Tips for driving from the UK to Spain

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Have you ever thought that driving from UK to Spain will be a great route for a road trip? Or are you moving to Spain and thinking to drive down your car as well? Here are some tips on how to make your journey easier and what to expect from an over 2000+km drive.

 

The Channel Crossing:

Depending on how much you want to drive and which area of the UK you are starting your journey from, there are a few options on which is the best route to take, as the UK is connected to France from quite a few cities along the coast. My recommended options would be the following 4 routes:

 

Dover to Calais

If you start your trip from London, this route might be the easiest for you. The drive to Dover takes only around 1,5 hours and the crossing is very fast as well. If you choose to cross via the Eurotunnel, you will get to France in about half an hour. If you choose to cross via the ferry, then your journey will be longer (but cheaper).

 

Portsmouth to Santander/Bilbao

This is the most direct route to Spain but also the longest, as you will have to spend 28 hours on the ferry. The crossing can be quite rough, especially during the night, when the ferry sails over the Bay of Biscay. Overall however, this is the best route if you are not keen on driving very long distances and if you want to save money on gas as well.

 

Poole to Cherbourg

With only a 4 hours crossing and good sailing times, Poole is another great place to start your journey from. The ferry leaves every morning at 8AM, arriving to Cherbourg at 12PM (1PM local time). You can properly wake up while having a good breakfast and coffee before embarking on the drive to Spain.

 

Plymouth to Roscoff

The advantage of choosing either the Poole to Cherbourg or Plymouth to Roscoff routes is that you will save time by avoiding Paris and reaching the motorway towards the North of Spain faster. The Plymouth to Roscoff crossing is an overnight one, takes 8 hours and arrives in France at the early hours of the morning.

 

Ferries

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Depending on which route you take, the ferries will have more facilities than others. For example, the least comfortable route, in my opinion, is the Dover – Calais crossing. The ferries don’t have enough seats and I ended up sleeping on the floor.

For longer crossings, such as the Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao, you will have to book a cabin as well, otherwise you won’t be able to buy a ticket. And it’s understandable, for 28 hours of crossing. All ferries have restaurants on board, usually a self-service one and a bar. There will be a daily menu with a few dishes to choose from. The price of a meal is around £10, and from my experience, the food is very good. My favourite was the coq au vin, from Baie de Seine ferry – on the Portsmouth to Santander route. The chefs on the boats are all French (as most of the routes are operated by Brittany Ferries) and they cook the food in big quantities. It might not look good on the plate but it’s delicious!

 

Car essentials

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Driving from England to Spain is not your usual journey to the supermarket and back, so you need to make sure that your car is in good shape to do the trip. Check the oil of the car, the engine coolant, your lights and your tyres.

Is your car fit to do such a long journey? Driving over 2000km is not easy in a small car, such as a Fiat 500 for example. Small cars might be great for cities, but don’t try to take them for long journeys. The lack of space and the inability to be comfortable behind the wheel will make this drive more of a hell than an enjoyable road trip. Does your car have cruise control? This helps a lot, especially on motorways. If you are planning to do this trip often, consider investing in a car that will be easy to drive, such as a Jaguar F-Pace which is not only a great family roadster but also has very low emissions which makes it environmental friendly.

 

Toll roads and speed limits

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Avoiding toll roads in France will take you back about 6 hours, so it’s better just to bite the bullet and use the high-speed motorways.

In Spain you do have an option to avoid the toll roads and still be on fast motorways. The only difference is that the toll roads are usually empty, whilst in France is not the case.

The speed limit on the motorway in France is 130km/h. Make sure you don’t go over as the radar systems in France measures the average speed on a section of the road and not just in a single point where they are installed. If you speed you will get a fine in the post.

In Spain, the speed limit is 120km/h on motorways.

 

Costs

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Depending on what car you are going to drive and which route you are going to take, the average fuel consumption will be around 2 full tanks from England to the South of Spain. Fuel is more expensive in France so try to fill up in England and in Spain if you can.

Crossing France will cost you around 100£ in tolls if you start your journey in Cherbourg or Roscoff, and around 150£ if you start in Calais. In Spain there are tolls only in the North of the country, on the motorways near San Sebastian. The total cost of crossing Spain in tolls will be around £20.

A one-way ticket for the crossing, depending on the time of the year, will cost you between £100 and £800, plus the cost of the cabin. This ranges between £40 – £110 in low season and £70 to £165 in high season, for an overnight crossing. For a day crossing the prices are between £26 and £70, depending on how many beds are inside and the comfort of the room (size, location on the ship and facilities inside).

