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  #1  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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UK to France - Ferry or train?

I've not done this before, but I'm determined to figure it out, so this isn't just dumb curiosity. We want to fly with the bike into Gatwick, London, then we want to ride to the ferry or train to France for the ride to Paris to meet friends. We'll be two up on an 1150GS with our stuff for 7+ weeks of riding France, Spain, Portugal from mid July-early September. We'll fly home from Paris. We wish we could avoid summer crowds, but can't swing that for this trip.

Q1: Is it better to go by train or ferry?
Q2: Do you have a weblink or cost for the trip on either the ferry or the train?
Q3: Should we make reservations?
Q4: Or should we just fly to Paris and skip the UK?
thx
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  #2  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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Q1. "Better" ? Either works. Some prefer the cross-Channel "wind in the face" experience; many prefer the relative speed of the Chunnel vehicle train.

Q2. Google search will find you mulitple booking/ info websites. Here are two:
Eurotunnel: Faster Than A Ferry To France - Folkestone Dover to Calais
Ferries to France - Ferry tickets | Book a Ferry to France with AFerry.com

Q3. That time/ season of the year, reservations a good idea.

Q4. Depends how you want to spend your time.
Also depends--significantly--on relative availability of airfreight services for your bike into UK vs. France, [U]and[U] in particular ease of Customs clearance time/ procedures in UK vs. Paris. In general, UK clearance of bike easier than France, but you want to check that with whichever airfreight broker/ agent you intend to use for bike.
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  #3  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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The ferry is cheaper and you do get to sit down on a chair while it's rattling along. The train is supposed to be quicker (and it is when it's actually moving) but every single time I've used it there have been delays getting going. I'm sure others will say it's been so fast they blinked and missed the whole thing but that's been my experience over the last 10yrs. For the half hour you're actually on the train you can either stand or sit on the floor - no seats - it's set up for cars who have their own seats built in.

Reserving (on line) in advance is cheaper and the prices seems to vary in real time. There are usually some sort of deals / special offers around that'l keep the cost down. I paid £26 return for a bike on the ferry at the end of Oct - but since then one of the main players, Sea France, seems to have gone to the wall, leaving P&O as the last ferryman standing (to Calais anyway). I'd expect prices to rise in 2012
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  #4  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by backofbeyond View Post
The ferry is cheaper and you do get to sit down on a chair while it's rattling along. The train is supposed to be quicker (and it is when it's actually moving) but every single time I've used it there have been delays getting going. I'm sure others will say it's been so fast they blinked and missed the whole thing but that's been my experience over the last 10yrs. For the half hour you're actually on the train you can either stand or sit on the floor - no seats - it's set up for cars who have their own seats built in.

Reserving (on line) in advance is cheaper and the prices seems to vary in real time. There are usually some sort of deals / special offers around that'l keep the cost down. I paid £26 return for a bike on the ferry at the end of Oct - but since then one of the main players, Sea France, seems to have gone to the wall, leaving P&O as the last ferryman standing (to Calais anyway). I'd expect prices to rise in 2012
Wow, how did that one get past me; a quick search for the news about Sea France has brought up just local news stations in the UK - i.e. not seen on the national news.
BBC News - French authority in bid to save SeaFrance

Yes, booking ahead for any of the channel crossing services is always cheaper than rocking up on the day for which the operators will fleece you, presumably on the assumption that you really have to cross at that time/day. But, for the past few years I have booked online only the day before, leaving such things until as late as possible partly for the "sea france" reason.
As given here, the train route sous la manche, is the fastest overall, but it always seems to come out the most expensive.
The Norfolk line route (now owned by DFDS) between Dover and Dunkerque is my preferred one for the ferries because two hours gives a bit more time to chill out & eat etc, rather than rushing about for the one hour travel between Dover and Calais. They are also very competitive on pricing, but not as much as they used to be when branded as Norfolk line alone.

I have also used aferry.com and found it to work OK.

I have no idea why you would want to go to Paris via the UK; that's your business I would say!!
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  #5  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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HI MM17:
Can't added anything to the options given. I have used both. I can tell you about the ferry service. My wife and I spent 90 days covering Europe this last summer on our 1150GS. While visiting all of Great Britian, we headed back to France in June. It was raining so hard, we decided to use the Brittany ferry service out of Portsmouth as a rest break. The service was great. Nice meals and very pleasant environment. Made the reservation for the overnight departure. Got us into Caen, France, the next morning at 7am. Had plenty of time to make the ship at Portsmouth, for its evening departure. We reserved a room with shower/restroom. I booked online, from the US, due to limited rooms. I just googled european ferry services.
If you have any questions, just give me a PM (Tricare, MEDEX, EVAC policy, Toll Road sites, European traffic emergency equipment requirements sites, Green Card, etc). I used some military benefits overseas that came in handy, during an unexpected minor emergency. Also, picked up a roadside assistance policy from ADAC in Germany for about $120 USD. Came in handy in Portugal when I lost my final drive (16,000 miles) on the bike.
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  #6  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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Tunnel fan.

