The Eurostar does not allow dogs on their trains. Now what?!
On our recent trip to Paris, our friend @grrlgenius_ + writer mom Coco joined us for a weekend! We didn’t think it would be so complicated but let’s just send a collective thank you to Coco + Elle for their determination and dogmom-stubbornness (#dogmoms is a real thing and we’re, ahem, a passionate group). Keep reading for Coco’s recap of the journey in her own words.
When we first started discussing a trip to Paris, it seemed like it would be an easy journey. The most common question was “did we take the chunnel,” which is the Eurostar.
I can confirm they only accept Guide Dogs. They do not have even one car, off-peak, with weight limitations available for dogs, not even in a bag or secured crate section as an option.
Yet, Paris is so dog-friendly. No one blinks an eye in the most expensive of stores.
That is why when I visited Paris 3 years ago and saw a French Bulldog running all over Versailles, a dream began of taking Elle to the Frenchie Motherland.
The basics of what I learned researching the journey:
Train: Eurostar, the only direct train from Central London to Paris.
Coaches: except Guide Dogs. The night bus for humans takes over ten hours, as the depot in Paris does not open until 6AM. If the bus arrives before then, passengers must remain on the coach.
Airlines: British Airways and Air France do not accept bulldogs in the cabin. Also costly.
Car rentals: Charge 60% additions if you are driving to Europe.
Private Car Service: Door-to-door roundtrip quote, plus Eurotunnel (the train for cars that takes a mere 35 minutes to cross €46 ticket price and the pet fee for animals at Pet Reception (€25 Euros) coming in at £545.
France requires a tapeworm treatment good for 5 days entering from the UK with a valid pet passport. (No tapeworm treatment necessary if coming from USA)
Unfortunately that particular ferry route leaves twice a day so we would have gotten up at 4am to reach the port by 8 AM or arrived at midnight in Paris. In the end a ferry customer service representative informed me the only route that accept dogs as foot passengers was DFDS, leaving from the southern port of Newhaven and arriving in Dieppe, France. The ferry also leaves only twice a day, but the first departure was more manageable at 10AM.
Dressed in her Barbour collar and lead, (Elle normally wears a harness, but we decided to experiment for this trip — it is Paris, after all), Elle was excited to go directly to the overground train station.
Kitted out, we boarded our first train, waited 20 minutes to switch trains first at Clapham Junction, missed a train (there was only a 3 minute leeway) at Lewes, so waited another half an hour until the next one. It was only one 10 minute train ride to Newhaven.
It was at this point, I started to ask myself why I had not dissected the journey i.e. trains from Lewes to Newhaven town instead of looking up trains from London to Newhaven Town. It would have saved us almost 2 hours.
The ferry had warned to arrive 45 minutes minimum pre-boarding to accommodate for passport control. The walk from the Newhaven Town train station was 3 minutes to the sad ferry port office and passenger lounge.
When we entered the building, there were signs warning it was for Guide Dogs Only. I walked in confidently with Elle. We were checked in and then an older man came shouting out at us from the ferry crew.
A very brisk day, it was beyond me why a ferry service would accept dogs and take a fee for them but not allow them in the port to check-in.
It was at this point we went outside for Elle’s breakfast and I gave her a calming pill called Zylkène, a natural choice for behavioral support because she has never been on a ferry before and I was told she had to be kept in a crated area because it was not hygienic to have her on the upper decks.
After 10AM (time of departure) the ferry crew began the passport boarding reviews. We were ushered with other foot passengers aboard a bus, then we all walked through the loading door.
Elle and I were led by crew members who did not speak English to the “dog area.” I say area loosely because it consisted of 4 large, dirty cages, some with old water, food and rust — none that had secure locks for the doors.
The crew member pointed for me to place Elle in a cage. I was extremely heart-broken. I considered taking one of Elle’s calming pills but I didn’t.
The area was on the car and truck loading bay, with sirens going off the entire 4 hour journey to France.
The representative I had asked about dogs told me I’d be lucky if I was allowed to visit Elle once during the journey because a crew member had to accompany me and they left me and didn’t even bother to come back to see if I had left Elle.
It was the most stressful part of the journey.
Once we reached the other side, the view was gorgeous. While the UK port had been a sad, depressing area, the French coast was beautiful and the houses reminded me of Cinque Terre, while the cliffs reminded me of images of the White Cliffs of Dover, making me wish I had once again been able to leave from that port.
[ image credit : instagram @spunkskyn ]
Once we arrived in France, cars are unloaded before foot passengers.
When we disembarked, we were sent to a bus, driven to the passport office with the other foot travelers. While waiting for luggage, we befriended an English painter who lives in Dieppe. She kindly offered to drive us to the train station.
That leg of the journey cost 40 Euro, taking over 2.5 hours to reach central Paris. The first train was far cleaner than the second and Elle seemed extremely happy to be back on a mode of transportation she was used to and even listened intently to the mother tongue spoken to her by the conductor.
We switched trains once and headed to a packed train. Once we arrived in Paris, we could have taken the Metro but Elle and I were both exhausted. We opted for a taxi, where Elle was asked to remain in her dog bag.
The journey time clocked in at over eleven hours.
For the journey from Paris back to London, it was another story.
Weekend timings made things quite challenging. I couldn’t rent a car in France for the Dieppe to Paris return since there was no car rental open on a Sunday to return it.
I went through all the above options with one of the car rental places. A kind salesperson suggested I look into the rideshare service called blablacar.com. The drive back was smooth sailing! I connected with a man who had made 61 trips and had a rating of 4.8 out of 5 over five years.
The entire trip took 7 hours.
The tapeworm treatment was good for 5 days, so we didn’t have to go to another vet in France. My experienced driver took us to Pet Reception. He even knew how to scan the microchip, which officials let you do “for the comfort of your dog.”
There is an area for your dog to play outside and relieve themselves. A digital sign proudly displayed 506 animals had been processed that day. It was so easy and incredibly fast, especially at 10PM at night.
We simply drove onto the train, remained in the car and were back in England in a mere 35 minutes. The entire drive took just over 7 hours due to a slight delay by the Eurotunnel.
I was charged for 2 seats having Elle and totalled £126, (Pet Ticket, Eurotunnel ticket, plus 2 seats.) Look out Europe because this is our new favorite way to travel.