A handy guide to travel options between the UK and the South of France for summer 2024.
Here we include information about direct flights and car hire, ferries and driving times plus train travel to the South of France. Click on ‘Read more’ for all details.
Most of our villas in the South of France have a Saturday arrival day in peak season (broadly speaking July and August). Flexible changeover days outside peak season mean you can tailor your holiday to flight availability and prices.
The details below are correct to the best of our knowledge. However, please check the airline’s website for up to date information.
We also recommend that before booking you make yourself aware of the airline’s cancellation terms in case of further flight disruptions.Read more
All the above-mentioned airports offer car hire from all the major rental companies. It goes without saying that we recommend you pre-book your car, and shop around for the best deal.
Our top tips for car hire:
- Take advantage of the online check-in facility offered by some rental agencies before you travel. This will save time on arrival at the airport.
- If possible, get the person in whose name the car has been booked to go straight to the car-hire desk, rather than wait for your luggage, to get ahead of the queue at the rental desk.
- We read of many problems where rental agencies claim that the vehicle has been damaged, even though the bumps or scratches were pre-existing. Take a moment to photo the vehicle where pre-existing damage has been highlighted on your rental agreement as proof should there be any future dispute.
The drive from the Channel ports to the South of France should be not undertaken lightly. For most people the journey from home in the UK to Provence or the Cote d’Azur will involve an overnight hotel.
If travelling from either Calais or Dunkirk, Paris can be avoided taking the slightly longer route via Reims and Troyes before joining the motorway from Paris at Beaune in Burgundy.
South of Lyon the A7 ‘Autoroute du Soleil’ is notorious for traffic jams especially on weekends in July and August. Everyone from France and other northern European countries travelling to the South of France (as well as Spain) is funnelled onto this stretch of motorway down the Rhone valley. Bear this in mind when planning your journey. You can get traffic updates in English on the radio for motorways throughout France on 107.7FM.
Instead, you may consider the signposted Bis routes avoiding motorways altogether. These use less crowded main roads. However, they will often take you through the centre of towns where you need to be vigilant when following the signposting. These routes are often less stressful, prettier and cheaper (no motorway tools). However, progress can seem slow especially when covering long distances.
When booking overnight accommodation, it is worth remembering that different hotel chains provide different room types such as triple and family rooms, so it is worth doing some research. A good starting point is the Accor Hotels website which features a number of the leading chains across a wide price range including Novotel, Mercure, Ibis and Formula 1.
The AA Route Planner indicates the following driving times from the ferry ports to Avignon (you need to add about 2 hours if travelling to the Le Muy area and 2¾ hours for Nice):
Dunkirk 9 hours
Calais 9 hours
Le Havre 8¼ hours
Caen 8 ¾ hours
To make the most of your stay at one of our villas in Provence or the Cote d’Azur we strongly recommend having access to a car. Nonetheless, if members of your party are arriving by different means, travelling to the South of France on the train is an option to consider.
Through tickets are available from London to all major stations in France using Eurostar and high-speed TGV trains. Plus, in the summer there is a direct service from London to Avignon. The journey time from London to Avignon is usually about six hours, and approaching ten hours to Nice as much of the line beyond Avignon has yet to be upgraded to allow faster trains.
If a journey requires a change, we recommend itineraries where this happens at Lille Europe, where only a change of platform is required. Other options entail crossing Paris between terminals, which may be off-putting for some.
Tickets can be booked at the English language website of French Railways.
If your travel plans are a little more complicated and involve flights and train travel, there are direct trains from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport southwards. Journey time is between three and four hours to Avignon. Trains are not too frequent, so check your itinerary carefully and be aware of your options if your flight is delayed.
Information updated February 2024.