The most expensive ferry is the Portsmouth to Santander/Bilbao one, but if you look at the whole picture, you are saving money on fuel and get a day’s worth of relaxation on board.

If you have plenty of money to spend however, you can always choose to sail with Brittany Ferries’ flagship cruise ferry, Pont-Aven, which features a pool, a five-deck high atrium with panoramic lifts, a cinema, evening entertainment and luxurious cabins.

You also have to add to the costs the night you will spend in a hotel. I would not recommend driving by night and for such a distance you do need a good bed to rest. From my experience, the best place to stop for the night is the North of Spain. The first time I did this journey I stopped at a cheap hotel, just off the motorway, outside Santander. The second time, coming from France, I stopped in Vitoria and spent the night at the AC Marriot. You would be surprised how cheap a 4 stars hotel is in a non-touristy city: 60 euros.



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Disclaimer: This article was written in collaboration with John Clark.

Some of the links one this website are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on the link and do a purchase, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost for you. This helps me keep my website running and continue to share my traveling knowledge with you. I thank you for booking your flights or hotels using the links on my website. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.

37 Comments

  1. Driving from UK to Spain? That’s one hell of a road trip and even though I’d actually enjoy it, I wouldn’t be the one on the wheel. And yes, the car type actually matters. That one is so terrific and would actually do it!

  2. Wow, I never know you can do it from UK to Spain on a roadtrip. I was planning for Spain roadtrip end of this year and your post has given me some insight information. I am not sure to join the package tour which will bring me the whole spain with the tour bus or should I do a road trip by own self driving? Do you also have a road trip post in Spain that I can refer to? Such as how to drive in Spain? I am flying in from Singapore to Spain.

    1. I think you should do a road trip in Spain. The motorways are beautiful and it’s very easy to drive on them. Plus, by renting your own car you have so much more freedom that in a tour bus 🙂

  3. I was born in London, and the Eurotunnel just opened up when I moved to the states. It amazes me that you can now drive from England to France, and how it opens the doors to drive to other places in Europe. I hope to take my kids back to where I was born, one day, and a car ride like this will have to be added to our vacation.

  4. I had to do a double take on your photo of the ferry, our BC Ferries in Canada look very much the same. I’m not sure I could handle 28 hours on a Ferry, I go stir crazy going across to Vancouver Island on less than 3 hours. But I love road trips. One neat thing when I was a teenager taking the ferry, there were Killer Whales you could see from the ship. It only happened the one time of all my times riding the ferry though.

  5. It would be a tiring journey but I guess it would be worth it for those who want an ultimate road trip like who wouldn’t want to drive to another far away country and live to tell the tale :p kidding aside, this is a very useful post. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I never knew you could drive from the UK to Spain. That sounds like a amazing road trip but Id be more of a navigator vs driver. The ferry looks like the coolest part of the trip. I would love to do that

    1. It’s about 2000km between UK and Spain, it depends though on which route you want to take, as if you go to Santander you cut almost half of it.

  7. So much good info here. We have been thinking of driving from England to France or maybe Belgium. The thing that makes me uncomfortable is having a car configured for driving on the left and then having to drive on the right. Did you have any issues with that?

    1. To be honest I can drive on both sides and can’t really see a difference. The only thing I notice is on the blind spot, instead of just turning my head to make sure it’s clear I I have to turn my entire body to see, because of the wheel being on the other side.

    1. You wouldn’t want to do this trip in a rental car. Is more economical to fly to Spain and then hire a car there, if you want to do a road trip inside the country. You will probably find companies that will rent you a car to take out of the UK but it will cost too much and it won’t be worth it.

  8. I haven’t tried driving abroad yet, I always leave that part to Hubby. Not sure I fancy the drive with a car full of kids but maybe when they are not with us

  9. I know of a few people that have done this in the past, it always seemed crazy to me – but you’ve covered it really well. I’d definitely consider doing this in the future should the opportunity arise, especially with the wealth of information you’ve shared here. I didn’t realise the tolls would be so expensive in France!

  10. I didn’t realise there was so many options and routes for driving to Spain. This is a really helpful post as I definitely wouldn’t have considered things like toll roads

  11. Thank you for a really interesting post about travelling to Spain by car. It’s not something we’d think about while the kids are so young. We’re just on our way home from Devon ( we love near Nottingham) and that seemed far enough with a 6 and 10 year old in tow! Something to consider in the future though!

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