We are living right near Ramstein, in Kaiserslautern. My husband works on Ramstein. Welcome to the area. :)
Are you guys military?I'm assuming, since you are flying in to the base. There should be contacts for you, and they have excellent information about this. Military gets some deals and exceptions made for them that us civillians don't get. I'm not exactly sure who you talk to about this, but my military friends say they used resources within the military to ship pets.
I used United to ship my tortoise through the petsafe program. It was AWESOME. The flight was about $600, so that's right on. You should NOT have to do it through a third party. SOmeone didn't tell you the right info. Unless you will have more than one carrier? That would start to get more expensive.
Animals cannot go in the plane on international flights. They have to go in cargo or in designated pet holds. Lufthansa and United have designated pet holds, which are climate controlled and monitored. USAirways does not take pets at ALL, and they hold the contract to fly military dependents right now.
You will only need a health certificate from a USDA vet here in the US to get on the plane. That's about $50 for all the fees. You must get it 10 days before you fly out. When you get to Germany, they will help you get the health certificate for entering the country. It's complicated, but be patient and polite and the people will tell you exactly which building to go to next to get all your forms stamped and paid for.
Frankfurt is about 2hrs from us. There is a train that goes directly to the airport that costs about 20 Euro. You can get on it from Landsthul or Kaiserslautern- it's a nice ride. You can use it to pick up the pigs that way, if you like. Pigs can totally ride the trains, you just buy them a companion animal ticket. It's about $10 euro per carrier. You can take a taxi from the base to either of those trainstations.
The Frankfurt Airport has an animal lounge and the workers there are nice kind animal people. I had a problem with paperwork (the tortoise is counted as a threatened species, it was complicated) and they took care of my tortoise for 6 extra hours. If you have to, you can have them basically pet sit for you. It's about 50euro per 24hrs but they will feed and care for the pigs.
If all else fails I can totally drive you. I know exactly how you're feeling! Call United and ask them about the Pet Safe Program and then let me know if you want to take the train to Frankfurt or if you want a ride. Or if you want me to go with you to help get the pigs out of customs- it was pretty nuts to navigate all those departments and offices in a foreign language. My German is basic but it will help, since not everyone there spoke English.
Don't, whatever you do, fly the pigs on Delta. They have a very poor track record in flying animals.
You will love Landstuhl- it's a cute little town with lots of buildings left intact after WWII. There's even a medieval castle on the hill over the town! You can tour and its' been really well preserved.
Don't worry about the offer of a ride, seriously. It's not a problem and I know exactly how your'e feeling about being in a new country and trying to make sure the pets are safe.
You can take that airport train if you like. the RTT travel office in the BX on Ramstein will set it all up for you. It's right near the airport where you'll land! You could just walk across the street, buy your tickets, then walk through the BX to the front and there's taxies there that would take you to the train station.
OR, I can drive you. Totally up to you. :)
To help put your mind at ease during your stay - most Germans speak English. It's my understanding the kids have to take at least one other language while in school and most of them elect to take English. It will make it easier for you.
-They think their English is not good enough. It is, but they are sure it isnt and insist they can't speak English. So I inflict my very basic German on them until they get frustrated and use their English.
-They simply don't know English. People over the age of about 40 just didn't get it in school. I dont know enough about the school system here to know why.
-And then there's the bizarre situation in our area. There's over 50,000 Americans here. Not all of them act politely when off base. The Germans get understandably frustrated dealing with people who are entitled jerks, and won't deal with any of us. They lie and say they can't speak English because the last 3 people to talk to them were obnoxious.
So...I guess about half the people you meet will speak great English.
Either way- there's great German classes on Ramstein through the community center. $80 for 9 weeks of 3 classes per week for conversational German. That's how I got my basic language. I can be polite and ask directions/help and talk to people in stores or restaurants. I need to learn it better, but it's good enough until I have time for a proper class from the Volksschule.
Let me know when you want to go get the pigs. I work at the School Age program on Vogelweh base, but I can get a day off whenever. Email me through the mailer here and I"ll send you my contact info. :)
It would be the same to ask Americans why they don't speak in general a second language ;-). Yes English is the most popular language, but to speak a second one can't hurt.
It all depends on each others will to go a tiny step towards each other and at least we all have hand and feet to speak with - haven't we?
I worked in Darmstadt (30 km south of Frankfurt/Main) and
lived in Griesheim (25 km south of Frankfurt/Main - in the high towers by the Autobahn). The Stars & Stripes magazine was
printed in Griesheim and quite some soldiers were stationed
Anyway one day an Army Seargent with a swivel chair came in our office. He didn't speak German, I a bit of conversational English. After "Guten Tag" from him he pointed to the chair he had obviously a problem with. By all means we didn't know what he wanted, so he made gestures that the chair was dysfunctional. My colleagues and I had still only question marks on our faces, so he pointed to the chair and played an attempt to sit on it. After doing that he made a noise like a rocket and pointed to the ceiling.
What did he want? The gas spring height adjustment was
busted and elevated everybody who wanted to sit on this
chair right through the ceiling.
We all had a good laugh (not about each other, with each other) and after this funny adventure he deserved a cup
Needless to say he always liked to come to us.
This was a long time ago and I must still smile about my
foolish English language adventures. Sorry for my typos
but it is late and I have to feed my oinky tenants.
Lots of Americans Like to tell one another that language is not an issue, don't worry, everyone speaks English, ect..... Assuming that people know our language. They don't. Or they don't want to speak it to you.
That's all fine.
( I don't know enough about the school systems here. Only that they are quite different from US schools. And that there's been some major changes with requirements that are part of why older people didn't have languages in school.)
- 4 the Good of all Pigs