The United Kingdom is an excellent place for travelling with a dog. While it might not be as dog-friendly as parts of continental Europe, the UK still has plenty of dog-friendly pubs and cafes, walks, parks and even dog-friendly beaches. Given the hassle of travelling to and from Europe with a pup, except to the Republic of Ireland, consider travelling with your dog in the UK.
Travelling Between UK Countries with a Dog
It’s quite simple to travel between the individual countries of the United Kingdom, between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with a dog. Unlike if you’re travelling to Europe, including the Republic of Ireland, there’s no need for a pet passport, rabies vaccine or a worming treatment on your return.
There is a chance that this may change with Brexit, with some reports that a pet passport will be required to travel to and from Northern Ireland. However, the UK government websites make no mention of this possibility. I’ll be sure to update this guide if the situation changes.
Flying with a Dog in the United Kingdom
When travelling around the United Kingdom with a dog, flying isn’t the best option. Due to government regulations, most airlines don’t allow pets to fly in the cabin, or even as check-in baggage.
The only animals that are permitted to fly in the cabin of planes in the UK are registered assistance dogs. There may also be a handful of tiny airlines that can fly less than 20 passengers, such as the Skybus to the Isles of Scilly, that are permitted to allow pets in the cabin.
The only two larger airlines that I’m aware of that even allow pets to fly as checked baggage are Loganair and Aer Lingus. Loganair, a Scottish regional airline, allows pets as checked baggage on most domestic flights. Aer Lingus, the Irish flag carrier, permits pets to fly as checked baggage on flights within Britain and Ireland.
Similar rules apply when flying to or from the United Kingdom. Pets are strictly not allowed to fly in the cabin or as checked baggage on flights into the UK, only as cargo. The rules are relaxed for flights departing the UK, but most airlines still don’t facilitate pets to fly in the cabin.
For more details on flying with a pet in the United Kingdom, including the pet policies of all UK airlines and which ones can fly pets as cargo, read my guide.
Catching Long-Distance Trains in the UK with a Dog
Luckily, when it comes to taking long-distance trains in the United Kingdom, the situation is much more dog-friendly than flying. If you are travelling long distances and not driving, taking a train is a better alternative to flying with your dog.
For starters, on trains in the UK, dogs are allowed and even travel for free! This applies to both small dogs (in a container) and larger dogs (that need to be on a leash). Up to two dogs can travel per passenger for free. If travelling in a sleeper cabin, a fee does however apply.
For a full list of the regulations, check the National Rail website. The same rules are legislated to apply to all train companies in the UK.
I’ve travelled from Manchester to London with my dog on a train and found it a very comfortable and convenient option. It’s best to book as far in advance as possible to get the best prices.
Taking Ferries with a Dog in the UK
The other option for travelling with your dog in the United Kingdom is to take a ferry across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland. While your dog would need to fly in the hold to Northern Ireland, there are multiple dog-friendly ferry options, including ones that allow foot passengers to bring dogs.
Depending on the ferry, dogs are left in your vehicle or on-board kennels are available. To find out more about the ferries available for travelling to Northern Ireland with your dog, check out my guide on taking your dog to Northern Ireland. In particular, I recommend this ferry as the most dog-friendly ferry of any of the options to the whole of Ireland.
Local Transport in the UK with a Dog
Dogs are generally allowed on public transport in the United Kingdom, although the regulations depend on the local authorities.
In London, dogs are allowed to travel on the the underground and buses for free. The one caveat is that dogs may not be allowed “if there is a good reason to refuse it”. This sometimes comes up as an issue for people taking larger dogs on buses. However, smaller dogs or dogs on the underground are unlikely to be refused.
Additionally, if you are using the underground, dogs are meant to take the stairs or lift (if available), or otherwise be carried on the moving escalators. (According to the rules, if only an escalator is available and your dog is too large to carry, they will stop it for you if it’s not “busy”… But in reality, I doubt this often happens.)
Dogs are required to be on a leash, or alternatively in a container for smaller pets. Click here for the full Transport for London regulations.
