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How cheap is "cheap" travel to France ?

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Cheap travel to France ?

Cheap travel offers for France : tips and warnings

Cheap. Or not so cheap?  Don't be  taken in !!
 
Surveys reveal "cheap ferry" scam
     "Cheap ferries?" Don't be fooled by Internet sites offering "cheap" ferries; they may not be as cheap as they seem,  they may well not reflect all the special offers that the ferry companies have on their own websites, and they may even charge inflated rates.
Competition between cheap ferry sites? Unlikely ! While there are some independent Ferry price comparison sites, at least four of the most visible cheap ferry sites on the Internet are part of the same nebulous web of interconnected websites and companies - comprising at least one company based in a well-known Pacific ocean tax haven.
   And don't bother checking out so-called customer reviews of sites on Internet. Writing fake reviews has become a full-blown industry, used by many companies . For more on this, check out this  article from the Guardian newspaper.
     About-France.com recently checked the cost of a number of cross-Channel standard return trips, getting quotes for identical journeys offered on the ferry company sites and on eight prominent internet sites supposedly offering cheap ferries. None of these Internet sites offered any of the journeys we checked for a price lower than the actual ferry company itself; in other words, none were offering discounted ferry tickets.  On the contrary two of the eight sites supposedly offering "cheap" crossings actually charged more than the ferry companies themselves. One of these supposedly "cheap ferry" sites was indeed more expensive than any of the other sites tested for five out of six of the journeys for which quotes were obtained.  Moral of the story: you're certainly no worse off, and may well get better bargains, by booking directly on Ferry company websites .

"Cheap" = "same price" ? Not necessarily true – not at all.
   Many "cheap" ferry ticketing websites do offer many tickets at the same price as the ferry companies themselves.  That's fine if everything goes according to plan, and you don't have to change a booking or cancel one or modify a date.  BUT......

Changing a ticket.....  Beware of the small print
If you've booked directly with the ferry company, changing a ticket should be a simple process, and under certain circumstances - may even be free. As long as you have not bought a super-saver no-change no-cancellation ticket, you will either be able to change your ticket for a small fee (£10 to £20), or else free of charge.
   But if you've booked through a third-party site, then the costs may be significantly higher. One well-known ferry booking site states on its website, changing a ticket will incur " a minimum fee of £25/40 euros per booking " on top of  "any charges by the ferry operator. " They don't indicate the maximum fee....
    Several other  "price comparison sites" for ferry tickets quote a charge of £25 or 40 € for changing a  booking, in addition to extra costs levied by the ferry company.
   Thus on an off-peak short crossing such as Dover-Calais, with frequent crossings at under £40,  changing a ticket can cost more than actually buying a new one once you've paid a fee to the ferry company and another one to the price comparison site you bought your ticket through.....

   About-France.com survey .
Quotations for six different standard cross-Channel return journeys operated by three different ferry companies were obtained from eight prominent online booking sites and from the operators themselves. The journeys tested ranged in time from Spring to Summer 2010. A new test in 2011 and another in 2013 produced similar results.

   There are hundreds of sites out on the Internet, claiming to offer you the "cheapest fares", the "best deals", the "lowest costs", and the best special offers. But don't be taken in! Agencies and resellers will offer you special deals, maybe, but since they are only offering what the airlines and the ferry companies are offering in the first place, there's a fair chance that you may end up paying more than necessary for your trip. A lot of "cheapest deals" are certainly not what they claim to be, and "low cost" airline tickets and ferry tickets can be considerably more expensive than necessary, when booked through a third-party site than when booked directly.
    For instance, there are plenty of "cheap travel" or "travel bargains" sites that only propose flights, ferries, packages and hotel rooms from operators who pay them a commission. They simply fail to mention services provided by other operators, that may be cheaper, but on which they do not get a commission.
    And if you're wanting to book a flight last minute, take note! Seats with so called "low cost" carriers may well turn out to be more expensive than with established airlines. Whether you're booking seats to France, Spain, Italy or wherever, the same is true.
 
