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The rules about taking your dog on public transport

Carlton Boyce / 09 June 2016 ( 04 February 2020 )

Are you allowed to take your dog on the bus? Can you take dogs on trains? Do you have to pay for a ticket for your four-legged friend?

You can take up to two dogs per passenger on a train without charge, but they must be kept on a lead or in a carrier and must not take up a seat
You can take up to two dogs per passenger on a train without charge, but they must be kept on a lead or in a carrier and must not take up a seat

Dogs quickly become a member of the family, with many owners taking their pets with them when they go out for the day or on holiday. 

Taking your dog in your car is fairly straightforward as you’re in control, but things can get a bit more confusing when part or all of your journey is taking place on public transport.

Here’s our guide to travelling with your dog in the UK, and we’d love to hear your tips on!

Read our tips for dealing with a car-sick pet

Can you take dogs on trains?

Dogs can travel on trains in the UK - National Rail advises that you can take up to two dogs per passenger on a train without charge, but they must be kept on a lead or in a carrier and must not take up a passenger seat. If they do, then you’ll have to buy them a ticket!

Your dog(s) won’t be allowed in the train's restaurant carriage unless they are a guide or assistance dog, and if you’re planning on using a sleeper carriage for an overnight trip then you should book a place for them at least 48 hours in advance.

Obviously, if your dog causes a nuisance or an inconvenience to other passengers you will be asked to remove him, potentially leaving you stranded hundreds of miles from home.

Read our guide to staying safe on public transport

If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

Can I take my dog on a bus?

The situation with taking your dog on a bus is a little less clear-cut than it is with trains, and you’ll need to check with the individual bus operator to see what their rules are around taking your dog with you.

However, in general you should be fine as long as your dog is on a lead or in a carrier and doesn’t take up a passenger seat, although you may be asked to pay a nominal fee for taking him/her on a bus with you.

Guide and assistance dogs will be allowed to travel with you free-of-charge, although you may be advised as to the best place to sit.

Read our tips for travelling with your dogs in your car

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Taking your dog on the Tube

Transport for London (TfL) allows dogs to travel on the Tube, but you must carry it on the escalator to prevent damage to its paws. Guide and assistance dogs are exempt from this requirement as long as they have been issued with a pass that demonstrates they have been trained to use them.

If you can’t carry your dog then you can search online for Tube stations that have stairs instead by opening the ‘Access options’ section of the search dialogue and ticking the ‘Use stairs, not escalators’ box.

Incidentally, TfL also regulates black cabs, all of whom must take your guide or assistance dog free of charge. Pet dogs are carried at the individual driver’s discretion.

Tips for staying safe when using taxis

Taking your dog on a ferry

For now, taking your dog into Europe via a ferry crossing can also be a bit of a minefield for the dog owner who wants to take their pet with them. Aside from the pet passport scheme requirements you’ll need to abide by, you’ll normally be allowed to take your dog on-board, although there will normally be a charge.

To find out more you should seek the advice of the appropriate ferry operator before travelling.

Things are more clear-cut on the Euro Tunnel, where the operators will charge you £20 to take your dog, cat, or ferret (yup, seriously) through with you. (Guide and assistance dogs are free.)

It has, it says, carried two million pets since 2001, and provides a handy checklist and some excellent tips. If I were taking my pet aboard I think I’d plump for the Chunnel rather than the ferry because the operator is so helpful and up-front about the whole process.

Ah, I hear you ask: what about taking your beloved pet into Europe post-Brexit? Well, as we’ve come to expect, Euro Tunnel’s clear and unambiguous advice contrasts sharply with that of the UK Government who hasn’t really said anything other than: “This page tells you what you’ll need to do from 1 January 2021. It’ll be updated if anything changes.”

 This isn’t terribly helpful, especially as the main web page says: “From 1 January 2021 the rules for travelling to EU countries with your pet will change. You should start the process at least 4 months before you travel.”

We will keep you updated as and when further announcements are made and the position is clarified.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.