Reserve.
You get better deals with the Tunnel by bookling in advance. But they surcharge you if you turn up outside the booked 'time window' of an hour or two (fortunately not my problem as I have a lifetime free pass!).

I have used it maybe 500-600 times, mostly by car but I share Backofbeyond and Bertrand's comments about lack of even a seat for riders. However after long hours on a saddle it is a good opportunity to stand and stretch before the next stint. Fortunately they try to 'batch' (no Cole!!) motos together so at least you can chat with kindred spirits (unless it's an HD!) - something car drivers do not do.

Last time I left UK, back in August, fuel was cheaper there than F, B, NL and D so I filled the car at Tesco just by Junction 10 (there is also Sainsburys close to J9). That got me into Poland where it was even cheaper (AA do a monthly prices survey). Next fuel was back within Russia - equivalent to 55p/litre
(Sorry about the but I love to gloat!)
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  #7  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by judgejoe View Post
HI MM17:
Can't added anything to the options given. I have used both. I can tell you about the ferry service. My wife and I spent 90 days covering Europe this last summer on our 1150GS. While visiting all of Great Britian, we headed back to France in June. It was raining so hard, we decided to use the Brittany ferry service out of Portsmouth as a rest break. The service was great. Nice meals and very pleasant environment. Made the reservation for the overnight departure. Got us into Caen, France, the next morning at 7am. Had plenty of time to make the ship at Portsmouth, for its evening departure. We reserved a room with shower/restroom. I booked online, from the US, due to limited rooms. I just googled european ferry services.
If you have any questions, just give me a PM (Tricare, MEDEX, EVAC policy, Toll Road sites, European traffic emergency equipment requirements sites, Green Card, etc). I used some military benefits overseas that came in handy, during an unexpected minor emergency. Also, picked up a roadside assistance policy from ADAC in Germany for about $120 USD. Came in handy in Portugal when I lost my final drive (16,000 miles) on the bike.
Good point! For the longer sea crossings, you should book further ahead, unless you are not bothered which port and service operator you want to use - I have done both options. As explained here, for the longer routes you really do need an overnight cabin which is going to cost more, much more, than the short sea routes. In fact most operators on the long routes make the cabin booking compulsory to cut out those who want to sleep on the floor etc.
+1 for Britanny ferries who are French owned so they have a good menu on board.
Aferry.com tends to be up to date with all the options for who is sailing to where and from where, so it is a useful first search point even if you end up booking direct with the operator of your choice.
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  #8  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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Although never having taken the train, I have to say that I love the Ferry and have no desire to 'discover' the joys of the Chunnell. I like to have a meal (such as it is!), walk around on deck, feel the sea air on my face, look at the horizon; to just be still in the 'fresh' air for a while!

Booking early is also a great idea. I missed my ferry last Summer, and they just put me on the next one - no extra charge (P+O).

Much as it pains me, f you're meeting friends in Paris, why not just fly there? If you're travelling with them, this makes greater sense. If you're litterally just heading from Gatwick to Dover, again this makes sense. If you'd quite like to see some of the UK first, then I'd go for the Ferry.

Enjoy your travels.
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  #9  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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Cheap ferries France England LD Lines : Channel crossing ferry to France

I always found the (often overlooked) Newhaven - Dieppe ferry more convenient than the tunnel. Closest ferry to Gatwick, on the direct route to Paris.

It's a bit of a haul to Dover (from Brighton) and the Pas de Calais is flat and boring. Overall I'd say the travel time on the ferry is less - certainly the mileage is!

Be sure to pre-book. It's unlikely they won't find a space for a moto but turning up on-spec could result in a higher fare.




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  #10  
Old 6 Dec 2011
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http://www.directferries.co.uk/

The above is an OK site for comparison, but it can be cheaper to go direct.

Eurotunnel: Faster Than A Ferry To France - Folkestone Dover to Calais

All of them do have offers from time to time, and the earlier you book, and sometimes the more unfriendly times you travel, can all bring the price down. The only time I've turned up without booking was £300 return for a car on the Chunnel, whereas the last crossing was for a 4m tall, 7.5m long camper and £36 one way

Most people will struggle to be sea sick on the train, but it does go dark outside the carraiges for 20 mins or so while you are under the sea, not nice for some! And in this day and age any are liable to strike action causing delays.

