France is a gorgeous place to explore and an easy destination to get to from the UK. We share how to travel from England to France, so you can plan an easy trip.
At a distance of just 21 miles from coast to coast at the closest point, France is the UK’s nearest neighbor. Yet as a holiday destination, it can often be overlooked.
The other 83 percent don’t know what they are missing. It might be right on our doorstep, but French culture could not be more different; there are plenty of reasons to visit France. Everyone knows about the amazing food and wine, but many people fail to realize just how beautiful the French countryside can be. There is no better way to explore it than by road, so why not plan your own French road trip?
How to travel from England to France
Getting there – by train or ferry
For years, the car ferry from Dover to Calais was the obvious choice for crossing the channel with your car. It is still a compelling option and is generally the cheapest, provided you book well in advance.
However, if keeping things simple and minimizing hassle are your priorities, Eurotunnel is hard to beat. Drive onto the train, stop when instructed, wait in the car till you arrive at Calais 45 minutes later, and drive away. You can be sure nobody will feel seasick!
If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll need to have some entertainment on board for them. There are passenger toilets in each carriage, but passengers are otherwise expected to remain in their vehicles. The ferry takes longer and is a little more convoluted, but it is also more interesting, with things to see and do during the crossing.
Planning your destination
The beautiful thing about exploring France by road is that there are so many choices and routes you can follow. If you have a sense of adventure, you can play it by ear, by simply phoning ahead to book the next room for the next night. However, if the idea of having to try multiple options to find a vacancy sounds more stressful than adventurous, you can also plan and book well in advance.
If you are new to France and want to take your family on a memorable road trip that includes breath-taking countryside, pretty towns, and dozens of tourist attractions, the 579-mile trip from Paris to Nice is a fabulous choice, and you can split it into as many sections as you like.
Embark on an Alpine Adventure
To see a completely different side of France, consider a summer road trip across the French Alps. The roads are snow-free between June and September, so no need to pack that shovel!
Follow the same initial route beyond Paris to Lyon, then forge off east towards the Swiss border. The beautiful lakeside town of Annecy signals the start of the Alpine phase of your trip. From there, follow the mountain pass to the picturesque Bonneval-sur-Arc and on to Saint-Véran, the highest village in France. From there, it is a pleasant four-hour drive through national parkland to Grenoble, the nation’s winter sporting capital.
Plan your route carefully
France has an extensive network of toll roads. These are immensely useful if all you are focused on is getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, but surely that defeats the object of a road trip. Also, they are congested with trucks and there are speed traps at surprisingly regular intervals that are almost impossible to spot, so you really need to concentrate hard at all times.
For a relaxing drive that allows you to appreciate the scenery and stop whenever you like for refreshments or a photo opportunity, give the toll roads a miss. Your wallet will thank you too, as the tolls themselves can mount up.
This does, however, mean that you will need to put some time into researching your route in advance. Today, we are all accustomed to being guided by the sat nav, but that’s not always going to work when scenery along the way is more important to you than arriving as soon as possible.
Driving safely and legally in France
French driving laws are mostly similar to the UK and if you exercise common sense, you are unlikely to go far wrong. Speed limits are posted everywhere and French traffic officers have little patience with speeding tourists, so stick to the rules and take it slow or you will be looking at a fine that could be anything from €68 (£58) to €1,500 (£1,280).
When it comes to drink-driving, France has rules that are even stricter than those in the UK – the maximum limit is 0.5mg/ml, compared to 0.8mg/ml in the UK. Drink-driving or drug-driving in France is an absolute no-no and offenders are likely to face a custodial sentence, so the strong recommendation is to abstain from alcohol completely if you are going to be driving.
Finally, French police say that distracted driving is a primary cause of accidents on French roads. The French authorities place most of the blame on mobile phones. Never use yours while driving in France. Earpieces and headsets are not allowed, and even picking your phone up while stationary at traffic lights will earn you a fine of €135 (£115).