Channel ferry ports
Sea routes between England and France
If you're planning to travel as a foot passenger or take your car, motorcycle, van or motorhome to France, you have the choice of several ferry ports on either side of the English Channel, plus the option of the channel tunnel.
Which ferry route you choose will depend on a number of factors. The shorter crossings tend to be the quickest and least expensive – but when making travel plans remember to factor in those easily overlooked extra costs such as fuel, food and drink, hotels and motorway tolls. And don't get caught out by French driving rules which can be applied somewhat more rigidly than they are in the UK – take a look at the driving survival guide.
Click a ferry port on the map to check ferry times and prices, and to book a crossing if you're ready to do so.
French channel ports aren't the only options if you're travelling by ferry to France. You could also consider using the Brittany Ferries routes to Santander and Bilbao in northern Spain if your destination is south east France – they could save you miles of driving, although they are not a cheap option. If your starting point is in Scotland or north east England and your destination is in the east of France, the DFDS service between Hull and Zeebrugge in Belgium, or the P&O service between Newcastle and Ijmunden, may be worth considering.
Ferries from Ireland
There are regular crossings from Rosslare port in Country Wexford to Cherbourg and Caen, as well as a weekly return service between Dublin and Cherbourg, and an April to October service from between Cork and Rosslare. Click here for Irish ports information and ferry bookings.
Aside from driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, it's pretty similar to driving in the UK, but there are a few things it's really worth being aware of.
For European residents, a European Health Insurance Card card for each member of the party will ensure that your any required medical expenses are covered by their home country's health service. For UK residents, this is far more powerful than health cover as part of a typical travel insurance policy, and it costs nothing: all you need to do is register at the Gov.uk website.
You must carry:
- At least one high visibilty vest or jacket (ideally one per passenger) which must be accessible in the car; not stowed in the boot or elsewhere.
- A warning triangle so you can alert other drivers if your car has broken down (note that you need two of these in Spain).
- Your passport, driving licence (both card and paper part), insurance certificate, vehicle registration document and MOT certificate. If you cannot produce these, a gendarme has the right to request that you go and get them immediately, which could involve a rather long journey.
- A breathylser (ideally a spare as well) so you can measure your blood alcohol level if required. Disposable ones are easily available at supermarkets, pharmacies etc, and inexpensive.
Also watch out for...
Speed cameras – fixed, mobile, incognito, they're absolutely everywhere and there aren't necessarily signs to warn you in advance. Foreign drivers caught speeding have to pay up on the spot.
The drink-drive limit is around half what it is in the UK, so just a glass of wine or a small beer could put you over the limit.
Priority to the right – in built-up areas, unless there are 'give way' markings on side roads, you must give way to vehicles turning out on your right.
Fuel is expensive on motorways. You can save at least 10% by buying from supermarkets, of which there are plenty.
Plan your route – France is a big country, so getting lost can be time consuming and expensive. It's worth using a satnav and keeping an up-to-date road atlas to hand.
As soon as you roll off the ferry you're subject to French rules of the road. Stay within the rules and you'll be fine. Above all, enjoy the experience.