Guide to Ferry Operators & Routes to France
We now live in a world of dirt cheap airline tickets. However, almost eleven million people still choose to enter France each year by ferry. Many of these people will be new to ferry transportation. To assist, we’ve written this enlightening blog post that aims to outline your options for travelling to France by ferry. Here at Relyon, we provide an affordable Dover port parking service for many of these people choosing to travel to France via ferry. Over the years, we’ve gained many special insights into ferry travel. These insights include information on when and how to book your ferry tickets. This information will allow you to save money and time on your journey to France.
The 'Big Four' ferry operators
Nowadays the cross-channel ferry run to France is dominated by four big players. These players include P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways, Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries.
When it comes to ticket sales, ferry operators have adopted a very similar business model to airline and train companies. Gone are the days of year-round 'fixed' priced ferry tickets. Instead, ferry operators charge ticket prices according to demand. You can typically expect to pay more for your ferry ticket around Christmas or in the summer. You also pay more during 'peak' times of the day and at weekends. Likewise, ferry operators raise their ticket prices during school holidays.
Routes to France
When it comes to France ferry crossings, you've got several English ports to choose from. By far the quickest route to France is Calais via Dover. This journey takes 90 minutes to complete. Because Calais is linked to the French motorway system, you can access most French cities within hours.
When you choose to enter France via Calais, you can typically expect to arrive in Normandy or Brittany much quicker when compared to traveling to these regions via Portsmouth, Plymouth, Newhaven or Poole.
Below we provide a handy table outlining your various options, together with important details regarding available ferry operators, typical ticket prices and the daily number of crossings for each English port:
|Route||Operators||Lowest standard fare||Fastest crossing time||Max frequency|
|Dover-Dunkirk||DFDS Seaway||£90 (car plus up to nine passengers)||Two hours||12 per day|
|Dover-Calais||P&O Ferries, DFDS Seaways||£98 (car plus up to nine passengers)||90 minutes||10 per day|
|Folkestone-Calais||Eurotunnel||£112 (car plus up to nine passengers)||35 minutes||Four per hour|
|Newhaven-Dieppe||DFDS Seaways||£78 (car plus up to two passengers)||Four hours||Three per day|
|Portsmouth-Le Havre||Brittany Ferries||£198 (économie), £268 (fast craft) (car plus up to two passengers)||5½ hours (slower économie service); 3¾ hours (fast craft)||Two per day|
|Portsmouth-Caen||Brittany Ferries||£210 (car plus up to two passengers)||Six hours||Three per day|
|Portsmouth-Cherbourg||Brittany Ferries||£325 (car plus up to two passengers)||Seven hours||One per day|
|Poole-Cherbourg||Brittany Ferries||£224 (car plus up to two passengers)||4½ hours||One per day|
|Portsmouth-St Malo||Brittany Ferries||£293 (car plus up to two passengers)||8¾ hours||One per day|
|Plymouth-Roscoff||Brittany Ferries||£248 (car plus up to two passengers)||Six hours||Two per day|
|Poole-St Malo||Condor Ferries||£325 (car plus up to two passengers)||5½ hours||One per day|
Finding the cheapest deals
Given ferry ticket fares are subject to change, we urge you to plan your journey well in advance. The simplest way to buy ferry tickets is through an online price comparison website. Comparison websites we recommend include Ferry Savers, AFerry and Ferry Online.
National Ferry Fortnight
Each year, ferry companies hold 'National Ferry Fortnight'. This is held between the 2nd and 15th March. During this time, you can expect to grab a bargain. These deals apply to all ferry routes, including the crossing to France. Ferry companies involved include P&O, Brittany Ferries, Irish Ferries, Stena Line and DFDS Seaways.
During National Ferry Fortnight, ferry companies offer discounted tickets for journeys taking place throughout the year. Thus, if you plan to travel to France via ferry in July, we recommend you purchase your ferry ticket during National Ferry Fortnight so that you take advantage of these discounts.