I've changed my mind about travelling from Calais/Dunkirk to italy via Belgium

07/28/2009 - 09:32

I have often advocated swinging up through Belgium when travelling from UK to Italy, on the grounds of the cheap petrol in Luxembourg and toll free motorways. I did this route again a couple of weeks ago, but found the roadworks on the Dunkirk-Lille road and in Luxembourg to be horrendous, in terms of travel time.  I could not face travelling back that way so, after the overnight stop at Nancy on the way home [I recommend the Novotel at Laxou - good value and convenient to the motorway - http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-0407-novotel-nancy-ouest/index.shtml ] I travelled west,via the A31 and N4, to Vitry-le-Francois, [all motorway or dual carriageway].  Here I picked up the N44 [a mix of dual and ordinary road] heading North west to the motorway just north of Chalons-en-Champagne.  Thence up to Dunkirk on the motorway.  This was a nice easy run - starting at 08.45 from Nancy and arriving at Dunkirk at 14.45 Distance - from Nancy - 301 miles at an average of 57mph  [5hrs 17 mins plus stops] The journey to Nancy from the port [via Belgium] took around 7 hrs I will still occasionally travel down via Belgium, as we have found a great overnight stop there [http://www.castellessorbiers.be/UK/default.asp]but more often I will choose the  Vitry-le-Francois route  



Hi AlanI know I warned you about the problems from Lille to Dunkirk and you asked whether it was on both carriageways, which I could not answer - I assume from your comments that the problems are on both.  Perhaps you could confirm. Thanks

In reply to by Milky Bar Kid

MBK - thanks for the warning - it at least made me aware there probably would be a problem.  As i'd booked the overnight stop already - we still went ahead with the route anyway Both sides of the dual carriageway were 'singled' in places, with contraflow as well.  It wasn't too much of a problem going from Dunkirk, as we were not having to get to a ferry by a set time, and a later arrival at the hotel didn't  really matter [only in lost drinking time!].  But we didn't want to risk missing the ferry on the way back.

Hi all I've just made a quick trip with a load of furniture and, following the advice, drove through Belgium.  However, rather than Lille, I went to Luxembourg via Bruges and Brussels and it was absolutely fine and is virtually the same distance (Google maps shows it as 12km farther): no roadworks and even the R0 Brussels orbital was clear at about 8:30 last Friday morning.  Only problem was that there was a short section of the motorway closed before you get to Saarbrucken but the detour only cost about 15minutes.  (On the return, the motorway is open all the way.) Incidentally, for those of you with LPG vehicles, it's only 42-44c / litre at the moment in both Belgium and Luxembourg compared mid 60s in France and Germany. Happy driving Duncan (Chris's husband)

Can give you the latest on this route as we have just come back. We left Wasselonne (just west of Strasbourg) at six this morning and were at the eurotunnel terminal by 12.10. Diesel in Luxembourg €0.86! Yes there are roadworks near Lille but this morning we were not held up once. Compare this with yesterday Lunigiana to Wasselonne - 2 hour delay on the Milan Tangenziale due to an accident (plus lots of minor bumps because of the queueing) Then road works in both Italy and Switzwerland (due to finish 2011!!)  plus a 3 km queue for the tunnel. Normal journey time 8 hours, Yesterday 11 hours 20 minutes!!I feel that the time of your journey can play such an important part of judging the time. Yes we would use this route again - but only at certain times because of the roadworks.

In reply to by coppicer

We've also just come back.  Left Puglia about 11.30pm Tuesday 8 September.  No problems all the way through Italian motorway system.    No problems at border, although we turn off just before border and drive through Chiasso and come out just the other side onto the motorway.  Slow through Switzerland due to continual roadworks, not traffic.  No problems at Gotthard.  Straight through border at Basel.  Very heavy traffic at Luxembourg - think must be rush hour got there about 5.30pm.  After that no hold up at all through Belgium, Lille and on to Dunkirk.  Caught mid-night  ferry.  Then, surprise, surprise couldn't get southbound onto M25 from M26 and had to go north to go south.Timing is everything I think - our mistake was the time we hit Luxembourg - a couple of hours earlier and we would probably have been fine - and caught the ferry we were aiming for!

The second link in my original posting - the link that referred to an overnight stop in Belguim should have been   http://www.castellessorbiers.be/UK/default.asp,        [which refers to Castel les Sorbieres, not a repeat of the Nancy hotel - http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-0407-novotel-nancy-ouest/index.shtml]l As to cost - the benefit of the Formula 1 chain is cheap and cheerful - however, as I like to make the journey a part of the holiday, [and not a mad dash to/from the channel], I prefer to pay the extra and get a good hotel with good food  [both the stops I quote above easily do that]

As far as hotels go its horses for courses.We find the Formule 1 type of hotel excellent for just getting a few hours sleep and shower and then moving on with the journey.  The benefit is that you can arrive and leave at any time of day/night and do not have to see a soul.  So if we get tired at midnight we can stop and leave again at 5am as everything is automated and paid for up front.Whilst normal hotels are wonderful if you have a lot of time, just the checking in and out can be very time consuming and if you want to leave early you often forgo the excellent breakfast that has been included in the cost. The days must be getting nearer when we have sufficient time for a leisurely journey from Calais to Puglia taking perhaps a week with stops in the wonderful places we travel through.  For now though it is not to be and we always seem to have a 24 hour dash.  

We have found them excellent for stopovers in various places, always close to main roads with big  car parks and good spacious rooms... under 16s stay for free if sharing parents room and they are good sized rooms and a very good buffet breakfast included in the rate.Their smaller hotels, Ibis, are also good, very reliably clean and comfortable (not much in the way of free shampoo etc, remember to have your own handy), bit cheaper but smaller rooms so not so good for families.Not the most exciting 'of the area' type places, but when travelling somewhere clean comfortable and easy to find can be more important...

....... your engine will flood.     The main choices by ferry are Dover Calais or Dover Dunkirk [or you can do the Chunnel] Cheapest option is invariably Norfolk Line to Dunkirk - takes 2 hours instead of 1.5 hours on Dover - Calais Just booked for September - with Norfolk Line  £42 return for car plus 2 people Distances  to Italy are almost the same from either port   Quickest route [without tolls] is probably Dunkirk, Lille, Namur, Luxembourg,Metz, Nancy, Mulhouse, Basle, Lucerne, Gotthar Tunnel and into Italy.    All free motorway or dual carriageway except for a short stretch [45 mins or so] over the mountains to Mulhouse, but there is teh Swiss Vignette to buy - about £35