Alf’s European Adventures – our BIG mistake!!!

Our fur baby

Alf is our 15 month old fur baby, he is a cross between a border terrier and a Jack Russell. We called him Alf as he has big pointy ears like the alien in the US sitcom.
Getting Alf ready to travel around Europe was very easy, he just needed a passport and the rabies vaccination. Most vets can do this, the cost will depend on the weight of your dog. Alf cost £120 and weighs 4kg.

When we got to Dover they checked Alf’s passport just like they do ours they also scanned his microchip. Unfortunately Alf had to stay in the van for the short crossing to Calais.

Once in Europe a dog can travel around just as easy as a human.  Our problem began when we had to pop back to England for a few weeks, we were in Greece at the time.  After several phone calls to different airlines we managed to work out that England does not allow a dog to travel to England via a plane unless a haulage company is used.  This would mean that Alf would have to travel alone in the haulage department of a different plane to us, we got a ridiculous quote of £1600.

Eventually we managed to find a way to get Alf back to England that wasn’t going to cost us the earth although it meant a very long trip ahead involving ferries, planes, trains and automobiles.

Igoumenitsa in Greece – Brindisi in Italy

We decided to make this trip as wanted to leave Doris in Sicily for when we returned.

This was a 10 hour night ferry, costing £202.59 for 2 adults, 1 small dog and a motor home this did not include a cabin or a seat. We booked using Direct Ferries, there are also other companies.

https://www.directferries.co.uk/

https://www.ferrysavers.co.uk/

An uncomfortable night on the ferry floor.

Warning, the air conditioning makes it pretty cold on board especially through the night so make sure to have jumpers and socks etc. Also, as you haven’t got anywhere to sleep except for a hard plastic chair or tiled floor, be sure to take a sleeping bag and pillows. Most people also took blow up air beds or a lilo. Toilet roll is a must also as often there wasn’t any.

As Alf is small he was able to stay with us on the ferry at all times but bigger dogs have to go in a kennel, you can go to visit them as often as you want and take them out for a walk.

Italy mainland to Sicily

We couldn’t find a ferry company that we could book Doris on and then by a bit of luck Ian stumbled across this website:
https://carontetourist.it/en

It is a company that takes motor homes from Villa San Giovanni (right at the toe of the boot) to Messina, north Sicily, costing €100 for the pleasure of no more than 30 minutes!!

Please note if you have not got a motor home you can make the journey very easily with lots of different companies for, I think as little under €10 each.

Catania in Sicily – Paris in France

You must be thinking France, I thought they had to go to England, you are correct, I did say it was a long journey….

We were happily having lunch near the beach (thinking for once we are organised and on time) before our flight and then I got a text message from my dad…

He had just spoken to my uncle who lives in France and he had asked if Alf had been to a vets within the last 24 hours to 5 days to be wormed. He said that all dogs returning to England must be wormed within this timeframe to be allowed back into England.

Of course Alf hadn’t been. We thought, if he had an English passport, he could come and go as we pleased.

Stupid of us for not checking we now know!! I would hate for anyone also to go through this.

We then panicked as you could imagine, thinking that our baby, be him furry could not come home.

We frantically googled vets and luckily the 1st vets we rang had someone working that could speak in English. I explained to her that we were leaving for Paris in 5 hours and then to England the following day just giving us over the 24 hours needed. I think she must have felt sorry for us as she told us to come straight in and she would do her best. When we got there I again explained everything and that Alf wasn’t actually due to be wormed for another 2 months, I had his box of worming tablets with me but unfortunately they were not in the original box so had no batch number also the vets were out of stock of the medication so we had to take a prescription to a pet shop to pick them up and go back to the vets. The vet was unsure of our to fill out a dog passport (remember this is Sicily so she had never seen one) so she didn’t want to complete it so instead she wrote a letter on headed paper stating that Alf had been wormed by her, on that day and that he was healthy to fly.

Alf didn’t actually take the tablet as two vets said as he wasn’t due it, it may do him some harm.

Hoping all would be ok and that Alf would be able to return to England we left Doris in an airport car park. We paid for 2 weeks parking but told them we may be longer, depending on how England do in the World Cup. England, did fantastic so we ended up staying for 3 weeks.

It cost around €8 a day, I can’t remember exactly. The staff were fantastic and said that they were flexible and they would take care off Doris.

We booked through this website:

https://www.parkvia.com/en-GB

Catania Airport

This was really simple with Alf, at the check in desk they checked his passport and microchip and made sure that he fitted in his small carry on bag. Alf, really did not like getting in the bag so they said we could walk him around the airport until it was time to board the plane.

We booked our flights with Transavia, an Italian company as they allow Alf to go on as hand luggage.

https://www.transavia.com/en-EU/home/

Important before you book!!!

You must ring the airline to make sure that there is room for your dog to travel on the flight you wish to take, they only allow so many animals per flight.

You, then have to book your flight (online is cheaper) and then ring the airline straight back to book and pay for your pet.

They will allocate you a seat on the plane but this does not mean you get lots of leg room for you and your pet.

Getting on the plane

As we were getting on the plane Alf was very scared as he really didn’t like the bag to be zipped up (it has mesh so he can see out). He somehow managed to work the zip and force he’s head and front legs out, Ian managed to get him back in without the air stewardess seeing.

Breaking Rules

We were very lucky as the plane was not full we managed to have Alf in the middle sit next to us and was a little naughty and unzipped he’s bag so he didn’t feel so scared. He was more than happy for the rest of the flight.

A kiss from mummy
Alf soon relaxed and had a snooze.

Paris

All was ok at customs, they didn’t even look at Alf.

We did however have a nightmare with the taxis, there wasn’t any. So we joined the long queue and waited for over an hour to then be told that it was going to cost us €60 to travel just 10 minuets as the taxi have a set rate for going into Paris city centre. We were not going anyway near that far as I had booked a hotel close to the airport as we were landing late.

He then told us to get out and wait at the taxi rank and a taxi will come, we hadn’t seen one in an hour. Finally another hour later and after taxis trying to get us to pay over €60 another taxi came and was a decent guy compared to the rest and charged us €30 (a lot more than it should be) but we were exhausted after all the stress of the day.

Eiffel Tower

The next day we had a lovely day around Paris, seeing the sights, before catching a train from Paris Nord to Frethun in Calais, this cost €35 and we booked with https://www.sncf.com/fr

Ian’s parents then met us at the train station in Calais in their car as dogs are not allowed to travel by ferry to England unless they are in a car.

Customs at Calais was extremely stressful!!!

When we went to the desk to show Alf’s documents they said that they could not except the headed letter from the vets and that Alf would not be able to travel home to England.

Panicking and trying to keep it together, I immediately rang the vets in Sicily and by miracle they answered, it was 9pm. Customs had agreed that if the vets completed one of their forms that they would allow Alf to travel to England but said once there, they might not let us through. So eventually after a long wait for the next ferry we boarded and was worried sick the whole time that we would arrive in England after all the stress to get here to be told Alf wasn’t allowed.

At last something went right and there wasn’t anyone stopping the cars as we drove through customs in England.

So, finally we made it to Dover after 2 days of complete stress and panic all because we were stupid enough not to look into how to travel back to England with a dog – a lesson well learned!!!

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