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The accelerating cost of taking a car on holiday to Ireland By Philip Suter

The cost of taking your car to Ireland has become very expensive. Ireland needs tourists, but they are going to go to other countries instead of these costs continue to rise. Taking a car to Ireland can cost £340 more than taking it to France.


Last Friday evening the 8th April 2011 I watched a programme on RTÉ television about tourism in Ireland.

I had just travelled across the sixty mile section of Irish Sea between North Wales and Ireland and the car ferry costs for the return trip on the 10th cost over £410. The petrol costs getting two and from Dublin to the western side of the M25 in the Home Counties cost a further £150. That is £560!

There is not a lot of competition on the Irish Sea routes and earlier this year DFDS Seaways that had bought the Norfolk Line operation pulled out. The two major players on the route Stena Line and Irish Ferries appear to have very similar high fares. This makes it a difficult task attracting visitors to Ireland and last Friday's TV programme said the UK market was going down dramatically in visitor numbers.

If it is going to cost over £400 for a family of four to take their car to Ireland this summer people in Britain will be far better off if they head south over the English Channel. The average cost for the Dover / Calais - Boulogne crossing which is a third of the distance of the Holyhead / Dublin route (22 miles) is not a third of the price - £136. No the major operators like P & O and SeaFrance are talking from around £70 return.

I have discovered that the ferry companies on the Irish routes charge for each additional passenger whereas those ferries leaving Dover there is not this restriction for the average family. Their objective is to have many passengers who will spend money on board on food and drink and in the shops. They appear to charge for transporting the family dog or cat (which still remains in the family car), whereas on the Irish routes these pets go free. I understand a charge is made on the English Channel routes to cover administrative costs for checking the passport..

Taking this into account, a family of four will have more spending power by going overseas to France and Belgium and like Ireland in the Euro.

One of the reasons that the RTÉ programme said many British people were not finding Ireland so foreign now was because when they walked down the High Streets the visitor only saw the same retailers they would see back home and could be visiting any British town centre. British retailers have bought a great number of Irish retailers over the past few years and also moved into the market without buying up the competition. From my travels in Ireland you do see a lot of British shops in the major cities, however just drive through any town and you will still see that the majority are Irish apart from major supermarkets like Tesco.

Taking the car to Ireland is incredibly expensive. I travelled by the large Stena fastcraft last weekend. The crossing is slightly more expensive than the traditional car ferries, but not a lot. The last time I travelled on this ferry was in December 2009, only fifteen months ago and it cost £174 less than it did on this visit. That is quite some increase.

What is the alternative? Providing you don't need to take the family pet, have a passenger who does not like flying, take a fly/drive break.

The UK papers are full of advertisements at the moment from Aer Lingus and Rynair offering fantastic deals to Ireland and easyJet flies to Belfast. You always need to book early and then rent a car. Book this online before you go and make sure you buy your car hire excess insurance in advance. It is usually a lot cheaper to buy this from an independent insurance company like one of those advertising on than buying it from the car hire company direct. This way you save a lot more money.

Ireland is a great place to go for a weekend break or a longer holiday and the fly /drive option means you have your independence to go where you want to go, it is just such a shame that the car ferry companies are making it so expensive. I can not understand why they can't cut the fares, not charge per person and have a full ferry. People will spend money whilst travelling. If they can do it on the England - France routes, why can't they do it on the Wales / Scotland - Ireland routes?

(April 2011 ©jmlpropertyservices - Philip Suter)

N.B. This information should not be relied on for accuracy and is presented here without the responsibility of jml Property Service and the website it is being displayed at. jml property Services 04-11

May 10th 2011 Just been back to Ireland again last week. Going on Thursday 5th from Holyhead to Dublin and returning Saturday 7th Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead. 2 passenger + senior citizen outward and 2 passengers return. All had Premium tickets - Price was £392 + credit card fee. There were probably 200 passengers on this early afternoon crossing. Imagine if they cut the costs and had a full ferry and sold more food etc.

Noticed an ad in the Irish Times 5th May 2011 for Irish Ferries. Take a car and two passengers to France over the May bank holiday half term  €99 euro (or £87 GBP). Found this ad also on their website 10-5-11. Making an enquiry for 2 passengers plus a car going to Dublin 27th May and returning 31st May £345. That is £172 each way. I did upgrade in my dummy booking to Club Class which £16 per person (By some strange coincidence same price as upgrading to Stena Premium so had I not done this one way would cost £140 and this is a shorter journey than going from Ireland to France!

It makes a lot more sense at this time to fly and hire a car.

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