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Crossing the English Channel by ferry

Posted in Travel tips

Earlier this week, I briefly described what is the Eurotunnel and how crossings are organized. Today I want to briefly describe the traditional crossing - by ferry.

According to Wikipedia: The English Channel (French: la Manche, Breton: Mor Breizh, Cornish: Mor Bretannek), often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Great Britain from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about 560 km (350 mi) long and varies in width from 240 km (150 mi) at its widest, to only 34 km (21 mi) in the Strait of Dover. It is the smallest of the shallow seas around the continental shelf of Europe, covering an area of some 75,000 km2 (29,000 sq mi).
The name "English Channel" has been widely used since the early 18th century, possibly originating from the designation "Engelse Kanaal" in Dutch sea maps from the 16th century onwards. It has also been known as the "British Channel". Prior to then it was known as the British Sea, and it was called the "Oceanus Britannicus" by the 2nd century geographer Ptolemy. The same name is used on an Italian map of about 1450 which gives the alternative name of "canalites Anglie"—possibly the first recorded use of the "Channel" designation.
The French name "(la) Manche" has been in use since at least the 17th century. The name is usually said to refer to the Channel's sleeve (French: "manche") shape. However, it is sometimes claimed to instead derive from a Celtic word meaning "channel" that is also the source of the name for The Minch, in Scotland.  In Spain and most Spanish speaking countries the Channel is referred to as "El Canal de la Mancha". In Portuguese it is known as "O Canal da Mancha". (This is not a translation from French: in Portuguese, as well as in Spanish, "mancha" means "stain", while the word for sleeve is "manga" - which prompts an early phonetic bad translation from French-). Other languages also use this name, such as Greek (Κανάλι της Μάγχης) and Italian (la Manica).

The Channel, with traffic in both the UK-Europe and North Sea-Atlantic routes, is the world's busiest seaways carrying over 500 ships per day.

Important ferry routes are:

  • Dover-Calais
  • Dover-Boulogne
  • Newhaven-Dieppe
  • Portsmouth-Caen (Ouistreham)
  • Portsmouth-Cherbourg
  • Portsmouth-Le Havre
  • Portsmouth - Saint Malo
  • Portsmouth - Jersey & Guernsey
  • Poole-Saint Malo
  • Poole-Cherbourg
  • Weymouth-Saint Malo
  • Plymouth-Roscoff

How is the ferry crossing if you travel by coach?
The coach has to drive onto a ferry, most coaches have priority entry before any other waiting vehicles. All passengers must leave the coach during the crossing. Crossing time takes about 2 hours between Dover and Calais, and similarly between Dover and Dunkerque. Most international coach carriers use these crossings to get to the UK. In my opinion, on board you can’t get bored; passengers can use bars, restaurants, casinos, they can make purchases in duty free shops, they can also enjoy views from the balcony. You can even have a quick shower.

Below is an interesting movie about the ferry crossing between Dover and Calais.

Dover to Calais ferry crossing (VIDEO)

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