Why is houseboat rental so popular?
On rivers, canals and lakes, there are hardly any currents or swell worth mentioning. So you don't have to be an experienced sailor to drive a boat on inland waters. You can usually find a variety of safe moorings where you can easily dock. It is perfect to combine houseboat hire
with sightseeing. Moor up and start your shore excursion by bike or on foot to the next town or the shore landscape. Many operators also accept pets - so you could also bring your dog on board
A great video about a houseboat family holiday in Mecklenburg Vorpommern
Houseboats are very easy to manoeuvre for two. The majority of these river boats have a stern thruster and a bow thruster, which makes it easy to turn them around their own axis in tight spaces. On some rivers, such as the Moselle
, there is hardly any rush-hour traffic. There, from Dillingen in the direction of Saarbrücken, you have the water to yourself and can really enjoy the peace and quiet.
View of the Scharfe Lanke in Berlin Spandau
What does a houseboat holiday cost?
If you would like to rent a houseboat, the rent is between 800 and 3000 euros per week, depending on the size, age and equipment of the boat. Houseboat rental can therefore be cheap. It is worth comparing offers online. There are no major differences in rental prices between Germany, France and Holland. The price for the chosen houseboat holiday varies more according to the desired travel time. The costs are higher in the high season, usually during the school holidays (Whitsun, July and August), than in the low season periods (April, May, September and October).
One variant of experiencing a holiday on a houseboat is to rent a moored houseboat. The boat is then, so to speak, a floating apartment on the first shore line. The attraction here is to live directly on the water, to go swimming directly from the boat or to engage in other water sports activities such as fishing, SUP, kayaking, swimming or surfing.
In addition to the pure rental costs of the houseboat, there may be costs for final cleaning or the provision of bed linen or additional equipment. In the offers where a final cleaning of the boat is obligatory, we have of course included this in the quoted rental price. If the charter guest chooses to do the final cleaning himself, the quoted charter price does not include this cleaning service, but it can be added. The fee for renting bed linen is 10 - 15 Euros per person. The filling of a gas bottle costs around 30 euros.
Fuel must be refuelled after and if necessary during the river boat holiday. Depending on the size of the boat, the engines consume around 5 – 10 litres of diesel per operating hour. However, powerful petrol engines, which are mainly installed in sportier motorboats, can also be considerably thirstier. Depending on the engine and itinerary, you should therefore allow at least 100 euros per week of houseboat rental as fuel costs.
In addition to the pure rental costs of a houseboat including the additional services, you should also calculate the costs for moorings in marinas or harbours. Depending on the length of the boat and the number of crew members, you can expect a mooring fee of around 20 - 30 euros per night at the Müritz. However, this price also includes electricity and water consumption. As a rule, this also covers access to the sanitary facilities.
Which are the best areas for a houseboat holiday?
Germany has charming waters that are navigable by houseboat. The lake district around Berlin, the so-called Havelland, is one of them. It includes the German capital as well as those of the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg and Potsdam. The ports of Fürstenberg, Werder and Brandenburg an der Havel are perfect departure ports for houseboat holidays on the Havel.Havelland
. North of the Havelland is the Mecklenburg Lake District
. There are countless picturesque lakes there and many are connected by canals and rivers. Good ports for houseboat charters
in this area are Marienwerder and Waren
on the Müritz
. For longer charter trips and one-way routes, the two lakeside districts could be connected to the coastal region of the Baltic Sea and its idyllic islands. Houseboat rental Mecklenburg Lake District
is in any case a very popular classic among boating holidaymakers.
Idyllic atmosphere at the lake near Malchow in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
Further south in Germany, there are many more idyllic rivers to discover. Imagine cruising along vineyards and castles on the Moselle
. This region is particularly attractive as it is located in the tri-border area of Germany, Luxembourg and France and is home to a unique culture and atmosphere. A good starting point for houseboat hire
there is, for example, the port of Merzig
Boating holidays on the Havel near Potsdam in Brandenburg
The numerous waterways of the Netherlands
are an equally popular holiday destination for houseboat holidays. The Ijsselmeer
and its port Lemmer
are connected with a large network of canals, for example in the province of Zeelan
d with the port of Kortgene and others. Houseboat hire Amsterdam
is a unique way for many tourists to explore the popular city with its impressive canal network.