Personally I like boats, it feels like its becoming a trip not just an extension of the motorway. And as for not going to the UK at all?!?!?!?!?! Theres quite a lot to see you know



And while in France, 6 July, long weekend, Classic Le Mans

http://www.lemansclassic.com/en/s01_...01p01_home.php

Every 2 years, not the June "normal" race, but bonkers enthusiasts on 4 wheels from every motoring era, 1923 to 1979 in sensibly arranged groups running I think 4 hour rotating stints for 24 hours. Camping essential, many camping areas only metres from the circuit, everyone well behaved, prebooking would probably be essential for camping very soon, just entry on the door may be OK but you'll struggle to stay close by. Ride up early Friday, tent up, chill out and enjoy the noise! Well worth a look if you can
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Old 6 Dec 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grizzly7 View Post
but it does go dark outside the carraiges for 20 mins or so while you are under the sea,
Yes, but you have to stay in the well lit carriages.
And there are plenty of windows for looking out at the fishes.
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  #12  
Old 7 Dec 2011
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Beware of a scam on the tunnel. I booked and paid in advance over the phone. When I checked in at the port the guy in the booth said they had my booking but my card had been rejected and at this late stage I would have to pay cash. When I asked for a receipt he said my ticket was the receipt, which sounded reasonable at the time.

Months later when I got home I found that my card had been successfully charged on the day I booked. It appeared that the guy had lied and pocketed my cash. As it was a one way booking he possibly assumed I would not be coming back even if I spotted the con later.

When I phoned the company they intially claimed it could not have happened, that I had no proof and that the guy in question was a long-term employee and very honest. When I asked for his name so I could report him to the police for theft their tone changed and I was referred to someone else who then said they would send me a refund. I subsequently received a cheque.

All part of the adventure, but in retrospect I guess I should still have reported it to the police.

Last edited by Deolali; 7 Dec 2011 at 10:49. Reason: crap grammar
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  #13  
Old 8 Dec 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deolali View Post
Beware of a scam on the tunnel. I booked and paid in advance over the phone. When I checked in at the port the guy in the booth said they had my booking but my card had been rejected and at this late stage I would have to pay cash. When I asked for a receipt he said my ticket was the receipt, which sounded reasonable at the time.

Months later when I got home I found that my card had been successfully charged on the day I booked. It appeared that the guy had lied and pocketed my cash. As it was a one way booking he possibly assumed I would not be coming back even if I spotted the con later.

When I phoned the company they intially claimed it could not have happened, that I had no proof and that the guy in question was a long-term employee and very honest. When I asked for his name so I could report him to the police for theft their tone changed and I was referred to someone else who then said they would send me a refund. I subsequently received a cheque.

All part of the adventure, but in retrospect I guess I should still have reported it to the police.

That's shocking mate. I have never heard of it happening before though. We have only used the tunnel once and have only got praise for it. If it had of happened though, her who must be obeyed on pillion would have kicked up a stink and forced the poor bloke to call a supervisor in. I hope Eurotunnel sacked the bloke!

@MM17. Your choice really. I always want to be riding, so the extra time and sea sickness means tunnel for me. I used to use Hovercraft and seacat before....remember those? Only thing is, as has been pointed out, your stuck by your bike. Fine with me. And just sit on the floor. And at that time of year you will be bunged in with all the other bikers too, so make some friends.
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  #14  
Old 8 Dec 2011
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During the tunnel's pre-opening trials and following early days, motos were put in small 'cupboards' and the riders sat in a small room above it.

When entering the train's lower level, look behind you - there is a curved (towards you) door. Behind that were spaces for 3 motos. Alongside is a passenger door leading up stairs to a small room with 6 seats and a water dispenser.
The loading staff used to very tightly ratchet strap the bike's front from the handlebars down to wheel clamp supports, leaving the suspensions fully compressed for the journey. After a few claims for damaged fork seals, handlebar controls etc they abandoned these rooms and kept riders with their motos. Initially we were told to use centre stands but some fell over during the journey (I once helped a very unhappy Italian couple pick up their fully laden K1100LT). Now you must use side stands only. By leaving the riders in control of their motos, responsibilty remains with the rider.


Another abandoned feature were metal 'buffers' that rose up before all carriage interconnecting doors to prevent cars going forward into the doors or next carriage in the event of an 'emergency stop'. These buffers lowered when the train stopped and the doors opened, to allow cars to drive half the length of the train to a side exit. Unfortunately even when lowered the buffers were still about 5 inches (13cm) or so higher in the centre of the roadway than the wheel tracks. A few claims from owners of low supercars like Ferrari, Maserati, Lambo, etc for new exhausts, air dam skirts, suspension and steering damage etc soon prompted the removal of these buffers!
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  #15  
Old 8 Dec 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grizzly7 View Post

Most people will struggle to be sea sick on the train

I'd guess most people will be aware of the possibility of seasickness on the boats and have some idea of their own susceptibility, but there is an equivalent for the tunnel - not trainsickness but earache.

Earlier in the year we came back to the UK using the tunnel from a family trip to France with my daughter totally bunged up with a cold. The increase in air pressure as the train descended into the tunnel caused extreme pain in one of her ears that lasted until we emerged in Kent.

The rest of us then suffered extreme earache in both ears as she complained that we should have taken the boat!
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