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Our Experience Of Piggies, Europe And Aeroplanes

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HappyCavies

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Hello fellow guinea pig lovers! This is a guide/information post on travelling with guinea pigs on planes and trains in Europe, so read on to find out more!

(As there was so much to say and we couldn't cut anything out, this is split into 2 parts)

Last month (January 2018), we decided to adopt our two babies during our gap-year volunteering trip to Portugal: needless to say, the only issue was getting them home to the UK! After many hours researching any and methods of travel with pigs, we finally organised a safe - but long - journey back to the UK with our new additions to our little family.

After the stress and hassle of contacting countless companies looking to travel with piggies, we thought we would make this post in hopes that it might help others in a similar position :D

Please Note:

- we made this journey early 2018, so for anyone reading this at a later point in time; keep in mind that things change! Any information may not be true anymore after some time.

- just like humans, every individual cavy may react very differently to travelling - especially those who are naturally nervous, who may not cope so well with the noises, changes in surrounding and the many unfamiliar humans they may encounter!

- also bear in mind that this information was true for our experience; each trainline, airline, airport and country has their own rules, guidelines and policies, so please check, check and double-check for a hassle-free journey for you and your piggies!

- this was an unnecessarily long route that we had to take for our two fluff babies - 30 hours for what would normally be a 3 hour direct flight. We understand it was a lot to put them through, and wouldn't have dreamt of doing so if the line between adopting and rescuing them wasn't so blurred. We felt between the long journey and being left in a place where they were not being looked after properly (eg. no unlimited hay), we chose the better option.

- many parts of what we have said below only applies to guinea pigs flying in cabin. Different procedures and information apply when they are going to be travelling in cargo/hold as checked baggage.
Our Journey
For context and reference, here are the many stages of travel we took - in total around 30 hours from very start to the piggies arriving in their new home! Lon-Lon and Scruffy were superstars for the entire trip - we were very proud guinea pig parents to say the least :luv:

  1. 15 minute car journey to the train station
  2. 3 hour train drive to the airport in Portugal
  3. 12 hour (overnight) wait at the airport for our flight the next morning - obviously given the choice we would have avoided this, or opted for a pet-friendly hotel :no:
  4. 1 hour flight from Portugal to Madrid (*1)
  5. 1 hour layover in Madrid
  6. 3 hour flight from Madrid to Belgium (*2)
  7. 4 hour drive from Belgium, across the Eurotunnel, home to England

*1 - unfortunately there were no direct flights from Portugal to Belgium that we could take
*2 - we chose to fly to Belgium as it was a much shorter drive to England than it would have been from Portugal, and chose not to fly direct to England as discussed later

Travel by Train
Most of the train companies we researched allowed pets (guineas included) to travel onboard their trains so long as they are not disturbing other passengers (by noise, smell, etc) and are kept inside a secure carrier. Of course, please double-check with the train company you intend to travel with.

Airline Companies
Long story short: there are very few airlines that allow guinea pigs on their flights, and most that do only carry them in the cargo/hold area.

Travelling with yours in the cabin (under the seat in front) versus them being kept in the hold/cargo area as checked baggage is one of the main things to consider. Whilst more airlines offer to transport guinea pigs in the hold/cargo area, after researching the two options we made the decision to only fly if our pigs would be in cabin with us - personally we did not want to take the risk of any potential mistreatment and felt it safer to have them on us at all times.

Furthermore, no airlines travelling to the UK allow any pet other than service/guide dogs to fly in cabin. This is the reason why we made the decision to fly to Belgium, and drive the rest of the way home to England (a much shorter and less expensive drive than if we drove all the way from Portugal!).

Luckily, after many hours searching and calling airline companies, we finally came across AirEuropa who allow guinea pigs, as well as other small animals, to fly in cabin! In accordance with their policy, our two babies were allowed to travel in the same carrier as they are familiar with one another for the small price of around €30. The only restrictions were the number of animals being transported per passenger and per aircraft, the weight of the piggies plus their carrier not exceeding 8kg and the carrier itself not being any bigger than 55x35x25 cm.

Here is their webpage on pet travel for further details: Passengers

Finally, despite guinea pigs being legally allowed to move freely between EU countries, in order to fly AirEuropa kindly reminded us that they needed official identification and documentation: a pet passport, microchip and a health certificate given by a qualified vet.

Vet Procedure
After booking our flights and train tickets, we booked a vet appointment as soon as we could!

Pet Passport: This was written out by the vet for each guinea pig during the appointment and contains all the piggies', owner's and vet's details. There's even an optional space for a cute picture of your piggy to stick in!

Microchip: For this our two were put under anaesthetic using a gas, as the vet explained it can be quite painful for their little bodies (we did not know going into the appointment this would happen and so trusted in the vet's decision, we don't know if that is how the procedure normally happens or if some vets put them under and some don't). Apart from Scruffy being sleepy for a minute after coming back to us, both guinea pigs seemed happy and unfazed. The microchip numbers were then written into the passport as well as stuck onto official registering papers.

Health Certificate: A basic health check to confirm they were fit to fly was performed (eyes, teeth, breathing, etc) and recorded into a dedicated section of the passport.

