With its sunshine and heat, not to mention beautiful beaches and affordable dining, it’s no surprise that Spain is a popular destination for travellers (and retirees) from the United Kingdom. And for most travellers it’s also an easy and cheap destination to fly to. But if you’re a pet owner, it’s a trickier affair travelling between the UK and Spain.
This is especially true if you’re not intending on taking a car, as dogs aren’t allowed in the cabin or as checked baggage on flights back to the UK, and the Eurostar train doesn’t allow dogs (except guide dogs).
Instead, I’ve put together this list of what travel options are available for taking your dog to Spain from the UK and back.
Note: If travelling to Spain over the summer, don’t forget to protect your dog from Leishmaniasis
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Flying to Spain from the UK with a Dog
Dogs flying into the UK can only travel as cargo, not in the cabin or even as check-in baggage. With the expense and hassle, not to mention being separated from your dog, this is not a recommended option for travelling from Spain to the UK with your dog.
However, there’s no similar prohibition against dogs flying in the cabin or as check-in baggage on flights out of the UK to Spain! However, there are only a limited number of airlines that offer this option – don’t just book with any airline then try to book your dog.
To help you out, I’ve put together this guide to everything you need to know about flying a dog to Spain from the UK, including airlines that allow dogs to fly in the cabin (both direct and indirect options) and the approximate costs.
Also remember, you’ll need to make plans to travel an alternative route when you return to the UK with your pet dog, assuming it’s not a one-way trip.
Driving to Spain from the UK via the Channel
If you’re wanting to keep your car for your Spanish holiday (or extended stay), just simply drive from the UK to Spain with your car. (Click on the link for lots of tips and suggested itineraries!)
It’s a long journey and once you add up all the costs it’s generally more expensive than flying, but it’s worthwhile if you want to have your own car and is a straightforward option for taking dogs to Spain.
Lucky for you, it’s easy to cross the English Channel with your dog in your car. Choose between two options: the Eurotunnel or taking a ferry, such as between Dover and Calais. (Dogs generally need to stay in your car on the ferries, so it’s best to choose the shortest route, particularly if it’s summer time, although P&O have recently introduced pet lounges onboard.)
If taking the Eurotunnel, it costs an extra £22 per pet, while most shorter ferries charge a similar price. For more information, check my extended post on travelling with a dog from the UK to Europe.
Once you cross the channel, you’ll have one or two long days of driving before you arrive in Spain. Calais to San Sebastian is just over 1100km (700 miles), while Calais to Barcelona is about 1300km (800 miles).
Petrol prices aren’t cheap in France (about €1.47/L for Unleaded 95 Octane and about €1.35/L for Diesel, as of April 2018 when I last visited, and certainly higher in 2023). Prices are usually around €0.20 more expensive on the motorway compared to cheaper supermarket outlets.
Also factor in the cost of tolls on the motorways: most motorways in France are tolled, about €10 per 100km (60 miles). Once you cross the border to Spain, only a few motorways have tolls and petrol is cheaper.
Taking Brittany Ferries to Spain with Your Car
To skip on the long and expensive drive through France, you can instead take one of the ferries directly from the UK to Spain, run by Brittany Ferries. The available routes are from both Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander, plus Portsmouth to Bilbao, and return.
Sailings vary between 20 and 36 hours in length, depending on which ports you are sailing between. Note that sailings don’t run during most of November and December.
Unfortunately, this is not an option for people travelling to Spain with a dog but without their car. Foot passengers are not allowed to take dogs on any of the Brittany Ferry routes.
If you are taking your car, you can choose between pet-friendly cabins and kennels, depending on the ship. Most of the ships that sail with Brittany Ferries to Spain have pet-friendly cabins available, that can accommodate a single pet. However, they do usually book out very quickly!
There are also both small and large kennels, along with exercise areas. The exact number of cabins and set-up varies between each ship. For full details of what is available on each ship, to help you take a ferry to Spain with your dog, check out this guide.
The cost for taking a pet with Brittany ferries is £45 each direction. Note that a muzzle is required for all pets for their transfer between your car and either your cabin or the kennels, plus when visiting the exercise areas.
For more details, see my guide to taking a ferry to Spain with a dog.
Taking a Ferry as a Foot Passenger then Flying or Taking a Train
If you’re travelling as a foot passenger, without a car, unfortunately many of the ferries won’t allow you to take a dog with you. As the Eurostar doesn’t allow dogs (except guide dogs) and the Eurotunnel doesn’t take foot passengers at all, there’s limited options, with three ferries available.
Stena Line Ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland
My recommended option is to take the Stena Line Harwich to Hook of Holland ferry, then fly from Schiphol to your final destination in Spain. The ferry offers either an overnight or shorter day sailing.
Recently, the ferry added pet-friendly cabins, with both two-berth and five-berth pet-friendly cabins available. Additionally, you can also check your dog into the well-equipped kennels for a fee of £21. Car passengers can also leave their dogs in their car. Read my review about taking this ferry.
