Evening shot with pink sky of Brittany Ferries at sea
Brittany Ferries

Ferries to France from the UK run mainly from five ports in the south of England. Dover is the most popular port.

Here is a round-up of the different ports, routes and ferry companies. I have also added tables showing distances from the French ports to various cities, plus toll costs and fuel costs.

Autoroute signs in France to Paris, Orleans or Nantes Tours
French Autoroute Signs

TIP: Two useful French sites to check before you decide on Ferries to France from the UK.
Autoroutes in France is the official website giving accurate information on distances, real time traffic information, weather etc.
European tolls gives a comprehensive guide to tolls throughout Europe.

Where to stay in each French port

I have recommended hotels in each port, some of which are quite basic. Alternatively, all the ports have a selection of the well known budget chains, so check out my Budget Hotel Chains in France.

For Normandy hotels check out Hotels and Accommodation in France near the Normandy D-DayLanding Beaches.

Booking your Ferry

For the best deal book as early as possible. Off season and night ferries are cheaper.

The biggest booking service for ferries to France from the UK is operated by AFerry.co.uk offering ferry routes around the whole of Europe.

Also consider booking companies that compare rates like www.ferrycheap.com.

When you book you will need details of passengers and details of the car (make, model, number plate, size, trailer, caravan, etc.).

Dover to Calais

DFDS Ferries outside Dover
DFDS outside Dover

Two ferry companies, DFDS and P&O, run on the Dover to Calais route, operating every day of the year for 24 hours. There are fewer crossings in winter, but the prices are cheaper (apart from peak Christmas and New Year sailings).

Sailing time for both ferry companies is 1 hour 30 minutes. If you want a quick getaway, it’s worth paying for priority boarding which will get you to the front of the ferry. Also consider the Premium Lounge offers. Each ferry company has a very comfortable, large lounge with free soft drinks, tea, coffee and macaroons. You can buy a meal in any of the onboard restaurants/cafes and take it to the lounge. 

Check-in is 30 minutes before departure but each company advises you to arrive 45 minutes early.

View over to cathedral in Calais and port in background
View over Calais Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Why Calais?

Calais is the perfect place for a short break to the north coast with its lovely north France seaside resorts.

If you’re interested in World War II there’s plenty to see.
La Coupole and Hitler’s V2 Rockets
Eperlecques Blockhouse
The Secret Mimoyecques Fortress and the V3 Rocket

DFDS has up to 15 sailings a day. Prices for a car and up to 9 passengers start from £44 each way. Free WiFi.
Priority boarding is £10 each way.
Premium Lounge is £12 per person each way.
You cannot travel as a foot passenger on DFDS on this route.
Check out the DFDS timetable for Dover to Calais.

P&O has up to 23 sailings a day and two large, new and comfortable ferries: Spirit of Britain and Spirit of France. P&O crossings can be more expensive than DFDS.
Priority boarding is £12 each way.
Premium Lounge is £12 per person each way.
WiFi is £2 each way extra.
Check out the P&O timetable for Dover to Calais.

Hotel Recommendation

Ibis Styles Calais Centre Hotel is a good choice. Completely refurbished, this 3-star hotel is central and near both the beach and the train station as well as good restaurants. There’s a fitness room, lounge with billiards, football and darts so you’re likely to meet fellow Brits. Well priced also.
Ibis Styles Calais Centre Hotel
56 rue Royale
Calais
Tel: +33 3 21 97 45 00
Website

Your Onward Journey
CityDistanceTollsDriving Time
Boulogne34 kms/21 miles030 mins
Lille110 kms/68 miles01 hour 12 mins
Amiens15 4kms/96 miles€121 hour 40 mins
Paris290 kms/180 miles€233 hours

Dover to Dunkirk (Dunkerque)

DFDS is the only ferry company running to both Calais and Dunkirk. Dover to (Dunkerque) service takes 1 hour. Prices for a car and up to 9 passengers start from £40 each way. This is a cheaper option than Dover to Calais and slightly quicker but you are further north.
However it’s a good port if you are going to Eastern France and Champagne-Ardenne.
Check out the DFDS timetable from Dover to Dunkirk.

View over water of tall ship and Dunkirk's Maritime Museum in background
Dunkirk’s Ship Museum

Why Dunkirk?

Well apart from being a cheaper crossing and its World War II attractions, Dunkirk is just near the Belgian border so it’s a good start for a hop over to Bruges. It’s also very near Calais, St-Omer and Lille.

