Walking on to ferries at Dover
February 11, 2006 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Can you walk on to a ferry at Dover? And about how much might it cost?

My husband and I would like to travel from the UK to Paris. We could take the train direct from London, but we would rather go by ferry. I had kind of wanted to go by the Dover cliffs and Calais route, while he would prefer to go to Normandy or Brittanny (longer ferry ride - which is good, because we both really like boats, but we're in Eastern England and I don't know how much bother it would be to get to where they sail from). Neither of us drive, so it would be train or bus to the ferry, walking on, then train or bus from the ferry. But when I tried to google ferry prices (to see if it were feasible), all I could find were the prices for cars. Do they allow walk-ons?

Also, if anyone has general advice about travelling by train or bus from Cambridge to Dover (or another port that has ferries to France), and about how to get the train or bus on the other end, that would be useful. I tried National Rail, but I don't even know which train station is the one nearest to the ferries at Dover.

I'm sorry for the basicness of these questions, but googling has only gotten me info on how to drive places, and I have never travelled in Europe and my husband has not gone since he was a child in his parents' car. Our budget is small, but we are willing to pay extra to go the ferry route rather than the direct train from London (which is our fall-back). Thank you.
posted by jb to Travel & Transportation around Dover, England (8 answers total)
From the P&O site it appears that going with a bicycle costs £18 per single route, so I expect that by foot it would cost something similar.
posted by sebas at 4:35 AM on February 11, 2006

I can't give you anything definite, but I have totally heard of lots of people doing this. I am also sure there are public transport links to the docks and then to the boat (at least, I have read in the past that there are).

It used to be some sort of tradition that students from somewhere like Cambridge or Oxford would do a "Hitchhike as far as you can in 24 hours" kinda challenge, and I read that some of them managed to blag walk-ons to the ferry for this.

Dover is not a very big town at all, so if you can just get there, you'll be fine. There is a bus from Dover Priory to the Eastern Docks on a somewhat regular basis. See this page for more info. To be honest, though, from memory you could walk it in about 20-30 minutes, but Dover is not really the sort of place I'd like to walk around out of daylight hours.
posted by wackybrit at 5:32 AM on February 11, 2006

I just visited the site you linked to, sebas, but it gave me a pop-up message that foot passengers could not be booked on that sailing. I think I will have to call around the companies (I don't really understand how many there are), asking specifically if they restrict foot passengers on different sailings.
posted by jb at 5:44 AM on February 11, 2006

This is all perfectly do-able. To investigate foot passenger prices, try here. The quote I just got from it for 1 foot passenger travelling in the middle of the day, today, one-way to Calais was £20.50. To get there from Cambridge I would just get the train down to King's Cross, tube it down to Charing Cross, and there's a direct train from there that takes about an hour and a half. It gets you into Dover Priory, from where as wackybrit says there is a free bus link that takes you to the terminal. It's very easy - even clueless me was able to do it as the start of a tour round Europe back when I finished my A levels! If you're feeling braver you could try hitching with a lorry driver who has space for the two of you - this is what students doing the RAG 24-hour hitch tend to do.

Once you get into Calais, you can easily get to the station from the ferry terminal, and get onto a Paris-bound train. I'd recommend going to a travel agents and getting a European train timetable, which has been my bible on all sorts of trips.
posted by greycap at 5:47 AM on February 11, 2006

More info here.
posted by tellurian at 6:24 AM on February 11, 2006

If you don't want to do Dover to Calais, there are plenty of other routes. This site has a good map - mouse over any port to see destinations. It seems the western routes are mostly run by Brittany Ferries, who are happy to take foot passengers. Their site has really good guides to their terminals, with details of how to get to them by train.

tube it down to Charing Cross

Since taking luggage on the tube is a nightmare, it's possibly easier to get a Thameslink train from Kings Cross Thameslink (a short walk from Kings Cross) to London Bridge, where all trains from Charing Cross to Dover also stop. A through rail ticket would allow you to take either.
posted by cillit bang at 7:36 AM on February 11, 2006

Try National Express for information on coaches between Cambridge & Dover, not sure if it wil be quicker or cheaper than train but it would save you taking luggage across London as you would transfer in Victoria coach station. Also for coaches from Victoria to Paris try Eurolines, not sure how long they tak/or comfortable they are but they are cheap. Also see SNCF- French trains for timetables and booking online.
posted by MrC at 8:10 AM on February 11, 2006

Thanks for the suggestions so far. Tubing won't be a problem - since we plan to go pedestrian (and the longer way around), we'll be doing the whole trip with just knapsacks.
posted by jb at 6:58 PM on February 11, 2006

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