Traveling between England, Paris and Northern France is so easy it's surprising that more long-distance visitors don't combine the UK and France for a 2-center vacation.
US travelers who would think nothing of clocking up a thousand miles on a tour of New England, or an East Coast drive from New York to Florida, balk at the 280 miles between Paris and London, or the less than 50 miles between the Normandy coast and Charles Dickens country in Kent.
Maybe that's because considering the different transportation choices seems too confusing. Which routes are the shortest, the cheapest, the ones that best suit your own travel preferences? This roundup of travel options between the UK and Paris as well as some other popular departure points in Northern France will help you consider the pros and cons and make an informed decision.
Travel From Paris and Northern France by Train
Eurostar is a great choice for quick channel hops between Paris and London. The high-speed train covers the 306 miles between Paris Gare du Nord and London St Pancras in two hours and fifteen minutes. That's less time than some people spend commuting to work.
But, you don't have to travel from Paris to London to take advantage of these trains. Eurostar also has fast direct trains from Lille, in northeast France to stops in Ashford and Ebbsfleet in Kent - jumping off points for excellent touring in Southeast England - before arriving in London.
And if you don't mind changing trains, Eurostar can arrange connecting travel through Ashford, Kent between the entire British rail network and such French destinations as Caen, Calais, Reims, Rouen, and Disneyland Paris.
- The pros:
- City center to city center for quick connection to local public transportation without the time and expense of airport transfers.
- Generous free baggage allowance.
- No booking fees.
- Plenty of space and the ability to walk around.
- When factoring in extras (baggage, credit card and online booking fees) charged by some airlines, as well as the cost of ground transportation to city centers, fares are comparable or better than flying.
- The cons:
- Longer journeys - the South of France, for example, can involve rushed transfers between stations or more than two transfers.
- Train stations can be exciting but they can also be hectic and confusing depending on your point of view, how much time you have between trains and the languages you speak.
- Waiting areas at Paris Gare du Nord have limited seating and poor food options.
Fly to UK Destinations From Paris and Northern France
A large number of airlines fly from Paris's two airports - Charles de Gaulle/Roissy Aeroport and Orly Aeroport - to destinations all over the UK. Airlines and airline routes change from time to time. Here are some of the airline companies offering direct routes as of 2019. Many other airlines offer routes that involve multiple stops.
- London Heathrow - British Airways to Paris Charles de Gaulle, Air France to Paris Charles de Gaulle
- London Gatwick - EasyJet to Paris Charles de Gaulle
- London City - CityFlyer to Paris Orly
- London Luton - EasyJet to Paris Charles de Gaulle
Other UK international airports:
- Aberdeen - Air France to Charles de Gaulle
- Birmingham - Air France and Flybe to Charles de Gaulle
- Bristol - EasyJet to Charles de Gaulle
- Cardiff - Flybe to Charles de Gaulle
- Edinburgh - Air France and EasyJet to Charles de Gaulle
- Glasgow - EasyJet to Charles de Gaulle
- Liverpool - EasyJet to Charles de Gaulle
- Manchester - Air France, Flybe and EasyJet to Charles de Gaulle
- Newcastle - Air France to Charles de Gaulle
- Faster access from France to the more distant UK destinations in Wales, Northern England and Scotland.
- Some price benefits over train and car on the longer journeys or with the budget airlines.
- Smaller airports may only be served by no-frills, budget airlines.
- Price benefits can be swallowed up by local transportation costs or extra charges for baggage.
Driving to the UK
Paris is approximately 178 miles from the entrance to Eurotunnel at Coquelles, near Calais, and a Channel crossing on what is known as Le Shuttle. It's a good choice if you are traveling with a lot of luggage, a large family or a microchipped pet that has qualified for a pet passport. You simply drive your own car onto Le Shuttle. Tickets are issued per vehicle (with cars and larger people carriers at the same price) and each vehicle can carry 9 passengers for no extra fee.
The crossing itself takes 35 minutes to Folkstone in Kent, 66 miles from central London.
- The pros:
- Fast, relatively cheap for large groups.
- Convenient if you are touring in northern France, especially Pas de Calais, and plan to tour in Kent and southeast England by car.
- The cons:
- You must drive on and off Le Shuttle. There are no foot passengers.
- Need to factor in fuel costs and French motorway tolls.
- Not all car rental companies permit cross-border or one way rentals. Those that do add a surcharge for the service.
Drivers and cyclists also have a choice of ferry crossings from Northern France.
The growth in popularity of Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel has meant fewer ferry companies now make the channel crossing. If you like the idea of a pause before and after your vacation, you are towing a trailer or have a full vehicle, ferries could be your choice. The shortest crossing, from, Dunkerque to Dover, takes about 2 hours. Dover to Calais crossings take about 2.5 hours and ferry crossings of between three and five hours will take you from Le Havre and Dieppe in Normandy to Newhaven or Portsmouth on the South Coast of England. Brittany Ferries offers overnight cruises from some ports.
- The pros:
- Take a car full of passengers - you may pay more per passenger but not very much as the main cost is your vehicle.
- Very inexpensive for foot passengers and train stations nearby or even at the ferry ports.
- Food, shopping, games and entertainment and sometimes slot machines at sea.
- Choice of departure and arrival ports to suit your other vacation plans.
- If you cross to Dover you get to see the unforgettable white cliffs from the sea.
- If you do an overnight cruise and book a sleeper cabin for the longer crossings, you can substitute your transportation for a night at a hotel, sleep your way across the Channel and arrive early for a full day of sightseeing or touring.
- The cons:
- The Channel can get rough, so not for you if you get seasick.
- Risk of cancellations in bad weather.
- Risk of industrial action. The French crews and port workers are notorious for wildcat strikes.
The long way is also the cheapest. Coach operators, using either ferries or Le Shuttle, run regular services between Paris, Lille, Calais and other towns in Northern France, and London, Canterbury and several other towns in the Southeast. Decent onboard toilets, air conditioning, and wi-fi are usually included. A nonstop journey between London and Paris takes around nine hours via Eurolines, a branch of National Express Coaches. Fares in 2019 were around £42.
- The pros:
- City center to city center.
- The cons:
- Two days of your break are spent traveling.
- Ferry - If you are cycle touring, a ferry is probably the easiest way to cross the channel as your cycle will usually travel free, as a foot passenger. You'll need to book it in though and it will be issued with a boarding card.
- The Channel Tunnel - Up to six bicycles can be taken on each Le Shuttle journey - cyclists travel in a minivan on the boxcar like trains through the tunnel while their bikes travel separately.
- Eurostar - Passengers with bicycles that can be folded or dismantled and packed in a bicycle carrier can take them on board Eurostar trains as their carry on luggage. Places must be reserved for bicycles that can't be dismantled or folded and there is a charge for carrying them.