Dover is a busy port in East Kent, in the South of England. For hitchhikers this is one of if not the best possibility to cross the Channel. Because it is the closest port to continental Europe on mainland Britain with just 21 miles from the French port of Calais, Dover is the busiest cross-Channel port in the UK, with 18 million passengers every year and thousands of lorrys each day. Regular ferry services operate from Dover to Calais (P&O and Seafrance) and Dunkerque (norfolkline).
Hitchhikers can cross the channel for free because drivers only pay for their vehicle and a certain number of passengers, up to seven with a car and two with a lorry, the same holds true for the Channel Tunnel.
To get a lift to France, you may prefer to stop at Maidstone Services on the M20, where you have the possibility to talk to truckdrivers that might be crossing. Many more trucks stop at Ashford Truckstop on the M20, but there is security here and if they see you asking for lifts they will tell you to leave.
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If you have reached Dover without a ride across the Channel, you have a few options,
- you can try to get a ride on the road leading to the port. Difficult as there is no hard shoulder and very few breaks in the flow of traffic allowing anyone to stop.
- you can try hitching after the last round-about. Unfortunately it's illegal to hitch on port property (i.e. after the Port of Dover Authority sign) and although you might get away with it sometimes, the police is known to enforce this rule and send you away.
- you can try your luck inside the Travel Centre or on the car park in front of it. The problem is that both are nowadays very quiet as most people book on-line. If you speak to people here, you might have to convince them that they don't pay anything extra for taking you across and possibly that you are not an illegal immigrant.
- you are allowed to stand at the rail of the last roundabout leading into the port, i.e. before the port property. You'll be standing at the height of a truck driver who can see you clearly and can pull aside just in front of the Port Police building after the roundabout.
- you might try standing at one of the normal bus stops on the main seaside road with a sign that says France.
- if you're really stuck you can also try at the Western Docks, there is a truck park where drivers carrying certain types of goods or from outside the EU have to stop to complete some paperwork.
Important to know: the trucks park in the ferry so close that it's not possible to open the doors. That means that you'll spend more than 1.5 hour closed in a box with a stranger and the driver can only take one person legally - and they check your IDs etc on the entrance so none of them will take the risk of a fine there. I don't know if it is like this on every ferry and all the time, but it's not recommended to go with any trucks on a ferry! -EDIT - This experience must be an exception...many hitchhikers have taken trucks without problem and get out easily.
Near Calais, there is a huge lorry park with great possibilities for hitchhikers to continue their journey once the crossing is done!
North towards Canterbury along the A2
For leaving Dover, you probably have a better chance of a lift if you follow the Main road out of town. After about 20 minutes when you start to walk up a hill, there is a good place for vehicles to pull in.
North and North East towards Folkestone and London along the M20
West towards Brighton
Here you can try to get a lift onto the M20 and follow the motorways up and over. Another option is to get onto the coastal road (A259) all the way to brighton. From my expereince I would seriously advise skipping the romantic idea of the coastal road and keep yourself on the motorway. After folkstone its largely local traffic, a long walk out of the town and you sit there wishing you had of kept to the bright lights of the motor way!! However of course it led to a rich expereince!