Nowadays when you think about travelling abroad, your head immediately jumps to flying there.
The first thing you consider is reputable flight companies that don’t charge a bomb and different flight schedules that could allow you to enjoy as much time as possible overseas.
But one mode of transport that you might not immediately consider is driving.
Driving in foreign countries can seem slightly daunting at first, but when you think about all the incredible views you will be able to enjoy, that you wouldn’t see on a plane, it becomes an obvious choice.
*Please note this article was written pre Covid times so before planning your trip please make sure you check current restrictions around travel and Covid-19.
One of the most popular holiday destinations for people travelling from the UK is Spain, and understandably so.
Spain might seem like a long distance from the UK, but the drive is actually pretty easy, and it allows you to see all the beautiful sights that you would have otherwise missed out on.
In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best routes from the UK to Spain and plenty of tips to ensure that your journey goes smoothly.
Leaving the UK
The first part of your drive from the United Kingdom to Spain will require you to leave the island that we call home.
There are a couple of ways that you can do this, so let’s have a look at some of the options you have for crossing the channel.
Dover to Calais
Perhaps the most famous way to travel from the United Kingdom to mainland Europe is via a ferry crossing from Dover to Calais.
It has inspired many a song and is a great way to cross the channel as during the summer months up to 40 crossings of the channel are scheduled a day.
While it is not the quickest route to France, it is still fairly short as it only takes one hour and a half, which is just enough time for you to grab a bite to eat before you return to your spot behind the steering wheel.
This is one of the cheaper ways to cross the channel, and an excellent choice if you are trying to save your pennies for when you get to Spain.
It can be a bit time-consuming and does require waiting around while the staff controlling the ferry navigate getting all the necessary cars and vans aboard.
But it is an easy route and a great choice if you want to be able to relax as you cross the channel.
Portsmouth to Caen
If you want to cross the border via ferry, but fancy a change from the white cliffs of Dover, you can instead cross the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen.
This is a great choice if you live in the South East of England as it will require less time travelling here in the UK. But be warned, the ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Caen is more expensive than the crossing from Dover to Calais.
This point of crossing is a pleasant change from the most popular crossing point, however, it is more difficult to get a spot on this crossing.
In comparison to the 40 crossings made between Dover and Calais a day, the ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Caen only crosses three times a day. Once in the night and twice during the day.
So when you choose between Dover and Portsmouth, you should consider the time of the day that you want to travel and whether or not the Portsmouth crossing can do this for you.
The next choice you have is by far the fastest way to cross the channel from England to France, and that is, of course, the Eurotunnel.
Formally known as ‘Eurotunnel Le Shuttle’ this route is the fastest way to get across the channel as it takes only 35 minutes to get from Folkestone in England to Calais in France.
This route does require you using the tunnel that travels below the body of water that makes up the English Channel, so it might not be the best choice if you are claustrophobic.
But it is the fastest way to get across and is a great choice if you don’t want the hassle of trying to load your car onto a ferry.
It is a great choice if you are taking your dog on the journey with you, or if you have young children who are likely to grow bored during the crossing.
But be warned, it can get very warm during the journey through the tunnel, so wearing layers is key if you choose this option.
A Ferry to Spain
Alternatively, you may choose to cut out France completely and instead take a ferry directly to the Spanish border.
This is perhaps the simplest way to get from the United Kingdom to Spain if you want to drive once you reach Spain, but be warned as it does take a lot longer than the ferry to France.
You have a few options for crossing to Spain, some ferries run from Portsmouth and others run from Plymouth and they primarily take you to Bilbao or Santander in Spain.
This can be an expensive choice, and understandably so when you realise that this method of crossing the channel takes approximately 24 hours to do.
Few people choose this method of crossing as the 24 hours journey can seem off-putting, but it is a popular choice among those who want to limit their driving to just the UK and Spain.
Similarly, this is a popular method with those who would rather take it slow and reach Spain when they get there, rather than worrying about the time that it takes.
Other Ways to Cross
While we have already covered the main crossing options that you have from the UK to mainland Europe, there are some more obscure choices you can make.
These choices are great if you want to make your journey to Europe an adventure, and are happy to travel the road less travelled.
But bear in mind that if you choose one of these options you will have to be flexible as they run much less frequently than the crossings at Dover and Portsmouth.
Across the border of the South of England, you will find multiple smaller towns which run ferry crossings from their town to France. These towns include Poole, Newhaven, and Folkestone (where the Eurotunnel can be found).
From these towns, you will often find yourself entering France in someplace other than Calais, in smaller towns including Dunkirk, Le Havre, and St Malo. While you have to be flexible if you choose one of these options, it can be a great way to get a good deal.
