Yangon To West Cork With Animals

In February I decided to remove my life from Yangon, Myanmar to West Cork, Ireland. Not only was I stressed with the prospect of change, but there was also the issue of moving pets out of Myanmar, a country with a high incidence of rabies, into the EU. This post is in part for friends and acquaintances who may have been wondering how the tale unravelled; it is in part for anyone who needs information on how to get animals out of Myanmar and/or into the Irish Republic. It also contains links to useful places within the city of Yangon as well as a brief overview of my experience with airlines and shipping companies. At the end of this piece, there are photographs of all of the completed paperwork, too, in case anyone needs a reference.

What follows are the various steps that need to be adhered to when taking animals out of Myanmar and, in my case, into the EU. As an extra note, there are significant differences in paperwork and requirements that are dependent upon the country the animals are to be imported into, and even transited via, so do complete independent research into the requirements of the intended destination as well as any countries you will pass through.

In short, so long as you’re willing to field a number of emails to appropriate authorities and airlines, help, document templates and information are readily available, and, most importantly, you are not alone in this undertaking.

 

Cargo Companies: Quote Breakdown

Here’s the breakdown of costs I received from a cargo company based in Thailand.

Below prices are for an estimate only. Final prices & approval to be confirmed by airlines & the livestock dept. upon receiving all required documents.

Origin: Yangon/Rangoon, Myanmar (RGN)
Destination: In transit via Bangkok (BKK) to DUB
Crate’s Chargeable Weight: 24.00 x 16.70 x 14.50″; 40 x 27 x 30″; 40 x 27 x 30″ (195k)

Origin Charges (RGN):
A. Pick up within city limit USD 100 per 2 dogs & 1 cat

  1. Export customs clearance and handling fees USD 900 per 3 pets
    C. Official health certificate USD 600 per 3 pets
  2. Airfreight charge RGN-BKK: USD 1,200.-*
    E. Airline fuel & crisis surcharges: USD 400,-*
    Subtotal estimate USD 3,200.-*

Transit Charges (BKK):
A. Transit application fee USD 900 per 3 pets

B. Export Customs clearance USD 900 per 3 pets
C. Ground transport inside the terminal USD 40 per trip
D. Airfreight charge BKK-DUB: USD 3,800.-*
E. Airline fuel & crisis surcharges: USD 400.-*

  1. Airline’s live animal handling fees fees USD 750 per 3 pets
    Subtotal estimate USD 6,790.-*

Total estimate USD 9,990.-*

*Airline’s charges to be calculated basing on gross weight or volumetric weight whichever is greater.
*Airline’s charges to be changed without prior notice. Pls re-confirm with us again before booking.
*Booking is subject to availability of the aircraft if the crate is higher than 31 inches (80 cm).

Fees exclude: Rabies vaccination, duty & tax [approx. 40% on customs assessed value], Customs inspection, pet’s accommodation, overtime fees, quarantine, blood test, microchip, and other third parties’ expenses, if any, to be billed per receipts. 7% VAT is not included.

**Dog to be vaccinated against Rabies, Leptospirosis, Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza (DHPP) with an official approved vaccine and details of the manufacturer & serial number.

**Cat to be vaccinated against Rabies, Leptospirosis, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) with an official approved vaccine and details of the manufacturer & serial number.

At close to $10,000, I thought I’d have to re-home my animals in Yangon. Heart-broken at the prospect, I went about finding out how to do it myself and in the most cost-effective way. As bewildering as Yangon can be to navigate, with perseverance and talking to people, so much can come together pretty easily. Rest assured, everything and everyone you need to help you get your animals out of Myanmar are right there in Yangon.

Back to the quote. If you compare some of the costs quoted against real world (doing it yourself) costs, you can begin to understand how these companies make their profit:

A taxi to the airport costs around $5 and most taxi drivers are happy to take animals onboard.

When a Myanmar colleague contacted the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department, she was informed the cost of arranging the export permit (also known as certificate of health) was 13,000 MMK, around $10. Compare that price to $200 per animal in the quote.

