Moving is a big deal. The whole process of packing your items and shifting from one place to another is tiring and time-consuming. Relocating to another country is on an entirely new level. The phrase ‘so much to do, so little time’ suddenly starts making sense, and you find yourself caught between packing, last minute errands, meeting friends to say goodbye and preparing for a new lifestyle.
On top of the stress of moving, a lack of language skills, or not having family and friends close by can often mean you feel isolated and homesick once you arrive in your new home. You start thinking about your routine or small gestures like returning from work to find your furry companion waiting patiently for cuddles (and food, obviously). Then you think to yourself, can I fly to Turkey with my pet?
Multiple psychological studies have focused on ‘expat depression’, something that often leads those who experience it to shun social situations and to neglect their personal well-being. One easy remedy? Bring Fido or Twinkles along with you. Pets are, after all, emotionally supportive as well as effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression and anxiety experienced by many people, not just expats.
But would it be easy to travel to Turkey with your pet? Or would it be a total disaster? Does Turkey have a lot of strict rules and regulations? How many photocopies of your pet’s passport must you have? Can you even travel with your pet? For all you animal lovers who are attached to your pets and are concerned, I am here to help! Below is an easy guide, which explains the steps you should take if you are flying to Turkey with a pet, complete with a checklist, useful websites and contacts for professionals who can help with the process.
In May 2016, I travelled to Turkey with Pepper, my German Shepherd, and then with my rabbit Gooby a couple of months later in July. Both trips were from Dubai to Istanbul and the procedures for both differed because they were different species, and arrived in different forms of air transport via different airlines. I am happy to say that both trips went well and were much easier than I expected, mainly because I had contacted the right people, had the proper documentation, and had taken the right steps.
I’d like to add that you must review the options available to you thoroughly before planning, whilst considering your pet’s health and safety.
Before you travel
There are three major steps you must take before you travel to your destination in Turkey: Complete all the paperwork/prepare necessary documents (relating to you and your pet), pack the important items and arrange your flight with the most convenient airline.
Completing the first step means you will have to frequently visit your pet’s vet and the municipality to prepare the required documents, and to confirm that your pet is at optimum health, is free from any diseases and is physically capable of flying. Additionally, you might have to get your pet microchipped and have a pet passport issued for your fluffy friend, which will be used as a form of identification. Your furry companion(s) should have all their vaccinations and deworming up-to-date and have a health certificate issued by a registered and licensed veterinarian. A more extensive list of documents required can be found here.
Next you will need to you will need to purchase a well-built travel crate, which is compatible with International Air Transportation Association (IATA) regulations. Do consider the duration of the flight and the comfort of your pet when selecting the travel crate. You can check for the appropriate pet crate size here.
Before travelling you should gather together all of your pet’s essential items – water, food bowl, food, toys etc. – to tide you over until you find a pet store close to where you’ll be living. There are A LOT of pet stores in and around Istanbul, and the same is applicable to all the other major cities in Turkey. You should also put together a pet first aid kit too just in case.
The final step is selecting the airline you travel with to Turkey. There are two ways your pet can travel to Turkey: as cargo or as excess baggage. Pricing, documentation, booking and procedures after landing are different in both cases. Since both are a tad bit complicated, I will try to explain them the best I can.
If you choose to have your pet to arrive as cargo, that means they will be travelling with passenger baggage. As for excess baggage, like paying for excess baggage that exceeds the airline’s limitation, you pay for your pet. As stated earlier, price differs for both forms. Take time to sit and calculate the total price for both cargo and excess baggage to have a better view. If you can fly your pet as excess baggage, there’s a chance your pet will be able to fly with you on board. Small cats and dogs can sometimes fly in the cabin with you. This, again, depends on the airline and your pet’s size/weight.
Pepper was 5 months old when she arrived in Turkey, and weighed around 30-35 kilos. She arrived as excess baggage, and that was the easiest thing ever. She was weighed like excess baggage in Dubai International Airport, and before being released in Ataturk International Airport, the staff checked her documentation, and voila, it was done! Gooby, however, arrived as cargo because she was not allowed to arrive as excess baggage (since she is a rabbit). The procedure for releasing her in Istanbul was expensive and tiring. I spent a total of 3 hours running around and finishing paperwork. If you are travelling with a pet cat or dog, it is easy (and cheaper) to bring them as excess baggage when possible.
This final step is in many ways the most important. Before you travel, you must carefully consider which airline you will be using. You will need to know if the airline allows you to travel with pets, what breeds and species are allowed on board or in the cabin, the prices and freight calculations, and what you must do after you land. You should contact the airline to double check everything.
Tips and tricks
• Make sure you speak with professional pet transportation consultants and relocators about the documents and test results required for the entry of your pet to Turkey.
• Learn a few Turkish words relating to pets to be able to communicate with airport staff (in case they don’t understand you). Here are a few: köpek – dog; kedi – cat; tavşan – rabbit; kuş – bird
• Attach copies of the documents you prepared to the travel crate. This way the airport staff can be well informed of your pet’s arrival.
• When preparing the crate for travel, give your pet some dry food, so that they can eat while they are flying. Have some dry food on you so that you can feed your pet when you reunite with them again in Turkey.
• Many websites suggest that it is not necessary to feed your pet with a drowsing pill for the flight. You can try alternative and natural medications such as calming pastes. Regardless of what you choose to do, be sure to consult your licensed vet regarding this.
• Leashes are not allowed on board, unless packed in baggage. If you plan to let your dog stretch his/her legs after the flight, you can attach or tape the leash to the travel crate.
• Inform the cabin crew staff that your pet is travelling with you for them to double check the temperature control. All staff are always notified but you can do it too for reassurance.
• Don’t worry about arranging your transportation when you arrive to Istanbul. Taxis will charge a little bit, but go a long way to make your trip from the airport comfortable.
• If you will be staying at a hotel, check out the hundreds of pet friendly hotels. Check with hotel management too!
• Find a reliable pet store and veterinarian close to your place, to save you the hassle of travelling a long distance. Finally, and I must stress on this, remove your pet’s collar before you put them in the crate. Your pet can hurt themselves via the collar if they panic since they are confined to a small area.
□ Pet passport
□ Health certificates
□ Blood tests
□ Vaccinations and deworming documentation
□ Photocopies of documents
□ IATA approved travel crate
□ Food and water
□ Toys and grooming materials
□ Pet bed/Blanket
Important websites and contacts
General information: Pet Travel Information (or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Importing and exporting pets in and out of Turkey (and professional handling): Pet Transportation Turkey (or e-mail them at email@example.com)
In case you’ll be flying in with Turkish Airlines: Pets as baggage
Any additional tips or questions? Let us know in the comments!