BICYCLE TOURING ON A BUDGET

During our trips we always try to survive on the smallest budget possible. It is certainly not the easiest way of travelling and at times requires a lot of work and patience, but it is surely doable. Here are some tips we have for those who want to see the world, but money doubts stops them from undertaking this major step.

1. Find free accommodation

First and foremost, the easiest way to save some buck on lodging is sleeping in a tent. It is obviously connected to some inconveniences, especially while bicycle touring. As you probably won’t carry the most spacious tent- comfort doesn’t really come with a lightweight- you should have at least a good mat! You simply can’t sleep well and expect a pleasant ride the next day. Camping works on a short term journey, but once in a while one needs a proper rest. There are also other drawbacks. First of all- shower. There is no way you are going to attain this luxury which is kind of a crucial after a day of sport activity. Luckily this problem can be solved- what you need is a river or a nice person with a hose in their garden. It will be probably cold, freezing cold even, but you will survive and feel much better afterwards. The same rule applies to doing laundry- better to wash your clothes without soap than not at all. Not perfect but entirely free of charge.
Second and a by far more interesting solution is using Internet platforms for travellers such as couchsurfing.com, bewelcome.org, trustroots.org or hospitalityclub.org. To all bicycle lovers we recommend warmshowers.org which is entirely devoted to the bike-touring community. Using this websites you not only meet new people but also get familiar with their culture and surely get some insider tips about travelling their country. The additional advantage of Warmshowers is a total understanding between you and your host. There is a high chance that they have been through similar situations or are at least familiar with whatever you are struggling with at the moment. They know you need to shower first, don’t want to necessarily party till dawn, and surely understand that your bike is your most important possession.
There are also less popular ways to find a free accommodation and we recommend to use them only in case of emergency. If you are in trouble, don’t have anywhere to go or mother nature is not merciful and sends you some storm, hail or heavy snow- go and ask for help! It is always good to look for a priest or imam and hope for the interference of his boss. However, if the trees are already falling down or you are soaking wet and the temperature is dropping- skip this part and simply ask ANYONE. There is surely some space for you in somebody’s garage, stable or winter garden. If you are lucky enough and have a trustworthy face, you may even get yourself a night in an actual house.

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Garden camping in Belgium
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Camping at the farmers’ garden, right next to their home in Kosovo.
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Couchsurfing with a beautiful Berber family in Morocco.
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Ben’s 29th birthday: While traveling through Iceland, we didn’t have a place to stay so we asked a local priest for help. He then let us stay in the church which was connected to a little appartement.
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Couchsurfing in Morocco.

2.  Move around as cheap as possible

This problem, obviously doesn’t concern cyclists. We get to places only thanks to our manpower and it takes us only a few more weeks than to those depending on an engine. But what’s with far, over sea destinations? What’s with emergencies when- god forbid!- your bike is broken?
You can find some cheap flights offered by Easy Jet, Wizzair, Ryanair as well as any other low cost airline. Or take a look at websites, where smart people, using their fine computers to fish out the current best flight deals, mainly done by manual typing mistakes and post them real quick. One of them is secretflying.com where you can find some real pearls!
The most known and old-as-the-world-itself option is hitchhiking. We’ve done it for years, once even with a bike. So put out this thumb and go for it, when absolutely necessary.
Another option is finding a job on a cruiser, cargo ship or sail boat which is far more difficult because there are many people who also like that idea and pimp up their CVs right now. Nevertheless it is worth to give it a try. Also here you can find plenty of websites which help you along the way. There is also a high possibility that the only way to get a ride is to spend countless hours or (more likely) days in a harbour to catch a ride.

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Trekking through Cape Verde
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Hitchhiking in Western Sahara, Morocco.

3. Spend at the beginning and save up later

This may sound rather discouraging for people who want to hit the road immediately without spending much time for preparation, but we really recommend you to invest some money in good quality equipment while bike touring. This is the easiest way to save some serious inconveniences on the way. The better gear you have the better the chance that it will last longer without failing. The perfect examples are our Schwalbe tires which survived almost 14000 km kilometres. The Rohloff speedhub is the non plus ultra for bicycle touring. Now that’s the investment we’re talking about!

4. Go freegan!

While travelling by bike or on foot there is a high chance you will find some wild fruit trees, berries or even gardens of people who wouldn’t mind if you pick up few apples from the ground. These are your feast points! Countless times we stopped in Croatia to eat cherries or in Spain to enjoy our favourite figs. In Great Britain berries saved our skin many times when our sugar levels dropped significantly. Keep your eyes open!

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cherries

5. Know your gear

The more you know about your equipment the more money you can save. Being able to fix the bike, equipment or electronics you can skip seeking others’ help and get it done by yourself free of costs. We’ve spent a lot of time in Vertical Ride Shop learning about how to fix our tandem in case of a breakdown.

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Ben and Gerorg in Vertical Ride shop in Kandel
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Preparing for the next adventure

6. Prepare your food by yourself as often as you can

It’s no news that cooking your own meal keeps your wallet in good shape. Especially if you are bike touring that is very important. One restaurant meal rarely makes you full after 10 hours of bicycle riding and surely can’t provide you all calories you need in form of precious complex carbohydrates, preferably Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats and a protein source.

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Marta, as fried as the pancace (sunburn), preparing breakfast in Bolzano.

7. Talk to locals

They live on site and know the best spots. Listen to the locals as subsequently there is a high chance you can avoid placing yourself in some terrible tourist trap. Instead of that visit unknown beautiful (free of charge!) spots. Thanks to local people once we participated in some great Krishna feast and got a huge Indian meal.

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In Bosnia: After a short chit-chat with the locals we got invited for a delicious meal and had a wonderful evening talking and laughing together.

8. Don’t buy bottled water

At least in most of the places! Especially in Europe there is no need to avoid tap water if the locals are drinking it! If you run out of water while cycling don’t sprint to the closest shop but rather ask someone around to fill up your bottles.

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Marta pumping up well water in Belarus.

9. Don’t be shy, be approachable

The key to not spend all of your money in time of trouble, is to be bold. Instead of looking for a hostel when forced to sleep indoors, first ask help of others. Smile, look neatly and be polite- make yourself approachable and people will find you trustworthy and, with a little bit of luck, help you solve your problem. If you like setting off for a bike journey, leave your shyness at home.

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