As part of the holiday break we made our first trip to Europe via the Eurotunnel. I labeled it a ‘scouting trip’ as one of the goals is to explore the ins and outs of traveling via car to Europe. The Eurotunnel is a pretty amazing thing:

The Channel Tunnel (French: le tunnel sous la Manche), also known as Chunnel or Eurotunnel (after the company that operates it), is a 50.450 km (31.35 mi) long rail tunnel beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover, connecting Folkestone, Kent in England (51°5′49.5″N 1°9′21″E / 51.097083, 1.15583 (Folkestone end of tunnel)) to Coquelles near Calais in northern France (50°55′22″N 1°46′50.16″E / 50.92278, 1.7806 (Coquelles end of tunnel)).

It was a megaproject with several false starts, but it was finally completed in 1994. It is the second-longest rail tunnel in the world, with the Seikan Tunnel in Japan being longer, but the undersea section of the Channel Tunnel, at 37.9 km (23.55 mi), is the longest undersea tunnel in the world. The American Society of Civil Engineers has declared the tunnel to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

You can review the history of the tunnel here. Quite the engineering masterpiece. Personally, it means that a trip to Belgium from the London area is roughly 4 to 5 hours (and 3/4ths of a tank of gas – return!).

  • 2 to 2.5 hours to travel to and board the train.
  • 35 minutes with exiting from Dover to Calais on the train.
  • 1 hour to Brugge (a little farther to Brussels)

The experience was surprisingly painless. You drive to the gate, go through a quick passport check then move to a waiting area. You have the option of heading into the mini-mall to shop duty free or wait in the car until your letter is called.

Our letter (M) came up and we drove into a queue for the train. A few minutes later the line started moving and you approach the Eurotunnel Shuttle that has to be a mile long! You drive through a door and onto the train. The back half of the train are 2 levels for cars, the front half is single level for larger vehicles. Engage the parking break and 35 minutes later you are in Calais. Significantly less painful than the airport.

The view of the train from le tunnel sous la Manche:


The view from inside the shuttle. Quite pleasant.


I spent a good part of it standing. One needs to stand when digesting the Economist.


We will definitely do it again. Europe just got a little closer.

Late addition, additional ways to get to Europe from the UK:

  • St. Pancras International, the new £1B train station that holds the Eurostar.
  • Stena Line – one of many ferries to Europe – this one specializing in Holland. Only a 7 hour ferry ride away.
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