Travelling on public transport with your dog

Going car-free with your dog is not only better for the environment, but it’s also part of the adventure. Trains, buses and ferries can provide a window on the world as you travel across the seas, along rivers or on the tracks through big cities and remote countryside. I’ve travelled thousands of miles with my dogs over the last five years, taking sleeper trains all the way down to Cornwall and up to the Highlands of Scotland, and hopping on buses and ferries to reach far-flung British Isles, from Shetland to the Isle of Wight. I’ve even taken my dog on a small plane to the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall. Based on my learnings from years of adventuring with dogs, here's what you need to know about travelling with dogs on public transport.

Written by Lottie Gross

5 minute read

How can I help my dog relax and enjoy the ride?

No matter what public transport you take with your dog, there are some unwritten rules you should abide by. They should be kept on a lead and, ideally, out of the way of other passengers or staff. This means they shouldn’t be blocking the aisle of the train, or sprawled out in front of the wheelchair section on a bus. They also shouldn’t be sitting on the seat next to you, unless you provide a blanket to cover it, though on busy trips it’s always best to have them on the floor.

To make your life easier and give your dog its own space, consider bringing a mat or blanket for them to sit or lie down on. Practice having them settle on the mat at home first to help get them used to making this their space.

On longer journeys, you might want to consider bringing something for your dog to do so they don’t get bored or restless. A frozen Kong toy filled with natural yoghurt or dog-safe peanut butter might be a good bet or a long-lasting chew such as a pizzle or pig’s ear.

Are dogs allowed on trains?

Generally, dogs are allowed on all trains across the UK, providing they are on a lead and well-behaved. You can bring up to two dogs and you can even travel in First Class if you wish. There may be times when you might be asked by the guard to board a later service, such as when it’s exceptionally busy or when another passenger has an allergy, but usually, there is no issue when travelling with your dog on trains. Dogs don’t need a ticket to ride most trains on the UK’s network, except when joining you on either of the two sleeper train services: the Night Riviera from London to Cornwall, or the Caledonian Sleeper, which connects Scotland to London. If you’re taking overnight journeys or extended trips of more than three or four hours, it’s worth asking the train guard if there are longer stops where you can let the dog stretch their legs.

Are dogs allowed on buses and coaches?

There is no blanket rule about allowing dogs on buses throughout the UK, as different providers have their own rules. Usually, it’s down to the driver’s discretion, which means they can deny you boarding if they deem it unsafe for a dog to ride alongside the other passengers. Usually, this only happens when it’s incredibly busy, and dogs are largely welcomed on main route buses across the UK.

Coaches, such as National Express or Megabus, are strictly no-dogs transport options, so only certified service animals are allowed to ride.

Can dogs go on ferries?

Plenty of ferries in the UK allow dogs on leads, and this can be a delightful way to travel to places like the Isle of Wight, Isles of Scilly or Scotland’s many beautiful and remote isles. Most of the time, dogs are allowed on the outside decks at least, offering an exciting way to see the scenery as you sail. Many ferries, such as WightLink for the Isle of Wight, Northlink and CalMac for the Scottish islands, Steam Packet for the Isle of Man or the Scillonian for the Isles of Scilly, also have on-board lounges or dog-friendly cabins where you can relax inside with your pet.

Can dogs go on planes?

Unless a registered service animal, your dog can’t travel in the cabin with you on most planes leaving the UK or travelling domestically, except on one airline: Isles of Scilly Travel. The company operates a small Twin Otter plane between Land’s End airport and the Isles of Scilly, which has a built-in dog crate for furry passengers, where dogs can sit beside their humans on the short hop over the Atlantic.

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Written by Lottie Gross

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