I have not been to France for many years, but I used to be a regular visitor to Normandy and Brittany.
I would like to spend more time in France on a motoring tour seeing as much of the country as possible. I have a dog which I would like to take with me on the trip.
Any advice you might be able to give me regarding travelling to and in France with an animal would be extremely useful – itineraries, animal-friendly accommodation and travelling on ferries are all important areas for me before I set off.
France is a great choice for British visitors travelling with their pets.
The initial reason is, of course, because of that handy stretch of water, which we call The English Channel and the French call La Manche. You can sail on it or drive under it in the company of your dog with the minimum of discomfort.
Eurotunnel as well as the various ferry operators are all extremely aware of the need to provide good facilities for pet-lovers for whom taking their beloved animals on holiday is very important.
First you have to prepare your dog for the trip. On 1st January 2012, the pet passport process became much simpler and cheaper, but you will still need to allow plenty of time to make sure that you have the correct paperwork in place before you travel.
Your dog will need to be chipped by your vet and to have a rabies vaccination. Your vet will also need to complete a pet passport, documenting your pet’s chip number with a rabies vaccination stamp on the the correct page, showing the expiry date. Guard this passport as safely as your own when you travel.
You will need to wait 21 days before travel so make sure you factor this into your travel plans.
No less than one day but no more than five days before your scheduled return to Britain, you must visit a vet to have your pet treated for tapeworm which will usually be in tablet form, perhaps Milbemax. This vet must also stamp the relevant page to show that treatment has been given, with date and time and this will be checked at your departure point. Double check the vet’s entry in the passport before you leave the surgery especially if it is a long way from the departure point. If the treatment is outside of the one to five day window, you will not be able to re-enter the UK.
Tick treatment is no longer necessary but it’s a good idea to still treat your pet against ticks as they can carry nasty diseases. You could also give your dog a dose of Milbemax before you arrive in France, on top of that given by the French vet. This will protect against tapeworm and heartworm whilst you are there.
If your French is limited try to see a vet near to the departure point, who may have experience in completing the documentation and be able to speak some English. Or prepare before you go by learning the necessary vocabulary.
For the most recent information about travelling with pets you should follow the guidelines from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. See www.defra.gov.uk/pets.
It’s vital that everything is in order and that your pet’s passport is 100 per cent up-to-date and complete, otherwise you and your dog will not be allowed back into Britain. If you’re sticking to Brittany and Normandy, you don’t need to worry about a Scalibor collar which helps protect against leishmaniasis, which is passed on by mosquitos.
Once you have dealt with these requirements, the next step is planning your journey. You might prefer to travel on Eurotunnel as it’s a 35 minute crossing, your dog can stay with you in the car and there are dedicated pet exercise areas. They have staff who are trained in dealing with pets and even offer complimentary dog waste bags. All this for just £16 each way.
For more information, see www.eurotunnel.com/uk/tickets/travelling-with-your-pet
Give your dog a light meal before you go, plan plenty of stops along the way and enough supplies of your dog’s food, as she may be susceptible to diet changes. Leads, beds, toilet bags and water should all be in the car. The French don’t seem to mind dogs not being contained in a cage while you drive, so that’s one less consideration.
In the Dog House
After all this preparation, you’re good to go. Now you have to work out where you can stay and where your dog will be welcome too. Self-catering is an easier option, when travelling with pets but if you are keen to tour this beautiful and varied country you might prefer to stay in pensions and hotels, passing a night or two in each place.
Luckily, there are many delightful French boltholes to choose from, where your dog will be welcome, but you won’t need to compromise on comfort or aesthetics.
For information on all the regions of France visit www.pawsabroad.co.uk
From Alsace to Burgundy, Limousin to the Loire Valley, The Dordogne to Midi-Pyrennees this useful site offers suggestions for gites, villas, pensions and hotels with links to the websites of each property.
Prices are reasonable and you should be able to find a decent double from £60 a night, including breakfast. There will usually be an extra fee for your dog, but this will be reasonable and not all places charge.
If you want to splash out and stay in somewhere more luxurious, the well-respected Mr and Mrs Smith site offers some gorgeous dog-friendly boutique boltholes. Hotels are four and five star and you can expect to pay from £120 upwards for a double room.
Travelmyth.com offers a dazzling choice of properties, with a direct link to booking.com to make it easy to plan before you go. Check under the House Rules section before you book to make sure that the information about dogs is still accurate and to find out the terms.
Pet Holiday Finder has an excellent selection of rental properties and B & Bs, small hotels and pensions across France on its easy to use site. Visit www.petholidayfinder.co.uk
On the Road
I realise that distances are important when travelling with a dog, but you will already know that French roads are excellent, with far less traffic than their equivilant in Britain. So you can zip along in half the time, marvelling at the pleasures of driving in this civillised country. However, don’t make the same mistake as the The Trundler, who once decided to drive across the whole of France in a few weeks without taking into consideration that the roads do vary from region to region. This caused a lot of friction between her and her travelling companion, particularly in the Ardeche region, where the narrow roads are winding and seem to go on forever.
