. I distinguish between medium and large breeds because many airlines have a weight cut off at 32kg for pets transported as checked luggage. A travel blog called Let’s be Nomads has flown their Entelbucher Mountain Dog for free on airlines that allow pets to be counted towards the checked luggage allowance. When traveling to off the beaten path destinations, expect the aircrafts to be smaller and transportation options to be limited for big dogs. For example, Bangkok Airways cannot accept dog crates exceeding 80cm x 45cm x 65cm on their ATR 70 aircraft. Also, certain cities are starting to implement policies again large dog breeds. Beijing and Shanghai only allow one dog under 14inches tall per person within the city.

Large dog breeds are the most challenging dogs to travel with. This is the category my 70lb Dutch Shepherd fits into. There are not many resources available for travellers with large dogs simply because most people believe it cannot be done. Airlines that charge by weight are not reasonable for travellers on a budget. The best option for big dogs are airlines that charge a flat rate such as Airfrance, KLM, Delta and a few others. The purpose of this website is to not only to provide a fresh perspective on travel destinations but to become a resource for travellers with large breed dogs.

Traveling with a big dog requires extra work and the ability to think outside the box. This may mean part of your journey may be by air and the other part by ground due to airline restrictions. You may watch a small dog ride for free on your train ride from Lyon to Milan knowing your dog’s ticket cost the same as yours. Accommodations will be difficult to find in certain cities and countries, but writing personable messages and providing dog references can sway guesthouses and hotel owners. Zala and I have had the most success finding accommodations via unorthodox places such as airbnb, couchsurfing, and Facebook. Yes, Facebook, it is our secret to finding accommodations in Thailand. Many small guesthouses do not have websites, but they do have Facebook pages.

Dog breed is also an important factor to consider. Certain dog breeds are more limited than others.  Snubbed-nosed dog breeds such as boxers, pugs, and bulldogs are not allowed to fly on several airlines.

These dogs are prone to breathing complications due to their short muzzles. They do not breathe as efficiently as dog breeds with normal length snouts which makes cooling off when overheated or stressed more difficult. Short nosed breeds are more vulnerable to changes in temperature and air quality in a cargo hold. Although the they receive the same quality of pressurized air as passengers in the cabin do, air circulation is not as ideal for a dog inside of a crate.

Because these breeds are statistically more prone to health complications or even death on air flights, some airlines do not allow these breeds on board. Travellers with a snubbed-nosed dog will be limited in airline choices. Do not let this stop you from owning and traveling with a dog that fits within this category. Just be aware of the individual limitations of your dog and always put their health and safety first. If your dog is easily stressed or has known breathing problems, do not put your dog at risk on a flight.

“Aggressive” dog breeds are restricted and banned in many countries. Some airlines simply will not fly breeds that carry this label regardless of the importing country. These lists vary but always (sadly) include Pit Bulls. Pit Bull is a generalized term for breeds labeled as Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and any mix breed that matches the phenotype (appearance) of a Pit Bull. In addition, accommodations around the world may have restrictions against these breeds. Below is a basic list of restricted dog breeds. Please be aware this list varies among different countries, provinces, and states.

Pit Bull
Doberman
Mastiff
Dogo Argentino
Fila Brasileiro
Presa Canario
Rottweiler
Japanese Tosa

Owning a dog that is labeled as aggressive can make travel complicated, but be aware some countries merely have restrictions on the breed. This means extra paperwork and acquiring a license for your dog in countries such as Spain. Dogs such as Chihuahuas and Dachshunds are often listed among the top dog breeds reported for bites. Poodles and Dalmatians are known as aggressive dog breeds yet none of these breeds are put on these ban lists. Be informed and take care not to get wrapped up in the media circus surrounding some of these “dangerous” breeds. Support punishing the deed not the breed. Most dog attacks are a reflection of the owner not the dog breed itself.

I want to give a special thank you to one of our readers who posed this question to us. I hope this provides insight to those hoping to travel with their dog and also those who are looking to select the perfect companion to explore the globe with.

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Pack List for an International Dog Flight

A Dog Crate That Meets IATA Standards.

I fly my dog around the world. Between finding an affordable flight, organizing vet appointments and sifting through import paperwork, the last thing I want to worry about is if my dog crate is allowed or not. Some airlines are stricter than others. I bought a dog crate with all the bells and whistles that meets the requirements of every airline I have come across. You can check the IATA standards for dog crates here. I bought a sky kennel, and I am very satisfied with it.

