France, as our nearest European neighbour, has long been popular with British holidaymakers and thousands of us cross the Channel every year for business or on holiday. There are lots of different options for getting across that narrow stretch of water though, and the best option for you will depend on when you’re travelling, and what your end destination is. There are also a few tips and tricks for securing the best prices for your journey.
The most established way of crossing the Channel, you can catch a ferry from several south coast ports. Ferries are a good option if you want to take your own car to France with you, or if you are headed for Normandy or Brittany and don’t want a long drive from Calais once you reach France. Competition in the ferry market is high, so always sign up for newsletters and email marketing from the ferry companies and you’ll be the first to know about special offers and deals. If you can, save money by avoiding travelling out or back at the weekend, as this is when demand is higher and prices rise accordingly. Remember too that the cheapest deals may not be flexible, and will not allow you to change your sailing times at short notice.
EuroTunnel is quick and efficient – you drive your car onto a special train in Folkestone, and 35 minutes later you’re driving off at the other end in France. It’s much quicker than going by ferry, and at peak times there’s a train leaving every 15 minutes. Booking in advance is essential as the service gets very busy in peak periods. The disadvantage of EuroTunnel is that there is a huge range of different fares and it can be difficult to find the best one for you. Consider a ticket which allows you to travel on any train on a specific day as this will cut down waiting time, and if you travel to France more than 4 times a year, a frequent traveller ticket will be cheaper overall.
The Eurostar train uses the same tunnel as the car train, but is passenger only. You can board services at three stations in the UK, and trains run directly to Paris, Brussels or Lille. If you’re prepared to change stations in Paris, the whole European rail network is at your disposal. Services also run to the Alpine ski resorts direct from the UK, and during the summer season to resorts in the south of France. Eurostar is a good choice for those travelling without much luggage, and those who don’t want a car when they arrive at their destination.
Budget and more established airlines fly to many different destinations in France, and for travellers who live a long way from the Channel ports, flying is the quickest option. Always compare flights carefully when booking, looking at different airlines and various departure dates and airports to make sure you’re getting the best deal.