Mont Saint Michel from a drone

Travelling To Normandy

Travelling to Normandy will depend on a number of factors so, firstly, take some time to familiarise yourself with the geography of the region. It is made up of the following five departments: Calvados (14), Eure (27), Manche (50), Orne (61), Seine-Maritime (76). Normandy used to be split into two administrative regions of Upper and Lower Normandy (Haute and Basse) and although you may still see these terms being used, the entire region has been known simply as Normandy since 2016. 

It covers an area of around 30,000 square kilometers or 11,500 square miles. To drive from Mont Saint Michel in the south west of the region to Le Tréport in the north east would take around three and three quarter hours. That’s around 340 kilometers (211 miles) but the majority of it is dual carriageway or autoroutes. However, there isn’t an extensive network of motorways and fast roads in Normandy but there are plenty of small country roads that will make other journeys longer.

So, that’s the geography covered, now let’s look at some of things you might consider when travelling to Normandy. These might include; your preferred method of travel, your budget, any time constraints you might have, your departure point and where you want to visit. There are some FAQs (frequently Asked Questions) at the end of this article.

Normandy Travel Options

AIR

From the UK and Ireland – direct flights only

Flights from Gatwick to Rennes with EasyJet or Stansted/Dublic/Edinburgh/Manchester to Nantes with Ryanair

https://www.easyjet.com/en

https://www.ryanair.com/gb/en

Flying to Paris from the UK and Ireland
EastJet and Ryanair fly to Paris from various UK destinations. Dublin passengers can also fly to Paris Beauvais.

International and European flights

Arrival airports include:
Paris Beauvais  https://www.aeroportparisbeauvais.com/en/passengers/
Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. This is the website for both airports 

https://www.parisaeroport.fr/en

For car hire from Paris, this site offers a booking service

Alternatively, to search for flights you can use a flight comparison site such as www.skyscanner.net or www.travelsupermarket.com

CAR HIRE

This website lists hire companies https://www.rentalcars.com/en/

CAR SHARING

Take a look at BlaBlaCar www.blablacar.co.uk for how this works. To use this option, you would need to be able to converse online in French. The majority of lifts offered are from French speakers. There is also a French version of the site at www.blablacar.fr There is a Facebook group called Lifts in France for Everyone (LIFE) https://www.facebook.com/groups/380790432344102/

COACH/BUS

If you want to travel from London to Paris without your own transport, you could consider coach travel. Coach companies include:

Megabus https://uk.megabus.com/
Flixbus https://global.flixbus.com/

Combarabus (comparison site) https://www.comparabus.com/en-gb/bus-London-Paris-7-10

DRIVING

Driving in your own car or a hire car gives you an enormous amount of flexibility. Unless you are staying in a major city, your accommodation may be fairly rural and a car gives you the option to explore and get around at your own pace. This website  gives very practical information about driving in France including speed limits, information about speed camera detection devices in your car, breathalysers and the strange priority to the right rule (priorité à droite). The rules changed on 1st July 2018 regarding speed limits so do make sure you are aware of current legislation and requirements.

If you need to hire a car, Europcar and other car hire providers offer a rental service

For directions and route planning in Normandy use the Michelin website, Happy or google using the town names eg Rouen to Caen.

https://www.viamichelin.com

www.mappy.com

EUROTUNNEL/LE SHUTTLE

If you’d prefer the train to take some of the strain, then you could consider the Eurotunnel which is now re-branded Le Shuttle.  It links Folkestone to Calais with a journey time of just 35 minutes. You drive onto the train at Folkestone, remain in your car and drive off when you arrive on the French side. The website is https://www.eurotunnel.com/uk/This video takes you through the check-in, boarding and disembarcation processes.

Check out the Eurotunnel information page.

EUROSTAR

This option is for those wanting to cross the Channel without a car. You can catch a train from London St Pancras to Paris, Gare du Nord. Visit the Eurostar website for more information. Once you arrive in France, travel options from Paris Gare du Nord include train, métro, bus and tram or hire car. See the Paris section.

Watch the video of a London to Paris Eurostar journey.

