Cycling abroad tips & advice

Andy Ross is a cycling vacation specialist at our partners Exodus Travels. He says: "Do as much training as possible beforehand, as the fitter you are the more you can relax during the trip and properly appreciate the experience and where you are cycling. That said, always avoid the temptation to be competitive on the trip; someone will always be the slowest rider and it really doesn’t matter if that is you. A good cycling vacation will have always been designed to allow enough time for most people to complete the rides each day."

Clothing tips

Melanie McAnaw, from our cycling vacation experts Headwater, says: "Cycling shorts are a must. You can get good padded under shorts now that fit under normal clothing and play down the nappy effect. Take comfortable clothing – you’re on a relaxed cycling vacation, not the Tour de France, so Lycra is not an essential! Pack lightweight waterproofs that can be pulled out if needed. For the keen cyclist, go for wider cycling sunglasses as they offer complete protection from ‘fly in the eye’. And we always tell guests to pack a cycle helmet. We can’t provide them as we can’t guarantee its history."
Andy Ross, at our cycling adventure specialists Exodus Travels, shares his packing tips: "Close fitting cycle clothing really isn’t culturally appropriate in quite a few destinations. It is the duty of a tour operator to ensure that clients are aware of this and to implement it on the ground. You may have paid a lot of money to visit, but you are only a visitor."
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Cycling or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Health & safety


If you or your children have any particular health needs, always tell your cycling guide. Make sure you stay hydrated. It is hard to get children to drink water sometimes, so if you are on a family cycling vacation, be wary of the fact that but they won’t realise how much they need it when cycling. Even if the sun isn’t shining. Consider hydration backpacks, style Camelbak, so that they have water on them at all times. Time to talk chafing. It’s a reality. Heat, fabric and vibration do not a happy marriage make. You will get friction and irritation on those bits you would rather not. So take precautions, especially if you are going on a cycling vacation that covers fairly decent distances. A hundred years ago when cyclists wore baggy woollen shorts, it was said that they would put a raw steak down there to prevent friction...and then enjoy it on the bbq at the end of the day. Today, thankfully, we have padded shorts and anti-chafing creams. Another secret is to go commando under the padded shorts, and let the cycling shorts do their magic, as they have no seams and are breathable. But you can never go wrong with a jar of Sudocrem tucked in the pannier. Ensure you have your bike carefully adjusted to your body. This is vital, to prevent injured knees or back. An adjustment of millimetres can make all the difference, prevent injury, enable you to cycle for longer and also reduce the risk of, yes, there it is again, chafing. On a cycle in remote, wilderness areas don’t drink from the rivers. Even if they are glacial and gorgeous, they can be a source of bacteria. You can boil the water, but do so for five minutes in elevated areas. You can also filter using purification tablets such Biox Aqua drops. Note iodine tablets are now illegal in the EU. Make sure you are up to date with routine vaccinations and if you are traveling far afield, visit your GP at least six weeks before travel to obtain any other vaccinations. The NHS website Fit for Travel gives detailed health information worldwide. Be wary of touching animals while cycling, especially dogs (and they are always attracted to cyclists) as rabies is still prevalent in many countries. Consult your doctor or travel clinic before remote cycling vacations. They may be able to prescribe antibiotics and antidiarrhoeal medication to take with you, as well as recommending other items such as antihistamines, rehydration salts and medication for altitude sickness, if you are taking on a hardcore cycling vacation, which you can take with you. And always have a basic first aid kit too. Even if it is cooling off, or indeed cold, in the mountains, the sun can still be very strong, so always wear (non-toxic, reef-safe) sunscreen. Although this is more common for hikers, cyclists do often rest in remote areas, so inform yourself in advance about any dangers from wildlife or insects such as ticks which carry Lyme disease. Make sure you carry tweezers so that you can remove them and be sure to inspect your bodies carefully at the end of the day. Always apply a deterrent (a natural one is best for children, such as lemon eucalyptus) and then suncream. Read this guide for top tick tips.


