There are plenty of options for you when looking to travel from England to France or vice versa. There are ferries, air travel and the channel tunnel. But what is the best way to actually make that journey? We choose the DFDS ferry service
DFDS is the leading ferry operator in English Channel Crossings. We decided to use the DFDS England to France ferry for our family of four and our Volvo V70 that we were using to travel around Europe in.
For us, this was a journey that could tick off seeing the White Cliffs of Dover as well as using another form of travel we hadn’t done on the trip. We travelled from Dover to Calais and then back from Dunkirk to Calais with our car.
In this post we will walk you through our experience with the DFDS ferry service to make your journey on the English Channel smooth and an excellent experience for the whole family.
Making a DFDS Ferry Booking
Tickets for these ferry service routes can be bought through the DFDS website. You should expect to pay around £50-99 per journey for a standard-sized car and a family of four. You will pay extra if taking a caravan or trailer.
DFDS booking tips:
- You need to make sure all occupants of the car match the names on the booked tickets
- Prices will vary between dates and time of travel
- To reduce the cost of your ticket try to be flexible with your boarding time
DFDS Ferry tickets
You will need to bring a printed copy of your DFDS tickets as there are no e-tickets available for your phone. Hopefully, this is something they bring in soon.
Boarding a DFDS Ferry – Border control
You will need to arrive at least one hour prior if travelling by car. The lines can be quite long in the European summer months. You will first need to pass through the departure countries border control before then entering the arrival countries border control.
We found the border control to be far more relaxed when travelling from England to France than France to England.
Be prepared to be asked all types of questions by the British Border Control, where are you headed, how long are staying in the U.K, where are you staying, who do you know there and much more.
The French may want to have a look in your car as you depart the DFDS ferry Dunkirk terminal.
*You must remember that limitations on certain items are still in place when crossing borders. Make sure you have the knowledge before you take items home with you.
After all the immigration formalities are done you are given a line number to wait in for boarding on a printed ticket. This ticket needs to be hung from your rear vision mirror once you get it with the information displayed.
In Calais, they actually have a burger king in the area where you wait to board. If you arrive with enough time you can get some food. While in Dunkerque there is a massive TV screen to keep you occupied. The DFDS Seaways Dover port is much larger than Dunkerque.
The Port of Dover services DFDS and P&O Ferries, while Dunkerque only handles DFDS ferries.
DFDS border control tips:
- Make sure you have all your passports for all passengers
- Make sure your ticket to board has the correct number of people in the car
- Have some of your accommodation or lodging information available in case you are asked (This may be more important for people who live out side of the European Union)
- Make sure you have relevant documents for your vehicle
- Have your car organised if you need to declare any items and have them in a known spot for easy access for border control workers
The DFDS Fleet
The ferries are like cruise ships, they are huge. A large number of trucks and cars fill every inch of the lower deck.
There are 6 boats that work the DFDS ferry, Dover to Calais (return) and DFDS ferry Dunkirk to Calais.
- Dover Seaways
2. Delft Seaways
3. Dunkerque Seaways
4. Côte Des Dunes
5. Côte Des Flandres Ships
6. Calais Seaways
All the DFDS Ferries are between 163 and 186 meters long and 28 meters wide. All the ferries have a cruising speed bewteen 20 and 25 knots.
Calais Seaways is the largest ship carrying up to 2000 people and 600 cars on every journey the ship makes crossing the channel.
The travel times on DFDS ferries are as follows:
Dover to Calais – 1 Hour and 30 Minutes
Dunkerque to Dover – 2 Hours
These are as close to the DFDS crossing travel times as you can get. There are obviously days where it may take a little longer due to weather or unforeseen circumstances. There will also be days where it will take slightly less.
Driving onto the DFDS Ferry
As this was the first time we have done this it was a learning experience for us.
You stay in your car while you wait for your boarding time in the car park/departure area. Attendants are there to let you know what you can do and to guide your if you need help.
