The Easiest Way To Travel From Ireland To Spain With A Dog

Last Updated: August 17, 2023

With the one glorious week of Irish summer already come and gone, the idea of packing your sombrero, and heading down south to the land of sangria, sunshine, and sandy beaches sounds better and better each day. 

Since our pups have now become seasoned travelers during our Irish adventures, it's a perfect time to put their Pet Passport to use for international journeys. 

As you may already know, flying with dogs in and out of Ireland is extremely difficult, especially if you have a larger dog, but don't fret, there is an easier and almost more relaxing option- bringing your dog on a ferry!

Ferry vs. Airplane, which one is better?

If you are in Ireland and wanting to fly with your pup, this is no easy feat. Most flights will not allow dogs in the cabin, meaning that your pup, no matter the size or weight, will be required to travel in the cargo area, if they are even allowed on the flight at all. 

Only assistance dogs are allowed to travel in the cabin with you. If you happen to be American, it is important to point out that emotional support dog certificates will not be recognized while traveling within Europe, it is not really a thing here. So that leaves us with traveling by boat, which is by far the easiest and best option for you and your pet's comfort.

** If you are traveling from a European country besides Ireland, you can check out these 29 airlines that allow small dogs in the cabin.

Can I bring my dog to Spain from Ireland?

Yes, you can freely travel with your pet to the European mainland as long as you follow the necessary steps and have all the proper paperwork and vaccines for your dog, there is no problem bringing them to Spain from Ireland.

Is there a ferry from Ireland to Spain?

Yes, the Connemara ferry by Brittany Ferries services runs a direct ferry service from Rosslare to Bilboa. They have a small allocation of pet-friendly cabins and accept both smaller and larger dogs. There are no kennels on the boat, they stay in the cabin with you, so buying a pet carrier is not required.

What are the ferry timetables? 

The direct ferry link from Rosslare to Bilboa runs twice per week, with a crossing time of about 30 hours, and leaving Ireland on either Wednesday mornings at 08:01 (arriving in Bilboa at 13:01 on Thursday) or Friday evenings at 23:30 (arriving in Bilboa at 08:00 on Sunday).

The direct return sailings to Rosslare Europort are a twice-weekly service, departing on Sunday afternoons at 11:01 (arriving in Rosslare at 15:01 on Monday) and departing Thursday evenings at 18:00 (arriving in Rosslare at 20:45 on Friday).

How much is the ferry from Ireland to Spain?

International pet travel can be expensive, but traveling on the ferry can end up being a great value. When taking your pup with you to Northern Spain, you will be required to book one of the 13 dog-friendly cabins on the Connemara ship. There are no additional fees, as they are included in your cabin.

Paws Friendly Tip - Make sure you book your pet-friendly cabin with plenty of notice, as they do sell out quickly.

Where is my dog allowed to go on the boat?

Dogs are only allowed in their designated pet-friendly cabin and in the designated bathroom/exercise area on deck 6. It is important to note that one of the pet policies of Brittany Ferries is that all dogs must wear a muzzle when outside of their cabins. Dogs are not allowed to go into the general area of the boat.


What paperwork do I need for my dog in order to travel from Ireland to Spain by ferry?

Required vaccines and pet passport

When traveling to Spain, from a country within the European Union, you will need to make sure that your best friend is in overall good health and that they have a valid rabies vaccine. Rabies vaccinations cannot be allowed to expire otherwise, you will need to have your pup vaccinated as if for the first time and many authorities require this to be done 21 days before the travel date. Until this point, your dog will not be considered safe for travel. The day of the vaccine is counted as day 0.

In order to get a Rabies vaccine, your pup must be at least 12 weeks old. 

You will also need to make sure that your dog has a Pet Passport, and is microchipped. You can apply for an EU Pet Passport from your vet, and the turnaround can take around 5 working days. 

You will also need a veterinary health certificate filled in and stamped. You will find a spot for this in your pet passport where your local veterinarian can sign.

When returning to Ireland from Spain, one of the entry requirements is that your dog must be treated for tapeworms, no more than 120 hours and no less than 24 hours PRIOR to re-entry to Ireland. These specific requirements are the same if traveling to the United Kingdom as well. This will need to be recorded in your Pet Passport under section VII, “Echinococcus Treatment”. The Vet issuing the treatment will need to sign, stamp and date this entry. 

Paws Friendly Tip: Before your international trip with your dog, email yourself a copy of your dog's passport and any other travel documents you might need, just in case they get lost on the open road.

Although a lot of dog owners are wary of printing their pet's name on their dog's collar it can save you a lot of heartaches to print a tag with your contact information including a cell phone number should your furry family member wander off while in a foreign country.

If your pup is a regular visitor to the vet like Poppy is, ask them for any medical records that you will need to take with you in case you have to visit an emergency vet along the way. We carry Poppy's blood work print-outs in her passport so that a vet has an easy way to see what is normal for her (If ever you are worried that your pup isn't their normal self, a blood test is a great way to check their whole body status and has been lifesaving for Poppy on more than one occasion).

