Traveling India with your pet: what to know before you go?

Alzu and I, somewhere in the rice fields in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan

You’ve been waiting a long time for it, and it’s finally happening… You’re thinking about planning a pet-friendly road trip! With a little planning, your vacation will go off without a hitch. You could almost hear the wind in your hair (or fur).

You don’t have to leave your babies behind anymore, not need to spend your entire holiday being anxious and looking forward to going back home and being reunited!

There are more and more pet-friendly transportation methods to choose from. You won’t have to look at your dog’s sad eyes as you say goodbye any longer. But there’s still work to be done before you go. I’ll guide you through the stages of planning a pet-friendly road trip that you will never forget!

#1 Choosing a purr-friendly holiday destination

To begin with, I’ll be upfront that taking your dog along on every sort of trip isn’t ideal. You must pick a dog-friendly vacation destination.

Begin by imagining your ideal vacation. Do you have a thing for mountains? Do you want to lie on the beach? A road trip with your dog may be awesome, don’t you think? Consider where you would like to be when you plan your vacation.

Next, choose how many days you’ll be gone and how many of them would want to spend driving. When deciding on your road-tripping style, think about your pet’s requirements as well. Small dogs may not enjoy long car rides, while larger breeds may get antsy cooped up in a small space. Also, take into account the climate of your destination. If it’s going to be hot, make sure you have a plan to keep your pup cool (more on that later).

Once you’ve decided on a destination and how long you’ll be there, your trip strategy will begin to take shape.

#2 Planning Your Stops

The most common mistake people make when planning a road trip is trying to do too much (guilty as charged 😁). While traveling solo before I met Alzu, I used to find the most offbeat 100 things to do, pack it all into a 5-day itinerary, make the bookings, and then freak out when things go sideways.

However, flexibility is the key when you’re traveling with pets. Apart from accommodation, think twice before making reservations. From restaurant to safari tickets — you can often reach the destination, find availability & book them offline.

#3 Finding Dog-Friendly Accommodation

While you’re on your road trip, you might want to book your accommodations in advance. Booking pet-friendly hotels and vacation rentals can be a challenge, and not having accommodations planned in advance can cause anxiety.

My pet golden retriever Alzu settling down in a pet-friendly desert camp resort in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Pet-Friendly Hotels

Fortunately, pet-friendly hotels are becoming more widespread in a variety of locations. If you want to stay in a hotel, Booking.com and Tripadvisor have both cheap and premium pet-friendly hotels. I’ll also put up some pointers for your first time staying in a hotel with your dog.

Pet-Friendly Airbnbs

Consider renting a vacation home or using Airbnb. If this is your first time travelling with a pet, you and your dog will likely find it less stressful to stay in self-contained accommodation that is more home-like, with the opportunity to cook yourself. This way, you won’t have to leave your dog at home when you go out to eat.

Camping

Camping is another fantastic pet-friendly vacation option, whether you’re driving in a campervan or packing a tent.

A word of warning! While more and more establishments are embracing pets, not all of them are equally so. These questions can help decide the best places to stay with your pet:

Do you allow pets?

Hotel and vacation rental pet regulations change often, so be sure the place you’re considering still allows pets. It is always preferable to call before making a payment.

Do you charge extra for pets?

Some hotels allow pets to stay for free, while others charge a fee. Before confirming your reservation, make sure you understand the fee completely.

Are there any limits based on weight or breed?

Weight/size limits are frequent in hotels. If you have a medium or large breed pet, ask if they will make an exception. When approached, most hotels will offer to accommodate you.

How many pets are permitted in each room?

This is a crucial concern when travelling with many dogs. Most hotels allow one pet per room, however Airbnbs allow up to two.

Can pets be left alone?

Knowing if you can leave your pet alone in the room while you go out to lunch or visit a non-pet-friendly venue (say, a monument!) allows you to plan wisely.

When pets are left unsupervised in hotels, the main concern is due to two factors: damage to the room and barking that bothers other guests. In my future posts, I look forward to giving tips on staying with the dog for the first time in a hotel, which will minimize any concerns about barking.

What pet services does the hotel provide?

A accessible, grassy pet relief area is always the most important feature. However, some pet-friendly hotels offer welcome treats, pet beds and bowls in the room, spa treatments, and pet sitting services. It’s always great to have a restaurant with a pet-friendly courtyard at your hotel. However, these establishments (largely chain hotels/resorts) are exorbitantly priced! It is totally up to you how much you pamper your pet.

#4 Organizing Pet-Friendly Transportation

The next most critical step is to plan your transportation. How are you going to get your dog to your destination?

Driving a Vehicle

If you’re simply driving away, this is the simplest approach. Driving your own car should always be your first priority, whether you’re going someplace specific or on a road trip. Your pet is already accustomed to this means of transportation and your specific vehicle.

If you do not own a car, you may want to consider renting one. Keep in mind that not all rental cars are pet-friendly, depending on where you are. In India, Zoomcar has now started allowing pets in their rental cars.

Getting Your Vehicle Ready

I put a hammock dog seat protector, Alzu’s bed, a cushion and her bed covers in the backseat of my car.

After you’ve planned your itinerary and reserved your lodgings, the next step is to make sure your vehicle is “pet ready.” Coming home safely is the most crucial aspect of any vacation, so be sure you have a method of protecting your pet while you’re on the road.

A crate, carrier, or car harness can keep your pet from unexpectedly checking out the scenery from your lap while you’re driving and will protect you both in the event of an accident.

If your pet isn’t used to sitting up in the car, the sooner you start training him, the better! Allow him to explore her carrier or crate, or wear a harness, in the home at first. If your pet isn’t used to buckling up in the car, the sooner you get him used to the idea, the better! Take her on short drives to fun places as she becomes more comfortable. Take things slowly at first, and she’ll be ready for a road trip before you know it.

