Guide to taking a bike on a ferry
Guide to taking a bike on a ferry
When it comes to travelling with your bike, there are few methods more convenient than going by ferry. In most cases, it’s simply a case of rolling into the port, walking on board pushing your wheels and then heading to the passenger deck. It’s that simple.
Unlike arriving by plane, your cycling tour begins as soon as you disembark at your destination. You’re immersed right into your destination from the start – surely a major reason for anyone’s decision to travel. Many of my most memorable cycling adventures have begun and ended with a ferry, and the only thing I’ve ever needed to worry about is making sure I’m riding on the correct side of the road when I ride off.
Living on an island, the ability to take the sea lanes is a blessing as it really does open up our horizons for cycle travel without the hassle of boxing up a bike for flying or worrying whether there is sufficient space on the train.
Whether you’re planning a trip to the Western Isles or the Isle of Wight, or to our European maritime neighbours in Ireland, France, Spain and the Netherlands, all of these destinations are easily accessible with a bike and often affordably so too (fares start from £5).
With more than 80 routes from the UK and with multiple operators working the lines, Cycling UK has been working with Discover Ferries (the industry body that represents 13 ferry operators in the UK and British Isles) to produce a guide for the cycle-ferry traveller.
Together, we’ve come up with a handy breakdown of some of the operators and their destinations which you can download (accurate as of April 2022), as well as practical advice for travelling by ferry whether you’re just going with your cycle or are planning on attaching it to your vehicle.
There are numerous private operators, too, within the UK that provide crossings for rivers, lakes and lochs. These have not been included in this guide.
If on your travels you do have any thoughts (positive or negative) relating to the information we have provided, Cycling UK wants to hear about it – just pop any comments you might have in the box below (login required).
It’s easy to take a bike on a ferry as a foot passenger and cycle off into the sunset from the port, with one of the biggest benefits of cycling when taking the ferry being that often (but not always) you’re one of the first on and first off.
Passengers travelling with bicycles generally check in at the same time as other foot passengers. With car ferries, you’ll usually be directed to queue in a dedicated lane where you wait until told to cycle up to the ferry ramp.
Sometimes you may have to wait a while. It can be quite exposed, so you’ll want to make sure you have appropriate clothing to hand depending on the weather.
You will have to dismount from your bikes once you reach the vehicle ramp due to the risk of slipping on wet metal, and then push your bicycle up the same vehicle ramp as that used by cars. Stewards will be on board to instruct cyclists where to leave and secure your bicycle.
For foot ferries, you might have to access the vessel via a narrow gangway, so it’s worth thinking about removing your luggage and making two trips. Depending on the tide you might also find in certain ports you can have a steep ascent or descent to reach the gangway.
Once on board, travellers will be shown where to park and secure their cycle on the deck for the crossing. On car ferries your bike will be stowed on the car deck which is inaccessible once the ferry leaves, so make sure to stow anything that could be knocked off the bike – lights, bike computers and so on– and take any luggage you need.
On foot ferries, frequently your bike will also be inaccessible and occasionally exposed to the elements, so make sure all your luggage is securely fastened, saddles covered (especially leather ones) and components are packed away.
How your bike will be secured during your journey will depend on the operator. It can be to the floor, wall or a railing for the crossing.
There will usually be some rope to help fix your bike, which is your responsibility. It’s worth learning a couple of simple knots such as the Bowline or Reef knot to help with this. Bringing your own bungee or other means of securing your bike is recommended at all times, but particularly during peak times when there are more travellers.
For further information relating for some of ferry operators leaving the UK, see below.
Accepts bicycles with foot passenger bookings for a small additional fee on routes between Portsmouth and France (Caen, Saint Malo and Cherbourg), Portsmouth to Spain (Santander; £75 for cycle carriage), Poole to Cherbourg, and Plymouth to Roscoff in France, or Plymouth to Santander in Spain.
For the Portsmouth to Spain route, Cycling UK has heard some reports of people bagging their bikes and taking them on as luggage when booked as a foot passenger to avoid the £75 fee.
Visit www.brittany-ferries.co.uk or call 0330 159 7000.
Accepts bicycles free of charge with paying foot passengers on its multiple routes throughout Scotland’s West Coast and islands. Passengers travelling to the terminal by train will need to check with Scot Rail to find out if they need to book their bikes onto the connecting train service.
Visit www.calmac.co.uk for more information.
If you’re travelling as a foot passenger, there’s no charge for taking your bike. Space is limited, though, so you need to include the bike when you make your booking, by selecting ‘Bicycle – wheeled on’ in the Extras page. Alternatively call 0345 609 1024.
Visit Condor’s Travelling with your bicycle page for more information.
Accepts bicycles on its routes between Newcastle and Amsterdam, Dover to Calais, Dover to Dunkirk, and Newhaven to Dieppe. It also accepts foot passengers with bikes from £25 per person each way. The DFDS website is packed with useful cycling tips and cycling route advice.
Visit www.dfds.com/en-gb for more information.
Bicycles are carried free of charge to and from the Isle of Wight, and it is usually possible to carry up to four bicycles per hovercraft subject to freight and luggage. All bikes are secured in racks within the internal storage compartment of the craft.
Check if there is space for your bicycle(s) on the crossing you wish to travel on at the terminal before purchasing your ticket. There is no pre-booking and it is based on a first-come, first-served basis only.