To transit BKK cost me $0 since I was with Thai Airways for both legs of the journey. Customs clearance was similarly handled by Thai Airways, so it also cost me nothing.

In summary, flying your pet need neither cost the earth nor be put into the hands of a third party. Depending on what you’re prepared to do and where you’re prepared or able to fly to, much of this can be done by yourself.

 

Paperwork, how and where to do the bits and pieces.

Expect to have to gather a fair amount of paperwork in the steady move towards the final piece: a completed Annex IV Animal Health Certificate. This can be downloaded as a PDF from many sites, but a word.doc is preferable since you can then fill it in and back it up to your computer. I received mine from the vet whose services I employed.

Here’s what you need to do in tablet form:

  1. Get your animals microchipped and, at the same time, ask your vet to produce a microchip certificate, which presents the animal’s details, date of microchip insertion and the microchip number.
  2. Get your animals vaccinated against Rabies as well as other inoculations as required. Make sure this information is entered into your pet’s vaccination booklet. If you want to know what inoculation requirements are, go to the destination country’s government website and search for the import process for domestic animals travelling in from third countries.
  3. Wait one month.
  4. After a month has passed, arrange for a blood test at an EU approved laboratory.
  5. Wait 90 calendar days from the day the successful blood sample was drawn.
  6. Once ninety calendar days have passed, it’s time to arrange the paperwork for leaving. This means going to your vet to get a clean bill of health and making an appointment with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department to get the Myanmar government’s seal stamped onto each page of the Annex IV Animal Health Certificate.

Additionally, paperwork for entering the E.U. must be completed no more than ten days prior to landing in the E.U. so work backwards from the date you land to find when to start the paperwork process.

Finally, don’t forget to book your animals onto the flight. You’ll need to book the flight first and then the animals onto the same flight.

At the time of writing, once you have a successful blood test result for your animal this result remains valid so long as you then keep the rabies vaccination history up to date. Be sure not to lose the original blood test certificate result, too.

Comprehensive and up-to-date information for taking animals into the EU can be found:

https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/pet-movement/eu-legislation_en

The website also contains links to EU approved laboratories where you can arrange for the Rabies titre test to be done. I went with Biobest in Edinburgh since this is where Crown Veterinary, Yangon send their samples to.

Further information, a repetition of much of what you find on the previous website, can be found for the U.K. here https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad and for Ireland here https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/pets/.

 

The following information is harder to uncover on first glance.

To fly into the UK or the Republic of Ireland, animals have to enter as cargo. This pushes up the cost for you. To get around this, you can fly into mainland Europe, get your Annex IV (Health Certificate) stamped at the port of entry and then proceed via ferry or Eurotunnel into either of these respective destinations. Once you have the certificate approved by an EU vet, you are free to cross the borders within mainland Europe without checks. If you’re heading into the UK or Ireland, you can expect checks at both ends of the journey: check in and arrival.

One important matter to note is that dogs travelling into the UK or Ireland must be wormed 24 – 120 hours prior to arrival within either the UK or Ireland. Proof must be documented within the Annex IV certificate. Simply ask a vet to administer the worming tablets within the timeframe described as well as to complete the allocated box on the form. If you do not have this, the animals will not be permitted into Ireland or the UK.

Another note I should add is to do with the UK Customs and Excise C5 form, which your animal would have to be declared using. However, I’ve not looked into this very much, so do seek alternative advice regarding customs and excise.

 

Equipment and where to get it

  • IATA approved crate
  • Water bottle
  • Feed bowl
  • Absorbent bedding / travel pad to absorb any liquid messes

Thankfully, Yangon is loaded with pet stores, so it’s easy enough to get small IATA approved pet travel crates (ventilated on all four, slanted, sides of the crate; lockable door, and no wheels). However, you may struggle to find large sizes.* I went to Shamu Pet Store in Bangkok. They have a comprehensive website as well as offering mail order. Get in contact far ahead of time to make sure the store can set aside exactly what you need.

Check with the airline you’re flying with, or the cargo company you may be employing, to work out exactly how much larger, or what multiples of your pet’s measurements the crate should fulfil since airlines like BA have slightly different requirements. It’s also worth bearing in mind that cargo companies quote according to volume while airlines charge by weight.

