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Planning on taking your motorhome or campervan to France but haven’t got a clue how to go about it!? How long does it take? Do you need to book in advance? Which port is the cheapest? When is the best time to go? How to get the best price ferry ticket?
If you’re sat there reading this, then you’re in the right place and should continue to read as we break down exactly how to get a cheap ferry deal to France.
In all truth, if left to my own devices I would probably spend 30 minutes getting prices, get bored, decide I’m too lazy, I’ll just pay what ever the next price (probably over the odds) is and go and watch some crap on TV. Luckily for me and now you, Agne is not lazy. Not only is she not lazy, she just so happens to be queen of the search engines and frugality.
If there’s a cheap ferry deal to France to be had, Agne will find it. So, after much research and form filling, this is what we found:
Where can you catch a ferry from?
The first thing you should look into when trying to book a ferry is where you would like to leave from and where you would like to arrive. For us the best port to exit the UK is Newhaven which arrives at Dieppe 4 hours later.
In total there are 9 main ferry routes, each varying distances, duration and of course, cost. While the Dover to Calais route is the shortest and among the cheapest, If you live near Plymouth and plan on dashing down the West Coast of Spain then it really doesn’t make too much sense.
Here are your main options for getting from South England to France (West – East):
- Plymouth – Roscoff: 5h30 – 9 hours and sails 9+ times a week. (Brittany Ferries)
- Poole – Cherbourg: 4h15 and sails 10+ times a week. (Brittany Ferries)
- Portsmouth – St Malo: 8h30 – 11 hours and sails 7+ times a week. (Brittany Ferries)
- Portsmouth – Cherbourge: 3 hours and sails up to 9 times per week. (Brittany ferries only for small vans).
- Portsmouth – Caen: 5h45 and sails 21+ times a week. (Brittany ferries)
- Portsmouth – Le Harve: 8 hours and sails 11+ times a week. (brittany Ferries)
- Newhaven – Dieppe: 4 hours 2-3 times daily (DFDS Seaways)
- Dover – Calais: 1h30 sails 15 times per day (DFDS Seaways) and up to 24 times per day (P&O Ferries)
- Dover – Dunkirk: 2h up to 12 times a day (DFDS Seaways)
What Affects the price?
This section is more for people considering buying or renting a motorhome to travel to France in. With that said, the extra ferry cost might just make you not bother taking that bike rack.
As always, anytime you buy anything, the quoted price is the bare bones, no frills service/model. But what if your motorhome is as long as a bus or you’ve got 6 kids in tow? What will happen to the price then?
Here’s some example costs based on the best prices on the aferry comparison website for a motorhome going from Newhaven – Dieppe on the 11th October at 10am for all of the variations given on the aferry comparison site.
|Height||up to 1.85m||up to 2.2m||up to 3.2m||up to 4m|
So it’s easy enough to see from the table above that height makes no difference to the price at all and the length only has one step up in price from 7 to 7.5 metres.
If you wish to take an additional trailer of up to a length of 3m and a height of 2.2m then you’ll have to fork out a total of £141.50 an increase of £53 over the motorhome with one passenger price.
Amount of passengers
How does the total amount of travellers affect the price? First we’ll still by looking into the price of extra adults and then the price of extra children (under 18).
- 1 adult – £88.50
- 2 adults – £96.00
- 3 adults – £103.50
- 4 adults – £111.00
- 5 adults – £118.50
For this comparison we have used one adult at £88.50 +
- 1 child – £92.25
- 2 child – £96.00
- 3 child – £99.75
- 4 child – £103.50
- 5 child – £107.25
Looking at adding children will increase the cost by £3.75 per child over the age of 4. For children 3 and under there is no additional charge.
These prices for additional people are typical for this route using the DFDS ferry service but checking a few different routes the price increase per person does vary slightly.
Planning on taking your K-9 co-pilot with you to France, here’s what the extra could be:
Once again we start this comparison with one person and a 6.5 metre motorhome going from Newhaven to Dieppe on the 11th of October +
- 1 dog – £106.50
- 2 dogs – £124.50
What about the cats?
- 1 cat – £106.50
- 2 cats – £124.50
Pets on this route will cost an additional £18 each. Not to bad to have your favourite companion with you on your next adventure.
When is the cheapest time to go?
As with anything holiday related it will always be cheaper to travel outside of the school holidays but what about a Tuesday morning vs a Sunday afternoon!? Or summer vs winter?
Here we/Agne has done a monthly comparison of cost to travel one way from Newhaven to Dieppe in the morning and night:
|Month||Cost (morning)||Cost (evening)|
As you can see from the table above there isn’t a massive change in price no matter what time of year you travel but as always the school holidays are the more expensive times.
As well as this we tried changing the day of the week from Monday to Sunday and this had absolutely no effect on price what so ever.
Which comparison sites are the best? Or should you go Direct?
The answer to this question surprised us as the answer is none. We tried the most popular aferry, Direct ferries.com, ferry savers.co.uk. We tried the Newhaven – Dieppe route on the 11th of October and all the prices came back the same. No difference at all!
Not convinced we tried a few different routes and dates and still the same. Absolutely no change in price.
