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Can you travel by train with your dog between the UK & Europe? Yes!
This gets asked surprisingly often, as it's difficult and expensive to send dogs or pets abroad by air, and pets find it very stressful travelling alone in the hold of a plane. So why not take your dog by train, the civilised and comfortable overland option? There are a few issues involved with travelling by train with a dog or other pet, not least the need to avoid Eurostar which doesn't allow dogs at all, except guide dogs. But don't worry, this page will talk you through the issues and recommend routes and options for train travel between the UK and key destinations with your dog.
Pet passport, microchip & vaccinations...
Before you start, you'll need to make sure your dog or pet complies with the necessary rules & regulations of the PET Travel Scheme, including being fitted with a microchip, and having a pet passport and the necessary vaccinations, see www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/travel for details of the latest rules from 1 January 2012.
Taking your dog on trains within Britain...
This bit is easy. You can take dogs, cats and other small animals with you free of charge on all British trains, up to a maximum of two per passenger, as long as they do not endanger or inconvenience passengers or staff. Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times unless contained in a basket. Dogs without leads, cats, birds and small animals must be carried in an enclosed basket, cage or pet carrier which must be rigid and not open (to prevent escape) and the animal able to stand and lie down in comfort. Animals and containers must not occupy seats, otherwise a charge may be made. If you want to use a Caledonian Sleeper to or from Scotland, you'll need to pay a fee, see here. For full details of dog & pet regulations on British trains see www.nationalrail.co.uk/passenger_services/luggage_animals.html. So far, so good.
Getting your dog or pet across the Channel...
Let's get the biggest problem out of the way first: Eurostar refuses to carry dogs or pets at all, except guide dogs. And most ferry operators won't let foot passengers take dogs either. In fact, there are only two ferry operators who let foot passengers take dogs, LD Lines to France and Stena Line to Hoek van Holland. You could of course dress your dog as a guide dog, pretend to be blind, and take Eurostar. Indeed, I'm only half joking, as the Eurostar journey would be so simple compared to some of the other options, though I must admit I haven't yet heard from anyone who has actually tried it. Difficult to be convincing if your dog is a Yorkshire Terrier, unless he's a very good actor. But more realistically, here are the options for crossing the Channel with your dog or pet:
London to Holland by Dutch Flyer train & ferry ... A train takes you from London's Liverpool Street station directly to the ferry terminal at Harwich, with your dog at your side. You walk off the train into the terminal, walk through a painless security check, get your boarding card & cabin key and walk straight onto the overnight ferry to Hoek van Holland, settling your dog into the on-board kennels.
Cosy cabins: The overnight Harwich-Hoek ferry is a floating hotel. All passengers travel in a cosy private cabin with en suite shower & toilet and satellite TV. This is a Captain's class cabin with double bed and complimentary minibar...
Clean & secure kennel... On the ferry, kennels are located on Red Stairs on 8 Deck, one deck above the deck where you enter the ship (deck 7), just below the main passenger deck (deck 9) & cabin decks (10 & 11). The door has a security code lock so only pet owners can enter.
Option 1: Use the excellent Dutch Flyer train & ferry service from London to Amsterdam overnight, then onward trains to Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe & Scandinavia...
I strongly recommend this option for both comfort and simplicity for travel with your dog between the UK and the following countries: Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. However, it's obviously a long way round if you're bound for France, Spain or Portugal. In many cases you can book your whole trip online, complete with a kennel on the ferry.
