- Busradar: Bus connections throughout Europe
- The Trainline: Train tickets in the UK
- UK railway operator map
- Deutsche Bahn: Train connections throughout Europe
Getting around Great Britain on public transportation can be chaotic, especially when trying to bring your bike.
Buses are generally the cheapest way to get around Britain, but none of them officially accept bikes and even if you pack them as luggage you might be unlucky. The two main bus lines are National Express and Megabus, both belonging to the same company, with Megabus being the cheaper version. Prices can be as cheap as 10 £ from London to Edinburgh. Megabus does not allow any bicycles at all (see here), National Express allows them only when packed (see here). Both companies don’t allow animals (except service dogs). Use Busradar to find connections.
Train connections are messy in Britain, as there are lots of different companies that are not coordinated with each other, and prices vary greatly over time. You can use The Trainline to find connections. Prices seem to be starting at around 55 £ for a ticket from London to Edinburgh. Buying early is generally worth it. Have a look at this map to see which company is operating which connection. The main operators from London to Scotland are Virgin Trains and London North Eastern Railway (LNER). Both accept bikes (Virgin Trains info, LNER info), but places have to be reserved (apparently for free) by calling a UK phone number when buying your ticket. Apparantly spaces are very limited, so it’s good to reserve at least a couple of weeks in advance.
There is a new overnight train service from London to Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Fort William) called “Caledonian Sleeper”. There are 2 price groups for Glasgow/Edinburgh and Inverness/Fort William. The price for a seat is fixed at 45 £ (the 1st group) and 50 £ (the latter). The price for a cheapest room option is fixed at 140 £ for 1 person / 215 £ for 2 persons (the 1st group) and 210 £ for 1 person / 230 £ for 2 persons (the latter). Bicycles are always free of charge (but you need to check if there’s available space). Pets (up to 2) are only possible to be taken if you book a room and there is a cleaning fee of 30 £. Places should be reserved at least 2-3 weeks in advance.
Railcard is a way for people under 31 to get a ⅓ discount by paying 30 £, which can be worth it for a return trip. However, the card needs to be ordered to a UK address.
Crossing the sea
There are 3 main bus-companies in France, according to this page about taking bikes on busses:
- Flixbus/Megabus: You can officially take bikes on some lines, for example Strasbourg–Paris. You always pack your bike and book a big piece of luggage for 9€
- isilines/Eurolines: On the compare page it says, when they asked the company, the answer was they would take a bike when it can be taken apart and not more than 5. On their own website they say they don’t take bikes…
- Ouibus/Starshipper: Would have to be packed in a box where length+height+width<200cm. Which is normally too small for a bicycle.
- The high-speed trains (TGV) are fast but expensive, although booking early might provide some cheaper options. There are very limited spaces for bikes which have to be reserved and are often already booked out many months in advance. Sometimes it’s worth to check train companies of neighbouring countries (such as German Railways) if they have a cheap offer that is crossing the border (you can also board the train later, for example buy a ticket from Freiburg to Paris but only get on the train in Strasbourg if it stops there).
- The regional trains (TER) take bikes for free and have space for them. Prices are fixed. The train lines themselves are not going very far and are not coordinated with each other, and it can take up to 3 days with 10 changes to cross the whole country, for a total price of at least 150 €. The French train company does not offer an option to find connecting trains, so you have to look up the connection first on Deutsche Bahn and then look up the price for each individual train on OUI.sncf. As the ticket prices are fixed, better buy them at each station in case you miss a connection.
There is this page for cheap second-hand train-tickets: http://www.trocdestrains.com/
Most buses from Flixbus take bikes for 9€ extra.
(Almost?) all regional trains take bikes. Of the higher-speed trains, only some IC/EC take bikes. On bahn.de, there is a checkbox to search for connections that officially accept bikes all across Europe. For regional trains, you have to buy a Fahrradtageskarte Nahverkehr (5.50 €) for your bicycle (on some connections, you can take a bike for free, but the regulations are complicated and in German). For higher-speed trains, the bicycle ticket costs 9 € and has to be reserved in advance. Because the train companies still live in the past, when you want to take a bike across a national border, you suddenly have to pay 10 €. Tickets can be bought online, and every German train station has a ticket machine where you can buy them.
For the passenger ticket, there is the possibility to buy a day ticket for all regional trains across Germany for 44 € for the first person and 8 € for each of up to 4 additional people (Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket, on Saturday and Sunday Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket for 40+4×4 €). This makes it particularly cheap to travel in groups, for example for 5 people the price is 15.20 € per person (11.20 € on Sat/Sun) for all across Germany. Individual regions have a separate regional ticket, for example Baden-Württemberg for 23+4×5 €. Everything plus the ticket for the bike(s).
Flixtrain has some cheap high-speed train lines in Germany that accept bikes for 9 € and also animals and cost much less than Deutsche Bahn trains.