Euro Channel Chunnel Tunnel

Eurotunnel Interior

The Eurotunnel Shuttle looks like a subway/metro/underground/tube for automobiles.

My husband and I wanted to drive from the UK to Belgium, so we had a choice between a ferry or the Chunnel. After all, there aren’t any bridges connecting Great Britain with continental Europe. The Chunnel won out for both duration and dollars (okay, pounds): Folkestone, UK, to Calais, France, in just 35 minutes for £44 (car and passengers) each way. (Prices may change, so check the website.)

Having never taken the Chunnel (a.k.a. Eurotunnel in France; Channel Tunnel in the UK), my first trip was full of uncertainty. How does it work? How do you get on? Where do you sit? What is it like? I wanted to know this and a whole lot more before taking the trip, so I decided to write a post to show other curious individuals what it’s like.

First, we bought tickets online for the Eurotunnel Shuttle, which is the vehicle transport (as compared to the Eurostar, which is the passenger transport). Upon arrival at the entrance to the terminal area, we had to pass through something like a toll plaza. License plate ID provided my husband with a personalized welcome on the toll booth’s monitor. After verification using the credit card used to purchase our tickets, we received a hanger tag with a letter indicating our boarding time, which we were to hang from our rear view mirror. We were instructed to wait at the terminal until our boarding letter was announced.

Eurotunnel Terminal Shops, UKWe planned for extra travel time from home to the Chunnel so we could have a time cushion, just in case, or to grab some dinner otherwise. With free time before boarding, I made a quick stop in one of the most disgusting restrooms ever before we looked for a place to eat.

Eurotunnel Terminal Ceiling, UKInteresting ceiling, no?

The terminal housed a small variety of shops and eateries, including a Burger King. Neither my husband nor I had eaten fast food since leaving the States, so we decided to give a UK Burger King burger a try. By the time we purchased our meals we had little time to eat, which was unfortunate because, instead of savoring the burger, I ended up scarfing down the biggest and best Whopper I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what they did differently, but it sure was good.

Eurotunnel UK Line w Sat Nav

Can we avoid a “ferry” from the UK to France? After much calculation, the answer was, happily, “no.”

When our boarding letter was called, we made our way back to our car, then followed signs and arrows reading, “France.” We passed through border security (a toll booth) where we presented our passports, then continued to follow the arrows pointing the way to France until we were lined up at a ramp for boarding.

Eurotunnel UK TrainWe drove into a train car, then up a ramp to the top level of the two-level transport.

An attendant directed drivers to pull up near the car in front of them, then stop. A bilingual, scrolling sign instructed drivers to open windows and sunroofs, leave the car in gear, put on the parking brake, and turn off the engine.

Eurotunnel DoorsOnce attendants were satisfied with each train car’s automobile configuration, doors closed and a gate came down, separating each train car from the others.

People could get out of their cars for the journey and stand at the sides of the well-lit, air-conditioned train car, but most did not. One restriction was to not pass between cars. I expect crushed legs might be the concern, so probably good advice to follow.

Eurotunnel Interior PanoramaOne sealed, full train car from front to back.

I was excited to be taking the Chunnel, and was enjoying the passing scenery as we made our way from the terminal to the tunnel’s entrance. However, once we entered the tunnel, the tunnel became dark except for a few passing lights. This got me to thinking about where we were and what we were doing. Specifically, we were on a train travelling underneath an awful lot of water. My mind started going probably where it shouldn’t have. Thankfully, my husband asked me to help as we tried to figure out how to put deflecting stickers on our headlights so we wouldn’t blind oncoming traffic once we arrived in France. This was one requirement among many that exist for driving in various European countries.

Eurotunnel InteriorBefore I knew it, we had arrived. All the train cars’ dividing doors opened, then exiting began fairly quickly.

Eurotunnel Interior ExitWe drove down the exit ramp…

Eurotunnel Exit to Franceand into the night. Welcome to France and remember to drive on the right. For some reason exiting the Chunnel in France reminded me of Space Mountain at Disneyland.

