You Have Decided To Cross The Channel By Boat, But What Is The Car Ferry Etiquette?
For some people, the only way to travel to the continent to start their holidays is on the cross-channel ferry. There are several ferry operators who offer sailings from the English ports of Dover, Portsmouth, Newhaven, Poole, Weymouth and Plymouth to ports in France, Spain and Holland.
Despite the opening of the Channel tunnel over 20 years ago taking a car ferry is still a very popular choice with many passengers, offering them a chance to relax, stretch their legs and enjoy some fresh air before arriving at their destination.
There are however a few etiquette rules that those people who have never used the ferry before should know.
Car Ferry Etiquette number one – Arrive with plenty of time
Allow plenty of time to reach your ferry terminal, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. Your ticket will tell you what time the sailing departs and more importantly how long before the crossing you need to be there. It is important to stick to this time-frame. The time between arrival and embarkation allows the ferry company staff to sort out the vehicles into the order they want to put them on the ferry. Large vehicles such as lorries, coaches and caravans are often put on first, or last, in the bow or stern of the ship. Smaller cars are usually placed on upper car decks which are then raised to allow more vehicles to be put on underneath. Everything is carefully planned.
Once you have been put in a line on the dockside it is important that you do not stray too far from your car; if you are not there when they start to put vehicles on the ferry you could hold up a line.
On the car deck
If you have never been on a ferry before you may be concerned about just how close the cars are parked, don’t be. The staff know exactly what they are doing it is important to follow their instructions. You should leave your car as soon as you can once you are parked. There are a few things you need to remember to do:
- Turn off your car alarm (a rough crossing can set alarms off)
- Put on your handbrake
- If you are towing using extending mirrors push them in so that people will be able to get past your car
- Take everything you need for the crossing with you, access to the car deck isn’t allowed during the crossing
- Be careful squeezing between the cars
Don’t forget your car ferry etiquette on arrival
You will probably be anxious to get back to your car so you can continue with your journey, however if you are on a higher car deck or were one of the last vehicles onto the ferry then do not queue on the stairs to get onto the car deck; allow others who are near the front of the ferry to go down to the car deck first. If they are parked in the very front then nobody is getting off until they do!
Don’t start your engine until you are told to by a member of staff. Drive slowly off the ferry and remember you will now need to drive on the right-hand side of the road!