Check the rules of the road in destinations you are visiting, although hopefully you will be off-road for a lot of your cycling vacation. Listening to Spotify is a general no-no when cycling. There are different schools of thought on this, but all in all, it is better to be aware of your surroundings, especially when you are on unfamiliar territory. In many countries, wearing helmets is not compulsory, but we all know it makes sense. It is advisable to consider bringing your own with you, so that you can guarantee it hasn’t been damaged. Lights and high-visibility gear from dusk are a must. If you are cycling behind someone, keep a safe distance and if you are riding two abreast, the rule of thumb is to only do this during daylight hours. Drinking alcohol and cycling is not advisable, and in many countries the same rules apply to cyclists as vehicle drivers. So, cycle and drink responsibly. Be prepared with maps, compass, rain gear, pocketknife, matches and a whistle if you are going on a remote, self-guided cycling vacation. You can buy mini emergency kits that include them all, although if you are traveling with a vacation company, you will always have an emergency contact number. Remember to have it with you at all times. Write down the local emergency numbers before you set out, including mountain rescue, if relevant. And always tell someone where you are going. Make sure your mobile phone is charged too. Always check the weather forecast, especially if you are cycling in extreme climates where flash floods, hurricanes or lightning storms are a possibility. The World Meteorological Organisation is excellent. One of the most common causes for mountain rescue is hypothermia usually brought about by exhaustion and injury. Make sure you have enough food and water and the right layers if you are cycling in remote areas. Be wary of lightning storms and, if they do occur, get off your bike immediately and do not touch it. Get below the treeline and stay away from summits or isolated trees. Stay as low as you can. Although if there is a risk of flash flooding, you need to get to higher ground, which is confusing. But don’t be afraid to ask for shelter. Also, if you are cycling with a friend, don’t be tempted to huddle your way through the storm to keep warm, if you are stuck out in the open. Stay apart and stay low. Cycling in extreme heat can be dangerous and deaths do, tragically occur. In warm climates, cycle early in the morning and late in the afternoon, cover up and drink lots. Consider adding rehydration powders to your water. Many cycling companies don’t offer trips in the height of summer anyway, for health and safety reasons.

Vacation reviews from our travelers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our vacations with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful cycling travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
Well, be in good condition, have a bit of biking practice beforehand and go for some uphills. Otherwise you will struggle a bit. Bring a camera with a decent zoom. If you want luxury this is not for you!
– Roman Holderbach on our cycling vacation through Kenya and Tanzania
“We found that this trip suits adults and children alike because one has a choice between a longer (ca. 50km) or a shorter (ca. 30km) ride nearly every day. One can also choose not to bicycle and rather stay at the swimming pool instead two of the days.” – Kristin Rygg on our cycling vacation in Portugal

“Don't worry too much about stuff that could happen! It's all quite safe and very enjoyable, really. Take rain gear – booties and helmet cover, even, as they don't take up much space and will keep you comfortable if it showers… We took our own bike seats and were glad to have them. Maybe the seats on the bikes provided are good but we didn't take a chance on that.” – Beth on our Catalonia self guided cycling vacation

“It's not easy to draw money out, so I would take sterling/euros and change it at the airport in Havana. You need enough cycling gear to last you about a week. Once you get to Trinidad you can wash your clothes at the casa particulares that you stay in for a very small price.” – Jane Burton on our Cuba cycling vacation

“Padding, padding and padding.” – Olga Baranova on our Kerala and tropical India cycling vacation

“Don't hesitate. You will get an excellent combination of a varied and carefully considered bike route, decent bikes (all of the spare bikes were being used in a bike event in North India so, unusually, there wasn't a spare bike or wheel available which would have been helpful), faultless driver and bike support, and very good quality accommodation in a variety of luxury camps, homestays and hotels. The country is fascinating and takes in tea plantations, jungle, small villages and short stretches of busy towns.” – Stevan Johl on our cycling vacation in Kerala
Take Tomi's advice on where to stay and what to see. Talk to the local people, their history is so rich and fascinating.
– Laurie Crossman on our self-guided cycling tour in Croatia
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: eGuide Travel] [Topbox: JohnSeb Barber] [Melanie McAnaw quote: Paule Stevenson] [Health and safety: Alexander Savin] [Kenya: Make it Kenya] [Croatia: Andy Powell]