From the United Kingdom, there are several routes to France. The fastest crossings go from Dover in southeast England to Calais in Nord, Pas de Calais, Picardy (Hauts de France) region, taking 90 minutes.
Booking a Ferry
There is strong competition on cross-Channel ferries, so shop around for the best deal. The earlier you book, particularly for the high season (July-September), the better the deal.
The most comprehensive booking service is operated by AFerry.co.uk. It's a huge site, offering the widest choice of ferry routes and companies available online, from Dover to Calais, around the Mediterranean, from Marseille to North Africa, around Greece, Sweden and from Helsinki to Russia.
You can also use booking companies that compare rates like www.ferrycheap.com. Also, look at the Budget Travel section of this website. Do your research; you may well find that the companies themselves are offering better deals.
When you book you will need details of passengers and details of the car (make, model, number plate, size, trailer, caravan, etc.).
Dover to Calais:
This is the most popular route with hundreds of sailings every 24 hours and operating 365 days a year. Ferries are operated by the following companies.
P&O Ferries. P&O has added two ships to their existing fleet. The new Spirit of Britain and Spirit of France are the biggest and most luxurious ferries ever to cross the Dover Strait. They are the best to sail on, with new facilities and greater comfort.
DFDS runs many return sailings per day and has good onboard facilities as well as an excellent lounge area (£12 supplement) where you can order breakfast and get free Champagne, coffee, tea, and light nibbles.
- Direct access to the A26 going to Arras, then connecting with the A1 to Paris (Calais to Paris is 180 miles/289 kilometers)
- Direct access to the A16 going north to Ostende and Bruges, then connecting with the A10 to Brussels
- Direct access to the A16 going south to Boulogne, Le Touquet, and the Normandy/Brittany coast.
- For information on shopping in Calais, see the Shops and Shopping in Calais Guide
Dover to Dunkirk (Dunquerque):
DFDS operates between Dover and Dunkirk (Dunkerque), taking 60 minutes. Seasonal timetable operates.
From Dunkirk (Dunquerque):
- Direct access to the A16 going south and north and good access to the A25 going to Lille (48 miles/65 kilometers)
More about Dunkirk
Newhaven to Dieppe:
DFDS operates 2 return sailings daily.
Portsmouth to Caen:
Brittany Ferries operate the most luxurious ferries on every service they offer. You can either take the fast 3¾ hours crossing or treat it as a mini cruise with all the facilities of a big boat, taking 6 hours during the day and 7 hours overnight. Seasonal timetables operate.
The ferry terminal at Ouistreham is 15 kilometers north of Caen.
- From Caen, there is direct access on the A13 to Rouen (67 miles/108 kilometers)
- There is also direct access to the A84 to Le Mont St Michel and Brittany, and south on the N158 to Le Mans
More information about Caen and surrounding attractions
Portsmouth to Le Havre:
Brittany Ferries operates a high-speed crossing on the Normandie Express taking 3hrs 45 minutes daily from May to September.
Brittany Ferries also operates an economy service with 5 return crossings a week.
From Le Havre:
- Direct access to the A29 going east to Rouen (44 miles/70 kilometers)
- Direct access south (A 29 then A13) to Caen (29 miles/46 kilometers)
- Le Havre to Paris takes around 2 hours.
Portsmouth to St Malo:
Brittany Ferries operates luxury ferries to St. Malo, taking 8¾ hours overnight. On the return, it operates a daytime service.
From St. Malo:
- Direct access to the D137 to Rennes (44 miles/70 kilometers)
- Direct access to the northern autoroute into Brittany
Portsmouth to Cherbourg:
Brittany Ferries operates luxury ferries to Cherbourg, taking 3 hours on the high-speed ferry, 4½ hours during the day and 8 hours overnight. On the return, it operates a daytime and overnight service
If you want to see the west coast of France, take Brittany Ferries to Santander, then drive up through Biarritz, Bordeaux and the glorious Aquitaine coast through the western Loire Valley and to St. Malo to take the ferry back to the UK.
- Check out my Tour of the West Coast of France
- Direct access to the E3 and E46 south to Caen (67 miles/108 kilometers)
Poole to Cherbourg:
Brittany Ferries operates two services from Poole to Cherbourg, operating from March to October. The high-speed service takes 2½ hours; the longer service takes 4½ hours. operates its luxury boats to Roscoff in Brittany, taking 6 hours during the day and 8 hours overnight. Operates up to 2 per day from March to October.
Plymouth to Roscoff:
Brittany Ferries operates its luxury boats to Roscoff in Brittany, taking 6 hours during the day and 8 hours overnight. There are up to two sailings per day from March to October.
- Roscoff is at the western end of the Brittany peninsula. Direct access to the N12 to Brest (41 miles/66 kilometers)
Eurotunnel provides high-speed car, coach and freight services via the Channel Tunnel between Folkestone and Coquelles (Calais) and Folkestone. Channel crossing time is about 35 minutes. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Tickets and details.