Since its opening in 1994, the Channel Tunnel has been a preferred method of traveling from England to France across the English Channel. Not only does it shorten the trip compared to crossing on a ferry, but it also allows you to bring your vehicle for exploring France and beyond. The actual length of time the journey takes depends on which method you choose for crossing.
The Channel Tunnel, commonly referred to the "The Chunnel" or the Euro Tunnel, features two tubes for rail traffic, one for each direction. A smaller tube is reserved for service and escape functions. The tubes are used by Eurostar for transporting passengers only and by Le Shuttle for those bringing their vehicles. On the English side of the channel, the train departs from Folkestone in the county of Kent. It arrives into the city of Coquelles, near Calais, on the French side. The tunnel is 31 miles long, with 23 of those miles beneath the surface of the water, traveling at an average depth of 150 feet below the seabed.
The Eurostar passenger train is not only the quickest journey across the Chunnel, but it also has faster access and loading times. The actual traveling time in the tunnel itself is just 20 minutes. It is recommended to arrive an hour ahead of time to be sure you get a seat and to get through the boarding process. Minimum check-in times are 20 minutes for Business Premier ticket-holders and 45 minutes for general ticket-holders or travelers boarding ski trains. This gives you time for passport, visa and customs checks. Eurostar train rides across the tunnel are not included with a standard European rail pass, so allow time to purchase a separate ticket for this train, either online in advance or upon arrival.
Le Shuttle is your option for crossing the channel with a vehicle. It carries cars, trucks, campers trailers, coaches motorcycles and bicycles across the Channel Tunnel every day of the year, with four crossings every hour during peak times. Passengers are asked to check in at least 30 minutes ahead of time but no more than two hours before departure. Crossing time is 35 minutes. In addition to passports, visa and customs checks, you will need time for showing proof of vehicle registration and insurance. The tunnel has its own motorway (highway) exits on both sides of the channel, providing direct access to check-in points. In the U.K., take junction 11A off the M20 and in France, take junction 42 off the A16 motorway.
Remember that the total time spent in the Chunnel is only a portion of your journey if you are traveling as a walk-on passenger on the Eurostar train. Depending on your final destination, you will be on board the Eurostar for varying amounts of time. For example, Eurostar service from London to Paris runs every 30 minutes during peak hours and takes an average of two hours and 20 minutes. Eurostar also crosses the Chunnel for excursions to other places in Europe, including Brussels, the French Alps during ski season and to Disneyland Paris daily in the summer. Seasonal schedules vary.