     In many cases, particularly for ferries and hotels, but sometimes for flights too, you'll find that the best prices can be had by booking directly with the operator (see below for direct links to operators websites), and by doing so as early as possible.  And if you book directly, then there's no chance of losing your booking when some internet booking agency goes bust, as happened last year with more than one....

     Don't be fooled by the "50% discount" scam ! What does 50% off actually mean?.... 50% off what? You can find plenty of "cheap hotel" sites on Internet offering such apparent bargains as "up to 50% off".... or even more. But read the small print; it's "up to 50%" ! not "50%"! That could mean just 5%.... or nothing at all. Sometimes hotel reseller sites will offer you "50% off full room rates"..... forgetting to mention that in fact the "full room rate" (or rack rate) only applies at the busiest time of the year, and then only to people who turn up at the door for a last-minute booking. Otherwise, no one pays it !
   Of course it does happen that sometimes you may get a special deal from an Internet booking site, better than you can get anywhere else. Internet portals use "loss leaders" to attract customers in the same way as supermarkets do; but the chances are that this will not be the case.

Book direct and cut out the middleman
Bying direct from the operator (ferry, hotel, etc) means cutting out the middleman, and is often the best solution, in terms of price and reliability. There's no risk of being left stranded by some travel website that goes bust between the time they take your money, and the time they issue your ticket.
   In the list below, you will find direct links to cross-Channel ferry and transport sites, and to the sites of some of the main hotel chains in France. Click the links, and you'll get taken directly to the operator's own website, where you can check out their special offers and book directly, at their prices.


Book directly with the operators....
Ferry companies and Channel tunnel service operators
  •    (Putting your car on the train from Folkestone to Calais)
  • Eurostar     (Train service from London to Paris or Brussels)
  • P&O Ferries   (Dover to Calais ferries)
  • DFDS Seaways - LD Lines   (Dover to Calais and Dunkirk, Newhaven - Dieppe, Portsmouth - Le Havre)
  • Brittany Ferries  : Portsmouth to Caen, Portsmouth to St Malo
    Brittany Ferries seasonal routes :
    Plymouth - Roscoff  
    Poole to Cherbourg, 
    Portsmouth to Cherbourg
    Portsmouth Le Havre -
           
Airlines
  • British Airways   Flights to main French destinations, and worldwide.
  • Flybe   Flights to many destinations in France and Europe
  • Swiss International, flights to Geneva and Basel-Mulhouse, on the French border
  • Easyjet  Flights to many destinations in France & Europe
  • Ryanair Flights to many destinations in France & Europe

Hotels and accommodation
  • Accor hotels - the main French chain, with hotels from luxury to budget (Including the Sofitel, Ibis, Novotel, and Formule 1 brands)
  • Gitelink - book holiday cottages directly from the owners, many of them English speaking.

Train  to France   The most convenient means of travelling by train from London to Provincial France is to  take the Eurostar from London, Ebbsfleet or Ashford, to Lille, and connect at Lille  to a French TGV high speed train.
    (Click here  for Voyages SNCF the French train operator, for through tickets from London).

  There are direct TGV connections from Lille to a large number of French towns and cities, including Bordeaux, Rennes, Nantes, Dijon, Besançon,  Avignon, Aix en Provence, Lyon, Marseilles, Montpellier, Perpignan or Nice. By changing at Lille, travellers do not need to change stations and haul their luggage across Paris. At Lille Europe station, Eurostar trains from London and Brussels use the same platforms as French TGVs going all over France.
   The Rail Europe booking form on the left allows you to book your European rail journey from London, Paris or other major European locations. If the departure city or destination you are looking for does not come up in the roll-down menus of the booking form, click on the link below for further options and offers.  Rail Europe is the international ticketing service of SNCF, the French national train operator.
 
Click here to check European train timetables and book tickets.

 

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