One of the best things about travelling around Europe with a dog is that it’s usually so easy. Generally you don’t require any paperwork for travelling from country to country and most transport options allow dogs. However, this changes when you travel to the UK. As well as being an island, dogs aren’t allowed to fly into the UK in plane cabins (except for assistance dogs), only the cargo hold, which understandably many people don’t want to do. (And what you do with a huge crate on your holiday is another issue.) Pet dogs also aren’t allowed on the otherwise-so-convenient Eurostar, almost the only train service in Europe that doesn’t allow dogs. So, how do you take your dog to the UK and then return back with your dog from the UK to Europe?
Looking for specific options on travelling from the UK to Spain (and back) with your dog? Check out my comprehensive guide
A Note on Paperwork
While you can usually travel between most EU countries without your dog’s paperwork being checked, the UK is very strict about dogs entering the country, so make sure everything is in order. (Not surprising given that up until 2012 all dogs arriving had mandatory quarantine.) In particular, if your dog is only being vaccinated for the first time for rabies, 21 days must elapse before entering the UK. Additionally, all dogs (except for those entering directly from Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway) will need to be administered a worming treatment by a vet between 24 hours and 5 days of entry into the UK, with this carefully checked down to the hour. For more details on the paperwork required, read my post about travelling in the UK with a dog.
Will this change after Brexit in 2019? At this stage, no information is known. There is a chance that the rules with toughen and additional steps required, as suggested in this recent report from the British Veterinary Association. If that occurs, I will update this information.
When returning from the UK back to Europe, generally no paperwork at all for your dog is checked. This occurred to me when taking a ferry to the Netherlands, and is usually the case for most ferries and when taking the Eurotunnel. However, there is a chance it will be checked, most likely if you are flying to a specific destination such as Malta, so always be prepared.
Can You Take a Dog on the Eurostar?
The only dogs that are allowed on the Eurostar are assistance dogs, and even then they need to be booked in advance. Unfortunately, no pet dogs are allowed on the Eurostar. It would be wonderful if this changed, but there are currently no plans for this to change. It’s especially perplexing given that dogs are allowed on trains in both the UK (for free!) and France.
Taking the Eurotunnel with a Dog
If you’re travelling to the UK with a car, probably the most convenient option is to take the Eurotunnel car shuttle train. Your dog stays in your car along with you, and the actual crossing only takes 35 minutes. There is an additional charge of £19 per pet, in each direction.
When travelling from Calais (France), you will need to arrive at least 45 minutes before your departure and report firstly to the Pet Reception Centre, before checking in. Here your dog’s worming treatment and other records will be checked. This isn’t required when departing the UK, but you need to specify you have a pet when checking in. See further details on the Eurotunnel website.
Note that the Eurotunnel doesn’t take foot passengers, with or without a dog.
Taking a Ferry with a Car and a Dog
The majority of ferries travelling between continental Europe and England allow passengers travelling with a car to also transport pets. Click here for the full list of approved ferries. On most ferries, your dog (or other pets) will stay in your car for the voyage, although some ferries do offer kennel options or even pet-friendly cabins (including Brittany Ferry to St Malo, Bilbao and Santander, and DFDS Ferries between Newcastle and Amsterdam). If your dog is staying in your car, it’s best to choose one of the quicker ferry options, such as between Calais and Dover, particularly if travelling in summer.
Most ferries charge a fee per pet, usually under £20 except for voyages to and from Spain, although this varies between the different companies. Check out the websites of the individual ferry companies for more information.
Taking a Ferry with a Dog as a Foot Passenger
Generally, most of the ferries that travel between continental Europe and the UK only allow passengers with a vehicle to bring along dogs. This is because most of the time pets must stay in the vehicle, or they do not have facilities for the boarding of foot passengers with pets. There are only a handful of exceptions:
- DFDS Ferry between Dieppe (France) and Newhaven: This is the only ferry between England and France that allows foot passengers to bring their dog, with a set charge of £18. The journey is about 4 hours (longer than the shorter Calais to Dover route) and dogs are kept in kennels on the car deck for the entire journey. Pets must be carried on board in a pet carrier. Click the link to read my review of taking this ferry and multiple trains to travel with my dog between Paris and London without a car.
