CycloCamping Forum

Author Topic: Low-budget Traveling / Bicycle Touring  (Read 5452 times)


  • Explorer
  • ******
  • Posts: 110
  • Cycle touring is a lifestyle
    • View Profile
    • The Cycling Dutchman
Low-budget Traveling / Bicycle Touring
« 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.

« Last Edit: May 05, 2010, 07:46:13 PM by Stephane »
Peter van Glabbeek

ojo loco

  • Couch Potato
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: Low-budget traveling
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2010, 07:19:48 AM »
great advice, found it quite helpful.. ive been on the road for 8 months now and am just really beginning to spend absolutely nothing.. motivated by the fact that i want to do this forever!!


  • Scout
  • *
  • Posts: 4
    • View Profile
Re: Low-budget traveling
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2010, 04:09:30 PM »
Great post dear Peter! Thank you very much.
I will also read the mentioned posts as soon as possible.

The longest trip that i did was for two weeks for 15 euro, which 10 euro for the bus to return home. I did not even cook for myself, i also had money but it was imposible to reject peoples offers to eat together... I was amazed by the fact that i could travel for much more long time periods with very few money. (at that time i wasn't aware of Heinz Stucke :))
Now i am about to start my first long trip in the summer(terrible for some) from Istanbul to India.

When i come back from my trip, i think you will be in Turkey with Petra. It would be great for me to if we could meet!


  • Administrator
  • Explorer
  • *****
  • Posts: 111
    • View Profile
    •, SAVE on the BEST Bicycle Touring Equipment and Camping Gear
Re: Low-budget traveling
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2010, 07:44:11 PM »
Peter, thank you again for your valuable information. It is a great topic to start and I hope members will come up with good tips to save money.

This is what I would like to add:

1) Bargain: This is a fun way to save money and it is even expected in some parts of the world (ie. in North Africa, if you don't bargain, you're not a man!).

Here are some tips for efficient bargaining:

Know your price: In order to bargain, you need to know what price a local would pay for whatever you're buying, and this takes time. When you first arrive in a country economically different from your own, you will often pay a higher price than you should. Traveling by bicycle is great in the sense that it allows you to live and shop in between touristic areas where there is no dual pricing (prices for locals and prices for tourists) or at least the difference is reasonable. After some time, you get to know what a fair price is for a room, a meal, groceries, etc. Then you're armed to bargain. When you know what the locals pay for a certain item, you will be confident when you bargain and are more likely to get a fair price with a smile.  

Your best weapon is to leave: The last and best weapon you should use when the person refuses to give you a fair price is to leave. This works 90% of the time; if the owner or manager can lower the price, he will run after you and agree to the price you ask for.  If he doesn't, it is likely that either you are asking for too low a price or that he has too much pride, in which case you can still shop around to see if you can get the price you want, knowing that you can always come back to the original seller.

The "1/4 rule": If you don't know the price, like when you buy a souvenir in a touristic market, the rule of thumb is to divide the asked for price by 3, 4, or 5, depending on where you are (in Egypt, Tunisia, and India, for example, you can start by 5!).  Watch for the reaction of the salesman and adjust your price accordingly. When you're up to a third of the price, leave and see. If the salesman runs after you and continues to bargain, stay firm on your price; if he ran after you, it means that he will give you your last price.

Quantity discount: If you are planning to buy more than one item, stay more than one night, etc., a good way to get a discount is to first ask the price for 1 item (or 1 night, etc.) and then to ask what discount you would get if you buy more than one item, stay X nights, etc. In other words, if you're planning to buy a larger quantity, always ask first for the price of 1 unit. Then play your “quantity discount" card.

Discount for paying in cash: You can often get a discount if you pay with cash.  This is especially true for products that tourists typically pay by credit card.  A good example is paying cash for a Turkish carpet in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (I know it's very cliché).

Bargain before consuming: NEVER bargain after consuming (bar and restaurant). Many countries don't have a menu with a set price. Always agree on a price before consuming. Not only will you not be able to bargain after consuming, but it is much more likely that you will be ripped-off (very important rule for India!).

Bargain at home: Technically, you can bargain almost everywhere.  Bargaining is not only for developing countries (don't try at the cash register at Walmart, though!). The two techniques that work in Western countries are the "quantity discount" and the "discount for cash." You would be surprised by who can give you discounts. But if you don't ask, you don't get. Motels are a good place to bargain back home or any business surrounded by a lot of competition.

2) Hitch-Hike: Peter mentioned that some people try to avoid boring parts of their trip by taking buses. I agree with him - it might be boring scenery-wise, but you will most likely encounter some nice surprises. However, sometimes you don't have a choice. Your visa might be running out, you might be sick, your bike might need to be fixed, whatever the reason, you might have to take transportation. Then save money by hitch-hiking. No need to take the bus. Yes, you can hitch-hike with a bicycle. I hitch-hiked with 2 persons, 2 bicycles, 8 panniers, 2 dry bags and 2 handlebar bags and was always picked-up.