Extra: Although not stated as needed by the airline, the vet also gave them an anti-parasite and worming dose onto the backs of their necks, again recorded into the passport.

*Despite general pet requirements for flying stating a rabies vaccine is needed, guinea pigs do not!*

The total price for all of the above for both of our cavys came to just under €200 (not including the appointment fee as we were very lucky to receive a discount through the centre we volunteered for). However, prices may differ between individual veterinary surgeries.

END OF PART ONE :tu:
 

HappyCavies

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PART TWO

Carriers

Between the vet recommendation of a soft, fabric carrier for the flight to give leeway for bending and shape changes when placed under the aeroplane seat and our previous purchase of a hard, plastic carrier that ended up being 5cm too tall for the plane, we used a combination of the two throughout the entire journey.
For the train and overnight wait in the airport we had them in their hard carrier as it had more room for them and better held their food and water. For the reason mentioned above, we changed them into their soft carrier for the actual flights themselves.

There are a few guidelines and requirements for pet carriers which apply for all aeroplanes, so have a research and make sure yours complies for the safety of your guinea pigs!
In terms of size and weight, this changes between different airline companies.

Here are pictures of the two carriers we used:

Hard Carrier.jpg
This is the hard, plastic carrier we used (excuse the black line at the top - had to edit out our emergency details). Inside we had a pet absobent pad on top of some sacrificed black vests and a towel to make the bottom and sides softer as well as their food holder attached to the door.

Soft Carrier.jpg
Here is their soft carrier (with passports in the background XD). Inside was the same setup, plus a hay tube. Both piggies dug themselves into a towel cave at multiple points in this carrier - even though we thought they would feel safer in the darker, smaller space!

Airport Procedure
Once in the airport, the guinea pigs need to be kept inside their carrier. Make sure to pack enough hay, pellets and fruit/veg to give to them as well as a small piggy water bottle attached to the carrier for them to drink from. If your guinea pigs do not drink from drip bottles (like ours as they'd never learned to!), a walk outside the airport may be needed to give them a drink outside of their carrier (in a small bowl or from your finger).
Check the airport you will be at in case they have a dedicated pet area where they can be taken out and their carrier cleaned if need be. A pet pad (absorbent sheet) placed on the bottom of the carrier can be very useful to absorb urine, and is easily changed.

When checking-in for our flight, the pet passports and microchip documents were checked, the carrier and piggies weighed and that was that!

Through airport security, the guinea pigs were taken out of their carrier and carried in our hands through the metal detector - to the amazement of some of the staff who didn't know what a guinea pig was! Lon-Lon and Scruffy also received lots of fussing and strokes from the security staff which made for a great sight to behold! :xd:

Finally, before boarding we were required to sign a waiver stating that should anything happen to the guinea pigs during the flight, we would not sue the airline. (Unsure if all airlines have this procedure?)

NOTES: Helpful tips for the comfort and safety of your pigs before flight
- Before boarding, we made sure to put a tissue paper roll (to keep it together) stuffed with hay into the carrier for the piggies to chew on so that during takeoff and hopefully landing when the pressure changes in the cabin, the chewing and swallowing helps their ears to pop (just like humans!) and acclimatise to the changing pressure.

- Avoid feeding the guinea pigs a large amount of food on the day of flying

- Cucumber can be a multi-purpose snack to bring for the piggies! Not only for eating and keeping them happy, it can also be an easy way to ensure they stay hydrated whilst travelling! (especially for those that don't like to drink from drip bottles)

- Putting a snuggie/hiding place into the carrier can help relax a guinea pig whilst travelling, but be careful not to cover ventilation areas or to cause them to overheat - especially on hot days!

- Similarly, placing a vest or other piece of clothing with your scent on into the carrier as a snuggie may also be a good way to comfort a guinea pig whilst travelling.

- Make sure your guinea pig(s) are familiar with the carrier they will be travelling inside. A week before flying we made sure to give our two a few hours inside their carriers each day so they could get used to being in the smaller space together and make it smell of them!

Also: make sure to attach your contact details onto the carrier so they can be returned to you should they end up separated from you at any point!

While not required for travel in the cabin, we did choose to print and stick on live animal stickers onto the sides of their carriers (this is normally only required for animals travelling in the hold) as shown below:

Label.jpg


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Two week update after travel: both piggies are absolutely fine! After a few quiet days rest, recovery and adjustment to a new home, both fluff babies are happy and popcorning around more than ever! :D

Scruffy.jpg

Our two travelled, happy babies recovered from their very long journey :love:

Lon-Lon.jpg

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So that is our guide on travelling with guinea pigs in Europe by train and plane from our own experience!
Thank you to anyone who took the time to read it - we tried to make it as short as possible :) - and to AirEuropa for being one of only a few airlines allowing guinea pigs to fly safely in cabin to many European countries!

Feel free to message us with any questions, or if there is a part we haven't explained clearly!
We hope it helps at least one person out one day :))

Good luck to all travelling people and piggies: be safe and have a great journey!

Best wishes from Lon-Lon, Scruffy and their two proud piggy parents :luv:
 
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