Getting to Britain

Arriving by sea, rail and coach

If you travel from Europe to Great Britain you will need to cross either the English Channel or the North Sea, and there are many different ways you can do this. Ferry services operate from a number of ports on the European mainland and have good link-ups with international coaches. The Channel Tunnel means there is a reliable non-stop 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 network of car and passenger ferry services conveniently link a dozen British ports in northern and southern Europe.

Ferries can be convenient, economical and fun for those travelling by car or on foot. Fares vary greatly according to the season, time of travel and duration of stay so make sure you do you research before you book. Early booking means big savings – a Dover–Calais return crossing can cost as little as £22!

Crossing times vary from just over an hour on the shortest routes to a full 24 hours on services from places like Spain and Scandinavia. If you take an overnight sailing, it could be 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.


Travel via the 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

Coach travel is considerably cheaper than other forms of travel and great if you have a bit of spare time. It will take longer than others forms of transport but some really enjoy the experience and it is truly economical.