Travel with Your Dog: US to UK via France
Traveling internationally with your pet can be quite overwhelming. There is a lot of information out there and the rules vary from country to country. I am hoping to simplify this a little bit by sharing my recent first-hand experience and the steps I followed to take my pug - Ari with me from US to UK via France.
We’ve lived in London for 3.5 years and wanted to revisit friends & our old city with Ari. The first time we moved to UK from US in 2014, we took Ari with us in the flight cabin as Emotional Support Animal (ESA). However, this time around in 2019, the rules have changed and UK no longer permits in-cabin Emotional Support pets to enter the country. They do permit Assistant Dogs, but for that you need to get training and certification for your dog via UK government approved organizations. Hence we decided to make a short detour and spend a few days in France and then enter UK via Eurotunnel by road.
Here are the steps that we followed:
US TO FRANCE
Airline booking: Before booking our tickets, we called the airlines to ensure that they allowed ESA dogs, not all airlines do. We booked Level airline from New York to Paris and Norwegian Airline for return flight from London to New York.
Appointment with vet: I called Ari’s regular vet at least 2 months before our trip to gather information about travel requirements and to schedule an appointment closer to our travel date. Make sure that the vet is USDA accredited.
Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter: An ESA letter is a must for every airline in order to allow in-cabin travel with ESA pets. Some airlines have their own ESA forms that need to be filled out by your mental health practitioner and some just need a letter from a mental health practitioner in the correct standard format. Always call the airline well in advance of your travel date or check their website for detailed information on what’s required and the correct format for this letter.
Microchip: EU microchip readers can read microchips that meet International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards ISO 11784 and ISO 11785. To put it simply, US microchips may not be compatible with EU microchip readers. Get this checked by your vet. You may have to carry your own microchip reader. This may be easier than getting a new microchip implanted. Its extremely important that your pet’s microchip gets read when you cross the border.
Health Certificate/EU Pet Passport: This is a standard health certificate that can be found online and needs to be filled out and completed by a USDA accredited vet. Note that your Health Certificate should not be older than 10 days from the time of your travel date. In Ari’s case, he has an EU pet passport so he didn’t need a Health certificate. This passport can only be issued within an EU country, we got his while we lived in London. Although we didn’t need a Health Certificate, we still got a fit-to-fly letter from our vet.
USDA attestation: Once you have the Health Certificate from the vet, you need to go to the USDA office to get it attested prior to your travel. This is a must! But, since Ari has an EU pet passport, we didn’t need a health certificate or USDA attestation.
At the airport: Once at the airport, we were asked for ESA and fit-to-fly letters at the LEVEL airline counter. We also showed them Ari’s pet passport. I always get asked if Ari needs to be in a bag at the airport. The answer is no. He just walks on his leash. Our flight was pleasant overall. Ari usually sleeps by my feet, under the seat in the front. Ari can hold his pee/poop for 9-10 hours, we made sure to take him for a little walk outside the airport to relieve himself closer to the flight time, before security check-in. Some airports also have a Pet Relief Area.
Arrival in France: At Paris airport (Charles De Gaulle) , we were not asked for any documentation whatsoever for Ari. However, keep your health certificate/pet passport and ESA letter ready in case they do.
FRANCE TO UK (BY ROAD)
Tapeworm treatment: In order to enter UK, your dog must receive tapeworm treatment in France from a vet any time between 120 hours (5 days) to 24 hours prior to your travel date. Our hotel helped us with some vet recommendations and we got Ari’s treatment two days before our travel date. The cost was 49 Euros.
Train from Paris to Calais: Since Eurostar does not allow dogs, the best way to reach London by road from Paris is by taking a train from Paris Nord (Gare du Nord) station to Calais and then a taxi across Eurotunnel. Dogs don’t need to be in a bag on the train, but are required to have a muzzle on, which we actually forgot to buy. But, at the train station none of the dogs had a muzzle on and we didn’t get asked for it. You can keep one on you to be safe. The train ride was appx. 1.5 hours.
Taxi from Calais to Folkstone: Folkstone Taxi Company is one of the most well known for their pet friendly taxi service across the Eurotunnel - from Calais, France to Folkstone, UK. When we arrived at Calais station, the taxi driver was waiting for us with our name placard. We drove for about ten minutes before we reached the border check-point.
Pet Reception at the border: At the border check-point we went straight to the Pet Reception area where they scanned Ari’s microchip and checked his pet passport for tapeworm treatment. It took us less than ten minutes to complete this process. Its crucial that you have all your paperwork, etc. in order for this to go smoothly.
Eurotunnel: After this we drove for another 10-15 minutes and reached Eurotunnel. There was a line to get in, we waited for almost 20 minutes for our turn. Once we were in the tunnel the car stayed parked. You can either stay seated in the car or stand next to your car if you need to stretch your legs. It takes about 35 minutes to cross the tunnel.
Folkstone to London: Once in Folkstone, you can either take a train to London or continue in the same taxi to your final destination. We paid about £150 extra to continue the taxi straight to London from Folkstone. It took us about 2 hours to reach Balham - our final London destination.
Cost & Time: Overall it took us appx. 5-6 hours for this entire trip. The cost was around £500 including - Train from Paris to Calais + Folkstone Taxi from Calais to London + Eurotunnel pass. This can be reduced by booking your Eurotunnel pass at least 2-3 days in advance (we booked a day in advance) and by switching to a train for your Folkstone to London journey. Another option could be booking a taxi driver directly (instead of booking through a taxi company). If you know a reliable and safe taxi driver through someone who can take you from Calais to Folkstone, then you will definitely pay less. We found out about this from our taxi driver.
UK TO US
Airline: We flew via Norwegian airline from London to New York. Our overall experience of flying with them was smooth. However, their call centre staff do not have accurate information about ESA travel. We usually call the airline a couple of days prior (if not earlier) to let them know that we are traveling with an emotional support dog. When we did that with Norwegian, we were given incorrect information regarding documentation twice, which made us really worried. Their website listed ESA letter and a Fit-to-fly vet certificate as the required documents. Since our documentation, matched the ESA requirements listed on their website, we disregarded the information provided to us over the phone.
At the airport: At the Norwegian counter, we encountered the same problem. The person did not know much about traveling with an ESA. We gave him our documents and he took them to the back office and returned after 25-30 minutes. But, they were all fine and we were good to go. We always get to the airport at least 3 hours before our flight in case there are hold-ups like these.
Arrival in US: At immigration at New York airport (JFK), we were asked for Ari’s documents. We showed them my ESA letter and Ari’s fit-to-fly vet certificate and we were good to go.
I have tried to cover as much info as I can. If I have missed out on anything or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment below and I will answer it. If you follow us on Instagram, then check out our Paris-London story highlight to see some videos to give you a better idea about the travel listed above.
This is also a good source for information - https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad