Planning London to Venice by train with a dog (via Paris)

SAMSUNG CSCOn a train during a previous journey

Getting from London to Venice by train already sounds like a quite long journey. Add that you travel with your dog – hence some trains and routes are  precluded – and you will have the perfect recipe for a new adventure! This is what my furry friend and I will do this August, adding to the travelling options we earlier explored (van and plane).

The first problem is to cross the Channel. In fact, Eurostar trains do not accept dogs onboard, unless you have a guide or assistance dog trained by a certain organisation (also see n. 54 of the conditions of carriage), not all ferry routes allow passengers on foot carrying a dog (see my previous blogpost), and you cannot get through the Eurotunnel without a car.

This blog post will not detail all the different options available for travelling with a dog by train from the UK to another European country, because this has already been done by a great train traveller and I could not possibly do better (the webpage I am referring to: “How to travel between the UK & mainland Europe, Taking your dog or pet by train…“, curated by Mark Smith, “the Man in Seat 61”).

Instead, in this blog post I will provide you with all the practical tips and links you need if you wish to plan a trip similar to the one I am going to undertake. From the UK to France to Italy.

Our journey plan

  1. Train from London to Folkestone
  2. Taxi from Folkestone to Calais
  3. Train from Calais (Fréthun) to Paris (Gare du Nord)
  4. On foot or by RER to the Gare de Lyon
  5. Thello night train from Paris to Venice

1. London to Folkestone

There are a number of trains from London to Folkestone, from and to different stations, operated by National Rail and Southeastern Railway. However, when I spoke to Folkestone Taxi to arrange the next stage of the travel, they suggested Folkestone West station as a pick up point, beacause – they said – there it is possible for the driver to meet you on the train platform, while this is not possible at Folkestone Central Station.

On British National Rail trains, dogs are allowed and travel for free (you can find the pet travel conditions here); the same applies for the Southeastern Railway (see point 7 of their FAQs).

It takes from about 57 minutes to around 1 hour and 40 minutes to get from London to Folkestone and, booking in advance, you can get tickets as cheap as £10 or £13.5 (you can purchase them online on National Rail’s website). Southeastern Railway tickets are even cheaper, but you might have to change trains.

2. Crossing the Channel: Folkestone to Calais

To get from Folkestone to Calais we decided that we will get a Folkestone (Pet) Taxi (they also have a dedicated website for pet travelling) which travels via Eurotunnel.

For the journey, they apply a £120 fare plus the cost of the Eurotunnel ticket. We were very unlucky in this regard, because in peak season and times the Eurotunnel ticket is extremely expensive, well over the taxi fare itself. However, if you travel in off-peak days and hours, I was told that the ticket normally costs around £78.

You need to get there well before the time of departure of the Eurotunnel shuttle, because the check-in closes half an hour before. The crossing then takes 35 minutes, but you also have to take into account the time for disembarking once in Calais. In any case if you speak with Folkestone Taxis they will be able to help you plan that part of the travel, according to the time of the train you want to catch in Calais.

3. Getting to Paris

Once in Calais, we will be left at Calais-Fréthun station, which is very close to the Eurotunnel. From there we will get a train to Paris, Gare du Nord. We chose to get the TGV, which is faster and has no interchange, taking 1 hour and 37 minutes station to station and costs around £23.5 (see below for the price of your dog’s ticket).

On TGV, as on other French trains, dogs under 6kg are allowed in a bag or basket no larger than 45cmx30cmx25cm for a fare of €7, while dogs over 6kg must wear a muzzle during the entire journey and travel for a fare of 50% of the full 2nd class fare on TGV, Intercités and TER trains. All details about dog transportation on French trains are available here.

How do you book your dog’s ticket? According to SNFC’s website (see previous link), you have three options to reserve your pet’s ticket: online, by telephone or at a ticket office.

  • I tried to book it online, but I found that this option was not available neither on sncf.com, on voyages-sncf.com, or on loco2.com.
  • Booking the ticket over the phone. Searching on voyages-sncg.com, I found on their dedicated webpage that pet tickets can only be booked calling their number (0844 848 5848, Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, cost 7p/min over your operator rate): I tried to call, but after a 15 minutes wait the recorded voice was still saying that the waiting would have been over 4 minutes. An alternative is using the number provided by the SNCF (from outside France it is +33 8 92 35 35 35, cost of an international call, plus any fees charged by your service provider as they highlight here).
  • The third alternative is to purchase it at the ticket office. However, this means that you will take all the risks of not having a booking in advance. You can find Calais-Fréthun station’s ticket office hours here.

4. Paris (Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon)

CITYMAPPER ROUTE

On foot it takes slightly less than an hour to get from Paris Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon where the next step of the travel begins. Depending on the weather and timing (and also on the luggage you have) this can be a good option also to exercise your dog in between another long stage.

Alternatively you can get the RER, line D (see the RER map), for two stops from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon. The travel should take 10 minutes according to Citymapper and the ticket costs €1.80.

The conditions for dogs transportation (chiens, in French) are detailed, in French only, in the Mode d’emploi (January 2016 edition) issued by the RATP, the operator of Parisian public transports, and in the FAQs (see last point of the FAQs). In particular, according to the Mode d’emploi, small dogs are allowed to travel on public transports if kept in cages of maximum 45 cm (and they travel for free), while bigger dogs are only allowed on the RER and metro (so not on buses, tramways) given that they are kept on a leash and muzzled. In the latter case you need to purchase a reduced-fare ticket for your dog.

5. Paris to Venice by Thello

The most convenient way to get from Paris to Venice is getting the Thello night train from Paris to Venice. Thello departs at 7.11pm from the Gare de Lyon in Paris and arrives at 9.35am in Venice, via Dijon, Milan, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Padova and Venezia Mestre.

Also on Thello the dog travel conditions vary depending on the dog’s weight and are detailed here. Small dogs under 5kg travel for free in a bag, basket or cage of standard size (maximum one per passenger) and is considered as one luggage item. Dogs between 5 and 50kg are allowed on condition that you:

  • reserve a whole cabin (for yourself and evenual travel companions), with a maximum one dog per cabin;
  • pay an additional fee of €50 for the dog (directly on board in cash or card);
  • leashed and muzzled when leaving the cabin, which it is supposed to leave rarely and never be left alone in.

The booking of a single cabin costs €290, all other fares are available here.

(6. Venice to Trieste)

After this, we might continue our travel from Venice to Trieste, with a regional train. For Italian trains, you can find the pet travelling conditions explained on Trenitalia’s website here. You must have your dog’s European pet passport with you (or the certificate of registration in the Canine Register Office if you reside in Italy).

Once in Italy, we will be travelling to Tuscany by car and explore the Italian beauties. But this is another story, which I will tell you more about in a futher blog post later this summer!

In July I will also write about the possible difficulties in such a long trip and provide you with a little survival guide.


Disclaimer: I do my best to provide accurate information, however it can happen that I miss some information or things can change in time, therefore I strongly recommend that you double check the information provided before purchasing tickets etc.


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