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The cheapest routes from England to France by car revealed by Which? – pitting ferries against Channel Tunnel train services

Planning on a road trip from the UK to France but in need of a steer for the best-value ways of crossing the Channel?

No need to feel lost at sea regarding prices because researchers at Which? have been hard at work analysing the cost differences between taking the ferry and rolling onto a LeShuttle Channel Tunnel train service.

The insights below – which include prices for overnight ferry services – will help you work out whether it’s worth sacrificing sea views for speed. All the costs are average prices for a standard car with two adults, two children, travelling in August.

Which is cheaper – the ferry or Channel Tunnel (LeShuttle)?

‘If price is your only concern, the ferry beats LeShuttle hands down,’ Which? says.

Which? investigated the average prices for peak season crossings between the UK and France. The Dover (above) to Calais route with providers such as P&O Ferries costs £106 on average, it reveals Which? investigated the average prices for peak season crossings between the UK and France. The Dover (above) to Calais route with providers such as P&O Ferries costs £106 on average, it reveals

Which? investigated the average prices for peak season crossings between the UK and France. The Dover (above) to Calais route with providers such as P&O Ferries costs £106 on average, it reveals 

It notes that, on average, LeShuttle (formerly known as Eurotunnel Le Shuttle) is £60 more expensive each way for a car with four passengers than the ferry service from Dover to Calais.

According to the watchdog, even if you hunt for late-night Channel Tunnel bargains, you’re unlikely to beat the ferry price. When Which? scoured the latter half of August for cheap crossings, the best one-way journey it could find was £120 on LeShuttle. In contrast, the cheapest one-way ferry crossing was just £54.

That said, LeShuttle is undoubtedly the fastest way to get from the UK to France, Which? says. 

THE CHEAPEST ROUTES FROM ENGLAND TO FRANCE BY CAR, ACCORDING TO WHICH?

DOVER TO CALAIS

Average single price – £106

Average return price – £220

Crossing time – 1hr 30min

Operators – P&O Ferries, DFDS, Irish Ferries

DOVER TO DUNKIRK

Average single price – £107

Average return price – £225

Crossing time – 2hrs

Operators – DFDS

FOLKESTONE TO CALAIS – CHANNEL TUNNEL

Average single price – £166

Average return price – £346

Crossing time – 35 minutes

Operators – LeShuttle

NEWHAVEN TO DIEPPE

Average single price – £234

Average return price – £429

Crossing time – 4hrs

Operators – DFDS

Overnight crossing is available

POOLE TO CHERBOURG

Average single price – £293

Average return price – £585

Crossing time – 4hrs 30min

Operators – Brittany Ferries, Condor

PORTSMOUTH TO LE HAVRE

Average single price – £295

Average return price – £576

Crossing time – 7hrs 59min

Operators – Brittany Ferries

Overnight crossing is available

POOLE TO ST MALO

Average single price – £296

Average return price – £570

Crossing time – 6hrs 15min

Operators – Condor

PORTSMOUTH TO CHERBOURG

Average single price – £345

Average return price – £619

Crossing time – 3hrs

Operators – Brittany Ferries

Overnight crossing is available

PORTSMOUTH TO CAEN

Average single price – £365

Average return price – £699

Crossing time – 5hrs45

Operators – Brittany Ferries

Overnight crossing is available

PORTSMOUTH TO ST MALO

Average single price – £498

Average return price – £827

Crossing time – 11hrs

Operators – Brittany Ferries

Overnight crossing is available

PLYMOUTH TO ROSCOFF

Average single price – £443

Average return price – £825

Crossing time – 5hrs30

Operators – Brittany Ferries

Overnight crossing is available

All average prices for a standard car with two adults, two children, travelling in August. Based on booking in June. Provided by Direct Ferries.

Source: Which?  

‘If price is your only concern, the ferry beats LeShuttle (above) hands down,’ Which? says ‘If price is your only concern, the ferry beats LeShuttle (above) hands down,’ Which? says

‘If price is your only concern, the ferry beats LeShuttle (above) hands down,’ Which? says 

When travelling on LeShuttle, you are advised to arrive one hour before departure and, once you’ve boarded, the journey to France takes just 35 minutes on average.

