Most British visitors to Corfu are unaware that you can easily drive to Corfu. Indeed many other European visitors simply drive down to Italy and catch a ferry directly to Corfu. You will not find it
cheaper than flying, but it is an exciting experience and you have the opportunity to visit a few famous places on the way!
Eleni and I have driven many times. We tend now to avoid Germany - as although is looks the most direct route on the map, the traffic is appalling and views not impressive. The following detailed route plan is what we now consider to be the best. (Note: we normally take two days to drive - if you are planning to 'take in the sights', then of course you will need to readjust the schedule)
Take ferry from Dover to Oostende (Belgium). Takes about 2 hours. Sometimes it is worth purchasing a cheap day return and of course you do not come back on it! Last time we paid only twelve pounds for the 'SeaCat' and it covered a car with up to five passengers. On the way back you will need to do the same at the Belgium side.
Purchasing an open return will cost about 250 pounds. We prefer taking an early ferry so that you arrive in Oostende at 8am - giving time for a good day's drive. Have not tried the channel tunnel.
Take the E40 To Brussels - signposted Bruxelles/Gent. (1 hour)
At Brussels, take E411 - signposted Namur/Luxenburg. (2 hours)
Welcome to the European roads. Nice and wide with little traffic - compared to UK roads.
At Luxemburg, take E25 - Metz. (1 hour)
Just before Metz, the E25 forks off to Strasbourg. This is now a French toll road. (2 hours)
At Strasbourg, stay on the E25 to Mulhouse. (1.45 hours)
At Mulhouse, stay on E25 to Basel. (Note: My map says Basel, which is the Swiss pronunciation - the French call it (and signpost it) Bail - this can cause unaware motorists confusion!)
We normally make Basel our first stop for the night. There is an excellent Formula 1 just outside opposite the airport. The cost per night for a room that sleeps three is about 15 pounds. You can arrive and leave at any time. If you have not every stayed in a F1 then you will find them very convenient,
clean, but basic. When you arrive, you will see an ATM type machine at the door. You enter your credit card, and are asked how many rooms are required.
A receipt is printed out that gives your room number and a six digit number 'key'. You enter the number into a keypad at the lobby front door. When you have found your room, there is a keypad on the door. Your enter your number and the door opens electronically. The rooms consist of a double bed with a bunk style bed above. There is a wash basin and TV in the room. Toilets and showers located every 5-6 rooms and are automatically locked and pressure washed after use (try not to get locked in during this process!) All-in-all the the
F1s offer excellent value for money and if you are not planning to sightsee then try one.
At Basel the Swiss passport control will ask you (after carefully checking your passport - you are leaving the EU!) to purchase a Swiss tax disc. They are required for traveling on the motorways. The disc is valid for a year - so it will last for you journey home. The cost is about 20 pounds. In Switzerland the currency is Swiss francs, but credit cards are readily accepted.
As you enter Basel, you must keep a keen eye on the signposts. If you get lost you will find that the Swiss all speak English and are very helpful.
Look for the E35/E25 signposted Luzern.
Follow E35 to Luzern (1 hour). Try to make a stop here. The Bond movie (with George Lazabry - I think) was filmed high above here.
Stay on E35 going though the Gotthard - the longest tunnel in Europe at 24km. If you are traveling in May, then when you come out you may see snow high up on the slopes.
Last time we encountered heavy snow - this is unlikely to be a problem for you!
After the Gotthard, you will begin the decent down to Italy. The E35 will take you right to the Italian border (2 hours). At the border, you will need to wave your passport - it is never checked.
The road changes name to the A9. In about one hour you will join the ring-road around Milan. The road round is multi-laned and a little chaotic - no comment about the fine Italian driving!
Here you have the choice of going to Venice or Ancona:
To Corfu via Ancona: This is the quickest route. Ancona is a large port and has daily ferries direct to Corfu. The ferry journey time is about 18 hours. (Ferry port of Ancona is not particularly inviting, but at least it is well sign posted.)
To Corfu via Venice: Venice of course needs no introduction, and often we have spent a day or two there before departing to Corfu. The ferries are not as frequent as Ancona - so more planning will be needed. We have found that staying on Venice is very expensive, and to park the car costs an additional 60 pounds per day. There for, we normally stay in the inappropriately named 'Hotel Paris'. This is located just off the Venice Island - opposite the train
station at Mestre. The station is just one stop from Venice - takes about five mins, and the train stops at the boat-taxi port of Venice. The hotel last time charged us a reasonable 60 pounds per night for a room for three and parking was free in a protected enclosure.
Of course you could arrange to go to Corfu by Venice spending a day or two there and return via Ancona.
The ferries to Corfu are similar to cruise liners. Most have: restaurants; cinemas; casino; several bars; children play areas; sundecks; and some a swimming pool. We favour 'Minoan lines'. A cabin is essential.
The ferries travel down the Adriatic and then down into the Ionian (they can sometimes been seen on the Agni webcam - especially at night when they are lit up. The ferries dock at Corfu town.
Which ever route you take Venice or Ancona, the route from Milano is easy - but a little busier than the previous roads you will have been traveling on.