- Stena Line Ferry between Hook of Holland (Netherlands) and Harwick: This longer crossing takes about 8 hours, but is quite popular as there are two kennel rooms for dogs that remain accessible during the voyage, plus a TV channel showing CCTV footage from the kennels. (Car passengers also have the option of leaving dogs in their car.) The set charge for dogs using the kennels is £16. Click the link to read my review of travelling between London and Amsterdam with my dog on this ferry, on the overnight sailing.
- DFDS Ferry between Amsterdam and Newcastle: This ferry service is unique for having recently added dog-friendly cabins as well as kennels, with both available to foot passengers as well as car passengers. It’s also a convenient option for dog-owners travelling from northern England or Scotland, although the journey time is longer – nearly 16 hours. The set charge for dogs in a kennel or cabin is £25, and pet bookings for foot passengers need to be made by calling the contact centre. Read this review of taking the ferry or click here and here to find out more on the DFDS website.
Flying to the UK with a Dog
Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed to travel to the UK in the plane cabin, no matter how small, with the exception of assistance dogs. Dogs aren’t even allowed to travel into the UK on a plane as checked luggage, only as cargo. Click here for the list of approved airlines, including the approved destination airports, or alternatively check the pet policy of the airline you intend to use.
Some airlines that fly pets elsewhere in Europe, even in the cabin, don’t fly pets at all into the UK, such as budget airline Vueling. Depending on the airline, you may be required to use an animal transport company, meaning it can be quite expensive. I’ve also read a report that collecting your pet from the quarantine office is time consuming and expensive (although I haven’t investigated fully). Is it any wonder that most people avoid flying to the UK with their pet?
Flying Out of the UK with a Dog
While pets flying into the UK must travel as cargo only, except for assistance dogs, the rules are more relaxed for flying with pets from the UK. Dogs can travel either as checked luggage or cargo, plus there are a small number of airlines that permit small dogs to fly in the cabin (but not all and not to all destinations). Check the pet policy of the airline that you intend to use.
The following airlines state in their pet policy that they allow small dogs to fly in the cabin when leaving the UK:
- Air Malta (Pet Policy) (Read my post about travelling to Malta with a dog)
- Iberia Express (Pet Policy)
(Let me know if you know of any other airlines that allow this!)
Some additional airlines may also allow small dogs to fly in the cabin when leaving the UK, but don’t make this clear on their website. (I’ve read reports about Lufthansa and Air France/KLM allowing this, but there is no mention on any of their websites.) I recommend phoning up the airline you are considering using to find out if this is an option, plus noting down the details of who you spoke to and when if you do get the okay.
Taxi Services Across the English Channel
One final option if you’re travelling between the UK and continental Europe without a car, and are struggling with the limited transport options available, is to utilise a taxi service. There are multiple providers that will basically take you on a taxi ride, along with your dog in the vehicle, but a slightly different ride as you’ll be taking the Eurotunnel with the taxi. Generally you just take the taxi between Folkestone Central station and either Calais Ville or Calais Fréthun station, utilising trains on either end. Expect to be charged about £100 in addition to the Eurotunnel cost. There may also be the option to travel a further distance on each end, such as all the way to London, for a higher cost.
For further details, contact:
Travelling Between the UK and Ireland with a Dog
There are no restrictions that apply to travelling between the UK and Ireland with a dog. Basically you can cross the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in your own car, on any road. Plus when crossing the Irish Sea from Ireland to England or Wales, dogs are allowed on most ferries, or can even cross on a private boat. No worming treatment is required when crossing the border in either direction (as worming is required before entering either country).
Note that throughout both UK and Ireland, plus between the two countries, dogs cannot fly in the cabin of an airplane. It’s better to take a ferry if travelling with a dog and crossing between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. My recommendation for the best ferry option to Ireland is the Stena Line Ferry from Cairnryan (Scotland) to Belfast. As well as probably being the quickest crossing (only 2 1/4 hours), if you have a small dog in a carrier you can carry it on board with you.