For more information visit www.hovertravel.co.uk.
Accepts bicycles as part of a car booking for no additional charge on its routes between Dover and Calais, Hull to Rotterdam, and Cairnryan in Scotland to Larne, Northern Ireland. Foot passengers can also travel with a bike. P&O Ferries doesn’t accept foot passengers with bicycles on its Liverpool to Dublin route.
A clever interactive adventure planner on the company’s website gives ideas for cycling adventures and tips about travelling to watch professional cycling overseas.
Visit www.poferries.com or call 01304 44 88 88.
Accepts bicycles for no extra charge on its route from Southampton to East and West Cowes. Bike racks are available on Red Jet 6 and Red Jet 7 on a first-come, first-served basis. On other Red Jet services you can only take a fold-up cycle in a cycle bag.
Visit www.redfunnel.co.uk or call 02380 248 500.
Accepts bicycles and charges £10 per bike each way on its routes between Cairnryan in Scotland and Belfast, Liverpool to Belfast, Holyhead to Dublin, Fishguard to Rosslare, and Harwich to Hook of Holland.
Check each service to see whether you are allowed to cycle onto the landing deck or if your cycle is transported differently in a transport van. If your bike is transported in the van, consider protecting the frame as Cycling UK has received reports of users frames being scratched when left unsecure.
Visit www.stenaline.co.uk for more information.
Allows foot passengers to take a bike free of charge on routes from Lymington to Yarmouth, Portsmouth to Fishbourne, and Portsmouth to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. The website site is also packed with tips about cycling on the island and cycle festival details.
Visit www.wightlink.co.uk for more information.
Allows foot passengers to take a bike free of charge. The company operates regular ferry sailings to the Isle of Man from Heysham and Liverpool (Birkenhead during winter) and seasonal sailings from Belfast and Dublin.
Visit www.steam-packet.com for more information.
Packs bikes into a luggage hold and therefore must be booked in advance due to the limited availability of space. Bicycles are £28.84 return (including trailers) and children’s bikes and scooters (under 5) are £10.
Visit www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk for more information.
Bicycles are permitted on board the following crossings: Dublin to Holyhead, Rosslare to Pembroke, and Dublin to Cherbourg. Foot passengers can travel with a bike from £10/€10 each way.
Visit www.irishferries.com or call 03717 300 400.
Cyclists can sail through the heart of London on the ferry services, stopping off regularly and sightseeing by bike from each pier. Uber Boat by Thames Clippers serves 24 piers across London, from Putney in the west to Barking Riverside in the east. Each ferry has space for up to 14 cycles on a first-come, first-served basis at no extra charge.
Discover Ferries points out that the majority of passengers taking ferry holidays with bikes simply strap them onto their cars, caravans or motorhomes in racks or boxes. 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 their normal ferry booking for their car.
While the booking process is simple, it is 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.
If you’re thinking about travelling this way, and are not sure about what type of car rack you might need, Cycling UK has produced a guide for car racks to help you out.
For further information relating for some of ferry operators leaving the UK, see below.
Return crossings between Southampton and East Cowes start from £49 for a standard size car. Bikes attached to an overhead bike rack can be carried for £5 each way if between 2m -2.7m in height, or for £20.50 each way if over 2.7m in height. They are free of charge if under 2m or attached to the bike rack on the back of the car.
For booking visit www.redfunnel.co.uk or call 02380 248 500.
One-way crossings on Harwich to Hook of Holland start from £61.50 for a car and driver, with a bike rack attached at the back of the car. One-way crossings from Cairnryan to Larne start from £124, and from Holyhead to Dublin from £119, for a standard car with a bike rack attached to the back of the car.
For more information visit www.stenaline.co.uk or call 03447 707 070.
Crossings to the Isle of Man from Heysham and Liverpool and seasonal sailings from Belfast and Dublin start from £116 each way for a car with a bike rack attached and two people for a five-day short break.
Return crossings on its Portsmouth to Fishbourne route start from £57 for a standard size car. Car ferries also operate between Lymington and Yarmouth. Vehicles carrying bicycles will be charged an additional cost if the bicycles add additional height or length to your vehicle – see the Vehicle size guide for details.
To book crossings, head to www.wightlink.co.uk.
One-way fares on the Portsmouth to Caen route start from £89 for a standard size car (up to 5m long and 1.83m high) with rear-mounted bicycle rack.
To book, call 0330 159 7000 or visit www.brittanyferries.com.
Crossings on the Dover to France route start from £68 one way for a standard car with a bike rack attached. Newcastle to Amsterdam is from £48 per person one way with a car.
See www.dfds.com for more information.
One-way crossings on both UK to Ireland routes start from £119 for a standard size car and driver, with a bike rack attached. A one-way crossing from Dover to Calais starts from £64 for a standard size car, with a rear bike rack attached.
For more information call 03717 300 400 or visit www.irishferries.com.
For a standard size car with the bike rack attached to the back, fares on the Dover to Calais route start from £68 each way, on the Cairnryan to Larne route from £114 each way and on the Hull to Rotterdam route from £159 each way.
For more information, please visit www.poferries.com.
Return crossings on the Wemyss Bay (a short car or train journey from the centre of Glasgow) to Rothesay (Isle of Bute) route start from £37.50 for a standard size car, with a bike rack attached, and two adult passengers free of charge.
Call 0800 066 5000 or visit www.calmac.co.uk.