Taking Your Pet to Europe: What You Need to Know

Just over six years ago, I decided to travel the world full-time—and I set my sights on Europe. I chose it because after many years of long trips overseas, everywhere from the Kalahari Desert to colourful Chiang Mai, Thailand, Europe was the place that most captured my heart.

I love it for its charming, cobbled old towns and ancient buildings, its towering castles and picturesque riverside bike paths, not to mention its incredible cuisines.

But there was one challenge:

My sweet, rambunctious two-year-old pup…

©Gigi Griffis

When I first decided to go, I was nervous. Would I have to face quarantines? Would it be expensive? Would we find housing? What about transit?

I started researching and planning and here comes the good news:

Taking a dog to Europe isn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Here are five things I wish I’d known right from the start.

1. It’s Easier Than You Think!

I had visions of piles of paperwork and quarantines—but the truth is much simpler. For most European countries (with the exception of the U.K., which does have stricter rules), you only need a few simple things:

  • An internationally recognised microchip for your pet (this is a quick out-patient procedure at the vet).
  • An up-to-date rabies vaccine (the vaccine must have happened after the microchip and you’ll need to wait at least a month after the first vaccine to enter the E.U., so plan ahead) if you’re coming from a rabies risk country.

If you are coming directly from Australia or New Zealand, you can likely skip this step, as rabies-free countries are usually exempt, but it’s always good to check with your vet.

  • Some paperwork in English and the language of your first stop filled out by your vet within 10 days of travel and stamped by your local agricultural authority office. I recommend doing it within a week of travel—that way you won’t panic if there’s a travel delay.

There are a few countries that require a little something extra (for Montenegro, you’ll need a rabies titer test (a lab test measuring the existence and level of antibodies) in order to come back into the E.U.; for Finland, you’ll need the vet to give your dog a tapeworm pill a few days before travel), but essentially those are the main requirements. Always check the requirements for the specific countries you want to visit before you make plans, but generally the requirements above will have you covered.

2. Consider Where You’re Coming From—Not Just Where You’re Going To…

Australia is a rabies-free country, which means traveling from Australia to Europe is relatively straightforward. If you’re coming from a country that isn’t rabies free (South Africa, for instance), the requirements can get trickier and may involve quarantines.

It’s always important to look up the import rules with your departure point in mind—not just the destination.

3. The Trick to Finding Pet-Friendly Housing: Just Ask

In my experience, most European hotels, guesthouses, hostels and Airbnbs either don’t list their pet policies on their websites or default (in the case of Airbnb) to no-pets-allowed.

But here’s the good news: most of them will take well-behaved dogs—especially if they’re small. You just have to ask.

In six years of travelling mostly in Europe, about 90% of the Airbnbs and hotels I’ve contacted have said yes to my small, (5.5 kg), well-trained pooch. One of my tricks is that I have reviews for her. Whenever we stay in an Airbnb, I ask the host to mention the dog in his or her review. When we stay with someone outside the site, I sometimes ask if they’ll be a reference if needed.

Some people will like the references; others won’t care. But I’ve had great luck finding pet-friendly accommodations by simply asking and offering up references.

4. Pets Are Welcome in Public Spaces

One of my favourite things about travelling in Europe with my dog is that almost everything seems to be pet-friendly. Countries like France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Slovenia have welcomed my dog with open arms, allowing her into restaurants, cafes, shops and attractions that in other countries would probably have “No Dogs Allowed” signs out front.

There are a few exceptions. Most churches and museums are not dog-friendly and grocery stores won’t let your pooch through the door pretty much anywhere in Europe. And there are a few countries that aren’t as dog-loving as the rest, with Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the U.K. less likely to allow dogs in restaurants, parks, cafes, etc. But overall, especially in places like Italy and Slovenia, dogs are welcome—which is a real pleasure when you want to combine your daily dog walk with a trip to your favorite Parisian cafe or Italian eatery.

5. Travelling With a Pet is Straightforward

If you’ve been to Europe before, you already know the continent is full of efficient, usually well-kept trains. And the good news is that on the mainland, for the most part, those trains tend to be dog-friendly. Small dogs or cats inside a carrier often travel free (though always check because occasionally there’s a small fee with some train companies). Large dogs are usually accepted for a fee and can travel on a leash, usually with a muzzle.

Air travel is always trickier, but many European airlines allow small dogs or cats in a carrier under the seat in front of you for a fee. Buses also tend to be dog-friendly, though requirements (muzzles, carriers) vary from city to city and country to country, so it’s always worth checking the specifics for the cities you plan to visit or live in.

A Final Caveat: Returning to Australia

One thing to keep in mind is that while it’s easy to bring a dog from Australia to Europe, it’s trickier to go back. If you’re moving to Europe or leaving to travel full-time, this won’t impact you. But if you’re planning to return to Australia with your dog, you may be subject to quarantine. It’s always a good idea to talk to your vet and explore the Australia import regulations if you do plan on returning.

Six Years of With-Dog Travel in Europe

As I’m writing this to you, it’s been just over six years since I set out for Europe with a full bag, a location-independent business and a small dog who I couldn’t imagine ever leaving behind.

Yes, there’s been paperwork. Yes, some hotels have said no to the dog. And yes, sometimes it’s been challenging to be in a new city and figure out vet visits, dog supplies and dog food.

But at the end of the day, it was much easier than I ever imagined and I’m happy every day that my dog is along for the adventure.

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