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Should You Travel by Eurostar vs Ferry to Europe?

Should You Travel by Eurostar vs Ferry to Europe?

| On 27, Sep 2013

Although part of the same union as the rest of Europe, Britain is somewhat distant from our friends on the continent due to the inconvenient body of water that is the English Channel. The watery divide between Britain and the rest of Europe used to be convenient for travel, however with the reduction in the costs of travelling via Eurostar and ferry, travel onto the continent is more readily available than ever before. However, as a result of this, it can often be confusing trying to decide which mode of transport to take. This article will shed some light on this issue and will evaluate which method will suit you best, and under which circumstances. For the purposes of this article, all trips and prices refer one traveling adult, who is on foot. Of course ferries and the Eurostar offer the service to travel aboard your own vehicle.


The Eurostar, the famous marvel of European travel and engineering, opened many possibilities for intra-European travel, pioneering in short travel times, without having the hassle of airports. The Eurostar is excellent for reaching inland business and tourist hubs within Europe. It offers exceptional speed and value for trips to Paris, their best rates costing only £69 return. With a journey time of around 2 hours, a plane may be quicker, but is more stressful and less practical.

The Eurostar serves as a useful connection between the railways of Britain and the rest of Europe, so for those wanting to travel to destinations the Eurostar does not directly stop at, such as Amsterdam, a combination of the Eurostar and normal rail can be used. Eurostar currently run a promotion for £99 return tickets to Amsterdam, including travel on the Dutch network of Thalys high speed trains. All together this journey takes 3.5-4 hours, significantly quicker than what ferry can achieve.

If travelling with children, the Eurostar does offer children’s meals from it’s food outlets, but in terms of entertainment you are pretty limited. All that is offered to preoccupy travelling children is a printable colouring-in sheet from Eurostar’s website. On the other hand, children are still often excited by travelling on the Eurostar, as are adults, due to the novelty of travelling under the sea. Other bribing children with the prospect of stopping of at Disneyland while in Paris, there isn’t much else the Eurostar can offer to little ones.


The humble ferry has been a mainstay of British European travel for years. It is generally cheaper than the Eurostar, however what you save in price, you loose in time. When the same trips are compared side-by-side, the journey will take substantially longer by ferry. This isn’t necessarily an issue as many people enjoy relaxing on the ferry journey.

In terms of price, a return ticket from Dover to Calais can cost as little as £54 via P & O ferries. The journey takes around an hour and a half. Considering this, Eurostar offer a service to Calais for a little more, at £69. However, where ferries definitely trump the Eurostar is in terms of entertainment. P & O offer a wide range of entertainment facilities for children, ranging from children’s entertainers to arts and crafts. This is ideal for longer ferry journeys.

When compared to the time it takes to reach Amsterdam on the Eurostar, the time it takes on the ferry seems huge in comparison. A ferry to Amsterdam will take the best part of a day (or night), and costs around £90. Sleeper cabins are compulsory for overnight journeys, adding an extra £30 minimum onto your total, depending which cabin option you opt for.

Overall this creates a pretty clear picture for when to use the two modes of transport. Those people who are short on time, perhaps who are travelling on business, would be better suited to take the Eurostar onto the continent. It offers fast journeys at relatively affordable prices. For those who don’t mind the wait, the ferry offers affordable transport, and is much more child friendly. That is not to say that families travelling together should steer clear of the Eurostar. If taking your vehicle aboard the Eurostar, then your car may possess all the travel entertainment gadgets your family requires to stay amused, and then you can reap the rewards of a short journey time. For those who like to relax and do not require an urgent arrival to their destination, then the ferry is perfect, especially for getting to coastal regions, and is usually cheaper too.

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