Extra Copies of Paperwork

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Every airline is different, but Icelandair’s cargo division attaches the health certificate to the dog’s crate. Upon arrival in Paris, Zala’s health certificate was no longer attached to the crate. Although technically only the original can get your dog into the country, I thankfully had a copy and got my dog’s clearance to enter France.

A Cheap Dog Bed

Don’t put your $100 orthopedic dog bed in the your dog’s crate. After a 10-15 hour flight, you can’t blame a dog for getting bored or frustrated and chewing up their bed. If your dog has an accident, you want a dog bed you will have no hard feelings about throwing away. I have never had either of these incidents occur with my dog, yet. It is best to be prepared. I keep Zala’s Ruffwear Highlands Bed in my carry on luggage as a spare, just in case.

A Water Bowl

A collapsible water bowl is a good thing to keep on hand. Some airlines allow water dishes inside of your dogs crate, but you have no way of knowing if it will survive the flight. Zala destroyed one of her two dog dishes on her trip from Seattle to Paris. As soon as my dog gets out of customs, I pour her a drink. Usually our journey continues by train or a connecting flight so Zala has to recharge on the go. A collapsible bowl takes up very little space in my carry on luggage, and I can smash it into any pocket in my pack while I am hustling to catch my next train or flight. I carry a Ruffwear Collapsible Bowl everywhere I travel with my dog including restaurants, cafes, trains, car trips, and any hiking adventure.

A Leash

I never go to an airport with my dog in her crate. I keep her leashed and by my side until the moment I turn her over to oversized luggage.  Get a leash  with a loop handle to easily half hitch around a chair leg. A simple hack for easy tie up is to use a carabiner for fast clip and unclip. Zala and I have spent a lot of time lounging within and outside of terminals.

A Muzzle

Small dogs get a get out of jail free card on this topic, but big dogs should wear a muzzle inside airports and on public transportation. Big dogs scare a lot of people, and I believe I am able to walk Zala freely throughout airports because I muzzle her. This isn’t to say that when we find a nice place to sit I don’t take off her muzzle because I do. I simply don’t put security guards and officers in a position where they need to tell me to crate my dog. I don’t want to give the public a reason to file a complaint because this will only create more rules and restrictions for future pet travel. I use a simple mesh muzzle that slips on and off easily and can be crumpled in my pocket. Be careful, this style of muzzle does not allow a dog to pant and can cause overheating in hot climates. Invest in a basket cage muzzle if your dog will be wearing a muzzle for long periods of time or in hot climates.

Dog Food

If possible, pack enough dog food to mix and smoothly transition your dog into a new brand in your future country. It can be difficult to consistently use the same brand throughout the world. The one dog food brand I have seen consistently from the United States to Western Europe to Southeast Asia is Pedigree.

Favorite Toy

It may not seem important to you but in a dog’s world this is a big deal. A favorite toy from home has a calming effect on dog’s adjusting to a new home/country. Zala has taken her Extreme Kong across the world with her. It is the equivalent of a pacifier when she is anxious. I am a big fan of Kongs because they can be stuffed with goodies while you are away and provide some mental stimulation for your dog. I’ve even freezed things inside of it. Zala has been obsessively chewing on her black kong on a daily basis for two years, and it is still in one piece.

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How to Safely Walk Your Dog in Thailand

IMG_0128In Thailand, a dog has a different connotation than many western countries. A pet dog in Thailand usually is a stray that gets food from a home or store front and therefore casually spends its days lounging around that area. At most, these dogs may get a worn collar, but a dog on a leash is a rare sight. A large leashed Dutch Shepherd led by a white farang (foreigner) is a sight worthy of stares and even photographs.

Many homes, temples, and stores are the place of residence for several soi dogs. Usually they form packs of 2-3 dogs, sometimes more. Even if the home front is fenced, these dogs will simply jump over. They are very territorial and a daily part of life when living in Thailand, especially for pet owners. It can be very intimidating when a pack of barking, high hackled dogs come rushing toward you and your dog.

The fact is, every stray soi dog has been hit, kicked, or had a stone thrown at it throughout its life. These are dogs that have learned the art of survival. Although territorial, they take care not to get injured because this can mean life or death to them. These situations can be smoothly handled if you remain confident and in control.

