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Easy Touring in Europe - Bike hire or transport your bike?

tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 4,021
edited March 2015 in Tour & expedition
A quick question, I'm new to touring and am looking at the easy Danube cycleway in Austria as a nice, family, summer holiday. A quick look into it and bike hire is easy along that stretch, not too expensive I think, I'd prefer to use my own bike but I think that would mean train journey to get there = more money than hiring and taking a budget flight I think.

Can anyone suggest the best way to do it?

The other thing to consider the family would be me and my partner (who as done a fair bit of roughstuff touring around the world in the past). With us would be a 2-3 year old who is used to a trailer and a child seat option. We know a child trailer and a child seat is available to hire with the bikes so that is still an option but is taking two bikes plus trailer an option on European trains? I take it going by plane is out due to bike boxes and the trailer being a real hassle.

Any advice from the forum?


  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,431
    If you are willing to consider an alternative to the Danuble cycleway, the European Bike Express takes passengers, bikes, trailers, tandems and even tandem trikes on three routes through France to Spain with pick-ups/drop-offs all along M1 etc down to Dover and through France. It's hassle-free. I've used it for around 20 years. It's a luxury coach with big trailer for bikes and luggage. There's plenty of child- friendly touring routes in France.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    (Hint: it's a good idea to update your profile to say where you are from - the answer to this question will be very different if, say you live in Belfast).

    Getting there by train is perfectly do-able, but sadly it's not as easy as it used to be. The most practical option is to get the morning ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and then the DeutscheBahn City Night Line sleeper train from Amsterdam to Munich and then train for Passau. (Or you could get the night ferry and spend a day in Amsterdam).

    If you book ahead fares start at 49€ (although you may want to pay more for your own compartment).

    You can check train times on - they have a UK call centre so booking is pretty straight forward.

    You can check:

    for prices of bike rentals. I don't know whether a flight plus bike rental will cost less - I suspect it the difference won't be that much and the train might even work out cheaper.

    If you want to fly with your bike then your best bet would be to arrange with a hotel in, say, Passau to leave them there and then spend your last night there on your way back.

    A very long coach journey with a 2-3 year-old is probably not going to be 'hassle-free'.
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 4,021
    We are NW England about an hour by very good train service to Manchester Airport.

    My worry is it is going to be hard to get bikes, kit and especially toddler on and off trains, ferrys and more trains. Then again flights with bikes and toddler would be traumatic I think not least since he has never sat anywhere for long. A 15 minute train journey near us has him wanting to go for a walk. At least a train he can I think walk a little. Coach travel, even one as well run as the EBE, would I suspect be worse. I doubt I would get away from booking a seat at the opposite end of the coach or in another train carriage!!!

    Perhaps we'll put it off for another year and just tour in the UK. I want to try a series of localish long weekend trips this spring. Thinking west coast of Cumbria might be a nice quiet little tour to begin with (plus side trips up say Eskdale and back by the railway perhaps). Then I think the roses way is supposed to be a decent route too (we're close enough to one end to make it less of a logistic effort with long train journeys only at one end not both).

    I did find a very good website on the Danube path with info in sections including some accomodation details and hire shops. That is why I got the idea the Austrian section is the best option. IIRC Passau has a few hire places and the train back to Passau is a bike friendly one (a faster one and a slower one IIRC but both go through a nice route).
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,431
    A fair point about long coach journeys for a 2-3 year old. One Bike Express option might be getting off the coach at Beaune (gets there in early hours after midnight service station break) and spend the night in pre-booked budget hotel - entry by credit card, all explained on Bike Express website. I've done this previously. Just cycle away from hotel n morning. Plenty of good cycling in the lovely Burgundy region from Beaune.

    Another family option could be to catch Brittany Ferries boat to Roscoff, St Malo, Cherbourg or Caen, travelling to port by public transport or by car and parking it up before catching boat. I've done this as well. Brittany/Normandy is a great touring area for a family.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    Yes I think the journey from north-west England, combined with the little one's age, would make it difficult.

    It also depends on how long you have for your tour - if say you're going for a month then you can afford to go on a leisurely journey out with stopovers, and in effect make the journey part of the holiday. But if you have limited time then it's more likely to turn into an ordeal.
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 4,021
    We tend to only take a week at a time but are planning a 2 week spell in the future.

    We originally thought a ferry trip to Ireland from Heysham would a very good option for us since we are 1 hour ride from there. A perfect distance to ride in one hit for our child (he can occasionally get bored after that length of time and needs a walk or break). However after a bit of research I found out the direct boats don't take bikes and the other ferries go via Isle of Man and would take a very long time with change overs taken into account. We always fancied the idea of a tour straight from our front door. I guess the only way of doing that is with a decent length of time for the trip. I know the lakes is nearby but that is kind of what we view as our back door since we are up there pretty much all the time in the weekends.

    Normandy / Brittany are 2 regions I actually fancy. As a kid we used to do the St Malo route and just dash through in the early morning to the west coast near La Rochelle area. never seen it around there in daylight.
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