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Eurotunnel is the passenger and freight rail service that runs from Folkstone to Calais (well, Coquelles to be precise). The service is not (usually) disrupted by adverse weather and of course, there’s no worry about seasickness. At busy times there can be up to five crossings an hour so, in theory, if you’re delayed you only have a short wait until the next one. On the downside, travelling by Eurotunnel is about as romantic as visit to a multi-story car park.
The service is incredibly busy at peak times (school holidays) and, in my opinion, seems to be getting worse.
Each booking gives you an online reference and password so you can amend it later, although there’s usually a difference in fare to pay there’s no fee for changing. While not compulsory, I’d highly recommend entering your car registration number at the booking.
A fairly recent change (from about April 2015) is that you now have to enter the passport details of everyone who’ll be travelling in your party. I was skeptical at first, thinking I’d be made to pay a higher fare in order to use the vouchers but that’s not the case. Traveling out, most people are likely to arrive at the terminal at junction 11a of the M20. If you entered your car reg on booking it’ll automatically recognise you and present your booking details on screen for you to confirm. Once you’ve checked in you (as in the letter you’ve been assigned) will either be directed to proceed or to wait at the terminal until called.
If you stop at the terminal keep an eye on the departure boards and we always leave immediately when called. After security you then need to concentrate if you’re in a high sided vehicle or carrying a roof box or bikes.
There’s then one last check of your details before you are directed to a particular lane, exactly like waiting for the ferry. Once is does just follow the car in front or the green lights if you’re the first until you’re at the train. For some reason, despite the fact there seem to be many more check-in booths, check-in coming back always seems to have much bigger queues. So on the French side you proceed through passport control whether your train is ready for boarding or not. All in all, apart from some frustrating delays at times, using the Eurotunnel is a very simple and straightforward undertaking. Given that we drive down to the Alps in one hit and thus have a ten hour drive ahead of us when we cross from the UK, the time saved against taking the ferry is very much worth it.

There’s nothing ‘nice’ about the trains, they are ugly grey boxes and once inside you mainly sit in your car staring at the car in front. Unless you’re paying with Tesco Clubcard vouchers (more on that later) there is no need to book by phone.
The automated check-in booths have number plate recognition which is superb as your booking appears on the screen as you drive up and you don’t have to enter your reference number. I believe this is down to UK Border Agency and while it’s nothing more than a bit of an annoyance it does seem to make a mockery of EU freedom of movement. The process is a little long winded (but has improved dramatically from a few years ago when you had to wait for paper vouchers to be sent before booking) but well worth it as ?10 in vouchers equals ?30 in ticket price.
Once you have the reference simply phone Eurotunnel to make the booking and tell them you are using Clubcard vouchers. If you check the website, the fare for time you want to go will be the one you’re charged for using vouchers. If you are early and there’s availability it may well give you the option of an earlier crossing, though this is quite unlikely at peak times. There’s normally plenty of parking at the terminal and inside you’ll find a good selection of shops and cafes etc. You still have to go through passport control and security and we have missed our crossing in the past because of this.
French passport control is on the UK side and I’ve never been checked or seen anyone else checked. Your wait here depends on many factors and can be anything from nothing to hours if delays occur.
So much so that at times Eurotunnel staff (quite sensibly) have to hold cars back and then direct them as necessary. The UK Border Agency is based on the French side and, unlike their French counterparts on the UK side, they do check passports, each and every one. You are then either directed to board or to park at the terminal and to wait until your letter is called. Roger and his family use the tunnel on numerous occasions each year on their way to the Alps. I'd really be grateful if you told Twitter, Facebook or Google + that you appreciate my efforts! In theory you drive into the terminal, check in, wait a while, drive onto a train and 35 minutes later you’re driving off the other side. It takes out the hassle of the additional 11 miles to Dover and the sometimes slow trip through the town to the port. However, there’s a big caveat in that if subsequent crossings are full you’ll have to wait.

There’s something about travelling by sea on the other hand and getting fresh air while watching the white cliffs fade away that’s a far more pleasant experience for most.
If you’re in a high vehicle or carrying a roof box or bikes you’ll need to go in high sided carriage.
Despite this I always travel with a digital version of my booking confirmation on my phone and a printed copy just in case. Yes, they email it, they don’t show it there and then.You may even get a confirmation email first with a number that looks like the code but isn’t, so read it carefully. Simply select the crossing time and it’ll print out a paper hanger with a letter you attach to your rear view mirror. Beware, if it’s early morning, school holidays and you’re busting for a cup of coffee you’ll probably find yourself in a long queue of others wanting the same.
So if you leave your car for a coffee or a quick loo stop be mindful that the light can go green and your lane start moving at any time. While on the French side I still leave the terminal as soon as our letter is called, there’s no real panic as you’re already cleared passport control. I can’t think why, you barely get a sense you’re even in a tunnel let alone one under the sea.
The service should not be confused with Eurostar which is the passenger service that carries no vehicles and runs out of London.
I write ‘in theory’ as, in my opinion, the service has decidedly deteriorated over the last few years and delays, some lengthy, now seem all too common. I’ve heard of people waiting 6 hours after missing a crossing before being allowed on another one. If you’re the driver, the ferry trip provides a nice break from driving and allows you enough time for a meal. There’s no extra fee but we’ve found these book up quickly and, on more than one occasion, have not been able to travel with our roof box.
It really just feels like you’re sitting in your car, that happens to be on a train you can’t see out of. In our experience travelling without a roof box or bikes etc and not going in a high-sided carriage gives more flexibility. Don’t worry if this happens to you, it’ll only take a few minutes and they’re doing it for your safety.

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