Have you ever thought about taking your bike on holiday with you? A cycling holiday by ferry is a truly green way to travel, and it can also be an excellent way to save money as many ferries don’t charge foot passengers extra for taking a bike. Unlike planes, there is normally no need to dismantle your bike to box it up, or wonder whether it will arrive from the luggage hold in one piece.
Discover Ferries, the industry body for the ferry sector, has created a useful how to guide to take your bike on board Discover Ferries members’ ferries which serve London, Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, Scottish Islands, Ireland, Spain, France, Belgium and Holland.
Travelling with a bike attached to a vehicle
The majority of passengers taking ferry holidays with bikes simply strap them onto their cars, caravans, or motorhomes in racks or boxes. That means they can drive to any destination and cycle wherever they go on their holiday. The pricing of taking bikes on a vehicle is simple – passengers just need to include the additional height and length of the vehicle when making the ferry booking.
It’s worth remembering that rear mounted cycle racks can obscure rear lights and number plates so car owners may need a lighting board with number plate and electrical supply to ensure their car and bike racks are legally roadworthy.
How to take a bike on board a ferry as a foot passenger
It’s easy to take a bike on a ferry as a foot passenger and cycle off into the sunset from the port. Passengers travelling with bicycles generally check in at the same time as other foot passengers. They dismount from their bikes for safety reasons and push their bicycle up the same vehicle ramp as that used by cars. Stewards will be on board to instruct cyclists. Once onboard travellers will be shown where to park and secure their bicycle on the deck for the crossing. It may be attached to the floor, wall or a railing for the crossing.
Ferry company policies and charges
Brittany Ferries accepts bicycles for foot passengers for no additional charge on routes between Portsmouth and France (Caen, Saint Malo, Cherbourg and Le Harve), Portsmouth to Spain (Santander and Bilbao) Poole to Cherbourg and Plymouth to Roscoff in France, or Plymouth to Santander in Spain. They also have a useful video showing you the experience of putting a bike on board. Visit their website or call 0330 159 7000.
Caledonian MacBrayne accepts bicycles with foot passengers free of charge on its multiple routes to from Scotland’s West Coast to islands from Arran to North Uist. Passengers travelling to the terminal by train will need to check with www.scotrail.co.uk to check if they need to book their bikes onto the connecting train service. Visit their website for more information.
DFDS accepts bicycles as part of a car booking for no additional charge on its routes between Newcastle and Amsterdam, Dover Calais, Dover to Dunkirk and Newhaven to Dieppe. Its website is packed with useful cycling tips and cycling route advice. Visit their website for more information.
P&O Ferries accepts bicycles as part of a car booking for no additional charge on its routes between Dover and Calais, Hull to Rotterdam, Hull to Zeebrugge and Cairnryan in Scotland to Larne, Northern Ireland. A clever interactive adventure planner on its website gives ideas for cycling adventures and gives tips about travelling to watch professional cycling overseas. P&O Ferries doesn’t accept bicycles on its Liverpool to Dublin route. Visit their website or call 01304 44 88 88
Red Funnel accepts bicycles for no extra charge on its route from Southhampton to East and West Cowes. It’s worth noting that bikes cannot be carried on the Red Jet Hi-Speed service because of the design of the ship unless they are of the folding type and carried in a purpose designed bag. Visit their website or call 02380 248500
Stena Line accepts bicycles for no additional charge on its routes between Cainryan in Scotland and Belfast, Liverpool to Belfast, Holyhead to Dublin, Harwich to Hook of Holland and Fishguard to Rosslare. Visit their website for more information.
Wightlink allows foot passengers to take a bike free of charge on routes from Lymington to Yarmouth, and Portsmouth to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Its website site is also packed with tips about cycling on the island and cycle festival details. Visit their website for more information.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company allows foot passengers to take a bike free of charge. They operate regular ferry sailings to the Isle of Man from Heysham and Liverpool (Birkenhead during winter) and seasonal sailings from Belfast and Dublin. Visit their website for more information.
Isles of Scilly Steamship Group packs bikes into a luggage hold and therefore must be booked in advance due to the limited availability of space. Bicycles are £26 return (inc trailers) and children’s bikes and scooters (under 5) are £10. Visit their website for more information.
Bicycles are permitted on board all Irish Ferries crossings including Dublin – Holyhead, Rosslare to Pembroke and Rosslare to Cherbourg/ Roscoff. The price of travelling with a bicycle is £20/ €20 return. Visit their website or call 08717 300 400.
Cyclists can sail through the heart of London on the MBNA Thames Clippers ferry services, stopping off regularly and sightseeing by bike from each pier. MBNA Thames Clippers serve 22 piers across London, from Putney in the West to Woolwich in the East. Each ferry has space for up to 10 cycles on a first come, first-served basis at no extra charge. Visit their website for more information.
In addition to checking out the cycling sections of each ferry members’ website there is some great advice for cycling routes from cycling organisations such as Eurovelo – a European cycling network, or Sustrans for UK, Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland.
Cycling rules of the road
We advise checking out the rules of the road in any international country before you set off. Each ferry member has lots of advice, but tips for cycling in France include the fact that a bike must be equipped with a bell, cyclists can ride two abreast in daylight but it’s mandatory to ride single file at night. Cyclists travelling after dark in rural areas must also wear a high visibility waistcoat.
Similar laws apply in Belgium and Germany, but side and pedal reflectors must be fitted, as well as white front and red back lights for use after dusk or in times of low visibility. In Holland all bikes must have a round red reflector on the rear, yellow reflectors on the pedals and white or yellow reflective tyres. In Germany and Holland, flashing LED lights are illegal. It is not essential to wear a crash helmet in most European countries but it’s strongly advised to do so.