For families and second-home owners from the UK, travelling by ferry to France remains an incredibly popular mode of transport. Not only can it be a cost-effective way to travel for families of four or more, but you can bring your transport (essential if you’re heading to rural areas of France), extra luggage and supplies, and the family pet.
Ferry travel also allows for relaxation en route. Duty-Free shops are back, and with restaurants onboard, it is an ideal way to spend part of your journey to France. You can even sleep your way across the channel in an en-suite cabin!
Available Ferry Routes to France
While routes and timetables may change throughout the year, these are the main ferry routes between France and the UK.
Brittany Ferries sail from Plymouth, Poole and Portsmouth on the South Coast to Roscoff, Saint-Malo, Cherbourg, Caen and Le Havre. Summer 2022 sees a new high-speed crossing from Portsmouth to Cherbourg – be in France in just 3 hours!
DFDS sail from Dover and Newhaven to Dieppe, Dunkirk and Calais.
Condor ferries sail from Poole to Saint-Malo.
Irish Ferries sail from Dover to Calais.
How long does it take to travel to France by ferry?
By far, the quickest crossing is Dover to Calais, taking just 90 minutes each way. Poole to Cherbourg is roughly 5 hours. Portsmouth to Caen is a very popular crossing which takes 6-7 hours. Portsmouth to Saint-Malo can take 11 to 12 hours.
Travelling to France by Ferry: The Journey
Most ferries operating on the English channel are large ships with cabins, seating areas, restaurants, shops, and a cinema.
On-board shops once more have Duty-free bargains with alcohol, perfume, Lego, toys, technology, fashion and confectionary available. Companies are advertising savings of up to 50% on certain items compared to Uk High Streets and some operators are offering a ‘Click and Collect’ service online too.
See our article on Post-Brexit Customs Restrictions & Allowances Between France and the UK.
Travelling with children
Travelling with young children can be stressful. However, a ferry can provide a good distraction as there are often dedicated play areas, baby change and microwaves on board. Some companies even put on children’s entertainment in the Summer. For teens, there are often arcade game areas and, of course, free WiFi. Plus, most restaurants offer children’s meals.
Upgrade your experience
Some ferries offer Club Lounges with exclusive access, comfy seating, selected free drinks and snacks – it is worth enquiring as it really does offer an alternative experience.
Travelling with your dog
There are options to leave your dog in the car throughout the journey or to put your dog into an onboard kennel, or to book a pet-friendly cabin. Not all ferries have all options. It is wise to consider the needs of your pet and your family as to which provider best suits the needs of your dog.
Read our article Travelling by Ferry With Your Dog Between France and the UK
Booking Your Trip to France
Most ferry bookings can be made online via the above-linked websites – companies such as Direct Ferries also offer an easy way to find the available deals.expect to provide the details of all passengers (including pets) and ages, along with your car registration and details including length/height, and any trailers, caravans, or other attachements.
It’s important to remember that quite a few rules have changed for UK citizens travelling to France post-Brexit. To make sure you’re prepared, read our guides:
Local Life in France
From shopping at the supermarket to sending a parcel at Post Office, finding your local dechetterie to who to call in an emergency—FrenchEntrée is here to help with every aspect of day-to-day living in France. Read our Essential Reading guides for advice on living in France, visit our Shopping zone or Pets zone, or brush up your language skills with our handy learning French resources.
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