Hotel Recommendation

On my last trip I had an excellent stay at the All Suites Apart Hôtel by the water. It’s aimed at the University so there are plenty of families of students, etc. Each apartment has a kitchenette but if you’re just passing through you won’t have time, so take the breakfast provided.
All Suites Apart Hôtel
Quai Freycinet
1 Avenue de l’Université
Dunkerque
Tel: +33 3 28 69 70 40
Website

Your Onward Journey
CityDistanceTollsDriving Time
Calais47 kms/29 miles040 mins
St. Omer47 kms/29 miles€2.540 mins
Lille79 kms/49 miles01 hour
Paris287 kms/180 miles€173 hours 10 mins

Newhaven to Dieppe

DFDS operates 3 daily sailings from May to September and 2 at other times, and the crossing takes 4 hours. DFDS  recommends a check-in of 1 hour 30 minutes. There are reclining seats in a quiet area or better still, book a cabin which takes up to 4 passengers. Prices from £24 to £35.

Summer departures (May 1 to September 30) are 12.30pm arriving at 3.30pm; 6pm arriving at 9pm and 11.59pm arriving at 4am the following day.

Winter departures (Oct 1 to April 30) are 10am arriving at 3pm and 11pm arriving at 4am.

Information about DFDS here.

View of the Dieppe Chateau on grassy mound overlooking Dieppe
Dieppe Chateau © B. Collier CRT Normandie

Why Dieppe?

Dieppe gives you easy access to Rouen and points south such as Chartres, Orleans and the Loire Valley and further south.

Hotel Recommendation

I first stayed at the 3-star Logis hotel Auberge du Clos Normand many years ago and was enchanted. It was a fairy tale place with rooms looking out onto rolling farmland and a restaurant with red brick walls and a stone-flagged floor. It’s still a fabulous stay just 10 minutes outside Dieppe.
Auberge du Clos Normand
22 rue Henri IV
76370 Martin Eglise
Tel: +33 (0)2 35 40 40 40
Website

Your Onward Journey
CityDistanceTollsDriving Time
Rouen62 kms/21 miles€3.5040 mins
Paris194 kms/120 miles€152 hours 30 mins
Chartres195kms/121 miles€32 hours 30 mins
Orleans270 kms/168 miles€5.203 hours 30 mins

Ferry to France from the UK – Southern England

All routes from England’s south coast are operated by Brittany Ferries, a company founded in the 1970s by a group of French farmers who wanted to export their cauliflowers to the UK. Today it’s the top ferry company to France, operating comfortable ships that are more like mini cruise ships than ferries.

Map of Brittany Ferries route from the UK to Europe
Brittany Ferries to France © Brittany Ferries

Portsmouth to Le Havre

Brittany Ferries operates up to three crossings a day taking from 6 hours 30 minutes up to 8 hours on overnight sailings. This crossing is cheaper than other routes on the Brittany Ferries timetable.

Brittany Ferries Portsmouth to Le Havre timetable.

Le Havre view over suspension bridge to Volcan
View of the Volcan in Le Havre © V. Joannon-CRT Normandie

Why Le Havre?

Le Havre itself is a surprisingly interesting city, despite the heavy destruction of World War II and rebuilding. Contemporary architecture and a museum with the second largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside the Musee d’Orsay in Paris are just some of the attractions.

Le Havre is close to Rouen and is well placed for going south to Le Mans, Tours and Poitiers.

It’s also the starting point if you are taking a holiday in the Normandy Cotentin peninsula.

Hotel Recommendation

The Best Western ARThotel is just five minutes from the seafront and stands opposite the Volcano cultural center, one of the iconic buildings by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. 31 rooms with stylish decor. some overlooking the water, a tapas bar and live jazz.
The Best Western ARThotel
17 rue Louis Brandeau
Tel: +33 2 35 22 69 44
Website

Your Onward Journey
CityDistanceTollsDriving Time
Rouen70 kms/44 miles€61 hour 15 mins
Le Mans210 kms/130 miles€262 hours 30 mins
Paris196 kms/121 miles€232 hours 30 mins
Tours309 kms/192 miles€463 hours 20 mins
Poitiers410 kms/255 miles€464 hours 25 mins
Bordeaux655 kms/407 miles€686 hours 30 mins

Portsmouth to Caen

This is Brittany Ferries’ most popular route. There are 3 crossings a day taking 6 hours during the day and 7 hours overnight.
The ferry terminal is at Ouistreham, 15 kms (9 miles) north of Caen.

Brittany Ferries Portsmouth to Caen timetable

Abbaye aux Hommes stone building with lawn in front in Caen
Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen © S. OEHLKE – CRT Normandie

Why Caen?

Caen is the port to choose for exploring the Normandy coastline and the D-Day Landing Beaches and Bayeux for its tapestry and Rouen. Like Le Havre, it’s ideal for going south to Le Mans, Tours and the Loire Valley.

Check out this guide to visiting Normandy and the various beaches from Mech Traveller.

Hotel Recommendation

Le Dauphin, set in a former priory is a good central hotel. It has a spa and a notable restaurant where they use local ingredients.
Le Dauphin
Quartier des Quatrans
29 rue Gémare 
14000 Caen
Tél : +33 2 31 86 22 26
Website

Check out my hotel recommendations in Normandy near the D-Day Landing Beaches.

