5 ways to get the most out of the Channel Tunnel

Twenty years ago this week the finishing touches were being made to the undersea link between England and France, in advance of the opening on 6 May 1994

The Channel Tunnel has suffered a fair amount of bad luck, ranging from a serious fire in 1996 causing months of disruption to a Shuttle breakdown at the start of the Easter rush this month that wrecked the travel plans of thousands of passengers.

Most of the time, though, the 50km tunnel between Folkestone and Calais  delivers a fast, reliable connection for both passengers on Eurostar trains (08432 186 186; eurostar.com) and vehicle drivers using the 35-minute Eurotunnel shuttles (08443 35 35 35; eurotunnel.com). As summer approaches, the prospect of a smooth start to a Continental adventure is especially appealing.

Day of indulgence

Arrive at Paris Gare du Nord shortly before noon on Eurostar. Enjoy an indulgent lunch – perhaps at the dazzling art deco La Coupole brasserie (102 Boulevard du Montparnasse; 00 33 1 43 20 14 20; lacoupole-paris.com) or maybe with a picnic in the Place des Vosges. Return on a train just after 5pm. The “booking horizon” for Eurostar stretches right through to October, which means you can easily find the cheapest day-trip tickets, £69 return, for the 8.31am outbound train from London St Pancras and the 5.13pm home. Both departures are non-stop, covering the distance between the two capitals in 136 minutes.

Budget break

The northernmost part of France is full of interest, from the historic towns of French Flanders to the beaches of Wissant and Wimereux. Thanks to Eurotunnel’s Overnight fare – starting at £46 return – you can enjoy two long days in the region so long as you return by midnight on day two. The price is per car, not per person, so for four in a vehicle you pay only £11.50 a head. The same fare applies for a day-trip.

Kiteflying on the beach of the northern French resort town of Berck-sur-Mer Kiteflying on the beach of the northern French resort town of Berck-sur-Mer (AFP/Getty) Brussels and beyond

The “Any Belgian Station” ticket from Eurostar costs just £10 more than a trip to Brussels and back, ie starting at £79 return. It allows you to spend up to 24 hours in the Belgian capital before travelling, without further formality, anywhere else in the country – perhaps to Antwerp or Bruges in Flanders, or into the deep French-speaking part of the country: to the handsome city of Liège, or south into the pretty Ardennes. No need to reserve: just catch an ordinary SNCB train (not ICE or Thalys) from Brussels Midi and show the conductor your Eurostar ticket.

Pedal to France

A little-known option with Eurotunnel allows you to take your bike on a special vehicle service, which you must book at least 24 hours in advance on 01303 282201. The one-way fare is £16, which also covers a day-trip. You just show up at the Folkestone Holiday Inn Express and barely an hour later you can be cycling through northern France, perhaps along the coast to Cap Gris Nez or inland to St-Omer. For more details see bit.ly/EuroBike.

South in style

Eurostar’s summer Saturdays-only link from London St Pancras and Ashford to Avignon runs from 28 June to 6 September this year. The journey from London to the Provençal city takes around six hours. Standard-class fares starting at £109 are promised, but rare. Test bookings suggest the £200 mark is more common. So a better policy could be to pay a modest premium for Standard Premier, offering more space with complimentary meals and drinks as you speed south.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence