You’d think taking a dog to Spain without the stress of flying would be a simple affair. And it is… so long as you have your own transport, and like spending vast periods of time sitting in the same seat and staring at tarmacadam, sleeping in service stations and eating dreadful food.
A recent delightful return trip to the UK has resulted in myself and my hairy sunshine getting trapped in a rather grim country where the nearest thing to sunlight involves opening the fridge door.
If you have your own transport then you can pretty much choose your method. You can take the Eurotunnel directly to France or you can get a ferry from the UK to France or directly to Spain.
On first inspection, the ferry route from the UK to France seems like the better option: the crossing is swift and the cost is low. Norfolk Ferries do a crossing for approximately £30. However, when you factor in the travel time from Spain all the way through expensive France and the fact that a certain hairy gentleman might not appreciate travelling for hours every day, then it’s somewhat of a false economy.
The route directly to Spain is attractive because you miss out naughty France completely and spend 22 hours on a ferry. Plus if you go with Brittany Ferries on the Cap Finistere – the newest vessel in the fleet – which runs between Portsmouth and Bilbao (two crossings per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays) then they have pet-friendly cabins and an area for walking the little one.
Wait for it though. You can’t travel on any of these ferries as a foot passenger. Which is fart. One-way prices with a van of our size (6 metres long by 3 metres high. Well… ish) for one person and one doggy and a pet friendly cabin costs around £480. Pricey but if you look at the cost of fuel and factor in buying food on the road and the discomfort your dog will feel when bombing along French motorways for five hours a day, whilst its carers gradually begin to loathe each other out of boredom, then it might be worth expending the extra dosh.
There are also options to leave from Plymouth and to head straight for Santander with Britanny Ferries but only the Cap Finistere has dog-friendly cabins. None of their fleet allow foot passengers. Twats.
If you want to go via the Eurotunnel, you can travel with a dog who can stay with you in your vehicle (the crossing takes 35minutes and costs from around €100). Your little one will cost you a further £30 from Calais to Folkstone, although it’s free in the opposite direction. The £30 is for the administration fee to get your fur bag into the UK, where you will no doubt wonder why you bothered.
Eurostar does not allow pets, which is very anus of them, but I hear that the same awesome woman who campaigned for pet passports is now on the case and lobbying the slippy gits to allow doggies. Come on Eurostar, sort it out you irritable crapsters.
Ferries to France
You can travel (even as a foot passenger) on P&O Ferries to France between Dover and Calais for a price of £15 per pet. If you are in a vehicle then your hairy child will need to remain in the vehicle and if you are a foot passenger, then your befurred progeny will have to stay in a specific size of lockable box and will remain on the lower deck of the vessel.
Of course, if you are on foot, you will still have the problem of getting you and the four-footed one all across France to whatever part of Spain you are headed for. That’s a new problem altogether.
The other option of course is to fly, but I imagine that has gotta be more stressful for a dog, as so many people are frightened of the sensation of flying. And if your companion is like a child to you, you might not want to take the risk. Jury’s out on this one. They’ll be back around lunchtime apparently.
The moral of the story: don’t go back to the UK. Spain offers an exceptional quality of life, seductively balmy weather, a sense of safety not witnessed in the UK since the mid-60s, and the kind of stunning countryside that will have you believe you just arrived in Canada… plus you’ll be trapped on a grey island famous for loving dogs but just not enough to let them travel anywhere.