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Driving to France from the UK: Renting a Car for Long-Distance Driving

Is it possible to drive from the UK to France? Absolutely! You can easily drive from the United Kingdom to France. However, before you pack your bags and hit the road, there are some essential things you need to know.

This comprehensive guide covers everything about driving to France from the UK, including the best routes, legal requirements, what to pack, travel tips, and destination ideas to help you plan the perfect trip.

Crossing the English Channel to France

EuroTunnel Le Shuttle – The Quickest Crossing You cannot drive through the tunnel from England to France. Instead, you drive your car onto a train that travels through the tunnel. The EuroTunnel from Folkestone to Calais is the fastest route to France, as you remain in your car during the 35-minute crossing. With up to four departures per hour, driving from the UK to France can take less than an hour.

Note: EuroTunnel does not accept vehicles powered by LPG or equivalent flammable gas, including dual-powered vehicles with an LPG tank.

Dover to Calais – The Fastest Ferry The quickest way to drive from England to France is by taking the ferry from Dover to Calais. P&O, DFDS, and Irish Ferries operate up to 40 crossings during peak season. The crossing takes about 1.5 hours, giving you time for a meal or quick snooze on board. While loading and unloading can take a while, this option is generally cheaper than the shuttle.

North-West France Routes Longer crossings from Portsmouth and Poole to Caen and Cherbourg, or from Plymouth to Roscoff, are ideal for reaching the Vendee, Loire Valley, or southwest France. These options include overnight and fast catamaran sailings, some with pet-friendly cabins. These ferries are more expensive, and fast crossings book up quickly.

Eastern England to the Netherlands Crossings from Harwich, Hull, and Newcastle to the Netherlands are more expensive and longer than the Dover-Calais route. However, if you don’t live in the southeast of England, this may be cost-effective. Routes like the Stena Line Harwich-Hook of Holland and the P&O Hull-Rotterdam offer daily crossings but require additional driving in France.

Other Popular England to France Ferries Routes from Newhaven and Folkestone to Dieppe or Le Havre in northern France are also worth exploring. Flexibility with dates and times can help you find the best deals.

Routes to Northern Spain Ferries to Bilbao or Santander in northern Spain from Portsmouth or Plymouth are suitable for the south or southwest of France and the Pyrenees. Though more expensive, the savings in fuel, tolls, and driving time can make this a cost-effective option.

Documentation Ensure you have the following documentation:

  • Passport valid for at least three months after your planned departure.
  • At least third-party insurance for your vehicle.
  • A full and valid driving licence. An International Driving Permit may be required for some UK-issued licences.
  • V5C certificate or registration document.
  • EHIC or GHIC card and travel insurance.
  • European breakdown cover documents.
  • Permission to take a company or leased car outside the UK.

Equipment for Your Vehicle You must carry:

  • At least one reflective jacket within the passenger compartment.
  • A warning triangle.
  • A first aid kit.
  • A UK country identifier sticker.
  • Headlamp beam deflectors.

Traveling to France & Brexit

  • UK citizens can stay in the Schengen Area for 90 days in every 180 days.
  • From 2024, the EU will introduce ETIAS, an online registration for visa-exempt travelers.
  • You cannot bring meat, milk, or their products into France, with some exceptions for specific products.

Driving in France

  • France drives on the right.
  • Be aware of the “priorité à droite” rule.
  • Speed limits vary: Motorways (130 kph), Dual Carriageways (110 kph), Main Roads Outside Built-up Areas (80 kph), and Main Roads Within Built-up Areas (50 kph).
  • Speed cameras are common, and fines can be sent to your UK address.
  • Drink driving laws are stricter in France.

Tolls and Emission Zones

  • Consider an electronic toll tag for convenience.
  • Crit’Air stickers are required in many cities to identify vehicle emissions levels.
  • Winter tyres or snow chains are required in mountainous regions from November to March.

Breakdowns and Accidents

  • Use orange emergency telephones on motorways to call for assistance.
  • Complete the EU Accident Statement if involved in an accident.

Top French Destinations Explore regions like Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, Bourgogne-France-Comte, Brittany, Centre-Val de Loire, Grand Est, Hautes-de-France, Ile-de-France, Normandy, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie, Pays de la Loire, and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur for diverse landscapes and cultural experiences.