Outside of London, the rules for taking dogs on buses and other local transport differ between companies. Some companies allow dogs, sometimes for free, while other companies don’t allow pet dogs.
For instance, when I was in Manchester, our small dog was allowed on the bus for free (although we okayed it with the driver), while dogs aren’t allowed on the trams in Manchester. Check the individual company regulations, or be prepared for a possible refusal.
Dining Out in the United Kingdom with a Dog
While it’s not as common for restaurants and cafes in the UK to allow dogs inside as in Germany and Italy, there are a small and increasing number of dog-friendly establishments. To discover some excellent options, search for online listings or ask your accommodation.
One of the most likely dog-friendly options are the ubiquitous pubs in the UK. As well as being a bastion of Sunday lunches, most pubs allow dogs in at least part of them, whether it’s in the city or the countryside. It just may mean eating in the more simple bar area, rather than the formal dining room.
Given the weather in the UK isn’t that reliable, it’s certainly a relief to find somewhere to hang out on a cold, wet evening, indoors with your dog at your side. Just always ask first, as there are some pubs that don’t allow dogs.
Looking for a dog-friendly cafe in the UK, including special pet cafes? Check out this list of dog-friendly cafes.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom offers a diverse range of dog-friendly accommodation. There’s everything from upmarket hotels, complete with special pet services, to homely country pubs and cottages.
Many Airbnbs in the UK will also allow dogs, although I often found that they pointedly request that dogs are not left in the properties by themselves. Follow my tips for finding and staying in a pet-friendly Airbnb.
Compared to elsewhere in Europe though, the number of dog-friendly properties is fairly low percentage-wise. When I investigated the number of dog-friendly hotels in Europe, London came out close to the bottom, based on percentage of properties. While the sheer number of hotels in London helps make up for this, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance.
If you’re staying in London, check out my list of the best dog-friendly hotels in London, ranging from the luxurious through to the affordable, or choose one of the dog-friendly Airbnbs on my list of affordable London Airbnbs. Affordable chain hotels in the UK that allow dogs include Ibis and Travelodge, as well as many Best Westerns and Holiday Inns.
There are multiple companies set up in the UK to specially organise accommodation for dog-owners travelling with their dog. Check out:
- Dog Friendly Getaways: Find luxury pet-friendly accommodation ranging from lodges and cabins to cottages, plus hot tub breaks
- Pets Pyjamas: With options ranging from fancy hotels to country cottages, dogs stay for free and a free pet travel kit is included with each booking
- Canine Cottages: Specialising in dog-friendly cottages, often with two dogs allowed
Another fabulous alternative is hiring a campervan. There’s a wide range of dog-friendly campervans available for hire in the UK, including the campervans and motorhomes from Spaceships. Just check the box to bring your pet along, for a small additional daily charge.
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in the United Kingdom
There are quite a few attractions in the UK that allow your well-behaved dog to accompany you, mainly those located outdoors.
I also found it quite handy that many attractions have clear details on their website about whether they allow dogs, and what rules apply. If dogs aren’t allowed inside, some places even note what facilities they have for dogs to be left outside.
If holidaying with a dog in the UK, it’s best to head to the countryside for the most dog-friendly options. When I visited the Lake District, in the north of England, it seemed that every second visitor was accompanied by their dog! Other popular outdoorsy areas in the UK that are great to visit with a dog include Cornwall, Wales and the highlands of Scotland.
Most hiking trails allow dogs, as long as they’re kept on a leash near livestock (be particularly careful during lambing season), and it’s great to finish up with a beer at a dog-friendly pub afterwards. If you’d prefer to have a city-break, check out this list of the best dog-friendly UK cities.
