We have had extensive and sometimes exasperating experience with taking dogs (and cats) out of Korea, so this is intended as a field guide for travel. It will be updated with issues as we find them.
First of all, we recommend flying with Korean Air or Asiana. They allow dogs in situations that Japanese and North American carriers do not.
United airlines is a viable option, but you will have to pay a lot. The only way to transport pets on United is shipping them as CARGO. Depending on weight you will pay from 600 - 2,000 dollars. However, they offer something no one else does: year round travel (more on that later).
For our Uniformed Military friends, United will allow you to take the dog at the old price (about $250), but only in cargo - not cabin. Please call and verify, as these rules are not clear even to United workers. Your best bet is to explain the problem to your military travel authorities, and convince them you need to fly American (you MUST fly a US flagged carrier)
for United’s CURRENT prices (they change frequently) check here:
Ok, step by step guide now:
1- Research the vaccinations that your dog needs at the country of destiny.
We know the USA and Canada only require a rabies certificate. The vaccination must be given at least ONE MONTH prior to flying (not actually needed to be a month, but some officers of Korean Quarantine believe it so… just do it at least one month before).
The EU has different requirement from country to country, so best to check with the embassy. ISO Microchips are often required, as are expensive blood test that must be initiated at least 4 months prior to departure. England and the UK are in line with the EU. Ireland is NOT. A long, expensive, and complicated quarantine period is required.
2 - Book your dog’s flight EARLY!
Most Airlines have a limit to how many pets each airplane can take. Let them know you are flying with a dog at the time of ticket purchase. It will cost you extra to take a dog. Carry on price may vary from 150-250 USD. Checked baggage is from 200-400 depending on size and weight.
3 - In Cabin, or cargo?
Currently, Korean and Asiana allow dogs that can comfortably fit in a soft sided 46x28x28 cm carrier. Comfortably means there is enough space for the dog to turn around inside.
We’ve heard conflicting reports of other airlines allowing or not allowing dogs in the cabin. JAL will NEVER allow a dog in the cabin. Others limit by weight, at around 5 kilos. Always check first with the airline themselves (not a travel agent).
Make sure you buy the correct soft carrier if your pup is going in cabin. Once your dog is in the carrier you should not take him out at any place- terminal, waiting area, or aircraft. Have a leash and collar handy– you can let them out in the bathrooms (but ssshhhh.)
If you dog must travel in the baggage compartment, you MUST purchase an air travel approved carrier. These will range from about 80,000 won to 300,000 depending on the dog’s size. You vet will be able to order the appropriate carrier.
4 - TEMPERATURE!!!
Big issue! Airlines will not allow dogs to travel in baggage if the runway temperatures of ANY airport the plane will be at are outside of specified ranges. These temperatures do vary from airline to airline, so it is best to be absolutely certain if traveling deep into winter or summer. Also, beware of connecting flights in South Asia or the Middle East- those airports can often be very hot.
Some airlines will accept a vet’s certificate that the dog is fit enough to withstand temperatures in the fringes of the limit range, but again, check with your specific airline.
The one exception is United Airlines. They register your pet as Cargo, not checked baggage. This means cost up to 4,000 depending on weight and destination/layovers. They will keep the dogs in a climate controlled van, during loading/unloading, so temperature does not matter.
5 - Documentation
This is tedious but fairly easy. Here are the steps needed for USA/Canada:
I) Vaccinate your dog as needed, and obtain the certificate of vaccination form you vet; in Korean.
II) Flying out of Busan/ Kimhae: The day PRIOR to departing BUSAN, go to the Quarantine Office at Kimhae International Airport, during business hours. Take the certificate your vet gave you, your vet’s phone number, your plane tickets, passport, and the dog INSIDE the carrier. (the office is in the first floor, far right as you look at the terminal with your back to the wall. It is a small door near the KFC)
II) Flying out of Seoul/ Incheon: The quarantine office is in middle of the airport length, on the second floor (or third? don’t remember….) It’s on a balcony hallway. Signs abound. Ask a Korean to look up the number and call to ensure that it will be open at the time you come. Give plenty of lead time- an extra two hours more than the hours already required for international travel.
III) The office may or may not call the vet to verify. They will inspect the dog, and may ask you to take the dog out for a minute. The they will issue two copies of the certificate. One is for the airline, one is for the quarantine office at the destination country. DO NOT give your last copy to anyone other than the final quarantine officer in the country of destiny.
NOTE: from Incheon, to certain destinations dogs must travel from a separate cargo terminal. one dog we sent to Hong Kong had to travel from the KAL cargo terminal, which was about 3 kilometers away from the passenger terminal. Make sure you have secured transportation to Cargo and back to the Int’l terminal. Give yourself plenty of time.
It will cost around 10,000 to 20,000 to get the certificates, so have KOREAN CASH with you! They don’t take cards or USD.
To the EU, we recommend you closely consult your vet and embassy, to coordinate all the blood tests required. It will be expensive.
To Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong we recommend using a travel agent, as it is complicated (and expensive).
6 - The Day of Travel
You should purchase the carrier at least a week prior to travel, and make your dog get used to being inside it. Put in the carrier a blanket that is known to the dog, that still has the familiar smells of home. one of your used and stinky t-shirts would be perfect to include.
The Carrier MUST have a secure water bottle. Any pet supply store sells those. They have a little spout and a ball bearing system. Secure it with tape! Those things tend to fall off.
Only feed dry food for the week prior to travel (trust me on this…). No snacks!
Arrive early at the airport. You may be asked to take the dog to a strange cargo gate, or inspection, or who knows what. Be as early as you can possibly be.
DO NOT SEDATE THE DOG IN ANY WAY!! This could interfere with the body’s ability to auto-regulate blood pressure and body temperature, so it is very dangerous, as the flight will submit him to air pressure changes! Also, a ‘drowsy’ or sleepy dog could injure himself falling, as they will not have the proper sense of balance. This includes the risk of asphyxiation by his own body weight if he falls at the wrong angle during handling, and is unable to correct his position due to the sedatives.
7 - When in doubt, ASK US!
You can contact BAPS to get assistance with interpretation or reasonable translation. Do not hesitate to do this.
8 - Shipping a dog alone
This is easy to do, but requires more planning, and more cash: Anything from 400,000 to several million (or more) depending on the dog size and destination.
People have used various private shipping companies, and we sincerely do not have enough experience to recommend a good one. Just make sure your agent speaks clear English and communicates transparently. Do not enter an agreement until you have ‘interviewed’ the agent, and are assured of their competency, English level, and reliability.
The legal requirements for shipped dogs are exactly the same as described above, and there should be no extra charges for processing medical tests, as you will do it yourself with your vet.
9 - Travelling in the middle of summer/winter and you cannot take the dog due to the weather (and can’t afford United).
You have two options. First, you can ship your dog to someone back home a month or two BEFORE you depart. With enough time, you can probably find a kind person already in Korea who is going to your area to take the dog with them.