Published 7 May 2011
Here's a country-by-country guide to how to take a bike on the rail networks in key destinations within Europe. We also take a look at ways in which some rail networks are encouraging passengers to continue their journey by bike.
Eurostar to Paris and Brussels There are three options for travelling on Eurostar with your own bicycle. Firstly, you can take it in a bike bag as described at the bottom of this article, free of charge. If you don't fancy having to re-assemble your bike after every journey, you can reserve one of the on-board storage places on-board Eurostar, which costs £30 each way. You need to book your ticket then call 0844 822 5822 (or email EuroDespatch@eurostar.com) with your booking reference number to reserve a spot. If your bike can't be accommodated on the train you're travelling on, the registered baggage service guarantees it will get there within 24 hours - you could send your bike ahead so that it's waiting at the other end. The £30 charge still applies. For more information, see the information page on Eurostar's website: Taking a Bike on Eurostar. Here's their video which describes the options:
Beyond Paris and Brussels:
Austria There is a charge to take your bike on all ÖBB lines, though some special ticket deals in certain provinces might include the fee. Rates are €12 on international journeys; €10 on long distance journeys within Austria and €5 on short. Short distance trains have space for between 6 and 20 bicycles and you don't need to reserve. Long distance trains can have as few as two and as many as 40 and you definitely need to reserve; call +43 5 1717.
Belgium Belgium's SNCB charges passengers €4 per trip to take their bikes onboard. If the train controller can't fit you on the train you wish to travel on, you can transfer the ticket or have it refunded if you book your train ticket online - see the SNCB website. SNCB offers some great cycling packages, called 'B-Excursions', which combine return train travel to one of 17 destinations with the hire of a bike when you get there. An adult can take up to four kids for free with one of these packages. SNCB has also developed cyclepoints at 16 stations, providing bike hire and minor repairs.
Croatia On Croatian Railways, every train has a designated bicycle carriage, with space for an impressive 30 bikes. This makes it an excellent destination for group cycling holidays - though the coast is not well served by the rail network. There are three further bike racks in standard coaches. It costs HRK 30 (around £3.40) for each bicycle.
Czech Republic Czech Lines does allow bikes on most trains at most times but check the timetable for the symbol which says bikes are allowed. You can either take it on the train with you, costing from CZK 25 (around 80p) for each leg of your journey, or place it in the designated section of the train, costing slightly more. You can also buy a one-day bike pass. If you book a space in advance, it costs a little more, from CZK 15 to 200 (around 50p - £6.70). There are lockers at some stations, and bikes for hire. Helpfully, you can rent a bike at one station and return it to another.
Denmark De Danske Statsbaner (DSB) is generally bike-friendly, with special spaces for bikes normally located in the front and back carriages - look out for the bike symbol on the side of the carriage. In Copenhagen, you can take bikes for free on 'S-trains', but on others you need to buy a bike ticket. Prices vary from DKK 12 - 60 (around £1.70 - £6.70) depending how many zones you pass through. Outside Copenhagen, on InterCity and InterCityLyn services, prebooking is not normally essential but it is advised. Pre-book at the station or call +45 70 13 15. May - August, prebooking is required.
Estonia Edelaraudtee is the main operator in Estonia. Bike stands are normally located in the first or last carriage, labelled with a sign, and a bike ticket costs around a fifth of the standard ticket price. On Elektriraudtee, or the Tallinn Suburban Railway, you don't need an extra ticket. One carriage of each train has bike spaces - it's always the second carriage in from the Tallinn end of the train. On GoRail, which travels between Tallinn and Moscow, only folding bikes are allowed.
Finland It is particularly easy to take bikes on VR's long-distance trains, where there are no real restrictions and it's free of charge. On intercity trains, you need to pre-book (+358 9 2319 2902) and spaces are more limited. It costs €9 per bicycle. The double-decker carriage of intercity trains contains lockable bike racks, requiring a 50 cent coin.
France SNCF has one of Europe's less simple policies. Dismantled bikes in special bags or cases are allowed on most trains free of charge. Only a small number of TGV (high speed) trains have any bike spaces on-board. Lille and Paris TGV services to Avignon, Marseille, Cannes and Nice usually let you put your bike in the luggage van, costing around £10 but you need to reserve it when you book your ticket. Lunéa (overnight) trains usually have space for six fully-assembled bikes, again costing around £10. Most other trains around France will take your bike in the luggage van free of charge, though some peak time restrictions may apply. Look for the bike symbol on train timetables.