For a relaxing and authentic boating holiday, the Masurian Lake District in Poland
is the place to go. This is a holiday destination with good infrastructure and unspoilt nature, where many houseboats are available for holidays.
How much experience do I need to steer a houseboat?
River boats are usually easy to manoeuvre. Accordingly, houseboat hire
is the ideal introduction to boating holidays for beginners. On some inland waters in Germany, you don't need to have a regular skipper licence
. There, charter companies offer short introductory courses in which you learn the basic navigation skills and receive the so-called "Charterschein" (charter licence) at the end. In addition, you will be instructed in the necessary chart material. Navigating on waterways is not much different from driving on the road – if you take a wrong turn, just turn around at the next opportunity.
Which activities can be combined with a houseboat holiday?
If you enjoy water sports, a houseboat charter on tranquil rivers and lakes provides the ideal platform for swimming, SUP paddling, snorkelling or kayaking
. Houseboat holidays are also ideal for sport fishermen, as you can access the best fishing spots by boat.
Because you pass many places while travelling by motorboat, you have the wonderful opportunity to visit the respective sights in an uncomplicated way. Simply make a list of all the places you most want to see along the way and off´you go! Houseboat hire
is an extremely relaxed affair and navigating is straightforward. This allows you to read a book and recharge your batteries as the world passes by.
Jetty for boats near Babe-Moritzdorf on Rügen
Houseboat rental without a driving licence – is that possible?
If you would like to take a holiday on the water
and don't have a sports boat licence, you still don't have to miss out on the pleasure. Within Germany, you can rent a boat in many areas without a licence. So look forward now to your next holiday with a houseboat
Your boating holiday on the water without a driving licence could take place, for example, throughout the extensive water transport network of the Mecklenburg Lake District, the Havelland and even as far as the Baltic Sea. From Hamburg to Berlin, from the Elbe to the Oder and from the Kummerower See to the Stettiner Haff. There are numerous possibilities and your motorboat rental company will inform you in detail about the regions in which you can only sail with a charter licence. The charter licence can be obtained shortly before the start of the trip within a few hours
. Navigating on rivers and lakes is very easy and a pure pleasure due to the lack of tidal range and the easy manoeuvrability. All you have to do is pack up and you´re off.
Boating holiday - river mooring on the Saar near Saargemünd in France
The total network of licence-free charter areas
in Germany comprises more than 700 km
of waterways in Berlin, Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony-Anhalt and Saarland. This makes it easier for many people to get into water sports and boat hire. This also attracts visitors from abroad and stimulates tourism within Germany.
In general, there may not be more than 12 people on a rented boat. This is the maximum number. Most houseboats are licensed for fewer people. Please note the number of persons when booking the boat. Boating at night is not permitted. Local speed limits apply to protect the environment or hydraulic engineering installations. In locks you must follow the instructions of the staff. In principle, you must always show consideration for other boaters. If you follow these rules, even inexperienced boaters can make their dream of a boating holiday come true.
A houseboat in a berth in the marina of Waren on the Müritz
What should definitely be in my luggage?
In addition to the usual personal items that no holiday should be without, there are some special items that can be useful on a houseboat holiday.
The right clothes
Warm clothing is particularly important on such a holiday. At sea, the air is often cooler and the wind more dashing. Rainwear should also be part of your wardrobe. Furthermore, gloves, gardening gloves or sailing gloves, can be helpful when locking the locks. Ideally, they should be waterproof. The gloves can also be worn when mooring the boat, protecting your hands from the wet lines. Comfortable, non-slip and, of course, flat shoes should definitely be in your luggage. The soles must not leave any dark abrasion on the deck (please be sure to test them beforehand).
