Plan the Perfect Pooch-Friendly Holiday
Brexit may be bad news for some, but at least dog owners will still be able to take their pets abroad with a minimum of additional fuss
Among all the doom and gloom of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 there was one ray of sunshine for pet-owning travellers. The new rules following Brexit mean that dog owners will still be allowed to travel to the continent with their four-legged friends, albeit with one altered formality. You must now obtain an animal health certificate within 10 days of your outbound journey. The certificate will confirm that your dog is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies, and unlike the pet passport you will need to get a new certificate each time you leave the UK with your dog. The document is valid for four months, and a pet passport is no longer required. Returning to the UK still requires that your dog is wormed by a vet between one and five days before you return.
Dog owners in the North East are spoiled when it comes to travelling to the continent. These days the DFDS Seaways crossing from Newcastle to Amsterdam is by far the most dog- friendly ferry service in the UK, thanks to their pet-friendly cabins and outdoor exercise area. Unlike some of the south coast operators, DFDS allow foot passengers with dogs too, so you’re still able to take Fido overseas if you don’t want to drive abroad. The ferry actually docks at IJmuiden which has a really nice dog-friendly section of beach just a five-minute drive from the ferry. Amsterdam is less than an hour away and Germany, Belgium and France are easily accessible.
Once you’ve landed in Amsterdam you have a choice of an efficient motorway network or regular, punctual trains to get you around Holland and beyond. Day tickets for dogs on trains cost just €3,10 – no matter how far or often you travel – while the motorways are toll-free in Holland and Germany.
Another good news story in 2021 for travellers with dogs is that night trains from Amsterdam to Munich, Innsbruck and Vienna resume again in 2021. This makes travelling to the Austrian Alps a breeze if you don’t want to drive. And if you do want to bring your car along, you can cut some of the drive out by using the Auto-Train from Dusseldorf to Innsbruck.
Alternatively, the high speed Thalys or ICE networks can have you in Cologne or Paris in around three hours. From Paris it’s possible to take the very comfortable Thello sleeper train to Milan, Verona, Lake Garda and Venice in Italy. Or, take the super-fast TGV to the Mediterranean in the south of France in just three hours.
My favourite hotel group in Europe is the Accor brand – who almost universally accept dogs. Their brands include Novotel, ibis, ibis Budget, Mercure and many others, so there’s something for all budgets. If you prefer independent hotels or something a little less chainy, then try using the filter options on Tripadvisor or booking. com, who both allow searches for dog-friendly hotels. For accommodation with cooking facilities you might want to consider a campsite. Holland, Austria, Italy and France all have excellent campsites that allow dogs and have first-rate facilities such as pools, entertainment and even safari parks or theme parks on some in Holland. Canvas Holidays have a dedicated section on their website with all of their dog-friendly campsites.
The rules for returning home with a pet remain the same as before Brexit. You’re going to need to visit a vet to worm your dog between one and five days before returning to the UK. The easiest way to find a vet is to find your destination on Google Maps, then use the “Search Nearby” option to find a vet in the area.
Lake Garda, Verona and Venice
Lake Garda might seem like a long way away from the UK to drive, but if you take the ferry to Amsterdam it’s only a two- hour drive to Dusseldorf, where the OBB Auto Train will take you and your car overnight to Innsbruck in Austria. From here the northern shores of Lake Garda are about three hours’ drive away. Alternatively, the Thello night train from Paris stops at Brescia and Verona, which are both a short hop from the southern shores of Lake Garda. The lake is warm and pleasant to swim in during the summer months and there are numerous dog-friendly beaches all along the lake. Daytrips by road or rail to Verona and Venice are straightforward enough, with regular trains from the resorts of Peschiera del Garda and Desenzano del Garda.
Cologne and the romantic Rhine
Cologne is a fantastic city that’s well worth a few days of any traveller’s time. The world-famous cathedral is undoubtedly the highlight, but strolling around the old town and the Rhine are just as beautiful. Walk along the river near the cathedral at dusk and you’ll be treated to the sight and sounds of thousands of green parakeets flying between the trees. You can even take a dog-friendly day cruise along the world famous Rhine from Cologne, taking in spectacular valleys and hilltop castles, KD Lines run several trips a days from Cologne that will take you all the way to Koblenz.
The mountains, lakes and castles of Austria
Thanks to the OBB Nightjet train, and accompanying Auto-Train, Austria is one of the easiest countries to visit with a dog. The Nightjet trains run from numerous cities in Holland and Germany, including Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and Cologne. You can even bring your car if you board in Dusseldorf. The Nightjet has daily services to Innsbruck, which styles itself as the capital of the Alps, and is a great base for anyone who loves lakes and mountains. It’s also very close to Northern Italy. Vienna is also served daily by Nightjet, and the imperial architecture is magical to explore with a dog. Vienna is only an hour away from Bratislava and two and a half hours from Budapest, so a twin city break is straightforward enough. The night trains are clean and comfortable and you can book single, double or triple sleepers, or four–six berth couchettes. Dogs are welcome in all of these, as long as you book the full sleeper or couchette.
While it’s possible to travel to Rome overland, it’s a lot easier to travel to Nîmes and the surrounding Roman ruins in Languedoc and Provence. The amphitheatre at Nîmes may be smaller than the Colosseum but it is still a magnificent sight, and with a fraction of the crowds in the surrounding area. You will also find Maison Carrée, a well-preserved fifth century Roman temple, in the city, and the Jardins de la Fontaine that house the remains of a Roman baths, beautiful statues and a ruined 2nd century temple.
If that isn’t enough for you then nearby Pont du Gard is a massive Roman aqueduct that boasts three tiers, 35 arches and is almost 300 feet in length. It is a truly spectacular sight, especially when you consider how old it is. Need more? How about another magnificent amphitheatre in nearby Arles, or the former Papal residence in Avignon? Who needs to visit Rome anyway?
Nîmes is just a three-hour train ride away from Paris and the Ouigo service from Marne-la-Vallée (a.k.a. Disneyland Paris) costs from just 10 euros each way, plus 30 euros for larger dogs. The city is compact and easily navigable on foot. Dogs are allowed on local trains to Avignon and Arles, and on local buses to Pont du Gard.
Paul Wojnicki is a freelance travel journalist and the author of 'France: A Woof Guide' and 'Europe: A Woof Guide.' Both titles are available on Amazon.