• Green Traveller

How to travel from the UK to France without flying

Updated: Mar 28

There are lots of ways to travel overland to France from the UK without flying thanks to a variety of train, coach, car ferry and foot passenger ferry services from southern England. Our team has tried and tested many of them and so we have tried to summarise all the available options in this post based on our experience. The good news is that if you're travelling on foot, then on arrival at many of the ports and railway stations in France, there are plenty of options for onward travel by rail and bus throughout France. Furthermore, it's fast becoming feasible to take an electric car to France - the infrastructure is improving all the time with charging networks being rolled out at terminals and there's currently a huge expansion of charging facilities throughout France.


Less Carbon, More Fun!

Photos: Eurostar, Brittany Ferries and Wix Media

By train from the UK to France

It is easy to travel by train to France in a day from the UK. The fastest route is to take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International Railway Station to either Lille Europe (1 hour 22 mins) or to Gare du Nord in the French capital Paris (2 hours 16 mins). Both these stations are hubs to onward travel throughout France.


In Lille, all the trains leave from the same station you arrived at from London, while in Paris, although some onward trains leave from Gare du Nord (mostly Thalys trains for Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands), most trains for destinations in France leave from five other stations dotted throughout the capital: Gare de l'Est (which is just a few minutes walk from Gare du Nord), Gare de Lyon, Gare d’Austerlitz, Gare Montparnasse, Gare de Bercy, and Gare Saint Lazare. For instance, if you want to travel down to Nice, you have to change stations in Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon, which can take about half an hour on the Paris RER line. If you're not used to Paris, transferring train stations may seem daunting but in practice the connections are pretty seamless –see our guide to How to transfer between train stations across Paris.


Train tickets provided by Trainline:






For more information about train travel to specific places in France, see our step-by-step guides for how to travel from London to the following:

How to travel by train from London to Lille

How to travel by train from London to Paris

How to travel by train from London to Nantes

How to travel by train from London to Valence

How to travel by train from London to Avignon

How to travel by train from London to Marseille

How to travel by train from London to Bordeaux

How to travel by train from London to Bayonne

How to travel by train from London to Toulouse

How to travel by train from London to Nice

How to travel by train (and ferry) from London to Corsica

How to travel by train by Ski Train to the French Alps


Stopover hotels to break the journey in Lille or Paris

If you want to break the journey and stay overnight to see a bit more of Lille or Paris while you're travelling through, there are lots of lovely places to stay conveniently near the Eurostar arrival station in Lille Europe (Lille) and Gare du Nord (Paris).


Hotels near Lille Europe:

Hotels near Gare du Nord:


By Coach from the UK to France

The major coach operators from the UK to France are Flixbus (flixbus.co.uk), which runs coach trips from Manchester, Birmingham and London to multiple cities in France, and National Express, which runs a service from London to Paris (nationalexpress.com); if you’re travelling from outside London, you can travel to London to connect with the international service.


National Express runs coaches from most major cities in the UK. Luggage allowance is one medium sized suitcase and one piece of hand luggage per person. As with coaches operating in the UK, there’s free Wi-Fi, charging sockets, and onboard toilets. You can also book Flixbus and National Express tickets through Omio (omio.co.uk), which also sells tickets for Eurolines, which works with 29 coach companies throughout Europe (eurolines.de).


Foot Passenger Ferry Services from the UK to France

The modernisation of ferry services has revolutionised the experience of travelling across the English Channel. Especially for longer overnight crossings to the continent where you can travel in style on spacious ships, enjoy fine dining in la carte restaurants, spa treatment rooms, and comfortable en suite cabins, so on arrival you feel refreshed for the onward journey. There are also plenty of facilities to keep children entertained during the crossing, including soft play areas, games rooms, live entertainment and cinema. Europe has never felt closer.


There are several operators that run ferries from southern England to northern France that cater for foot passengers. 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. One of the easiest crossings on foot is to go from Newhaven to Dieppe because there's such an easy transfer from the railway station in Newhaven on to the ferry. On arrival in Dieppe, you can either walk about 25 minutes to the railway station or there's a shuttle bus that can take you there. If you prefer to travel from elsewhere on the south coast of England, there are departures from Dover, Poole, Portsmouth and Plymouth with a variety of operators. For detailed information to how to take public transport to the UK's ferry ports, see Green Traveller's Guide to travelling as a foot passenger from the UK to Europe.


The main ferry services from the south of England to northern France are as follows:


Dover

Dover to Calais: 5 sailings per day (for foot passengers) with P&O Ferries

Update: Friday 18 March 2022: Due to the current situation at P&O Ferries, if you're booked on a ferry and are unsure how it affects you and whether alternative arrangements are available, see the Twitter feed of P&O Ferries

NB. although there are also sailings from Dover to Calais with DFDS Seaways (10 sailings per day), and Irish Ferries (4 sailings per day) they do not allow foot passengers.

