Can Pets Travel For Free?

\\\ Pet Travel

\\\ updated 10 October 2021

What Travel Is Free And What’s Not Free When Travelling With Your Dog And Cat

UK pets are taking millions of journeys every year with their owners, by car, sea, air, and bus where travel operators look forward to seeing their passengers and their pets.

\\\ Pet Travel

Can Pets Travel For Free In The UK?

Pets Travelling On UK Trains

What Are The Rules Allowing Pets To Travel On UK Trains?

Up to 2 pets can travel free in the UK on trains accompanied by their owner but operators do have rules to be followed. This includes pets such as cats and rabbits but should be kept in a transportable cage or carrier for their and passengers’ safety. Details are usually more itemised for dog travel by train operators.

Eurostar Travel Between The UK And Europe

Eurostar has very specific guidelines where emotional support and other dogs are not allowed to travel on their services. Only Guide and Assistance Dogs are allowed who comply with their requirements.

  • Remember –
  • Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times unless sat in a carrier.
  • Dogs must not sit on the train seat and doing so could result in you being charged.
  • Dogs must not enter the restaurant car. Exceptions are assistance dogs.
  • Train staff are authorized to remove dogs from the train if their size or behaviour is, or is likely to cause, an inconvenience or danger to other customers.
  • If other passengers object to your pet then you are obligated to remove to another area of the train or ensure your pet is muzzled and have the necessary collar, ID tag and lead or be placed in a locked carrier and stored with the guard.
  • Always check the railway operators rules before travelling. 
Best Tips When Travelling On UK Trains With Pets
  • Avoid busy times and arrive with time to spare providing your pet plenty of time to prepare themselves for the journey.
  • Long distances do require some planning, by bringing plentiful freshwater, bowl, treats, and ensure you have vets and medication details with you.
  • Before you board make sure your dog has eaten about 3 hours before travelling to avoid sickness and had a walk and relieved themselves.
  • Bring a blanket for your dog to sit on (but not on the seats).
  • Find a quiet area and where your dog will be able to settle with room to turn, and sit down and be comfortable. This allows them to sleep more easily.
  • Try to break the journey if long, so that your dog can walk around and possibly relieve themselves outside the station.
  • Try not to sit near other animals to avoid confrontations.
  • Trains can have different levels at stations to platforms and some dogs may find it difficult to board the train and disembark. Care is needed and they may need some help.
  • Cats should be settled into a carrier and encouraged to sleep during the journey.

The recent pandemic has bought about new changes to the ways we do things. Travel operators may restrict pets from travelling in certain circumstances. Lockdown restrictions made a requirement that households were not to travel in certain areas of the UK. As we emerge from the pandemic, It’s advisable to check with your travel operator’s website the latest updates before making special journeys.

\\\ Pet Travel By Ferry

Dog travelling on ferry

Pets Travelling On UK Ferry Crossings

Can I Take My Pet On A Ferry In The UK?

The simple answer is ‘yes’ on most routes but owners are generally required to pay for their pet. 

On longer sea crossings to European destinations, pets are welcome under the AHC Certificate (The old PETS travel scheme) as long as they travel in a car. Some ferries require pets to stay in vehicles during the crossing while others have kennel facilities onboard for dogs to use, and pet-friendly cabins for their owners and pets to enjoy being together during the journey. These options rather depend on the length of the sea crossing. 

Hover Ports 

Hover crafts operate in the UK and these are normally quick services such as the Portsmouth to Isle of Wight crossings. These types of sea crossings allow dogs accompanied by their owner with collar, ID tag, and lead at no additional charge. There are charges if the dogs foul anywhere in the craft or on port areas. 

Cats and small pets can be carried in appropriate-sized hand carriers or crates. 

The Government provides a list of approved ports and rail routes around the UK where pets may travel from and to the EU or global destinations. These are ports complying with the veterinary conditions required for safe and healthy pet transportation. 

Travelling abroad requires pet owners to follow other country Rules and there are several documents that you can read that the devolved UK government publishes such as the Welsh and Scottish guideline requirements for animals entering the UK. Save your time and start preparing four months in advance before you wish to travel by visiting your local veterinary practice who’ll provide you with the guidance you need to ensure you have the correct documents and that your pet is jabbed.

