Eurotunnel Versus Cross-Channel Ferry: Which Is Best?

By • Dec 20th, 2013 • Category: Miscellaneous

English Channel

License: Creative Commons image source

In 1994, travel from the UK to France was revolutionised by the opening of the Channel Tunnel; an undersea rail link between Folkestone in Kent, England and Coquelles, near Calais in northern France. Almost two hundred years after the idea was originally suggested, the completion of the tunnel at last provided travellers with cars, who until then had relied solely upon ferries to France, with an alternative means of crossing the Channel.

Both options for travelling from the UK to France with a car remain hugely popular but how do they compare? Here we look at the pros and cons of each to decide, when Eurotunnel versus cross-Channel ferry, which is best.

Speed of crossing

For those wishing to get to or from France in a hurry, the Eurotunnel option wins hands down as a train whisks passengers from Folkestone to Coquelles in around thirty-five minutes. Whilst ferries to France offer a greater number of departure and arrival destinations, depending upon your route crossing the Channel by ferry can take anything from one to eleven hours.

Winner: Eurotunnel

Reliability

Both Eurotunnel and the cross-Channel ferry operators will tell you that theirs is the more reliable means of travelling to France. In truth, both options are susceptible to delays and cancellations. The safety of passengers using the Channel Tunnel is of paramount importance and operations can be delayed or suspended as a result of technical problems, loss of power or of any incident which might constitute a fire risk. Ferries to France, meanwhile, are always beholden to the weather and conditions at sea which can particularly affect reliability during the winter months.

Winner: Draw

Passenger comfort

Foot passengers using the Channel Tunnel travel in the comfort of a modern high speed train carriage, whilst Eurotunnel passengers – those taking their car to France – basically drive aboard the train, park their car and remain in it for the thirty-five minutes or so that the journey takes. The Channel Tunnel is well-lit and air-conditioned but the fact remains that passengers are travelling in an enclosed space beneath the sea; there are no outside views and whilst claustrophobia shouldn’t be an issue, boredom might.

Once parked aboard a cross-Channel ferry, passengers are free to wander the decks, enjoy the view and take in the fresh sea air – if the weather is good. Seasickness might be a problem if the waters are rough, but inside the ferry there are comfortable passenger lounges, coffee bars, shops and restaurants plus televisions and play areas for kids.

Winner: Cross-Channel ferry

Convenience

Whether you’re travelling to France via Eurotunnel or ferry, unless you already live in the south of England you’re going to face a drive to reach your departure point. If you’ve driven some distance to reach a ferry terminal you’ll have a decent break to recover during the ferry crossing as opposed to only thirty-five minutes when travelling by Eurotunnel. However, Eurotunnel crossings run more frequently that ferries to France, largely allowing passengers to turn up on the day – except at peak holiday periods – without prior booking; this is not advisable with ferry crossings which are better booked in advance to ensure availability and lower fares.
Passport control and customs procedures are similar and straightforward for both Eurotunnel and ferry passengers, but embarking and disembarking is a faster affair when travelling by Eurotunnel. However, if you drive a hybrid vehicle or other vehicle which uses any kind of flammable gas (including LPG, LNG and CNG) you cannot use the Eurotunnel due to the potential risk of fire.

Winner: Draw

Cost

As with many commodities, it is possible to find deals, promotions and special offers for travel to France, whether using Eurotunnel or a cross-Channel ferry. In both cases, booking in advance will result in lower costs too but, generally speaking, for a family of four (two adults, two children) taking a car to France travelling with one of the main ferry operators is the least expensive option. That said, customers of the supermarket Tesco with sufficient Club Card loyalty points can spend these with Eurotunnel to obtain a reduced-fare or even free trip.

Winner: Cross-Channel ferry

Eurotunnel versus Cross-Channel Ferry: Which is best? Conclusion:

Ultimately, there’s little to choose between these two methods of travelling to France with personal preference the deciding factor. Ferries to France might edge the vote on price but Eurotunnel is the best for holidaymakers in a hurry whilst both offer similar levels of convenience and reliability.

Author Bio: John is a freelance travel writer based in the UK and regular visitor to France

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