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