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Taking a dog into, and out of, England on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

A quick recap for those of you who are just arriving at Dog Jaunt: I added a week to our month-long trip to Paris because I wanted to have the experience of taking Chloe into, and out of, England via the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

Why make the effort? You are not allowed to fly into the U.K. with an in-cabin pet, so people who prefer to travel within arm’s reach of their dog have to be creative: One of the options, as I mentioned in this post, is to rent a car and drive it (and you, your pup and who/whatever else is in the car) onto a Eurotunnel Le Shuttle train. How can I recommend it to you unless I try it myself?

Short story: It all worked like a charm, and was surprisingly pleasant as well as easy. There are some (low) hurdles to jump over, so timing is an issue, and there are some costs to consider and budget for.

Traveling from France to England

Before you drive up to the embarkation plaza in Calais, you need to have in hand not only your own passport but also your dog’s “passport.” In theory, and no doubt in practice too, the same paperwork that you obtained to bring your pup into France will also work to bring her into the U.K. Per DEFRA: “For non-commercial movements, the Annex 1 or Annex 2 certificate is valid for entry into the EU for 10 days from the date of issue and remains valid for a total of four months from the date of issue for further intra-Community travel.” We decided, however — for the sake of having the experience, and because we thought it might save time if the border folks were handed a familiar document — to get Chloe an E.U. pet passport. I’ll write about that in a separate post, and the fact is, having a “pet passport” really doesn’t mean much for a dog from a non-E.U. country. It’s essentially the same information that was in her health certificate, copied into a blue booklet and backed up by an examination from a French veterinarian.

He not only verified that Chloe was in good health, he also provided the second thing you’ll need before arriving in Calais: The tapeworm treatment that the U.K. requires, and a note (in our case, in her passport) stating that she received it in the specified time frame (“Not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1 to 5 days) before [her] scheduled arrival time in the UK”). There are a couple of tapeworm treatment options; Chloe got a pill. Before you leave your vet’s office, make sure that s/he writes down the time that the treatment was administered, not just the date (and in European, 24-hour time, i.e., 13:40 rather than 1:40 pm — your vet will be European, so it’ll happen, but double-check it to make sure).

Here’s a link to Eurotunnel Le Shuttle’s useful summary of what’s required to get on the shuttle in Calais (it’s essentially the same as what I’ve described, but it calls out the microchipping requirement separately — you’ve already dealt appropriately with your pet’s microchip, however, in the process of getting her health certificate).

You will need a car (please note that some car rental agencies won’t rent a car one-way into the U.K., and the ones that do add a truly remarkable surcharge — which explains why we decided to return to France to fly home), and you’ll be happier with a reservation on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, though when we were traveling (mid-week at the beginning of November) there was plenty of room on earlier/later shuttles. I could not use my U.S. credit card to make an on-line reservation, and succeeded in getting a reservation only by getting my credit card company rep on the line and calling Eurotunnel Le Shuttle with him. A further twist? I could not call the U.K. number for the shuttle from the U.S.; happily, I could call the French number, and the shuttle’s reps speak English no matter what country they’re located in.

So there you are, in your rented or borrowed car, with your reservation, dog, and paperwork in hand. You drive through Picardy, and history, and you arrive in Calais. The very first thing you must do (after taking Exit 42 off the A16 motorway) is look for the signs for the Pet Control Point, because you have to get your pet and her paperwork checked before you proceed towards the gigantic tollbooth. We arrived on a grimly rainy day, and were in a desperate hurry; please forgive the pictures.

Ignore, for a moment, the big tollbooth structure that dominates the scene and beckons you forward. Instead, follow the yellow paw print sign to the right.

Ignore, for a moment, the big tollbooth structure that dominates the scene and beckons you forward. Instead, follow the (criminally small) yellow paw print sign, pointing you to the right.

As you turn to the right, you're given a much larger yellow paw print sign. The control point is in that low building behind it. Drive into the parking lot, and bring your pup and her paperwork inside.

As you turn to the right, you’re given a much larger yellow paw print sign. The control point is in that low building behind it. Drive into the parking lot, and bring your pup and her paperwork inside.

A panorama of the Pet Control Point building and the fenced dog-walking area next to it.

A panorama of the Pet Control Point building and the fenced dog-walking area next to it.

The Pet Control Point building, as it looks on a rainy early November day, approached at a high rate of speed.

The Pet Control Point building, as it looks on a rainy day in early November, approached at a high rate of speed.

Inside, we plopped Chloe’s carrier on the counter and invited her to poke out her head, so that the control officer could run a wand over the back of her neck to read her microchip. She looked through Chloe’s passport (I had Chloe’s U.S. paperwork in hand, as a back-up, but it wasn’t needed) and gave us a tag to stick to our windshield.