FERRY

There are a variety of different options sailing from UK ports across the English Channel. The shortest journey is around 3 hours but you need to allow time to check in at your arrival port for passport controls and embarcation. Some ferries allow you to book reclining seats or cabins. There are various seating areas with bar, cafe and restaurant options. Duty-free shops and newsagents-style shops are on board and you can connect to Wi-Fi on some routes. On longer routes, family entertainment is also part of the package. Take a look at the video below for an insight of what to expect when travelling by ferry.

Ferries Direct From the UK

Brittany Ferries
You can travel as a foot passenger or with your car (including your pet on certain routes) from either Portsmouth or Poole. Arrival ports include to Le Havre, Caen/Ouistreham, Cherbourg. Sailings to Brittany include Portsmouth to St Malo and Plymouth to Roscoff. For more information check out their website. http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk

Condor Ferries
You can sail to St Malo on mainland France from Pool. There are also options to sail to Jersey or Guernsey from Poole and Portsmouth. The Channel Islands are located to the west of La Manche region in Normandy. Information from Condor is at https://www.condorferries.co.uk

DFDS Seaways
DFDS offer regular sailings from Dover and Newhaven to Calais, Dieppe and Dunkirk. See their website for details https://www.dfdsseaways.co.uk

P&O
P&O operate between Dover and Calais with a 90 minute crossing. More information at http://www.poferries.com Sailings from Hull to Zeebrugge are also available.

The price comparison websites www.aferry.co.uk and www.directferries.co.uk have a search function to compare the available ferries from all operators at your chosen port between the UK and France.

Ferries Direct from Ireland

Irish Ferries
You can catch a ferry from either Dublin or Rosslare to Cherbourg or Roscoff.

They arrive at Cherbourg and Le Havre in Normandy and Roscoff in Brittany. These ferry routes are provided by:

Irish Ferries https://www.irishferries.com/uk-en/Travel-to-France

Brittany Ferries https://www.brittany-ferries.ie/ferry-routes/ireland-france-ferries

Stena Line  https://www.stenaline.co.uk/ferries-to-france

Comparison site: https://www.directferries.ie/ferries_from_ireland_to_france.htm

Travelling to Normandy
Travelling by ferry

PARIS

For onward travel to Normandy from Paris you could hire a car, take a train or a coach. See the relevant sections. For information on how to use public transport in Paris visit either https://www.paristouristinformation.fr/plan/public-transport/ or https://parisjetaime.com/eng/article/public-transport-a555

TAXIS

Although cities and large towns in Normandy have taxis services at railway stations and airports, they are less frequent in rural Normandy. Many towns of a reasonable size and with a train station do not have a rank of taxis waiting outside as you’d find, for example, in the UK. In these cases, taxis would need to be booked in advance and hired privately.

TOUR GUIDES

There are a huge number of private individuals offering a tour guide service and some also provide a driving service. You can do your own search depending on what you’re looking for or click here for some guidelines. https://normandyguides.com

TRAIN

Itineraries for travel to France from European destinations as well as for train journeys in France can be planned via the SNCF website.www.sncf.com/en

FAQs

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  Can I see Normandy in a day or two?

  1. No. You will see some of it but it’s a big place with lots to see and do. Remember too that France, and Normandy in particular, is not 24/7. You may find places you want to visit close for a two hour lunch break. If you only have a limited amount of time, then plan your itinerary bearing the travel times and opening hours in mind.

Q.  Can I visit all the D-Day beaches in a day or two? 

  1. To drive along the coast from Utah Beach to Sword Beach would take around 3 hours but  wouldn’t allow time to stop at the many memorials, sculptures, museums or cemeteries. There are five beaches in total and it would be better to focus on a particular sector ie Canadian sector (Juno Beach), American sector (Utah and Omaha Beaches) or  British sector (Gold and Sword Beaches).

Q.  Can I visit Mont St Michel and a D-Day beach in one day?

  1. Yes, but it would be a long day with an early start.

Q.   Can I visit Normandy without driving?

  1.   Yes, although having a car gives you the greatest flexibility. Look at some of the alternative options below if you don’t want to drive or hire a car on arrival. You could also consider staying in a city such as Rouen or Caen. Bayeux would also be an option. There is plenty to do and you could could take day trips either by train, coach or with a tour guide. 

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