From the ferry dock in Hook of Holland, it’s then fairly easy to get to Schiphol by a combination of bus and train. From there you can choose between the many dog-friendly airlines operating in Europe.
Alternatively, especially if you’re travelling with a larger dog who can’t go in the cabin, you could also travel to Spain by train. Note that once you reach the Spanish border, larger dogs are technically not allowed on most trains in Spain (unlike in the Netherlands, Belgium and France), only smaller dogs in a pet carrier bag, although I’ve heard reports of this rule being ignored.
DFDS Seaways Ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam
If you’re travelling from northern England or Scotland, instead consider taking the longer ferry crossing from Newcastle to Amsterdam, operated by DFDS Seaways. This ferry also has dog-friendly cabins, although they can’t be booked online for foot passengers.
From Amsterdam, you could either fly or take the train to Spain, as discussed above.
DFDS Seaways Ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe
An alternative for foot passengers travelling to Spain with a dog is to take the DFDS Seaways ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. This is the only ferry option between Great Britain and France that allows foot passengers to take a dog with them, to be left in a kennel down on the car deck, although you will need a carrier to transport your dog onto the boat.
The departure dock in Newhaven is accessible by train from London. In Dieppe it’s a short taxi ride to the local train station then a couple of hours on regional trains to Paris. From Paris, either fly to Spain or continue your journey by train.
The first time I travelled from Barcelona to London, I took this option in reverse, after firstly taking a flight from Barcelona to Paris (as it was cheaper than buying a train ticket close to the departure date) and spending a few nights in Paris.
Be warned that the trip from Paris to London via train, ferry and train does take all day – around 12 hours. I’d recommend breaking up the journey with a night in Paris, unless you can book a convenient flight. Read more about my experience here.
Crossing the Channel with Your Car then Flying
If you have a car that you’re happy to drive across to Europe, but don’t want to drive it all the way to Spain, a good compromise would be drive to an airport close to the English Channel and then fly.
This means that you have the option of taking the Eurotunnel or the quick ferries between Dover and Calais, that you can’t take as a foot passenger, but can arrive in Spain a lot quicker than driving for over 1000km.
From Calais, it’s just over 200km (125 miles) to Brussels Airport, the closest major airport, and will take about 2 hour to drive. Charles de Gaulle Airport is slightly further away, around 265km (about 165 miles), but is still under a 2.5 hour drive. Most pet owners prefer Brussels Airport over the gigantic CDG.
You’ll need to pay for parking at the airport or nearby, which means this is best for shorter trips, unless you know someone who can look after your car. From either airport, you’ll be able to fly with multiple dog-friendly airlines to your destination in Spain.
Any Other Options?
One other option if you’re travelling without a car, is to use a taxi service to take the Eurotunnel with your dog. I’ve discussed this in more detail on my extended post about travelling between the UK and Europe with a dog. Once across the channel, continue by train on your journey to Spain, or consider flying, like discussed above.
I’ve also recently come across Pet Courier, a Spanish company that specifically transports pets between the UK and Spain, and vice versa. Their Facebook page lists upcoming trips, but hasn’t had any posts since 2021. Let me know if you’ve used this company or another similar company!
Paperwork to Travel to Spain with Your Dog
Prior to Brexit, there was no special paperwork required to travel to Spain from the UK with your dog, as long as you already had an EU pet passport and an up-to-date rabies vaccination.
However, with UK-issued pet passports no longer being recognised, if you don’t have a a valid EU pet passport issued elsewhere in the EU or in Northern Ireland, you will need to visit an accredited veterinarian to be issued with an EU animal health certificate, within 10 days of travel.
Prior to being issued the animal health certificate, your dog will require a microchip and valid rabies vaccine, from at least 21 days before your date of travel. Note that the cost for some vets to issue the pet health certificates can be quite expensive!
I’ve heard recommendations for Abbeywell Vets located in Folkestone, close to the Eurotunnel terminal and the Dover ferry port, thanks to their reasonable prices. You can request an EU animal health certificate online for collection when you arrive in Folkestone.
Paperwork to Return to the UK
When returning to the UK, make sure you visit a vet to have your dog wormed. This needs to be done between 5 days (120 hours) and 24 hours before returning to the UK, based on your arrival time in the UK.
If you travelled to Spain using an EU pet health certificate and it has been less than 4 months since it was issued (meaning it is still valid for your return to the UK), the tapeworm treatment can be recorded by an EU vet on the certificate.
Alternatively, it should be recorded in your EU pet passport, whether an existing pet passport or if you get a new pet passport during your time in Spain.
I’ve heard reports that this can be expensive at the local vets around Calais (and you’ll still need to wait 24 hours), so I recommend getting it done earlier, such as before you leave your accommodation in Spain.
You May Also Like
- How to Travel with a Dog Between the UK and Europe
- Taking a Ferry to Spain with a Dog
- Travelling in Spain with a Dog
- Pet-Friendly Hotels in Madrid
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.
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