The first tag we received in Calais

The first tag we received in Calais

We exited the pet control area and turned right towards that tollbooth structure you saw in the first photo. Machines offered us the chance to buy a ticket or claim our reserved ticket; we did the latter and were given another tag, this one designed to hang on our rear-view mirror. If we had arrived early, we could, at this point, have sauntered into the terminal for snacks and magazines and a bathroom break. As it was, we hurried onwards to a booth containing a French customs officer, who waved us on to what turned out to be the U.K. border, right there in Calais.

French customs, completely uninterested in our passports or our stickers.

French customs, completely uninterested in our passports or our tags

Approaching the U.K. border (by this time, we'd stuck both tags to the window, using bits of the adhesive torn from the pet tag, and looked like Ma and Pa Clampett moving to Bever-lee).

Approaching the U.K. border (by this time, we’d stuck both tags to the window, using bits of adhesive torn from the pet tag; the car looked like Ma and Pa Clampett moving to Bever-lee)

We assured the U.K. officer that we’d be returning tout de suite to France, and had reservations on a flight back to the U.S. He looked over what he could see of us past all the stickers, decided we were harmless, and stamped our passports. We finally caught up to our fellow passengers, joining the line of cars boarding the train.

Train waiting at the bottom of the ramp

Train waiting at the bottom of the ramp

Following our fellow passengers onto the train

Following our fellow passengers onto the train. Cars are parked on two levels; we were on the lower level going to England, and on the upper level on the way back. They look exactly the same; the only difference is the extra gut wrench of driving onto a train and then immediately up a ramp, in an unfamiliar car.

Driving forward inside the train

Driving forward inside the train

Once you’re parked, thick barriers swing closed between the train carriages. You turn off your car, put on the hand brake, and open your windows halfway (to keep the pressure changes from being bothersome). You and your car mates can doze, or watch movies on your portable electronic devices, or snack, or read. You cannot take flash photos (it distresses the equipment keeping an eye out for fire), and there is no wi-fi. There are modest but workable bathrooms, every 2-3 carriages apart, and you can walk to them. There is no café car, and no other attraction that would tempt you to walk elsewhere on the train.

Parked on the train. The heavy doors between the carriages have been closed, but smaller doors on each side let shuttle employees and passengers move between carriages.

Parked on the train. The barriers have been deployed; doors on each side let shuttle employees and passengers move between carriages.

A bathroom, shoe-horned into the side of a carriage

A bathroom, shoe-horned into the side of a carriage

There are windows in every carriage — they're irrelevant for most of the journey, but it was nice to see light through them and know we'd arrived, even before the announcement

There are windows in every carriage — they’re irrelevant for most of the journey, but it was nice to see light through them and know we’d arrived, even before the announcement

The train began to move, and 35 minutes later we were in Folkestone. So quick, compared to the Hovercraft and ferry rides I’ve taken in the past. And what could be more comfortable than this?

Once you reach Folkestone, you hear an announcement warning you to drive on the left side of the road, and to set your clocks back an hour. The doors swing open, and you drive off the train and onto the M20 (dear God, on the left).

Traveling from England to France

Returning to France on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle was even easier. We were rattled, initially, by not seeing any kind of sign for pet control. We collected our hanging tag, and went in search of The Authorities.

This sign in particular threw us for a loop. It was yellow! There was a paw, and an arrow! And yet, there was not Pet Control Point!

This sign in particular, located near the Folkestone entrance, threw us for a loop. It was yellow! There was a paw, and an arrow! And yet, there was no Pet Control Point….

There is a large and pleasant dog-walking area, equipped with agility structures, a water fountain, and benches, but it’s purely a convenience. There was no building next to it, and no signs indicating that pet owners should do anything except pick up their dog’s poop. Baffled, we inquired inside the terminal, repeatedly, and the (very patient) lady at the information desk repeatedly told us there was no Pet Control Point in Folkestone.

Surely this must be part of a Pet Control Point Complex, we thought, but no — it's just for walkies

Surely this must be part of a Pet Control Point Complex, we thought, but no — it’s just for walkies

A panorama shot of the whole walkies area

A panorama shot of the whole walkies area

The interior of the walkies area, with Chloe and my handsome husband

The interior of the walkies area, with Chloe and my handsome husband (please note the beret)

Visual proof that there's a water fountain — how unexpected!

Visual proof that there’s a water fountain — how unexpected!

