France is our closest neighbour. That’s why so many Britons visit the country – principally for holidays. They totalled more than 8.5 million in 2018, according to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
If you are planning on exploring France in your motorhome, however, there is the little matter of getting across the stretch of water known as the English Channel.
So, how do you get there, what are the routes, and how long does it take?
By far the quickest and probably the most convenient way to get your motorhome across the Channel is through the Euro Tunnel on the train service known as Le Shuttle.
That means first driving to Folkestone on England’s south coast – the route is well signposted from the M20, where you simply drive your motorhome onto the train. The journey lasts just 35 minutes until you disembark in Calais.
When using the tunnel, you may keep onboard any LPG tanks you use for your cooker, refrigerator or for heating provided the cylinders have a capacity of no more than 47kg and that they are less than 80% full.
The Camping and Caravanning Club currently offers its members a 10% discount when tickets for Le Shuttle are bought directly through the club.
Part of your adventure, though, might be the chance to wave a temporary goodbye to the white cliffs of Dover from the deck of a ship. In that case, you have a number of options – largely determined by where your destination in France will be:
Dover to Calais
- the shortest – 22 miles or so – and most familiar, is likely to be the Dover to Calais ferry, operated by two companies, DFDS Seaways and P&O Ferries;
- sea crossings with either company – who together offer a combined total of 39 sailings a day – take around an hour and a half between Dover and Calais;
- prices are calculated according to the exact dimensions of your motorhome – which you must provide at the time of booking – and larger vehicles are typically loaded first;
Dover to Dunkirk
- if you want to arrive a little further along the north coast of France, Dover to Dunkirk may be your choice – Dunkirk is a much less busy port than Calais, the tickets tend to be cheaper, and the journey time is still only around 2 hours;
- the route is operated by DFDS Seaways;
Newhaven to Dieppe
- DFDS Seaways also operates the ferry service between Newhaven and Dieppe;
- this might prove an even more relaxing crossing since both Newhaven and Dieppe are quieter ports than either Dover or Calais and the four-hour crossing gives you time to enjoy the cruise and enjoy a meal onboard;
Portsmouth to Normandy and Brittany
- if your destination is Normandy, Brittany or other points west in France, Brittany Ferries offers several routes, all starting from the port of Portsmouth;
- the route to Le Havre is billed as a “no frills” economy passage and takes around four and a half hours’
- sailings to the historic port of Caen in Normandy prove to be some of Brittany Ferries’ most popular crossings – though you might also want to book a cabin for the seven-hour crossing;
- Portsmouth to Cherbourg takes just three hours on Brittany Ferries’ Normandie Express;
- since the crossing takes 10 hours, sailings from Portsmouth to St Malo are overnight – a good time to enjoy a relaxing onboard meal as you watch the sea slip quietly by.
Whether you opt for the speed and convenience of the Channel Tunnel or choose a mini cruise across to France, therefore, our closest neighbour has never been easier to reach for your next motorhome tour.