Basic hitch-hiking rule: Hitch-hike where cars can pull over without obstructing traffic (large shoulders are ideal). When a driver is already going 30, 40, 50 miles an hour, there is very little chance he will stop. So, hitch-hike where cars are stopped so the driver can see you and think about taking you; the best is right after a stoplight. Don't smoke while you hitch-hike. Try to wear your cleanest clothing so you don't look like a bum.

Give the impression that you don't have tons of stuff. Don't spread out all your panniers, their contents, your lunch, and your clothing all over the shoulder of the road! Pile everything up nicely behind your bike so visually it will look like you don't have too much luggage with you.

No Smart Car: No need to raise your thumb for compact cars. Depending on the country, truckers will take you (very easy in Turkey, not so much in Western countries because of the liability issue). Pick-up trucks are great in the USA for hitch-hiking. In Turkey, an old guy in a brand new Mercedes picked up my wife and myself, 2 bicycles, and all 14 of our bags. We had to tie the bicycles to the top of the car!! The guy didn't even care!  I was the one feeling bad for the roof of the brand-new car, so I spread out a blanket to protect the nice ride!

3) Get sponsored: This could be an entirely new article, but if you are planning to do an interesting trip with some kind of novelty and are willing to write about it, offer pictures, and be creative about it, all through a decent website (and, even better, through the media), some companies might be interested in sponsoring you. It is almost impossible to get cash, but you may be able to get gear from some big brands. It is not easy and requires a lot of work (you need to prepare some kind of dossier to present your project), but it might be worth it if you are a little short in your budget to buy your bicycle-touring and camping equipment. It is getting harder and harder to get sponsors because more and more people are doing long bicycle trips, but on the other end, a lot of companies need Internet publicity and links to their products to fight the competition, so you might find some companies that are interested.

4) Don't buy water bottles: You might think water bottles are cheap, but if you travel for a long time, they surely add up. In most Western countries, you can drink water from the sink (supermarket, McDonalds, etc.). In Europe, a good place to get water is in cemeteries. You can even knock on someone’s front door.  People will not refuse to refill your water bottle, and often enough, you may get more than water (a cup of tea, perhaps an invitation for dinner, to stay overnight, or even a new friend).  In developing countries, where it is not recommended to drink water from the sink, a great way to save money is to use a water filter.

5) Buy cheap airline tickets: Unfortunately, the time when you can hop on a boat and work on a ship in exchange for a ride across the ocean is over. There are still some ways to go by boat, but it is much more complicated and usually more expensive (see this post: Crossing Oceans by Boat). So the cheapest way to go is by airplane.

Here is my advice on how to buy a cheap airplane ticket. For flights to and from Britain, try and - they have ridiculously cheap prices. My all-time favorite is (students get especially good prices, but regular-fare tickets are still good deals). But you'll need to get a quote using these three ways: Go to the local office if there is one (they have offices all around the world). Then call the 800# and a few local offices in the country where you are. You will most likely get different quotes every time (agents don't have the same techniques or willingness to get discounted pricing). Check online: allows you to try hundreds of airlines and travel agencies at once. Also, try . Lastly, shop around in local travel agencies - try as many as you can, as the price can vary greatly from one to another (these are usually more expensive, but depending where you are you might be able to get a great deal).

6) Cook your own (but local) food: Unless food in a restaurant is very cheap (like in India or Southeast Asia), cooking your own food will save you a lot of money. To really save money, you'll need to buy (and sometimes experience) local food. What locals eat is usually the most affordable. Go to the market and try new things; you will often be nicely surprised. Of course, you will need camping cookware and a stove. Cooking your own meal by your tent under the stars or in front of a sunset is a real treat.

7) Buy reliable gear: This is going to be costly at first, but in the end you will save a lot of money. Reliable and good-quality bicycle components, camping gear, and clothing will stand up to your hardest riding days (Schwalbe, MSR, Brooks, Gore Bike Wear, Primus, Terra Nova, etc.), so you won't have to spend money to fix or replace things over and over again.

« Last Edit: May 07, 2010, 06:27:35 PM by Stephane »
"Trust in Your Gear is Peace of Mind"

Save on Bicycle Touring Gear and Camping Equipment


  • Explorer
  • ******
  • Posts: 110
  • Cycle touring is a lifestyle
    • View Profile
    • The Cycling Dutchman
Re: Low-budget Traveling / Bicycle Touring
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2010, 04:36:57 AM »
Thanx for the great additions to my post.
I have been in the UK (infamous for being expensive) now for over 5 weeks. I have spent only 100 pounds.
Wonderful way of life!
Peter van Glabbeek