With continental Europe just on our doorstep we are in a privileged position to have such easy access to the mainland, providing a variety of diverse and exciting cultures and beautiful landscapes within a relatively short distance. A while ago Xavier wrote a post about some of the rules for taking a car outside of it’s country of origin. Well today I thought I’d write some tips and information for those people specifically looking to access mainland Europe by car, starting from their home in the UK.
For drivers, the ferry provides a great way into mainland Europe and there are a number of UK ports with routes into Europe including Portsmouth and Hull. But the cheapest way to access Europe (and which I think is the best starting point) is Dover to Calais, a route that both Sea France and P&O Ferries serve.
For those drivers who plan to make their way into Europe by car via the ferry there are two options, both with varying costs and levels of convenience involved:
1. Transport your car in to mainland Europe by ferry – The cost of going on a ferry by car starts at £35 each way. It is worth bearing in mind that, if you are in a rental car that you collected from an Avis UK office, then you will need to take Continental Cover. This cover costs from £88.13 for 1-7 days driving on the continent and goes up to £158.62 for 22+ days driving. With this you are covered to drive in Belguim, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Italy (including Sardinia and Sicily), Liechenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including Baleriacs and the Canary Islands), Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. A condition of this is that car is returned to the UK on completion of the rental but the package does cover a good breadth of Europe and of course Avis Roadside Assistance is available across Europe. If you require Continental Cover then please advise the Avis rental office at least 2 days in advance.
2. Cross the channel by ferry as a foot passenger – And then rent a car from Calais. A foot passenger costs from just £10 each way and, in addition to this saving, you will not need Continental Cover on your car hire. However, there are more restrictions on where an Avis hire car collected in France can be taken and these include Andorra, Luxembourg, Austria, Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Spain (Mainland), Finland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Italy (again the vehicle needs to be returned to it’s country of origin). Also, there is the question of getting to Dover. You could leave your car at the Port of Dover where parking costs £12 for the first 24 hours and £6 per day for each subsequent day. Alternatively, you can get the train to Dover Priory where a cheap day single costs from just over £24 from London Charing Cross. Clearly, there are cost savings to be made with this option but it is not necessarily the most convenient.
Avis has offices at both the Dover and Calais ports. Of course if speed and convenience is the way you want to go then there is always the Euro Tunnel from Folkestone to Calais where prices start from £49 to £149 depending on your length of stay.
Well there are some ideas about how to start your European tour. Now I would love any suggestions on recommended routes! Last year my American cousin started his European road tour from Calais, drove north through The Netherlands (Amsterdam of course!), went east across Germany, then looped round through the Czech Republic and came back through Austria, Switzerland and Italy before heading back up towards Calais (to make his way back to Heathrow for his flight home). All of this in just 4 weeks!