Recently, we had a chance to take a 7-hour ferry from Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Bari (Italy). Here are a few things you should know before traveling with a ferry.
All ferries are different and all experiences might differ as well. The only other long-term ferry I’ve taken was a ferry from Latvia to Sweden which is an overnight cruise ship more than “just a ferry”.
While my experience might not be particularly insightful regarding ALL ferries, here are some things you still might find helpful before traveling with a ferry.
Ferries are rather cheap and convenient way to get around, especially, when you’re in south Europe and hopping from place to place. Ferries are connecting cities in Croatia, Albania, Italy, Spain, Portugal and many others.
Usually, a ferry is a rather big ship both with a simple deck space as well as cabin rooms. Most of them have a restaurant or two, bars, some small souvenir shops.
While hopping on a ferry for an hour or two might not be that big of a deal, here are a few things to note before signing up for a ferry ride if you’re going on a few hour trip.
Tips for traveling with a ferry
FERRY TRAVEL TIP #1: Bring FOOD and drinks
It’s absolutely acceptable to take your own food and drinks on a ferry. It’s not like an airplane – no one will be checking your bags or requesting you to pack your liquids. You can easily take bags from shops, bring water bottles or whatever else you might need.
First of all, food on most of the ferries is a bit overpriced. Besides that, many ferry restaurants are over-packed and the options might not be as enitcing as you’d like them to be.
Especially if you’re looking forward to having a longer than usual trip – you can combine eating some of your own-brought snacks with what the ferry has to offer.
What to bring on a ferry?
Water. If you’d like, some alcohol. Fruits! Snacks like chips, cookies or whatever else is your preference. We brough already cooked chicken nuggets and some cherry tomatoes – a nice combo to fill a stomach. Also, any kind of salads or anything alike is a good choice to take.
FERRY TRAVEL TIP #2: Bring CASH
Cash is an important part of having a successful ferry ride. Yes, sometimes they’ll accept cards. Other times there’ll be an ATM. But you can never be fully sure.
Therefore, if you might want to buy anything – especially, some vital foods and/or drinks.
Most ferries will accept both currencies – the place you’re coming from and going to – but, if possible, have a bit of both, just to be sure.
FERRY TRAVEL TIP #3: Prepare entertainment options
Traveling with a ferry is BORING. Most ferries have no real entertainment options unless there are some shows going on. But the basic ferries traveling through daytime won’t have such offerings.
Looking in the blue sea can be entertaining only for a while. I definitely can’t imagine doing only that in our 7-hour ferry ride. I mean, at some point, you start to question things…
Rarely any ferry will have a working wi-fi so don’t count on that.
Here are some ferry-activities to consider:
- Sunbathing! Yes, people do sunbath on ferries. Although it can be very tiring and the sun is extra hot on a ferry in the middle of the sea so be careful!
- Reading. The obvious choice. Either it’s a Kindle or a book, it seems like a number one activity.
- Watching movies. As long as your laptop or tablet can handle at least a few hours without charging, do bring some movies with you.
- Playing cards. Great if you have any company!
- Working (perks of being a digital nomad)
- Exercising. I mean… Why not?! If you’re anything like me, you might have a yoga mat with you wherever you go so it’s kind of easy to just roll it out and give it a go.
FERRY TRAVEL TIP #4: Dress comfortably and be flexible
One of the downsides of ferry travels on a budget is using a deckspace instead of a cabin. This means that you’ll have no dedicated place to be so it’s nice if you’re flexible.
People are getting comfortable all over the ferries – on floor, steps, on the deck, inside and outdoors. Some have their mattraces (either yoga or camping ones), others are using bags. Sometimes it looks a bit like an immigrant ship sailing overseas… Or like a bum camp.
One of the reasons why flexibility could be convenient is the simple fact of not knowing where you’ll end up. Very often, ship bars and restaurants get crowded within a sec and even if you boarded the ship as one of the first ones – it’s already full…
Another reason – a willingness to move. Several hours in one place can be tiring. If you’re located on the deck, it might be too windy or sunny to bear. If you’re inside – too hot or crowded. So changing your scenery and being flexible is nice!
Dress comfortably so you can sit on the floor, don’t worry about dresses or your fancy attire.
Should you book a cabin for my ferry ride?
Here’s my personal opinion on that. YES, if you’re traveling overnight, want a bit of a comfort, have tons of bags and would prefer being left alone/with your travel buddies. NO, if you’re traveling through the day, you don’t have much of the luggage and you don’t mind crushing “wherever”.
FERRY TRAVEL TIP #5: Don’t worry about the weight of your luggage
While many ferry companies have rules of how heavy your luggage case can be, rarely anyone actually weights it or even takes a look at it. Even before boarding our ferry to Bari, we noticed that most people have one big luggage bag (like a decent luggage case) and another smaller one or even the same size.
Jardolinija have stated that each passanger can have one bag up to 20kg’s and handbag. Which basically can be translated to “bring whatever you want”.
As long as you won’t look particularly suspicios, no one will pay any attention to your bags or how much you’ve stuffed in them. Therefore, there is no need to overthink this point.
FERRY TRAVEL TIP #6: Be aware of the check-in rules!!!
Since I have never frequently traveled with ferries, I had not the smallest idea that there even be any kind of a “CHECK IN”.
The last ferry I was on was nearly missed as we purchased tickets 5 mins before its departure and ran to the station like crazy, to hop on it the very last minute.
I explored the necessity of the check-in it one day beforehand. I’m pretty happy I did!
Turns out, you have to check-in 2 hours before the ferry takes place. Afterward, your space can be given away.
Our ferry was leaving at 12:00 PM and there were some people literally running out to a check-in desk at 9:58 AM. They still made it so these rules might be bent a bit. But I’m sure it’s better to check-in at the time your ferry company requests it (just like you’d do on an airplane).
Different ferry companies might have different rules. And very often it’s not as easy to access this info as we’d like. So make sure to do your research!
Overall, our ferry ride was full of ups and downs. Our Jardolinija ferry was SO shitty. Toilets looked like a crime scene. Old, dirty, with barely working handles, dark, narrow. Horrifying. So were the bars and restaurants. Cheap.
But overall our ride was fine if we ignore the 1.5h delay in the boarding process… We always managed to find a good space to spend our time, I wrote this article, read a book, we brought some beers and sandwiches on board.
Do I recommend traveling with a ferry?
Well… It depends! If it’s the budget option for you – yes, take a chance. If it’s a thing you want to try – sure, go for it! But if there is an option to do either ferry or a plane, I’d sign up for a plane in no time. Faster, more sufficient, more organized.