First of all, in our opinion, the most appropriate, affordable and fun way to travel Europe by train nowadays is to get an Interrail or Eurail Pass (Interrail if you are a European citizen or resident or Eurail if non-European).
So depending if you will need Interrail or Eurail, you will have the choice between: a global pass & a one country pass. Plus a select pass which means 2,3 or 4 countries if you use Eurail.
Then you will be able also to choose different duration and days of travel. Price will vary accordingly but what is for sure is that there are a few options, which can be very relevant to give a thought on how you wish for using the Pass.
The Pass actually be your official train ticket and will allow you to travel in most European countries (see map). Also this pass will let you in almost any trains without additional cost, some train requires booking and extra fees. It is also possible to benefit of some reduction, for exemple if you embark on a ferry!
Boarding on a vast majority of train by simply presenting your Pass (with handwritten on it the accurate date of the journey and trajectory) becomes very quickly quiet fun!
We believe these passes allow a great freedom, change of plans and adventure!
Life on the train can be a real moment of immersion in a country, usually give an insight of locals life -- A great way to do multiple countries or places in a limited amount of time
Can be a alternative to enter or leave a city -- The pass permits to be completely spontaneous, to jump in at any train station for available options at that same moment! --<br /> Once managed to get in the train there is this tremendous satisfaction for being in and and be at peace for few hours 😉
It also strives to really meet the culture of the country that you are traveling in. This will force one to have to build a bridge in order to be understood and understand, but above all will give a glimpse of a reality of a country's railway system. Interesting.
Changing train for connections with bicycles can sometimes fall into the realm of madness in terms of time and space!
It can require a certain organization. But sometimes it also not possible make a reservation for bikes earlier than the same day, so it can abruptly leave you with no option to put the bike or to have a seat in the desired train.
Sometimes until the last minute it’s not possible to know the departure way and everything must go very very quickly (especially when you have to go down to change lanes and there is no lift;)) or when no ones knows which wagon will carry the bikes and then it is at the opposite of the train! It can be a real race against the clock!
Our ways and therefore our advices (this is when we are not so tight with the schedule, but not really actually;) )
We have almost never booked, we inquire very briefly about the trains with the Interrail App and/or with local railway company. If it sounds tricky, like it may need a booking, we might call the train company and ask them how many bicycle can be carried on the train (sometimes only 3) and maybe we will make a reservation. If not, it is only once we arrived at the train station that we will look into the available options at that same moment and simply go with it! About 98% of the time we got on the train we wanted, and reserved only few times! But watch out, like this it can quickly turn into a real countdown from the moment you end the conversation at the counter!
Often with this type of train there is no need for booking, no additional fees for bicycles neither for the pass. Often there is a space for bicycles and we don’t even need to disassemble the bikes or to put them in a box = JUST ROLL IN! (well almost ;))
Several time we used our passes for boarding on ferries.
Take one connection at a time. This can eliminate the pressure a lot of pressure, and give space for spontaneity, change plan in case needed or wanted. As said before, 98% of our connections worked out well and places were available. We like this last minute way but obviously they are some rules to be respected to give it a better chance to work!
This app is so accurate and will tell you if you need a reservation. It’s very useful and works very well in most countries we did. Although a lot of infos about bike carriage aren’t available and need to be complete by an actual research with local train companies. But once you understand how per country trains work for bike carriage it become so so useful for bike too.
For short distance train ride it is sometimes worth it to pay the cost of a ticket ride instead of using a day of the Pass.
Adventure is in everything a missed connection may be a door for an opportunity to do things differently. Let’s seize this push to be creative about a situation!
Don’t be afraid to do a race with the clock!
The situation in Europe when transporting the bicycle on trains will really vary from one country to another, or even from one train to another within the same country.
Some countries are super bike friendly and encourage people to bring their bike on the trains while others tempt to see us as troubles. But some trains are really ideal, the entrance for the bikes is at groundlevel, sometimes there are cars or spaces that are specially designed for bicycles without even having to remove the panniers.
Also to take in consideration that not all regional trains are slow! For example in UK some regional lines are equivalent to fast trains while in Spain, it can take up to 8 hours to do what a fast train does in about 2 hours.
In most European countries where we have bike & rail (France, Germany, Ireland, the UK, Spain) there is in principle never a need to book for regional trains, nor need to dismount and neither additional charges.
Some trains have special cars for bikes while others can really be a bit complicated.
Sometimes although we did not have to pay extra, we had to reserve the space as there are a certain number of places available. Reason why sometimes it’s also wise to get on at the start of the line.
To be flexible with the schedule is a plus, and with an Interrail Pass it has been perfect, just a bit slow in regional trains but completely doable. We had a 10 day pass over a month.
In our opinion, there is not much point on writing more details about train as it changes and evolves all the time. On the other hand we strongly recommend you to look at the websites of the local railway companies which are rather well listed on Interrail once again, where you will find the infos by countries.