Your guide to choosing a Ferry to France

Your guide to choosing a Ferry to France

If you are planning a trip from England to France you might immediately jump to the obvious choices. You might be a budget-conscious traveller or perhaps speed is more your game but have you ever considered what the best ferry to France is?

On any given day there are roughly 62 crossings across the English Channel via Ferry from the English side. These leave from five separate ports, scattered across the southern coast, and land in eight ports along the northern coast of France. So as you can see you have a whole lot of options to explore.

Why choose a ferry?

You may be thinking that ferries are neither cost-effective or time-effective modes of transportation. Perhaps you’ve never used the ferry before and instead used the Eurotunnel. Or maybe you have always flown to your chosen destination but ferries are much more convenient than you may think.

Flexibility: with so many crossings, and so many ports available for ferry journeys it is easy to find a route that fits your personal schedule. The number of ports makes it easier for you to plan your travel around your own needs. Maybe you are spending your first several days in Paris before heading off to Rennes. You could leave out of Portsmouth, arrive in France via Caen, have your holiday, and set sail back to Portsmouth via St. Malo.

Modern Amenities: Most new ferries are equipped with wi-fi, which means you can do some very important travel planning while on board. Many also offer cafes, bars, and other entertainment features so even the longest journey quickly passes you by.

Cabins: Many of the longer ferries have cabins onboard. This means that you can take a night crossing and sleep whilst travelling, arriving at your chosen destination without even knowing you’ve gone anywhere.

Pets & Baggage: Ferries tend to have different rules when it comes to baggage and your furry friends. You may be bringing your car, which can be filled to the brim with luggage or wishing for pet-friendly accommodation. Either way, many current routes offer a solution.

What is the best ferry to France?

This is a question that may ultimately depend on what sort of things you are looking for in your journey. When travelling there is a lot to be considered including price, facilities, ports, distance to travel from your home to the port and more.

The cheapest ferry to France

It is difficult to compare all of the ferry services in a direct way because there is no port or journey time that is identical for all three. You can easily use our comparison tool to find ferry prices online.

Your individual price will be determined by your situation. Are you travelling by foot or car? What is your port of leave and entry? For the sake of this article, we will look at some of the services available and try to give you a general idea. We will use peak travel times since that is when most people do find themselves travelling and use the cheapest port which is Dover to Calais due to the short crossing time.

Dover to Calais Ferry: This is an extremely popular route, with the largest number of daily crossings and has two of the largest ferries services on this route, P&O and DFDS Seaways.

Prices for a one-way ticket break down like this:

Foot Travel: P&O costs £30. DFDS Seaways does not allow foot travel.
Car Travel: P&O costs £81. DFDS Seaways costs £80 for a small car.

DFDS Seaways is the more affordable option assuming you are travelling by car, however, P&O is known for having newer ferries with better comforts. This is P&O’s only port of operation.

Based on these findings for these dates it appears that DFDS Seaways is the winner for the cheapest ferry to France. Remember though this may vary depending on the time of the year or how far in advance you book your tickets.

How long is a ferry to France

If you are simply looking for the fastest ferry to France, regardless of port, then you would want to choose the Dover to Calais route. Dover to Calais is perhaps the most famous way to cross the English Channel. This route takes around an hour and a half and is the fastest by quite some time.

However, what you also need to consider is the distance you may have to travel to Dover and from Calais. Although other ferries take longer your overall travelling time may well be shorter depending upon your starting point and final destination.

General port to port times in order to shortest to longest:

Dover to Calais: P&O (1.5 Hours), DFDS Seaways (1.5 Hours)
Dover to Dunkirk: DFDS Seaways (2 Hours)
Portsmouth to Cherbourg: Brittany Ferries (3 Hours)
Newhaven to Dieppe: DFDS Seaways (4 Hours)
Poole to Cherbourg: Brittany Ferries (4.25 Hours)
Plymouth to Roscoff: Brittany Ferries (5.5 Hours)
Portsmouth to Le Havre Ferry: Brittany Ferries (5.5 Hours)
Portsmouth to Caen: Brittany Ferries (5.75 Hours)
Portsmouth to St Malo: Brittany Ferries (11 Hours)

Picking your ferry should be more about travel destination than it should be about speed, especially considering the fantastic comforts offered by these incredible boats.

Which ferry is the most comfortable?

The truth is, ferry travel has come a long way. Almost every option is equipped with almost cruise ship like amenities. They offer dining experiences, bars, and sleeping quarters for longer journeys.

Whether your trip is an hour and a half or eleven hours you will be comfortable. Each individual company has its own amenities listed, so let’s have a look:

P&O ships are some of the newest ships available. The Spirit of France and the Spirit of Britain are the two new recruits and these look incredible. According to their website, the Spirit of France alone boasts a video arcade, bar, slot machines, a shopping centre, a family lounge, smoking deck, club lounge, international food court, and restaurant. Not bad for a journey of fewer than two hours!

DFDS Seaways appear to offer the fewest amenities but did win our cheapest ticket. Still, you are not going to have a difficult time finding something to do. With two restaurants and a cafe, a children’s area, a shopping area, and a private lounge you still aren’t missing out on anything.

Brittany Ferries has some of the most extensive comforts of the lot. This is, in part, due to the length of many of their journeys. They do differ when it comes to their ferries. They have high-speed options that feature fewer amenities while their cruise ferries have sleeping quarters, a self-service restaurant, cafe, bar, sit down restaurant, boutiques, cinemas, children’s entertainment (seasonal), video games, and reading lounge.

All of these lines offer wi-fi and cash points throughout.

Other considerations when choosing your ferry

Method of travel

It’s been previously discussed, but travelling with a car or without is an important part of choosing your boat. In that, if you travelling on foot you may not have as many options. Certain ferries do not carry passengers that arrive without a car.
For example, DFDS Seaways only carries foot passengers on it’s Newhaven to Dieppe route.


This is a really important factor to consider.
DFDS Seaways accepts pets for 15-18 pounds each way. If you are a foot traveller out of Newhaven the pet must be in a kennel on the car deck. Remember that you should pre-book your pet as limited space is available.

P&O allows pets for 15 pounds and the pet must remain inside your vehicle (so consider the temperature for your pet’s safety). Check-in is between an hour and 90 minutes early. Foot passengers cannot bring their pets.

Finally, Brittany Ferries accepts animals in vehicles, but they are not allowed on decks or public areas. Kennels or pet-friendly cabins can be arranged on certain journeys. You may only visit your pet on the car deck at pre-arranged times. They have a pet travel scheme starting at 25 pounds.
If you are planning on bringing an animal, please remember to do your own research as well.

So which is the best ferry to France?

You may have noticed this article spent a lot of time explaining that this all depends on you and your trip. And that is because it’s the truth. If you want to get your journey done and over with for minimal costs then Dover to Calais via DFDS Seaways is probably for you. If you want a flexible schedule with moderate comfort, the same route with P&O is probably your best option. If you want to make this ferry trip feel like a cruise then, by all means, relax and rejuvenate aboard a Brittany Ferries vessel.

If you’d like to book a ferry to France then please use out comparison tool which can be found on our homepage.