Ferries offer an affordable and flexible way of getting you – and your bike – to France. Here's our overview. By Lynette Eyb.
A comprehensive ferry network links France to the UK, the Channel Islands, Ireland, and Italy, as well as to Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco for intercontinental cyclists. Routes change with the seasons, so always check schedules prior to finalising your cycling itinerary.
Most ferry companies accept foot passengers with bikes, as well as cyclists with car-mounted bicycle carriers. It's important to check the company's cycle carriage policy prior to booking: some companies accept bikes free of charge; others apply a surcharge. Some fares involving bike carriage can be booked online, while others need to be booked in by telephone.
I have tried to include direct links to each company's booking section, as well as their bike policies (where possible), below. Note schedules and routes are subject to change – the following information should be viewed as a guide only. (Please email us if you know of any changes so we can update our information.)
Ferries to France from the UK and Ireland
Brittany Ferries operates services from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg and St Malo, as well as a Plymouth-Roscoff ferry, a Poole to Cherbourg ferry and a Cork to Roscoff service. From May to September there is also a high-speed Portsmouth to Le Havre ferry once a day from Thursday through to Sunday. They also go to northern Spain – Plymouth-Santander, Portsmouth-Santander and Portsmouth-Bilbao. Bikes, which are charged an extra £5 each way in addition to the usual foot passenger fare, need to be checked in at the vehicle checkpoint and not at the terminal. You can book your bike when you reserve your ticket online for all ferries except the Bilbao service; for this service, you need to call (UK) 0871 244 0744 to reserve a bike ticket. You also need to book via this number for groups of 10 or more cyclists. Brittany Ferries also offers a series of cycling holidays via their website.
DFDS Seaways has ferries from Dover to Dunkirk, Dover to Calais, and Newhaven to Dieppe. There is also a service from Newcastle to Amsterdam for cyclists wanting to enter Europe from a more northern port (there is info on that route here). Some of these services are operated in a joint venture with LD Lines. Bikes are welcome on all services and can be booked online or by telephone. When making the booking online, just select bicycle as your vehicle if you are a foot passenger. Bikes can be taken on the back of a car or on the roof, as long as you meet height/length restrictions – see the website for details.
P&O Ferries runs Dover to Calais services. Foot passengers with bikes can book via their website. The site can only book one bike per reservation so if you are travelling in a group you will all need separate tickets. There is a page here on travelling with bikes.
Condor Ferries has services to St Malo from Poole and Portsmouth, via Jersey and Guernsey. The Condor bicycle policy states that bikes go free of charge when travelling with a foot passenger, but must be booked in advance. This can be done when booking online or by calling 0845 609 1026. Condor charges a supplement for rear bicycle racks, but roof racks or bikes stacked on the roof of vehicles/trailers are free (but must be declared as part of the overall height of the vehicle or vehicle trailer).
Stena Line Ferries has an 18-hour Rosslare to Cherbourg ferry. Bikes can be booked via the website. Irish Ferries has services from Rosslare to Roscoff and Cherbourg as well as a Dublin to Cherbourg service, with outbound ferries on Saturdays and returns on Sundays, a convenient service for those who live in Northern Ireland or the Dublin area.
British cyclists heading for the south of France should also check ferries from to northern Spain. Brittany Ferries has a Portsmouth to Bilbao, as well as a Portmouth to Santander ferry; it also sails from Plymouth to Santander. Likewise cyclists to northern France could take the Hull to Zeebrugge ferry into Belgium with P&O Ferries.
Ferries to the Channel Islands
Condor Ferries sails from Poole or Portsmouth to Guernsey and/or Jersey. Manche Iles Express runs from Jersey (St Helier) to Granville and Carteret, as well as from Guernsey to Dielette ferry. It also links Alderney to Dielette and Guernsey (April to September only). The Lady Maris, a small 12-passenger ferry, also runs from Cherbourg every Wednesday and Saturday, and every Thursday to and from Guernsey, Sark and Herm. The cargo carrier Isis can also carry up to 12 passengers. It sails from Poole to Alderney on Monday afternoons, returning to Poole on Wednesday afternoons (it links Alderney to Guernsey on Tuesdays and returns Wednesdays before going on to Poole).
The Isle of Sark Shipping Company runs a year-round Guernsey to Sark ferry. Bikes are not permitted on the passenger ferries but can be carried by freight ship – call the company’s Guernsey office on 01481 724059 to arrange. Alternatively, bikes can be hired on Sark.
Ferries to the south of France
Ferries to France from Spain
There are none currently operating.
Ferries to Corsica
From Mainland France: Corsica Ferries has services from Ajaccio to Nice; Calvi to Nice; Ile Rousse to Nice; Ajaccio to Toulon; Bastia to Nice; Bastia to Toulon; Bastia to Portoferraio; Ile Rousse to Toulon, and Calvi to Toulon.
La Meridionales has services from Ajaccio to Marseille; Bastia to Marseille; and Propriano to Marseille. Moby Lines has a Bastia to Toulon service. Corsica Linea sails from Ajaccio to Marseille; Ile Rousse to Marseille and Marseille to Porto Vecchio.
From Mainland Italy: Corsica Ferries has routes from Livorno and Savona to Bastia. Moby Lines sails from Genoa to Bastia and from Livorno to Bastia. SNAV has a crossing from Civitavecchia to Porto Vecchi.
Ferries to North Africa
Intercontinental travellers heading to North Africa have a number of options from France.
Comanav runs Moroccan services to Tangier from Sète and Nador. Comarit also has a service from Tangier to Sete. For tickets on either, see Southern Ferries.
Corsica Linea has a ferry to Algeria from Marseille and from Marseille to Tunis in Tunisia.