This is a description of the trip that Harry (our German Pinscher) and myself took from London to the west coast of Greece and back.
Hopefully it will inspire some people to take this option rather than driving.
Why take public transport?
- Same amount of time as driving — 3 days / 3 nights
- Slightly cheaper than driving
- Some time to relax and work on the way
- A day in Paris and a day in Venice for sightseeing on the way
Routing and timing
Our trip would take us from London to the island of Paxos (near Corfu) on the west coast of Greece.
Our route was via the Channel tunnel, then Paris, then on to Venice, and then a long ferry down the Adriatic to Igoumenitsa on the north west coast of Greece.
The total journey would take three days, including one overnight on the Paris-Venice train, one overnight in Venice, and one overnight on the Ferry down the Adriatic.
The story of our journey
We left on a Monday night from London and would arrive in Paxos on the Friday …
2000 Monday night — London St.Pancras to Folkestone
We left St. Pancras on the train to Folkestone.
An alternative option was the first train on the Tuesday morning instead. However we opted to leave the night before and stay in a dog-friendly hotel.
0730 Tuesday morning — Channel tunnel crossing
With a dog, the options for crossing the channel as a foot-passenger are very limited.
We opted to take a taxi with PetTravelAbroad from Folkestone. A good service with no stress which worked well. Harry had a seat in the back of the taxi on his usual blanket and relaxed as we went through the tunnel.
1030 Tuesday — TGV Calais to Paris
After a toilet stop at Calais Frethun station we jumped on the TGV from Calais to Paris. This was a fast and comfortable two hour journey.
Larger dogs are required to wear muzzles on trains in France and Italy. I had been training Harry with treats on his muzzle for a couple of weeks in advance as preparation. So all was good.
However it seems that muzzles are not always enforced if your dog is well behaved, so Harry got away with only having his muzzle on for a few minutes.
1230 Tuesday — Paris for the afternoon
We arrived into Paris Gare du Nord and had the afternoon to explore Paris.
We took the Metro down to the Seine for a walk. Dogs travel on the Metro on a half-price ticket.
We had time for a late lunch of steak frites in a nice little Brasserie on the river. In Paris many restaurants are dog-friendly so this was very easy and pleasant.
It was a sunny day so we lounged around on the grass outside the Louvre for 45 mins before heading off to Gare de Lyon for our evening train.
1900 Tuesday — Overnight train Paris to Venice
The Thello overnight train departs from Paris Gare de Lyon each evening, due into Venice the following morning. It also stops in Milan, Verona and some other smaller Italian towns if you want to get off there instead.
It’s a somewhat dated, but comfortable service. We opted to pay extra for the single private cabin for 1 person and a dog. This was very comfortable with extra space and nice and private.
Harry settled down quickly for the evening.
Toilet stops were a concern in advance because this was to be a 14 hour train journey. But in fact it was not a problem at all. The train changes the locomotive twice on the journey, once when entering Switzerland, and once when entering Italy. Each time this was a 30–45 minute stop. So there is plenty of time to get out for a toilet stop and some fresh air if needed at this point.
0930 Wednesday — Unfortunately not in Venice (yet)
Hmm. The Thello had a problem with the locomotive overnight. This meant that we were stuck around Dijon for about 7–8 hours!
This was not great and would mean we would miss most of our day in Venice. I was more disappointed about this than Harry seemed to be. After all he didn’t have expectations of going to Venice of course, and was just happy to get on with snoozing and watch the world go by on the train.
1700 Wednesday —an evening in Mestre near Venice
Finally we arrived, 8 hours late.
We opted to get off at Venice-Mestre station, instead of the main Venice town at Venice Santa Lucia in the lagoon. This was closer to the ferry terminal.
I booked a cheap and cheerful dog-friendly hotel for the night which was close to the ferry terminal. We had a nice Italian meal, a dog walk, and an early night. The following morning ferry was to be a very early start.
0430 Thursday — Ferry Venice
The ferry from Venice to Igoumenitsa in Greece takes about 29 hours. It departs from the main ferry terminal on the mainland. This can be reached from Venice on the Number 16 boat during normal daylight hours.
However, we had an early 0430 ferry departure which was well before the first boats of the day. So Harry and I took a 10 min cab ride from our hotel to the ferry terminal.
There are two main companies, both of which we have used. Minoan and Anek. There is not much to chose between them beyond the schedules and availability. This time we were on the Minoan ferry.
We boarded with the other foot passengers, bikers and pet owners. There were 10–15 other dogs on the boat. Dogs are allowed on the outside deck common areas and in your pet cabin. They are excluded from the main restaurants and bars on these ferries. This is fine, but it does restrict your meal options if you want to remain with your pooch.
We opted for the comfortable option and took the pet-friendly cabin. Pet cabins sell out fast so you need to book many months in advance if you want to get your preferred dates. This meant that we had a nice place to relax, shower and sleep.
