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Reader question: What are the latest rules on travelling between Spain and the UK with pets?

Since Brexit came into effect on January 1st 2021, many things have changed, including the rules for travelling with your pets between Spain and the UK. Read on to find out everything you need to know and what the latest rules are.

travelling to Spain with your dog
Image: Tadeusz Lakota / Unsplash

If you’re travelling between Spain and the UK with your dog, cat or pet ferret, there are several things you need to keep in mind and prepare before you travel. The process may not be as easy as it once was when the UK was part of the EU, but it’s still possible, just with a few different documents. 

If your pet passport was issued in Spain

If you are a resident in Spain and your pet has a passport that was issued in Spain however, then you’re in luck because the British Embassy in Spain states: “From January 1st 2021, pet passports in Spain or another EU member state continue to be valid for travel to Great Britain and the EU”.

If your pet passport was issued in the UK

The UK has been granted ‘part 2 listed status’ by the EU, which means that those pet passports issued in the UK will no longer be valid and you won’t be able to use it anymore for travel between Spain and the UK. 

This means that if you are planning to visit Spain from the UK or you are a second homeowner, but not a resident in Spain, and your pet passport was issued in the UK, you won’t be able to use it anymore. This also goes for recent residents in Spain who may have had their pet passports issued back in the UK. 

If this is the case, you will need to get an AHC from an accredited vet, prior to travel instead. 

Animal Health Certificate (AHC) 

You will need to visit your vet, no less than 10 days before your trip in order to get the certificate. To be granted the AHC, you will need proof of your pet’s microchipping date and vaccination history.

According to both the UK and the Spanish government websites, you will need to make sure that your pet is vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel. Dogs will also be required to have tapeworm treatment.

The AHC is valid for 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU and can be used for travel within the EU for a period of four months.

If you’re travelling back with your pet to the UK again, the certificate will be valid for re-entry to the UK for four months after the date of issue.

The certificate is only valid for a single trip to the EU however, so when you want to come back to Spain with your pet, you will need to apply for another certificate.

Taking your dog to Spain. Image: Johnell Pannell / Unsplash

AHCs are available as dual-language certificates, so pet owners should ask the vet for the Spanish language certificate when intending to travel here.

For those in Spain, here is a link to the form on the Spanish government website that you need to fill in to get your certificate (in Spanish and English).

AHCs and all the requirements also apply to assistance dogs.

Other rules

You may travel to and from the EU with up to five pets only. Those travelling for professional competitions with more animals, must get special permission and provide proof of competition attendance.

By Air

Even when have your AHC however, things may not be so straightforward.

Pets are allowed to fly in the cabin or as checked baggage on flights from the UK to Spain, but they are not when flying from Spain to the UK.

The Eurostar train also doesn’t allow pets (except assistance dogs).

Pets flying into the UK can only travel as cargo, which will mean extra expense, hassle and possibly being separated from your pet for a long time.

Even though technically you can fly from the UK to Spain with your pet, many airlines will not allow this, so you’ll have to find those who do.

Iberia Express is one that does. Lufthansa, KLM and Air France have been known to in the past too, however, this may mean having to change in another European city first before you get to Spain, causing more distress for your pet. 

By Road

Going by car is one of the best and easiest ways to travel with your pet between Spain and the UK, even though it is the longest and can be more expensive too (as you’ll need to stay overnight).

It will be the most comfortable for your pet however and less stress for you. If you take your car on the Eurotunnel, it costs an extra €27/£20 per pet. 

If taking the ferry across to France, it will cost around the same price, however your pet must stay in the car the whole time. 

By Ferry

If you want to travel straight to Spain by ferry with your pet, without all the driving in between, this can also be a good option.

Unfortunately, Brittany Ferries will not allow you to travel with your pet if you’re a foot passenger, but will if you have a car. Other ferry companies may let you. 

Many ships sailing to Spain have pet-friendly cabins, that can accommodate a single pet. There are also large and small kennels available, with exercise areas. 


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Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?