“Your dog is too fat to travel by air”, was what I was told by 3 airlines in Vietnam. My dog didn’t meet the weight requirement and maximum of 32KG (with cage) to fly in Vietnam.
This is the story of how I traveled with my dog from Phu Quoc Island to Ho Chi Minh by ferry and Car, and from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi with train and from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay.
The entire journey from Phu Quoc to Ha Long Bay is over 2200km long and took 68.5 hours. Kiara is a 5 year old Rottweiler girl that weighs 30 kilo’s and is mostly muscle and happy excitement (although she can protective with strangers).
Phu Quoc Ferry to Rach Gia with a dog
On 4 of March 11.30am we left from our resort in South Phu Quoc Island to the Ferry terminal at Bai Vong, Phu Quoc (Phu Quoc ferry terminal Location: https://goo.gl/maps/hFiak14HavX8yne59). Tickets were purchased in advance by a local friend (but can also be purchased on the spot at the terminal if not busy). We were told dogs can only go on certain ferries, and not any time, but I think that really depends on who you speak to and if you offer “coffee / cigarette / bribe money” for a specific time. We didn’t.
We drove a large Toyota Innova that barely fit our 3 suitcases and large dog crate. It was a quick 30 minute drive, from which we had to walk over to the ferry itself (cars are not allowed to go inside).
We managed to successfully get the cage and dog on board. We had tickets that gave us access to the air conditioned seated area, but the dog (Kiara) needed to stay in the cage and in the car/motorbike parking area. The total journey is around 3 hours depending on the wind. Vietnamese people are very curious if you travel with a dog and some are scared, so take care and keep your dog away from other people unless asked. I took Kiara out a few times but stayed near her cage so she could stretch her legs a bit.
After 2:55 hours we arrived in Rach Gia Ferry terminal (Location: https://goo.gl/maps/2F7xfcsp17HQ6SAX8) around 3.30pm. Because of the train timings which were the next day in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), we had arranged a stay at a hotel in Rach Gia. So we had to take a Taxi from Ferry Terminal to Hotel. When we got off the ferry, we ended up in an annoying negotiation with the taxi driver where they said that they would get fined if they transported the dog. So they started negotiations at 500.000VND. We pretended to walk away and told him the price is too high. We got it down to 200.000VND after 5 minutes of both us and the taxi driver pretending to walk away.
Rach Gia to Ho Chi Minh City with a dog
We loaded Kiara and our bags into the large taxi and drove 15 minutes to the hotel. Sai Gon Hotel in Rach Gia (Hotel: https://www.booking.com/hotel/vn/sai-gon-rach-gia.html ). We stayed here before and put Kiara in the basement of their car park after discussing with the front office manager that I didn’t want anyone of the staff to go near her. (30 minutes later we saw one of the security feeding her hot dogs… 🙁 ) We tied her leash to one of the pipes in the basement so that she had about 2 or 3 meter to walk around.
The next morning (March 5) we took Kiara for a walk (and she peed once, finally). At 9:00 am we had arranged for a private car (Toyota Innova 7 seat) to pick us up from the hotel and drive to Ho Chi Minh Train Station (Sai Gon Railway Location: https://goo.gl/maps/pX5AiqamGgUcuAYk7)
The driver spoke basic English, we stopped to have some Com Tam (Broken Rice with Pork and some vegetables) and stopped a few more times to let Kiara out for a walk and fed here a little bit of food. It took us 6.5 hours to get to HCMC and arrived at 3.30, which was too early for our train departure. So we paid a bit extra and spend an hour in a park (where a security guard send us away when we wanted to enter, so we walked to the other side and walked on the side walk).
Train from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi with dog
When we arrived at the train station at 17.00 on March 5, we met with our contact at the train station. For some extra money he would assist us to bring the dog on board. He asked to put the crate at the special cargo area. We waited until 6pm when he told me to go in and wait with suitcases and meet him at the train in wagon #5. After another hour of waiting the gates opened and I was pointed to a staff cabin in wagon #5. It was literally a thin mattress on some wood supported by water jugs. Kiara’s cage was inside the door way in between two wagons (really loud noises). 30 minutes after we left our train contact guy told me I could take Kiara to my cabin and out of the cage (he had closed all other cabin doors). I asked (via my Vietnamese friend) to see if we could stay in a proper cabin, which was only possible the next day at 6am. So we stayed 1 night in the staff cabin and the next day we moved to a guest cabin which was empty.
The journey when we were in the guest cabin was amazing. Kiara and I enjoyed some good views. We had stocked up some food and had a bunch of movies and serie episodes on the laptop to keep me entertained. Kiara was mostly sleeping and moving from bed to bed every hour to stay busy. She also loved the view. She didn’t bark the entire journey. I was quite worried from the 2nd day that she hadn’t gone to the toilet (pee or poop) since we left Rach Gia). She normally only poops when she’s comfortable. A few days before we left I had switched her schedule from 2 times a day food, to 1 time per day. And during the trip I had let her drink every 2 to 3 hours but reduced food intake to avoid multiple toilet visits in the train. However I was surprised and a bit concerned that she didn’t go to the toilet the entire trip.
View tip: Make sure to have your camera ready at Hải Vân Quan Mountain (just after Da Nang). The total journey took 33 hours in the train. About an hour before we arrived (4am) there was a knock on my door and our train contact guy told me I have to put Kiara back in the cage.
Hanoi to Ha Long Bay with dog
On March 7, we arrived at Hanoi terminal (Location: https://goo.gl/maps/TGgHgQzhPaiaLR6m9) at 5:00am. I got a porter (50.000VND) to help put all suitcases and Kiara on a trolley and wheel it outside. Outside there were taxi’s but also our company car we arranged in advance to pick me up. We stopped after 5 minutes of driving to let Kiara out for a toilet break (which she didn’t do)
We drove another 1.5 hours and finally arrived in our new apartment in Ha Long Bay! The landlord greeted us at 08:00am (and was a bit shocked at the size of Kiara and the cage), but helped us up to the room and finally we were able to feed Kiara a big bowl of food and she finally went to the toilet and seems very happy here with a cool breeze.
- Ferry Phu Quoc to Rach Gia: 568,000VND (2 people)
- Taxi to hotel Rach Gia: estimate 200,000VND – you should prepare cash
- Hotel in Rach Gia: 950,000VND
- Car from Rạch Giá to HCMC: 2,800,000VND
- Train to Hanoi: 5,800,000VND
- Hanoi to Ha Long: Company cost
=> Total 8,000,000VND
Summary of dog travel Phu Quoc to Ha Long Bay
- Get your dog used to a reduced eating schedule to avoid toilet breaks
- Book cars in advance
- Arrange the train in advance with someone who speaks Vietnamese and book a guest cabin.
- Bring enough food and entertainment into the train (they do sell some noodles and basic fruits on carts coming by every 2 hours or so).
- If your dog needs to go to the toilet, prepare paper or plastic bags to pick it up and clean and use some spray to make it smell nice again. Water is available for free in train