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Located a mere 40kms from the southern coast of England, Calais is a place where Anglo and French cultures mix. Unsurprisingly, the city attracts millions of tourists per year. These visitors mainly flock to the destination for its scenery and historical importance, relying on car hire as their main means of transportation for navigating the town and its surrounding countryside.
Who to Book With
There are a few car rental companies in Calais to choose from, namely, France Cars, Hertz, D L M, Avis and National. Due to Calais's close proximity to the English coast, however, many tourists rely on Holiday Extras in Newingreen, Northgate Vehicle Hire, Folkstone Vehicle Rent, Ashford Self Hire, Europcar in Dover and Enterprise in Dover. All these companies either accept online bookings, which is the best way to secure a god deal.
Best time to go
The months between July and August are regarded as the best period to visit Calais. Due to this being the summer and during the school holidays, however, accommodation and vehicle availability can become scarce as the time draws near. Those that are mainly in town to see the historical attractions should travel outside of the peak period if they have no preference in terms of climate.
Need to Know Essentials
Collecting a rental car requires the driver to provide the following:
- Full UK driving license (if arranged in the UK)
- Secondary photo ID
- Credit card used for making the booking
- Printed confirmation of rental if possible
Calais is generally regarded as a driver's city. Many parties opt to stay in accommodation in the countryside and make use of well-developed roads that run in and out of town. It has been estimated that there are roughly 700 parking spaces dotted around Calais; parking is free for the first 15 minutes but then must be paid for over every four-hour period. The majority of spaces are found along rue des Fontinettes, Gambetta, Pasteur, Lafayette and Jacquard.
While, as mentioned, Calais is generally made for drivers, there are some, although limited, other options. These come in the form of taxis provided by a handful of local companies and buses that travel around the town and to some other destinations nearby. Calais has no rail system for travelling around the town, but there are numerous options for heading to the town via rail, with services mainly supplied by Eurostar, which has trains running from London and Brussels, and SNCF.
Allo Taxi Calais and the Association Artisanale Eurotaxi GIE are the two main companies that operate in Calais. Due to the town's popularity as a tourist destination, it can sometimes be difficult to get fares on the meter, so prices should be agreed prior to embarking.
Bus number 5 is used for reaching Carrefour and the Cite Europe shopping centre, while number 6 heads to and from Calais's Eurostar station. Services run roughly every half an hour and cost around £0.90 per person. Travel to and from destinations such as Dunkirk and Boulogne is supplied by the likes Inglard and Cariane Littoral.
While the vast majority of historical architecture in Calais was destroyed during WWII, the iconic watchtower, built in the 13th century, still stands defiantly in the town centre and offers fantastic views of the port and coast, as do the harbour and the lighthouse. The Musee des Beaux Arts et da la Dentelle is where more can be learnt of the town's involvement in the lace industry over the years, while sculptures and paintings are also on show. Driving to the nearby battlefields and war-related points of interest really does require car rental.
Paris - Reachable in less than three hours’ by those with car hire. A scenic cruise south on the A16 takes drivers through the heart of the northern French countryside and straight into the core of the French capital –the world's most popular tourist destination.
Saint-Omer - This can be reached in 40 minutes, provides a complete contrast to Paris. This is where a more traditional side of France can be enjoyed, with interesting architecture, shopping at the morning market and quality bars or restaurants set along the Place Foch.
Dunkirk - The drive east to Dunkirk allows motorists to take in some stunning French coastal landscape before arriving in the town of great historical importance to many. Stop-offs along the way can be made at Grand-Synthe and Grand-Fort-Philippe.