Looking for lots of dog-friendly ideas around the United Kingdom? Check out these posts…
Dog-Friendly Around the UK
- 7 Best Dog-Friendly National Parks in the UK
- SUP with your dog (Including dog-friendly SUP rentals in the UK)
- 15 Dog-Friendly Things to do in England
- Dog-Friendly Guide to London
- Dog-Friendly Guide to Dorset
- 5 Dog-Friendly Day Trips Out of London
- Best Dog-Friendly Walks in the Lake District
Travelling to and from the UK with a Dog
While it’s easy to travel around the United Kingdom with a dog, it’s a bit trickier if you want to leave the UK, unless you’re just heading to Ireland. Also keep in mind the paperwork requirements to return to the United Kingdom with your dog, that apply equally to UK and foreign dogs.
Travelling from the UK to the Republic of Ireland
The easiest country to visit from the United Kingdom is the Republic of Ireland. If you’re already in Northern Ireland, at the moment it’s as simple as driving across the border, with no checks, including of pet passports.
There’s also a wide range of ferries that you can take from Great Britain across to the Republic of Ireland, mainly departing from Wales. For a full list of ferry options, check out my guide on travelling to the Republic of Ireland with a dog.
Travelling from the UK to Continental Europe
It’s a touch harder to travel from the UK to Continental Europe with a dog. This is especially the case if you are not driving, given the Eurostar doesn’t allow pet dogs and not many airlines fly pets out of the UK in the cabin.
The simplest option for visiting Continental Europe with your dog is by car, either taking the Eurotunnel or one of the many ferry options, with pets generally required to stay in your car on the shorter crossing between Dover and Calais.
If you are not travelling by car, there are a handful of airlines that will fly pets in the cabin leaving the UK (but not vice versa). Alternatively, there are four ferry options that allow pets to take pets on board, mainly crossing to the Netherlands, plus the DFDS ferry to Dieppe in northern France.
For more detailed information, check out my guide on travelling from the UK to Europe with a dog. Additionally, I have specific guides on travelling to France with a dog and travelling to Spain from the UK with a dog. Heading to the USA with your dog? Check out my guide on travelling from the UK to the USA with a dog.
Paperwork to Travel to Europe with a Dog
Currently, when travelling from the UK to Europe with a dog, your dog is required to have a microchip, an EU pet passport and an up-to-date rabies vaccine, the same as for travelling between any EU country with a dog.
In reality though, this is not always checked. Pet passports are not checked when driving across the border into the Republic of Ireland. Pet passports are also rarely checked when boarding ferries to the Continent. You are still required to have one and may be asked to produce it, though.
Travelling Back to the UK
When travelling back to the UK with a dog, virtually the same transport options are available, as included on this list of approved routes. The one difference is that no airline is permitted to fly pet dogs in the cabin or as checked baggage, only as cargo. This is a government regulation.
This means that if you fly out of the UK with a pet in the cabin, you need to prepare another way to return to the UK. As well as the above mentioned ferries, another alternative is to use a pet taxi across the channel or a pet transport company.
Paperwork to Travel to the UK with a Dog
At the moment, travelling from Continental Europe to the UK with a dog requires the same preparation as travelling between any other EU country with a dog. In the UK, this is referred to as the Pet Travel Scheme (or PETS). For the full details published by the UK government, click here.
The requirements to travel to the UK with a pet are a microchip, pet passport and a rabies vaccine, given at least 21 days before arrival. Additionally, dogs travelling to the UK require a worming treatment done by a vet (and recorded in their pet passport), 24 hours to 120 hours (5 days) before their arrival, unless they are travelling directly from Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway.
The record for this worming treatment is strictly checked, down to the hour. For pets returning to their home in the UK after a visit to the Continent, don’t miss out on this step.
In my experience, be prepared for border officials to also check the rest of the paperwork for your dog, including its rabies vaccination records. If you’re heading across to the UK on a ferry or driving your car onto the Eurotunnel, your pet’s paperwork is checked before departure, while still in Europe. If there’s an issue, you will not be able to board.
At the moment, there are no plans to change the requirements for pets travelling to the UK after the end of the Brexit transition period, on 1st January 2021. EU pet passports will still be recognised. However, if there is a requirement for pets travelling from the UK to Europe to have a rabies titre test, it is best to do this before leaving the EU for European pet owners.
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