The consumer champion adds that many people who travel with pets also favour LeShuttle as you can keep your dog or cat with you in the car – a familiar environment – for the whole journey. 

Dover to Calais crossing – which ferry company is cheapest?

The popular Dover to Calais crossing is served by three ferry companies: DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries, Which? notes.

Overall, Irish Ferries had the cheapest fare for every single date that Which? compared in its study of crossings. Its lowest price for a last-minute booking was just £54.

P&O Ferries also had some very low last-minute fares – within a few pounds of Irish Ferries – but these were limited and often only on the very unsociable 3.10am crossing, Which? reveals.

The watchdog notes that when comparing prices, it’s always worth checking the Dover to Dunkirk route to see if prices are better at the time you wish to travel. Dunkirk is only 24 miles (39km) east of Calais, and more convenient for those travelling on to Belgium.

What’s the cheapest day and time for cross-channel ferries and LeShuttle?

As a general rule, Sunday to Thursday departures offer the best rates, Which? reveals, adding that as you would expect, Friday and Saturday departures are pricey.

The Dover to Dunkirk (pictured) ferry route with DFDS costs £107 on average, Which? reveals The Dover to Dunkirk (pictured) ferry route with DFDS costs £107 on average, Which? reveals

The Dover to Dunkirk (pictured) ferry route with DFDS costs £107 on average, Which? reveals 

The watchdog’s comparison of August dates found that you could pay up to £201, one way on LeShuttle on a Friday or Saturday, but the most expensive fare on a Tuesday was £158.

Its research found that the cheapest time to travel from Dover to Calais by ferry was always between 10pm and 6.30am. The 10.15pm crossing had the cheapest fares on 14 of the 18 days Which? checked. The 2.55am and 6.15am crossings also regularly had the cheapest fares.

For the best LeShuttle fares, avoid crossing in the morning, Which? recommends. The 8am to 2pm trains had the highest prices, it found, and the cheapest crossings were always after 8pm. In particular, the 10pm to 11pm crossings were cheapest on 13 out of the 18 days Which? checked.

Can it work out cheaper to take an overnight ferry?

Which? says that ferries from Newhaven, Portsmouth and Plymouth all offer overnight sailings. These typically take longer, so that you can, in theory, get a good night’s sleep and drive off the boat refreshed in the morning. But longer crossings are generally much more expensive.

The watchdog notes that these sailings are particularly convenient if you live in the southwest of England, or are bound for western France, and could result in much shorter driving distances.

To take an extreme example, a family driving from Swindon to La Rochelle would drive 250 miles (402km) fewer by taking the Portsmouth-Caen route, rather than the Dover-Calais route. However, it would only save them around £50 in petrol and tolls, which doesn’t make up for the additional ferry fare for the longer sailing (£259 more on average), Which? reveals.

It costs an average price of £166 to travel from Newhaven to Dieppe (pictured) with DFDS It costs an average price of £166 to travel from Newhaven to Dieppe (pictured) with DFDS

It costs an average price of £166 to travel from Newhaven to Dieppe (pictured) with DFDS

The consumer champion notes that overnight sailings do save you money on accommodation – you’ll have one less night in a hotel – but if you really want a good night’s sleep you’ll have to add on the price of a cabin on the ferry. A family cabin on the Portsmouth-Caen route cost £83 when Which? looked.

Can I get cheap ferry tickets to France with Tesco Clubcard vouchers or Nectar points?

Which? explains that you can use Tesco Clubcard points to book Dover to Calais crossings with Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries. You can also book LeShuttle crossings using Clubcard reward vouchers.

Every £5 of vouchers can be turned into £10 to spend on a ferry ticket, the watchdog says, though it notes that terms and conditions apply to these bookings. 

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to spend Nectar points on ferry tickets.

Commenting on the findings, Jo Rhodes, Deputy Which? Travel Editor, said: ‘Thousands of holidaymakers will be planning a trip to France this summer, but the impact of strike action, bad weather and lengthy immigration processes all contributed to delays at Dover earlier this year – so it’s unsurprising that many travellers might be worried about how long it will take them to get to their destination.

‘If speed is your priority then LeShuttle is the best option. However, if you’re looking to save money on driving to France, the ferry is definitely the cheaper option – and you can save even further by travelling at non-peak times and comparing prices between ferry companies.’

France

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