Punting on a flat boat on the shallow waters of the river Cam in Cambridge is great fun, and travel guides as well as tourists usually suggest punting as a must-do in Cambridge, especially in nice sunny weather.
Shop around, there are several punting companies with different prices and discounts – Scudamore may be the oldest and biggest but not the only one. Pick a tour guide whose accent you will understand – a punting tour is about 1 hour, and he/ she is your main source of info
Don’t expect to take great photos of the college buildings – they are somewhat farther from the river, but you can still get great shots of the gorgeous and breathtaking scenery (willow trees, green lawns, flowers, peaceful moments). Tour sellers are selling tickets to all tourists and try to fill up a punt: don’t expect to be sold a punt for 2, instead a tour for 2 with several other tourists (approx. 12). If you want to have a romantic punt tour for the two of you, make it clear to the punt tour seller.
Length of boat tours: punting tours may last from 35 to 65 minutes or more. Ask your guide about the estimate if time is an important factor when planning your Cambridge itinerary. There might be some dripping on certain seats “Little did I know that the spot I had been placed in was the one that would receive most of the water from the punters efforts. I was dripped on the whole time by water from the River Cam – gross – not a pleasant experience. I was so wet that when I left the boat, my pants were soaked in the just the perfect place – the butt. ” (CharityK13′s tour review on TripAdvisor.com) – grab a waterproof garment, or ask the tour guides in advance to provide you with some suitable ‘armour’ if you should be seated in a wetter spot.
Punts for self hire: it may be well worth checking what kind of poles are available at the punting tour company for self guided punts. Aim for a good light pole to steer the punt (made of much lighter aluminium instead of traditional wood), your muscles won’t regret it.
Smoking on board of the punts is not allowed but you can take your own food. Bring your picnic basket filled up – you can eat and drink in the punt / boat or you can just get out on the meadows and enjoy the sun, the river, the trees, the beautiful bird songs, the company with nice meals. It can be truly idyllic if the weather is nice. Don’t forget your cork screw.
Steering the punt is no way easy, as you can count on several other self hired and inexperienced punters to avoid, but worth a try! Still, if you are on a romantic Cambridge tour with your loved one and has never before punted, it may not be the best time to learn punting and potentially end up in the dirty waters or the river Cam. There are very few people who could laugh at themselves after tipping over and getting all wet with no clothes to change into.
Punting tour guides are usually university students. They will tell you many anecdotes but you can ask them about the everyday life at Cambridge University and about the Cambridge colleges too. If you liked the guide of your tour, you can tip him/her.
Note for senior tourists: it may be a bit of a challenge to get in and out of the punt. In chillier weather, the punting tour company usually provides blankets to keep you nice and warm.
It seems that you can always negotiate the price of the punting tours, so give it a try, don’t accept the first offer. The later in the afternoon you go, the more sure you can be that a discount deal is available.
At end of exams, students are happy to celebrate with punting, which hugely increases the traffic on the river Cam. Also the surprising sights, e.g. a naked bum, or more students in the dirty river (the river is indeed dirty, do not swim / soak in the river Cam)