Many motorboats do have a sun canopy to protect guests from direct sunlight. Nevertheless, sunscreen, headscarves or hats are an absolute must for pleasant houseboat holidays.
Catering - provisions
As in rented holiday flats, no catering is included on floating holiday homes. So it means cooking or eating out yourself. Since you may not get to shop for a few days, it is always an advantage here to buy the most necessary things in advance or have them delivered on board. The boat rental companies can recommend a food delivery service. You should also remember to bring bottled water. The water from the on-board tanks is suitable for brushing your teeth but hardly suitable for drinking.
Mop or squeegee
If you want to rent a boat, especially in the north, for example on the Ijsselmeer, you will be able to make good use of these aids. Since the houseboat may be damp from the morning dew or splashing water, it is advisable to have a mop or squeegee with you. Water also likes to stand in the wet room. With these accessories, you have the opportunity to quickly and effectively absorb the unwanted moisture.
Can you barbecue on a houseboat?
Yes, in principle you can barbecue on a houseboat. However, there are a few things to bear in mind here. It is not permitted to barbecue without restrictions. Since a fire on a boat would be devastating, special precautions apply. Depending on the landlord, it is usually permitted to bring your own barbecue, but this may only be used for barbecuing on land. Other boat rental companies allow the use of electric or gas-powered barbecues on board. If you are renting a high-end boat, make sure to ask in advance about a barbecue permanently installed on the boat. Again, this is not uncommon with houseboats.
Can I fish from the boat?
In general, fishing on or from a boat is not prohibited. However, there are regulations that must be observed here. Depending on the country and location, you may need a fishing licence or a so-called fishing permit. These can often be bought cheaply at the local post office or kiosk.
If you don't have a fishing licence, you don't have to apply for one in most cases. A so-called guest fishing licence can be purchased at tourist offices for a holiday at or on the sea. The Venice lagoon is one of the few exceptions. Here you do not need a fishing permit at all.
You should find out in advance exactly what the sport fishing regulations are for the country in question in order to comply with the regulations. In some places, there are heavy controls in this regard.
If the fishing permit is available, fishing is allowed from board - but only while stationary. Fishing while the boat is in motion is prohibited. Furthermore, the minimum size of the fish caught and any existing closed seasons or nature conservation regulations should be observed.
For a relaxing fishing holiday, you can rent a houseboat on the Müritz in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for example. Every passionate angler will also get their money's worth with a houseboat in the Netherlands. Alternatively, anglers can rent a boat on the Havel around Potsdam.
Renting a houseboat without a driving licence?
In most mostly European countries, you don't need a boat licence to drive a houseboat. These include France with the Canal du Midi, the Camargue or Aquitaine. In Holland, too, the canals around Amsterdam and the Frisian Lake District can be navigated without a licence. The same applies to Scotland, Venice, Poland and Ireland. As a rule, you can only rent a houseboat if at least two adults over the age of 18 (21 in Ireland and Holland) are present during the trip. Some, few operators make exceptions if only one adult with previous experience and children wants to take a trip.
In Germany, there is a general licence exemption only for boats with a maximum propulsion power of 15 hp. Those who do not have a sport boat licence Binnen can acquire a so-called charter licence on the day of check-in in certain waters, such as on the Müritz in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania or on the Havel in Brandenburg. You can find out more about obtaining a charter licence on our page „License-free houseboat hire in Germany“.
Even for a group of young people, it is not impossible to embark on a houseboat holiday. Those who have previous experience in dealing with boats or, even better, a boating licence Binnen, have better chances.
The person who receives the instruction is the person in charge and counts as the captain. Everyone is allowed to steer. Even children are not prohibited from steering a houseboat under supervision.
Where can I moor with a floating holiday home?
Where you spend the night with a river boat or motor yacht varies from country to country. In France, for example, you can simply moor on the shore. In other countries, it is customary to anchor in suitable places. These include standing waters such as lakes in Holland, Ireland, Scotland and Germany.
If you prefer to moor in a harbour for safety or comfort reasons, you can of course do so. In this case, it is essential to look for a place in good time during the peak travel season.
