Driving from Germany to London- ferry tickets needed

26 posts in this topic

I'm back in the UK this week, and booked my ticket three days before leaving. I went (and usually go) DFDS from Dunkirk to Dover, and paid £50 to the UK and £70 for the return leg, both of which were flexible tickets (so I can return any time within 72 hours of the slot I booked). There were also four of us in the car (two adults two kids). Given this is peak season and short notice, I think 120 is a great deal for four people and a car.

You're only on the ferry for two hours (1.5 if you go for Calais), so whilst it's not luxurious, it's comfortable enough - way better than the Eurotunnel because at least you can stretch your legs and get some fresh air. There's a small kids area for the kids to rampage for a bit (and learn Polish from the other kids) which is handy if they've been stuck in the car for a few hours.

Aside from the ability to move around, the other big advantage of the ferries over the tunnel is that you can often turn up 15-20 minutes before sailing and they'll still let you on. As such, any time you save in the crossing on the tunnel you lose by having to be there over an hour in advance to have any chance of getting the train.  

It's best to book evening crossings though. They are cheaper and not quite so busy. Also, given you've got kids, if they can run around on the ferry, they are far more likely to go to sleep when you get off the ferry, which makes driving much easier the other side.

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12 hours ago, dstanners said:

You're only on the ferry for two hours (1.5 if you go for Calais), so whilst it's not luxurious, it's comfortable enough - way better than the Eurotunnel because at least you can stretch your legs and get some fresh air.

 

You make it sound as if you are 100% confined to your car, it's only a 35 minute journey in which time you can walk up and down the train or just sit back and relax. Admittedly the air is not all that fresh so that's most probably the only plus point for the ferry.

 

12 hours ago, dstanners said:

Aside from the ability to move around, the other big advantage of the ferries over the tunnel is that you can often turn up 15-20 minutes before sailing and they'll still let you on. As such, any time you save in the crossing on the tunnel you lose by having to be there over an hour in advance to have any chance of getting the train. 

 

I'd like to see you try and check in 15-20 (given they recommend 45 minutes and 90 for busy periods) minutes before departure with DFDS given there are new border controls in place.

 

Quote

 

Check-In

The relevant port check-in times for your departure can be found on your confirmation in local time. When travelling to the port, please allow adequate time in order to complete the check-in process. A minimum of 45 minutes (90 minutes for busy sailings) prior to the sailing departure time for our ferry crossings on Eastern Channel routes; 90 minutes prior to the sailing departure time for ferry crossings on our Western Channel and Long Sea routes.

 

 

Check in time recommended by Eurotunnel is 30 minutes prior to departure time regardless. The plus point with the Eurotunnel against Ferries is that if you do get delayed with customs you can just go straight through, even if you have missed your slot, you can get the next train which normally run every 20 minutes. Unlike Dunkirk the ferry is every 2 hours with Calais slightly better but quite often at busy times it can be a gamble.

 

We used to use ferries up until we had a couple of bad experiences, the first was traveling with a dog from Dover to Calais, there was a strike at the french ports which meant there were long delays in docking, dog was stuck in the car and totally distraught after 4 hours waiting, we were not allowed to goto the car deck whilst the ferry was at sea.

Second, traveling from Calais on an evening crossing at around 18.30, this time no dog but I was with my son who was only 3 at the time. Due to heavy winds we had to keep circling until the ferry was allowed to dock which finally happened shortly after midnight. Having not been informed of the conditions at Dover until the last minute we were just expecting a normal 90 minute crossing, my son normally took his favourite teddy bear everywhere with him but as it was only 90 minutes he was too excited and didn't bother. Well big mistake, try telling a 3 year old that you can't get the teddy cause we're stuck at sea and we're not allowed on the car deck, the most miserable journey ever.

 

As I previously said you can't beat the ferries on price so if it's value over convenience that people want then be my guest and use the ferries, I will never use the ferries again regardless of cost. 

 

Edit: Yes I have also experienced delays with Eurotunnel but I've never been stuck on the train, it's either been in the waiting area or at the terminal itself which when travelling with either child or pet it's not such a big inconvenience as being stuck at sea.

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2 hours ago, Sir Percy B said:

I'd like to see you try and check in 15-20 (given they recommend 45 minutes and 90 for busy periods) minutes before departure with DFDS given there are new border controls in place.

Well, it worked last week!

 

Mind you, @Sir Percy B I can understand from the experiences you've had why you would keep away from the ferries - sounds awful. My view is based on my own experiences. I typically make around four to six return trips a year by ferry all with DFDS and I haven't had such bad luck (I've probably cursed my trip home next week though!) By contrast, before I switched to the ferries, the check-in times, queues and delays for the Eurotunnel put me off, and as the person doing all the driving, I actually appreciate the longer break wandering around on the ferry as opposed to a tedious half an hour stood next to my car.

 

 

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It's DFDS every time for me.  I do the crossing two or three times a year.  I book my ticket up to one or two days before sailing.  If I arrive early I'm put on the earlier ferry, if late on the next at NO EXTRA COST even if there is a price difference.  On P&O it cost me £10 to get on an earlier boat.  Dunkirk is half an hour closer to me than Calais.  I came back yesterday in convoy with my daughter and grandchildren.  Eight o'clock sailing and we arrived there at eight because my daughter's car decided to have a dead battery.  We were so lucky - the boat was delayed by half an hour.  This was amazing as I have never had a late sailing with them as opposed to my one and only time when it was delayed by two hours.  

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We recently paid £160 return including £10 priority boarding each way with dfds. That was 2 adults, 1 child ( Last week of July)

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Ferry travel - an update. I drove back to Germany from the UK yesterday and used DFDS. Following on from my last post, I thought I'd give an update on the timings/security/quality issues. I arrived at Dover at five minutes to six for my  6pm ferry. Unsurprisingly, I had missed the 6pm to Dunkirk, so at no cost and no discussions, they offered to move me to the 6:20 ferry to Calais (which meant I was driving by Dunkirk at the same time as the original ferry anyway. This isn't the first time I've been late for a ferry and offered an alternative to Calais, which has only meant a 20-30 minute wait (yesterday I drove straight on).

A point I intended to mention earlier is that whilst I prefer the Dover-Dunkirk route, the Calais ferries have slightly better facilities for kids (a bit more room for them to play). 

It was a quiet crossing (apart from my mental offspring charging around the kids area), and an enjoyable break in an otherwise long journey. 

So, I stand by my initial recommendation of DFDS ferries for the trip across.

As for "heightened security", I do have a slightly off topic point to note...and this is just based on us and the vehicles we saw in our 10 minute security transit, so I have no idea if this is more common (I have never witnessed it before). The French border guards in Dover were stopping and checking passengers and contents of all UK cars in the two queues (hence a 10 minute delay for something which is usually a drive-through). However, ALL non-UK cars were allowed to drive through by showing their passports (just holding them up, not even being checked). Fortunately, I am in a German registered car and they only saw my wife's German passport as we drove through. As we slowly drove by the border control officer just said, "oh, you're German, that's fine"...in the circumstances I was prepared to let it pass!  

 

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