Ideas for first timers

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle or ferry travel to France?

If you’re planning on exploring France by car, the first thing to decide is how to cross the English Channel – ferry or Eurotunnel Le Shuttle?

We take a closer look at the differences between these popular ways to travel to France from the UK, including cost, duration of the journey and the environmental impact.

Which is better – Eurotunnel or ferry?

Both Eurotunnel Le Shuttle and a ferry service will get you into France in a relaxing and enjoyable crossing. The reasons people choose one or the other are varied, so neither is ‘better’, it’s more a case of making the journey work for you.

That being said, many choose Eurotunnel Le Shuttle for comfort and speed. From Folkestone to Calais it only takes 35 minutes, where a ferry can take around 90 minutes. You avoid crowds by travelling with Eurotunnel and if you wish to save time, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is the best option.

cars waiting at checkpoint

What’s the quickest way to drive to France?

Taking Eurotunnel Le Shuttle from Folkestone to Calais is the quickest way to drive into France, with a crossing time of 35 minutes. From Calais you have the rest of France to drive at your leisure and we have plenty of guides to help you plan trips to exciting destinations. Whether you are planning a glamping trip, a sojourn in Paris, or heading further afield to areas like Brittany, you’re sure to find somewhere to visit and plenty of picturesque stops along the way.

The beauty of driving through France is the well-connected and maintained roads that allow you to see French landscapes up close. If you take the ferry into central and western France the trip will be longer and may be more expensive. For example, to reach Dieppe it is around 4 hours on the ferry, and as this is the journey time on the boat, you'll miss the scenery you can see on the drive south.

The side view of a silver car with it’s door open inside a shuttle

What’s the most environmentally friendly way to drive to France?

Today it is more important than ever to consider the sustainability of how we travel the world. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle take sustainable travel and environmental impact seriously. The CO2 emissions produced in transporting a lorry across the Channel by Eurotunnel are nearly 20 times lower than those produced in transporting the same lorry on a ferry, and innovation towards an eco-responsible mode of transport are being developed continuously*. For example, in 2011, Truck Shuttles were lengthened from 30 to 32 wagons which adds nearly 7% in additional capacity with practically no extra energy consumption and Eurotunnel Shuttles are currently being upgraded to enable accurate reading of CO2 emissions for each crossing.

You can read more about our commitment to Sustainable Development here.

*According to a 2018 study conducted by JMJ Conseil

What about boarding times? Is Eurotunnel quicker than a ferry?

The boarding times for Eurotunnel Le Shuttle are quicker than most ferry crossings. And if you arrive early or late within a 2-hour window, you may be offered a space on the next available departure without any extra charge. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle have up to four departures an hour, whereas ferries only run between 15-23 times a day based on if you chose to travel with DFDS Seaways or P&O Ferries. The full details of our boarding times can be found on our help page.

Even without the addition of boarding times, the reduced travel time that Eurotunnel offers means reaching your destination in France is far faster.

Are you looking to travel during the festive period? Eurotunnel Le Shuttle are open 365 days a year, with just slightly fewer boarding times available over the Christmas period. However, ferry services don’t run on Christmas Day and have limited services running during the festive period.

Is a cross-channel ferry better for the kids?

If you are travelling as a family, particularly with young, energetic children, you might want to know what facilities are available for your little ones. At Eurotunnel’s UK and Calais terminals, there’s a soft play area, baby changing facilities and the opportunity to enjoy a spot of shopping before your journey. There’s no need to worry about anyone being bored while travelling with Eurotunnel as there is plenty to keep the whole family entertained.

Eurotunnel takes just 35 minutes and before you know it you will have arrived in Calais to continue the rest of your adventure. You can avoid the worry of getting everyone in and out of the car with a trip using Eurotunnel, as you will arrive so quickly and can remain in your car (if you wish) throughout the journey.

Travelling using a ferry does mean that if the weather is nice enough you can sit above deck. Most of the ferry companies offer play areas, live entertainment, and games rooms, meaning the kids are certainly not going to be bored.

Birdseye view of a ferry moving towards land in the distance

Can you stretch your legs on Eurotunnel like you can on a ferry?

You do not have to stay in your vehicle for the duration of a Eurotunnel Le Shuttle crossing. However, if you’re travelling with any pets they must remain in the car during this short journey, but this shouldn’t be a problem as there is plenty of opportunity to give your pet a quick run around in the pet exercise areas available at the terminal beforehand. Boarding starts just 25 minutes before departure time, and you only need to arrive to check in 45 minutes before your booked departure time. If you’re choosing to take the ferry to France, any pets you’re travelling with will need to stay in the car unattended for the duration of the journey.

When taking the ferry to France you leave your vehicle and head to upper decks to enjoy refreshments and a walk if you wish. There’s also a range of restaurants and retail outlets at Eurotunnel’s Folkestone and Calais terminals for you to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping before boarding the shuttle.

Yellow and red tube in a grass fenced area with two black dogs and a little boy

What is the cheapest way to take my car to France, ferry or Eurotunnel?

Some ferry operators allow you to book a crossing up to a year in advance, meaning you could save a little on the cost. Longer crossings to parts of France other than Calais may be expensive due to their longer travel time, no matter how far in advance you book.

Whichever option you choose, make sure to shop around for deals and, if possible, book ahead of time to get the best-value fares.

On both ferries and Eurotunnel, the cost of Channel crossings can vary significantly depending on:

  • The size of your car
  • The time and season of your crossing
  • The type of ticket you buy and when you buy it

You can book Eurotunnel tickets up to 9 to 11 months in advance and you’ll receive the best available price the earlier you book and through booking directly with us.

So, remember this when you are looking for deals on either mode of transport. See Eurotunnel ticket options and fares so you can plan your next trip.

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