Purchase a good European driving map. I recommend the Philip's (has spiral binding - making it more durable) or AA one (has cheap binding and pages fell out).
Book ferries before traveling.
Do not run out of petrol on the way. I once tried to make it though Switzerland on the fuel we had - so I could fill up in cheaper Italy! We ran out and I walked for three hours to the nearest filling station! - Every time we now pass that area I am tormented by Eleni!
All tolls can be paid using a credit card, but it is easier to use cash. Now that all the countries where you will pay tolls use Euro, it will make it much easier.
following details are from Val's recent trip:
Ferry from Rosyth to Zeebrugge return -
£454.00 (cabin for 2 plus car)
Ferry from Venice to Corfu return - £404.00 (cabin for 2 plus car)
Petrol in total - £100.00 (including driving for 2 weeks in Corfu)
Tolls - £23.85
Swiss Tax - £13.00
Can`t remember how much we paid for our Hotels but they range from about
£15.00 for Formula 1, up to whatever you want to pay.
Our route was:
Total mileage for trip was 2095 miles.
As for the fun we had......immeasurable !!!
Driving to Corfu
following report by Angela and Graham:
In the very early months of this year,
2003, having read some of the posts on the message
boards about driving to Corfu, we were quite surprised
as to how many people had actually made this journey.
Having read Nathan's write up of his own experience of
this journey and wanting to take some goods out to our
house, we were encouraged to give it a go and drive
there ourselves. As an update to Nathan's report this is
how we did it, as a guide I have given the costs but
this is a guide only as there are various options, and
of course prices change. I hope the report is of
interest and useful to others who may be thinking of
making this journey.
We decided to go at Easter, as we could
then include some bank holidays along with those
precious leave days from work giving us a two and a half
week holiday using only nine days works leave. Our
journey may not have been the shortest or the cheapest
way of driving to Corfu, but since we have done it, we
now realise that there is no one set way of making this
journey, it can be as short/long, cheap/expensive as you
wish to make it. We bought a copy of ‘Philip’s
Multiscale Europe 2003’ maps which we found very clear
and simple to use.
We left England on (UK) Good Friday
afternoon about 4.00pm from Long Eaton in Derbyshire and
drove to Harwich where we took the night ferry to Hook
of Holland, arriving about 7.00am Saturday morning. We
booked a cabin at a cost of about 60 GBP for two people
(single journey), in addition to the standard fare for a
car and 2 people of 105 GBP (single journey). The cost
can be reduced by not taking the cabin and booking an
aircraft type seat for about 10 GBP per person (single
journey). Having had a meal, a good nights sleep and a
good breakfast (meals are included on this ferry) we
could then enjoy a full days driving feeling quite
refreshed. This is not the cheapest way to cross the
channel, the short crossing to France would have been
cheaper as cabins would not have been needed but
crossing the channel very much depends on where you are
starting your journey from in the UK, and how far you
wish to drive before taking your first stop. What is
saved on a crossing would probably be spent on an extra
nights stop in Europe. We felt it was important to
consider how long we would be driving for and as a
safety issue not be feeling too tired at the start of
the drive through Europe.
Arriving in Hook on the Saturday morning,
we drove south through Holland passing through Breda and
into Germany through to Koln. We drove for most of the
day passing through Frankfurt, Wurzburg, Nurnberg, and
Munchen stopping at the motorway services two or three
times. If cost is important we would recommend using
the shops on the services for sandwiches and snacks,
coffee is also available, as it is much cheaper than
using the café/restaurants. By the end of the day we
were in the south of Germany and now very close to the
Austrian border. We stopped in the evening for a meal in
a lovely restaurant in the small town of Rosenheim and
would recommend making this an overnight stop. There
are many B&B accommodations in this area, so it would
not be difficult to find accommodation out of the
season, perhaps booking would be advisable in the busy
Summer season. Accommodation could also be taken at
many of the Motorway service areas. (I do not know the
cost for these rooms - we slept in the car overnight as
we did not want to leave a car loaded with goods
including computer equipment unattended for the night).
This is another part of the journey where the cost can
be reduced by sleeping in the car, but taking into
account the amount of driving done during the day and
the remaining amount to be done, we would recommend
taking a room for a proper nights rest as we did on the
The following morning we woke at dawn to
see the beautiful Austrian mountains in front of us
topped with snow. A really beautiful sight and quite a
surprise as it was dark by the time we had left the
restaurant and parked up the previous evening. We had a
really early start with staying in the car, so we were
off on the road again at about 6.30am after coffee and a
wash and brush up in the service station. The toilet
facilities in the services were excellent, and nowhere
appeared to be very busy. Had we taken a room for the
night we would probably have had a little later start
about 8.00am. We had pre booked the Venice–Corfu ferry
which left at 3.00pm on the Sunday afternoon, so an
early start was needed, especially as we later found out
that we had misjudged the mileage on the last stretch of
the journey by about 100 miles.