Best Tips When Travelling On UK Ferries With Pets
  • 1. On longer UK ferry trips take time to choose the right crossing time for your pet. Some pets prefer not to travel in the heat so night crossings or first thing in the morning could be a better option during warmer weather and your pet may sleep throughout the journey. 
  • Dogs which are more susceptible to overheating tend to be very old or young, have thick, heavy coats or have very short flat faces – such as pugs and bulldogs. Dogs with medical conditions or taking some medications may also be at risk and advisable to check suitability with your vet before travelling. 
  • 2. Longer UK ferry journeys may or may not provide kennels for your pet whilst travelling. Take time to check out their facilities being offered online before booking.  
  • 3. No pet paperwork is required when travelling around the UK by ferry. Other requirements, however, may differ between the ferry companies.
  • 4. Always have the pet vets and insurance details available whilst travelling. 
  • 5. Your dog may be required to be muzzled when on deck on a ferry. Taking one with you may be essential and naturally wearing a collar, lead and ID tag as required in public places.
  • 6. Poop bags in case of accidents that you are responsible to clean up if your dog leaves your vehicle. 
  • 7. Freshwater for your pet with a bowl that your pet can drink during a sailing if left in the car along with a little food and treats depending on the length of sailing time. 
  • 8. Appropriate bedding so that your pet is comfortable whilst in the car during sailing and they must be able to get up and turn around in their space and lie down. 
  • 9. Do not feed your pet too heavily before sailing, at least 3 hours beforehand. Provide a walk and ensure they relieve themselves before embarking. 
  • 10. Make sure the vehicle has adequate ventilation for your pet during sailing. 
  • 11. Cats and small pets should be transported in a carrier or crate and be provided with a blanket/bedding, adequate water and container for the journey. If a longer journey, some dry kibble may be useful that they can snack on. 
  • 12. On reaching your destination and disembarked, give your dog time to relieve itself, and have a good stretch, some freshwater and a meal if required. 

\\\ Pet Travel By Air

Pet transport van
Dog cargo handled at airport

Pets Travelling By Air In The UK

Can I Take My Pet With Me On An Aeroplane In The UK?

Customers can transport their pets by air within the UK using both commercial and chartered air flights but there are charges. Pets cannot currently accompany their owners in the cabin, which is only allowed in certain pre-approved circumstances.

Pet owners can organise the flights themselves and report at the animal cargo reception areas dropping off their pet and picking it up at the destination or pet owners can use the regulated air partner transportation services that pick up the pet from your home and deliver your pet directly to the forwarding address after the flight.

Forward planning is key ensuring that all paperwork and regulations are conformed to including the crate being used for transportation. 

Government-approved DEFRA checked UK commercial airports with approved pet handling veterinary centres are currently Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Doncaster, Sheffield, and Bristol. You can drop off your pet at their special handling centres before your flight check-in and pick up your pet when you arrive at your UK destination. 

However, there is a limited service where most air services will only carry pets across the UK on very selected flights in the cargo hold and this may not be convenient to your air travel plans. 

Generally, there is a requirement that your pet, kitten, or puppy must be at least 10 weeks old. 

The golden rule is to read through the various airline pet handling website pages and try some quotes which are easily accessible by the air transportation partners that offer the pick up from home service to make the best-informed decisions for the comfort of your pet. 

Tips Preparing Your Pet For Flying
  • 1. The Government provide an approved list of airports both commercial and charter where pets may be transported between destinations from and to the UK.
  • These are airports that have the appropriate veterinary support and DEFRA checked and registered.
  • 2. UK airlines do not offer a check-in facility with your baggage for pets and live animals travelling. You cannot smuggle small pets into your hand baggage. 
  • 3. Adequate notice must be given that pets are travelling.
  • 4. Selected airlines permit pets to travel in the cabin if medically approved but at least a week’s notice is required. 
  • 5. The UK airlines generally allow dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, monkeys, ferrets, snakes, tropical fish and other live animals to be transported through dedicated and approved air partner services.
  • 6. Pets have to be checked-in well in advance of flying, at the cargo centres, normally at least 4 hours before the fight time.
  • 7. Pets can only be transported in the airlines and airline authorities approved crates. It is important to check this information with the airline concerned before buying a crate and accessories such as water bottles and feeders.
  • 8. Pets must, as usual, conform to all medical and travel regulations of the UK. 
  • 9. Pet crates must have your details and pet travel arrangements attached securely as well as any medication that may be necessary to be administered whilst in the handlers care. 
  • 10. Whilst air partners handlers are naturally insured, owners should also check their travel and pet insurance policy wording as a precaution.

Note – The recent pandemic may have reduced the number of flights available to pets across the UK, where pet transportation road services may provide a better option.

\\\ Pet Transportation Services

What Are Pet Transportation Providers?

Whether it’s for businesses moving animals to trade shows or events, or owners transporting their pets abroad, pet transportation has never been so easy, whether domestic or overseas travel. Millions of animals are travelling yearly, worldwide.

Pet transportation providers in the UK should be using fully approved vehicles, to pick up and drop off their charges, with some necessary features added for pets’ safety and comfort.     

Customers requiring their pets to be flown internationally have to meet strict veterinary conditions, to comply with entry requirements for the country. Companies provide various air partners and forward on services in the locating country, offering quotation services online, others specialize in a specific country to country transportation service.  

