Destinations Europe / Travel Tips

Drive from England to France – Best Insider Routes

Updated November 2, 2023

Why not drive from England to France this summer and avoid crowded airports and expensive baggage fees? Take a road trip from England to France with my recommended routes and avoid airport security lines and the stress of catching a flight. It’s slow travel at it’s best!

Skip the airports and take your itinerary into your own hands. I think you’ll find that France has similarities to the USA for example that you wouldn’t expect. More highways, direct routes, service areas and more.

Driving can be the perfect solution to ditching the overwhelm of foreign travel by turning it into an American style road trip!

By car you can travel in a bubble and stay socially distant if you choose. Perhaps avoid large city centers in favor of small towns and countryside? Of course if you want to explore a large town just make sure there’s parking facilities with your VRBO or hotel.

Get started by searching for a place to stay in France now.

Drive from England to France

drive from england to france

Lovely harbor of Saint Martin de Re on the Ile de Re on the coast of western France.

4 Options to Drive from England to France

  1. Rent a car in England and drive via the Eurotunnel to France
  2. Rent a car in England and take a ferry to France
  3. Take the Eurostar train from England to France where you rent a car
  4. Take a ferry “on foot” to France where you rent a car

1. Drive a Car onto the Eurotunnel to France

Rent your car in England and then drive it to France using the Eurotunnel which is an “railway” under the English Channel. You drive your car onto the “train”, stay in it and about a half hour later you’re in France.


  • Pack your car at your home or hotel in England.
  • You won’t need to pay for trains or expensive taxis to departure ports with your own car.
  • Stock up on wine or antiques in France and bring home by car without needing shipping, packing or worrying about excess baggage.
  • The Eurotunnel takes only 35 minutes from England to France and has 4 departures every hour.


  • Cars in Great Britain are right hand drive (you drive on the left side of the road), but cars in France and most of Europe are left hand drive (drive on the right side of the road like the US).
  • Some backlogs may be possible at the English Dover port due to enhanced customs and entry requirements.
  • If you’re a wee bit claustrophobic, you may not like being in a tunnel for the better part of 20 minutes.
Choose this option if:
  • You don’t like boats,  long ferry crossings or are prone to seasickness.
  • Eurotunnel is an ideal port if your destination is in north or eastern regions of France.

Book your rental car


drive from england to france

Vibrant Roussillon village in Provence in the south of France

2. Rent a Car in England, Take a Ferry to France

Rent a car in England and drive it onto a ferry bound for France. Most ferry ports depart from the south coast of England to the north coast of France.  If your destination is western or southern France, use an entry port in Normandy or Brittany (instead of the Dover to Calais Eurotunnel for example) to save miles.


  • Pack your car at your home or hotel in England.
  • Drive instead of paying for trains or taxis from home to port.
  • Stock up on wine or antiques in France and bring it home in your own car!


  • Cars in Great Britain are right hand drive (you drive on the left side of the road), but cars in France and most of Europe are left hand drive (drive on the right side of the road like the US).
  • Longer journey. The shortest ferry between England and France takes about 1 1/2  hours (compared to 35 minutes through Eurotunnel). The ferry crossing from Portsmouth or Poole, takes a little over 4 hours.
  • If you don’t like boats or long ferry crossings or if you’re prone to seasickness. Most ferries are flat bottomed and although perfectly safe, DO tend to rock in rough seas.
Choose this option if:
  • You don’t mind spending more time on a ferry boat for less time driving – especially heading to the west or south of France.
  • You’d rather not travel through a tunnel.
drivefrom england to france

Enjoy beautiful Seine views if you make a detour through Paris.

3. Take the Eurostar to France then Rent a Car

Hop on the Eurostar train in London St Pancras station, then 2+ hours later you’re in Paris France. Your train goes on land, then under the Channel, then back on land once you’re in France.


  • You really want to make Paris part of your trip and spend a night or more exploring.
  • The Eurostar train comes into Paris’ Gare du Nord station a central location in Paris.
  • Your rental car will be left hand drive car (US style) meant for French roads (and most of Europe)


  • Once you arrive at Gare du Nord, you’ll have to arrange a taxi to your hotel. Just turn right once you come out of the station to find the taxi rank.
  • You’ll need to pay for a taxi or metro to the rental car location once you’re ready to start your road trip.

