Time it right and sail away with a bar­gain

Nick Trend com­pares ferry prices to the Con­ti­nent and dis­cov­ers that many are cheaper than ever – as long as you can avoid the most pop­u­lar pe­ri­ods

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

Ihave been com­par­ing ferry fares out of the UK for many years, and I still hes­i­tate to make de­fin­i­tive state­ments about what is hap­pen­ing to prices. The prob­lem is that, like air­fares, they have be­come an al­most en­tirely mov­able feast – it’s im­pos­si­ble to know how many spa­ces are sold at what price. How­ever, broadly speak­ing, if you can avoid the peak times of Fri­days and week­ends in high sea­son, you can still take your car across the Chan­nel for less than you would have paid a few years ago.

Take Brit­tany Fer­ries’ PortsmouthCaen route, for ex­am­ple. In 2012, the low­est fare for a car plus two was

£298; last year it was £238, and this year you can get a re­turn for £170. Low­est fares to Calais and Dunkirk are a lit­tle higher than in 2012, but DFDS has frozen its rate at last year’s level (£78) as has Euro­tun­nel (£158). Com­pared with last year, DFDS has also slashed £42 off its cheap­est re­turn to Dieppe. If you are canny, there is good value to be had. And it isn’t just about France. Brit­tany Fer­ries’

24-hour ser­vices to Spain also of­fer bet­ter value (see panel).

FARES EX­PLAINED

Fares listed be­low are the low­est re­turn for a car plus stated num­ber of pas­sen­gers. They may not be avail­able on all dates, but are a guide to the rel­a­tive cost of fares on that route. We also give the max­i­mum num­ber of sail­ings in each di­rec­tion at peak times. If you want an over­view of fares on any one route, price com­par­i­son web­sites such as di­rect­fer­ries.co.uk and aferry.co.uk are worth check­ing. Fares on longer routes with few de­par­tures can be high on peak dates, but you can find a rea­son­able fare on a short cross­ing if you are pre­pared to travel at rel­a­tively unso­cia­ble hours.

NATIONAL FERRY FORT­NIGHT APRIL 14-28

For more details of Bri­tain’s net­work of ferry con­nec­tions around the coast, see dis­cov­er­fer­ries.com.

THE SHORT CROSS­INGS

The cross­ings to Calais and Dunkirk re­main the cheap­est ways to get to the Con­ti­nent for most Bri­tish mo­torists liv­ing in south-east Eng­land. Since Calais links di­rectly into the mo­tor­way net­work, you can also get to all the other French north coast ports ex­cept Roscoff more quickly by us­ing this route. The driv­ing time from Calais to St Malo, for ex­am­ple, is about five hours, but the Portsmouth to St Malo ferry takes eight. Al­low 90 min­utes for the short cross­ing and you will get there an hour quicker via Calais. The Dover routes also of­fer more fre­quent de­par­tures from four op­er­a­tors.

LONGER CROSS­INGS

Con­dor Fer­ries (con­dor­fer­ries.co.uk) no longer pro­vides a con­nec­tion be­tween the UK and France – you have to change in the Chan­nel Is­lands.

This means that Brit­tany Fer­ries (0330 159 7000; brit­tany­fer­ries.com) – a con­sis­tent win­ner of the Best Ferry Op­er­a­tor cat­e­gory in the Tele­graph Travel awards – now has an ef­fec­tive mo­nop­oly on di­rect ser­vices on the longer cross­ings to France listed be­low. Nev­er­the­less, some of the com­pany’s cheap­est fares have dropped year on year – from £238 re­turn to £170; overnight cab­ins are also lower – from £55 to £43.

CROSS­ING PATHS Brit­tany Fer­ries ves­sels head in and out of Portsmouth

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