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 42km (26-miles) from Dover, Calais is the closest French city to 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.
The 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. Some ferries allow car, coach and motorcycle passengers meaning you can use your vehicle in France. Ferry crossings between Calais and Dover take around 1 hour 30 mins.
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle: Passengers travelling in their own cars will find the "Eurotunnel Le Shuttle" shuttle service extremely convenient and comfortable. This car shuttle service operates between Calais (Coquelles) in France and Folkestone in Britain. It carries cars through the Channel Tunnel and takes about 35-min to reach the destination. However, the Eurotunnel does not carry foot passengers.
Other than a 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. Frequent commuter trains operate between Calais and London, Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Brussels. The Eurostar timetable is available on their website.
Photo Credit: Oxyman / CC BY-SA 3.0
Most people get their cars across the channel to travel around Calais. But other passengers can use the bus service that links the town centre with other parts of the suburb. There are many bus services with excellent network and frequency throughout the day.
France is a fairly safe country, and it has a relatively low crime rate. But certain precautions should be taken while visiting Calais, France. Petty crimes involving tourists do occur, especially at train stations, buses, sometimes even at airports. Be alert while travelling at night, as bag snatching is common. Do not flash large sums of money or jewellery. The area around Calais is very safe for women travellers, even if they are alone. Keep photocopies of important travel documents and save important phone numbers.
Calais is a shoppers paradise with fantastic opportunities and discounts on offer. Many British day-trippers come to buy alcohol and cigarettes. However, there are guidelines as how much alcohol and tobacco you can take back to England for personal use. Please check for the latest information about the same.
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.
In the spring season (mid-March, April and May), the temperature starts to pick up, and the weather is sunny enough to spot the white cliffs of Dover.
When visiting Calais, pack your bag according to the weather conditions. Bring in a warm jacket during the winter season and a light jacket during the summer season.