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BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

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Seattle, Washington
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BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

hi there,

a couple of questions for seasoned travellers on the BC and coho ferry route. it will be my first time taking Canadian ferry lines so i have no idea what's the norm. i will be bringing my car with me.

1) On July 6 (Sunday), i plan on taking the Tsawwasen -> Swartz Bay BC ferry, 7 pm departure. do i need to make any advance reservation, or can i just drive up and pay the ticket? considering this is sunday evening, should i expect a line/crowd? how far in advance (before 7 pm) do i need to be at the Tsawwasen ferry terminal?

2) On July 9 (Wednesday), i plan on taking the coho ferry, probably the 7:30 pm departure, from Victoria BC -> Port Angeles. i will be returning to US as a US green card holder (if this matters at all, not Canadian resident). i also have NEXUS, but i have no idea if Victoria ferry embarkation point uses NEXUS? any ideas? if i arrive 1h before ferry departure, do i give myself enough time to do the necessary immigration/customs check and also buy a ferry ticket for myself + my car?

3) Do i need to make reservation online in advance for Coho Ferry? The website appeared to charge $11 for making reservation online and i am wondering if i can "wing it" and avoid the $11 fee by just buying the ferry ride ticket on that day itself when i appear at the terminal - which is how i usually do when taking the WA ferry anyway. Considering that this is a weekday, and also i plan to be there about 1h before the ferry departure, would this be fine? or should i plan on being there 2h in advance of the ferry departure? is coho ferry reservation (online, in advance) absolutely necessary?

any insights are appreciated.

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

Hi travelmolecule ~

1) yes, IMO, you would be best to make a reservation. It is your long weekend and the ferries will be busy with all kinds of travellers. All sailings for the 6th have availability for ressies right now, which is surprising. If you didn't want to pay the dough for a reservation, then arrive at Tsawwassen about 5h30 to just go into the first come first served loading area, and yes, pay your ferry fare at the ticket booth. You could always do a dummy reservation through the week up to the "choose a sailing" page, to see if the more popular departure times are booked out for reservations. (There is always the opportunity to get in line for first come first served but these ones can be left behind if the ferry gets full.)

2) for the Coho, you need to get to the ferry dock about 90 min in advance of sailing because they do US Customs and Immi pre-clearance there before sailing. The ship is small, so a reservation would be a very good idea. It is a weekday, but it's a summer weekday so all bets are off.

There is no way of knowing if a reservation on either ferry is "absolutely necessary." It is summer season, people are travelling, if you want to ensure you are on a specific ferry at this time of year, a reservation is indeed advisable.

Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

ok, thanks for the tip MuftiMixandmatch! will def aim to reach the ferry terminal in advance,

Victoria, Canada
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3. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

if you don't mind waiting an extra hour, you can leave out the BCFerries reservation as they run hourly. However, the risk of being stranded overnight is too great on the Coho ... reserve now.

Seattle, Washington
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4. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

thanks - how many cars per coho ferry by the way, tennisjazz?

also, is it possible to line your car up, get a spot (get there like 3h in advance), but then walk off to wander around downtown Victoria? or is it not possible bc you have gone through immigration/customs?

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

Their website says 115 vehicles:

https://cohoferry.com/MV-Coho

Victoria, Canada
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6. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

you can get there (say) 3 hours in advance and wander off, but they want you back onto the lot 90 minutes before departure. US Border officers check you out in your car; after that you go to a trailer nearby where they scan your travel doc (your NEXUS I guess). you can then wander off but you are not supposed to .

there is no separate line for NEXUS entry when you debark in port angeles, but that is not a big deal because you should not have to wait more than about 10 minutes once you actually get off the ship.

Newberg, Oregon
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7. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

We've traveled on both many, many times (30-plus trips to Victoria from Oregon) and have never had to reserve on BC ferries. If you're there within an hour of sailing (they sail every hour on the hour) you should be fine. At worst, you'll have to wait one hour (capacity is something like 300 cars and 2,000 passengers.)

Coho, we ALWAYS reserve -- much, much smaller ship and only 4 crossings during peak summer months.

Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

John, last Friday BC Ferries from Tsawwassen were full from 11 am for the rest of the day.

Seattle, Washington
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9. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

sounds like everyone is recommending reservation for Coho Ferry.

i guess i better heed the advice. the reservation fee is a pinch though :(

Nanaimo, Canada
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10. Re: BC ferry / Coho ferry questions - July 2014

One question... are you driving up from Seattle and expecting to take that 7 p.m. ferry the same day you are leaving from Seattle? Have you factored in the line up at the border crossing? I know you have the NEXUS card, so that will definitely be an advantage, but the line ups at the border on a Sunday can be brutal! Lots of Canadians heading home from a shopping spree in Bellingham or Seattle. Something to think about anyway.

Because if you are not at the ferry terminal 30 minutes prior to sailing, you lose your spot, and no refunds on that fee either.