If you live in Australia and want to travel with your dog, the best option is to travel locally in Australia. Thanks to the strict quarantine laws for getting your dog back into Australia, not to mention the expense, heading overseas with your dog is often unfeasible.
Not that your options in Australia are that narrow, thanks to this vast and varied continent. And while limited accommodation options, transport restrictions and pets being banned from national parks makes travelling with a dog a lot more difficult, travelling with your dog in Australia can be very rewarding, whether it’s a weekend away or a Big Lap.
Travelling Between Australian States with a Dog
If you’re travelling with your pet across state and territory borders, be aware that some biosecurity rules may be in place. Just as you may not be allowed to transport fruits and vegetables across the border, extra checks may apply for transporting your dog.
The latest rules (which can change from time to time) are downloadable in a PDF from the Australian Interstate Quarantine website. Currently, there are no restrictions for travelling across any borders with a cat. There is only one state with a requirement for transporting dogs to the state: Tasmania.
Before dogs travel to Tasmania, whether on the Spirit of Tasmania or on a plane, they must be treated for the hydatid tapeworm. This needs to be done within 14 days of entry to Tasmania. Evidence can include an official statement from your vet, a statutory declaration or a pill packet and receipt. For more information, see this factsheet.
I’ve sometimes seen references to quarantine applying for Western Australia, but there are currently no restrictions or quarantine for pet dogs and cats travelling to WA, as listed here.
Driving Around Australia with a Dog
The best option to travel around Australia with your dog is in your own vehicle. There’s a great tradition of doing the “Big Lap”, and many people take along their dog, finding dog-friendly options along the way.
Alternatively, if you’re just going away for the weekend, it’s also easiest if you can drive your own car. There’s no restrictions or extra fees, and your dog should already be used to and comfortable with travelling in your car.
For long distance travels in Australia, it’s easiest and cheapest if you have a campervan, campertrailer or caravan, so that you can take advantage of the free camp sites around the country. (Which also usually don’t have rules prohibiting dogs.)
Taking along a regular tent may also be an option, but the ground at free campsites isn’t always suitable ground for pitching tents, and you’ll more likely need to camp at caravan parks, paying fees and being restricted to parks that permit dogs.
Hiring a Car in Australia with a Dog
If you don’t have your own car, or are firstly flying somewhere with your dog, you may be planning to hire a car. Be aware that most hire car companies in Australia have restrictions when it comes to transporting dogs in their cars.
There are actually a few hire car companies that outright ban dogs in their vehicles. However, the most common situation is that it is up to the individual location. Before hiring a car, call the branch that you are planning to hire from, and speak to the manager. Naturally, of course, cars are expected to be kept free of pet hair, or at least returned free of pet hair.
For more details, including the policies of the major companies and lots of tips, read my post on hiring a car in Australia with a pet.
Flying with a Dog in Australia
Given the size of Australia, it’s often quickest to get to your destination by flying. Dogs are also permitted to fly with you in Australia, although there are of course restrictions.
First up, dogs are not allowed to fly in the cabin in Australia, unlike in many parts of the world such as Europe and the USA, except for recognised assistance dogs. Dogs are only allowed to fly in the hold. Additionally, neither Jetstar or Tiger transport pets. Your options are the more expensive flights with Qantas (including Qantaslink) and Virgin Australia.
If you are travelling with Qantas, you can easily book your pet’s flight online, ideally before your book your own flight (due to limited numbers, particularly on Qantaslink). For more information, including restrictions on snub-nosed dogs and cats, plus American Staffordshire terriers, click here, plus check out their handy FAQs. The cost is based on weight and crate size, with quotes available through the booking link.
If you are flying with Virgin Australia, all the relevant information is provided here. All pet bookings need to be made by calling the Guest Contact Centre on 13 67 89. The price per pet ranges from $95 to $180, depending on weight.
Note that your pet will need to travel in an approved flight crate. Crates are available for purchase from major pet stores, pet transport companies plus directly from Qantas, at major domestic airports. For more information on the suitable size crate and other requirements, see this handy guide from Qantas.
It is also possible to book your pet’s flight through a pet transport company, such as Jetpets or Dogtainers. In this case, the hefty crates can also be hired.
Catching Long-Distance Trains in Australia with a Dog
In general, pet dogs are not permitted on long distance trains in Australia. Great Southern Rail, which operates the famous long-distance trains including The Ghan and Indian Pacific, does not permit pets, as clearly stated in their FAQ. NSW Trains and Queensland Rail also clearly prohibit pets.
The main exception is V/Line in Victoria. Small animals, including both cats and dogs, are permitted to travel on all V/Line train services (but not coach services), as long as they travel in a suitable container. The container must be stored in an assigned storage location, and transport during off-peak periods is recommended. For more information, see here.
