In June, we travelled to the South of France to the Languedoc region for a week's holiday. I love this region of France, not least because my favourite white wine is grown here, Picpoul de Pinet.
We wanted to bring our border terrier puppy, Baxter, with us as we would prefer not to put him in kennels and because we knew he would have a lovely time playing on the beaches.
There are two options for taking your dog abroad; by ferry or by the Eurotunnel, Le Shuttle. We chose Le Shuttle because we wanted Baxter to stay without us throughout the journey.
Baxter travelled in his little crate and
It's really easy to book your dog on Le Shuttle. You simply add him on when making your online booking and it cost us £16 each way.
Before you travel with your dog, you need to get him a pet passport which you can get from your vet and he'll need to be microchipped. He will also need to have an up to date rabies vaccination. Baxter already had his chip, so for the passport and the rabies jab, plus a health check cost us around £90.
If you're travelling from the UK, they don't check your pet or the passport as you leave, so it's your responsibility to get these completed properly.
At Folkestone, they have little play areas for the dogs. They are enclosed and have water bowls which meant Baxter got to have a good stretch of his legs and go to the toilet before the journey and also meant that we could entertain him while waiting to board the train.
Baxter had a lovely time in the pet exercise area
You then just drive onto the train and travel with your dog in the car with you. If you haven't travelled by Le Shuttle before, it's a really easy way to travel. The total journey only takes about 35 minutes and you get mobile reception the entire journey (yes I did tweet from under the Channel). You can get out of your car to go to the toilet, but your dog has to stay in the car for the duration.
If you travel Dover to Calais with P&O, your dog has to stay in the car without you. It costs about the same for your pet (£15 each way) but takes quite a bit longer (75 minutes) and I think we would have been worried about leaving Baxter on his own in the car for all that time.
The only downside of travelling with Le Shuttle is that you can't have a cheeky drink during the journey (obviously only the passengers!) But since it is such a short distance, even I coped.
There are then no checks at Calais. You just drive off the train and start your journey.
Driving on to Le Shuttle
Before you come back to the UK from France, your dog needs to have had an injection for tapeworm. This must be administered by a vet in France between 24 and 120 hours prior to arrival in the UK. The vet has to sign, date and stamp the passport on the relevant page.
We were staying pretty much in the middle of nowhere and neither the vet nor the receptionist spoke a word of English. When we showed them the pet passport, they clearly had never seen one before, so just be warned that, outside of the tourist areas, vets might not be used to administering this injection. My parents were staying in a much more English friendly area and they didn't have any problems. So I'd advise you learn the French for tape worm which we were told was "ver solitaire".
We also found the whole vet experience in France very different to that in the UK. Here we find the vet tries to make the whole experience as enjoyable as possible for Baxter. They make a real fuss of him and give him lots of treats so he loves our little trips to the vets. He didn't even let out a squeak when he had his rabies jab, he just sat there wagging his tail waiting for his treat.
There was none if this in France. The vets smelt and looked much more clinical and, although the vet was kind to Baxter, she did nothing to calm his nerves. Plus, as she administered the injection, he was wriggling around and she didn't really hold him still. He absolutely wailed when he was given the injection and was not himself for a while afterwards.
The amount of fluid they inject depends on the size of your dog. Baxter was a small dog and weighed 7kg at the time and so the injection cost us €34. My parent's dog was a large beagle and theirs cost over €60.
The pet travel scheme paw prints at Calais
When you arrive at Calais, you follow the yellow paw prints to the pet reception building. They recommend you get there half an hour prior to departure. You then take your dog into the building, they check his passport and also check his microchip. It takes about 5 minutes.
You then board the train as usual and continue on your journey to the UK. They have the same pet exercise areas in France for your dog to stretch his legs prior to departure. And, again the dog has to stay in your car with you on the way home.
We would definitely take Baxter abroad again on Le Shuttle. He had a lovely time on the beaches in France and the small cost of taking him on the Eurotunnel, the rabies jab and the vaccinations were less than kennels would have been for the time we were away. Plus we have now paid for the passport and the rabies lasts for a year so we won't have to pay that next time.
Baxter having a lovely holiday in France
And the great thing about taking your car over to France? You can bring a few little bottles of wine back with you from the vineyards. Perfect.