What is the Dutch Flyer and how does it work? The Dutch Flyer is an integrated train & ferry service from London to Amsterdam run jointly by Greater Anglia Trains, Stena Line and Dutch Railways. One ticket bought at www.dutchflyer.co.uk covers the whole journey from London or any East Anglia rail station to Amsterdam or any Dutch rail station. You take the 19:32 train from London Liverpool Street station to Harwich and your dog travels with you on the train. At Harwich, the train arrives alongside the ferry terminal at around 21:00. It's totally painless: You walk straight off the train into the ferry terminal and onto the luxurious Stena Line superferry to Hoek van Holland, you put your dog into the on-board kennels (located on Red Stairs deck 8) and settle in to your private en suite cabin and perhaps have a late dinner in the ship's restaurant. All cabins have a shower, toilet, free WiFi and satellite TV, and channel 6 on the TV shows CCTV pictures of the kennel, with close-ups of individual cages. You can visit your dog at any time during the crossing, although they are not allowed in the cabins or public areas. The ferry sails daily at 23:15 and arrives at Hoek van Holland at 07:45 next morning, Dutch time. You now collect your dog from the kennels and walk off the ferry into the terminal and out onto the adjacent railway station for the frequent local train to Rotterdam. Change trains in Rotterdam for the frequent InterCity trains to Amsterdam, arriving Amsterdam around 10:15. In the reverse direction, you'd leave Amsterdam around 18:45, the ferry sails from Hoek around 22:00 arriving Harwich at 06:30, you reach central London around 08:50. You'll find full details and photos of the Dutch Flyer service on the Netherlands page.
Onward trains to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Eastern Europe etc. Direct daytime trains link Amsterdam with Germany and Switzerland - in many cases these go via Utrecht, and changing at Utrecht saves going all the way into Amsterdam. Alternatively, after a day in Amsterdam, excellent City Night Line sleeper trains link Amsterdam with Basel & Zurich in Switzerland, Munich, Prague, Warsaw and Copenhagen. Regular daytime trains link Rotterdam with Brussels and Paris. All of these trains take dogs, sometimes free, sometimes for a fee, sometimes with a child rate ticket. You'll find specific timetables for journeys between London and each of the following countries by clicking the relevant link: Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Czech Republic & Poland.
How much does it cost for you? You'll find specific fare & booking information for journeys between London and each of the following countries by clicking the relevant link: Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Czech Republic & Poland.
How much does it cost to take your dog? On the train from London to Harwich your dog travels free. On the ferry, you must reserve a kennel during the online booking process for an extra £15 each way. On the Dutch domestic trains between Hoek van Holland, Rotterdam & Amsterdam or Utrecht, small dogs or cats in containers on your lap travel free of charge, but if you have a larger dog you'll need to buy a dog day-ticket (Dagkaart Hond) for €3, you can buy this at the information desk on deck 9 on board the Stena Line ferry. On the international daytime trains from Amsterdam or Utrecht to Germany and Switzerland, cats and small dogs (up to cat sized) in containers go free, larger dogs on leads require a child rate ticket which you can buy online exactly as you would for a child. On the direct City Night Line overnight sleeper trains from Amsterdam to Basel or Zurich in Switzerland, Munich, Prague or Copenhagen, dogs and cats travel for a €30 fee paid to the staff on board the train, as long as you and your party occupy a whole sleeper or couchette compartment.
How to buy tickets for you & your dog online, step 1: Book your Dutch Flyer ticket from London to Amsterdam online at www.dutchflyer.co.uk. You simply need to add a reserved kennel for your dog or cat at the stage where it asks you to enter the number of adults and your chosen cabin type. You'll find 'number of cats or dogs in kennel' listed underneath the various breakfast and dinner options.
