Eurotunnel is generally the fastest way to cross the channel with your vehicle. Unlike the ferries poor weather doesn’t usually affect the services on Eurotunnel – though this is not guaranteed, the snow in 2011 certainly had an effect.
Board the train at Ashford in Kent and alight at Sangatte in Calais just 35 minutes later where you drive from the platform straight onto the A16 Auto Route and on to your French destination.
Before you take your car to France you’ll need to make sure you comply with French road regulations – click here to go to our helpful checklist.
If you have pets with a pet passport, this is a particularly easy way to take your pet with you as they stay in the car with you for the whole journey and there is a pet loo area at the waiting lanes before you board. If your pet is used to being in the car with you they won’t notice the journey at all – you might though as you’ll need to buy them a ticket to travel (guide dogs are free).
You should arrive at the Eurotunnel station at least 30 minutes before departure time to ensure you get on the train you’ve booked. If you get to the station up to one hour before your allotted time you will generally be offered the option to board an earlier train (subject to availability) and this is usually free of additional charges. If you get there late the same applies – option to board later as soon as space is available – again usually free of charge, but not always so check first.
When you arrive at the Station, you’ll enter a ticket booth – either manned or automatic. If you put your registration number in the online booking form the screen will automatically display your booking details and whizz you through. If not, have your credit card handy – it must be the one that you booked the ticket with – insert into the screen area indicated, touch screen the details that come up and a ticket will print out for you to hang in your car. This will have a letter which indicates which shuttle crossing you are on and if you are returning, it will show the return time.
The Passenger Terminal Building has a few places to get snacks and refreshments though not a great deal and at peak times long queues can form. You can buy newspapers and books in WHSmith; there is a bureau de change, an AA shop and a small duty free shop.
On the walls in the terminal and on screens in the car park are monitors which give information for departures. Information is also announced and when your departure is available you drive your car through the passport control areas (in Calais you go through passport control before the passenger terminal) and into the indicated lane and then onto the train.
The trains have two decks and you’ll be directed at the entrance. 35 minutes after you depart the UK, the doors will open and you’ll drive off straight onto the A16 Auto Route where you’ll almost immediately see a petrol station (expect to pay higher motorway petrol prices if you stop here – best to fill up before hand).
There are very clear signposts directing you onto to the motorway to Paris, Boulogne etc. or into the centre of Calais and also towards Cité Europe, the huge shopping centre popular for stocking up on French wines and foods.
Our top tips for Eurotunnel travel
If you know that you’ll be going to do more than 5 return journeys to/from France purchase Frequent Traveller tickets. There are conditions – a minimum purchase of 10 single tickets is required to open an account. Bookings cannot be made at Check-in on the day of travel. The Frequent Traveller Standard Fares are applicable to single “Off Peak” journeys. For travel during “Standard Peak” or “High Peak” times, a supplement will be payable. But having said this we’ve never found the conditions too restrictive and the fact that you can amend your booking on line so easily makes this a very good buy if you are a frequent traveller. You must take the card you bought them with when you’re booking in, you can’t give them to other people not even members of the family unless you are with them and have the card you booked them with.
Eurotunnel is certainly the quickest, smoothest and easiest way to get to France from the UK with your car, motorbike, van or camper van and you can take a caravan or trailer too – just remember to book into the high vehicle section.