Thinking of taking your dog to France? Don't want to leave them all alone on a ferry, but don't want to drive all the way to the Channel Tunnel?
Not a problem! Did you know many ferries from the UK to France have pet-friendly cabins where your dog can stay in the cabin with you; no more leaving them alone in the car for hours on end.
Taking a dog to France- the options
I HATED the idea of leaving our little adventure puppy Mac in the car on the ferry from the UK to France. In fact, we were prepared to drive from Devon to the Eurotunnel and then back to the West coast of France (a one-way trip of around 700 miles)… all to avoid putting him through that.
However, I discovered you can take a dog from the UK to France in a dog-friendly cabin – and it's made our travelling so much easier!
Here's our full review of travelling on a pet-friendly ferry with Brittany Ferries from England to France.
Taking a ferry from UK to France with dogs- what pet-friendly cabin options are there?
There are many ferries to France from UK, but I was surprised to learn that there are actually two ferry companies which offer pet or dog-friendly cabins; DFDS and Brittany Ferries.
Because of where we're based in the UK, the Brittany Ferries port of Portsmouth is easy for us and there are two routes which offer pet-friendly cabins from Portsmouth to France:
- Portsmouth to Caen
- Portsmouth to Le Havre
It is also possible to book pet-friendly cabins from the UK to Spain and I believe DFDS do pet-friendly cabins to Holland; check with each ferry operator for more details.
Requirements to take a dog from the UK to France
Before you can leave the UK with your dog, whether by ferry or by tunnel, you need to get a Pet Passport on the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). We found getting a pet passport to be fairly straight-forward, but it wasn't very cheap.
There are some strict rules on when your dog can have the required injections and how long has to be left between one injection and the next, so don't leave it too late before your holiday. This post has a full breakdown of what is required to take a pet to France.
I hate to say it, but BREXIT will make taking a dog to France more complicated – you can find out the latest requirements for driving in Europe after BREXIT and taking a dog into the EU here
Taking a dog to France with Brittany Ferries- check-in process at Portsmouth
Checking in with a dog for a pet-friendly cabin is surprisingly easy, at least on the Portsmouth side. You arrive at the port and pull in to the correct lane
NOTE: Brittany Ferries often have multiple sailings close together, so make sure it's the right lane for your destination!!
The check-in agent will require:
- Your booking reference
- Your passports (including the pet passports)
- You to get out of the car and scan your dog/ pet with their microchip scanner
- To see the muzzle for the dog (more on that next!)
TOP TIP– at least PRETEND like you've used the muzzle before. We still had ours in its packaging… I could feel the woman rolling her eyes at us!!
Once complete, they will give you a sticker for the outside of your car to show you have a pet onboard. You will also be handed your pet-friendly cabin keycards and a paper hanger for your rear-view mirror.
ANOTHER TOP TIP– fold a corner over on the sticker to make a flap so it's easier to peel off.
They will then direct you to the correct lane to park up in and you are through- ready from your ferry to France and your pet's big adventure onboard!
Dogs on Ferries- Dog Muzzle
Since telling people we use the pet-friendly cabins to take our dog to France, the biggest question we've been getting is “Does he have to wear a muzzle?”
The short answer is yes but, before you immediately close down this webpage in disgust, let me give you the longer answer.
You do NOT need to muzzle your dog at all until onboard the ferry, so whilst you're at the port waiting, you can go for a walk/ wee without needing to put it on.
There are NO dog play areas at Portsmouth port- it's a real shame, especially in comparison to the excellent facilities at the Eurotunnel. But there are places for a walk/ wee before you board- and I highly recommend you do this!
The first time you need the muzzle is when you get out of the car onboard the ferry. You'll be parked next to a specific door, which has a lift or stairs taking you straight up to the ‘Pet Deck'.
You'll be with several other dogs (we had about 10 with us) and ALL of them were muzzled. There were several members of Brittany Ferries staff around and they insisted on all dogs wearing a muzzle- even if they were being carried.
If the dog is in a crate it does not need a muzzle.
ANOTHER TOP TIP: Do NOT wait until this moment to put a muzzle on your 4-month-old puppy for the first time. Not that WE would ever be so stupid…!!!!! Poor Mac HATED the muzzle (as do most dogs) and he looked so sad, it broke my heart to make him wear it.
Having said that, it was on for 5 minutes. Tops. In the grand scheme of things, I'd much rather he was upset for 5 minutes while I'm there to cuddle and reassure him, then him being stuck on his own in the car deck, upset for hours.
That's our opinion on the muzzling. Get one which goes on really quickly and doesn't need lots of fastening/ adjusting. We like this one as it still allows him to breathe easily.
It's not on him long enough to worry about him drinking. After a couple of trips on the ferry, he's much more used to it and will even sit while we fasten the muzzle on him.
It's really hard to know which size to get, so a pet shop might be your best bet, although they can be more expensive.
Brittany Ferries Pet-Friendly cabin- how much does it cost?
The Brittany Ferries Pet-Friendly ferry cabins from the UK to France cost exactly the same amount as the normal cabins. I believe we paid £79 (each way) for an inside 4 berth. Be aware that breakfast is not included in your tickets on the Portsmouth- Le Havre route, but this route is cheaper for cabins and vehicles.
Taking a dog to France with Brittany Ferries- be sure to book them on!