While I can’t see a maximum dimensions listed on the V/Line website, on the general Public Transport Victoria site, it is specified the maximum weight is 15kg and the maximum dimensions are 56cm long x 30cm wide x 38cm high.
Local Transport in Australia with a Dog
Whether your dog is allowed on local public transport in Australia depends on what state you are in. Public transport is organised by each state government, so the rules vary between each state.
The most dog-friendly state in Australia when it comes to public transport is Victoria, by a long shot! Public Transport Victoria allows small dogs in a container to travel on all trains (both metropolitan and the regional V/Line train services, see above), trams and buses in the state.
Additionally, larger dogs are allowed on metropolitan trains, if they are wearing a leash and muzzle. The only non-dog-friendly services are V/Line coaches. For more information, see the full guidelines.
The next most dog-friendly state is surprisingly New South Wales. Small dogs in an enclosed carrier are allowed on buses, light rail and ferries, although you need to ask permission from the driver/crew and ideally avoid peak hour. The rules are often more lenient when it comes to ferries. However, no dogs of any size, not even small dogs in a carrier, are allowed on the state’s trains, plus the new metro or coaches. Check out the full rules.
The only other state or territory that allows pets on some form of public transport is the Australian Capital Territory (ACT, basically Canberra). While only assistance dogs are allowed on buses, on the light rail services pets are allowed in a secure pet carrier, as long as they don’t disrupt the “safety or comfort of other passengers”. Here are the relevant rules.
Elsewhere in Australia, unfortunately pet animals are not allowed on public transport, except for approved assistance animals. This applies in Queensland (Translink rules), Western Australia (Transperth rules), South Australia (Adelaide Metro rules), Tasmania (Metro Tas rules), and the Northern Territory (rules). In Brisbane there’s recently been a petition and calls from the RSCPA Queensland for the rules to change, but this has been staunchly refused by the authorities.
Dining Out in Australia with a Dog
Luckily one area where Australia is more dog-friendly than many parts of the world (including many states in the USA and provinces in Canada) is in allowing dogs to join you in outdoor dining areas. There is a single regulator for all of Australia and New Zealand, Food Safety Australia & New Zealand, and in 2012 they changed the rules to permit dogs in the outdoor dining areas of cafe and restaurants.
There is still the caveat that individual cafes and restaurants may choose to not allow dogs, so always check first unless dogs are clearly allowed. Plus additional rules usually apply. For instance, in NSW the rules state that dogs must be leashed, not be fed, stay on the ground, and not pass through enclosed areas to reach the outdoor area.
While dogs are not allowed in inside dining areas unlike in some parts of the world, luckily the weather is warm enough most of the year across Australia to dine outside, and during chillier weather many restaurants and cafes provide outdoor heaters.
There are also some pubs in Australia that permit dogs inside, but this is a bit of a grey area, and there have been crack-downs at times. This is more likely to apply in the front bar, and strictly exclude indoor dining areas. For recommendations of pubs that allow dogs inside, check out this list for Sydney, this list for Country NSW, and this list for Melbourne.
Need an alternative to dining out with your dog? Check out my tips
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Australia
When it comes to dog-friendly hotels in Australia, the selection is limited, although fortunately growing. The most likely hotels to permit dogs tend to be boutique and luxury hotels in the cities, plus small country motels run by an independent owner.
Most chain hotels in Australia don’t permit hotels, except for Ovolo (with multiple locations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra) who just announced their VIPooch program.
For tips on some of the dog-friendly hotels available across Australia, check out my listings for Sydney dog-friendly hotels and luxury dog-friendly hotels in Australia. Note also that many dog-friendly hotels don’t publicise this on third-party booking sites, only accepting direct bookings. I’ll let you know about more of these hotels soon.
A much more popular accommodation option in Australia for people travelling with dogs are the many caravan parks. A fair number of caravan parks in Australia permit pets, although this is often restricted to people staying in their own caravan or tent, perhaps in selected sites only.
The number of caravan parks allow pets in their cabins is smaller, although I was delighted to stay recently in the deluxe cabins at Discovery Parks – Forster that are dog-friendly. Also keep in mind that many caravan parks in coastal regions stop allowing pets during the peak summer holiday period.
If you are travelling with your own campervan, caravan or tent, free campsites may also be an option. As well as not costing anything, these locations tend to not have many rules. Find options on the ExploreOz website or in the Explore Australia books. Unfortunately, the cheap or free campsites in national parks are not an option, as dogs are prohibited in national parks (see more below).
Another option to consider are Airbnbs. We’ve stayed before in dog-friendly Airbnbs in Sydney. Check out my step-by-step instructions on finding pet-friendly Airbnbs, plus check out my tips for staying in pet-friendly Airbnbs.
