Explore France by Car: A Guide to Taking the Ferry from the UK

France is a dream destination for many travellers, with its diverse landscapes, rich history, and world-renowned cuisine. One of the best ways to explore the country is by car, allowing you to take in the sights at your own pace and uncover hidden gems along the way. If you're travelling from the UK, taking a ferry across the English Channel with your car offers a comfortable and convenient option. In this article, we'll discuss various ferry routes, travel times, and costs to help you plan your self-drive holiday in France.

Ferry Routes and Travel Times

There are several ferry routes to choose from when crossing the English Channel, each with different travel times and destinations. Some of the most popular routes include:

  1. Dover to Calais: Operated by P&O Ferries and DFDS, this is the shortest and most popular route, with a journey time of around 90 minutes. With up to 50 crossings daily, you'll have plenty of options for travel times.

  2. Dover to Dunkirk: Operated by DFDS, this route offers an alternative to the busy Calais port. The journey time is approximately 2 hours, with up to 12 crossings per day.

  3. Newhaven to Dieppe: This route, operated by DFDS, takes around 4 hours and offers a more direct route to Normandy and Western France. There are up to 3 daily crossings.

  4. Portsmouth to Caen: Operated by Brittany Ferries, this route takes approximately 6 hours during the day or 7 hours for overnight crossings. With up to 3 daily sailings, it's a convenient option for reaching Brittany and Western France.

  5. Portsmouth to Le Havre: Brittany Ferries also operate this route, with a travel time of around 5 hours 30 minutes for day crossings and 8 hours for overnight sailings. There are up to 2 daily crossings.

Costs and Factors to Consider

The cost of taking your car on the ferry to France varies depending on several factors, including the route, time of year, and how far in advance you book. Prices can range from £50 to £200 one-way for a car and passengers. To get the best deal, consider the following tips:

  1. Book in advance: Ferry prices tend to increase as the departure date approaches. Booking early can help you secure the best rates and ensure availability during peak travel periods.

  2. Be flexible with travel dates and times: Prices can vary significantly depending on the day of the week and time of day. Travelling during off-peak hours or outside of the busy summer months can result in significant savings.

  3. Compare different routes: While the Dover to Calais route is the shortest and most popular, alternative routes may offer better value, especially if they provide a more direct route to your final destination.

  4. Look for special offers and discounts: Ferry operators often run promotions and offer discounts for early bookings, group travel, or combined ferry and accommodation packages.

Preparing for Your Ferry Journey

  1. Arrive early: Check-in times vary depending on the ferry operator and route, but it's generally recommended to arrive at least 45 minutes before departure. Arriving early will give you plenty of time to complete check-in procedures and board the ferry without stress.

  2. Ensure your car is ready: Before your trip, check that your vehicle is in good working order and meets any requirements for driving in France, such as carrying a warning triangle, reflective vest, and breathalyser kit.

  3. Plan your onward journey: Research the best routes from your arrival port to your destination, taking into account toll roads, rest stops, and points of interest along the way. Having a GPS or a reliable navigation app will help make your journey smoother.

  1. Pack essentials for the ferry crossing: Bring snacks, drinks, and entertainment for the duration of the crossing. Although most ferries offer onboard amenities such as restaurants and shops, it's always a good idea to have essentials on hand.

  2. Don't forget travel insurance: Ensure you have adequate travel insurance that covers driving in France and any potential issues that may arise during your trip.

Taking the ferry from the UK to France with your car offers a convenient and enjoyable way to explore the country at your own pace. With various routes, travel times, and costs to consider, plan your self-drive holiday well in advance to secure the best deals and make the most of your time in France.