- WHERE TO STAY
- PUBLIC TRANSPORT
- CRUISE PORTS
Dover is around 77 miles (124km) from the centre of London. On a good day with a clear road, a vehicle will make it in under 2 hours, but most days that's wishful thinking with traffic.
On the other hand the trains between London St Pancras and Dover take around 65 minutes. The tedious part is getting from your London hotel to your London train station and a taxi between Dover Priory train station and Dover's cruise or ferry terminals.
On days when major cruise ships are in port cruise bus services run to and from the Dover cruise terminals connecting to Central London hotels and Heathrow Airport providing a shared door to door service.
Shared shuttle from London to Dover cruise terminal
Adult: £179 pp
Maximum 3 drops per vehicle • Maximum 6 people per vehicle • Large air-conditioned vehicles with professional drivers
There are three main trains between London and Dover. The two services to Charing Cross via London Bridge and Victoria follow the same track for most of the way to London and are similarly priced and take similar lengths of time to complete the railway journey.
The London St Pancras to Dover service is much faster as the trains utilise the high speed tracks built for the Eurostar express trains between England and France. You pay a small premium for this relative speed on the ticket. However, if you just miss one of these fast trains from Dover, you lose all that time advantage waiting for the next one.
For most people travelling to or from their accommodation in London the pragmatic choice is to identify which of Victoria, St Pancras, London Bridge or Charing Cross stations are closest to your hotel and select the train on this basis.
Both St Pancras and Victoria are major hotel districts in London. Kings Cross/St Pancras is particularly strong on budget accommodation options. Both are also excellent public transport hubs. Victoria has airport buses direct to all of London's four major airports. St Pancras has direct train connections to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton airports.
Heathrow is to the west of London, whilst Dover is the other side of London to the east. As a result all public transport options require journeys into London, connecting with other transport options to your eventual destination, there are no direct links.
The fastest option is to use the Dover - St Pancras train service. At St Pancras you have a choice of travelling to Heathrow.
The London Underground runs direct between St Pancras and Heathrow stopping at countless stations taking a similar time to complete the journey as the much longer trip to Dover from St Pancras.
Train carriages are invariably crowded on the London Underground, you may not get a seat for some of the journey and if you have more than one case it's not a good experience dragging your luggage through ticket barriers and negotiating escalators and corridors within the Underground system. It is comparatively very cheap though.
The quicker, much more comfortable but more expensive option is to get the Underground or a black cab from the station rank between St Pancras and Paddington about 2 miles apart.
It should be pointed out that the alternative National Express bus option although much slower than train offers a seamless connection between Heathrow and Dover buses at Victoria Station under one roof with one ticket.
There are trains direct to Gatwick from Victoria, London Bridge and St Pancras each of which have connecting trains to Dover.
The cheapest tickets between Gatwick and Dover is for a route that avoids London altogether. You will need at least two changes of train at Redhill and Tonbridge and sometimes a third change of train at Ashford.
On the trains to and from Dover there are no reserved seats and no help is given with your luggage. You just board the train and find a seat that suits you on a first come first served basis and store your luggage as best you can.
Ticketing on UK railways is very complex. On the Dover run the cheapest tickets are normally off peak tickets.
If you are lucky you may get an advance purchase promotional ticket.
The three types of tickets are broadly:
Advance purchase: Buy in advance, sold in limited numbers and subject to availability. These tickets will have restrictions specified when purchasing.
Off peak: Buy any time, travel off-peak. The definition of off peak can vary from ticket to ticket. These tickets may require you to travel at specific times of day, days of the week or on a specific route. Where there is more than one Off-Peak fare for a journey, the cheaper fare with more restrictions will be called Super Off-Peak.
Anytime: Buy any time, travel any time. (the standard ticket). Anytime fares are fully flexible tickets, with no time restrictions on when you can travel.
At train stations there are manned ticket offices and also ticket machines. All major credit cards are taken as well as cash (British pounds only).
For fares and timetables use 'The Trainline' website where you can also order tickets for delivery to your home address.
No shuttle buses are provided between the cruise and the train station or London bus stops at Dover. You therefore need to get a taxi between the cruise terminal and the train station/bus stop.
The fare should be around £8. Taxi cabs at Dover come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, the image tight is fairly typical. If you have two cases per person and more than 2 people you may end up with multiple taxi cabs.
It's just a 5 minute drive between the cruise terminals at Dover to/from the railway and bus stations and ferry terminal. The cruise terminals are far too far to walk with luggage from the train stations. All fares within Dover should be on a meter.
For longer journeys outside Dover never leap into a taxi without agreeing the price beforehand. Although drivers may offer to accept your Euro or Dollar currency it will almost certainly be at a very poor exchange rate. Only do so as a last resort.
The taxi rank at the cruise terminal is well marshalled. Porters from the ship will normally take your luggage as far as the taxi rank immediately outside the front doors of the cruise terminal. It is customary to leave a small tip with cab drivers, assuming they provide a good service.
The main alternative to train by scheduled public transport are coach services by National Express. The coaches like the train do not visit the cruise terminals.
They pick-up from a bus stop in Dover Town and Dover Ferry Terminal, so like the train you would need a taxi to get the coach.
The coaches travel to and from London Victoria Coach Station, they make no other stops like hotels in London.
From Victoria Coach Station, National Express run services to Heathrow and Gatwick Airport and you can get through tickets.
The National Express Coaches are much slower but much cheaper than the train services. They are modern air-conditioned buses with washrooms.
National Express offer e-tickets online. Significant for people on cruises is the luggage allowance, 2 cases neither of which should weigh more than 20kg (44lb) before steep surcharges kick in.
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Not public transport, but a useful option offering prices approaching public transport with the convenience of door to door transfers between your cruise terminal at Dover and your hotel in Central London or Heathrow Airport.
In the London to Dover direction the bus picks up from hotels in all of the major hotel districts of Central London and Heathrow Airport where it will pick-up from a selection of Heathrow Airport hotels (but not passenger terminals) before going onto Dover with an optional stop at Dover Castle.
In the opposite direction the service takes the form of guided day tour. After leaving the cruise terminal at Dover the tour visits Canterbury and Leeds Castle before performing hotel drops in Central London late afternoon before going onto Heathrow Airport. For Disney Cruises the service visits the Warner Bros Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter, instead of Canterbury and Leeds Castle.
The vehicles used are normally full size 50 seat luxury air conditioned touring buses like that pictured.
£140 - Windsor Castle, Stonehenge & Bath
£114 - Stonehenge & Bath
£65 - Stonehenge half-day tour
• Exclusive prices including admission to attractions • Air-conditioned tour coaches with free Wi-Fi