How to buy tickets online, step 2: You now need to book the onward trains to your European destination. Booking usually opens 90 days ahead, you cannot book before reservations open. Trains from Amsterdam to Cologne, Frankfurt and Switzerland (and the sleeper trains to Munich, Zurich, Copenhagen, Prague) pass through Utrecht so it's quicker to pick them up there rather than going all the way into Amsterdam, unless you really want to. For daytime travel from Amsterdam or Utrecht to Germany or Switzerland, book your own ticket at www.bahn.de. Small (cat-size) dogs & cats in containers go free, if you have a larger larger dog it travels at the child rate (either full-price or discounted 'savings'/'Spezial' fare, it doesn't matter) so simply use www.bahn.de again to buy a child ticket, I recommend buying this as a separate booking to avoid the system automatically offering the 'Child under 15 accompanied by an adult goes free' offer which doesn't apply to dogs! There are City Night Line sleeper train from Amsterdam or Utrecht to Copenhagen, Munich, Basel, Zurich, Dresden or Prague and you can easily book these online at www.bahn.de, there's no need to worry about booking the dog, as long as you book a whole sleeper or couchette compartment you can pay the dog fee once you get on board the train. Onward connections from Munich to Vienna or Budapest can be booked at www.bahn.de, again you'd book a separate child ticket for your dog on these trains unless it's a very small dog or cat in a container when it goes free.
How to buy tickets by phone: The simplest way to book by phone is to fill in this special booking form & email it to European Rail, and they will call you back, usually within 24 hours, with a price. This avoids a long phone call while you dictate your details and they work out trains & prices! If you prefer to call them, call 020 7619 1083 (but please say you're calling about 'Pet travel via the Dutch Flyer as shown on Seat 61'). Their lines are 08:30-18:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday. They're one of the few agencies (if not the only agency) who can sell both the Dutch Flyer and European train tickets, they can arrange cabins for you and kennel for your pet on the ferry, and arrange onward train travel to most European destinations for you and your dog.
Inward one-way tickets: Note that www.dutchflyer.co.uk can only book one-way or return tickets starting in the UK. One-way or return tickets starting in the Netherlands must be booked at the Dutch version of the Stena Line website, see the advice here.
Option 2: Get a friend or Folkestone Taxis to drive you to Calais.
For France, Spain or Portugal you really need to go via Paris. As Eurostar won't take pets and most Channel Ferries won't let foot passengers take pets either, here are two options for getting across:
Get a friend to drive you to Calais, using either a ferry from Dover or Eurotunnel from Folkestone, using a cheap day trip ticket. Eurotunnel and most ferry companies allow dogs under the PETS travel scheme if they remain inside a vehicle. Book online at Eurotunnel or P&O Ferries to Calais or www.norfolkline-ferries.co.uk to Dunkirk, a short drive from Calais but often the cheapest crossing.
Folkestone Taxis (01303 252 000 or +44 1303 252000) will take you and your dog and up to 3 other passengers from Dover Priory station to Calais Ville (or Fréthun) stations for around £100 plus the cost of the Eurotunnel ticket, perhaps another £75. You and your dog remain together in the taxi throughout the journey via the Channel Tunnel car shuttle train. To check train times from London St Pancras, London Victoria or London Charing Cross to Dover, use www.nationalrail.co.uk, dogs go free. To check train times from Calais Ville or Calais Fréthun to Paris use www.raileurope.co.uk (in pounds, for UK residents) or www.capitainetrain.com (in euros, for residents of any country), small extra charge for dogs. Folkestone Taxis have been highly recommended by several travellers, further feedback is always appreciated.
Once dropped off at Calais Ville or Calais Fréthun station, you can head to Paris and beyond by train, as dogs are allowed on normal French Railways trains, and on trains from Paris to Spain, Italy, Switzerland and so on (see the next section). You can check Calais-Paris train times & fares at either www.raileurope.co.uk (in pounds, for UK residents) or www.capitainetrain.com (in euros, for residents of any country).
Option 3: Take a Newhaven-Dieppe LD Lines ferry (pets in cages only).
Dogs go free of charge on any of the normal domestic UK trains to Newhaven or Portsmouth (see www.nationalrail.co.uk for train times), you can then take an LD Lines ferry across the Channel from Newhaven to Dieppe or Portsmouth to Le Havre (www.ldlines.co.uk), then a domestic French train to Paris (www.capitainetrain.com for train times & booking). Most ferry companies do not allow foot passengers to take pets, but LD Lines (www.ldlines.co.uk) allows you to take a cat or dog with you as a foot passenger on these routes under the PETS travel scheme, as long as the animal is caged, see the pets page on their website. The caged pet is handed to staff at check-in and returned to you after the crossing. It basically takes most of a day to go from London to Paris via Newhaven-Dieppe, although a convenient overnight ferry with cabins operates Portsmouth to Le Havre in the outward direction. Once in Paris, you can take onward trains to Spain, Portugal or the South of France, as shown in step 4 below.