Germany Some City Night Line trains have storage space for bikes: download the timetable and look for the bicycle symbol. It costs around €15. High-speed Thalys and ICE trains don't have special bike spaces, so you'd need to take your bike onboard in a special bike bag, or use regional trains (more likely to have bike spaces) instead. Helpfully, you can opt to search by trains which can take bikes when you book on the DB Bahn website.
Hungary Rates within Hungary vary according to distance travelled, starting from HUF 230 9(about 70p) for up to 50km, up to HUF 1580 (£4.80) over 500km, though prices can be lower if you book in advance. InterCity trains with the bike symbol can carry 12 bikes; even those without the symbol will usually take a couple each at the front and rear of the train. You can search the MAV website by trains which carry bikes. International services to Slovakia and Slovenia cost €5; the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Croatia cost €10. The tourist office is working on a comprehensive publication for cyclists which will show the rail network and recommended cycle routes.
Italy Passengers on Trenitalia's Regional trains can take their bikes on-board those trains which have the bike symbol beside them on the timetable. It costs €3.50 per bike, for non-dismantled bikes. It is not possible to reserve a space and even if you buy a bike ticket there's no guarantee you'll be able to get a space. As on many trains in Europe, you can take it for free if it's in a special bike carry case not exceeding certain dimensions (80 x 110 x 40 cms in this case). Most stations will look after your case for 24 hours for you, while you go off and explore. The Trenitalia website lists which international services you can take a bike onto - the cost on these trains is €12.
The Netherlands Dutch Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or NS) allows bikes to be carried in designated parts of the train, as long as they do not cause an obstruction. Some peak time restrictions apply, and a bike ticket costs around €6 per day. The conditions of carriage are on the NS website.
Norway Most Norwegian trains have a designated storage area for bicycles; prebook at an NSB station or by calling +47 815 00 888. It costs around half the price of a standard ticket, up to a maximum of NOK 175 (around £19).
Renfe allows passengers on regional (Media Distancia) trains to take their bikes for free when space allows. If there are five or more of you, you need to arrange it in advance. On night-time and long distance services, you can take bikes only in a family sleeper cabin, if you are the sole occupier/s of the cabin, and it must have a cover. The number of spaces on each of the 12 urban networks (Cercanias) varies but, again, is free of charge.
Sweden SJ (Statens Jarnvagar) charges SEK 149 (around £13) per bicycle, and you need to buy your bike ticket by midnight the day before you wish to travel; call +46 771 75 75 75 or go into an SJ office. The number of bikes which can be taken onboard varies by route, and by season. All year round, the Alvesta–Kalmar–Alvesta line allows up to nine bikes to be carried; the Varberg–Borås–Uddevalla line allows three, and Göteborg–Skee, four. Look out for discounted rates in the summer.
Switzerland On Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), passengers can take bikes onboard if space allows; you need to buy a special bike ticket which costs CHF 15 (about £9) per day. There are around 80,000 free-of-charge bike parking spaces at train stations across the country, with more on the way by 2012. There are some staffed bike parks for greater security. In a proper carry case, bikes can be taken on as hand luggage free of charge at all times, and the SBB website also has details on how you can send your bike on ahead as luggage. Swiss Railways also runs Rent A Bike, with bikes available to rent at 80 stations across Switzerland. Passengers booking train travel and bike hire together get a discount of up to 20% on cycle hire.
Folding bikes: Travelling by rail around Europe with your bike can be complicated, with every country having its own policy on fees and restrictions. However, few trains will refuse to let you take a bike if it is dismantled and carried in a special bike bag as normal luggage. Bike bags range from about £90 for a soft bike bag one up to about £200 for a hard case bike bag. They are a good investment, since you should be able to take it on almost all trains in Europe free of charge, as long as it looks reasonably suitcase-like. >> More information:
The European Cyclists' Federation campaigns for railway companies in Europe to make it easier for cyclists to transport bikes. The website also has details of EuroVelo - a cross-Europe cycle network project.
For lots of fantastic holidays by bike, see Cycling Holidays Reachable By Train.