by Kelly E. Carter, Founder/President of The Jet Set Pets

European countries have more than its fair share of financial problems but travelers are still flocking to Europe this summer. Italy, France and Spain remain popular destinations for travelers around the world. And with the Olympics taking place in London, the UK is hotter than ever. If you’re traveling through Europe with your pet, Rail Europe offers an array of pet-friendly trains whether your travels take you from country to country or throughout one country.

With 35 different railway systems, Rail Europe makes planning your European train travel a breeze. During a recent 21-day European adventure, The Jet Set Pets’ mascot Lucy and I hopped from Spain to France to  Italy, courtesy Rail Europe, on Rail Europe’s impressive network of trains.

We first whisked along the tracks from Madrid to Paris aboard pet-friendly Elipsos, which bills itself as a hotel on wheels. Traveling with a pet assures you of a private cabin. Book as far in advance as possible for a Premier cabin, the top tier of the three-class train. Premier, or Grand Class, offers a single or double bed option along with a private shower, toilet and wash basin. With daily service, you and your pampered pooch can leave Madrid’s Chamartin station in the early evening and arrive at Paris’  Austerlitz train station at 9 a.m. well-rested and ready to enjoy the City of Light, named one of The Jet Set Pets’ Top 10 Pet-Friendly Destinations.

Lucy on the Elipsos train from Madrid to Paris

From Paris we also breezed down to Fontainebleau/Avon on France’s SNCF, part of the Rail Europe system, and back. A few days later we were off again, this time from Paris’ Gare de Lyon station to Milan in a TGV first-class car then onto Florence on the Eurostar, which also offers first-class service. Then it was back to Milan on another Eurostar.

The ease of traveling on a Rail Europe train makes me wonder why anyone flies from one European city to another.

 Pet policies on Rail Europe trains

The Jet Set Pets lists the pet policies for several of the most popular Rail Europe trains. For a complete list of Rail Europe trains, click here.

Taking pets on board Elipsos

Lucy is ready for dinner on the Elipsos train from Madrid to Paris

Daily overnight Elipsos services connect Spain with ItalyFrance and Switzerland on this Rail Europe train.

You can take pets on Elipsos trains but there are a few things you’ll need to know before you set off:

  • You can only take your pet onboard if you have booked a private compartment.
  • Only domestic animals are allowed and these must be kept in a cage no bigger than 60x35x35cm, which allows droppings to be contained and removed.
  • Pets need a ticket to travel, which costs around 60 euro.
  • These restrictions don’t apply to guide dogs, which travel for free.

Taking pets on board Trenitalia Frece

Trenitalia Frecce, or Le Frecce, is a great way to be whisked to Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Bologna or Naples while enjoying the stunning scenery in stress-free comfort on this Rail Europe train.

  • If you wish to travel with a small pet, a reservation must be made when you book your ticket.
  • There’s no charge for this, as long as the animal is in a suitable carrier, measuring no more than 32x32x50cm.
  • Guide dogs are also allowed to travel free of charge.

Taking pets on board Thalys

On this Rail Europe train, the high-speed Thalys train provides direct links to 17 cities including Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne in over 50 round-trips a day.
  • Small dogs and pets travel free of charge as long as they’re in a suitable carrier, no bigger than 55 x 30 x 30cm.
  • A suitable carrier is one that minimises any possible disturbance to other passengers.
  • Other dogs are allowed as long as you carry them on your lap or hold them closely on a lead on the carriage floor.
  • They must be muzzled.
  • A small dog that isn’t in a carrier or a dog that weighs more than 5kg must have a ticket.

Taking pets on board TGV

Lucy (under a seat on the left) on TGV from Paris to Milan

This Rail Europe train is the world’s fastest train, traveling up to 201 mph. With Paris as the hub for TGVtrains, this high-speed French network interconnects throughout Europe making it an attractive alternative to the plane. TGV trains run to major cities across France and northern Spain.

You can take pets with you on TGV trains. Here’s what you’ll need to know before you set off on this Rail Europe train:

  • Domestic animals in pet carriers and larger dogs (note that these must be muzzled and kept on a lead) require a ticket for travel on TGV services.
  • Small pets must be carried in a pet carrier (no larger than 45x30x25cm and no heavier than 6kg).
  • Each passenger can bring 2 dogs or 2 pet carriers (or one of each).
  • Guide dogs are always permitted.

If traveling into Spain on a TGV service, only dogs under 6kg are permitted on the train. These must be kept in a pet carrier.

Taking pets on board TER

TER trains are part of SNCF (Societe nationale des chemins de fer), which offers a variety of France train travel to cater to your every need. You can catch TER trains at towns and villages on 21 regional networks spanning all of France.

It’s fine to take your pet with you on TER services as long as they don’t disturb other passengers. Here’s what you need to know to travel with your pet on this Rail Europe train:

  • Domestic animals in pet carriers and larger dogs (these must be muzzled and kept on a lead) require a ticket for travel on TER trains.
  • Small pets must be carried in a pet carrier (no larger than 45x30x25cm and no heavier than 65kg).
  • Each passenger can bring 2 dogs or 2 pet carriers (or one of each).

Taking pets on board ICE

The high tech, high speed InterCityExpress (ICE) trains rival French TGVs for comfort.  A sleek design – reminiscent of the Japanese bullet trains – enables them to touch speeds of up to 180mph on special high speed lines. ICE trains link major German cities from Cologne in the west to Berlin in the east. Plus this Rail Europe train runs across borders into FranceSwitzerlandBelgiumAustria, Denmark and the Netherlands.
You can take pets on board. Here’s what you’ll need to know if you are thinking of taking a pet on an ICE train:
  • Passengers are allowed a maximum of 2 dogs or 2 pet carriers/1 dog only per pet carrier.
  • Small domestic animals (up to the size of a cat) travel free. They must be in a suitable pet carrier, no bigger than 45x30x25cm and no heavier than 6kg.
  • Large dogs can travel for the full child fare (which is 50% of the adult fare). They must be muzzled and kept on a lead. They must not travel on the seats.
  • Animals other than this, which are not in a carrier, are not permitted on board.
  • Guide dogs travel for free and do not need a ticket or a muzzle.

Taking pets on board Eurostar

Rail Europe’s Eurostar train is known for whisking travelers between London, Paris and Brussels with panoramic views in comfort and serenity.

  • Eurostar doesn’t accept any animals on its trains except guide dogs, which travel for free.
  • Guide dogs can only board at London St Pancras and travel to either Paris, Brussels or Lille.
  • Once on the continent many trains do accept pets, so one alternative would be to catch a ferry to the continent, then take a train onwards from the port.
  • Different trains have different policies regarding pets, so it’s best to check before you book which trains do and don’t accept them. Eurostar trains in Italy, for example, are pet friendly.

For an interactive map of Rail Europe click here.

For information on Eurail Global Pass click here.


Kelly E. Carter is Founder/President of The Jet Set Pets, the luxury travel source for pampered pets on the go. She was inspired to launch the site after globetrotting for 11 years with her longhair Chihuahua Lucy and writing about pet travel for top publications, including USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and Departures. Kelly serves as the pet travel expert for Elite Traveler magazine and Huffington Post/AOL’s Paw Nation. She co-authored the New York Times bestseller “Come to Win” with tennis phenom Venus Williams and is a former staff writer for People, USA Today and other media outlets.

All images courtesy of Kelly E. Carter | The Jet Set Pets.


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