We continued the journey into Austria,
which was the best part of the journey, through Salzburg
and on towards Villach near the Italian border. The
scenery was breathtaking, as we drove through valleys
and snow capped mountain passes. We passed by some of
the ski-ing areas in the little Alpine villages of
Austria and if we could make a leisurely journey with
plenty of time to spare we would certainly consider
stopping and visiting some of the lovely villages in
this area and in the South of Germany. However, we had
a ferry to catch and had to continue, so after passing
through many tunnels and mountain passes we continued
until we arrived at villach, it is here where we turn
right for Italy and left for Slovenija, so we had to
make sure we took the correct slip road on the motorway
as we did not have time to make any mistakes !!
We managed to get it right and passed
over the border into Italy where we stopped for a coffee
and very late breakfast break at the motorway services
in Italy, the standard of which is not as good as the
German and Austrian services. This is were Graham had a
brain malfunction as he suddenly declared “we are going
the wrong way” the blood drained from his face as he
looked up and said “the sun is in the wrong place, it
should be over there”. He had driven along way and as I
was the one reading the map, following every twist and
turn in the road and reading every sign, I had no doubt
as to which direction we were going. So I just stared at
him and replied that if he wished to continue the
journey using the SUN as a guide to getting to Venice he
could do so – on his own – as I was going to stay with
the map !! (I think for a moment, he thought he was a
Greek – an Ancient Greek!!)
It is the mountain passes that made the
distance look much less on the map where the roads twist
and turn through the mountains (and where the sun
appears in the wrong place !!) and this is why we
misjudged the remaining distance by about 100 miles. As
we did not have much time to spare for this stop we
stood outside in the bright morning sunshine, drank our
coffee and was soon away again for the remaining part of
We continued on – in the right direction
- towards Udine where the motorway splits left for
Trieste and right for Venice, the last leg!! Not much
further to go now and we were really looking forward to
seeing Venice as neither of us had been before.
We arrived in Venice at about 11.30am in
good time to catch the ferry. Boarding time was about
1.00pm, we had made it in perfect time, but should
anything have gone wrong we would have struggled to make
it. It would perhaps be advisable to leave a little
more time to reach the ferry but it worked out perfect
for us. We had no time to visit Venice but did not have
to wait long before it was time to board to ferry. Not
being able to visit Venice was not that much of a
disappointment as when the ferry pulled away it sailed
right along the Grand Canal and you could see all of
Venice in front of you from the deck of the ferry!! It
was fantastic, a real birds eye view and it is well
worth taking the ferry for the sail around Venice.
The ferry is like a small cruise ship,
with bars, restaurants (al a carte and self service)
spacious lounges, a large sun deck and swimming pool.
It is a 24 hour journey to Corfu so we booked a cabin,
which really bumps the price of the journey up, at a
cost of 175 GBP per person return. This is an option and
it is possible to take an Aircraft type seat for 83 GBP
per person return or a deck passenger ticket for 63 GBP
return. In addition to these prices is the vehicle cost
of 77 GBP return for a normal vehicle up to 5.5 metres
in length. If travelling as a deck passenger I think
that you would have to sleep on the outside decks as we
did see people on the deck in sleeping bags the
After a very relaxing afternoon, a much
needed shower, a nice evening meal and a good nights
sleep, we awoke the following morning, had breakfast and
went up onto the deck of the ship. It would have been
about 10.30am by this time and we were by then cruising
along the Albanian coastline and there was Corfu and her
Northern Islands clearly ahead of us. We passed Agni
bay at about 11.30am, as the Minoan ferry does most
mornings at about this time and at this point usually
passes the sister ship going in the opposite direction.
The ships always acknowledge each other with a blast on
the horn, and can often be heard when lazing on Agni
beach. As the boat unloads at Igouminitsa first, it is
about 2.30pm before we finally arrived at Corfu docks.
As a guide to the distance and the actual
cost of the trip, our mileage was 945 miles from Harwich
to Venice and the same again on the return as we took
exactly the same route. The Petrol cost was
approximately 200 GBP (using a 4x4 Diesel Engine
vehicle) including the return journey, bearing in mind
that Diesel is very much cheaper in Europe than in the
UK. We had taken single journey tickets on the
Harwich–Hook ferry as we were unsure as to the time we
would be crossing on the journey back. On the return
journey we crossed during the day, so a cabin was not
necessary, the cost was approximately 30 GBP per person
and 40 GBP for the vehicle. We also had a Bed and
Breakfast stop on the return journey (I would not
recommend sleeping in the car) at a cost of 60 GBP for
two people. The rooms on the Motorway I believe would be
less than this.
The total cost of our journey was
therefore approximately 952 GBP plus meals and snacks on
route at 2003 prices. These prices are only a guide and
will vary according to the time of year and current
When comparing the costs with flying, the
summer charter flights are obviously the cheapest, but
travelling out of season we estimated the air fare via
Athens to be about 260 GBP each, but do not forget to
take into account about 250 GBP car hire for 2 weeks and
about 100 GBP for airport car parking, then the cost is
not so much more than travelling by air.
It was a wonderful experience, a lovely
journey with so much to see on route even without
stopping and visiting places of interest. We shall
certainly be making this journey again next year and as
soon as we can spare the time we shall do it over a much
longer length of time and visit some of those places of
interest on the way. I think on that occasion it will
probably take us about a week or more to get to Corfu.