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Travelling with a dog during COVID: from Berlin to Bangalore

rohanbagchi profile image Rohan Bagchi ・5 min read

It was around mid September 2020 when my wife, Aurpita and I decided to short circuit our Berlin stay and move back to India so we could be closer to family.

Things were definitely better than they were around March 2020 in a way that there was a process around travels. But it was still a major mess and flights were getting cancelled all the time.

I called up Pawsome. They helped us move Aura, our 2.5 year old cocker spaniel from Bangalore to Berlin for assistance and they shared a process.

As flights were getting cancelled, I planned on moving Aura before my scheduled date of travel. Aurpita agreed to travel to India and drop Aura off to her creche Petcart Nest. Highly recommended for pet stays in Bangalore.

On 11th November 2020, Aurpita and Aura travelled all the way from Berlin to Bangalore. Except for the tiring flight, all went well.

This is all 3 of us in the old abandoned Brandenburg airport few days before travel:
Family Pic

Aura's travel photo: you will need one to request for an NOC from India.
Aura's Travel Photo

All 3 of us travelled around January 2020 with Lufthansa from Bangalore to Berlin with a layover at Frankfurt. Naturally it was my first choice.

How to book a ticket for yourself and your dog for international relocations?
  1. Go to airline website and select your flight
  2. Fill in all details and reach the payment page
  3. Call the airline customer support and ask them to check if a slot is available for pet-in-hold and if so, add it to your booking. You will have to pay for it at the time of checkin post weight check.
  4. Make payment for your ticket.

Normally, calling customer care is a speedy affair with Lufthansa because COVID, you have to wait on hold for 10-30 minutes on an average until the calls are answered.

Lufthansa was able to find a slot in Berlin to Frankfurt route and the agent moved on to look for a slot in Frankfurt to Bangalore. We got to know there is an embargo on pet travel in Frankfurt - Bangalore route. Had to drop the plan with Lufthansa. This call ate up ~2 hours of my life I will never get back :)

Next hope was Air France. With them, waiting time was worse at times going all the way up to an hour.
Pro tip: buy a subscription from Viber Out for INR 600. This saved me countless Euros.
Yes, times were difficult. So much so that months after buying the tickets and travelling, I could still hear their waiting music in my head :)
Luckily, Air France agreed to take Aura.

There was a catch however: if we took a flight from Berlin to Bangalore with a layover, they would not be able to accommodate a dog. Reason: some issue with support staff unavailability during layovers.

Only way to travel with a dog in Air France was on direct flights.

Travel was broken down into 3 parts:
  1. Berlin to Paris.
  2. Overnight stay at Holiday Inn Express CDG Airport (yes, it is pet friendly)
  3. Paris to Bangalore

I travelled from Berlin to Paris and post that Aurpita continued with Aura onto Bangalore. In Bangalore, Pawsome would take over and post wrap up of formalities will drop Aura off to her home for next 41 days.

Process of booking a ticket with Air France was little different:
  1. Go to airline website, select your flight & fill in all details and reach the payment page
  2. Call the airline customer support and ask them to check if a slot is available for pet-in-hold.
  3. Make payment for your ticket.
  4. Call them again to attach a pet-in-hold slot with your ticket. You can make payment online as it is fixed price until 75kgs.
Required documentation for Aura:
  1. Updated Rabies vaccination
  2. Export health certificate from Germany
  3. Original Export NOC from when Aura travelled to Germany

Rabies vaccination was easy. Any vet will do it. Fun part was locating the place to get the export health certificate from Germany. There was a chat group named "Zalandogs" in Zalando where I asked for help and I was pointed to the right direction.

If any one is looking for the place to go to, search for this
Official Veterinary Clinic
Make sure to take an appointment beforehand. The whole process took around 20 minutes and cost us around 25 Euros.
The doctor will verify the vaccine records and cross reference it with the micro chip number by physically scanning the dog.

How to travel to the airport hotel on reaching Paris?
Pro tip: avoid taxis. They will charge some random number and will not negotiate.
Paris CDG airport has a train directly taking to all the nearby airport hotels. I availed that train.

This is Aura in Paris. Could not get a better photograph of her.
Aura in Paris

Berlin to Paris was a seamless affair. We booked a taxi from taxi-berlin and reached the new Brandenburg Airport in no time. The checkin experience for all 3 of us was smooth as we had all documents in place. They collected Aura from the heavy luggage loading bay and we moved on to the boarding gate.

Paris checkin was also simple. Holiday Inn Express has an airport shuttle. We availed it to travel to airport from the hotel. Once in airport, I helped Aurpita finish the checkin and once Aura was collected as heavy luggage, Aurpita moved on to her security check + border control.
My flight back to Berlin was in couple of hours from the other side of the airport.

Once in flight, make sure to ask the flight attendant to confirm if the dog attached to your ticket is onboard as a safety check.

To sum it up, this is the flow that worked for me:
  1. Buy tickets for yourself + dog
  2. Schedule RT-PCR test for yourself 1 day before travel. I used Centogene. Make sure to reach early.
  3. Gather all travel documents for the dog: Rabies + Export Health Certificate. It is a good idea to retain a relocation agency. Pawsome worked really well for us.
  4. Travel to Paris
  5. Stay overnight in airport hotel
  6. Travel to India

Please feel free to reach out in comments if any of you are travelling in the coming months and need some information.

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