Northern Ireland is a fabulous destination to visit with your dog. Whether you’re planning on visiting the Giant’s Causeway or hunting down film locations from Game of Thrones, there’s plenty of options to bring along your own mini-direwolf! But unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, it’s situated across the Irish Sea, sharing a border with the Republic of Ireland. I answer all the questions you may have about the logistics of taking a dog to Northern Ireland.
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Can I Take My Dog to Northern Ireland from Great Britain?
Just like you can easily travel with your dog between England, Wales and Scotland, it’s also easy to travel with your dog from Great Britain across to Northern Ireland.
There is no need for a pet passport (or any other special preparations) to take your dog to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. A pet passport is only required when you are crossing national borders.
This applied when I took a ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast with my dog. We were not requested to show our dog’s pet passport. P&O also explicitly state “you don’t need a pet passport to take your pet on our Irish Sea routes” (i.e. Cairnryan to Larne, the only one that allows pets).
Dog-Friendly Ferries from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
When catching a ferry from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, there are currently three ferry options to choose from, offered by Stena Line and P&O Irish Seas. (Irish Ferries doesn’t offer any ferry routes to Northern Ireland.)
These are the three routes, ranked in order of dog-friendliness, based on my own evaluation.
(As virtually all UK airlines only allow pets to fly as cargo, I recommend taking dogs to Northern Ireland on the ferry, rather than flying.)
Stena Line Ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast
After taking this ferry with my dog, I selected it as the most dog-friendly ferry to Ireland (whether Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland). As well as being a quick crossing (2 1/4 hours), small pets in a pet traveller case are allowed to travel on the passenger deck by your side.
Larger pets can either be checked into a kennel or left in your car, all at no cost. The Stena Line dog policy allows foot passengers to also transport pets.
P&O Ferry from Cairnryan to Larne
I’ve narrowly selected this route as the second most pet-friendly ferry crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, with some caveats. I’ve primarily selected this route as it is the shortest (only 2hr).
However, pets are only allowed inside vehicles (at no additional charge), with no kennels on offer, and foot passengers are not allowed to transport pets.
As there are up to 7 daily crossings, both during the day and night, I would recommend selecting a cooler time of day for a crossing with your dog during summer. Also, it’s possible to ask a staff member to visit your pet during the crossing, if you are concerned.
Add up to four pets to your booking when selecting the number of passengers.
Stena Line Ferry from Liverpool to Belfast
While I’ve ranked this crossing in third place, this is still a very pet-friendly option. As well as being able to transport your dog in your car at no cost, there is also the option to book a kennel in the “Dog Lodge” on the promenade deck, for an additional £15.
This option is available at the Onboard Extras step in the booking process, and is required for foot passengers with a pet.
I recommend selecting the Stena Line Dog Lodge, as then you can access your pet during the crossing and also exercise them. (Note, however, that the kennel size may be a little too small for larger dogs.)
The crossing is 8 hours, with both a day-time and overnight option available. If leaving your pet in your vehicle, I recommend choosing the overnight option.
Taking Your Dog from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland
It’s also possible to easily take your dog in a car across the border from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland at the moment. While technically you are required to have a pet passport for your dog, including microchip and valid rabies vaccination, this is not enforced.
This is partially because the likelihood of rabies is so low. (Read more here.) Additionally, there is no need to worm your dog travelling between the UK and Ireland, so proof of this is not required.
However, with the Brexit transition period ending on 31st December 2020, this may no longer be the case. If planning to cross the border with your dog after this date, read more about the potential changes, including the possible need for a rabies titre test when crossing from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland. At the least a pet passport is more likely to be required.
Travelling Directly to Northern Ireland with a Dog
If you’re planning on travelling directly to Northern Ireland from outside of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and you are travelling with a dog, you will need to apply for Import Authorisation for your dog. This is because this is not an approved route under the Pet Travel Scheme.
The approved routes under the Pet Travel Scheme for pets to travel to Northern Ireland are to firstly enter Great Britain or to enter the Republic of Ireland through an approved route, then travel onwards to Northern Ireland once cleared. If you enter Northern Ireland from Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland with your pet, you do not require an Import Authorisation.
An Import Authorisation must be obtained at least 10 days in advance. You must also engage and pay for the services of an approved quarantine establishment to check your paperwork on arrival.
If there are any issues, your pet will be taken into quarantine or returned back to the country it travelled from. Click here for more information and to apply for an Import Authorisation.
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