Guide to travelling as foot passenger from the UK to Europe
Updated: Mar 28
Here's my guide to those ferry services from the UK to mainland Europe that take foot passengers, how to reach the main ports by public transport, including how to transfer to the ferry check-in on departure (UK ports), and how to connect with local services on arrival for onward travel by public transport.
The good news is that you can travel as a foot passenger on many of the ferry services out of the UK and enjoy all the benefits of modern ferry travel – bars and restaurants, plenty of entertainment and facilities for families, comfortable overnight cabins and no bag restrictions. The ports on both sides of the crossing are well connected by public transport, so it’s easy to travel by bus or train to the ports in the UK, as well as disembark on the other side and continue the journey overland. Europe never felt so close!
Check-in for foot passengers is usually at least 90 minutes before departure (though do check this at the time of booking with the operator), and it's best you travel only with luggage you can easily carry yourself. Some ports do not have lifts to access the ship and require you to walk up a ramp, an escalator or some stairs. The following services allow foot passengers:
Brittany Ferries: Poole to Cherbourg; Portsmouth to Cherbourg; Portsmouth to St Malo; Portsmouth to Bilbao; Portsmouth to Santander; Plymouth to Santander; Plymouth to Roscoff; Portsmouth to Le Harve; Portsmouth to Caen. Brittany Ferries >>
Stena Line: Harwich to Hook of Holland. Stena Line >>
P&O Ferries: Dover to Calais; Hull to Rotterdam. Check-in time is 60 minutes before departure for foot passengers on P&O ferry services. Important Update: 18 March 2022: due to the current situation at P&O Ferries, you may wish to reconsider using P&O Ferries.
DFDS: Newhaven to Dieppe; Newcastle to Amsterdam. DFDS Seaways >>
How to travel by public transport to the UK's ferry ports
Here’s are the details of how to reach each of the UK's main ferry ports by public transport, including how to transfer to the ferry check-in for departure to mainland Europe.
Travel to Newcastle Ferry Port by public transport
Newcastle by train: Train to Newcastle Central Station from where there’s a shuttle bus (it departs from Bewick Street opposite the railway station) that takes 20–30 minutes to the port terminal that is timed to coincide with ferry departures.
Newcastle by bus/coach: Coach to Newcastle coach station from where it’s a 5-minute walk to where the shuttle bus departs on Bewick Street opposite the railway station (as above).
Travel to Hull Port Ferry Port by public transport
By train or coach: Take either the train or coach to the Hull Paragon Interchange (home to the coach and railway station) from where there’s shuttle bus, which takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the ferry terminal building. Alternatively, there’s a taxi rank outside Hull Paragon Interchange for the 4-mile journey to the ferry terminal.
Travel to Harwich Ferry Port by public transport
Harwich by train: Harwich International railway station is immediately adjacent to the port, so it is a quick transfer from the train platform to the ferry check-in, and on the other side, it’s the same quick transfer off the ferry to the Hook of Holland railway station, which has train services to Rotterdam, Amsterdam and beyond. NB Stena Line sells a Rail and Sail ticket to Holland, known as the Dutchflyer, which is a combined train and ferry ticket from London Liverpool Street (or any National Express East Anglia station, such as Cambridge, Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich) to Harwich International port, from where you can catch either the morning or overnight Stena Line ferry service to the Hook of Holland, and take any onward train to any station in Holland.
Travel to Port of Dover by public transport
Dover by train: Train to Dover Priory Station from where there is a regular shuttle bus service to Dover's ferry port terminal building, or you can take a taxi (5 minutes) or walk (15–20 minutes).
Dover by bus/coach: Take a National Express bus (e.g. from London Victoria Coach Station) to the coach stop just outside Dover's ferry port terminal. If you wanted to travel onwards from Calais to Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels or Paris you can board the coach at this stop in Dover (there is a coach ticket office next to the coach stop).
Travel to Newhaven Port by public transport
Newhaven by train: Train to Newhaven railway station from where it's a 3-minute walk to the ferry terminal building.
Newhaven by bus/coach: There’s a local bus service from Brighton, Seaford, Peacehaven, Dover, Bexhill, Rye, Folkestone and Hastings to Newhaven bus stop, from where it’s a short walk to the ferry terminal building.
Travel to Portsmouth Port by public transport
Portsmouth by train: Train to Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station (it takes 85 minutes from London Waterloo and there are also services from London Victoria and Cardiff), from where it’s a 20-minute walk (or 10-minute taxi ride) to the ferry departure terminal. NB between May and September, there is a shuttle bus from Portsmouth & Southsea railway station to the ferry terminal.
Portsmouth by Bus: The easiest way for foot passengers to reach the harbour is to take a National Express coach (e.g. from London Victoria), which stops right outside the ferry departure building. There are also local bus services to Portsmouth ferry terminal operated by Stagecoach (bus 20) and First Bus (buses 8, X4 and X9).
Travel to Port of Poole by public transport
Poole by train: Train to Poole Railway Station from where it's a 25-minute walk to Poole Ferry Terminal.
