Putting your bike on a bus or train in Southeast Asia is easy.
It’s also a great way to get between highlights unless you have literally months to explore the region. Here’s a country-by-country summary of what you’re likely to encounter… with special thanks to GoingEast for the information on China.
- Cambodia – Expect to pay a fee and see your bike tied up with the chickens on smaller buses. On routes between main cities, there may be room underneath.
- China – Here bikes aren’t a problem at all. You will pay extra but the bikes will always travel with you. People who travel by bus in China don’t carry very much luggage, so there is usually lots of space.
- Laos – Your bike will almost certainly be strapped to the back or roof of the bus. A fee is payable, usually at the end of the journey and about 50% of the ticket price. There are some fast buses between major cities, although ‘fast’ is a relative term. The roads are still slow roads, no matter how few stops the bus makes. Expect lots of karaoke music videos.
- Malaysia – In this developed country, bikes will always encounter a fee and must always be reduced in size to make them fit in the small storage area. If the bus is too full you won’t get on so try not to travel in peak times. More about bikes on buses in Malaysia…
- Thailand – Be prepared to turn the handlebars and remove the wheels to make the bike fit in the luggage compartment. Bikes can incur a small charge, depending on the operator. Have some rags or packing material handy to protect the frame from scratches. More about bikes on buses in Thailand…
- Singapore – Buses don’t like to take your bike unless it’s in a box or a foldable one. Cycle out of the city or take the train.
- Cambodia – There is one trains her. Yes, one, and it goes once a week between Battambang and Phnom Penh. It’s so painfully slow that you’ll almost certainly want to get a bus instead.
- China – If you are taking an overnight train, you must bring your bike to the cargo company at least one day in advance if you expect it to arrive when you do! Train times in English for China
- Laos – There are no trains.
- Malaysia & Singapore – Like Thailand, there are trains and it’s no big drama to get your bike on them. Your bike will go in the cargo section for a small fee. Run by Keratapi Tanah Malayau
- Thailand – The bike can sometimes go in the 3rd class carriage, depending on the journey and how the full train is. For longer trips, your bike will have to go in the cargo wagon so check beforehand that the service you want to take has a cargo wagon. A small fee, about 90 Baht, is charged for the bike. Note: you are responsible for retrieving your bike from the cargo wagon when the train stops at a station and there’s not always a lot of time! Run by the State Railways of Thailand. More about Bikes on Trains in Thailand…
3rd March 2010 at 1:52 pm #
Remember that on buses and songtheao (pickup-truck mini-buses)it’s easy for your bike to get damaged. The drivers and their assistants usually don’t pay much attention to that sort of thing. Buses in Thailand put bikes in the underneath luggage compartment and there are no restraining straps, so it will get thrown whichever way the bus turns – and they go fast! My moto: Take buses as a last resort.
23rd September 2011 at 6:11 pm #
I managed to get my bike on a train in China without any notice. It was a D train too (the quick ones). I just turned up 45 minutes before the departure time at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway station.
The station isn’t built for bicycles, had to take my bike up a couple of escalators, unload it for the scanning machine, then reload it.
The enquiry desk girls were really nice, and the ones that organised the bike to go on, so it’s always worth speaking to them. And if one desk says ‘no’ try another desk as they often give different answers.
Before everyone else was allowed on the train, they took me down with my bike (more escalators). On a D class train there is virtually no where to put your bike apart from at the very front.
Behind the drivers compartment and the first chairs is a large enough gap that you can wedge your bike in. I turned my handlebars to make it easier, and took my front wheel off. You have to put the bike in vertically. Wedging it in probably wasn’t great for the bike, but it worked and I had no damage.
So if you do take a D train, ask for a seat near the front (carriage 1) and mention to them about putting your bike there if they say ‘no’. It’s only really feasible (unless you’re quick) if you’re going to the end of the line.
25th November 2012 at 8:34 am #
I just turned up with my bike for the overnight train from Xi’an to Chengdu spoke to the conductor of my carriage and he showed me where to put bike(in a compartment behind where he sat). Asked where I was going and even placed it on the platform when the train arrived in Chengdu.
12th August 2014 at 5:39 pm #
Maybe nice to add (08-2014): I’m currently in Japan traveling with a folding bicycle and over here a bike is note allowed on the bus (even if it is a folding bicycle in a bag). With the train it is possible to take your bike but it must be in a bag! If you have it in a bag it is no problem and you don’t have te pay extra. You can buy the bages in almost every bike shop in Japan.
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