The overwhelming majority of European train operators welcome four-leggers with open arms. | EFE


A ir – tick. Sea – tick. All that’s remains for us to discuss is trains, with a smattering of bus for good measure. Railways are an excellent mode of dog-friendly travel to the Balearics. The overwhelming majority of European train operators welcome four-leggers with open arms – and they’re often a darn sight cheaper than other modes of transport.

How about we get the negatives out of the way. First, the most European of trains - so European it has ‘Euro’ in its title - is sadly downright uncooperative when it comes to dogs. While it would be the simplest thing to zip from London to Paris in just 2 hours 16 minutes, Eurostar says a flat ‘no’ to animals - except guide and assistance dogs. Their website kindly points you in the direction of more accommodating methods such as cross-Channel ferries and Eurotunnel. Second, dogs are a no-no on most long-distance bus services in western Europe, so you can rule that idea out.

Right, on to the positive. There is barely a train service in Europe that will turn away your dog – certainly if he/she is at the diddier end of the spectrum. Granted, Great Dane owners might have to read the small print, but the majority of pup owners will be pleasantly surprised at the hospitable nature of European rail.

Starting in the UK, the National Rail website states quite clearly that customers may take up to two small animals free of charge on all rail services – provided they do not endanger or inconvenience customers or staff. They should be in a basket, or on a lead/in a harness, at all times. Animals cannot occupy seats (extra charge) or go into restaurant cars. If they’re a nuisance, you may be asked to hop off at the next station. Oh, and when they say ‘all rail services’, that does include the London Underground, where all ‘inoffensive’ animals are welcome. The only condition is that you must carry your furry pal on a moving escalator – if (s)he’s a big’un, get down the gym.

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The French SNCF website is the bearer of equally good news. Pets can alight any train in L’Hexagone (except Eurostar, see above) – two per passenger. If they’re compact (less than 6kg) the fare is a reasonable seven euros and they must go in a carrier, but if they’re heavier they must be on a lead and muzzled and pay 50% of the full second-class fare. Guide dogs don’t pay a centimo and are able to ditch the muzzle. Pooches must bring ID. Incidentally, the Paris Metro is similarly chien friendly.
It’s a big ja from Germany when it comes to der Hund. Deutsche Bahn measures dogs in terms of cats (confusing right?) and advises that small ‘harmless’ pets up to the size of a house cat can take the train free of charge – inside a closed carrier – one pet per passenger. If your furry one is larger than said house cat, it will need its own ticket, and that will cost the same as a child fare (half price). Outside the carrier, they must be muzzled and leashed. Companion dogs are, as seems to be the norm, free of charge and muzzle. Pups can’t take up a seat and must stay at your feet. One German quirk to be aware of is they rarely issue e-tickets online for pets, so you could book in advance and receive it by post, or pop in the train station.

Spain also says si to animales. On AVEs (Alta Velocidad Española) and other long-distance high-speed trains, the regulations allow for one pet per person, up to 10kg, but they must always stay inside a carrier. Again, they can’t take up a seat. On a premium ticket, the pet comes for free. Basic ticket holders will have to pay 20 euros. The short- and medium-distance Avant trains have pretty much the same policy but levy 25% of the price of a general fare for your animal. Guide and assistance dogs are gratis and can rip up the maximum-size stay-inside-a-carrier rules. FYI, Madrid and Barcelona will happily invite your hound on their underground, but not during peak rush-hour times.
Now you have your European rail timetables nailed, all that remains is that obvious expanse of agua that separates us from mainland Spain. Feel free to dip into our previous Paws Friendly missives on planes and ferries and you’ll quickly get that issue solved.

Right, so you made it to Mallorca – can the public transport fest continue? It’s partly a ‘yes’, but mainly a ‘no’. Train-wise, TIB (TIB - Transports de les Illes Balears) operates a limited overground network, connecting Palma to Inca, Sa Pobla and Manacor, plus a Metro service, connecting Palma to the University – but neither is dog-friendly (unless assistance dog). Sadly, the same goes for the beautiful historical railway that trundles through the countryside to Sóller. Buses, on the other hand, are slightly more accommodating. Since January 2022, bus services operated by EMT-Palma (that is to say within the confines of the City) have allowed passengers to travel with their dog – either on a lead/with a muzzle or inside a carrier. If they’re inside a carrier they go free, if they’re on foot they pay a princely 30 cents. Aggressive or dangerous beasts will be removed. Conversely, bus services operated by TIB covering the north, south, east, and west of the Island have thus far resisted calls to allow pets onboard. Petitions have been presented to TIB, but they are monitoring the EMT ‘experiment’ before they make any dog-friendly decisions.

If you fancy letting the train take the strain off you and your pooches’ European travel plans, make sure you dive into the detail of the relevant country’s animal health regulations before you set off. If crossing borders, it’s likely that your dog will need microchip ID, certain vaccinations, a European Pet Passport, and perhaps a health certificate from the vet - plan ahead so you don’t get caught out. Likewise, have in mind how many meals you’ll need to pack, and where/when you’ll be able to grab a doggy potty break. Then, sit back, relax, and watch the world whizz by while fellow passengers coo over the cuteness of your four-legged travel mate.

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