For any one first doing this it can be a nerve wracking experience.
- You are motioned by an attendant to board once your row is ready
- The cars and trucks when called make a co-ordinated entrance into the hull of the ship
- Drive at steady and safe distance from the car in front
- The ramps up to the parking deck can be tight. Take your time and go slow if you need to. There is no rush
- Follow the instructions of the crew once you board as to where to park your car.
- Once your car is parked and secured you head to the viewing and leisure decks of the ship.
DFDS Seaways, what’s on board?
Each of the boats servicing the different routes offered by DFDS Seaways has a number of facilities onboard for you and your family.
The most asked question is, Does DFDS Seaways have wifi onboard?
The answer is of course it does. You will find the following services on both the Dover to Calais and Dunkerque to Calais DFDS route.
- 4 Restaurants and Cafe’s
- Light Cafe – coffee, cakes, snacks
- Horizon Restaurant – Quick healthy meals perfect for families
- 7 Seas Restaurant – Affordable hot and cold dishes
- Field to Ferry – Top quality seasonal local produce
- Duty Free Shopping
- Free Wifi
- Kids pirate play area with an online treasure hunt app
- Lounges with couches for comfort and viewing
- Outdoor viewing platforms and smoking areas
You can buy drinks, coffee, soft drink and even alcohol, you will find gaming machines to help you get rid of your pounds and euros while travelling. The duty-free shopping sells all the usual suspects including perfume, chocolate, electronics, tobacco and alcoho
We found the food to be a reasonable price with a good variety on the DFDS ferry service. You can also bring your own food onboard to save some money. Since we were in France we grabbed some baguettes, ham, cheese and ate our own food on the journey. Couches, tables and seating are everywhere for your comfort.
Wifi is important to all of and none import than the kids being able to connect their devices to keep them occupied on their trip across the English Channel.
There are plenty of outdoor viewing platforms for people to smoke, watch the land disappear or enjoy the sun if you have a smooth crossing. The weather and conditions can be quite varied from day to day when sailing the English Channel. If you are unlucky enough to get a rough channel crossing the staff on board will hand out bags if you need them.
Other routes DFDS provide in Europe
You will find that there are more than just English Chanel crossings that DFDS offer. There are many DFDS ferry routes that service The English Channel, The Baltics and more European bucket list destinations.
Some other DFDS routes are:
- Newhaven – Dieppe
- Copenhagen – Oslo
- Karlshamn – Klaipeda
- Hanko – Paldiski
- Newcastle – Amsterdam
- Kiel – Klaipeda
- Kapellskär – Paldiski
*All of these DFDS routes are also return routes
Other top tips for your DFDS Ferry journey
It will depend on where you are going but there are some things that you may have forgotten to allow for especially if you are driving to many different countries once you disembark.
Some of the things you need to think about are:
- Road rules in the new country – These can include number plates, headlights, distance measurements and
- Ownership of the vehicle documents and requirements
- Insurance for the vehicle
- Load limits
- Duty free allowances
DFSD Ferry Review – Our Opinion
We found the ferry from the UK to Continental Europe an amazing choice. The ferry gives you a sense of adventure that flying just cannot deliver. It is like sailing into the unknown (yes we know it is the known) and the difference is instantaneous as soon as you drive off the ferry at the other end. The signs are different, you have gone from miles to kilometres, the side of the road you drive is different, the language is different.
Warching one land fade to the distance to be greeted after a while by another is an amazing feeling.
I for one cannot wait to travel on the DFDS Calais, Dunkirk and Dover Ferry. You can book DFDS Seaways through any of the DFDS ads in this article.
*Cover image By © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36699445
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About the Author
Mark Wyld is a father, husband and traveller. Having been to over 30 countries worldwide I think I know a thing or 2 about travelling with kids. I have been writing about travel on our website for the last 4 years and have featured on numerous other websites. When I am not talking, dreaming and planning travel I can be found working in disability support .