Pets travelling by air are required to travel in specially approved kennels. Checking with the airline is essential that your animal kennel conforms to their standards. Failure to conform means that they may refuse to carry your pet.  

A search engine searches for ‘pet transportation’ naming the country to country will find searches relevant to your needs a quotation of costs can be easily obtained.

Several companies are DEFRA, The Kennel Club and RSPCA approved, for animal transportation journeys.

Guide, Hearing, and Autism Assistance Dogs 

Dogs are welcome to travel by buses, coaches, ferries, hovercrafts, trains, and by air. They are encouraged to sit with their owners including the cabin of an aircraft with the UK, European, and most long haul carriers who will provide space such as the adjoining seat usually at no charge, but must be booked in with notice of assistance flying.  


PET CHECK UK Cat in crate

What Are Pet Travel Rules ?

Is my pet insured whilst travelling? Why do pets need to be secured in cars? Travelling with your pet on holiday. Crates, harnesses, restraints, grills. Highway Code Rule 57, holiday pet insurance, pet insurance, travel insurance. Pet safety for dogs, cats, rabbits. Petcheck.UK BLOG

Keep reading

\\\ Pet Travel By Car

Pets Travelling By Car

Pets and drivers make millions of journeys in the UK every year and safety is a must. Pets travelling in domestic vehicles should not be allowed to roam around which may cause distractions and accidents. Pets should be secured by a harness, or stored in a crate, carrier, or seated in the boot area with a grill divider or crate.

There are several laws, Highway Rules, and Regulations that drivers should be aware of and adhere to when travelling in their vehicles about their pet and animal safety and if safety is compromised, pet and vehicle insurance can become invalidated.

There are several different solutions, crates, kennels, and carriers to secure your pet that depends on their size, and the vehicle’s boot area for dogs, and back seat availability, ensuring they travel as safely and comfortably as possible.

When buying a crate consider if you will be using it for European and global sea crossings and air travel, as these operators require certain approved crates to be used for your pet transportation.

Dogs travelling in harnesses

\\\ Pet Travel By Cycle

How Do I Travel By Bicycle With My Dog?

Cycling with your dog is naturally free but comes with other difficulties that you can entail. Ideally, pets need to be ideally obedient, not scared and prone to bolt to be sitting in open baskets, backpacks or cargo or trailer huts, so it really isn’t suitable for cats to be harnessed in and travel in the open. 

Smaller dogs can safely be harnessed into front baskets on cycles. Having your dog travel with you can cause you to be distracted and take tumbles but if you cycle at a slower than normal steady speed then this will help.

Dogs may need extra water particularly if they have breathing difficulties or during warmer weather and you need to take a travel bottle and container with you. 

Older dogs can benefit by being taken around on cargo frames and huts if their walking is getting severely limited. 

Other pets such as pet rabbits and cats are ideally secured in a cage as they may be extremely frightened of the new noises and smell surrounding them and likely to try and escape and runoff.

Dog sitting in cyclists front basket

There are many solutions available to moving about with your pet by cycle safely. There is a surprisingly large range available of bolt-on huts and crates designed to keep your pet cargo dry and safe whilst enjoying being moved from location to location and ideal for longer journeys.  

\\\ Cat Travel

Cats Travelling

Which Pet Crate And Carrier Should I Buy?

Drivers make millions of journeys in the UK every year with cats onboard where safety is a must. Cats travelling in domestic vehicles should not be allowed to roam around which may cause distractions and accidents. Cats should be put into a carrier and fastened into the boot or back seat using seat belts for their added protection.

There are several laws, Highway Rules and regulations that drivers should be aware of and adhere to when travelling in their vehicles about their cat and animal safety, and if safety is compromised, pet and vehicle insurance can become invalidated.

When buying a carrier or crate consider if you will be using it for European and global sea crossings and air travel, as these operators require certain approved crates and not soft carriers to be used for your pet transportation. Your kitten or cat may not be allowed to travel if it isn’t travelling in the approved crate. 

  1. Best Tips Travelling With Cats
  2. Cats do not like being removed from familiar surroundings and can become distressed.
  3. Ensure your cat is not fed for a few hours before travelling on journeys, so as to help not to experience travel sickness.
  4. Try and encourage your cat to use their litter tray before putting them into carriers or crates.
  5. If car travelling, your cat carrier should be restrained with a seat belt or harness in the back of the car. 
  6. Cats, and any pet, should never be allowed to wander around in cars when travelling as this can distract the driver and cause accidents.
  7. Read the rules covering pet transportation that all operators provide on their websites for the maximum care of travelling with your cat before you book and travel, and check your pet insurance and travel insurance that it covers all eventualities.

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