Ultimate canal boat guide

6th June 2019

Perhaps you’re considering trying something a little different for your next trip away with the family? Whether you’re a first-time boater or you’re simply interested in learning more about boating holidays, discover our helpful boaters guide – here to provide you with advice, recommendations and information about narrowboat holidays.

Canal guide

Preparing for your canal boat holiday is an exciting time – and it’s important to know everything from the Do’s and Don’ts and what to take with you, to the licenses you’ll need on the waterways. We’ve put together some of the most commonly asked queries about canal boat holidays here:

Do you need a license to drive a canal boat?

First time boater? Not to worry – you can hire a canal boat with no license or official training required. Here at ABC Boat Hire, we will ensure you’re equipped with basic training and that you feel comfortable before taking to the waters.

In terms of licensing on the waters, all of our boats are licensed for the canals and rivers governed by the Canal & River Trust, which works out to be about 2,200 miles.

How to drive a canal boat

One of the first questions people usually ask is how you actually drive the canal boat. But don’t worry – our team at ABC Boat Hire ensure that you know the basic training on how to handle your canal boat and make certain you’re well prepared for the waters. For first time canal boaters, a few things to consider include:


Learn more about how to drive a canal boat from our guide.

Will I get charged for mooring the canal boat?

Most visitor moorings on the canals and rivers on our routes are free of charge. This means you are permitted to moor anywhere on the towpath side of the canal free of charge – just be sure that you’re not causing any obstruction. The only places that may incur mooring fees are at privately owned sites for overnight mooring e.g. River Thames. Learn more from our guide on where you can moor your canal boat.

How do canal locks work?

Canal locks can seem intimidating – but once you know how to use them, they are simple. And after all, it’s part of the experience! When you approach a lock:


For more information, see our guide to operating canal locks. Alternatively, learn where the deepest canal locks are in the UK.

How fast do canal boats go?

If you’re concerned about driving the canal boat, the legal speed limit for canal boats is only 4mph. This means that you’ll have plenty of time to respond and plan your moves ahead as you’ll be travelling along the canal at a slow speed. Learn how far a canal boat can travel from our detailed guide.

What should I take with me?

It’s good to be prepared for your boating holiday – and understanding what to take with you is just as important as knowing how to drive the boat. Find out more information on what to take on a canal boat holiday today.

Are pets allowed on canal boat holidays?

Yes – we have a pet-friendly canal boat holidays available. Our policy is that the first pet travels for free, and an additional pet is £30. Learn more about our pet-friendly boating holidays now.

How much is a canal boat holiday?

With a wide selection of canal boats and canal boat routes to choose from, the prices of a canal boat holiday can differ. Whether you decide on a five berth or twelve berth narrowboat, ABC Boat Hire can provide you with prices and a full package for your holiday afloat.

For more information on canal boat holiday pricing, canal locks and more, find our helpful holiday canal guide. This will also be sent to you once you’ve booked your canal boat holiday. You will also be sent details of the boaters handbook – here you can learn everything you need to know about your holiday on the waters with help from ABC Boat Hire.

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