NB. There is also a ferry from Dover to Dunkirk (12 sailings per day with DFDS Seaways) but it is not available for foot passengers.

Tickets provided by P&O Ferries. NB. when you book a ticket, the vehicle page is automatically populated to show a car, to change this to foot passenger select 'edit', and then from the drop down vehicle menu select 'Foot Passenger'. Select 'save' and then 'show times'.



Newhaven to Dieppe 21 crossings per week with DFDS Seaways





Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg or St Malo

Portsmouth to Caen: 3 sailings per day with Brittany Ferries

Portsmouth to Cherbourg: 1 per week with Brittany Ferries

Portsmouth to St Malo: 1 per day with Brittany Ferries


Ferry tickets provided by Brittany Ferries (NB. To book as a foot passenger, choose the 'on foot' option from the vehicle selection drop-down selection on step 1 of the ferry booking process):



Poole to Cherbourg

1 sailing per day with Brittany Ferries


Ferry tickets provided by Brittany Ferries (NB. To book as a foot passenger, choose the 'on foot' option from the vehicle selection drop-down selection on step 1 of the ferry booking process):



Plymouth to Roscoff

1 sailing per day with Brittany Ferries


Ferry tickets provided by Brittany Ferries (NB. To book as a foot passenger, choose the 'on foot' option from the vehicle selection drop-down selection on step 1 of the ferry booking process):





Onward journeys by public transport from France's ferry ports


When you disembark from the ferry there are plenty of local public transport services for onward travel. For step-by-step instructions for how to transfer from the ferry on to local services at all the major arrival ports in France, see our Guide to travelling as a foot passenger from the UK to Europe.


By car from the UK to France

Cars can be taken on all the major ferry routes described in the foot passenger section above, as

well as the Dover to Calais route run by DFDS and Irish Ferries (neither take foot passengers on this route). Update: Friday 18 March 2022: Due to the current situation at P&O Ferries, if you're booked on a ferry and are unsure how it affects you and whether alternative arrangements are available, see the Twitter feed of P&O Ferries


Driving electric cars from the UK to France

You can also take an electric car on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle - there are rapid chargers for universal electric and hybrid cars, as well as dedicated Tesla chargers, at both terminals so you can recharge before you head through the tunnel on either side.


Electric car hire: There has been a huge increase in the production of electric cars in recent years and many of the large car rental companies, such as Enterprise, Avis, Europcar, and SIXT now hire electric cars in France, see:

Enterprise: https://www.enterprise.co.uk/en/car-hire/vehicles/fr/cars/electric.html

Avis: https://www.avis.co.uk/drive-avis/fleet/prestige/uk/Electric

Europcar: https://www.europcar.co.uk/en-gb/p/car-rental/fleet/type/electric

SIXT: https://www.sixt.com/magazine/fleet/electric-cars-pros-and-cons


Do make sure you hire a car that has the appropriate mileage per battery that’s relevant for your use. Public charging networks provide a mixture of slow, fast and rapid charging points operated by either a national or regional network, so do check the location of the charging points as well as the charging time and payment methods. The car hire company may be able to advise on this when you hire the car – some may have arrangements with energy partners and can provide you with a charge card that you can use at a number of locations in France.


Charging electric vehicles in France: Electric vehicle (EV) charging networks are expanding very quickly across France. As in the UK there are different companies providing chargers, but the market is much more fragmented on the continent – if you think it’s complicated in the UK,

in France and across Europe there is a bewildering number of providers. In most cases, you need to log in using a network RFID card, a key fob or an app, some of which need to be pre-loaded with funds. Chargers that accept a contactless debit or credit card are still not widespread. Thankfully, there are aggregators who can provide an RFID card that works on several different networks, reducing the number of cards or apps you need to obtain. As in the UK, there are chargers at many motorway service areas and are also generally found where cars are likely to be parked for a while, such as supermarkets, shopping centre car parks, hotels and tourist attractions. The Automobile Association has a handy guide to recharging in Europe, including the latest information on the charging networks in France and breakdown cover for electric vehicles in Europe. The situation is changing rapidly, so it’s always worth checking the AA’s website again just before you embark on a journey in Europe. Also, keep an eye on the website zap-map.com for the latest news about electric vehicles and the expansion of charging networks throughout the continent.



============

Please note: The information on this page aims to give you a reasonable idea of train and ferry routes, times and tickets, in order that hopefully there’s enough detail to know what's available, how to plan an overland journey and where to book tickets. The information was up to date at time of publication, but services do change from time to time and we cannot take responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies we provide. Always confirm details when you book with the relevant travel operator. If you are aware of any inaccuracies, we'd really appreciate being informed via our contact page so we can make the relevant changes to the information provided for the benefit of other travellers.


Bon Voyage!