When traveling down a new street, carry a stick or (my favorite) a water bottle. When a pack of stray dogs come rushing up, use a confident voice and raise your hand as if to throw or drag your stick against the ground. These dogs know a faker when they see one, empty handed threats mean very little to them. Do not yell or get agitated. This will only excite the dogs, and you will lose respect with any local Thais within ear shot for ‘losing face’. This will deter the majority of strays, for those brave few that continue coming (my dog came in heat upon arrival in Thailand), I will give them a splash of water from my bottle. They will never forget and will leave you alone from there on out. I do not actually throw objects or attempt to harm these dogs, a mere threat is more than enough to set boundaries.

If you walk the same area regularly, these dogs will accept you within a few days. Furthermore, stray dogs can have better socialization skills than most house dogs. I don’t fear my dog being attacked as much as the transfer of disease or illness from close interaction. If you are someone who abhors the use of a leash and feels confident in your control over your dog, this is the country for you. Locals who actually do take their dogs on walks usually don’t have them on a leash.

Owners with small or fearful dogs should take extra care in new neighborhoods. I have had a few instances with small shop dogs lunging out and biting at my dog. My dog is now accepted in the neighborhood, and we can walk peacefully around followed by nothing more than a few halfhearted barks. It also helps that Zala is bigger than all the dogs around her. As stated earlier, these strays have learned the art of survival and will not take on a fight without cause, especially with a dog that is a head taller. I will add that my Dutch Shepherd not only scares the local strays but also the local Thais of the area. Keep this in mind when you bring a large dog with you to restaurants and coffee shops.

Although a dramatic change from dog walking lifestyle in western countries, bringing your dog to Thailand can be done if you remain actively aware of your environment and take extra care in reading the dog behavior around you. This experience may actual strengthen your bond with your dog as you will be assuming the role of pack leader and protecting your dog from others. Best of luck and be aware of your dog’s personal tolerance of this kind of environment and always keep their safety first.

Navigating Paris CDG Airport with a Dog

Paris CDG

Paris CDG

An entire book could be written on navigating the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. This article will map only the information I know from personal experience. The thought of finding your way with luggage, a crate, and a dog in tow can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are traveling solo, but Zala and I made it from Paris, France to Chiang Mai, Thailand and I’ll tell you how we did it.

It is best to prepare in advance and print out a map of the airport, you can find a basic layout map here. Zala and I arrived via the TGV train. In France, a dog ticket is half the price of your adult ticket, and dogs are required to be leashed and muzzled on the train. I have a 65lb Dutch Shepherd, and I have found that it is easiest to take a seat next to the luggage instead of my assigned seat if the train car (voiture) is crowded. Most trains to Paris are. My leashed dog walked alongside me from the train up until the moment I sent her away as luggage. Do not feel obliged to keep your dog in his/her crate while navigating around terminals and shuttles, you’ll only give yourself a headache and a backache.

The TGV train arrives between terminals 2D and 2F. If you feel like gambling and taking the train the morning before your flight, check online for any ongoing train strikes that may cause you unexpected delays. In my case, there were train strikes the days prior, and I chose to arrive in Paris the evening before my flight. There are numerous choices for hotels around the airport, but the cheapest option, actually within the airport, was Ibis Hotel.

To get to the Ibis Hotel, there is the CDGVAL shuttle that stops at all three terminals. From the TGV station, you need to take the lift up to the 4th floor. From there, simply follow the signs and take yet another lift. The Ibis and Hilton are located next to terminal 3. There is plenty of grass outside of terminal 3 and the Ibis Hotel for pet bathroom breaks. The pet fee for the Ibis Hotel was 5 Euros current as of March 2014.

AirFrance was our airline of choice this trip. AirFrance departures are located in terminal 2F. Going from terminal 3 to terminal 2F with a large dog crate, two duffle bags, and an excited dog took no longer than 20 minutes. A forewarning, trolleys are blocked from going on the lifts that go up and down to the CDGVAL shuttle. This leg of the journey will require extra time and manual lifting if you do not have help. After that, there are the long stretches of walking that the Paris CDG is famous for.

