Personally I would take the National Express coach. They are easily booked from Stansted. Maidstone is about 2 hours away via the motorway if there are no hold ups. Unfortunately early morning is the rush hour and will prolly take longer. As Leics says, I wouldn't advise driving especially in London rush hour M25 traffic.
I would rest up for a while at a hotel near Stansted and travel around mid day.
I croos the Channel a number of times each year, and tend to vary my operator depending on my Continental destination. In July I was going to Brugge, and thought I would use Norfolk Line as the price was competitive and although the journey time of 2 hrs from Dover to Dunkirk was longer than Dover to Calais there was less driving once across the Channel. Check-in is 1 hr prior to departure, and when you reach the terminal you understand why. This is the slowest check-in service I have encountered on a Channel crossing, and it was less to do with increased security following the recent terrorist atrocities than the fact they only opened 1 kiosk to process travellers. The ferry then departed 1 hr late, and the only refreshment area at the terminal was expensive and understaffed. The bar was shut at 1 pm on a midweek crossing in July? The ferry itself was OK unless you wanted a half-decent 'duty free' shop, or a reasonable smoking area.Returning and I'll pass on the area around the ferry terminal at Dukirk except to say it's as depressing as I was coming to feel about Norfolk Line, the queue for check-in was even worse. Around an hour in a car with no access to refreshments, toilet facilitis etc. is not my idea of good customer service. The delay at check-in meant that we only had time to visit the toilets in the deserted terminal - I wonder why? - and not to pick up any 'duty free' goods.
Most towns, cities and villages are served by a local bus service.
Fares tend to be quite expensive and buses do not run 24hrs...on Sundays and Public Holidays they are limited.
If you visit the Tourist information office then you can pick up a timetable.
A bus will usually stop if they spot you waiting at a designated bus stop/shelter...but to be sure wave your arm out and flag them down.
Always try to have change on you too!
Depending on where you are going to in Kent...you can always get a train out of London down to East Kent in approx 1hr30mins...fares vary as do station of departure and whether or not the train is direct.
Generally speaking, if you are travelling before 0900 you will be charged a peak fare...travel a little later and the fare will usually be cheaper.
Timetables are up in almost all stations and if you are travelling on a Sunday there may be engineering works and so trains will be replaced by buses.
Tickets can be purchased through the kiosk or by a ticket machine...you will face hefty fines if you get on the train without a ticket
To cross the English Channel to France from here, you will need to visit the towns of Dover or Folkestone.
Dover has Ferries that take the short crossing to Calais using either P&O Stena Line or Sea France.
You can also cross to Bologne by using Speed Ferries.
If however you dont like ferries or you simply dont have the time...then from Cheriton on the outskirts of Folkestone you can travel with Le Shuttle, who will take you through the channel tunnel in just 35minutes!
If you decide on this option you will arrive in Coquelles - inbetween Calais and Bologne...right near Cite Europe....a huge shopping centre!
If you would prefer to travel by train, you can catch the Eurostar in Ashford International train station...this will also use the channel tunnel route, but doesnt usually stop again until you get to Paris or Brussells.
As crossing the Channel is very popular...prices are very competitive and you should check out all companies, because they may all have different deals on, sometimes you can cross as a foot passenger for as little as £1!!
At long last we have an airport!
Kent International Airport is located in the small village of Manston in East Kent, at the moment its only a small airport with just the one major passenger carrier operating - EU Jet.
You can fly direct to Kent from quite a few European cities...including Amsterdam, Prague, Edinburgh, Manchester, Dublin, Madrid, Barcelona etc etc
Check out their website for deals.
You can park at the airport for something like £5.00 per day, there are also bus links to nearby towns.
I am SO excited about the airport here, it was an RAF base for years, and then a Cargo only airport...its been a long time coming....and its literally in my backyard! Ive just got to get used to the low planes now! Lol
Kent is well served by motorways if you are travelling by car, and we have superb transport links.
The M25 motorway which circles London runs partially through Kent, and offers links onto the M20 motorway which will take you down to Ashford and Folkestone.
The A2/M2 runs directly into London all the way down to Dover passing through Faversham and Canterbury.
From the A2/M2 you can slip onto the A299 which will take you along the coast...bypassing towns such as Whitstable and Herne Bay...and onto Ramsgate...with good access to roads to Margate, Birchington and Sandwich.
All of these roads are generally very good...there are no road tolls to pay either...but do beware of the many speed cameras! They will catch you!
Speed limit unless otherwise stated in Generally 70mph on the Motorways and Dual Carriage ways...the national speed limit on other roads is 60mph, in built up areas 30mph and other roads 40mph...
The Dartford Crossing gets you from Essex into Kent and back!!
There are two tunnels going form Kent to Essex. The first tunnel was opened in 1963 and the second tunnel was opened in 1980. There is a huge bridge spanning the River Thames which takes traffic form Essex into Kent. The bridge named The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge was completed in 1991 and was opened by the Queen herself!! There are good views from the bridge on a good day.
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