How to drive to France from the UK

How to drive to France from the UK

by Emily Alvarenga
Stripes Europe

Although the United Kingdom is an island and thus separated from mainland Europe, there are still a few alternatives to flying. In fact, driving across the English Channel is probably a lot easier and maybe even cheaper than you think! Here’s a quick guide on everything you need to know if you’re thinking about driving to France.

First, let’s get a few things straight. You don’t actually drive across the channel. You’ll instead either drive your car onto a ferry or a train. Either way, you’ll drive to the port or terminal, clear passport control and board. The shortest crossings are not the quickest and cheapest, so the Dover-Calais route is typically the most popular. It also has the most frequent crossings, so there’s plenty of time slots to choose from.


Eurotunnel is the fastest way to cross the Channel. You simply drive onto the train car, park and 35 minutes later, you’re in another country! During the journey, you’ll stay in your car, but don’t worry, the train cars are air-conditioned and have toilets readily available. The tickets are per vehicle, which means you can pack as many people in your car as you’d like for the same price. The tunnel is also the most comfortable way to travel with a pet as you’ll stay with them the whole way. Make sure to check the UK PET Travel Scheme before traveling through so you can be sure your pet meets all of the requirements.


Those with time to spare can often save some money by choosing to take the ferry from Dover to Calais instead or, similarly, the Dover to Dunkirk ferry. The crossing usually takes about 75 to 90 minutes and every ferry operator offers similar amenities onboard for the journey, including restaurants, bars, duty-free shops and kids play areas. You’ll also get to enjoy the unique scenery of the French and English coastlines as you sail to and from the scenic White Cliffs of Dover, which is a sight in itself.

Booking Tips

Save money by booking early online. Fares quickly rise as tickets are bought, so booking as soon as possible, especially during the peak summer months, can save you a fortune. This also ensures you get the first pick of ideal crossing times that best suit your travel needs. That being said, the cheapest crossings are often midweek and during the least attractive times of the day. You can also avoid unnecessary fees by booking online via the operator’s websites. It’s the easiest way to compare rates from different operators and figure out which options work best for you.

Don’t Forget!

If you’re heading across the Channel, it’s important to make sure you have all the essentials for a stress-free road trip. Having these will save you a lot of hassle and a potential fine! Here’s a breakdown of what you should carry in your car, including some of the lesser-known requirements for driving in France.

· US driver’s license and your military-issued UK driving card (3 AF License)

· Proof of insurance

· Vehicle registration documents (V5C Certificate)

· Identification (Passport and military ID are both required)

· Headlight beam deflectors (deflector stickers or adjust the beam manually) Headlights are set up to point away from oncoming vehicles, and now that you’ll be driving on the right-hand side of the road, you will need to adjust the beam to prevent you from blinding oncoming traffic at night.

· Reflective jackets - one for each passenger kept within easy reach. If you stop on the road for any reason, be sure to wear it as soon as you step out of the vehicle or you could risk a hefty fine.

· Warning triangle must be placed on the road if you break down. Most cars come with one, but make sure to check before you leave.

· Breathalyzer (single-use alcohol test certified by NF standards)

· Spare bulbs (you will be fined if the police stop you with a faulty bulb and you don’t have a replacement)

· GB sticker (or Euro plates featuring the GB initials)

This road trip will give you some great opportunities for adventure along the way!

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