Elbe Travel - Getting There


Getting to the Elbe bike path, either with or without your own bike, is going to involve one or more of:
See the map showing the principal options.

Planes

Flying to the Elbe from outside Europe, there are a number of possible arrival airports:

If you are flying from within Europe then the options include flying to:

There are many sources of cheap flights but we have found that cheapflights.co.uk offers consistently low prices. 

If you are flying with your bike, check the airline's terms of carriage (many budget airlines disclaim liability for bicycles), Bikes on Planes and your travel insurance.  We don't recommend transporting an expensive bike by plane.  Also, choose a direct flight wherever possible, as the more your bike is handled, the greater the chance it will be damaged.  Advice on packing your bike for a flight is to be found in the Guide. 
 
Don't forget to book an airport car park in advance, it will be much cheaper than just turning up.   Purple Parking has better coverage than most, with car parks at over 20 UK airports.
  
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Trains

Unless you want to cycle from your arrival airport, the logical route is to take a train.  All the airports we have identified above have good, short railway links to the Elbe bike path.  However, you may have to start at Paris or Amsterdam in which case the minimum journey time by rail would be:

  • Amsterdam to Hamburg takes 5.5 hours and one change
  • Amsterdam to Magdeburg takes 6 hours and one change
  • Amsterdam to Prague takes 11 hours and one change
  • Paris to Hamburg takes 9 hours with 2 or 3 changes
  • Paris to Prague takes 14 hours with 5 or 6 changes.

The following should allow you to plan the journey:

  • The Man in Seat 61 gives by far the best, independent explanations of all things rail-related and we can only recommend that you check out his views on bike travel.
  • Travel with a bike inside the UK is relatively easy, as most trains will carry bikes as long as there is room (avoid commuting times and travelling in a large group of cyclists) and for free, but advance reservations are sometimes required.
  • For information, train times and ticket purchases, we find that trainline is better than most of the other commercial sites. 
  • Note that the London Underground (the Tube) does not take bikes, unless they are bagged and do not look like bikes.
  • Crossing the Channel by train means using Eurostar (St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Brussels, Lille, Paris or Calais).  Tickets can be ordered from trainline.
  • A core tool for research from St Pancras (London) to the continent is the German Railways site.  
  • Bikes are seldom allowed on TGV, Thalys or ICE unless they are in a bag.  ICs and below need bike tickets and sometimes bike reservations.
  • Tandems are tricky things to transport, they are just too long.  If you are tandem riders you will need to do more research on the transport possibilities or, more simply, hire a tandem when you get to the Elbe.
The map below shows the the route, key airports and ferries.

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Airports in yellow or greenElbe key points of travel

  1. London various
  2. Amsterdam
  3. Paris
  4. Hamburg
  5. Lubeck
  6. Hanover
  7. Dresden
  8. Berlin
  9. Prague
and 0. Frankfurt

Ferry ports in blue

See Ferries below.

Bike route in green

The green markers show the line of our Elbe bike route.

 

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Ferries

There are many ferry options from the UK and the Republic of Ireland.  However the drive from Rotterdam to Hamburg is a minimum of 5.5 hours without any stops.

    South Eastern England
    • Dover (E) to Calais (L) or Dunkerque (L) 
    • Newhaven (E) to Dieppe (L)
    • Harwich to the Hook of Holland (C)
    • Ramsgate (E) to Ostend (L)
  • Northern England
    • Hull (B)  to Zeebrugge (J) (overnight)
    • Hull (B) to Rotterdam (C) (overnight)
    • Newcastle (A)  to Amsterdam (C) (overnight)
    • All these make great starts to any holiday as the tedious car drive down through England is replaced by a night time ferry journey.  P&O make the Hull trip very enjoyable.

We like travelling by P&O and DFDS Seaways and booking direct often gives you a good price.  For other routes we have found Direct Ferries to be a reliable ferry booking agent. 

If you want to take your car in the tunnel under the Channel then use Eurotunnel.

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Driving

The rules vary by country and you should double check current requirements before setting off.  If you are a member of a motoring organisation, it should be able to provide up to date information, as should the national tourist board web sites, or see here.  At the time of writing, the most stringent requirements required for all of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are:
  • carry your passport, driving licence, vehicle registration documents and certificate of insurance
  • display a country of origin sticker (GB etc) on the back of the car
  • use mobile phones only with "hands free" kit
  • children should sit in the back
  • all passengers should wear seat belts
  • fit beam converters to the head lights of a right hand drive vehicle
  • carry a warning triangle and spare light bulbs.
Just so you are aware, the motorways in Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Germany are free to use while in France there are tolls.  It is mandatory in France (and spreading to other countries) to carry a reflective vest, fire extinguisher and first aid kit.
 
Fines are levied on the spot and must be paid in cash (Euros).

For further details, click here.

 

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