England to France: 5 Best Ways to Travel the Channel (with pros and cons)

Whether you’re enjoying a long visit to the Queen’s country or are planning a European adventure, the chances are, you may want to travel between England and France. Thankfully there are loads of great options for you to nip across the Channel so you can easily combine two countries in one trip. Visiting both countries gives you the opportunity to experience two fairly contrasting cultures and witness incredible sights such as Big Ben and the Tower of London as well as Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe!

Choosing your mode of transport between England and France will depend on a number of factors such as where you are travelling to, your group size, amount of luggage you have, your time constraints and your budget. Of course, if you are travelling with a car or campervan, you’ll need to factor that in too!

You also need to remember that they drive on the right-hand side of the road in France so if that’s not something you’re used to you might not want to drive while travelling. In that case, you may want to choose train, plane or coach travel so that you can head straight into the city centre without having to drive.

Read on to find out all you need to know about travelling from England to France including ease, cost, and duration.

eurostar from london to paris

London St Pancras to Paris Gare de Nord

The Eurostar is one of the quickest and easiest ways to travel from London to Paris, with a journey time of just 2h15-2h30. The train features comfortable seating in both standard and first-class, onboard dining and a buffet car, and plenty of space for luggage, so if you’re not one for travelling light, the Eurostar can be a great option.

You’ll need to arrive at the gate around 45-60 minutes before departure (unless you’re a business passenger), so you have time to pass through security and board the train. Please note, ticket gates close 30 minutes before departure, no later.

The main Eurostar route from England to France is from London St. Pancras International to Paris Gard du Nord. This route is ideal for most travellers as it allows you to tick off two of the world’s most famous cities, travelling to and from the heart of each. You can therefore easily drop your bags off straight at your hotel and be out exploring the city in less than an hour!

If you’re planning to travel elsewhere in France, or from further south in England, you might want to look into alternative routes and stops on the Eurostar. In England, some Eurostar routes stop off at Ashford and Ebbsfleet International stations, two towns in the English county of Kent.

In France, the Eurostar system has expanded over the years to include Lille, Avignon, Marseille, and Lyon, so you might be able to travel further than you think. Some of these routes involve a single change at Paris Gard du Nord, to board another Eurostar service onwards to your final destination. As both London St. Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord are such large stations, you are able to connect to a variety of other trains to explore further afield. If you want to travel to destinations such as Caen, Calais, Reims, Rouen, and Disneyland Paris, you can take the Eurostar to Paris or Lille and catch onward trains from there.

  • Duration: 2h15-2h30
  • Cost: From £44/$57/€51 single and £58/$75/€67 return
eurotunnel for cars

If you want to travel from England to France by car, the quickest option is to take the Eurotunnel (Le Shuttle) from Folkestone to Calais. This speedy route allows you to simply drive on to the Eurotunnel train, sit back and relax in your car for half an hour and then drive straight off the other end! The tickets for Le Shuttle are charged per car so this can be the most cost-effective choice if you are travelling as a family or group. It is also a decent choice if you are travelling with a pet as they can travel in the comfort of your own car and the journey across the channel is quick and hassle-free.

While the Eurotunnel crossing only takes you as far as Calais (and Paris lies around 178 miles further!), this can be a good option if you are planning on exploring Northern France or plan to stop off en route to the capital.

Prices for return journeys from Folkestone to Calais depend on the length of time you will be in France. Alternatively, you can book single journeys if you are travelling one-way or aren’t sure when you will return.

  • Duration: 35m
  • Cost: From £85/$110/€98 single and £132/$171/€153 for a 5-day return (including one car)
ferries in dover crossing english channel

Dover to Calais

Perhaps the most popular route is the short journey from Dover to Calais that takes around 1h30 (+1h time difference) and allows you to enjoy the space and comfort of the ferry before you set off on your journey from Calais to your onward destination. Regular ferries traverse the crossing, with DFDS Seaways and P&O Ferries offering a combined total of around 39 ferries a day! On a clear day, you can even see Calais from Dover, so you know you’re in for a short, sharp journey.

  • Duration: 1h30
  • Cost: From £60/$77/€69 single and £120/$155/€139 for a 5-day return (including one car)

Dover to Dunkirk

Dover to Dunkirk (or Dunkerque) is an alternative short option that takes just 1h30-2h00 to arrive in France. The ferry from Dover to Dunkirk is run by DFDS Seaways, and they operate over 10 crossings per day! This route is a great choice if you wish to explore the wartime history of the region or one of France’s northern beaches. The drive from Dunkirk to Lille takes just one hour; you can reach Bruges, Ghent, and Brussels in under two hours or drive to Paris in around three and a half hours.

  • Duration: 1h30-2h00
  • Cost: From £45/$58/€52 single and £116/$150/€134 for a return (including one car)

Newhaven to Dieppe

The ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe is run by DFDS Seaways and takes around 4h00. In general, DFDS runs two ferry services to/from Dieppe per day. While the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe isn’t the largest service, there are some forms of food and entertainment on board such as a restaurant, shop, bar and children’s play area.

  • Duration: 4h00
  • Cost: From £80/$103/€93 single and £121/$156/€140 for a return (including one car)

Portsmouth to Le Havre

Another popular route to travel from England to France is from Portsmouth to Le Havre. This crossing takes longer than the Dover to Calais or Dunkirk routes, but it gives you a shorter drive onwards to Paris or the south and west of France. The ferry journey from Portsmouth to Le Havre takes 5h30, but as it is a large, busy service, there are plenty of entertainment options onboard. From kid’s clubs and cinemas to bars and live performances, there is something to keep everyone happy and entertained. There are also ‘économie’ options with Brittany Ferries for those who would prefer more basic facilities at a lower price.

