Rough notes on using European trains for bicycle touring

  • Denmark trains:
    • There is a separate region for trains in the northern country with different logistics
      • Usually small.
      • Quite easy to roll your bike on and stand next to it.
      • At some stations you will need to exit the small train and transfer to another one to continue in the direction you want.
    • Stations are relatively small and easy to navigate
    • Buy a ticket in their app or at local kiosks, which take credit cards.
    • Tickets are collected by a conductor
    • In south Denmark, trains are larger.
      • There are designated bike cars. When the train approaches, look for the symbol of a bike on the outside of the car.
      • There are nominal location numbers given for your bike but it does not seem to matter much.
      • You may not realize it at first but the larger trains have electrical outlets over the seats.
      • It is casually acceptable to just find an open seat and sit in it, until someone with a ticket for that seat comes along.
  • German trains:
    • These are usually double-decker trains.
    • A conductor will come around on the train and check your ticket.
    • Certain cars are designated for bikes.
      • When the train approaches, look for the symbol of a bike on the outside of the car.
    • German train stations are much busier, often much dirtier and more confusing.
    • You can buy regular tickets at a kiosk but you will need to go to the ticket counter to purchase a ticket for your bike.
    • On the bike cars, the bike goes into the lower deck. Find an open spot and strap your bike in place.
    • The competition for spaces can get pretty intense. People will try and pile their bikes on any which way.
    • To make room you may need to remove your bags.
    • If you have a first class ticket, you can go upstairs to a really nice work area with desks and outlets.
  • Germany-to-Netherlands trains:
    • A conductor will come around and ask for your ticket.
    • Certain cars are designated for bikes.
      • When the train approaches, look for the symbol of a bike on the outside of the car.
      • It’s usually the car on the end of the train, but be aware that the train can change direction in the station.
    • You will need to drag your bike up two steps to get it onto the car.
    • This can be a huge pain and you will probably need to remove your bags.
    • Your bike needs to go in a designated numbered holder in the bike car.
      • Refer to your bike transport ticket.
    • To fit the bike in the holder you may need to remove your bags and place them on the shelf above.
    • If there is space you can just hang out in the bike car. Otherwise, find your numbered seat and claim it.
  • Netherlands trains:
    • Often a few minutes late.
    • Google Maps has incomplete information for local trains.
      • Use the official app instead.
    • You use your ticket to badge-in and badge-out of the platform area.
      • Nobody will check it on the train.
    • To get your bike through, badge your ticket at the gate for handicapped access. It’s wider than the others.
    • You can buy tickets at kiosks, which accept credit cards, contactless payment (Apple Pay), and euro coins.
    • You need a ticket for yourself and a separate one for your bike.
    • Take care to buy a ticket for your bike that is designated for your entire trip – within the Netherlands or international.
    • If you need an international bike ticket you may need to buy it at a counter.
    • Certain cars are designated for bikes.
      • When the train approaches, look for the symbol of a bike on the outside of the car.
      • It is almost always the last car in the train.
    • Bikes are not allowed on trains at all during commute hours. Confirm when those hours are.
      • This is a huge pain for bike tourists.
      • But it explains why there are hundreds or thousands of bikes locked up outside all the major train stations.
  • Belgium trains:
    • Larger stations can be confusing because they will merge unceremoniously with other businesses.