Cycling through Europe on a budget

It’s the elephant in the room and the question we’re most often asked, so we figured it deserved a short blog post after 9 weeks of experience on the road. We’ll do longer posts about budgets and keeping costs down in the future, probably once our small savings run dry and we have had to put some of our survival plans into action (more to come on this in the future!).

If you’re serious about cycle-touring as a lifestyle, as something you could imagine doing for many years without returning to where you started, then unless you’re fortunate enough to have large savings, you’re going to have to think about what you need, and what you can do without.

The main things you will need are a tent and portable camping stove. These are the best ways to keep spending down; restaurants and hostels will bleed you dry, while supermarket shopping, wild-camping and asking for freebies where possible will keep your spending to a minimum.

Cooking your lunches and dinners will save you a FORTUNE
Cooking your lunches and dinners will save you a FORTUNE

Wild-camping

Usually understood as camping somewhere not designated a ‘campsite’, the laws on wild-camping vary from country to country, but in our (and many other tourers’) experience, as long as you are quiet, discreet and gone by the morning, you will have no issues at all.

Wild-camping is often a peaceful way to end a long day of cycling
Wild-camping is often a peaceful way to end a long day of cycling

Our big alternative and top tip for finding somewhere to stay is simply to ask people in their gardens if they have room for you and your tent for the night. Some common sense is to be exercised here: if you are unable to speak the local language, make sure you have a basic translation of what you require on paper or a smartphone, otherwise you will have zero chance of success. Success will also vary; in one place we asked at 8 different homes before giving up and wild-camping in an overflow car-park.

gift pack
These gifts came to us in France when camping on land belonging to a rehab centre for drug and alcohol abuse

‘Freeloading’

As most of us know, many businesses throw away huge amounts of perfectly good food, so it’s not as strange as it may seem to simply walk into a fruit and veg store, explain your choice of lifestyle as a bike-tourer and ask if they have anything they would otherwise throw out. We have received many bags of fruit and avoided trips to supermarkets by doing this, and it doesn’t clash with our morals in the first-world countries of Europe. It’s something we probably won’t do in countries where food isn’t binned for being a day past its best.

grapes
Chris was very pleased with these free grapes from a fruit and vegetable store in France

Spend per day

The above strategies considered, the burning question is how much we have actually spent to date on our trip. The answer is actually less than we imagined it would come to: ~5 Euros per day for the both of us. This figure makes up our usual day-to-day outgoings, including some bike maintenance and a couple of replacement parts (chainrings and chain).

If you still need any tips for keeping costs down, there are fantastic guides out there on the internet and we will certainly write more about this in the future.

5 thoughts on “Cycling through Europe on a budget

  1. 2.50 euro’s a day each is certainly very cheap! Wishing you all the best on your bicycle tour, with a word of advice from having undertaken a few long distance bicycle tours on a budget – Don’t sacrifice your health or your enjoyment to save a few euros 🙂
    Happy tailwinds 🙂

    1. Many thanks for the encouragement Dave! We try to eat as healthy as possible given the budget constraints, and the occasional Warmshowers stay fills in the vitamin gaps ?

    2. Many thanks for the encouragement Dave! What we eat is so important, so we do try to eat well, but of course simply and cheaply at the same time. The odd Warmshowers stay more than makes up for any vitamin deficiencies anyway!

  2. Many thanks for your amazing blog…
    Wish i could join you and learn from you… If i can spend my life time this way… Awesome article filled with brief knowledge and tips to do trips on bicycle.

    1. Many thanks to you for reading our blog Vinit, so glad that you found it useful. Hope also that you’ll be able to find a way to live life this way if that’s what you want. Good luck!

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