We finally stopped fretting, bought snacks, and ambled onto the train when our boarding letter was called. We passed booths and officials similar to those we’d met four days earlier, but the whole process was so low-key that I cannot remember any details. Another half hour passed, and another announcement reminded us to change our clocks and drive on the side of the road the locals favor, and we were back in…

About those expenses I mentioned: It cost about 50 € to get Chloe’s pet passport (an optional expense); another 50 € to get her tapeworm treatment (not optional); and 15 £ each way to add her to our Eurotunnel Le Shuttle trip (bringing the total shuttle cost to about 70 £ each way). Why was I charged in pounds rather than euros? The shuttle rep offered me the choice in our phone call, and then chose pounds for me since it was a better rate that day.

14 comments

  • Gery O.

    So glad to see that the French attitude towards pets has not changed much since I had the pleasure of spending 9 months on a work assignment over there in 1999 (pre-911 paranoia)… I recall arriving in Nice with our cat, and spending 15 minutes searching for the customs official (it was an early morning arrival from JFK, so I guess they were not on duty yet)…. after I finally found a customs agent and managed to explain to him in my barely-existent French that I had a cat in my bag (which looked like an ordinary bag) the custom officials peered inside smiled made nice noises towards Jesse (the cat) but was still highly puzzled about what was it that I wanted of him…. Took awhile to understand that no paperwork were needed – and me and my cat were welcome into the republic and were free to go as we pleased (which in our case was straight to our rental apt – for a long stress free nap – I was so worried about the cat during the trip, I had gotten no rest on the airplane – nevermind that I was supposed to report in to work that morning :-)

    I noticed your car was a “right-hand-drive” … Any issues driving it in the U.K. on the left-hand-side of the road? Is parking it near the train terminal, and continuing to other U.K. destination by train an option (I somehow recall that most U.K. trains allow pets)…

  • That is such a good story, Gery! How I love France…. You know, the driving part was actually okay, even with an American/French style car on British roads. I think I would have preferred a British style car, partly because it would have been slightly easier to see oncoming traffic when making left-hand turns, and partly because the oddity of sitting on that side would have reminded me that I was doing something unusual (there was just a bit of a tendency to get comfortable and return to turning into my accustomed lane). Overall, though, it was really no problem. It was crucially important, for me at least, to have an automatic car.

    So I just did some research, and it looks like there’s an Avis stop (not a full-on office, but rather an affiliated Holiday Inn) near the Folkestone Chunnel terminal. Avis, however, was one of the rental agencies that wouldn’t let me rent just one-way into England. Hertz would, but its closest office appears to be in Dover (about 20 miles away). Avis’s closest real office is in Dover too. I suppose the thing to do, then, would be to drive the 20 miles to Dover, return the car, and get a taxi to the Dover train station. From past experience, and from a reader’s reports, I’d avoid driving into London at all costs….

  • Gery O.

    Recall I ,mentioned we had a rental apt. Trying to find a rental apartment around Nice starting in June was an adventure, which eventually turned into a bust – causing me to live (by myself) at a hotel for four months… Apparently holiday-makers reserve their Riviera Holiday accommodations about a year in advance (I was there to help design a micro-chip and had no idea…)… As I went from one rental agency to another – I’d ask the following two questions: Do you speak English, as my French is terrible, and might you have an apartment starting in June which will allow a cat? Virtually everyone answered yes, to the first question, everyone answered no to the second question, but with some puzzled look – “why would anyone not allow a cat?” was the most common follow up.. One agent looked at me suspiciously, and asked “How big a cat”? “Oh about 4Kg” I answered… “Oh”, they replied, “I was afraid you had a tiger, or a lion”…

  • Chandler

    You are fabulous, as always—and you have so much more in the werewithal department than I’ll ever have. As soon as I read the “DEFRA” sentence, I thought to myself, “Welp! That settles it, I’m never bringing a dog anywhere! In fact, I’m going back to bed!” I would be incredibly intimidated by even the simplest procedure.

    The next time you do this, though, I expect a full report on the steps for bringing a horse aboard le Shuttle. I saw a blank for one on the form, so it must be possible!

  • Montecristo Travel (Sonja)

    This is an awesome post! Thank you so much for taking the time to share. I have been thinking of going to the UK but hesitate because I have heard less than kind stories for folks traveling with their pets (ask Gigi). This is a nice change. The car rental info was priceless too. Hertz it is!! :)

  • JM

    Soooo helpful that you included pictures of what to look for! I will be doing this trip in 2 weeks…but I am moving to Scotland. You mentioned tellin them you weren’t plannin on staying….is there a different procedure for the dog if you are?? I plan to return thecar back to Calais immediately after dropping “le pup” and my bags and my mom in a hotel in folkstone (one way rental cdg to Calais). Gettin back to Folkstone after returning the car, I willbe a foot passenger….were people offering seats in their cars to foot passengers??? Otherwise I have to take the ferry to Dover. Thanks tons!