  • Duration: 5h30
  • Cost: From £79/$102/€92 single and £158/$204/€183 for a return (including one car)

Portsmouth to Caen

Similarly, the crossing from Portsmouth to Caen takes around 6h00 and is a great option for exploring Normandy and historical sites such as the D-Day landing beaches. If you wish to visit Rouen, Bayeux or Honfleur, the ferry to Caen is probably your best choice. There tend to be 2-3 ferries per day from Portsmouth to Caen, with some of the crossings taking place overnight, with cabins available for a restful journey.

  • Duration: 5h45 - 6h00
  • Cost: From £125/$162/€145 single and £250/$323/€290 for a return (including one car)

Portsmouth to Cherbourg

Portsmouth to Cherbourg is a quick ferry route that allows you to travel from England to France in just three hours. Portsmouth is one of the easiest ports to reach from London so you can easily travel from the capital to catch the ferry in just a few hours. While there are some options that take longer, the Normandie Express is the quickest service (although you do pay for the privilege!). Throughout the high season, the morning ferry runs from Portsmouth at 7.30am, which allows you to be in France by lunchtime so you can make the most of the day!

  • Duration: 3h00
  • Cost: From £240/$310/€278 single and £395/$510/€457 for a return (including one car)

Poole to Cherbourg

There is also both a slow and fast service that run from Poole to Cherbourg that range from between 4h30 to around 9h00. The longer journeys generally run overnight so you can have a long sleep on board and wake feeling refreshed for your onward travel. While Poole is further away from London, it can be a decent ferry option if you are travelling from elsewhere in the South West.

  • Duration: 8h45
  • Cost: From £180/$232/€208 single and £240/$310/€278 for a return (including one car)

Portsmouth to St. Malo

Another overnight option for travelling from England to France is the Portsmouth to St. Malo route, a journey that takes around 10h00. These ferries usually depart around 20:15 and arrive at 7:15 in the morning on the other side. The ferry features comfortable cabins so you can enjoy a restful night. Saint-Malo is a picturesque walled town that is great to explore before you travel elsewhere in the north of France.

  • Duration: 8h45
  • Cost: From £309/$399/€358 single and £474/$612/€549 for a return (including one car)

Plymouth to Roscoff

If you live or are staying in the far south west of England, you might want to catch the ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff, especially if you are planning on travelling around Brittany. Roscoff is located in the north west of France and is a charming port town. The ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff takes between 6h00-8h00, depending on whether you travel by day or night.

  • Duration: 6h00-8h00
  • Cost: From £160/$207/€185 single and £315/$407/€365 for a return (including one car)

Plane

Flying from England to France can be a quick and convenient way to travel as the flights can take just a few hours to reach your destination. A variety of airlines serve Paris’ two airports: Charles de Gaulle and Orly Aeroport. These range from budget airlines to large charter flights from the likes of British Airways and Air France. Depending on which airline you choose, you may or may not have luggage included so you will need to factor this into your budget when thinking about costs.

When arriving into Paris, you can easily take a taxi to the city centre or use the RER Train for a public transport option.

Other airports that are served by airlines from England include Marseille, Nice, Bordeaux, Perpignan, Grenoble, Biarritz, Lyon, and Nantes. This means you can easily travel all over France, reaching everywhere from beaches and cities to the Alps!

Coach

bus for london to paris

Last but by no means least is the option of taking a coach from England to France. This is, of course, a long, slow option, but you have the pleasure of watching the world go by as you travel. Coach travel from England to France is usually a pretty cheap choice, with many coaches leaving Friday night or Saturday morning from London and returning on Sunday so that you can make a weekend of your trip to France even if you’re working!

Many of the coaches depart from London (usually Victoria Coach Station) and head to northern cities such as Paris, Lille, and Calais. This gives you the chance to get a taster of France, even while travelling on a budget. Of course, you could also catch a coach one way from London to Lille, say, and then continue your onward travel by car, plane or train. Alternatively, you might be able to take the coach from other southern towns in the UK such as Canterbury and Ashford where the coach will stop off on the way to the Eurotunnel.

Most coach services these days offer onboard entertainment and WiFi throughout which will help make the time pass faster! And with prices as low as £15 one-way this can be an ideal choice.

The pros and cons of each mode of transport

If you still can’t decide what is the best way to travel from England to France, read our pros and cons below to help make up your mind!

Eurostar

Pros

  • Takes you straight to central Paris
  • Comfortable seats
  • You can take a lot of luggage
  • A bucket list experience for the first timer

Cons

  • Only goes from London and the southeast
  • Journeys to the south of France may require changes

Eurotunnel

Pros

  • Fastest route option at just 35 minutes!
  • Cost is per car rather than per passenger (a con if travelling alone)
  • The flexibility of having a car

Cons

  • Restricted to your car, and can't move around
  • Long journeys when you get to France (unless you’re visiting Calais/the north)
  • Having to adjust to driving on a different side of the road

Ferry

Pros

  • Variety of route options
  • Overnight journeys available
  • Plenty of entertainment on board the larger ships

Cons

  • Can be long journeys
  • Not the best for people who get seasick!
  • Weather dependent

Plane

Pros

  • Quick flight time
  • A budget airline can be extremely cheap
  • Options from all over the UK and to a number of airports in France

Cons

  • Don’t take you into the centre of the city
  • The time you have to spend in the airport
  • Budget airlines may have expensive baggage options

Coach

Pros

  • Cheap
  • WiFi on board
  • You don’t have to focus on driving

Cons

  • Long journeys which can be boring
  • Losing time you could instead spend at your distination
  • scenery from the window

Hopefully, you’ve now weighed up your options and can start planning your trip to France. Whether you wish to visit for a quick city break or a longer period of travelling, there is a transport option for you! We have a great article on 21 Relaxing Things to do in Paris, so check it out.
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