Conclusion Driving from the UK to France is straightforward with proper planning. Ensure you have the necessary documentation, vehicle equipment, and knowledge of French road rules for a safe and enjoyable trip. Happy travels!

Top 10 Cars for Long-Distance Driving

When it comes to long-distance driving, certain cars stand out for their comfort, reliability, and efficiency. Here are ten of the best options for those planning extensive road trips:

Mercedes E-Class

Mercedes E-Class

The Mercedes E-Class is a top contender for long-distance driving, offering a blend of luxury, comfort, and advanced technology. Its spacious interior and superior ride quality make it an excellent choice for long journeys. The E-Class is equipped with numerous driver assistance features that enhance safety and ease of driving, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.

Volvo V90

Volvo V90

The Volvo V90 is another superb option, particularly for those prioritizing safety and space. This estate car provides a comfortable ride with plenty of legroom and cargo space. Volvo’s commitment to safety is evident in the V90, which comes with a host of advanced safety features, including Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous driving system that makes long-distance driving less tiring.

BMW 5 Series

BMW 5 Series

Known for its smooth drive and powerful engines, the BMW 5 Series is ideal for those who enjoy a dynamic driving experience. The interior is designed with high-quality materials, and the seats are exceptionally comfortable, making long drives more pleasant. Additionally, the 5 Series offers a range of efficient engines, from economical diesels to potent petrol units, catering to various driving styles and preferences.

Audi A6

Audi A6

The Audi A6 is a strong competitor in the luxury sedan segment, combining comfort with advanced technology. The A6’s interior is spacious and equipped with high-tech features, including a dual touchscreen infotainment system. The car’s adaptive air suspension ensures a smooth ride, even on long journeys, while the range of efficient engines provides excellent fuel economy.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

For those looking for an electric vehicle, the Tesla Model S is hard to beat. With its long range and autopilot feature, the Model S makes long-distance travel both feasible and enjoyable. The spacious cabin and cutting-edge technology, such as the large central touchscreen and over-the-air updates, enhance the driving experience. Additionally, Tesla’s Supercharger network provides convenient and fast charging options along many routes.

Skoda Superb

Skoda Superb

The Skoda Superb is known for its excellent value for money, offering a spacious interior and a comfortable ride. It is a practical choice for long-distance driving, with plenty of legroom for passengers and a large boot for luggage. The Superb also comes with a range of efficient engines and modern technology features, making it a reliable and economical option for long trips.

Lexus RX

Lexus RX

The Lexus RX, particularly in its hybrid form, offers a refined and quiet ride. The SUV’s interior is luxurious and comfortable, with supportive seats and high-quality materials. The RX’s hybrid powertrain provides good fuel efficiency, making it a great choice for those looking to minimize fuel stops on long journeys. Additionally, the Lexus Safety System+ includes numerous driver assistance features that enhance safety and convenience.

Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento is a spacious SUV that offers a comfortable ride and decent fuel efficiency, making it suitable for long-distance driving. Its roomy interior can accommodate up to seven passengers, and the boot space is ample for luggage. The Sorento also comes with a range of modern features, including an intuitive infotainment system and advanced safety technologies, ensuring a pleasant and safe journey.

Volkswagen Passat

vw passat

The Volkswagen Passat is a reliable and comfortable sedan, perfect for long-distance travel. Its interior is spacious, with supportive seats and a user-friendly infotainment system. The Passat’s range of efficient engines ensures good fuel economy, while the advanced safety features, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, make long drives less stressful.

Range Rover

range rover

For those who prefer a luxurious SUV with off-road capabilities, the Range Rover is an excellent choice. Its plush interior and advanced technology provide a comfortable and enjoyable driving experience. The Range Rover’s powerful engines and off-road prowess make it versatile for various driving conditions, from highways to rugged terrains. The SUV’s adaptive air suspension and spacious cabin further enhance its suitability for long-distance journeys.

Renting a Car for Long-Distance Driving

If your own car isn’t suitable for long-distance travel, renting one of these top-rated vehicles is a great idea. Several car rental companies offer services that allow you to drive from the UK to France. Some of the recommended car rental companies include:

These companies provide various options, from luxury sedans to spacious SUVs, ensuring a comfortable and reliable journey. Always check their policies for international travel and any additional insurance requirements when driving from the UK to France.