Individuals checking in with a dog will receive their boarding pass after they have paid and checked-in their dog, so don’t bother with the ticketing machines. Dog check-in should be done several hours in advance. My flight was at 1:50, and I checked my dog in at 11:00. To start, check your dog and any extra baggage in at the luggage counter. The attendant will inspect the cage, give you a waiver to sign, and put your baggage sticker on the crate. To my surprise, my dog’s health certificate was never checked. Afterwards, you will need to go to the ticketing office to pay for your dog’s fee (200euros to Thailand) and get your boarding pass printed. Finally, you will need to travel further down the terminal to #5 to drop off your oversized luggage dog.  It took well over an hour before she was actually crated and we said our goodbyes.

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After you have finished with the dog, it is your turn to go through the grueling process of customs. I will mention, yet again, how important it is to give yourself plenty of extra time. My gate was changed from terminal F to hall L. An entirely different hall with a lot of extra unplanned walking to get there! But if you do have extra time, terminal 2 has enough to keep you amused during your wait; including video games, wifi (first 15 minutes are free), and massages.

Upon boarding, there is a waiver to be handed to the stewardess. My boarding pass did not scan properly until I handed this waiver to her. This paper essentially said that my dog’s crate complied with the safety standards of AirFrance. After that, it was smooth flying on a direct flight, and my dog was waiting for me in Z3 oversized luggage at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. See my post on Suvarnabhumi Airport for information on collecting your dog, getting through customs, and catching another flight on a Thai airline.

Flying to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flying to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Bologna: The best street market in Italy

If you ask an Italian where to find the best weekend market in Italy, they will tell you Bologna.

Piazza Maggiore is the place to go in Bologna to find street musicians, roasted chestnuts, beautiful architecture, and the famous Fountain of Neptune.

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The massive weekend market is close to the railway station. By bus, stop at Stazione Centrale. Most bus lines converge here. Above the market is a large circular park that is an excellent place for your pup to run around and you can look at all the large statues while your dog lets off some steam.

Standing at the Stazione Centrale bus stop you will see this piece of sculpture ( shown below) with stairs leading up on either side. This will take you to the park. On the opposite side of the park, you will be able to look down on the market. You can’t miss it. The market is full of cheap leather coats, boots, and bags. Plus all of the most recent Italian clothing styles. And a variety of other cheap products that will interest everyone in the family.

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The in-city buses have ticket machines inside of them so bring some change with you. I brought my dog on the bus without a problem. Passengers will appreciate it if you put a muzzle on your dog.
Feel free to ask questions or leave comments.

Explore the Ancient Ruins of Pompeii with Your Dog

 Well preserved frescos, intact ancient building, and your dog can explore with you.

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Have more caution in the Southern region of Italy. There is more poverty in the south, and it is common knowledge among Italians that Naples is notorious for car theft. That does not mean you can’t have a fantastic time, just use caution.

Yes, your dog can accompany you inside the ancient ruins of Pompeii, but beware of the stray dogs roaming about.

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Stone pedestrian crossings, ancient wagon ruts, an ancient amphitheater, and the petrified remains of Pomeii’s inhabitants will keep you occupied for at least half the day so bring your good walking shoes and a bottle of water.

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There are a couple campgrounds, Zeus and Spartacus, directly across from the ruins at a reasonable price. Spartacus was the cheaper option for car camping. The showers had no hot water and the wifi was pay by the hour. Dogs were of course welcome.

Explore Venice with Your Dog

 Take your dog with you to Venice? No Problem

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The cheapest way to visit Venice is to book your accommodations outside of Venice. Zala and I chose to couchsurf in Mestre. It made for a fun Halloween and provided an excuse to buy one of those fabulous Venetian masks. Also, if you are able to ‘borrow’ a Venetian’s card; you will save money.

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Advice from someone who made the mistake. Do not drive to Venice. There is no reason for you to do it other than to spend extra money. You can not drive within Venice. Once you reach Venice, you must immediately find overpriced parking.

Taking the bus from Mestre to Venice is no problem with a dog. Slip on his/her muzzle and hop aboard. But be warned, the bus to Venice is usually packed tight with people. Make sure your dog is comfortable in this kind of situation. The train is also easily available for you and your dog for a higher price.

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As for water transportation, gondolas are for tourist with money to spend. Everyone else takes the water bus ‘Vaporetto’. Dogs ride free. Muzzles are required but are more of a courtesy. Zala loves riding the Vaporetto. There is more to Venice than the main island. Be sure to visit the other islets such as Murano and their amazing glasswork.