The alternative, and much cheaper option, is to camp on deck together with a few of the other dog-owners and travellers on a budget.
Harry and I had a relaxing day on the ferry, and I caught up with the work I had missed the previous day. It was a lovely calm sailing with a beautiful sunset.
0800 Friday — Corfu bonus stop
Our original plan was to take the ferry to Igoumenitsa and then take the short ferry to Paxos, our final destination.
But as a bonus, the ferry to Igoumenitsa also stopped in Corfu on the way down. This was lucky as it gave us a faster option. We disembarked at Corfu Town so that we could jump on the fast passenger ferry to Paxos instead of going the longer route via Igoumenitsa. This would save us 3–4 hours extra in going via the mainland (Igoumenitsa).
1230 Friday — Corfu Town to Paxos passenger ferry
A short walk, some coffee and a couple of croissants filled the time whilst we were waiting for the passenger ferry to Paxos.
We then jumped on the 90 minute ferry to our final destination.
1430 Friday — we made it!
Harry clearly remembered his time here last year and got to work stretching on the sofa right away.
Meanwhile I took an afternoon swim. Bliss.
Our return journey
We returned using the same route in reverse three weeks later. Here is a quick outline of the main timings and a few more photos of this return trip.
1430 Monday — Short ferry to Igoumenitsa and overnight there
The main ferry to Venice did not stop in Corfu on the return, so Harry and I headed to the main Greek port of Igoumenitsa to pick up the ferry early the following morning.
Igoumenitsa is a port town and there is not a lot to do except watch the ferries. There are however plenty of places to get a cheap dog-friendly room for the night near the port.
0630 Tuesday — Ferry Igoumenitsa to Venice
Our return journey was with Anek, the competitor ferry company. The overall experience is very similar on both ferry companies. We choose based on price and availability.
There was an amazing red sunrise as we neared Venice the following morning.
0930 Wednesday — a day off in Venice
The ferry terminal is on the mainland to the south west of the islands in in the Venice lagoon. We took the 20 minute walk from the ferry terminal down the road to the Fusina boat stop. This is where we could pick up the Number 16 boat for a 20 min boat ride into Venice itself.
Dogs travel on a half-price ticket on the public boats in Venice.
We had a great day in Venice, exploring the streets. We walked over 10 km together, had some nice pasta and tried to avoid the busiest touristy parts of Venice.
1920 Wednesday —Overnight train to Paris
The overnight train departed from Venice Santa Lucia station which is 50 metres from the Grand canal.
This was a very similar journey to outbound, but this time the train was on time!
1130 Thursday — Paris to Calais TGV
Harry and I walked from Gare de Lyon to Gare du Nord for the northbound TGV. It’s about a 1 hour brisk walk.
1400 Thursday — Channel tunnel and home to London
We used the pet taxi transfer service again. They pick up from the Calais railway station. This was very easy and low stress.
We then jumped on the train to London and by 1700 were home. Just in time for tea!
Prerequisites for a stress-free trip
The dog is a calm traveller — We’ve done the trip to and from Greece a few times by car, so we know that Harry is a good traveller. There is a lot of hanging around on trains and ferries, so a dog that is nervous travelling might have more trouble.
Pet paperwork — dog paperwork is important, Rabies injections, etc. The biggest hassle was getting the worming done within the ‘more than one day but less than five days’ time-slot on the way back. I did this in Greece on the day of departure. Your vet can advise on what is needed.
Muzzle-training — on French and Italian trains, the dog is technically required to wear a muzzle. The rules seem to be not strictly enforced. But a bit of muzzle training is important.
Contingencies— delays could throw the whole trip out by a day or two so we took extra food and were prepared to book additional hotels if we were stranded somewhere.
Comfort — A good thick towel or blanket for the dog to lie on was essential on the boats and trains. It gave him a good place to snuggle down.
- Channel tunnel pet taxis — Folkestone taxis run a pet transfer service through the Channel Tunnel
- French train bookings — I tend to use the Trainline app on my smartphone, but you cannot book pets with this. Alternatively the SNCF website is good, and on the French version of the site you can add dogs. Dogs require a ticket on French and Italian trains and pay a 50% fare.
- Paris to Venice overnight train — Tickets can be booked directly with Thello.
- Venice transport— timetables for boat №16 between Fusina (close to the ferry terminal) and the main centre of Venice. Dogs go for free.
- Ferries between Venice to Greece —you can check availability and book online with either Anek or Minoan ferries.
- Alternative routings across Europe — from Seat61
- More details on travelling with dogs on trains in Europe — from Seat61
Hopefully this helps show that travelling with a dog is very doable with a bit of planning. I thought it was more pleasant than the driving option which we have done a number of times. It was also cheaper.
For a second opinion on this, you can read this other blog post where Argo takes a trip from London to Venice.