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What is a ferry?

At its most basic, a ferry is a boat that carries passengers (and, in some instances, passenger vehicles) across a body of water.

When would you need to buy a ferry ticket?

Sometimes a body of water stands between you and your destination. Maybe that destination is an island that’s only accessible by plane or ferry, or maybe you could still get there via coach, train or other ground travel, but the route would be indirect and take a long time. While a plane could get you there quickly, flights are often expensive. In such cases, ferries are a cheaper alternative.

Where can you buy ferry tickets?

Ferry tickets can be purchased in-person from the port of departure, directly from the ferry’s website, or elsewhere online from a third-party vendor like Wanderu.

Can you buy a ferry ticket at the last minute?

In many instances, ferry tickets may be purchased at the last minute, in-person from the port of departure. That said, some ferries sell out, or require you to reserve a spot in advance (especially if you bring a vehicle). Tickets are often more expensive when purchased at the last minute, so by planning ahead and buying your tickets online you can likely save some money.

How long is a ferry ride?

Ferry rides can vary greatly in duration. For instance, the popular ferry from Boston to Provincetown (on Cape Cod) takes just 1 hour and 30 minutes. Driving the same route would take you anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending on traffic. In Europe, the ferry from Durrës, Albania to Bari, Italy across the Adriatic Sea takes closer to 9 hours. Even so, it’s significantly faster than driving between the two cities around the perimeter of the Adriatic Sea, which would take almost 24 hours.

Do you need to print your ferry ticket?

Some ferries do not require you to print out a ticket to board. In fact, there are instances in which you will “check-in” at the ferry with your ID, similar to how you would at an airport, and then be allowed to board. However, other ferries do require you to provide a printed ticket. Your confirmation email will include details as to whether or not a printed ticket is necessary, but as a practical matter, we recommend printing out your ticket anyway. That way you have it for easy reference, just in case an instance arises where you need to show proof of your reservation.

Can you change or cancel your ferry ticket?

Unfortunately, many advance-order ferry tickets, such as those from Boston to Provincetown on Boston Harbor Cruises, are non-refundable. That said, if circumstances arise in which you need to change or cancel your trip, your best bet is to call the ferry company directly. Special circumstances can warrant you a refund, like on Clipper Vacations trips from Seattle to Victoria, B.C. Alternatively, you may be able to reschedule your trip for a different time at no additional charge or for a small fee.

What if you miss your ferry?

If you miss your ferry, you may be able to get on the next available boat for free or for a small fee. Once you know that you’re going to miss your ferry, we recommend contacting the ferry company immediately so you can secure your place on another outgoing ferry as quickly as possible. In some cases, however, the tickets may be nonrefundable and not subject to change. For that reason, we recommend thoroughly reviewing the terms and conditions of your ticket prior to purchase.

Can you take your car onto the ferry?

Many ferries allow you to bring a vehicle onboard for an additional fee. In most cases, these reservations must be made online in advance in order to reserve a spot for your car. Such reservations are typically limited to vehicles of specific dimensions, and will require you to enter the make, model, year and license plate number of your car before purchase. On ferries where passenger vehicles are allowed, it’s common for you to drive your car directly onto the boat, presenting your ticket or identification to a crew member as you pull up. Once parked on the boat, you can leave your vehicle for an observation deck, or choose to stay in your car until the ferry arrives at its destination.

Are there any discounts on ferry tickets?

Some ferries provide discounted fares by breaking tickets down into such categories as Adult, Child, Senior, Veteran, etc. Other ferry companies just have a static ticket price for all ferry tickets no matter the age or status of the passenger. Before purchasing, we recommend reviewing the checkout page to see if you may be eligible for a discount.

How much luggage can you take on the ferry?

The amount of luggage you’re able to take onto a ferry will vary widely depending on your destination and the ferry company you’re traveling with. Information regarding the ferry’s luggage policy will be included in your confirmation email following ticket purchase. In general, ferries tend to allow more luggage than a bus, train or plane as they typically have more cargo space, meaning you won’t be forced to shove your bags into a narrow overhead bin.

How early should you arrive for the ferry?

While specific policies will vary from ferry to ferry, we recommend arriving at least one hour prior to your ferry’s departure. Unlike a train or bus, boarding a ferry can take a long time, especially when passenger vehicles are being transported. This buffer will provide you with ample time to board the boat and find a comfortable seat for the ride.

Do ferries have Wi-Fi?

Today, many ferries do have Wi-Fi and will have the password posted in the cabin once you board the ship. That said, there may be some circumstances in which the boat you’re traveling on is not equipped with Wi-Fi. Review the amenities of your ferry prior to checkout to see whether the boat you are booking has Wi-Fi on board.