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Tips and what to watch out for when buying a cross channel ferry ticket to France and Spain.
Taking a ferry remains the most cost effective way to get to France and the continent. There are for a start no charges or limits on the amount of luggage you take, and the fare structures are simple in comparison to the budget airlines sites. Prices charged are normally per car, but the number of people this covers may vary from two to nine.
Pre-planning is essential, but this involves expected travel dates rather than research. Most ferry companies have sales and offers on from time to time, but for a limited period only. Start planning over Xmas for your summer holiday as most of the good deals are available in the early part of the year. With a bit of pre-planning considerable savings can be made.
Warning! Don't leave it to chance.
Book by 30th June 2013. Includes a car, up to 4 passengers and all taxes.
Book by 30th May 2013. Includes a car, up to 9 passengers and all taxes.
Use code Spring3Day
Book by 29th June - travel by 30th June 2013. Includes a car, up to 9 passengers and all taxes.
Don't fall for marketing terms such as "best value" fantastic deal", superb offer" etc. from agencies offering ferry tickets. Consumer law is vague regarding web site promotions and allows scope for considerable dishonesty by unscrupulous traders.
Never book a ticket on a website without full contact information easily available.
Don't use the phone to book – typically you will pay a fee of £10 to do this. However, the operators may well know of fare options not easily found via the internet, so do consider ringing and discussing the options – the savings may well be more than the phone booking fee.
Use a debit card – Most companies levy a fee for credit card use. However, in the event of a business failure, you will not be covered if you paid for the fare with your debit card.
Shop around. Many very good offers do not pay commission so are not promoted even by companies using terms such as "cheapest", "best value" etc.
Rely on sites that want your custom such as this one – we always promote the cheapest fares, even when we are not getting paid.
Check five and ten day fare options. Sometimes these are cheaper and worth amending your travel plans for.
Always consider using the ferries. Fares are per car with up nine passengers. There are no luggage or weight restrictions when travelling by ferry, ferry travel avoids the long queues associated with airport security and controls, and ferries are more spacious and comfortable.
Avoid agencies and marketing companies with websites promoting a ferry company. They will charge a hefty fee when you want to amend a ticket, and often have no contact information on the website.
Sign up for newsletters and follow their Twitter and Facebook campaigns. Unique offers are often made via social media.
APEX fares (advance purchase) are no longer available, but National Ferry Fortnight (March every year) is worth following as the offers available are good and generally apply for travel for the rest fo the year. We update our Vouchers and deals pages listing the offers every year. www.discoverferries.co.uk
Always check the vouchers and deals pages of this site. We list them all,even when we are not being paid!
How many people per car. Usually this is nine on the short sea channel routes. However if sailing further afield the fare is normally car plus two.
Administration charges. Even when a quote says that cancellation and amendment are free, there may be administration charges especially for use of credit cards.
Fuel surcharges. These often get added in at the last moment, especially when the oil price is high.
Tall vehicles. Many ferries have set aside specific areas for taller vehicles. It is essential you make the company aware of this before arrival.
Passports – if you are travelling with people who do not have European Union member state passports, you may need a visa for them. Make sure your own group's are up to date at the time of travel.
Travel insurance – check what is covered.
Disabled drivers or passengers – Notify the carrier as you will be allowed on first and shown the lifts you may need.
Avoid carrying fuel cannisters or gas cylinders. If you must, always check with the operator before you set off.
Arrange your own travel insurance, before starting your holiday, its much cheaper. Avoid using holiday, ferry and airline web sites for the extra's, whether its a hotel, car hire, airport parking or travel insurance. They usually have exclusive arrangements with a particular company, and do not always offer best value.
Don't be late. If you arrive less than 25 minutes before your sailing you are unlikely to get on. Via the M2 from the Blackwall Tunnel to the A2 turn off is about 50 minutes, to the Dover turn off (next roundabout) about 30 minutes, to ferry – about 15 minutes. Ferry companies are becoming more and more efficient, and that does not inviolve hanging around. I recently sat on a DFDS ferry watching the doors of the ship being shut 15 minutes before departure which was itself 7 minutes earlier than advertised. Additionally, you may be pulled in for a random security search, usually quite quick, but enough to make the difference between catching your ferry or hanging around for the enxt one.
Add an hour to your travel plans. Roadworks, unaccounted for peak periods, special events and emergencies can all delay you. We would also advise anyone leaving Central London to allow plenty of extra time. At peak times, the road system simply doesn't cope very well around Dover. Try take the A2 rather than the M20 motorway, there's only a two minute difference between each route.