So if you want to travel to Spain on a budget, you should consider choosing the road less travelled.
Driving through France
A lot of people choose to drive in France, and it is easy to understand when you look at the excellent conditions of the roads out in France.
The roads in France also travel through some beautiful areas, ensuring a scenic route whichever way you go.
But be warned, driving in France is expensive, especially if you are doing so in a caravan or motorhome.
You will also find that there are often disruptions which you will face during the journey through the country due to political tensions.
Here are some quick tips for driving in France:
- Watch your speed as there has been an increase in speeding fines issued to British drivers in France.
- Get an Electronic Toll Pass to avoid manually paying the tolls at every gate.
- Consider the weather, snow chains are a legal requirement in France for snowy weather.
- The drink driving laws in France are much stricter than the UK so remember this if you consider a glass of wine with food.
- You will need at least 6 months of validity left on your passport to drive through France.
The Best Routes for…
With these tips in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best routes for driving from France to Spain.
We have given you three options which have 3 main influences: price, views and speed.
First, let’s take a look at the best route with cost in mind. As this route keeps cost as the priority, you will notice that it will take slightly longer than other routes.
This is primarily because this route is designed with absolutely no tolls so that the money you are paying to drive to Spain is limited to fuel.
This route travels down the left-hand side of the country and a lot of this is made up of country roads rather than the dual carriageway which you might expect.
It relies heavily on the A28 and N10 toll-free roads to keep costs down, and because of this, there is a good chance that you will encounter traffic on the journey.
A lot of people choose this route to keep costs down and due to this regular traffic jams as you near the larger cities is common. On paper, this journey should take 15 hours, but due to traffic, you should be prepared for this to take longer.
This journey will take you from Rouen to Chartres to Poitiers to Bordeaux to the Spanish border area of Irun. From there you can then begin your journey to the area of Spain you desire to go to.
Next, let’s take a look at the best route if you want to encounter beautiful views while you drive.
This route isn’t boring and it will take you through some of France’s most beautiful cities before heading South and then across to Spain.
This journey begins with you travelling from wherever you crossed into France across to Paris. Paris is beautiful, and if you want to include some French areas on your Spanish holiday, Paris is a must.
You only have to watch a TV show or film based in France to see how daunting the prospect of driving through Paris can be. But don’t worry, there are plenty of places on the outskirts where you can stop off on your journey.
From there, this route takes you to Orleans which was once home of Joan of Arc and south through the beautiful French countryside and small villages including Clermont-Ferrand, Millau and Beziers.
The last place you will visit in France on this route is Perpignan which lies not far from the Spanish border. From there you can easily travel to Barcelona and begin your journey through Spain.
Finally, let’s take a look at the best route through France to Spain if speed is your priority.
For some people the views and cost do not matter, they simply want to reach their final destination in Spain as soon as possible.
With speed in mind, the fastest route to get to Spain from France is down the Western coast. This ensures that you miss the mountainous terrain of central France, and only use the roads that are easy to travel.
This route is by far the fastest, and it ensures that you can make the entire journey through France without needing to stop at any point if more than one person can take to the steering wheel.
This journey requires you to travel from the place that you entered France across to Rouen.
From there you can travel down to Le Mans, through Tours, and down past the French city of Bordeaux.
From there you can easily cross the Spanish border into the Irun area of Spain before travelling onto the location you choose in Spain.
Without traffic, you will be able to make this journey through France into Spain in just 10 hours.
Driving through Spain
Once you enter Spain, you have reached your destination! In the same way that French roads are great to drive on, Spanish roads are also usually well maintained which should make your journey a breeze.
The best roads in Spain can be found in the centre of the country, but even the roads on the coast are perfectly safe to travel on.
Driving in Spain is incredibly relaxed, and you will often find that you are the only car on the road which is a big change from some of the traffic you will encounter when driving through France.
The roads in Spain are well networked, and you will find that it is very easy to get to the area of Spain that you plan on staying in.
Fuel in Spain is usually cheaper than both the UK and France, and the cost of tolls is much less pricey. So travelling in Spain is easy.
Here are some tips for driving in Spain:
- You must always carry your driving license when driving.
- You will need a green card to prove that you and your vehicle are ensured.
- Check the safety requirements for driving in Spain and what you will need to meet these.
- All screens must be kept out of the view of the driver (excluding sat navs).
- There is no need to avoid tolls as they are always reasonably priced.
In short, if you want to travel from the UK to Spain, you have lots of options on how to get there.
In this guide, we’ve taken a look at the different options that you have and lots of different tips that will make driving to Spain easy.