Suitable harbours and marinas can be found in the current water charts and canal guides. If you want to use the service facilities here, such as electricity connections, you have to pay a fee. This is equivalent to between 7 - 15 euros per night. In Italy, the marina fees for houseboat holidays are considerably higher. There, they amount to at least 35 euros.
How do you cook on a houseboat?
Houseboats usually have a galley (kitchen) or at least a cooking area set up. Similar to campers, houseboats usually have gas cookers, a gas-powered oven and an electric fridge. Dishes and important kitchen utensils are also usually available. You can find the exact equipment in the respective boat description of the lessor. If in doubt, just ask us.
Try to limit yourself to cooking simple meals, as usually galley space is limited or there are only one or two hotplates. Only very comfortably equipped houseboats have a dishwasher. Only buy as much perishable food as will fit in the fridge or can be eaten the same day.
Also note that electrical appliances with more than 1500 watts are not allowed on board a houseboat. This could overload the electronics and cause them to fail. Accordingly, the use of appliances such as kettles and microwaves while underway or at anchor without an external power supply is not permitted. With a fixed houseboat, this restriction does not apply as there is usually a permanent shore power connection. While connected to shore power by shore cable at a mooring or marina, you can use 220 volt appliances.
Food supplies and water - What is recommended here?
Similar to a camping holiday, you provide your own food and water on a floating holiday home. Be prepared for less space than you are used to at home.
Many people resort to food on their houseboat holidays, which can be stored well even if unrefrigerated and have long minimum shelf lives.
Especially in summer, it is recommended to keep only a few perishable foods on hand. The small refrigerators have less cooling power, which can be affected by outside temperatures.
If necessary, fresh food can be bought daily from local shops along the route. This form of catering is above all more sustainable, as family structures then also benefit from your expenditure and not just the international corporations. Moreover, shopping in small shops is always an experience, as you can find traditional products that are not available elsewhere and will enrich your holiday experience. Talking to the local shopkeepers, the boating holidaymaker can also get great excursion tips or first-hand event information.
If you rely on freezing food during your holiday on the houseboat, enquire in advance about the availability of a freezer compartment.
Water is available in tanks. These are usually full when you take over the boat and can be refilled at moorings or marinas. The water tanks of a houseboat hold at least 200 litres, depending on the size of the boat. However, you should only use the water for washing and cooking. You can bring drinking water on board in bottles or canisters.
What happens to the boat in the event of damage or accidents?
In the event of damage or accidents, you should immediately notify the boat's owner or, in the case of the latter, the police. If damage makes it impossible to continue your journey or at least considerably impairs your holiday, the rental companies will usually try to send a mechanic to solve the problem. Before you have any damage or defects repaired by a third party yourself, it is essential that you have spoken to the rental company and, if necessary, obtained their agreement to cover the costs.
In any case, you should document the damage, the course of an accident or other incidents as well as possible (photos or videos, people involved, witnesses). If you are not the person who caused the accident, you may be able to exempt yourself from your own liability or, if necessary, secure rights of recourse.
On the subject of insurance to protect you in the event of damage, please note the following. The boats are covered by liability and fully comprehensive insurance, but with a corresponding deductible (deposit) which can amount to several thousand euros.
As a rule, you have to pay a deposit in the amount of the insurance excess at check-in (usually by credit card). If no damage is claimed by the organiser at check-out, you will get your deposit back in full. However, if the boat, the furnishings or even third parties or vehicles have suffered damage, the deposit can be retained by the rental company up to the full amount. This applies in particular if the damage incurred cannot be determined without further appraisal.
As a boat hirer, you can also insure your paid deposit with a premium payable. You can purchase deposit insurance either from insurance companies or directly from some houseboat rental companies. Should you have an accident, cause damage to a facility or third party, the non-refundable deposit amount will be reimbursed to you after reviewing the incident. However, the deposit insurance does not apply in the event of wilful destruction or gross negligence (e.g. driving under the influence of alcohol or failure to observe the minimum passage height).
