Getting to Britain

Arriving by sea, rail and coach

Irrespective of how you are travelling from Europe, you will have to cross the English Channel or the North Sea. Ferry services operate from a number of ports on the European mainland and have good link-ups with international coaches, with services from most European cities to Britain. The Channel Tunnel means there is a nonstop rail link between Europe and Britain. Prices among the ferries and the tunnel services remain competitive, and both options are good green alternatives to flying.


Ferry Services from Europe

A complex network of car and passenger ferry services links over a dozen British ports to ports in northern and southern Europe.

Ferries can be convenient and economical for those travelling by car or on foot. Fares vary greatly according to the season, time of travel and duration of stay. Early booking means big savings – a Dover–Calais return crossing can cost as little as £22. The shortest crossings are not always the cheapest, since you often pay a premium for the speed of the journey.


Crossing Times

Crossing times vary from just over an hour on the shortest routes to a full 24 hours on services from Spain and Scandinavia. If you take an overnight sailing, it is often worth paying extra for sleeping quarters to avoid feeling exhausted when you arrive. DFDS runs fast Seacat (catamaran) services between Dover and Boulogne, in France, taking just under an hour. Catamarans can carry vehicles and lack the dip and sway of a conventional ship, so may be preferable for those who tend to get seasick.


Channel Tunnel

Thanks to the Channel Tunnel, there is access to Britain via Eurostar and Eurotunnel from the French and Belgian high-speed rail networks. In France and Belgium, trains reach speeds of up to 186 mph (300 km/h). The cost is comparable to flying but the train is much more convenient and much less environmentally damaging. Typically, a ticket from London to Paris costs about £110 but can be as low as £46.

Passengers on buses and in cars board a freight train run by Eurotunnel that takes 35 minutes to travel between Calais and Folkestone. For those travelling by rail there are about 40 scheduled passenger-only Eurostar services, operated by the French, Belgians and British. They run direct services from Brussels, Paris, Lille and Calais to Ashford, Ebbsfleet and St Pancras in London. There are two passenger tunnels and one service tunnel, both lying 25–45 m (82–147 ft) below the seabed.


International Coach Travel

Although coach (bus) travel is considerably cheaper than other forms of travel, it is not the most comfortable. If you have a lot of spare time and want to stop off en route, however, it can be convenient. Once you have paid for your ticket, you will not have to pay extra for the ferry or the Channel Tunnel.


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