Drive to France – a trip to the Alps costs this much
Driving to the Alps has always been a hugely popular way for Brits to access the snow and ice of Europe. With regular ferries and Channel Tunnel crossings daily, it has never been easier to get onto to the continent. The actual costs of doing so however depend largely on when exactly you wish to travel and how long you have to get down there. Planned correctly, you can be in the Alps in a day’s travel from the South of England.
I’ve made this journey on a number of occasions in a variety of vehicles (including my 2001 Forest Green Fiat Punto loaded with three largish passengers, three lots of winter mountaineering/climbing gear, camping equipment and food for 10 days…it was cosy and warm).
Whilst planning each of these journeys, I have Googled “How much does it cost to drive to the Alps” and never really found what I was looking for. So I thought I’d write this post with the answer should anyone else find themselves in the same position. Below are our costs and also some top tips to help you along the way.
|Ferry for VW Transporter van + 2 passengers||£120 return**|
|Fuel from Calais to Chamonix||70 Euros (£52*)|
|Tolls from Calais to Chamonix||77 Euros (£57*)|
|*exchange rates applicable at the time of writing
**obviously we won’t need to pay this on the return leg so the return journey will only cost a further £109
Some top tips on Driving from UK to the Alps:
Tip #1 Take a vehicle that is reliable and large enough to comfortably take whatever you’ll need for your trip
My friend Jon and I decided last minute to drive down to Chamonix together instead of taking two vehicles. We were embarking upon a month-long trip there, so needed a great deal of stuff. Both Jon and I lead relatively nomadic lives, so for a change weren’t holding back on how much stuff we took. He owns a VW Transporter so we were able to comfortably fit everything in (including five sets of skis, winter mountaineering clothing and equipment, loads of post-Christmas food and clothing for a month). I loved my Punto, but sometimes there’s a lot to be said for having a larger vehicle.
Tip #2 Get an early ferry from Dover to Calais by starting the bulk of the journey first thing in the morning
We stayed at Jon’s aunty and uncle’s house in Maidstone which is also where I left my van. This ensured we were able to get an early ferry from Dover to Calais which made things a lot cheaper. If you don’t have kind relatives that live near Dover, there are plenty of budget places to stay there.
Tip #3 Ride until as empty as possible in the UK and fill up in Calais
Upon Jon’s dad’s recommendation, we ran the fuel tank to near empty before boarding the ferry in Dover. Fuel is almost always cheaper in France than in the UK and we managed to fill the tank of Jon’s van for 70 Euros at Carrefour in Calais (Avenue Guynemer, 62100 Calais). This was enough for the whole journey in France and got us all the way to Chamonix!
Tip #4 Book your ferry in advance
Jon booked the ferry and managed to get a pretty respectable price of £120 return. This was also for a van and apparently nine passengers (?!). If it wasn’t for the amount of kit we were carrying, posting your journey on websites such as ukclimbing.com and liftshare.com can theoretically keep dividing your costs by up to nine times!
The benefits of driving to the Alps instead of flying are numerous and if you have the time, it can certainly work out to be incredibly cost-effective and give you a great deal of flexibility for your next winter trip to Europe. I hope this helps if you’re planning a trip out there, please let me know if you’ve enjoyed reading it!