Surely going direct to the ferry company would yield some sort of saving over the middle men!? Nah, once again the price is exactly the same.
How long in advance should you book?
One thing that I always think about booking any kind of tickets is to book them in advance to get the best deal but is that still true with taking your motorhome on a ferry?
Here’s another useful table of prices for all routes booked the next day, 1 week in advance, 1 month in advance and 3 months in advance:
|Route||Next day||1 week||1 month||3 months|
|Plymouth – Roscoff||£221||£221||£187||£187|
|Poole – Cherbourg||£210||£210||£180||£180|
|Portsmouth – St Malo||£280||£280||£240||£240|
|Portsmouth – Caen||£210||£215||£210||£210|
|Portsmouth – Le Harve||£184||£184||£184||£174|
|Newhaven – Dieppe||£114||£106||£106||£106|
|Dover – Calais||£68||£68||£61||£78|
|Dover – Dunkirk||£88||£104||£85||£111|
Looking at the information in the above table it’s easy to see for the most part there is no real reason to book months in advance, as the best savings normally start after just one week.
I guess for us anyway, this is as good as it could be as we don’t like to make plans too far in the future because it totally hampers spontaneity. Knowing that we can book a last minute ferry and only pay an extra £20-30 at the most is good news.
*I left out Portsmouth – Cherbourg because that route only operates between May and September and is only for small vans.
Is there such thing as a last minute deal?
For those of you that think that booking for the next day isn’t last minute enough. There’s always booking for the same day. But does that get you any decent saving!?
We also tried that, well for the routes that still had a sailing later that day. here’s the results:
- Plymouth – Roscoff: £238
- Portsmouth – Caen: £290
- Portsmouth – Le Harve: £220
- Newhaven – Dieppe: £169.50
- Dover – Calais: £113
- Dover – Dunkirk: £187
As you can see from them results, handing around near the ports trying to book the absolute last minute deal will not save you anything at all. By far the best course of action is to book for the next day.
Is booking a return cheaper than booking two one way tickets?
Having been on many flights all the way down to using public buses tells me that buying a return ticket is always going to be cheaper than buying two separate ones. But is that true with ferries?
Yet again, we’ll first try getting a ferry out of Newhaven on the 11th October and this time we’ll add a return from Dieppe 2 weeks later on the 25th of October.
So the prices: Newhaven to Dieppe 11/10/19 = £88.50 and Dieppe to Newhaven 25/10/19 =£79.00. So together that is £167.50.
Now the price if you try to book them both as a return ticket: £167.50. Again absolutely no saving there so unless you’re travelling at a really busy time there is absolutely no reason to book a return ticket. I guess it’s better to retain the freedom to return when it suits anyway.
After a little more research into this one it turns out you can sometimes save money by booking separate tickets because ferry companies sometimes do special offers but if you book a return ticket you’ll pay the full price.
2 tips to save you a few quid on your ferry ticket to France
Now that we’ve been through all of those slightly boring (if I say so myself) results and figured out there isn’t much money to be saved by ticking different boxes/travelling on a Tuesday afternoon, how can you save some money? Here’s 2 tips to help you:
1. Delete your cookies
I’d heard of websites leaving cookies on your computer to so that they’ll know if you keep searching for the same product then they know you want it and then put the price up. Cheeky B**tards!!!
In all fairness this website will leave cookies on your computer: For instance if I recommend a product on Amazon to you and you click the link and buy it I’ll get between 4-10%. The difference is that product costs you exactly the same as if you went direct to Amazon.
With the Aferry website however it doesn’t work like this. As Agne was doing multiple searches she noticed that the price from Dover to Dunkirk on the 11th of October at 12pm for a 7m long, 4m tall motorhome had jumped from £74 to £104 within 30 minutes of searching.
At first we thought there was a mistake but we tried it on her phone that hadn’t been anywhere near the Aferry website and once again it was £74.
So the advice is: Search around for the best price and date that suits you and then before booking it delete your cookies or use a different device. Here’s how to delete your cookies.
Join the Camping and Caravanning Club
If you join the Camping and Caravanning Club you can get a 10% discount. Although it costs £40 to join the club, most insurers will give you a discount for being a club member. Most of the time the discount you get from the insurance companies is normally around £40.
This means the joining the Caravanning and Camping Club is essentially free. Even if it wasn’t, a couple of trips to the continent in a year and you’ll most likely break even.
And finally to simplify it all…
- Don’t be tempted to down play the size of your rig. It doesn’t really matter.
- Its cheaper to travel when the kids are at school.
- Outside of the school holidays its cheaper to go in the morning. In the school holidays its cheaper at night.
- Going direct will not save you any money.
- Aim to book at least 2 weeks in advance.
- There is no such thing as a last minute deal.
- Return tickets are no cheaper than 2 one ways.
- 100% delete your cookies before buying.
- Join the Caravan and Camping Club for 10% off.
That’s it. That is how to get a cheap ferry deal to France. If you know of any other ways to save a little money when taking a motorhome to France please do share in the comments box, that way we can all save some money to spend of fine French wine when we get there.