Before we went to the United Kingdom we were quite insecure about our journey to the UK and back by ferry and taking our traveling Beagle, Vlou, with us. We went from Dunkirk in France to Dover, England, and from Harwich, England, to Hook of Holland in the Netherlands. But it doesn’t matter really where you come from in Europe and where you access the United Kingdom. These tips count for all of the travels between mainland of Europe and Great Britain.
As we met very few Europeans on our travels I figured that the step to take the ferry to the United Kingdom is much more of an obstacle as one would think. Even to take the car from the continent to the isle seems to be a bit of a hindrance although it only takes half an hour through the Eurotunnel from Calais to Dover. During our half-year travels in the United Kingdom from southern England to North-West Scotland and back we saw just a few other number plates from continental European countries and just one other Swiss Number plate. Isn’t that surprising?
Normally you can drive with your driving license which was issued in your home country all over Europe. You don’t even need an international driver license. Be on the safe side and check here if you may drive in the UK with your non-UK driving license.
If you have a driving license from Great Britain (GB) or Northern Ireland you are allowed to drive in all EU or European Economic Area (EEA) countries, and Switzerland.
You find a pretty useful guide on what is compulsory in which European country and the UK on the AA’s website. If you want to check up on insurances and country-specific laws this is also a helpful source.
You can enter or return to the UK respectively continental Europe with your pet if it:
On the website of the UK government you find more detailed information.
You can book any trip with the ferry online. If you take your dog with on holiday think of checking the right boxes to announce it. Before you book, read the options in the next chapter.
Print your travel itinerary after your online booking which proves the payment for the shipment of the car, passengers with names and your pet(s). You’ll have to show it at the check-in – counter when you drive into the harbor.
The transport possibilities of your dog(s) on the ferry depend on the company, the duration of the transfer and your preferences. Check out the website of the ferry company for their offers for pets before you book. Anyway, book early to secure your favourite way of transport for your pooch.
On a few ferries, there are pet-friendly cabins where your dog or cat can stay with you during the crossing.
There are a limited amount of kennels on the ferry for which a reservation has to be made well in advance. It depends on the ferry company respectively the discretion of the crew if you have access during the voyage and it will be dependent on sailing conditions, too. Recently there are even dog-exercising areas on a few of the ships.
On short ferry journeys, pets can remain in the vehicle. Obviously, the owner is solely responsible for the well-being of the pet. Don’t feed your pet before the journey and make sure that your dog was able to do its business before embarking. Prepare a sleeping place with a water absorbing mattress so that it doesn’t get too uncomfortable after a small accident. Make sure that you provide enough drinking water and that your pet has sufficient space for movement.
Check-in with your pet minimum 60 minutes before scheduled departure time or at the time your travel itinerary advises. Your and your pet’s passport will be checked before embarkation and you will be given a ‘pet sticker’ to place on your car’s windscreen. This must stay in place until you have left the port of arrival.
You will be given instructions where to drive and to park your car. If you leave your pet in the car, make sure that you open the windows sufficiently for enough air circulation and prepare the drinking water and its bed before leaving your car. The garage will be locked during the journey and most probably you won’t be able to visit your pet. Write down the place where you parked or make a photograph of the number as you don’t want to be one of those people searching desperately for there car at the end of your ferry trip! I speak from experience …
If you booked a pet-friendly cabin with your pet or a kennel ask on the procedure for the transfer of your pet by the crew on embarkation. With the exception of assistance dogs, pets are only permitted in the areas designated for pets on board the ship. These will be signposted on board.
There are plenty of entertainment possibilities for you on the ferries like restaurants, games areas, cinemas, bars etc. so it won’t get boring during your journey. Like on cruise ships there is something to do for everybody. With good weather, you can even enjoy a sunbathe on deck like we did from England to the Netherlands.
The crew will tell when you can fetch your pet at the kennel and they announce when the garage of the cars is accessible again. If you read my advice in the previous paragraph about making a note or photo of the number where your car is parked (or you thought of it yourself 😉 – you may return speedily; otherwise – good luck to you!
You have to keep the dog label on your mirror till you pass through the customs! One last check of your passport(s) and off you go.
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