In terms of the rest of the equipment, the non-drip water bottle and means of feeding water into the crate without airline personnel having to open the crate door is vital so do make sure you supply this equipment. If you can, it’s a good idea to familiarise your animal with drinking from a water bottle so they’re accustomed to the device long before the flight.

* Make sure to get the right size by measuring your animal first. There are lots of websites that provide information on how to work out the right crate size for your pet.

 

Myanmar export requirements & how to go about it

Without a doubt, it is easiest to find a vet, preferably one with useful connections to the government veterinary department, to help, although there is a lot that you can do yourself to cut down on costs and so that a third party need not be relied upon. I should highlight that a private individual can visit the government department to get the paperwork finalised. However, I had only three days available before flying out so, to expedite the process and ensure nothing went awry, I employed a vet’s services to check the documents had been properly completed as well as for taking it to the government veterinary department on my behalf. For this, I paid around $65 per animal.

The blood test

There’s no way around it. You must get this done. Do it only once your animal is chipped and vaccinated.

Crown Veterinary and Medical Resources took the blood samples and arranged the courier to Biobest laboratory. Find them on Facebook or at:

276/B-1, Pyi Thar Yar Street, Bauk Htaw,

Marn Aung Quarter,

Tamwe, Yangon 11211

+95 1 559 890

Call ahead and don’t think about emailing as you will not get a response. They told me to arrive mid-afternoon to avoid a long wait only to discover everyone was taking a pause for lunch. Once work had resumed, they were really friendly and efficient.

There is a charge for the blood sample, which is charged per animal.

The DHL cost is a fixed fee no matter how many samples you send.

In the end I waited around 12 days to receive the results and certificates. All I then had to do was to pop back to Crown Veterinary Services to collect the authenticated certificates. This certificate is very precious. Photocopies of it will not be accepted so do take care of it.

Before you go, be sure to head to Biobest’s website to download the rabies serology submission pack. Complete all pages. Do one sample request form per sample you’re sending. This paperwork will be sent along with the blood sample(s).

 

Myanmar Veterinary Health Certificate

(Also referred to as import/ export license)

 Here’s the paperwork you need to gather for the Myanmar Veterinary Health Certificate:

  • Completed Annex IV Animal Health Certificate if you are flying into the EU
  • Rabies Titre test results
  • Photographs of your animal
    • 2 x front
    • 2 x left or right side
  • Original vaccination booklet displaying microchip number
  • Owner’s passport
  • Air ticket
  • Health certificate provided by your vet*

The Myanmar Veterinary Health Certificate, also referred to as import/ export licence, accompanies your Annex IV and completes the paperwork you need to enter the EU. It is the Myanmar Veterinary Health Certificate that is needed by Myanmar customs in order to export your animal, not the Annex IV.

* In the end, I did not do the last piece of paperwork since my vet, Daw Maw Maw Thein, came to the house to complete the check. As she is known to the government veterinary department, she was able to attest to the clinical examination and health of my animals.

I have included photographs of each page of the health certificate and the Myanmar Veterinary Health Certificate. As I was transiting through Bangkok, I made sure to have extra completed documents. These parts state the animal(s) have had no contact with any animal susceptible to rabies and that the animal(s) remained within secure means of transport rabies during their transit time in Bangkok.

Annex IV Health Certificate document templates can be found on the Internet; however, I ended up with my own Word versions for the sake of keeping everything on one file. My vet supplied the document template.

With all of the above documents, paperwork, vaccination history, etc., make your way to:

Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation,

Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department,

Research and Disease Control Division,

Disease Diagnosis and Control Sub-Division.

Phone: 95 – 1 – 642395, 1 – 643124

Email: lbvd@mptmail.net.mm

Again, be sure to phone ahead. Since this is a government place, it follows government opening hours it’s worth taking the time to ensure it’s going to be open when you get there. At the time, the cost for the paperwork was around 13,000 MMK per animal.

