How to Drive to France

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How to Drive to France. To drive to France from the U.K., you can go by ferry or you can take the Eurotunnel Shuttle. The ferry crossing is from 5 U.K. ports-Dover to Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne; Newhaven to Dieppe; Portsmouth to Caen, Le Havre, Cherbourg and St Malo; Poole to Cherbourg and St Malo; and Plymouth to Roscoff. The Eurotunnel Shuttle is a train service between Folkestone and Calais/Coquelles.

Things You'll Need

  • Passport
  • U.K./U.S. driver's license or international driver's license
  • Car insurance
  • Road maps
  • Ferry booking
  • Eurotunnel booking

Take the Ferry to France

Decide which port you want to cross over from--Dover, Newhaven, Portsmouth, Poole or Plymouth. Refer to Google Maps UK or Mappy to find out which route you can take to drive to each port from your destination.

Search online for ferry operators and visit their individual websites. Check and compare the fares and facilities offered by different ferry companies. Find out the sailing times and the number of sailings undertaken per day/week by each.

Make your booking online by filling in details of your route. You should include your point of embarkation, your destination, single or return fare, travel date and time, the number of travelers, your vehicle type and if you are towing a caravan or a trailer.

Ensure that your documents are in order. You need your passport, your U.K./U.S. or international driving license, vehicle documentation and motor insurance cover, including a European Accident Statement ("constat"). In case of accident, fill it out and have the other driver sign it.

Drive to your embarkation port and follow the boarding instructions of the ferry company staff.

Enjoy a scenic trip that, depending on where you boarded, can last from around 70 minutes to 8 hours.

Take the Eurotunnel to France

For a shorter journey, go by the Eurotunnel and experience the modern engineering miracle of the Channel Tunnel. The crossing to France takes about 35 minutes.

Book your passage on the Eurotunnel Shuttle online or by phone. Booking online is convenient and cheap. If you want to phone, call between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and bank holidays. Tel: 011 (+44) 0870 840 0046. Fare prices vary according to departure days, departure times, day trips and five-day returns. Be sure to book a day in advance.

Pack your passport, driving license, vehicle registration papers, insurance and motor breakdown cover.

Reach the Eurotunnel by driving towards Folkestone and taking the motoring exit at junction 11A of the M20. Arrive at least 30 minutes before departure.

Hand the entrance ticket booth operator your ticket or booking reference number to confirm your booking. You will receive a tag with a letter denoting your boarding turn. Hang this on your windscreen mirror. They'll check your documents and, if your car runs on LPG, they'll check if it is safe. Then you move to French Immigration to undergo another check.

Follow the road to the waiting area to board. The Eurotunnel staff will direct you to your carriage and help you park inside. The train, well-lit and air-conditioned, has two decks for cars and one for larger vehicles. You stay with your vehicle during the crossing.

Drive off the train in France and go up a ramp. Follow signs to the shopping mall Cite Europe, to Calais center or to the motorway to Paris. The return from France is the same. Just outside Calais, you take junction 42 of the A16 motorway and the slip road leads straight to check-in.

Keep French traffic regulations well in mind. Drive on the right and overtake on the left. Don't speed and wear seat belts at all times. Carry a red warning triangle, ensure your car has hazard warning lights and park only in specified parking zones.

Consult an internet map service like Mappy for detailed maps, directions, toll charges and fuel prices. With enough information and luck, you will save yourself some costly wrong turns on France's Autoroutes, all of which are toll roads with pricey tolls.

Tips & Warnings

  • Book a cabin on the ferry if you'd like some privacy and rest during the crossing.
  • Many ferries have live entertainment, cinema, a playroom for children, a pool area, restaurants, tourist information kiosks and currency change bureaus.
  • Substitute "011" with "00" when placing an international call outside the U.S. and Canada.
  • You can get cheaper fares if you book earlier or go after the peak hours.
  • Obviously, going by ferry is not an ideal solution if you want to get to France fast.
  • There is no food or water available on the train.
  • The train toilets may not always be clean.
  • If you violate French traffic laws, be ready for on-the-spot fines. In a worst case scenario, you can have your driver's license and vehicle impounded. You may even face jail time.

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