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Travel / Tours / France / Calais
Visit Calais
  Ferry crossing
  Wine warehouse
  Customs controls
  Passport controls
  Further information


The sea crossing from Dover (in Kent, England) to Calais (pronounced kal-lay) is the shortest ferry route from the UK to northern France, across the sea called the English Channel. It is a popular route for people who want to make a cheap day-trip to France or Belgium, either for shopping or to experience a different European culture. Coach tours from the UK to mainland Europe often pass through Calais, and may include a stop at a supermarket or wine warehouse on the way back to the UK.

Calais, Boulogne and the North of France
(hotel/restaurant guide)
Author: Patricia Fenn
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Date: January 2002

Calais/Boulogne Shoppers Map
(street map)
Publisher: Estate Publications
Date: December 2002

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Ferries (which carry cars and coaches as well as foot passengers) usually take about 2 hours to complete the crossing. The journey itself takes about 1 hour 30 minutes, and there are about 15 minutes at the start and end for vehicles to get on and off.

The white cliffs of Dover are a famous landmark. On a clear day it is possible to see France from here. For many British people the sight of the cliffs is a symbol of leaving or returning to the UK. During the Second World War there was a very popular song called "The White Cliffs of Dover" sung by Vera Lynn - the cliffs represented the idea of the soldiers coming back home after the war.

Between 10am and 10pm (French time) there is a free bus service to take foot passengers from the ferry port to the town centre and to the local train station (Calais-Ville). Note that Eurostar and fast French train services (TGV) stop at another station south-west of Calais called Calais-Frethun.

The white cliffs of Dover

A P&O ferry enters the port

A few passengers haven't paid for their seats ...!

Sea France flies the French "tricolour"

A ferry arrives ...

... at the sandy beaches of Calais

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Wine and beer are much cheaper in France than in the UK, mainly because the government's tax on alcohol is much lower. Large warehouses have been built near to the ferry port in Calais which sell alcohol to people who are travelling back to Britain.

Coach trips sometimes include a short stop at a wine warehouse to buy some cheap alcohol on the journey back to the UK (assuming that there is enough time before the ferry leaves).

A bottle of red table wine
... for £1.29!

Free wine samples
are available

Bottles of blue, white and red
(representing the French flag?)

The Eiffel Tower
... or Tokyo Tower?

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The rules about what you can and cannot bring with you from France back to the UK are explained on the website of HM Customs & Excise:

Note that you are only allowed to buy for your own use: you must not intend to sell the goods to someone else after you have returned to the UK.

Coaches are checked at random. If your coach is chosen, you will need to leave the coach with all of your bags (including those which have been placed in the storage hold) and queue up. A French customs officer will ask you to show your passport (to identify yourself) and your bag will be scanned. Some bags are chosen for closer examination - if your bag is selected all of the items will be removed and checked before being put back in your bag. All parts of the coach will also be inspected, and sometimes dogs will be used to check for drugs or weapons.

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Before returning to the UK you will need to go through British passport controls at Calais. You will be asked to show your passport. Make sure that you have obtained a visa if you need one.

If you are not from an EU country or Switzerland you will need to complete a "landing card" (see picture below) which you hand to the immigration officer together with your passport. To avoid causing delays, make sure that you carry a pen with you. Complete the form using CAPITAL LETTERS. You need to put your family name (surname), forenames (first names), sex: M for a male (man), F for a female (woman), date of birth in "ddmmyy" format (eg 060880 for 6 August 1980), place of birth (the city where you were born, as shown on your passport), your nationality (eg Japanese if you have a Japanese passport), your occupation (job): if you are studying in the UK you should write "student", the address of the place you are staying in the UK, and your signature (like the one you have made in your passport).

Example of a landing card

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Booking a tour:
Anderson Tours operate several day-trips from London to mainland Europe by coach, which include travel between Dover and Calais
For details of these tours, see: Travel/Tours/Company/AndersonTours.

Independent travel to Calais:
- To book ferry tickets from Dover to Calais with Hoverspeed, P&O or Sea France, click: here
- For information about travelling between London and Dover, see the "Further Information" section of: Travel/Tours/England/Dover
- Some Eurostar trains stop outside Calais at a station called Calais-Frethun (the journey from London St Pancras International takes about 1 hour). See: Shop/Company/Eurostar
- It takes about 5 hours to travel by Eurolines coach from Victoria Coach Station in London to Calais. For timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/Eurolines.

Tourist information:
Calais tourist information: (an English version of the website is available)
Calais Guide (sights, shopping, restaurants and nightlife in Calais):

Weather forecast for Calais:

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Tours to France: Travel/Tours/France
Tour of Dover Castle: Travel/Tours/England/Dover
Ferry services to and from the UK: Travel/Transport/Ferry

Home page: Home

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