Flying with your dog

Flying may be the best or only choice for distant places. This is simplest if you have a tiny dog who is permitted to travel in the cabin. Traveling with a dog in the cabin is simple but costly. Pets are permitted on Air India, Jet Airways, SpiceJet, and Vistara, but not on IndiGo and Air Asia.

Unfortunately, larger dogs must fly in the hold (which is completely pressurized and temperature-controlled). It is advised to avoid flying your dog in the hold unless you are going to be gone for at least two weeks. To be able to fly, your dog must be at least 8 weeks old. Furthermore, pregnant animals will not be accepted for safety reasons.

Your pet will require a strong and ventilated carrier (also known as a travel cage) that is large enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lie down in. Booking a trip with no layovers is preferable, since being moved in the middle can be extremely stressful for your pet.

Remember that while cargo may be less expensive, it may be uncomfortable for your loved pet, therefore in-cabin travel is always safer. If you suspect they are in discomfort after your flight, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Traveling with your pet by train

Taking the train is a more relaxing alternative than flying with your dog, especially for longer distances. It’s actually very simple, and because there’s more room, it’s rather safe for pets of all shapes and sizes.

Larger dogs (such as Labradors, Retrievers, and German shepherds) are permitted if you fly in AC First Class or First Class alone. If there are other passengers in your compartment who object to their furry companion, you will need to move your pet (and their carrier) to the luggage car (which can be very hot for the dog)- so either seek the approval of your fellow travelers, or (if possible) reserve the entire compartment!

Your pet must wear a collar and leash, and if you are unsure about your fellow passengers, a travel kennel is also recommended. You must bring your own food and water for your dog (and you may want to bring some newspapers/tissues, toys, and treats as well!)

Traveling with your pooch in a bus

Travelling to Jaisalmer with my 6-month-old golden retriever Alzu in private bus

Long-distance buses, on the other hand, are rarely an option if you are travelling with a dog. Although there are some exceptions, most state-run buses do not allow dogs on board.

If you plan to use the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), you’re in luck since they’ve recently made their services pet-friendly. A dog or cat pays the same fee as an adult passenger, and you must pay the whole fare in advance. You must keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier at all times. The full set of rules may be found here.

If you want to go to other locations or states, there are a few private luxury bus companies that will accommodate pets if you ask (especially puppies and small breed dogs). I traveled by bus with my golden dog Alzu until she was 10 months old. However, keep in mind that buses have far less space than aircraft, trains, and, especially, cars.

#5 Getting Prepared for Your Dog’s Trip

How to Train Your Dog

Alzu and I waiting for the sunset in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh

If your trip plans are still in the pipeline, or if you’ve recently adopted a puppy, make training your dog a top priority. Whether your dog will merely be introduced to new places or you want to fly them in the cabin or take them on trains, it will be far less unpleasant if you have a calm, obedient dog rather than one who is restless or barks non-stop.

By teaching your dog effective Come, Quiet, and Settle commands, you may prevent awkward and perhaps dangerous situations. The key is practicing!

Before embarking on your road trip, practice driving in an area with a lot of distractions, such as a busy sidewalk, a beach, or a dog park.

What to Bring for Your Dog

You will also need to bring supplies exclusively for your dog. Your specific packing list may vary based on the nature of your vacation and what is offered by your hotel, but at the very least include a bed, bowls, food, collar, leash, and vaccination documents. I will share the packing list for my Alzu in my next blog.

Consider if you will be able to buy extra food while going or whether you will be able to bring enough food for the entire trip.

Consultation with Your Vet

Call your veterinarian to check that your pet’s vaccines are up to date and to discuss any potential health risks that may exist where you’ll be visiting.

Inquire about medicines for road sickness, vomiting and diarrhea, and restlessness, just in case!

Because traveling with dogs is still uncommon in India, you should always have the required documentation to prove you’re “related,” especially when going interstate. It is recommended to have a copy of your pet’s vaccination records with you.

Finally, consider microchipping your pet. If not, ensure that you do have ID tags- Your pet should wear a collar with an identification tag that includes your address and phone number. Although it would be a nightmare, dogs do become away from their owners when traveling.

#6 Dining with a Dog

Alzu and I dining in an open-air pet-friendly cafe alongside the Beas river in Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Dining out with your dog might be tricky depending on where you are traveling. Most restaurants in India, from my experience, do not allow dogs inside, and you may be confined to outside dining areas or outright barred from eateries. In these instances, you can choose an outside restaurant with a view of your car, or keep the dog in the car parked in a shaded place (with air-conditioning on or windows rolled down).

And if you are traveling to rural and off-the-beaten-path locations (Ladakh, North-East, etc.) or dining in roadside dhabas, you will almost never have an issue. The owners are quite helpful and are genuinely interested in the fact that you are traveling with your dog.

#7 Keeping Safe

Meanwhile, remember to keep your dog safe while your vacation. Always be cautious about the food and water your dog eats, and take precautionary measures according to your area. Tick and flea prevention is also vital for dogs. Keep treatments handy if you are traveling for more than a week.

I hope this article was of some help to pet parents who want to travel with their furry friends. Traveling India with your pet can be a great experience for both you and your furry friend.

In my next blog, I will share more tips and experiences of road-tripping India with a dog. Stay tuned!

You can reach-out to me on travel.shivanibohare@gmail.com or on my Instagram handle, Facebook page, or Twitter.

Happy travels! Woof Woof!

Shivani & Alzu ❤️

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Shivani Bohare | Travel Blogger

Shivani Bohare | Travel Blogger

Solo traveller who switched from full-time “9–5” to “road trip with her pet golden retriever Alexis🐕”! I can teach you how to make your travel dreams true.