« on: April 16, 2010, 12:54:03 PM »
We all know from examples that traveling can be expensive as you want it to be. People have traveled around the world with budgets ranging from 0 to 20,000 a year. Spending more money, usually means more comfort. I will start a thread here to share tips and tricks to travel cheap, but still with some comfort. The most important for me is to stay healthy.
Accommodation: You can probably make the biggest difference in your budget with accommodation. Especially in western countries even the cheapest hostels will cost you at least 20 Euro a night. But it is easy to avoid paying for a place to sleep at all. I prefer a combination of Couchsurfing and Warmshowers to meet people, wild camping to have quiet nights in nature, being invited by complete strangers for the spontaneity and surprise of it and finding other crazy places to put down my matt. I already wrote a post about stealth camping and alternative places to sleep, so will not write about that here. Couchsurfing and Warmshowers have given me some of the best experiences in my traveling life, both surfing and hosting. It is an excellent way to meet locals, get involved in local activities and to make new friends. The Warmshowers list consists only of cyclists and will get you close to cycling clubs, group rides and other cycling related activities. In the couchsurfing community you will find interesting and open-minded people of all ages. In some countries or areas (for example Iran, Colombia, parts of Peru, US) you will not need to camp wild or use the internet to find a place, you will be invited almost every day. The only thing you need is flexibility, don't have anything arranged for the night.
Transportation: When on a bike tour, you usually cycle of course, and cycling is free. But many people still use transport to skip 'boring' parts. I would suggest anyone to cycle everything. The best surprises always occur where you least expect them. Also it is good to have some long 'boring' roads between the highlights. Time to think, to reflect is important for the quality of your trip.
Also consider to cycle loops out of your own house. A long flight might take up more than half of your budget, it is bad for the same environment that you are going to enjoy on your trip and cycling close to your home might offer more than you expect and somehow feels really pure.
If you really need transport for a stretch, think about hitchhiking. It is a lot of fun, you meet the strangest people and of course it is free.
Food: When you are not spending money on transport and accommodation, most of your money will go to food. First of all: don't eat in restaurants, unless you are in a country where it is extremely cheap, like in Asia. Take a stove (see the great post by Stephane on choosing a stove) and cook your own meal in front of your tent. Or even better (and cheaper) on a fire. It is fun to gather food on a market, bargain down on the prices and experiment with new recipes. In harvest season you can easily eat for free. You will find food almost everywhere. It feels so good to pick fruit from trees, gather berries and nuts. You will find left overs from harvesting machines: potatoes, unions, corn, tomatoes, carrots, etc. Also you can pick up old bread in bakeries, ask for old fruit and vegies in shops and markets. Or check a bin or two behind a supermarket.
Another important choice is what you drink. I think a bike tour is your best chance to stop drinking alcohol, coffee and tea and all kinds of sugar-containing soft drinks. In the beginning water will seem boring, but soon you will start to feel healthier than ever. It takes some more time to get rid of your caffeine and sugar addictions, but at some point you will start to enjoy drinking water, even when it is lukewarm. Just ask tap water in a house or shop and take a water filter or tablets for your river water. Of course the most beautiful thing in the world is to drink straight out of a clear cold mountain stream, where this is still possible.
Other expenses: In general I am a big fan of repairing everything yourself as much as possible. Your bike, your tent, your clothes, with a sewing kit and some duct tape you can fix almost everything. It will give you a lot of confidence when you learn to fix everything yourself. Also you take a step away from our consuming society by not throwing away something that can still be fixed, this fits very well in a cycling trip. Also keep an eye open when on the road for useful stuff. It is incredible what you will find, even lots of money.
This are just some of my thoughts and strategies on low budget traveling. Like this I travel with about 1000 Euro per year around the world, still staying extremely healthy and having a lot of fun, not suffering for lack of comfort. I have seen that a lot cheaper is still possible. Once I traveled in France for one month on 5 Euro, 2 weeks in the US on 0 dollar and a week in France and Belgium on 0 Euro. I still hope to learn more about cheap traveling, it makes bike touring possible for almost everyone.
Looking forward to reactions.