  • Hi, JM — How I envy you! Every good wish to you and your pup in this new chapter in your lives! No, there’s no different procedure for folks who are staying — you’ll like get more questions than we did, but there’s nothing different that you need to do about your dog. Alas, no, there weren’t any hitchhikers in either direction — it’s a pretty big, impersonal space that you really can only approach by car, so there’s no real opportunity to catch a ride. You’re right — your choices are going to be taking the Eurostar train (which you can, because you won’t have your pup with you on that leg), or a ferry. Safe travels, and please let us know how it goes!

  • JM

    Thanks for that info. I went to my closest USDA office (about a 2 hr drive to Miami) yesterday. I got there and they said “you are missing a form”. UGH. Apparently I missed something in your blog and USDA site and my vet was actually sick and let me come to his house for the paperwork to be completed that day (so if he knew about it, he didn’t remember…and since I didn’t have it with me, he didn’t fill it in!). Luckily they gave me a list of very close vets where I could go get the form filled out. It was a $100 error, though! :( The form is 7001 http://www.aphis.usda.gov/library/forms/pdf/APHIS7001.pdf) Really frustrating to have to get a Miami vet to fill one little form for $100! So, now the forms are all stamped and just need to get his tapeworm pill done in a few days and we are off! Oh, also, my USDA forms were not stamped with ink, they were done with an embosser, so it is a raised seal that apparently doesn’t copy.

  • Now THAT is a kind vet, JM. I’m so sorry to hear about the missing document! It wasn’t one my USDA office required for this trip to France (we got one like it LAST time, 3 years ago — I assumed the difference was due to the fact that the U.S. airlines now don’t require a health certificate for in-cabin pets). VERY interesting that your USDA office told you it was necessary — that’s the first time I’ve heard of a difference between one USDA office and another, though I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. The U.S. government is a big structure, after all, and it’s understandable that there might be some discrepancies. All I can tell you is that my USDA office (in Tumwater, WA) did NOT require that form for our October trip, and its absence didn’t cause any trouble at any point. I hope your trip is really fun — you’ve had an anxious moment or two now, but hopefully the rest will go smoothly!

  • Sam White

    Hi ,

    We travel on the Euro Tunnel every year sometimes twice a year to holiday in Europe and have done since 2008. We only travel this way so we can take our dog as we will not go anywhere without her.

    We returned last Sunday 13th July 2014 and went to get our dog scanned on the way back as usual, in the pet area at Euro Tunnel. I picked up all the magazines and leaflets as I usually do as I love anything animal related. So I was horrified and very upset to find a leaflet promoting animal research. It stated that the only we reason we can travel abroad with our pets and have the pet passport system is because of animal testing.

    When I got home I researched all the information in the leaflet and found out that the animal testing they refer to was all very old, some over 120 years old and was all done outside of the UK. Yet this leaflet was very current, glossy and clearly trying to condone future research.

    I contacted Euro Tunnel and spoke to the lady in charge of the pet scheme and pet area and she then got the director of press to contact me. DEFRA has apparently asked Euro Tunnel to be a research platform for Understanding Animal Research to try and gauge how pet owners respond to their literature and the issue of animal testing. Apparently I am the only person to tell them that I think it’s wrong so it’s going to be reported that pet owners are not upset about leaflets promoting animal research. They refused to remove the leaflets and basically stated that they were put there to get a response. I pointed out that this is very contradictory and far removed from their current campaign of we love animals and want you to take them on holiday with you instead of leaving them at home.

    I got the impression that this is just the start of a new promotion campaign to fool the public with misinformed, misleading and old research in glossy brochures with happy animals all over them. They are planning to try and sweeten the pet loving UK into accepting future animal research. So I expect to see leaflets in vets, doctors and hospitals soon!

    I have started a petition on change.org to try and get these leaflets and posters removed from Euro Tunnel. Please can you sign and share with everyone you know? Many Thanks for listening. Samantha White and Bubbles! X x x x

    https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/euro-tunnel-remove-understanding-animal-research-leaflets-posters-from-your-premises-and-don-t-be-a-platform-for-their-research-tell-them-we-are-against-all-animal-testing-and-want-non-animal-alternatives

  • Paul Steven

    Thank you for the great blog post. So is there no check of the pet passports at all when arriving in France via the tunnel?

  • That was our experience, Paul. Indeed, nothing happens on either end on ARRIVAL — you just drive off the train and off you go. On DEPARTURE, in France, you jump through the U.K.’s hoops. On departure, in England, you don’t jump through any hoops at all, as far as your pet’s concerned.

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