Find the perfect pad to stay in Paris!

Choose this option if:

You really really want to see Paris en route or you haven’t been before and this is your one shot!

drive from england to france

Looking down from the Chateau across Saumur and the Loire river in west-central France.

4. Take a Ferry “on foot” to France then Rent a Car

You can make your way to most ferry ports in southern England by train and then board the ferry as a foot passenger. Once you arrive in France you’ll be able to pick up a rental car.


  • In France, you’ll rent a left hand drive car (US style) meant for French roads (and most of Europe).
  • Choose which ferry port you’d like to enter France potentially shaving miles off driving to your destination
  • You’ll be renting a car for fewer days, so budget friendly
  • If for some reason you’re not eligible to rent a car in England, you may be able to in France


  • You’ll have to lug suitcases from home to train/taxi and then onto the ferry and of course do the reverse once you get to France and when you return.
  • You won’t be able to load up your car with French wine and other goodies. Well you could, but you’ll have to lug it onto and off the ferry.
  • You’ll need to walk or find a ride to pick up and drop off your rental car in France
Choose this option if:
  • You’re not eligible to rent a car in the UK.
  • You want to save some money or can get a better rental deal in France
drive from england to france

The iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, one of the must see landmarks to visit.

Drive from England to France Resources


Dover to Calais  

Newhaven to Dieppe

Portsmouth to Cherbourg, St. Malo, Caen, Le Havre

Poole to Cherbourg

Plymouth to Roscoff


Eurotunnel “Le Shuttle” crosses from Folkestone England to Calais, France. It’s the fastest way to cross the English Channel with 4 departures every hour and a 35 minute transit time.

You drive to the Eurotunnel port (make sure to look for the non-commercial vehicle entrance) then wait until you’re directed to drive onto the train bed. You stay in your car during the crossing.

Car Rental

Europcar was the rental company that allowed us to rent a car in England to drive to Europe. The whole process was fairly straightforward and I didn’t encounter any problems. Of course you may find other deals. If you’re a Costco member for example, they’ve got some great car rental deals in France.

You’ll need a UK or US driving license to hire a car in England or Europe. If you’re driving on your US license, expect to show your return ticket to the US to the car rental agent (its based on the rate you get not whether or not you’re legal in the country!).

Be sure to carefully check all details when booking such as insurance coverage and additional driver if needed. The rate I got from Europcar in England was inclusive, but when I checked rates in France; insurance, GPS and other perks are all a la carte.

Look up rental car options

My Recommendations for Arriving in England:

Most US to UK flights will fly into one of London’s major airports; Heathrow or Gatwick.  Heathrow is more accessible to central London.

Gatwick is south of greater London and may be a better choice if you don’t plan to spend time in the city and want to be closer to the ferry ports to France on the south coast of England.

A. If you want to stay in London

Before you leave the US, book a hotel in London. Once you land, travel into London using my recommendations. Or if you prefer to be picked up at the airport to your hotel,  ask your hotel to book you a private taxi. Expect to pay about £80 ($115.) one way into central London. 

Once you’re ready to start your road trip, travel back to the airport or nearest car rental agency location to pick up  your car.

B. If you’re NOT staying in London

I recommend staying at least one night before setting off on your road trip making it easier to coordinate your arrival to your ferry or the Eurotunnel.

Keep in mind, England is 5 hours ahead of the east coast. If you’re traveling from the US east coast, you may not feel too jet lagged, but from the west coast you will! It’s a good idea to catch up on sleep before taking the next leg of your journey to France.

Book a room in an airport hotel for that first night, then pick up your rental car at the airport or take a train to your nearest car rental agency.

Get ready to board the ferry or Eurotunnel to start your England to France road trip. Safe travels!

Need help planning any part of your trip to England or France? Take a peek at my consultation page.


About Author

With over 30 years in a creative role in advertising and publishing, and a lifetime of journeys between the US and UK, I've created Hipoverfifty for you. I hope my journey and perspective will guide you on yours.