Driving to Chamonix has much to recommend it – no worries about baggage, less prone to disruption, and quite a lot cheaper than flying if you have a full car.
It takes around 8 hours to drive the 900km to Chamonix from Calais. All but the last two or three kilometers are on the motorway, and the roads are very good and well signed. It’s also very useful to have a car in Chamonix as the ski areas are quite spread out, though there are regular shuttle buses. Do I need a car? – more detail here.
The most usual route is Calais > Reims > Dijon > Geneva > Chamonix.
Calais to Chamonix route on Google maps
(N.B. This map is to the centre of Les Praz de Chamonix – full directions to the chalet will be sent on booking)
On the way back, it’s simplest to follow signs to Paris, and then to Lille before heading for Calais.
If you want to break the journey on the way, Troyes or Reims are good stop-off points. Reims has plenty of late-opening hotels in the centre. Take a look at our blog for more stops en route, with hotel suggestions.
You should allow around 60 euros for tolls each way. If you have a large car or a ski rack, you may have problems with the automatic tolls – just press the button and tell them you’re “Classe une, s’il vous plait, pas classe deux” and they’ll correct the toll.
Here’s a run-down of French driving regulations from the RAC. A couple of new legal issues from 2012 – from this year, you must carry an approved breathalyser kit in your car – you can buy these easily in places like Halfords – and it’s an offence to use a device that detects speed traps.
In winter, it’s a legal requirement to carry a set of snow chains in case of bad weather. It’s generally easiest and least expensive to order them online in the UK – you’ll need your tyre size. Unless you intend to do a lot of snowy driving in the future, I would recommend just getting the cheapest. More expensive models are easier to put on and remove, but you’re highly unlikely to actually use them – the roads are cleared very regularly and we are on the flat valley floor. Snowsocks are good for occasional use, but some brands of snowsocks for tyres do not conform to French regulations. Check that they have a certificate if you choose them.
The chalet is very easy to access, and full directions with printable maps will be sent on booking. There is plenty of parking outside the chalet, which is located on a no through road.
Crossing the channel
Eurotunnel is the fastest but also the most expensive – however, you can get some good deals if you book early. It’s worth checking the Eurotunnel site for special offers.
The ferries are almost always cheaper, and there’s a romance about the ferry that I always enjoy! Ferrysavers generally have good prices, and check directferries.co.uk and aferry.co.uk as well, to see who has the best times for you. The Dunkerque crossing is often less busy and just as good.