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So after years of exploring the UK you feel it’s finally time to take your pride and joy South off the channel and into the EU. You’ve done your homework on what paperwork you’ll need to get in order before go, you’ve got yourself the best price on a ferry ticket. But what the hell actually happens when you arrive at the ferry crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe!?
This is exactly how we felt before we recently did it. Don’t get me wrong over the years we’ve been on many ferries island hopping around Asia but in all fairness these were more like passenger boats and we travelled with backpacks rather than with our house on wheels.
In truth, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it could be. With that said, if you’re not prepared then things could be a little more stressful than they need to be.
To put you’re mind at ease, in the following post we’ll go through everything step by step and in as much detail as possible. This way, when you arrive at Newhaven to do your first crossing into Dieppe, you’ll all prepared and cool as a cucumber.
Where to overnight?
Our ferry crossing was the 10am out of Newhaven. This meant to minimise the risk of getting stuck in traffic and missing our ferry we wanted to be as close to the port as possible the night before. This way we could wake up, fire some breakfast down our throats, turn the gas off and be at the port within 20-30 minutes.
Now me and Agne are no strangers to a little bit of “wildcamping” and if your cut from the same cloth or are willing to “rough it” for the night then there are lots lay-bys within 50km of Newhaven port along the A27.
Some are just the horrible/slightly dangerous ones that are right adjacent to the carriageway. While others are more like the ones you get in Australia where they leave the main carriageway and retreat a little behind some trees. Still not massively great but a whole lot safer.
Failing that the nearest campsite to Newhaven port is only a couple of miles up the road in Seaford. Buckle Holiday Park charges £20 per night without electric and £25 per night with.
As I stated earlier, we roughed it in a lay-by on some local country road but we did try to do a little research prior to this and found stories of people overnighting in the port itself.
However, the evidence of this was old and thin on the ground at best, so we decided to give it a miss. The next morning however, we turned up well in advance of our departure time and was greeted by a line of at least 6 motorhomes, all of which were crammed along the fence on the left hand side.
They couldn’t have got there earlier than us, surely? On closer inspection, the curtains were closed, the steps were out and the windows saturated with condensation. I guess they indeed had overnighted there.
How long in advance do you need to arrive?
The official arrival time on the DFDS website is at least 2 hours before departure time, as the check-in closes 1.5 hours before departure time.
However, the real life scenario of what happened was much different. In actual fact the check-in only opened 1 hour before departure and closed, I guess judging by the size of the queue behind us, about 15 minutes before departure.
With that said, I am in no way shape or form advocating that you plan to arrive 45 minutes before departure. Play it safe and get there 2 hours before.
Where to park once you have arrived?
This is something that we had absolutely no clue about either. As we pulled off the main road and into the port we were greeted by the overnighting motorhomes on the left, a smallish car park on the right and a few cars parked at what appeared to be the security barrier to the front.
Where the F**K do we go!? Do we need to check-in?
With absolutely no idea of whats meant to happen we pulled up behind the motorhomes on the left and armed with our ferry ticket and passports went into what looked like the ferry companies office. Here we found a reception and toilets.
The friendly chap on reception told us to just pull up behind the cars at the front as we were supposed to check-in outside. Job done!
Will you have to have a cavity search?
NO, well just as long as you’re not trying to smuggle illicit substances across the channel in your prison wallet that is.
Once parked up behind the cars at the front we waited there for what seemed an eternity. OK maybe an eternity is a bit dramatic but long enough for one guy to our right to smoke 4 cigarettes and one lady to walk her beloved pooch 3 times.
If only we would have know it was going to be that long we could have jumped in the back and put the kettle on/ go our heads down.
Once check in opened, progress was swift. Passports were checked at the first barrier and then some people were “randomly” pulled to one side to have their vehicles checked.
We were one of these “randomly” checked vehicles. Instead of going straight ahead to queue again until boarding time we were pulled to one side under a shelter and asked to open the habitation door so the security man could check inside.
I jumped out unlocked the back door and in he went. Nothing to worry about when you haven’t done anything wrong.
To be fair he didn’t even open the bathroom door. All he was interested in was how long we’d had “her” and if we had done all the work on it ourselves. He then proceeded to witter on about he has an old Autoquest.
We either looked “dodgy” or the old boy just has an affinity for old Talbots….. I’d like to think the latter.
Once we’d avoided the cavity search, it was on to join the queue to board. Rougly 20 minutes later the staff waved us on to board.
Once in the belly of the beast one of the staff pointed to one of two lanes and all we had to do was stay in that lane and park behind the vehicle in front. Simple.
Can you stay in your motorhome?
Once parked up we were told to head upstairs onto the passenger decks. Once we left the motorhome we were not allowed to return.
Also, all gas must be turned off before you board the ferry. So, if you’re thinking of stocking up the fridge before leaving the UK maybe its not wise especially in the summer months.
Maybe if you’ve got one of these expensive compressor fridges that will run of the leisure batteries or its the middle of winter then you could be OK. Just something to think about.
As well as having to turn off the gas you also aren’t allowed to carry any extra petrol or diesel in the form of jerrycans etc.
What are the facilities like?
The facilities are pretty decent, there’s plenty of seating ranging from what I imagine business class airline recliners are like to cafe style half-moon chairs and tables.
There are abundant toilets. There are even showers. Not that they looked like the most sanitary of places, but I guess you don’t really need to be having a shower on a 5 hour ferry crossing?
There’s a few shops and a bar for the adults as well as a basic play area and arcade for the kids.
All in all its pretty comfortable.
Will you get seasick?
One the day we sailed the sea was as clam as the Lancaster canal on a still day. We even saw some dolphins swimming along side the ferry which was a nice touch.
However, according to people we know who have done this crossing many times apparently it can get a little choppy so if you are prone to getting a little seasick then maybe check the forecast and pack some seasickness tablets if necessary.
How expensive is the food and drink on the ferry?
To mine and Agne’s astonishment the price of food on the DFDS ferry wasn’t too bad and the choice wasn’t as limited as we would have thought either.
For a full on meal you’re looking at £8ish which, considering if you walk into a local KFC fast food place you’ll be looking £6.50. In our experience, anytime that you are stranded with no other options then you royally shafted if you want so much as quench your thirst.
Unfortunately, me and Agne didn’t anticipate this and made a packed lunch so can comment as to the quality of the food on offer but we did howevr notice you could get a bottle of wine for less than a tenner….
Here’s a menu of what was on offer:
A refreshing change, thank you DFDS.
And once you reach Dieppe….
Well, you’re in France so the most important thing is to drive on the “wrong side of the road”. It take a little getting used to but luckily I had some experience from riding a motorbike through Vietnam. 2 days and you’ll be right.
As you will arrive in Dieppe in the late afternoon you’ll probably want to find somewhere to overnight close to the port and not risk driving around at night on you’re first outing to France.
Well that’s how we felt anyway. If this sounds good then there is a nice spot overlooking the cliffs just 4km from the Dieppe port. Just head 4km up the D75 road and you’ll reach this spot (coordinates: 49.919475, 1.040837):
Also, if you’ve already been on the road a while and you’re looking for black waste, grey waste and fresh drinking water then head out of the port for 5km along the D153 road (coordinates: 49.89642, 1.054566).
That’s it you’ve made it….
For everyone reading this who’s never crossed the channel before I hope this article helps you take some of the stress/unknown out of your first venture into the EU.
Me and Agne would both love to hear how your first adventure to France went so please leave us a comment 🙂