From Mainland Europe to the UK: the Eurostar Alternative

To cross from mainland Europe to the United Kingdom, we had hoped to take the Eurostar, a high-speed railway service connecting London with Paris and Brussels. We didn’t get to, but it turned out better than we’d hoped.

When we arrived at the train station in Lille, France, we immediately went to the ticket window to purchase Eurostar tickets for the following evening, destination: London. We were shocked when the attendant informed us that the price was 220 euros for a one-way ticket! It turns out you have to make reservations far in advance for a decent price (so that part was our fault for not researching beforehand, we were accustomed to rarely needing reservations with our Eurail pass, but really, 220 euros for a last-minute ticket?!!).

So what did we do next?

We left feeling dejected. We went out for dinner and then drinks with friends, and then settled in for bed. I was fretting with anxiety, since we had no other way of getting to the UK as last-minute flights were also expensive. I researched different ferries, but was not finding any plausible solution, as many ferries do not allow foot passengers (meaning those crossing without a vehicle).

After a few hours of sleep and more desperate Googling, we were able to solve our problem and quickly made a handful of reservations.

Here’s what we did:

On the final valid travel day of our Eurail passes, we took an evening train from Lille to Calais. (Cost: 0 euros since we had already paid for the pass.)

From Calais, we took a taxi to the port since walking with our luggage was not ideal. (Cost: 6 euros. There is a cheaper bus available, but we missed the last bus for the day.)

At the port, we boarded a ferry operated by P&O Ferries which was the only company I found on short notice that allows foot passengers (cost: roughly 35 euros per person one way). The lady who checked us in and gave us the tickets was really nice, even bumped up our ferry time to the one before ours since we had arrived so early. It was a luxurious ferry, with a lot of TVs, a “theater room,” and different kinds of entertainment and games to keep the little kids happy, as well as a large eating area with a bunch of food options (all overpriced, as expected, but not too bad).

View from ferry

View from ferry

As we got closer to land, I could see the White Cliffs of Dover in the distance!

Cliffs of Dover

Cliffs of Dover in the distance

Then our arrival at the Port of Dover…

Port of Dover

Welcome to the Port of Dover

We didn’t have any sleeping accommodation for the night so we slept in the waiting room (more on that another time).

Cliffs of Dover

Further admiring the Cliffs of Dover while waiting for sunrise

We took the first Eurolines bus to London in the morning (cost: around 22 euros per person, one way) and arrived at our hostel around 8:30am.

Our journey cost around 60 euros a person, which was an INCREDIBLE saving compared to the 220 euros for the Eurostar. A better adventure, and we arrived only ten hours behind schedule… not bad for some very last-minute planning, eh?

Jennifer

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