I’ve started writing this post many times, searching for the perfect response to your questions about whether you should plan a cycling trip to France this year. Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer, as I learned over the last few months.
After many starts…and stops, the best I can offer is some thoughts to help you make a decision that’s appropriate to your life situation.
As much as we’d like to forget about Covid, it hasn’t disappeared and the pandemic hasn’t ended. Despite the fact that it’s receded from front page news for many of us, it’s still lurking in the background. As a result, there will never be a perfect time to take a post-Covid cycling trip to France. Navigating travel after Covid may be challenging for some, and barely different for others, based on a wide variety of life factors. We each have our own risk tolerances that impact our personal decision-making for Covid, and non-Covid matters. If you had a low tolerance for risk before Covid, it may still be too soon for you to take an independent cycling adventure to France. For the rest of us, the question isn’t so much to go or not go as it is planning a trip with a safety net in case you need to respond to some kind of emergency while you are traveling.
Think you’re ready to head for France? Here are 3 suggestions to consider as you plan your cycling trip:
- Pick an established cycle route that has plentiful lodging options and local train stations with connections to Paris. The pandemic was hard on smaller B&B’s and family hotels as well as local bike rental and repair shops. Not all of these have reopened. More popular cycle routes will have more lodging options, rental and repair shops, and other support services. France Velo Tourisme is a great resource for information on the major cycle routes in France. You can also find information on the Accueil Velo lodging options and cycling service providers for each itinerary on the France Velo Tourisme website. If you need some ideas to get started, consider the Loire, especially from Orleans west to the Atlantic, cycling in Alsace, the ViaRhona, especially south of Lyon, the Velodyssey, especially from La Rochelle to Bordeaux, and the DD Beaches to Mont Saint Michel.
- Consider booking your cycling holiday with a local/regional French travel company that specializes in self-guided bike tours. Not only do these companies know the best lodging options along popular routes, they can supply quality bikes and be a local resource if you have some type of mechanical problem with the bike. If you choose this option, you also have a local, English speaking contact that can be helpful in case of an emergency. In most instances, these tour companies can also arrange for luggage transfer from one hotel to the next. Several of my favorites include: Detours in France, Le Velo Voyager, O2 Cycles, Detours de Loire and Aquitaine Bike. Aquitaine Bike, which is a top choice for the Dordogne region offers an interesting package which includes route information, directions and maps, high quality bike rental and accessories and luggage transfer for one set price. They provide customers with a list of lodging recommendations, you choose your price point and make your own reservations. I love this option because you can choose budget options some nights, and choose to splurge on other nights!
- Keep a list of emergency contacts on your phone and/or computer just in case you encounter any problems while you’re on your holiday. Bookmark the France Diplomacy website and make sure you review it before your trip. It will have the latest Covid guidelines for visitors to France. Bookmark and review the US State Department website. Register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to automatically receive alerts while you are traveling and to make it easier to locate you in an emergency. Make sure you have extra Euros on hand in case cash machines are inoperable. Last but not least, seriously consider purchasing an emergency health insurance policy before you leave on your trip. This would cover any expenses that might arise in connection with repatriation for medical reasons or emergency hospital treatment while you are gone.
In case you’re thinking that this sounds like a lot of work to do that may not even be needed. If that’s the case, lucky you. Being well-prepared for things that may come up when you’re cycling away from home is a sign of a smart post-Covid traveler. Good luck planning your next cycling adventure in France. Stay healthy and safe. Don’t forget to send me a note about your trip!