What Documentation do I Need to Travel With My Tortoise?

If you are travelling from one country to another with your tortoise there are likely to be certain procedures and rules that you must adhere to in order to do so legally.

The greatest concern for governments is the possible introduction of foreign parasites that have the potential to upset local ecosystems. As such many countries require an official document that declares the animal to be in good health at the time of travel.

The other usual stipulation is that the tortoise is the cole responsibility of the owner who they are travelling with, who is in turn responsible for ensuring they remain in captivity in the destination country, and that they must not under any circumstances sell the tortoise in country or house it in such a way that it may interact with local wildlife.

Using the UK as an example we can see that it is illegal to introduce any foreign animal into the wild without a licence to do so, and in some cases it may also be illegal to even keep a non native species.

Therefore prior to travelling to the UK, you would need to confirm that the tortoise is non native (which being in the UK we know for certain it would be), and upon confirming that this is the case you would need to ensure that the tortoise remains captive for the entire duration of  residency in the UK.

Certain animal species are also subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), so you should definitely check what your particular species requires with regard to this, which may be pertinent when travelling abroad.

For example mediterranean tortoises such as Hermann’s and Greek Spur Thigh tortoises are classed as protected or endangered species, and consequently require specific supporting documentation known as an ‘Article 10 Certificate’ which must be present when the tortoise is sold, and also likely when it is transported into a new country.

Similarly it may be a requirement in certain jurisdictions that your tortoise be microchipped in order to determine their origin irrespective of, or in conjunction with any other supporting documentation.

Without such documentation there is no way of proving that the tortoise was not stolen or sourced illegally, so a country that allowed a tortoise to cross over their border without it could effectively be complicit with illegal smuggling


Depending on your place of origin and your destination you may also be required to place your tortoise into quarantine on arrival to ensure that any parasites are detected and irradicated prior to the tortoise being introduced into the new environment. This will be determined by your destination county’s department for animal and plant health (or similar).

Quarantine will likely last a month depending on the species, so if you are only planning a short trip, it may not be viable to take your tortoise at all.

In the EU I believe no requirement exists for quarantining reptiles, therefore all that is required for travel in CITES documentation (if the tortoise is of a protected species.

Do Tortoises Need an Animal Passport?

It’s pretty widely publicised nowadays that certain ‘companion’ animals require their own passport when travelling abroad, as you might expect dogs and cats are the usual contenders for such a requirement. One of the main reasons for pet passports is to confirm that the animal has had a rabies vaccination. Rabies does not affect non-mammals such as tortoises.

Again, in the EU there doesn’t seem to be such a requirement for tortoises, and indeed reptiles in general. So long as you have any CITES documentation no passport is required.

In the USA a passport of sorts is required for certain tortoises to cross over state lines. The main species of concern are african species such as leopard and sulcata tortoises, as these species have the potential to carry some pathogens that are  known to infect livestock.

Travelling With a Tortoise Isn’t Generally Recommended

So whilst we know that travelling with a tortoise is certainly possible so long as you do your research first, it isn’t something that you want to make a habit out of. Sure a single trip to relocate is fine, but tortoises don’t really enjoy the stress of moving too much.

When you think about it, it’s pretty unnatural for a tortoise to be in a confined space that moves around and vibrates, as a container would do on a plane for example. 

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