Poole by bus/coach: Bus or coach to Poole Bus and Coach Station (in the Dolphin Centre) from where it’s a 25-minute walk to Poole Ferry Terminal. Taxis are available at most times from both the railway and coach stations. A shuttle bus runs between the passenger terminal and the ship for foot passengers.
Travel to Plymouth Port by public transport
Portsmouth by Train: There is a good rail service from major railway stations to Plymouth train station (it takes 3-4 hours from London Paddington) from where it's about a 20-minute walk to the Plymouth ferry terminal.
By Bus: National Express runs coach services from London's Victoria coach station to Plymouth coach station from where it's about a 20-minute walk to the Plymouth ferry terminal.
Travelling off the ferry by public transport in Europe
On arrival as a foot passenger, here's how to transfer off the ferry for onward travel on local public transport services .
Onward travel by public transport in France
Ferries arrive at numerous ports along the north coast, here's how to connect with local transport services, spanning from Calais in the east to Roscoff, Brittany in the far west.
Public transport at Port of Calais It's about 3km (40 minute walk) from the ferry to Calais Ville railway station but there is a free shuttle bus (called 'Balad’in'), which takes you from right outside the ferry terminal to the city centre of Calais – it runs every 22 minutes in the morning and every 11 minutes in the afternoon, from 7am to 7pm. From Calais Ville there is a regular train service to Paris Gare du Nord (it takes just over 2 hours).
Public transport at Dieppe, France From the ferry terminal, it's about a 25-minutes walk to Dieppe railway station or there's a shuttle bus that can take you there in about 5 minutes. From Dieppe, there's a train that goes to Paris via Rouen (journey time is just less than 3 hours).
Public transport at Caen, France: Although the route is called Caen, the ferry port is at Ouistreham about 10 miles (16km) north of Caen. Thankfully, there’s an excellent shuttles bus service (Bus Verts du Calvados line 1), which is scheduled to meet ferry arrivals at the port and run to Caen’s main railway station and the city centre – the journey takes around 40 minutes. Gare de Caen (railway station) has services to many destinations throughout France, including Paris (journey time around 2 hours).
Public transport at Cherbourg, France: It’s a few minutes’ walk to Cherbourg’s main railway station (follow the quayside south along the side of the harbour), a short taxi ride, or bus number 8 runs between the ferry port and the station. Gare de Cherbourg (railway station) is well connected to the French national rail network, with regular services to various local and long-distance destinations, including Paris (around 3 hours away).
Public transport at St Malo, France: It is approximately 10 minutes’ walk to St Malo town centre or coach station and 25 minutes to the train station. Alternatively, it’s a short 3-minute walk to a bus stop (by the swimming pool ‘La piscine du Naye’) for a shuttle bus into town, which stops at ‘Gare Routière’ (bus station) just opposite the railway station in the modern part of St Malo, from where there are trains to the rest of France. Alternatively, there’s a taxi rank outside the ferry terminal.
Public transport at Roscoff, France: The charming fishing port of Roscoff is a great entry point in France, especially if you’re travelling to Brittany, the Loire and Aquitaine. On arrival, it’s about a mile (1.6km), a 15-minute walk or short taxi ride to Roscoff railway station where there are trains to Morlaix for connections to Paris and high-speed TGVs to destinations across France.
Onward travel by public transport in Spain
Ferries arrive at two ports on the north coast: Bilbao or a little further west along the coast at Santander – for more information about the part of northern Spain that's known as 'Green Spain' (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and the Basque Country), see Green Traveller's Guide to Green Spain
Public transport at Bilbao, Spain: The port of Bilbao is 10 miles (16km) north-west of Bilbao-Abando railway station, from where there are regular train services to major centres across Spain, including Madrid and Barcelona. There is no public transport direct from/to the ferry terminal, however there is a taxi rank outside the ferry terminal, or you could walk just under 2 miles (3km) to Santurtzi metro station to take the metro to Bilbao-Abando station (Santurtzi is the last stop on Line 2 and goes direct to Bilbao city centre).
Public transport at Santander, Spain: In the heart of the city, Santander port is just one block along Avenida Castilla to Santander’s main railway station (a few minutes in a taxi) where there are trains running to major centres in the region and the rest of the country. Santander is the gateway to the Picos de Europa.
Further Information for foot passengers
There’s lots of information about ferry services from the UK on the website run by
Discover Ferries – an industry body representing 13 ferry operators in the UK, Ireland and the British Islands. It includes the latest news from its members and information on changes to ferry regulations, such as those being rolled out post Brexit. It also runs campaigns, such as the Big Ferry Fortnight, usually at the end of March, which celebrates ferry travel and includes promotions, special offers and prizes. Keep en eye out on Green Traveller's social media channels @twitter @facebook for special offers during the ferry fortnight period.
For overland journeys to Europe, see Green Traveller's Flight Free Journey Planner
Please note: the information on this page aims to give you a reasonable idea of information for foot passengers on ferry routes in order that (hopefully) there’s enough detail to know what's available, how to plan a journey and where to book tickets. The information was up to date at time of publication, and although we will make every effort to update services provided, we cannot take responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies we provide. Always confirm details when you book.