Exiting was very quick, with no need to pass through any toll plaza or enter any building. The exit ramp-to-road connects directly to local streets.

Eurotunnel Terminal Shops, FranceThe return journey worked in much the same way. The passenger terminal restrooms in France weren’t great, but far superior as to cleanliness and functionality than those in the UK. We each grabbed a cup of coffee (from a not overly-friendly barista) on our way out of the passenger terminal.

Eurotunnel France Truck CagesOn the way over from the UK to France, I had wondered how trucks made the journey. While waiting in line at the boarding ramp in Calais, I saw trucks in cage transports as opposed to our enclosed train cars.

Eurotunnel France LoadingThis time, instead of entering the train car and driving up a ramp, we entered the train car through the second opening and drove straight forward for a lower level trip back to the UK.

Eurotunnel UK Exit Large CarAs we exited the train in the UK, I saw a train car with only one level. I wonder if this is how RVs, campers, and such make the journey.

Eurotunnel and the Folkestone Horse, UKAs we left the train area I caught a glimpse of the Folkestone White Horse welcoming us back to British soil.

All in all, the journey to and from France was very smooth and easy. And now that I know how simple it all was, I won’t give a second thought to taking the Chunnel in the future.

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About satnavandcider

An American expat living in England, exploring the United Kingdom and Europe through five senses and a camera lens.
This entry was posted in All Posts, England, France, United Kingdom and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Euro Channel Chunnel Tunnel

  1. avian101 says:

    Very interesting post, this was something new for me. Good work! Thank you! 🙂

  2. Never done the Chunnel because I have always preferred the ferry crossing!

  3. Pit says:

    I’ve never used the Chunnel, and probaly will not, for various reasons:
    (1) I’m not really claustrophobic, but I certainly don’t like the idea of being in a tunnel under water
    (2) As I usually come from Germany [or some place in England not too close to the Channel coast], I’ve had already about 4 to 6 hours of driving, and then I’m grateful for some break during which I can walk about and eat a bite of food
    (3) I want to see the Channel and the coast
    As to the state of the restrooms: I found those in Calais [http://pitsbilderbuch.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/england-fruhjahr-2011-1/] not too nice, to say the least, but those in Dover clean
    The way you describe boarding and pre-boarding plus customs: that’s pretty much the same when taking the ferry.
    Thanks for the interesting article,
    Pit

    • Thanks for your comment, Pit. Certainly all good reasons for wanting to take the ferry instead of the Chunnel. I have the same qualms about a riding in a tunnel under the water, but I was reassured that the tunnel is deep in the rock. I’ll trust them on that. As for seeing the Channel and the coast, I did miss that part of the journey, but we were on a mission to get to our destination. If we’d had more time, perhaps a ferry ride would have been a nice addition to the trip. Good to know that the ferry experience is similar.

  4. Vicky says:

    I found that really interesting and informative.
    I’ve never travelled to Europe via the tunnel, I am quite claustrophobic and the thought of travelling in such an enclosed environment, I find quite scary. I do love the freedom the ferry too.
    Hubby, a now retired HGV driver, has used it many times. They don’t stay with their truck, but have a drivers lounge to retire to for the journey.

    • Thanks, Vicky. I’m glad you liked the post. And good to know that the truck drivers don’t have to ride in those cages, but get a more comfortable place to sit on the trip over.

  5. denise martin says:

    Perfect timing…driving to Dover tomorrow and Chunneling over the next day to head to Brugge. Thanks foryour insight!

  6. Travelbunny says:

    This is a journey I’ve done every year for the last four years when we ski in The Alps. As we’re only an hour from Folkstone it’s perfect for us and we’ve saved a lot of money travelling by car as opposed to flying. Great post!

  7. Monique says:

    Ah, I love all the photo details! Feel like getting a chance to the the Channel Tunnel before actually taking it … thank you.

  8. Annie says:

    Although I’m an English native, I haven’t been through the Chunnel since I was quite young (7 or 8, with my folks driving, of course…) so it was nice to see how much/little it’s changed! Lovely post.

  9. Very interesting post. Loved to see how the car train works.

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