Can My Pet Travel For Free?

PET CHECK BLOG - dog on ferry

\\\ Pets Travelling

\\\ Updated September 2021

Free Travel For Pets In The UK

There’s no better time to take a staycation around the UK and see parts of the country that you and your pet haven’t explored.

Whether it be the Scottish Highlands, the Brecon Beacon Hills, the wonderful Dorset coastline or the Norfolk Broads, there’s something for everyone.

Millions of pet journeys are being taken every day within the UK by car, train, sea and air, some are free of charges, others are chargeable. 

What Pet Journeys Are Free?

Trains are FREE in the UK, they do not charge for your pet to be taken on board and can be a great way of getting between destinations. Trains are not as packed as they used to be with commuters, since the pandemic, with owners being asked to follow just a few simple, mostly common sense guidelines whilst travelling with their pets by their rail operators. In most cases whether it’s national, funicular, or heritage railways there is no need to confirm you are travelling with a pet when you book your ticket. City to city trains may still require booking a seat.

Simple rail rules include, for example, that dogs should be on collar and leads (with their ID Tag) and it’s always an idea to carry a muzzle in case passengers sitting around you object to your dog, or simply move to another area if permitted. Dogs can usually find space near your feet in the footwell on trains and can lie reasonably comfortably. Some passengers like to stand with their dogs on their short leads near the entrance doors to give their dogs more room. Cats and small pets should be carried in safe carriers.


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Short UK ferry crossings and hover ports offer FREE journeys to pets. Some crossings can take just a few minutes between ports, operating on a walk-on walk-off basis and dogs can be on deck accompanied by their owner on a collar and lead (and ID tag). Cats and small pets should be taken in small safe pet carriers.

When the sea crossings become longer between ports, and international ports, the ferry and sea operators charge, and your pet may have to stay in the car and not accompany you. When you travel by car on long journeys, some operators provide you with the option to use more pet facilities such as kennel areas and pet-friendly cabins. Pet journeys have to be booked with your tickets to board by car, in advance, and there are more rules and regulations to follow.

Dog owners are requested to note that even on short journeys they need to clear up after any mess caused by their pet or could face fines.

Air transport is not free, is trickier where there have been stories of passengers turning up with their pet in their carrier at commercial passenger check-in desks at airports expecting their pets to accompany them in the cabin.

Unfortunately UK aviation rules do not permit pets in the cabin unless they have a specific health reason where prior written permission has been approved.

Pets must travel in the cargo hold along with luggage. Pets are currently treated as ‘stock’, as ‘cargo’. It can be quite a daunting experience for your pet and not all UK airports are authorised to handle animal cargo. They have to fly in carrier crates specially approved by the individual airlines and can be turned away if they are not.

The government and DEFRA have approved a number of commercial and charter UK airports where animals can fly from and list the air companies that can handle animal cargo flights.

You may find yourself on a commercial flight in the UK between destinations but your pet may have to fly between other airports, so pre-planning is essential. You will need to drop your pet off at special cargo handling centres where there are welfare trained operatives and pick up your pet at the landing airport.

An alternative can be to organise your pet being picked up by the regulated and not free pet transport business services from your home in approved vehicles, flown and delivered to their destination address elsewhere in the UK. There are several reputable firms who have simple to complete online quotation forms and one can get an idea of costs instantly. These services are used, for example, by pet owners who show their animals at events and need them moved between destinations, transported across the UK.

Disappointingly, and a bit of an transport anomaly, UK bus and coach companies are rarely free, are not nationally regulated to carry pets, and rules vary from region to region, bus company to bus company and charges apply. You need to look at their rules of transportation when intending to travel to ensure you will be able to travel with your pet comfortably.

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

There have been some notices of late from US airlines they have clamped down on dogs being carried in cabins, after a spate of nasty passenger incidents occurring on board, where the assistance dog allowance was being misused by passengers carrying their pets.

TIP take time to check out your intended travel plans, the regulatory guidance on carrying pets.

The recent pandemic has restricted travel between global destinations. UK government provides guidance to the devolved parliaments, England‘s rule. Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own advice online.

Local government travel advice during the recent pandemic and now post pandemic is regularly updated.

It’s always advisable to check local social media where you’re travelling to a new destination, as there may be closed beaches due to unforeseen events, railway landslips closing the track, or even localised flooding occurring that may delay or cancel your journey.


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