Taking your dog on trains in mainland Europe...
Once safely across the Channel, you can take a dog or cat with you on most trains across Europe, sometimes free, sometimes for a small charge, sometimes with a normal child-rate ticket. In sleeping-cars and couchettes on overnight trains, you can generally only take a dog if your party occupies all the berths in a compartment.
To France: Eurostar doesn't take dogs and nor do most ferry companies unless you are a motorist. P&O used to allow foot passengers to take dogs, but have reportedly stopped doing so as from 2012. However, LD Lines will take caged pets if you're a foot passenger on their Newhaven-Dieppe or Portsmouth-Le Havre routes. So either get a friend to drive you to Calais using a cheap day-trip ferry ticket and dropping you at Calais Ville or Calais Fréthun station as explained above in option 2 or travel by train from London to Newhaven or Portsmouth, take an LD Lines ferry as a foot passenger with your pet in a cage as explained in option 3 above to Dieppe or Le Havre, taxi to the station for a train to Paris.
Once in France, dogs can be taken on all French trains. Small dogs (under 6Kg) placed in containers not exceeding 45cm x 30cm x 25cm pay no more than €5.10 per journey. Larger dogs on leads pay half the 2nd class full fare (even travelling in 1st class). You can buy tickets for your pet at the ticket office before boarding the train. You can check train times in France at www.raileurope.co.uk (UK residents) or www.capitainetrain.com (anyone).
To the Netherlands: I recommend travelling via the Harwich-Hoek van Holland superferry as shown in option 1 above. Once at Hoek van Holland your Dutch Flyer ticket is valid to any Dutch station, not just Amsterdam. On Dutch trains, small dogs or cats in containers placed on your lap travel free of charge, if you have a larger dog on a lead you will need to buy a 'dog day-ticket' (Dagkaart Hond) for around €3. You can book from London to Amsterdam or any Dutch station online at www.dutchflyer.co.uk, adding a kennel during the booking process.
To Switzerland: You should use the Dutch Flyer service from London to Amsterdam via the Harwich-Hoek van Holland ferry, as explained in option 1 above. For details of the London to Switzerland journey via this route see the Switzerland page, which has timetables & fares. You can book the London-Amsterdam part of the journey online at www.dutchflyer.co.uk, adding a reserved kennel during the booking process. You'll then find a direct City Night Line sleeper train from Amsterdam to Basel & Zurich, which you can book online at www.bahn.de. There's no need to worry about your dog when booking the sleeper, as dogs travel on the sleeper train for a €30 fee paid to the staff on board, as long as you and your party have booked a whole sleeper or couchette compartment. Once in Switzerland, dogs of any size can travel for half the 2nd class fare on any Swiss train (for longer journeys there's a Dog Day card), small dogs up to 30cm high at the shoulder can travel free if they are in a carrier, you'll find information on the Swiss railways website www.sbb.ch and you can easily buy Swiss tickets at the station when you get there.
To Italy: You should travel via the Harwich-Hoek van Holland overnight superferry as explained in option 1 above. For details of the London to Italy train journey via this route see the London to Italy page, which has timetables, fares and how to buy tickets. You can book the London-Amsterdam part of the journey online at www.dutchflyer.co.uk, adding a reserved kennel during the booking process. After a day in Amsterdam you'll find a direct City Night Line sleeper train from Amsterdam to Zurich, which you can book online at www.bahn.de. There's no need to worry about your dog when booking the sleeper train, as dogs travel on the sleeper train for a €30 fee paid to the staff on board, as long as you and your party have booked a whole sleeper or couchette compartment. You then take a Zurich to Milan EuroCity train, which you can book online at www.sbb.ch. Dogs under 30cm high at the shoulder in a carrier travel free on this EuroCity train and on onward trains within Italy. Dogs over 30cm high and not in a carrier must have a ticket, usually charged at half the 2nd class fare, which you can buy at the station in Zurich for about £35.