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Don’t bother using a map in Venice. It is a mess of tight alleys and never ending corners. The joy of Venice is getting wonderfully lost and finding amazing places. Trust me, you will find your way back no problem.

Take little doggy bags. Venice is rock and water. Patches of green are rarely seen.

Feel free to leave comments and questions. I will be happy to answer.

Travel Italy with Your Dog

 Italy may be the best place in the world to travel with your dog.

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Italians and Dogs

The French like dogs. Italians love dogs. I have gone to restaurants where Zala has been given packages of dog treats, cheesy pasta, ham, chocolates (without my consent), and pizza. Walking down the street I was always being stopped by Italians petting and loving on my dog. After one month in Italy, my dog believed her name was ‘Ciao Bella!’ (Hello Beautiful!).

On the Train

Trains accept dogs just as easily as France. I personally have only taken the train from Chambery, France to Milan, Italy. This ticket is a flat rate of 30Euros for your pet. I believe this holds true for all train travel in Italy. My passport was checked crossing the border, but Zala’s was not. Don’t forget your dog muzzle.

Bus

Take your dog on the bus and do so confidently. I did it in cities throughout Italy including Venice, Bologna, and Rome. People will appreciate you following the rules by putting a muzzle on your dog before you get on. I was thanked numerous times for doing this courtesy. Not everyone is comfortable with dogs, especially large ones.

Metro

I never took my dog on the Metro. I expect their dog restrictions are lax. Check online before you try.

Hotels

Many hotels do not post if they accept dogs and some only allow small dogs. E-mail or call anyways. Most hotels will accept large dogs even if their website does not say so. Most do not charge a fee either.

Restaurants and Shops

Unless it is a meat deli or grocery store, assume your dog can come inside. I got told off numerous occasions because I tied my dog outside and the owner or employee demanded I bring my dog inside because she ‘looks sad’. Please view my posts on specific Italian cities where I talk in detail of all the strange places that accepted my dog.

Churches, Museums, Ancient Buildings

No; except the ruins of Pompeii. Dogs are allowed there. See my post and photos on Pompeii.

Travel France with Your Dog

Traveling in France with you dog is accessible and fun.

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City Travel

Most cafes, stores, banks, and post offices allow dogs. Assume if there is no sign saying no dogs allowed, you and your furry friend can walk in. But it is always polite to ask first. Most cafes and restaurants will even serve your dog water before you. The French, as a whole, love dogs.

If a business does not allow pets, such as grocery stores and delis, there normally are hooks to tie your dog outside the store.

Metro and Bus

I personally have not traveled by bus or Metro in France. But I have in Italy, so be sure to check my post on the topic. Metros usually accept small dogs. I have seen individuals bring their large dog aboard with no issue. Most public transportation require your dog to be in a travel carrier or muzzled. It is the respectful thing to do, and those around you will be thankful you did. Show this small courtesy, and you will likely be greeted with smiles and winks.

Train

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This is the way to travel France and also Europe with a pet. TGV charges half the price of your ticket for your pet. You can buy your ticket online but not your dogs. Go to the station ticket counter and ask for a ticket for your furry friend. Your dog is required to be muzzled at all times. I’ve found this rule is rarely enforced. Your pet is also supposed to have a pet passport. In my one year of train travel not once was it checked.

Pet Passport

Although my dog’s passport was never checked, this is a requirement and a good thing to get for your pet upon arrival in Europe. Go to the vet and bring your international health certificate and rabies certificate with you. The process is painless and the passport is valid for the lifetime of your pet. In addition, the vet can give you paperwork to register you pet for that country.

Muzzles

You may have noticed I have mentioned muzzles several times. This is a very common requirement for pets allowed on public transportation. There are a lot of choices available, but I have found a simple mesh muzzle works best. They are cheap and can be purchased for under $10. You can slip it in your pant or coat pocket and easily slip it on and off your pet. Typically I put the muzzle on my dog when entering or leaving and take it off during the journey. Also, this kind of muzzle does not give your dog as intimidating of an appearance. This is important to me because I own a very striking Dutch Shepherd. A big metal cage muzzle makes her look like a killer.

Cautionary note: A tight mesh muzzle restricts panting. This is dangerous for a dog during high temperatures. Always put your dog’s health first.