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Australia
Many of Australia’s top sights are located inside of our country’s many national parks (of which there were 619 when I last checked). And unfortunately, pets are strictly forbidden inside of Australian national parks.
These are the rules for parks in NSW. As well as being banned from national parks in NSW, pets are also banned from state conversation areas, nature reserves, historic sites and Aboriginal areas in the state. This even applies if you leave your pet in your car, unless you need to drive through a park to access private property, in which case you are not permitted to stop.
So, what sightseeing can you do with your pet dog in Australia? These are some suggestions:
- State Forests & Other Parks: While pet dogs are not allowed in national parks, pets are generally allowed in state forests. Plus in NSW pets are allowed in some regional parks and state parks (click here), similar rules probably apply to other states. Investigate your options as an alternative to national parks.
- Beaches: Australia is home to endless beaches, enough to share between everyone. Many beaches permit dogs, especially outside of the cities. Check out some of these amazing beaches in Australia that allow dogs.
- Explore the Cities: While not the first option most people think of when it comes to dog-friendly places, wandering around our cities on foot is ideal to do with a dog. In Sydney, walk across the Harbour Bridge. In Melbourne, visit the Botanic Gardens. In Brisbane, walk along the Brisbane River.
- Wineries: Every state in Australia contains so many excellent wineries, many that allow dogs to join you when wine tasting, plus at outdoor dining areas. Check out these listings of dog-friendly wineries in the Hunter Valley and Margaret River. Or else contact the wineries you are planning to visit.
Using Kennels & Dog-Sitters
As many tourist attractions in Australia aren’t dog-friendly, including if you’re wanting to visit any national park, many people travelling in Australia with dogs make use of kennels and dog-sitters on their travels.
Firstly, there are many kennels scattered around Australia, where your dog can stay overnight or just for the day. Often local vets can provide listings if you can’t find any options online. Alternatively, there are multiple websites these days that provide listings for dog-sitting in people’s home.
Another option is to speak to other travellers that also have dogs. I’ve often heard of people taking turns looking after each other dogs. Noticeboards and receptions at caravan parks are also a good place to check for options.
Dog-Friendly Guides to Australia
I’m slowly putting together dog-friendly guides to different destinations across Australia. Check out my current guides, plus some other great guides I’ve found on other sites:
New South Wales:
- Visiting Sydney with a Dog
- Dog-Friendly Getaway to Forster-Tuncurry
- Dog-Friendly Day Trip to Wollongong
- Visiting Melbourne with a Dog
- Visiting the Yarra Valley with a Dog
- Driving the Great Ocean Road with a Dog
- The Dog’s Guide to Margaret River – Dog Friendly Campsites and Wineries
- Dog Friendly Camping from Perth to Exmouth
(Thanks to West Australian Explorer for the above two links!)
If You Are Travelling to Australia with a Dog…
While travelling to Australia with a dog is difficult and expensive, as I clearly showed when documenting my experience returning to Australia with my dog, it is not completely out of the question. For starters, the quarantine period is now a lot less than it used to be (a standard 10 days).
If you’re visiting for an extended period, or relocating for work, you can bring along your dog, at least if you’re currently living in most developed countries. The process is even easier if you’re just travelling from New Zealand. These are the preparation steps required to import a dog to Australia depending on what country you are currently in.
Firstly, there are Group 1 countries, which only includes New Zealand plus the Australian territories of Norfolk Island and Cocos Islands. The preparation required is fairly minimal, and no quarantine is required. For more information, see the steps for New Zealand.
Secondly, there are Group 2 countries and territories. These countries and territories are regarded as rabies-free, and include many island nations, plus the US territory of Guam and state of Hawaii. Dogs and cats travelling to Australia from these countries, who have spent at least the last 6 months in the country, do not required a rabies vaccine or rabies titre test. This shortens the preparation period down to around 1-2 months, although quarantine is still required. Fore more information, click here.
Finally, there are Group 3 countries. This includes most European countries, the USA and Canada. The standard preparation (that my dog required coming from the USA) applies in these countries, including a rabies vaccine, rabies titre test and quarantine. This is detailed here.
The main barrier to travelling to Australia with your dog is if your country of export isn’t listed in any of these three groups, as many developing countries aren’t. You cannot import your dog directly from these countries to Australia.
Instead, your dog needs to travel to Australia via a Group 2 or Group 3 country after their import permit is approved, spending at least a month (potentially longer) to complete the final steps in this second country. For more information see here.
To find out more about what a stay in quarantine is like for your pet, check out my guide to Australian quarantine.
Note also that when leaving Australia, you are required to get an export permit for your dog. This mainly ensures that your dog is adequately prepared to travel to their destination country, plus ensures that have a health certificate that many other countries required. Read the full details for exporting your dog from Australia.
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