Once you have this completed paperwork in hand, you have all you need to supply to the airlines, customs officials and animal quarantine personnel. Upon landing in the EU, make sure to get the health certificate stamped at the port of entry. This done, you’re free to roam across European borders with your pet cat or dog. Other animals must comply to different rules.

 

Modes of travel & the route I took

Choosing which route to take involved a lot of research and communication with various authorities and airlines to find out costs as well as what my options were. My advice is to research the airlines that fly to your destination and then work out which accept animals as AVIH. Lufthansa is an example of an airline that appeared to accept animals as AVIH, but on closer inspection their planes flying from Frankfurt were the A320 which is not equipped to carry animals and Ireland does not accept animals imported by aeroplane unless as cargo.

The overview of my journey is this:

Yangon, Myanmar – Bangkok, Thailand – Frankfurt, Germany with Thai Airways

Frankfurt, Germany to Cherbourg, France overland

Cherbourg, France to Rosslare, Ireland by ferry

It seems convoluted, but the reasoning was for each different airline you travel with you must pay again for your excess baggage costs. I did not want to have to pay twice. Hence, I found a European airport that Thai Airways flies into, which had good resources for admitting animals and that would be close enough, relatively speaking, to Ireland.

In the past, I transported my animals with Thai Airways, so felt assured in using them again. That and the fact that they were proving to be just about the only airline out of Asia into Europe that accepts animals as AVIH, which means checking in your animals as excess baggage for a fee. Given that I was travelling two separate zones, the cost was $150 per 5kg.

Once in Frankfurt with the animals’ certificates stamped, my cat and dogs would be able to travel across the various borders into Ireland just like any animal with an E.U. passport. Fortunately, there is a seventeen-hour ferry from Cherbourg to Rosslare, Southern Ireland, which permits animals to either be within the owner’s vehicle or within onboard kennels, so this meant I could negate the complicated and expensive business of freight. As an aside, I’d been quoted $2,200 to transport one cat from Frankfurt to Dublin, so travelling overland and then by water really was the simplest and most cost-effective decision.

 

Transit Bangkok

 Let’s remember the cargo company quote.

A. Transit application fee USD 900 per 3 pets
B. Export Customs clearance USD 900 per 3 pets

Admittedly, things are different when animals fly as cargo compared to when they fly as special baggage, so it may well be that somehow these costs quoted are justified. However, for your information, my experience of arranging the transit application was this:

  • I already had the R1-1 form from previous travel, though it transpires that retrospectively when animals travel with you as AVIH baggage, this piece of paperwork is not required.
  • However, because I did not know this at the time, I duly completed the form, emailed it to the correct department and then heard nothing back.
  • I telephoned the department, they found the email I sent them, they forwarded it to the person responsible for booking in the transit and then I received a transit form with the instruction of finding the animal handling department

 From the little I’ve looked into this the form is certainly needed for importing animals into Thailand or if they are travelling as freight. It’s worth finding out whether you can do this on behalf of the cargo company, if this is how you’re transporting your animals or if you’re looking to cut down on costs, as it may be that this can be done by you on the cargo company’s behalf. I’m not sure about this, so it’s worth looking into.

 

The experience as it was

I began with a spread-eagling scattergun approach to research: EU requirements, Myanmar requirements for export, transit country requirements, approaches to shipping companies, looking into airlines’ requirements and offerings with regards to animals, an assembling of costs and then a few minor implosions and spiritual wobbles as I wondered how on earth to make the move when it seemed all I could find were obstacles and demands for large sums of cash.

Speaking about the route I was taking, people said, “There must be a simpler way. Can’t you just…” and they would propose a suggestion, but for my budget and because of the destination country, I found no other way.

On the 27th June 2018, I began my exit. I kept the cat locked inside the house for the week preceding because I didn’t want her out adventuring on the day of departure. At 4 o clock in the afternoon, my landlady turned up to collect the keys and a light goods truck arrived with three folk to help load, unload and drive myself, my hounds, my cat and other belongings to Yangon airport. It happened in such a hurry when it had been such a long time coming. The rising levels of stress and the number of personal wobbles I’d experienced had mounted over the weeks since I’d made the decision to throw everything up in the air and move to remote and rural West Cork. All of a sudden, the weeks of research, the travels around the city with animals in the back of cabs, the re-homing of two beloved cats that I simply could not afford to take with me, and money exchanged for test results, blood samples, and documents… All had come to this: leaving.

