Embarking on a bike tour in a foreign country may seem daunting, but it’s an incredible way to discover new destinations. Cycling offers travelers a unique perspective, as it takes you away from major tourist hot spots and brings you up close to the natural landscapes, local communities and cultures of a destination. Plus, there are a variety of excellent private and group tour options for cycling trips all over the world.

To help you prepare for a foreign bike trip, we’ve assembled these helpful tips:

1. Talk to your travel agent
If you’re thinking about choosing a bike adventure for your next vacation, consult your travel agent about the best places to cycle based on your travel interests and skill level. A travel agent can help you choose the right destination and organize your travel arrangements, from booking flights to working with local tour operators to create the perfect customized itinerary for your cycling journey.

2. Choose the right destination for you
Be conscious of your cycling abilities and be kind to yourself! If it’s your first bike trip and you’re not a practiced rider, cycling the hilly landscape of the Cost Rica is probably not the best idea. You might be safer starting with Holland, whose flat landscapes are perfect for novice riders wanting to practice their touring skills. If you’re a seasoned cyclist looking for a challenge, you might be disappointed by Holland’s lack of hills. Talk to your travel agent about your cycling abilities and the kind of landscape you are looking for, and they will help you choose the right destination.

3. Choose the right bike
Most tour companies provide their own bikes, which is great because it means you can avoid packing your bike for plane travel and heaving it through the airport. If you have a special seat, many tour operators will allow you to bring it and will mount it on your bike when you’re being fitted.

Despite the fact that tour operators offer their own bikes, many travelers prefer to bring their own bikes. If you can’t part with your bike, make sure it is an appropriate bicycle for the terrain you will be riding. For instance, your road bike wouldn’t fare well cycling wild, mountainous terrain! Therefore, think wisely about whether your own bike is sufficient for the cycling journey.

4. Practice
If you haven’t been cycling regularly, make sure to start logging some km’s before you go away. Ask your travel agent the daily distance you will be riding and begin working your way up to cycling that distance comfortably. You can begin practicing by cycling to work rather than driving and taking longer rides on the weekends. Once you can comfortably cycle the average daily distance of your tour on similar terrain, you should be ready for your bike journey.

5. Pack the right gear
Tour companies will most often provide support vehicles for carrying your luggage, but you should still try to pack light and remember to pack essential gear not provided by the tour company. The last thing you want is to feel uncomfortable on the journey, so be sure to bring the right clothing. Invest in one or two pairs of good cycling shorts, a few cycling jerseys and a good pair of cycling shoes. Also, don’t forget a lightweight, breathable rain jacket in case you end up biking on rainy days. Be sure to check whether the clothing you purchase is appropriate for the climate you will be riding in. You don’t want to end up overheating because you bought a thermal bike jersey for cycling in a tropical country!

6. Have fun!
This is probably the most important point. Bicycle touring can be intense and difficult, but it should also be fun. Take a break every once in a while and take in your surroundings. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself beyond your comfort level. Be safe and enjoy the ride!