If you prefer to travel via Dover/Newhaven/Portsmouth and Paris using option 2 or option 3 above (both involving ferry to France then train to Paris as Eurostar doesn't take dogs), you can take small dogs free of charge on the Thello sleeper trains from Paris to Milan, Verona, Venice, Bologna, Florence & Rome, as long as they weigh less than 5Kg and are in a carrier no bigger than 50cm x 30cm x 25cm. You must either occupy a whole compartment or make sure that fellow passengers sharing your compartment do not object. Larger dogs are not carried on Thello. However, dogs on leads are carried for a £10 charge on the daytime Paris-Milan TGVs, with small dogs/cats in pet carriers travelling free. See the London to Italy page for details of times, prices and how to buy tickets, although the £10 fee for taking a dog on the Paris-Milan TGV must be paid by phone, it cannot be booked online.
To Spain: Eurostar does not take dogs. So first you'll need to get from London to Paris using either option 2 or option 3 above, both of which mean taking a ferry to Calais and train to Paris, arriving in the evening. See the London to Spain page for details of train times, fares and how to buy tickets. You may need to stay in Paris overnight.
There are two daily French TGVs from Paris to Figueres, Girona & Barcelona in Spain, see the Paris to Barcelona by train page for details. On these trains you can take small dogs under 10Kg in pet carriers not exceeding 45cm x 30cm x 25cm for around €59 per journey. You will need to book by phone, dogs cannot be booked online. Unfortunately, larger dogs aren't allowed at all on these TGVs beyond the French border or on any Spanish trains.
Once in Spain, dogs under 10Kg in pet carriers (max 60cm x 35cm x 35cm) can be taken on long distance trains either free or for 25% of the full-tariff Turista fare, see www.renfe.com (click 'Welcome' at the top for English, then 'Travel information' bottom left, then 'Travelling with animals'). However, larger dogs are not allowed at all on any Spanish train.
Unfortunately, although Brittany Ferries (www.brittanyferries.co.uk) from Portsmouth to Bilbao & Plymouth to Santander have kennels on board their ships, they won't let foot passengers take dogs, only motorists.
To Portugal: Eurostar doesn't carry dogs, so first travel from London to Paris using either option 2 or option 3 above. You'll then need to stay overnight in Paris. Then travel from Paris to Hendaye on the Spanish border by high-speed TGV and from Irun to Lisbon on the Sud Express overnight trainhotel as shown on the London to Portugal page. On the TGV, small dogs under 6Kg placed in containers not exceeding 45cm x 30cm x 25cm pay no more than €5.10 per journey. Larger dogs on leads pay half the 2nd class full fare (even if you are travelling in 1st class). You can buy tickets for your pet at the ticket office before boarding the train. On the Irun to Lisbon Sud Express, dogs and pets under 10Kg travel free if you book a whole sleeper compartment (i.e. aren't sharing with other passengers) and if they are in a pet carrier no bigger than 60cm x 35cm x 35cm. Dogs over 10Kg are not carried, end of story. The same arrangements for dogs & pets apply to the Madrid to Lisbon Lusitania trainhotel.