You MUST make sure you book your dog onto the crossing, as well as booking the cabin and the passengers. When you are filling in the details on the booking for adults/ children who are travelling, you'll find a small section below which asks how many pets you will be taking.
I believe there is a maximum of 2 dogs per pet-friendly cabin, so if you have more dogs you might want to look at a different option for travelling to France with your dogs.
Obviously, you can take a dog to France without booking a pet-friendly cabin- but you'll be leaving them in the car. They won't be allowed onboard the ferry with you. I think it was around £35 to add a dog onto the booking without a pet-friendly cabin.
See inside a Dog-friendly cabin
Here's a quick video, showing you what to expect from a pet-friendly ferry cabin with Brittany Ferries.
Pet-Friendly Cabin on Brittany Ferries
All the pet cabins are on one deck, in a little corner of the ship not accessed by any other passengers. We've been on several of the ships and the layouts are all fairly similar.
On one of the ships, you'll get the keycard for your cabin as you check in. On the other pet-friendly ferry, you'll get a keycard on check-in, but someone will meet you at the bottom of the stairs to the pet area with a code for your cabin written on a card. I'm not sure why this is- maybe they change the codes regularly??
The dog-friendly cabins on Brittany Ferries are exactly the same as any of the other cabins… with 2 notable exceptions. Firstly, there is no carpet anywhere. For obvious reasons. Secondly, Brittany Ferries provides a lovely welcome pack for your pooch, with a collapsible water/ food bowl, some poop bags (who thought I'd ever use that word so much on a blog!!) and a biscuit/ treats for your pup.
(These aren't always available, so bring your own food/ water bowls just in case. I LOVE these bowls, especially as they lock shut so I can store his food for the next morning safely without it spilling)
Ferry from England to France with a dog- where do they ‘go'?
There is an outside ‘Pet Deck', where you can walk your dog and encourage him to do his business. There's a bin to dispose of your poop bags and a hose is provided to wash down after them- PLEASE use it. Mac happily splashed his way through all sorts of unpleasantness and then proceeded to jump all over me. It was awesome. Not.
Mac wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to be doing on that weird floor out in all that wind- even after watching several other dogs do their ‘thing'. It took a good 25 minutes to get anything out of him, so go prepared with a coat. I did NOT bring a coat with me and it was FREEZING- major lesson learnt.
It's not a big area and you can't let them off their lead. Make sure the lead is sturdy, like this one; it's a horrible fall overboard and I think Mac could have squeezed through the railings if he has a chance.
Also, all dogs MUST wear a muzzle whilst outside their cabin.
Overnight ferry to France in a Brittany Ferries Dog-Friendly cabin
We booked an inside cabin, for no real reason other than I thought the view out the window might freak Mac out a little. There were the usual 2 bunks below and 2 in the ceiling. If you want to know more about using Brittany Ferries to go to France, this video might be useful.
There is no form of crate in the cabin, so you might prefer to bring your own. Dogs aren't allowed on the beds, and trying to keep Mac on the floor is…troublesome! So a collapsible crate like this one would be a great idea.
Pets are not allowed in the restaurant or anywhere else onboard the ship, so you can either take it in turns to go get breakfast, or leave your dog alone in the cabin. I would love to have chosen option 2, but I know he would have howled the place down and disturbed everyone else, so we went for option 3- I went down and grabbed bacon, sausages and bread rolls, along with tea & coffee… and carried them back up to the cabin.
I have no idea if this is allowed or not, but nobody stopped me so we enjoyed breakfast in our cabin with a fairly contented puppy.
Entering France with a Dog
If you're used to travelling to France on a ferry, the next bit is a little different from what you might be used to. Instead of having to leave your cabin 30 minutes before docking, you actually have to wait in your cabin until an announcement is made asking all Pet Owners to return to their cars.
Once off the ferry, you need to show your passport at Passport Control to enter France. They didn't want to see Mac or his passport at all- they didn't seem in the slightest bit interested. One quick swipe of our human passports, and we were set free into the wilds of France.
Returning to the UK from France with your dog on a ferry.
The return is pretty much the same. You'll need the same information at check-in, and again, they ask to scan the microchip and see the muzzle.
Again, there is nowhere in either Le Havre or Caen for dogs to run and play, but you are allowed to walk them before going through security.
Don't forget to get your worming tablet given by a vet 1-5 days before travel back to the UK- more details on that here.
Brittany Ferries Pet-Friendly cabin review- is it a good way to take a dog to France?
Absolutely! We love being able to keep our dog with us throughout the ferry crossing between England and France.
Apart from being FROZEN on the poop deck, (my fault for forgetting a coat) none of us were ever worried and he wasn't separated from us once. There were no kennels or cages and (apart from the short time he had to wear a muzzle) he was totally calm about the whole thing- pretty amazing for a 4-month-old puppy!
The proof is in the pudding, as they say- we have now booked our next 3 trips to France and they are ALL using the Pet-friendly cabins onboard Brittany Ferries.
BOOK EARLY if you want to travel in school holidays- the Portsmouth to France ferry routes book up ridiculously quickly and there's only a limited number of cabins.
Have you ever tried a pet-friendly cabin with Brittany Ferries or any other company? What did you think of the service?? Let me know below- I'd love to hear your experience.
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