We bike to the train station in Hamar. The platform is crowded with people who apparently all have the same train as us bound for Oslo. A short train hobbles into the station as we scan the doors for the bicycle symbol. Two strollers and another cyclist enter the same door. We just manage to squeeze in, everything but comfortable. For the next two and a half hours, we will have to stand up and hold our bikes. We couldn't buy a bicycle ticket online and have to pay it in the train. The conductor checks our Interrail passes and doesn't ask about bike tickets. A stroke of luck because it saves us €20 per person.
The next leg is a lot more comfortable. We roll into the belly of the ferry that takes us from Oslo to Copenhagen. One of the employees sees us arriving and sets up a bike rack against the wall of the ship. We put our bikes in the rack, secure them with our lock and take our panniers to the seventh floor. The boat has a price tag, of course, but in return we get a nice room with a view of the sea, Wifi and a buffet breakfast. Perhaps the greatest luxury is that we arrive in Copenhagen the next morning rested. The alternative would be a train ride through Sweden, including a long transfer in the middle of the night and uncertainty about whether our bikes would be allowed on the train. At 10 a.m. we bike out of the boat, into Copenhagen with a full stomach.
A month later, we are back in Norway. We traveled by train and ferry through Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Below you will find all the information and our experiences about traveling by bike on the train and ferry.
We are traveling with an Interrail pass across Europe. Since we will be traveling for just over a month, we choose a two-month pass with fifteen travel days. This gives us enough flexibility to change our plans along the way. The pass costs €518, a decent price, but you're paying mostly for the tremendous flexibility.
The Interrail pass is especially convenient because of its simplicity. In one app we can plan, compile and change our entire trip. It is super easy to add or change itineraries, see the number of travel days used and plan different trips. The QR codes in the app serve as tickets for the train.
As nice bonuses, there are the map and statistics page that shows the number of miles and hours spent on the train.
For cycling, the Interrail pass does not yet have a solution. On the Interrail website there are a few links to pages of different train companies, but booking via the app is not possible. Therefore, it remains a puzzle to figure out which train requires a reservation and where to buy the bike ticket. Sometimes it has to be done through an app, sometimes through a website. In a few years this functionality will surely be available in the app, but right now it's a bit more hassle.
We only used 9 out of the 15 travel days of our Interrail pass. If we were to buy all the tickets ourselves from the different carriers in the different countries, we would arrive at almost the same price - €525 compared to €518. If we would have used more travel days, the pass would only have been more valuable.
The biggest advantage of the interrail ticket is its enormous flexibility. Even down to the train you can adjust a ticket and change the trip. This allowed us to cycle without stress and planning, which we ourselves found very pleasant. If you fix the entire trip in advance and can be totally inflexible, you can travel without an Interrail pass. It probably won't be cheaper.
Taking the bike on the train is always a bit of a challenge. It starts with finding the carriage where the bikes are allowed. Once we find it, we hope the step isn't too high to lift the packed bike inside. Once inside, it is always a surprise how much room there is for our bicycle. This varies greatly from country to country and from train to train. Because we have so much luggage with a fair amount of valuables, we don't like to leave our bikes alone on the train. Sometimes there are seats close by so we can keep an eye on them, but often we have to sit on an uncomfortable folding seat or on the floor next to the bike. Despite its drawbacks, the train remains one of the best ways to take the bike long distance. It is environmentally conscious, the bike does not have to be disassembled (except for certain countries) and we see the scenery along the way. We can enjoy traveling by train immensely and know that the bike is inconvenient for a while now, but it gives us tremendous freedom afterwards. It is totally worth it.
In the middle of Oslo city center, we cycle into the belly of the DFDS ferry. One of the employees takes a bike rack where we can park our bikes. We take our panniers and walk to the seventh floor. There we find our cabin, one with a sea view. From the window we can see Oslo's opera house, the fortress and all the little harbors. Zoë sprawls out on the bed, grabs the white sheets and smells the fresh scent of laundry. Like the train, we can greatly enjoy a night on the boat. The slow travel, obligatory moment of relaxation, is wonderful. And then this feels ten times more luxurious. No awkward transfers in the night and sleeping in a chair, but relaxing in a bed. Our cabin includes Wifi, a shower and a breakfast buffet. Anyone who travels by bicycle understands the luxury of these things. After many days on the road without internet, shower and breakfast of dry granola, this is pure enjoyment and an indulgence we have earned. The basic cabins in the ferry are without Wifi and breakfast, but still with a nice cabin and a quiet night on the boat. To avoid devouring the entire evening on the Wifi, we walk around the boat in the evening. There are bingo, live music, a disco and several restaurants. This must be pretty much life on a cruise ship. For us, very nice for a night, but not for a whole week.
The next morning we slide into the breakfast buffet. Gee, what a luxury and what a choice. We keep eating until we can almost roll back to our cabin. Today we can skip lunch :). Totally rested, we roll into Copenhagen. Surely that is a very nice feeling. We explore the city by bicycle, almost obligatory in a city that calls itself "the best cycling city in the world". It really is a cycling city, but we can argue about that "best".