Of course, you can take out additional, separate insurances for your financial and legal protection. You can find out which additional insurances are offered to boaters on our page „Top 5 Yacht Charter Insurances for Skippers & Crew“.
How fast can I go on a houseboat?
You can drive between 6 and 10 km/h on a houseboat. You can drive from sunrise to sunset. This allows you to cover a maximum distance of 30-40 km per day. At night, the boat should anchor or be moored in a harbour.
In poor visibility (due to fog) or strong winds, the boat must not be driven.
In order to find enough time for harmony on board and sightseeing on land, it is recommended to sail for a maximum of four hours a day.
Try to make your boating holiday relaxing. Prefer to sail slowly, enjoy the view and nature. Plan your route and any necessary lock actions. Anchor at interesting places and explore their surroundings. There is so much more to experience on a holiday with a houseboat.
Boat lock in Rheinsberg in Brandenburg
Is a houseboat holiday with a dog possible?
A holiday on a houseboat with dog is a real highlight. You can anchor in remote places and often explore untouched nature. The dogs enjoy the airstream, swimming in the water and free exercise.
There are certainly some landlords who do not allow dogs or cats on their boats. So, when planning your houseboat holiday, be sure to ask the charter company for permission to take a dog or other pet on board. Expect the boat charter company to charge an increased cleaning fee.
If you would like to take your pet with you, make sure you pay attention to the following things:
- Blankets, baskets, leashes and bowls must be brought by yourself.
- If the animal is a dog, let it slowly familiarise itself with the boat.
- Be sure to remember a valid EU vaccination certificate for abroad.
- If the dog does not swim particularly well, a dog life jacket is recommended.
- Be aware of compulsory leashing, which might be required when going ashore (marinas!).
Depending on the size of the animal, there should be enough space on board. A small houseboat with a Saint Bernard would probably be rather stressful for everyone involved. Also think about the chosen holiday country beforehand. In Italy, experience has shown that dogs are unfortunately not always wanted.
A houseboat holiday at the Mecklenburg Lake District is a particularly beautiful destination. It captivates with its unique flora and fauna. Beautiful, unspoilt routes invite you to take extensive walks with your dog. The French canals have an absolute added value for dog owners. Historical buildings and the typical Mediterranean landscape promise relaxation for two and four-legged friends.
Can I take a bicycle on a boating holiday?
Combining a houseboat holiday with cycling is an ideal combination. Depending on the size of the boat, you can bring up to four bikes on board. If you want to charter a boat on the Ijsselmeer or rent a houseboat on the Havel, a bicycle means a great extension of your radius of action on land.
Before you rent a houseboat, be sure to check with the respective rental company about the possibility of taking bicycles on board. Some boat owners are concerned about the possible damage that improperly stowed bicycles can cause on board. Please understand this and try to find a solution.
Many boat rental companies have already included bicycles or even e-bikes as a bookable additional service to the boats. Often a bike only costs around 10 euros extra per day.
If you are planning to rent a houseboat on the Baltic Sea or you want to rent a boat on the Mecklenburg Lake District, bikes are almost an absolute must.
Where can I store my luggage on the boat?
Your luggage that you bring with you must be stored in the cabins. Unfortunately, there is only limited space on a houseboat. Therefore, it is advisable to do without superfluous items. Before packing, make a list of the things you need. This will give you a better overview and help you avoid one or two unnecessary pieces of luggage.
A good tip for boat holidays is to take flexible travel bags instead of bulky suitcases. These can be folded up more easily after removing the contents and stowed away to save space. On a houseboat short holiday of 3 - 5 days, it won't be so difficult for you to simply leave some things at home.
If you are travelling by car, it is a good idea to store all the things you don't need in the vehicle after unpacking on board. So if you don't have far to go to the holiday destination and are planning to rent a houseboat on the Baltic Sea or a motorboat on the Havel, keep this tip in mind.
The best thing to do is to store everything you don't need in the vehicle after unpacking.
- Barbara: May 2022 - 5.00
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