Self Drive Barge FAQ's

SD_Picture Explore France with a Self Drive Barge

If you’d like to enjoy the perks and benefits of a canal barge without having to follow a specific itinerary, you should consider the option of renting a self-drive barge for your own personal use. This is a phenomenal way to see France on your own terms.

You will bask in the fun of steering your very own canal barge along some of France’s most delightful waterways. There is no license required and you are at the helm.

As far as barge vacations go, this has to be one of the most enticing and unique opportunities available – and it’s a lot more affordable than you may suppose!

What is a Self Drive Barge Cruise?

A self drive barge is similar to a houseboat. There is no license required, the self-drive vessels cruise about 5 miles per hour and you there is bedding supplied and full kitchen with all the utensils you would need. In France along the canals you can moor anywhere you like. There are towpaths along the canals so you bike or walk into the different canal-side villages along your route. With a self-drive barge you are at the helm of your vacation. It is a wonderful way to travel with family or friends.

What is included in the Cost?

Our Prices Include

  • One week of cruising
  • Fully eequipped galley
  • Towels and linen for all passengers
  • Boat handling demonstration
  • Technical support 7 days a week
  • On board cruising information (Waterways guide and Captains handbook)
  • Free car parking (where available)

What is Not Included in the Cost?

Our Prices do not Include:

  • Travel to and from the base
  • Fuel
  • Waterway guide (before departure) - there is one supplied on board for your cruise
  • Damage waiver
  • Any optional extra, such as bicycle rentals, BBQ rental, lantern rental
  • Person vacation insurance & cancellation insurance

How do I book my Self Drive Cruise?

How to book your vacation on a self-drive

Step 1: Choose a cruising area

Step 2: Select a boat to suit your party size and budget - here is our rating system to assist

Step 3: Contact us to check if your boat, region and dates are available

Step 4: Once we confirm availability you can place a one week hold and then a 35% deposit is due - final is due 60 days prior to departure (we accept all credit cards for payment)

What are the Departure Days?

Departure days are Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Normal cruises are for a full week. So, if you started on Saturday you would end the cruise on the following Saturday. Short cruises are possible early or late in the season, no summer months. If you are interested in a short cruise, contact us and we see what is possible. Long cruises are available, depending on availability. So, if you want to cruise for ten days instead of seven or two weeks, just let us know. We also offer a 14 day dicount.

Do I require a license or permit?

A driving license is not required for your boating holiday in France, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, England or Scotland. After your instruction lesson you will be given a temporary permit for the duration of your holiday. In Germany, a permit is required only for boats over 13 meters in length and only in certain areas. Contact us for more information.

Are there any additional taxes?

No additional fees or taxes are applied.

When are the locks open?

Normally the locks are open from 8 AM until 7 PM with one hour for lunch. There is no charge to go through the locks in France.

There are lock closures on the some holidays such as, 1st of May, Whit Sunday, 14th of July, Easter Day and the 1st of November. Some areas do not close the locks on holidays such as, Brittany, Camargue, Charente and Lot.

Locks are generally worked by a lockkeeper. On the Lot and the Charente, locks must be operated by the boat's crew.

In Germany and Ireland are open every day and free. In Holland the locks and bridges are in full service between Early April until Mid October. They are very well maintained; at some of the locks you will be asked to pay a small toll, usually between NLG 3 to 5.

What time can I collect and return the boat?

Normal collection time is between 4pm and 5pm and return time is by 9am on the final day.

How will I know how to operate the boat?

When you arrive at the base, you'll receive a warm welcome from our team and be shown to your boat. You will be given an in-depth briefing on every aspect of your boat - from which knots to use to how the oven works. Rest assured that the team at your base will make sure you are confident about every aspect of your trip before you cast off including how to go through locks, tying up at the water's edge and mooring in a marina (charges may apply).

How long is a normal cruise?

One week, if you start on Saturday you would end on a Saturday. Shorter and longer cruises are possible depending on availability.

What is supplied on the vessels?

Beds, pillows, duvets, and bed linens; Fully equipped kitchen with fridge, gas oven, crockery and utensils; Towels and tea towels (one per person); CD player, TV’s & DVD players available for rent from some of our bases Cruising maps; boat user manual and tourist information (supplied onboard); Safety equipment, life jackets, boat hook, fenders; Basic first aid kit; Outside table, chairs and parasol (depending on vessel); Deck equipment (depending on vessel), mooring pegs, mallet, mop, bucket, ropes; Bathroom facilities with hot showers; Pump-flush toilets (electric flush toilets on newer vessels like the Royal Mystique); 12 volt power for electric shavers (some models offer additional shore power facilities and Royal Mystique allows 220 volt power while the engine is running); Warm air heating, fans or air-cooling (depends on vessel)

How many hours should I cruise each day?

Generally cruising 4-5 hours a day will ensure you see a lot of the region as well as keep the boat’s batteries well charged. However, there’s no need to set yourself rigid targets – cruise as the mood takes you and explore the countryside and see the sights at your leisure.

Do we have to operate the locks?

Depending on the region you are in, locks may be manually operated, manned by a lock keeper, electrically operated or automatic, but whatever the system, the maneuvers are always much the same.

Can transfers be arranged?

Yes we can arrange transfers to and from any airport, train station, town or hotel. You will need to contact us and ask for the appropriate form to complete. Transfers are paid for on arrival in the local currency.

What is the difference between one-way and round trip cruise?

A one-way cruise enables you to start from one base and end at a different base. A round trip cruise is starting and ending at the same base. There is an additional cost for a one-way cruise.

What does it mean when you show 2 + 2 for capacity?

That means there is capacity for two passengers and fold out in the salon for two passengers.

If I am doing a one way cruise how do I get my car back?

There are two options available to you:

1. We can arrange a taxi for you.

2. We can transfer your car from the start base to the end base so that it is waiting for you when you return (extra cost)

Can we pre-order groceries?

You can order groceries in advance and they will be delivered to your boat on your departure day. You will need to download the provisioning list and send it back to the base at least two weeks prior to departure.

What happens if I break down?

In case of an emergency, you will be able to contact one of the base team 24/7 and we will respond immediately. In the unlikely event that you have a problem with your boat, we will do our best to send an engineer to you within four hours of your call. If your boat is considered to be unusable for more than half a day you will be offered compensation based on the daily hire fee.

Is it possible to hire bikes?

Yes, we have a brand new range of lightweight, 24-gear cross country bikes, mini-bikes for gentle excursions, children’s bikes, trailer bikes and children’s bike seats. Helmets can also be purchased from the base. We recommend you take at least two bikes per boat and it is advisable to reserve them in advance.

Can I swim in any of the regions?

Swimming is possible in many of the rivers, lakes and lagoons, but always check at the base if it is safe to do so. We don’t recommend swimming in the canals, but there are many great open-air swimming pools near to our cruising routes if you fancy a dip. You could also head for the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean or near our base at Nieuwpoort in Belgium.

Is fishing allowed?

Fishing enthusiasts will have the time of their lives on the rivers so bring your rods and don’t forget your fishing license! Licenses can be purchased from local shops for the duration of your cruise.

At what speed should I cruise?

A cruising holiday is meant to be a relaxing one, with 5 km/hr being the recommended maximum speed. This means you can enjoy your surroundings at a leisurely pace and, more importantly, not cause any damage to the natural habitats at the water's edge.

Are any areas lock free?

If you are looking for lock-free cruising head down to the Camargue in the South of France! The Norfolk Broads is also lock free. Many other cruising regions have few locks, so speak to someone in our friendly sales team and they will be pleased to help you.