To Germany, Austria, Central & Eastern Europe & Scandinavia: I recommend travelling from London to Amsterdam via the overnight Harwich-Hoek van Holland ferry, see option 1 above. For details of a journey from London to various countries via this route, click the relevant destination link: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland. You can book the London-Amsterdam part of the journey online at www.dutchflyer.co.uk, adding a reserved kennel during the booking process. After a day in Amsterdam you'll find a direct City Night Line sleeper train from Amsterdam to Munich, Prague, Dresden, Copenhagen, Poznan or Warsaw, which you can book online at www.bahn.de. There's no need to worry about your dog when booking these sleeper trains, as dogs travel on the sleeper train for a €30 fee paid to the staff on board, as long as you and your party have booked a whole sleeper or couchette compartment (so if you're alone, you'll need a single-bed sleeper). On the daytime trains between Amsterdam and Cologne, Frankfurt, Hannover & Berlin, small dogs and cats in containers go free, larger dogs pay the child rate - this also applies on other trains within Germany. You can buy child tickets for your dog online at www.bahn.de, although do this as a separate booking from your own ticket to avoid the 'child under 15 accompanied by an adult goes free' offer which doesn't apply to dogs! Dogs are carried on the Austrian sleeper train from Cologne to Vienna at a cost of €29 paid on board the train, as long as you and your party occupy a whole compartment. On onward trains from Munich to Vienna or Budapest, or Vienna to Budapest, small dogs (meaning cat-size) or cats in containers go free, larger dogs require a child ticket, which can be booked online at www.bahn.de (if starting in Munich) or www.oebb.at (if starting in Vienna). Note that dogs classed as 'dangerous' breeds aren't carried on trains in Germany.
For more information or to buy tickets for train travel with pets, call one of these agencies:
For journeys with a dog or pet from the UK to the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Scandinavia or Eastern Europe:
Fill out this special booking form and email it to European Rail. They will call you back, usually within 24 hours with a price and itinerary. This saves making a long phone call to dictate your details and wait while they work it out.
Or if you still prefer to call them, phone 020 7619 1083 but please say you're calling about train travel with a dog via the Dutch Flyer as shown on Seat 61. Their phone lines open 08:30-18:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday.
For information on the transport of dogs and other pets in particular countries, search the website of the relevant national train operator. There is a list of links to each operator's website on the useful links page.
Feedback from anyone who takes their dog or cat into Europe by train would be very welcome.
Dog owner Wendy Shillam reports: "We've been taking our dog abroad since the rules changed 9 years ago. Firstly I agree that its mad that Eurostar doesn't allow dogs, especially as it would be a good earner for them and they need the money! I wrote to the COE but got no reply. The most comfortable and quickest way for dogs to cross the channel (though not always the cheapest) is by car with Eurotunnel. They just stay in the car with you and there is no bother. Once, we then left our car at the Calais 'parkway' station, but on returning we saw that quite a few cars - not ours thank goodness - had been broken into. It is a very desolate spot and no security as far as I can see. But it is free parking. Once across the channel be careful which train you get from Calais - some especially on Sundays are really slow. We also have taken the motorail train from Düsseldorf, it's not too far and then you can get a car-carrying overnight train from Düsseldorf to Italy, the south of France or Austria. Dogs are accepted on these German motorail trains in the sleeper cabins and we have never had a problem. Our dog Astrid, a nine year old Mini Schnauzer, has lasted 17 hours on a train with no ill effects - overnight she just settles down to sleep, generally taking up most of my bunk! The steward will tell you if there are longer stops which allows you to give your dog a 'comfort' walk. The irony is that if we could travel on Eurostar we would never dream of taking our car with us at all! On Spanish trains dogs should be muzzled - the guard did let us get away with it, but if Astrid had been a bigger dog there might have been trouble. Also beware if you plan to travel with your dog by bus in Spain. They insist that the dog goes in a casket (which you have to bring) in the hold underneath the seats, which I suspect on a hot day is tantamount to animal cruelty! Astrid has been most comfortable and spoilt in France, Italy, Belgium and Sweden. Also remember that if you are going to the South dogs need to be protected against a nasty bug called lishmania which can cause a chronic disease with no cure - but drugs can control it. So always check with a vet who knows about foreign travel well before you go."