Each animal placed inside their crate, with individual folders with each animal’s paperwork in hand, I was hardly thinking about myself or of what lay ahead: I knew it, had imagined stride by stride, hurdle to hurdle; the route and the requirements for each step were engrained. I’d had long enough to imagine the journey, to foresee where stumbling blocks lay, and to think about what needed to be done to ensure everything went as planned.

I knew getting out of Yangon would not be an effort, yet I still had my reservations, for I’d long imagined attempting to find a taxi to carry myself and my excessive load; I’d long been concerned about the matter of manoeuvring my animals through security check points that line the airport as battlements line castles. As it was, I had nothing to worry about. One of the reasons why I loved my time in Myanmar was because of the roundabout simplicity there is in getting things done. It’s not simple by any means, yet somehow it is possible, as people are willing to help, for there is humour, humanity and, also, since it’s affordable for someone paid a foreigner’s wages to afford help when it is needed. Such help was on hand from the moment I had been collected from my house to the moment I left the animals on the concourse by Thai Airways check in. That is why I hold affection for Yangon – somehow things work out.

I imagined the moment taking off from Yangon would be emotional; instead, having run through everything time and again in my mind, emotion removed itself from the event, and I was an observer paying witness to the different stages. Similarly, for the duration of the journey, I was focused on preserving myself for the marathon, ensuring I got the sleep I’d need and such, so it transpired I did not connect with the emotional undercurrent of my departure. Besides, emotion had preceded and would follow the event; it was no matter that, when the wheels lifted from the tarmac and the plane bore us upward, there was no sense of occasion, only one of practicality as I observed the country that had been home for two years shrinking away. The exit from Myanmar was seamless, as was the transit through Bangkok. I wafted through its fluorescent lit halls; practiced at removing shoes, belt, electrical devices from my backpack, the navigation of this over-sized transit hub and its security check points was easy and I found myself at the gate waiting for the second aeroplane in a state of relative calm. I had stepped through each stage in my imagination so many times that this was an out of body experience, a matter of deja-vu, as it were: all I had to do was to experience it physically.

Arriving in Frankfurt airport was what I had long not been looking forward to. It was the part where, for a few brief metres, I was to be on my own with two dog crates, one cat crate, a carry-on bag and a suitcase. It was also the moment when the question I held was whether or not the animals had survived, for there are plenty of written accounts of things not going so well for animal travellers. I trailed the listless ambling passengers off my flight, and pressed onwards through the melee of passport checks. Cleared, I went on to baggage claim. Stepping into the cavernous luggage collection area, met by no less than 22 baggage collection points that resembled metallic installations as conveyor belts draped flat black rubber slats over silver matt metal jutting upwards from polished floors, I had a long walk across that highly gleaming grey stone towards the section where animals and crates were waiting.

Tiger’s cries met me first. Her indignant miaows travelled the near empty hall and signalled life. All three animals were alive, their crates intact. I breathed a grateful utterance as I greeted wagging, disconcerted dogs then I stood back and surveyed the mountain of luggage and the distance to my goal, the red Goods to Declare customs portal. I considered my options – my two hands, the many pieces I had to transport across the concourse and worked out that with two trolleys I could move the mountain.

In my imaginary reconnaissance of the journey, I identified Frankfurt as having the potential to be the difficult part, and it was, for while there were trolleys in abundance, each neatly stacked, nose to tail, in the trolley gates which promised to release the trolley upon payment of two euros alas these contraptions do not accept coins; they accept, I could tell I had arrived in a developed country, not Myanmar cash-only society, card payment only. None of my cards worked; the machine would not take payment and so it would not release a trolley to ease my burden. Fine, I figured, I’ll ask someone for help and they will offer it.

