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Driving Overland to the UK
with a Pet

Most of my reference is for a cat but dogs could travel the same way.

Preparing to Drive to the UK

If you are intending to travel to the UK with a pet here is the procedure, we also recommend you read and take note of some of the tips given below which are from volunteers and friends of AAWF who have made this journey.
Also read our p
age about Passports, as you have to wait 21 days after the cat has been vaccinated for Rabies before the cat can enter the UK.


Ferry Corfu to Italy

If you have decided to drive yourself back to the UK with a pet you will need to leave Corfu by ferry to one of the Italian ports.  The shortest crossing is from Corfu to Brindisi or Bari, the Bari option is used the most as Superfast Ferries sail on this route and are a recommended ferry.  Being the shortest crossing, the drive is much further and will take longer. Maybe some people do not like being on boats so may choose the shorter crossing. 

If for any reason you need to leave the pet in the car on the crossing then this shorter route is the best option.  However, this is not recommended and the ferry operators do not like you doing it as you are not permitted to go onto the car decks during the crossing.  Also it is only possible during the colder months as the car is on a very low deck and would be far too hot for any animal during the hotter season.  You are now able to book Pet Cabins on these ferries, so do plan to take the cat to the cabin with you.

The most commonly used routes are the Corfu to Ancona or Venice routes operated by Anek and Minoan .  This is a much longer crossing but when you land a much shorter drive. You can book pet cabins with these operators on these routes which are far too long to leave animals in a car.  You may need to make two journeys to get the animal/animals up to the cabins if you have more than one.  There are many stairs to climb as the cars always go on the lower decks.  If you have your own luggage to take up plus cat carriers and items for the animal/animals like litter trays, food and cleaning materials, it may be too much to carry in one journey. Try to keep what you take to the cabin to a minimum if you have cats in carriers.  This may not be too much of a problem if you only have one animal.  From past experience we do not find the Greek crews very helpful.

Drive through Europe

Once you have left the ferry and begin your road journey, make sure the animal is settled back in his carrier or on his Harness and Lead or in his cage if you are using one.


There are varies routes you can take to the British ports and it takes two or three days to arrive at the port (from Venice we estimated around 16 driving hours to Calais or Dunkirk) so you may wish to stay overnight and many hotels will take pets. 

Ferry to UK

When you arrive at the French port of your choice, either Calais or Dunkirk for the ferries P&O  or DFDS or the tunnel  you will need to check in with the pet.  Another option if you are travelling to the North of England is the ferry from Rotterdam to Hull which is an overnight ferry, they have facilities for animals in kennels/cages, as they do not permit the animals in the cabins on UK ferries. This must be arranged when booking. The pet must be declared when booking any UK ferry or the tunnel.  If travelling via the tunnel the procedure is slightly different you go to the Pet Reception area first before you check in.  This is where the microchip is scanned and the Passport checked. You will then move to the normal check-in area.

Having checked in for the ferries, you will then be directed to the French Border Control and then onto the UK Border Force who operate in France, not the UK.  Here you will need to hand over your passports including the Pet Passport and this is where your pet’s microchip will be scanned.  You could be asked for a Custom Declaration Form which you can find on the UK Government website about bringing pets into the UK (link below).  The form is a declaration that your cat is yours and not part of a pet trafficking scheme or to be sold.  You can print this form out and take it with you but I have been informed that this was not asked for when going through customs and I personally have never been asked for one either.  Only the passports were asked for.  During the short crossing to Dover the pet has to remain in your vehicle.

The custom declaration form can be found here:-



A few tips for the journey

My first piece of advice for this trip is, if taking a cat, I would strongly advise, that because you are transferring the cat from car to cabin and from car to hotels that you purchase a good strong carrier that fastens securely.  An airline approved one would be the best type and always check it is securely fastened.  Only transfer a cat to its carrier in the car. Also note that a cat can become quite distressed when transferring it from the car deck to the cabin of a ferry as it can be very noisy with cars and lorries moving around.



We would advise using a cage if you have room in your car as this gives the cat plenty of space and room for a litter box. It is a long way to drive a cat in a carrier but using a Harness and Lead is another option to use with the carrier so the cat can be taken out. You will need a litter tray also, the ones with the lid are the best option if not using a cage and you can carry it into the hotel with you on stopovers.  A second person should be in the car if using a Harness and Lead to ensure the cat is kept under control and well away from the driver. A very calm cat will sleep most of the journey but that is not the case with all cats, some become very stressed and are sometimes safer in the carrier if you cannot use a cage.

Corfu-Italy Ferry - When on the ferry you will need to take a small, or maybe temporary litter tray into the cabin (I have used foil roasting trays in the past) along with kitchen roll, wipes, a water bowl and a little food.  Do limit the food to save a lot of mess and possible diahorea.  I recommend feeding Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal Food whilst travelling, not wet food.  It is light on the stomach and controls diahorea.

When you arrive at the Italian Port they may ask to see the passport for yourselves and the pet.
Make sure they understand it is YOUR pet if questioned. Generally, they take little notice of the animals.

Hotel Stays

If you plan to stay in hotels overnight during the journey it is quite easy to find hotels that take pets in Europe, we never found it a problem unlike in the UK!!  As you have travelled on the ferry you will have the items needed for the hotel, litter tray, cleaning materials food and water for the pet etc.

Arriving at the French Ferry

As you are passing through Border Control you may be asked questions about the pet so do familiarise yourself with the animal, it must be yours and if you have adopted from Corfu make sure you know its name, birthdate and things about it in order to appear that you know the animal well and that it is going to your home with you.  All they want to know is that the animal is yours to keep and will stay with you (it is not for sale or transfer of ownership) & the passport details are complete & accurate.  So be prepared and get to know the animal before you set off.

The France-UK Crossing

As animals are not permitted on the passenger decks they have to remain in your vehicle on the car deck.  As they are alone in the vehicle make sure it is secure for when you return and open the door.  If it is a cat it should be contained in its carrier or cage and cover it with a blanket to reduce the stress.  Do not leave it loose in the car as they can become very distressed and hide under the seats and try to escape.  Often car alarms go off on the crossing and this can cause distress so do make sure the animal is safe and secure in its carrier or cage.

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