Ferry travel

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
Posts: 107
Joined: 14 Jun 2013, 8:06pm

Ferry travel

Postby don1 » 14 Jun 2015, 11:17pm

Hi. I'm looking to travel by ferry for the first time with the bike this summer (Dover-Calais)
When booking ferries, how early do you have to turn up before departure time ?

User avatar
Posts: 19355
Joined: 1 Feb 2007, 9:37pm
Location: Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen)

Re: Ferry travel

Postby meic » 15 Jun 2015, 12:09am

I dont think that that can be answered.

I went out in the middle of the night, so no problem buying ticket and following the line in Dover to get on my boat.

Coming back there were queues in Calais going back onto the dual carriageway, because I had bought a ticket in the harbour I was able to push into the front of the queue but still had to wait for ten minutes with just four vehicles in front of me and I had a woman in a car give me an earful for queue jumping. After doing that I was much too early but the guy processing my ticket put me on the earlier ship as I was already there.

You also need to have an idea what you are doing and where to go, everything is set up for cars and HGVs no reliable signing for cyclists. Dover was being worked on and the line that cyclists are supposed to follow was missing in places and fenced off in others. I thought "sod it" and just rode in with the HGVs.
Yma o Hyd

Posts: 1910
Joined: 26 Mar 2009, 9:49am

Re: Ferry travel

Postby ANTONISH » 15 Jun 2015, 8:53am

The book in time depends on the company policy - usually about 45 mins - BUT with the enhanced border checks and at busy times that wont be enough.
You may also have to go through a randomly selected enhanced security check. I would allow about 90 mins before sailing time to arrive at the port.
With a bike at Dover after passing passport control you have to book in at a freight office. You may find yourself waiting in a queue.
Then you can wait to board your ferry with the cars.
At Calais the return is simpler as you use the same facilities as the cars for book in :? .
The drawback of both ports of course is that there can be heavy rain while you wait to board.
I prefer Dover - Dunkerque if I'm going on my bike. Dover is no different obviously but in Dunkerque you can use the passenger lounge and wait in the dry for your ferry to arrive.
It depends where you are headed of course - other ferry routes are available.

User avatar
Posts: 4197
Joined: 9 May 2007, 1:06pm
Location: ...at a cricket ground

Re: Ferry travel

Postby simonineaston » 15 Jun 2015, 3:16pm

I've rolled up at some excruciatingly close times to sailing, to get on a Brittany Ferries vessel... they'll always let you on, if it's just you and a bike. If you already have a ticket, then you just keep pedalling until someone actually stands in your way. If not, then allow a minimum of 10 minutes to buy a ticket... Not that I'm recommending this way of travel, you understand!
(rides: Brompton nano & ever-changing Moultons)

User avatar
Posts: 5324
Joined: 5 Mar 2012, 6:39pm
Location: Horwich, Lancs.

Re: Ferry travel

Postby RickH » 15 Jun 2015, 3:55pm

When I've done Dover-Calais in the car we've always been put on the next ferry even though our booking was actually for one a couple of hours later (I'd allowed extra time to travel that up to now hasn't been needed). Is it the same with a bike (or even on foot)? I've only been across once with a bike in recent years but that was with an organised trip and there were about 30 of us.


Posts: 285
Joined: 20 Mar 2012, 10:07pm
Location: Sunny Belgium

Re: Ferry travel

Postby chocjohn9 » 15 Jun 2015, 7:16pm

On the numerous times I've crossed, I have never pre-booked my ferry. Why put yourself under pressure to get to Dover or Calais for a specific time, when there are a number of different companies, sailing all day and night? Once, I had mechanical trouble on the way there but fixed it, which took over 1 hour but I just rolled up, arrived at the ticket office and asked each of the companies for the time and price of the next ferry from now. As a foot passenger with a bike, I seem to recall it's about £22 each way.

Dover and Calais are relatively good ports to go through. At Dover, buy the ticket in the big building, immediately at the entrance and then follow the red line around the dock. Calais has a similar system but you have to queue up in the same line as the cars - expect odd looks (I did this once and it was freezing and no one let me push in) . Dunkirk doesn't though and the signposts are terrible. I suggest if you go there to keep you eyes pealed for any sign to any village and then navigate from that known place. Have a good trip.