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10 tips for taking the ferry from Dover

I am always looking forward to going home, and since taking the Eurotunnel or Eurostar are incredibly expensive, my fiance and I go by car. We have taken the Ferry in Dover numerous times now and I have compiled a list of 10 tips you might want to read when taking the ferry to the continent.

1. Always book on the Ferry websites

Always book your trip on the website of the Ferry company you are going to take. This is not a joke. I tried booking it via another company last time for what I thought was a good price. Turned out that there were a lot of hidden costs AND that the price on the website of DFDS was actually cheaper. When you are travelling from Dover to the continent you can choose to take P&O Ferries or DFDS. P&O travels to Calais, DFDS goes to Calais and Dunkirk. If I had the choice, I would always take DFDS over P&O. I have had some bad experience in the past, and when people are rude on the phone and provide bad customer service - and leave their ship's toilets mank and dirty, I do not use that service again!

2. Calais is not always the best option

Depending on where you are travelling to, it might actually be best to travel to Dunkirk instead of Calais. If you are travelling to Holland, Belgium or Germany, it is best to take the boat to Dunkirk, if you want to travel to Paris, or further into France, I would advise you to take the Ferry to Calais. The ferries to and from Dunkirk are less busy which means loading and unloading is much quicker. Overall, we found that going to Dunkirk for us won us about 30 minutes on our journey.

3. Buy your European Car kit beforehand

There are a lot of rules in mainland Europe we do not have in the UK. In France, for instance, you need breathalysers, in Belgium you need to be sure to have a fluorescent jacket and in the whole of the EU you NEED to have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher. There are other - smaller, requirements you need to keep in mind such as having a fluorescent triangle, making sure your lights are not blue and having a GB on your license plate (or as a sticker on your car). You can buy EU road kits in the little shops in Dover, but they are incredibly expensive and actually do not always include all the necessary equipment (such as a fire extinguisher). I have looked around and found a cheap kit on Amazon (click here). This one includes a little fire extinguisher. If you already have a fire extinguisher, you will be okay with the cheaper option. (This one) Make sure that whatever kit you buy will always have the breathalysers because I have noticed some older versions - especially the ones of the RAC, do not include them. You might save £4 on a kit, but you will pay a lot more once French police stops you and asks you to do a breathalyser test... with breathalysers you do not own.

4. The 24-hour Mac Donalds

Yes, you might have a chuckle, but this Mac Donalds has saved our lives a couple of times now! We only live about 50 minutes drive from Dover, but the travel can conjure up an appetite, especially since we tend to leave when my fiance gets home at 5PM. In the past, we have taken ungodly early ferries which meant that we were incredibly happy to pass by the Mac Donalds at 5AM for some Double Cheeseburgers (Or Cheebs as we call them) and coke. You can find the Mac Donalds at the A2 Roundabout in Withfield. You will first pass the Ramada Hotel Dover and then see an Esso station. It is literally right next to the Esso station.

5. Bring some Entertainment

The Ferry takes about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on where you are going to. Since you are also expected to arrive about 40 minutes on beforehand, you will have a lot of time on your hands. It is always great to bring some entertainment. You can bring a book, a laptop to watch movies, a tablet or even small games such as Uno, Jungle speed, or an Amazing Trivia Game such as I should have Known That.

6. Don't worry about getting late or early

Traffic can be a bit of a bummer. It is always best to leave early, but in the event you don't make your Ferry, I can positively say that DFDS does not make any fuss and happily puts you on a one-hour later Ferry. If you arrive early within reason, you will be able to take an earlier Ferry.

7. Buy Earphone Splitters and a plug converter!

I would say that taking earphones is not a luxury, especially when you want to watch a movie. My fiance and I always download and watch a movie. You will be able to find free-to-use plugs throughout the ship for you to plug in your phone, laptop or tablet. Be aware that the plugs in mainland Europe are different and that a plug converter is required. Headphone Splitters are also great if you are travelling in a company and you would all want to enjoy a movie. I use these ones (Click here) and I absolutely love them!

8. Buy the cans of coke in the little shop

Like to save money? Travelling in a group? Thirsty? Instead of buying bottles in the restaurant area, you can buy Pepsi Max cans in the little shops.

9. Tax-free does not mean cheap

I have looked up and down the tax-free shop and I can say with ABSOLUTE certainty that the Tax-Free shop on board is not cheap. Not cheap at all! I can even say that the Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue is actually cheaper in the UK than on board.

10. Even though the Ferry is great: always check if the Chunnel is cheaper

There are two ways to reach mainland Europe by car: The Ferry and The Chunnel. Even though The Chunnel is overall more expensive, in some rare cases, it could be that the price between the Ferry and Chunnel does not differ that much. The Chunnel will take you 30 minutes against the 2 hours the Ferry will take you. It is important to look at the price and to decide how much that 1.5 hours is worth to you.    

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