Just across the English Channel, lies the beautiful seaside ferry port of Calais, famous for its charming beaches, exquisite restaurants and tax-free shopping. At just 26 miles from Dover, Calais is the closest French city from England and easily accessible by ferry or Channel Tunnel shuttle trains.
Calais is particularly popular with the British day-trippers, known as "booze cruises", who come over to take advantage of the remarkable tax gap on alcohol and cigarettes. While most tourists view this city merely as a shopping haven, there's more than that. The city is slowly upgrading itself to a town of museums, cultural attractions, forts and medieval heritage.
Ferry is the most common and cheapest way to get to Calais. Competition among various ferry services has helped to promote better prices for consumers. Now there is a great choice for passengers who wish to book a cross channel ferry crossing to France. Some companies take only car, coach and motorcycle passengers meaning you can use your own car in France. It also helps you to carry a lot of luggage and save transport hassles in Calais!
Three companies, P&O Ferries, LD Lines /DFDS Seaways and MyFerryLink, offer passenger and transport services between Calais and Dover in England, with each ferry crossing taking around 75 minutes.
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle
Passengers travelling in their own vehicle will find the "Eurotunnel Le Shuttle" shuttle service extremely convenient and comfortable. Operating between Calais/Coquelles in France and Folkestone in Britain, it carries road vehicles through the Channel Tunnel. Passenger vehicles, freight vehicles and pets are permitted on the train. However, the Eurotunnel does not carry foot passengers.
Other than ferry, foot passengers can travel to Calais using Eurostar's rail services. Calais has two rail stations at Calais Ville in the centre of the town and Calais Frethun to the south, with Eurostar trains connecting the destinations in the United Kingdom and Belgium. There are frequent commuter trains operating between Calais and London, Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Brussels. The Eurostar timetable is available on their website.Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Oxyman
Most people get their own car across the channel to travel around Calais. But foot passengers could make use of the ferry terminal bus shuttle service that links Place d'Armes and Gare Calais-Ville with the car ferry terminal.
The bus service in Calais is operated by Calais Opale, Balad'in and Nuit d'Opale. Calais Opale runs buses every day except on public holidays. Balad'in offers a free mini bus service in bright yellow colour that stops only at predefined Balad'in stops. Nuit d'Opale operates buses at night between 8:00pm and 1:00am.
Calais is like one shopping mall with fantastic opportunities and discounts on offer. Many British day trippers come solely to buy huge amounts of alcohol and cigarettes at cheap rates. However, there are guidelines as how much alcohol and tobacco you can take back to England for personal use. If you are bringing in alcohol or tobacco goods more than the advised custom limits, then you are likely to be questioned. The UK Customs advisory notice for travelers entering the UK says, "There are no limits on the amount of duty and/or tax paid alcohol and tobacco that you can bring into the UK as long as they are for your own use or gifts and are transported by you."Advised Customs & Excise Limits
Nord-Pas-de-Calais enjoys a pleasant climate all year round thanks to the warm North Atlantic waters. Generally the weather is cool, but not excessively cold. The summer season from June through September is quite warm, dry and sunny with frequent spells of rain through the late summer and early falls.
There are some beautiful spring days in the months of mid-March, April and May when the temperature starts to pick up and the weather is sunny enough to spot the white cliffs of Dover.
When visiting Northern France, pack your bag according to the climate. Bring in a warm jacket for the chills in winter and a light jacket during the summers. A sun block, when it isn't raining, is also very handy as the rays can be quite intense.