Ever hopeful, trusting in the goodness of human nature to proffer help when it is asked for, I asked five employees about the baggage claim area for assistance of sorts – the loan of a trolley, guidance with regards to how to employ an extra pair of hands to make light work of transporting my possessions from one side of the plate glass to the other where, in the arrivals hall, my father was waiting, car prepped, for the overland leg of the journey.

As I wrote earlier, I had thought this part would be difficult, for, though small in distance, alone the amount and size I had to move seemed that it would dwarf me. There were no useful or willing luggage porters around to assist; instead, such people wait at the end of a telephone line waiting to offer a quote so extortionate, so disproportionate to the task that even the airport staff I asked to help suggested that I should not use the porter service.

Let me share this: my arrival in Frankfurt prompted strong desire to return to the safe embrace of Myanmar. There was hostility in some responses to my request for help and there were mechanical responses from people restricted to the boundaries of their job function: I am sorry, I cannot help you.

I did what I had told myself I would resort to doing. With Tiger stacked upon one of the dog crates, I shunted the pieces, two parts then back for the third remaining part, from the top most corner towards the red customs gate. For near enough the whole trans-concourse journey, assistance came neither from those I asked nor from people I passed. I was not an easy person to miss. The activity was more than public. I did not make this a small activity; did not attempt to diminish the sound the crates made as they went across the smooth floor; did not feel need to preserve any sense of dignity with each return journey I made for the third piece that I could not move simultaneously with the other parts. I went to and fro and noticed how no one took a blind bit of notice. In India, when I had done such a thing, I drew an audience. In Yangon, people enquired about what was in the boxes. In Frankfurt, in its cold grey light, I went about my business solo. It is not that I had been expecting an audience; I had expected a cultural insight, and I got it. In Frankfurt baggage claim, no one cares; they bear witness only to themselves, their pod, their duty until, finally, all of two metres from my destination point, one human being stepped forward to repair the damage that had been done to my opinion of Europe, all of Europe, mostly Germany. A customs official asked me if I needed help. Perhaps he saw the sweat upon my brow and the firm look of intention I wore upon my face. I did not wait for him to ask a second time, but maybe I blinked in surprise at the unsolicited offer. I graciously accepted and permitted him to assist me shunt the various through sliding glass doors to arrivals where my father was waiting. Praise be that he was, else Frankfurt would have been my downfall.

The airport is not easy to navigate. It persisted in being difficult to exit. Though it is a large international airport, its doors do not live up to the volume of people or of luggage that pass. Single entry doors, hardly size enough to go through with a loaded trolley loaded, preceded entry to stairwells and elevators. We needed those elevators, my father and I, to get us to the car. It was a scene from a sitcom as we unloaded crates from trolleys, pushed trolleys through, carried crates through then stacked crates back onto trolleys to move ahead a few metres only to come to another undersize doorway. I was glad I slept on my flight from Thailand to Frankfurt else I would have collapsed into a heap, lost my sense of humour and duly never have emerged from the underground wasteland that is Frankfurt airport’s car park.

Finally, with the car stuffed with crates and beings, we found our way to the Animal Lounge. This was the final hurdle, in spite of the fact that there was still a long way to go. This was the end of the race. This milestone marked the end of a journey that had been in process from the time when I picked up my cat, then a kitten, four years previously and swore I’d get her to Europe. Getting the stamp on my animals’, my animals from rabies-sodden countries, paperwork would mark the end of a chapter, the completion of a promise. I did not manage to do it for two animals that had been a part of my life in Yangon, but for these three I was about to achieve something that had long been a hazy spot on the horizon of our futures. My stomach tucked in as I walked into the building with folders bulging with hard won paperwork. I imagined it would take a long time, oh but it did not. The lady skimmed through each pile of paperwork, said it looked excellent then proceeded to follow me out to the car park where the animals cowered. She waved a scanner at the cat, at Tallulah then at Wren to read the corresponding microchip numbers. We then returned to the building where she stamped the documents. We were in. My animals could legally trot around Europe to their heart’s content.

A few laps of the carpark later, and after some monumental excretions on the part of the pups, we were on our way. A French bed and breakfast backing onto the Seine beckoned. We hit the roads out of Frankfurt, out of Germany and were off.

 

 

 

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