Your Onward Journey
CityDistanceTollsDriving Time
Bayeux43 kms/27 miles030 mins
Rouen127 kms/79 miles€81 hour 20 mins
Le Mans159 kms/99 miles€171 hour 40 mins
Tours234 kms/70 miles€262 hours 30 mins
Paris196 kms/145 miles€232 hours 30 mins
Bordeaux602 kms/374 miles€595 hours 40 mins

Portsmouth to Cherbourg

Take the Normandie Express to Cherbourg, taking just 3 hours on Brittany Ferries’ high-speed catamaran. There is one crossing a day eachway in the high season; less at other times.

Check out the Brittany Ferries Portsmouth to Cherbourg Information

Aerial view of Cherbourg Port
Cherbourg Port Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Poole to Cherbourg

Brittany Ferries also runs from Poole in Dorset to Cherbourg, taking just 4 hours 30 minutes. Barfleur sails from Poole in the morning and returns from Cherbourg in the evening.
Check the timetable here.

Why Cherbourg?

No longer the great port for transatlantic crossings, Cherbourg is still a good place to visit. Its great attraction is the Cité de la Mer museum which is all about that transatlantic journey, with a section on the ill-fated Titanic.

Hotel Recommendation

La Régence hotel is a good value choice. Overlooking the harbour the 3-star family run hotels is comfortable and has a good value restaurants.
La Régence
42 quai de Caligny
50100 Cherbourg
Tel: +33 (0)2 33 43 05 16
Website

Your Onward Journey
CityDistanceTollsDriving Time
Bayeux43 kms/27 miles030 mins
Rouen127 kms/79 miles€81 hour 20 mins
Le Mans159 kms/99 miles€171 hour 40 mins
Tours234 kms/70 miles€262 hours 30 mins
Paris196 kms/145 miles€232 hours 30 mins
Bordeaux602 kms/374 miles€595 hours 40 mins

Portsmouth to St Malo

Brittany Ferries operates luxury ferries to St. Malo in Brittany taking 11 hours overnight, making this a delightful mini cruise. The ferries leave at 8.15pm so you have plenty of time for a good meal and a decent night’s sleep.
On the return, there’s both a daytime and an overnight service.

Brittany Ferries Portsmouth to St Malo timetable.

Port Intra-Muros St Malo with sailing boats in front and walled citadel in background
Port Intra-Muros in St Malo Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Why St Malo?

Quite apart from its real charm, St Malo is perfect for exploring Brittany. The beautiful wild coast beckons in the north and at places like Quimper. Or going further south to fabulous Nantes, La Rochelle and Bordeaux.

Hotel Recommendation

We went for a cheaper hotel but it was outside the centre. Factoring in taxi fares and time taken, it would have been far better to pay more and be more central. So I recommend the stately De France et de Chateaubriand near the main square and within the citadel walls. Take a more expensive room for great sea views. Good bistro downstairs and posh restaurant on the top floor.
De France et de Chateaubriand
12 place Chateaubriand
Tel: +33 2 99 56 66 52
Website

Your Onward Journey
CityDistanceTollsDriving Time
Quimper210 kms/130 miles03 hours 20 mins
Nantes177 kms/110 miles02 hours 10 mins
La Rochelle326 kms/203 miles€94 hours
Bordeaux511 kms/318 miles€275 hours 30 mins

Plymouth to Roscoff

Brittany Ferries arriving at Plymouth with port and town in background
Brittany Ferries arriving in Plymouth © Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries operates its luxury boats to Roscoff in Brittany, taking 6 hours during the day and 8 hours overnight. There are up to two sailings per day from March to October.

Brittany Ferries Plymouth to Roscoff timetable.

Roscoff fromthe water with boat and tower
Roscoff from the water Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Why Roscoff?

This small resort is ideal for exploring the western end of Brittany. Or go further south to Nantes and beyond.

Hotel recommendation

Les Arcades in a 16th-century building is central and just five minutes from the ferry. It has wonderful sea views and a good value restaurant.
Les Arcades
15, rue Amiral Réveillère
Tel: +33 2 98 69 70 45
Website

Your Onward Journey
CityDistanceTollsDriving Time
Nantes315 kms/195 miles03 hours 40 mins
Bordeaux648 kms/403 miles€277 hours

Cork to Roscoff

Brittany Ferries runs overnight and daytime services taking 15 hours. It is less frequent than the other crossings but it’s on one of their best ships so treat it as a mini cruise.

Brittany Ferries Timetable to Roscoff from Cork

Tourist Board Sites

Pas de Calais Tourism Website
Nord-Pas de Calais Tourism Website
Normandy Tourism Website
Brittany Tourism Website

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