Now that you have booked your ferry, here are some tips for leading up to and the date of travel.

Pre-Ferry Checklist For Traveling From Ireland to Spain

Pet passport with a valid microchip, rabbies vaccine, and veterinarian health certificate.

Remember: If your dog’s rabies vaccine has lapsed, you will have to wait 21 days after the new booster vaccine before being permitted for your dog to travel. 

What to Bring on the Ferry

The pet-friendly cabins are extremely basic, however, there was a water bowl, a waste bag holder, bone, and a small pack of dog treats left for Poppy by Brittany Ferries. 

Depending on the size of your dog, and whether you allow them to sleep in the bed with you, it might be a good idea to bring a dog bed for your pet's comfort. Poppy, being only 3 kilos, expects to sleep in the bed with me, and there was no issue having her curl up with me on my twin bunk bed. 

The rooms do get extremely cold, so I brought an extra blanket for Poppy and an empty hot water bottle for myself, which I filled up within the first hour after departure.

Don’t forget to pack bottled water, dog food, treats, and a toy to play with. 

Check the weather before leaving, if you will be sailing through rain, make sure you bring an extra towel to dry off the pup. In the cabin, you will be provided with one very small towel. The outdoor dog-friendly bathroom area is exposed, so if you don’t plan on sharing your towel with your pup, packing one for them isn’t a bad idea. 



We arrived 2 hours early for check-in. They will ask you for your pet passport, and you will have to scan your pup with a device that will read their microchip. They are checking that the chip number matches the number in their passport. They will also check to make sure your dog is up to date with their rabies, and that your pet passport is actually filled in. 

Tip: While waiting to board the boat, you will park your car and you can take your pup for a walk around the parking lot. I highly recommend taking your furry friend for a walk for as long as is allowed, as the bathroom area on the boat is extremely small.  At the Rosslare port, there is a beach about 3 minutes walking from where you will line up to board the ferry, we took Poppy for a little walk along this area.


Boarding the Boat

Once we embarked on the ship and parked the car, we were directed up to our room's deck. You are not allowed to return to your car once the boat departs, so you must bring everything you will need with you. 

On the Connemara ship, the 13 pet-friendly cabins are all grouped in the same hall.

During the Trip

We took the trip during the Covid-19 pandemic, so the shops were closed and the cafe on board was only open for a few hours around breakfast, lunch, and dinner time.

Tip: Make sure you download lots of movies, podcasts, books, etc. to keep you entertained during the 30+ hours. 

Our Experience

I know I am on the ‘extra special’ side of being a dog parent because I have created this website, but when I decided to get the dog-friendly cabin, I also decided that I would spend the trip in the cabin with Poppy. It is sad to say, that not all dog owners are the same. For a lot of the time (except during the night) there were at least 2 different dogs left alone all day. Sadly, they were barking and whimpering the whole time. Poppy didn’t seem too distressed, but as you can imagine, one dog barking will set off the other ones.

TIP: When booking ask if you can be at the end of the hallway, and not the first rooms from when you enter the boat. My room was the first room you would pass when entering the boat from the doggie bathroom area. What this meant is that every time someone entered the hallway, I would hear the slamming of both doors. This went on all day and night. It also means that every single dog going to use the bathroom has to pass by your door. If your pup is sensitive to noise, it can be distressing. Finally, it meant that if a pup wasn’t able to hold it until going outside, there was a high chance that there would be wee right outside your door. Every time I left the room, there was either a fresh lot of wee in the hallway, or it had just been mopped by the staff. Not the same luxury experience as so many of the dog-friendly hotels we have been lucky enough to visit. 

The dog-bathroom area was horrendous. It was an area of the deck, maybe 2 meters by 4 meters, right outside the bedrooms. It smelt like wee, especially during the middle of the day, and it wasn’t really big enough to walk around. If you happened to go out and another dog and their owner were already there, you were out of luck. The two pups would be pretty much standing on top of each other, and any chance of being able to go to the bathroom, at least for Poppy, was gone. 

The ship itself isn’t pet-friendly, so you are stuck in your bedroom, or outside in the bathroom space.


Knowing what to expect, and having the correct mindset before stepping foot on the ferry is the key. I knew that the rooms were not going to be luxurious and that the ensuite bathroom was going to be simple. Remembering that you are doing this so you can bring your dog along with you on your adventure is the key.

Are you planning a dog-friendly holiday? Be sure to tag @PawsFriendly on your next trip out with your pup.

While you are enjoying your vacation with the family pet, enjoy the local culture by eating and drinking out in dog-friendly restaurants, cafés, and bars, all of which, and more, you can easily discover on our website

Latest posts


Sign up for our Dog-Friendly Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with our latest articles and recommendations on dog-friendly businesses worth visiting. 🐶

Let's Get Social

Follow for new ideas to explore with your pup and make sure to tag us in your dog-friendly adventures! 🐶

Pamper Your Paws

Top local services for your pet are just a click away! 🐾 Dive into our services tab now. 🐶