Why travel via Belgium when Driving to Italy from Calais/

07/03/2009 - 12:52

When driving to Italy, [Lake Maggiore area], from Calais, I almost always drive up towards Dunkirk and then head East towards Luxembourg.   The reasons for doing so is simple:-

  1. I do not need to pay to travel on French motorways - its free in Belgium, Luxembourg and the bits of France I go through - a saving of about 35 Euros each way.
  2. It doesn't add more than about 20 minutes to the travel time - the distance is almost exactly the same as going on the auto-route direct towards Strasbourg, but traffic can be slow around Lille [but this can be offset by not having to stop to get and pay for tickets on the auto-route
  3. It allows you to fill up with petrol in Luxembourg [very very cheap].  -   First Tip - fill up at the motorway Service Station close to the border with Belgium, as the queues are always at the filling station close to the French border.
  4. It avoids what is one of the most boring bits of motorway in France - why else would they erect 'interesting totems etc' beside the motorway to provide something to look at.

 Second Tip [This is probably illegal, and should never be done]  -  I Dont know if this does work, but someone I know does it every time , and he swears its 'kosher'When driving on 'pay' autoroutes in France - they can automatically check how fast you have gone [average speed] from information on the ticket that you buy.  [it holds the time you bought the ticket on the magnetic strip].  My 'friend' always blasts at full speed down the french auto-routes, well in excess of the speed limit.  Before handing in his toll ticket at the pay booth, he wipes a magnet across the strip - destroying the time stamp.  They can still work out the charge from the printed info on the ticket, but not the speed 



 Alan, Any chance you could give a more detailed route, I'm travelling over in a few weeks time, from Calais, thinking of going the Reims- Metz route down through switzerland but your route looks good, I'd like to be able to put it in the TomTom to compere, Would it  be easier to sail direct to Dunkirk ?.                                                                        Buona Giornata.

Calais - then passing close to [on motorway] Dunkirk, Lille, Charleroi, Luxembourg, Metz, Nancy, Epinal - then over the Vosges [only bit of non-dual carriageway] to Mulhouse, then into Germany and avoid Basel by taking the last turning off the autobahn to Lorrach and into Switzerland.  Then Lucerne and on to Gotthard Tunnel [take the St Gotthard Pass if you have an hour to spar, including stop for view] and on into Italy My stops are at Castel Les Sorbieres [chateau by the Moselle - a small detour in Belgium] and just outside Lucerne.  Coming back we manage with one stop in the Novotel at Nancy Ouest [Laxou].     Castel Les Sorbires has the best food ever!  http://www.castellessorbiers.be/UK/gallery.asp In a couple of weeks we are doing the Dover Dunkirk route for the fist time - my son has done it and says its great as there are no coach parties on the boat!

In reply to by alan h

My husband Ron has just returned (Monday) from our home in Italy and driving there six weeks ago and returning, he travelled on Norfolk Ferries Dunkirk/Dover.  He said it was a lovely easy ferry route, not overly full and easy both ends getting on and off with the car and our dog, the staff being very friendly.  And it was 30 euros for the car and two passengers (but the customary £30 for the dog).  Cheaper on the Dover/Calais route.I will make a note of the Luxembourg leg of the journey.  He went through Belgium, past Brussels to Liege on one of the best roads he has every seen (we used to live near Liege about 35 years ago - so memory lane for him) and then into Germany (via Holland I think) and Austria, then Italy.  Not such a boring journey as last year when we did France from Mont Blanc to Paris.  Great roads but so boring!Maralyn

in my posting above i say that Castel Les Sorbieres is by the Moselle - its not, its beside the Meuse [don't seem to be able to edit anything other than the initial post in the thread]

Just returned to UK and following a similar route to AlanH, people should be aware that  on the return route from Lille to Dunkirk the road is single carriage way due to road works and very slow.  If you are catching a ferry it is worth allowing an extra half an hour for this small stretch.  We also got searched 3 times at Calais so if in a van make allowance for this to.  BTW Diesel was 0.85c a litre in Luxembourg so if you have a large tank well worth going that way as Germany was around 1.09 and Italy 1.14.

Alan H, know the orutes well, but disagree with your thoughts on the time differance. Whilst we regular use the dunkirk to luxembourg to switzerland route,we know from experience of doing it over and over again, that the differance is indeed well over an hour longer, if conpared with a more regular tol route ie calias riems strasbourg ect ect. for a start the road out of dunkirk towards lille is aweful,with plenty of slower speed limits than a toll route has.Around luxembourg and toward metz is also a bottle neck and of corse after epinal you are on single carriageway.   So whilst i am a fan of  most of the via luxembourg route would never claim it to be a route that is as quick as the whole french route to switzerland,but it is a nicer cheaper route,which is also important

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Recently drove from near La Spezia to Genoa to Mont Blanc tunnel to Dijon to Reims to Calais in 12 hours.  Quick, but not cheap!