If it’s your first trip driving abroad with your dog, you might like to try the French Ardennes, which is very close to the Channel ports. This is a beautiful, peaceful and fascinating region, with friendly people and authentic and charming places to stay.
Its highlights include the extensive Ardennes Forest and the Meuse River basin, both ideal for rambles with your dog. It’s not too hot there either, with a climate similar to our own.
You can drive from Calais to Charleville Mezieres, the stunning capital of the region, in around three and a half hours.
The poet Rimbaud was born here and you can find a celebration of his life at Musee Rimbaud, set in an old watermill. The Parc Naturel Regional, to the north of Charleville Mezieres has an 80 km route to follow, which is ideal for walkers as well as cyclists.
You’ll find a rich and hearty cuisine in its wide range of restaurants, offering table d’hote as well as fine dining. Boudin Blanc, the tasty white sausage and a sweet delight of a pudding called Tarte au Sucre are favourites on the menu.
Locally-brewed beers are also popular, although you may prefer to sip Champagne, as its vineyards are so close.
An informative and easy to navigate website will help you plan your trip. See
You mention travelling in Normandy and Brittany, so I have included a brief itinerary here, to help you re-aquaint yourself with these two wonderful regions, both so easy to reach and accommodating to travellers with pets.
From Calais, you should be able to make it easily to Rouen, which is 113 miles away and the capital of the Upper Normandy region. The Coeur de City Rouen Cathedrale has bright, appealing double rooms for £80 night and accepts pets for an £8 fee. It’s close to the old town and the cathedral.
Bayeux, a commune in the Calvados department in Normandy is only 4 miles away from the English Channel coast. The elegant town of Bayeux is primarily known for the Bayeux tapestry made to commemorate events in the Norman conquest. You can view this splendid work in a museum in the town centre.
The town is close to the Normandy Landing beaches , has a medieval centre and a Gothic cathedral.
The Hotel Chateau de Bellefontaine is an elegant 18th century mansion half a mile from central Bayeux. I welcomes pets and has 20 comfortable guest rooms including six suites and a traditional restaurant which serves a buffet breakfast and dinner featuring French classics. Double rooms are from £85. Book through www.hotel-bellefontaine.com or through www.booking.com
Next stop and an easy two hour drive away(113 miles) you’ll find Rennes, whose charming medieval centre has striking half-timbered houses. Learn about the history of Brittany at the Musee d Bretagne, as an introduction to the region.
It’s time to tap into a slice of French rustic charm. Consult www.stopoverconnections.com to book a dog friendly peaceful b & b in an idyllic setting, about 15 miles west of Rennes. Dogs are welcome and the owner has her own dog and cat. She serves pancakes for breakfast and delicious Breton classics for dinner. Double rooms are from £59 including breakfast, with a £5 charge per dog. Book through www.stopoverconnections.com, property 448
From Rennes, it’s an easy drive of 111 miles to the delights of Quimper, a cultural hot spot and the capital of the Finestere department. Or to Concarneau the vibrant fishing port, known for amazing seafood restaurants and atmospheric local festivals.
This is a brilliant place to take a breather and stay for a few nights or more. Le Petit Manoir de Keriolet is a renovated stable 500 metres from Concarneau with a lovely garden and a heated swimming pool. Dogs are welcome,for a fee of around £5, depending on the size of the pet.
Beautifully furnished rooms with breakfast are from around £80. Book through www.lepetitmanoirdekeriolet.com
From Concarneau you can meander up the coast, stopping a Pont L’Abbe Douarnenez and Brest. There is a ferry port at Roscoff, with regular crossings to Plymouth or Weymouth. Or you may wish to press on to St Malo which is 122 miles from Quimper, for a crossing into Portsmouth.
There are night crossings with Brittany Ferries and you’ll find pet-friendly cabins on some vessels. Otherwise, your dog must stay in the kennels on Deck 10 where there is an area provided for exercise and comfort breaks. You can visit your dog at any time.
Conditions and prices vary widely, but pets are well cared for and the Brittany Ferry vessels are very pleasant for owners too. Good French food, comfortable cabins and great facilities including swimming pools and lecture areas, make the crossing into a pleasure. See www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
Of course you can keep driving and head for Calais and the short crossing(www.poferries.com for details)
For an excellent guide to France, which includes driving distances as well as destination and accommodation information, see www.francethisway.com. For more on Brittany, see www.brittanytourism.com or www.fans-of-Brittany.com
Bon Voyage a Vous et Votre Chien