The Cost Of Bike Touring: Britain & Europe

How much will an independent bike tour cost? 

Britain and Europe are relatively expensive places to tour but even so, it’s possible to get by on a relatively tight budget if you’re willing to camp and cook all your own food. Around €15 euros per person, per day would be a rock-bottom budget (maybe a bit less in southern or eastern Europe, where prices are broadly cheaper). If you want to enjoy the cafés and see a few attractions, plan on spending double that.

Scroll down to see who we talked to and what they said.

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The Cyclist & The Trip: Hans van der Veeke lives in the Netherlands and has bike toured in Finland (2009), Italy  (2010) and Ireland (2011).

Hans van der Veeke

We do not have a budget but we like to travel as cheaply as possible. We also do enjoy some luxuries. For example, I ‘need’ my shower after a day of cycling. Whenever possible we do the cooking ourselves but sometimes I like a ‘decent’ meal consisting of a piece of well prepared meat or fish.

The Cost: Anywhere from €15-30 per person, per day.

Finland – “The campsites were on average € 17 for two people. We usually prepared our meals with groceries bought before arriving on the campsite. This was on average €10 so our total was around €30 for two people, per day. In Finland it is very easy to camp cheaply because you are allowed to camp (almost) anywhere. The ‘uumarantas’ (swimming places) are perfect spots. There is usually a toilet and potable water there. Also many villages have an ‘all you can eat’ restaurant. For €10-15 you can get a hot meal and a filled belly. We did not always like the food.”

Italy – “In 2010 we cycled from Italy to our home in the north of Holland. Camping prices can be found here. We cooked our own meals but everything was a bit more expensive so we averaged €40 a day for two people. The problem was that it was warmer and that the availability of terraces in the sun that serve beer were plenty. Do the math :)”

Ireland – “Ireland was quite expensive, around €60 each day for the two of us. Due to the bad weather and absence of campsites we had to find other places to sleep. Whenever possible we took a hostel. This was usually between €40-50 for a private room. B&Bs were expensive (€60-70) and campsites averaged €22. One thing we found out is that every village has a take-away Chinese restaurant. For €10 we got a meal which was sufficient for us. The cost of our accomodation can be found here.”

Tips: “My tip for cutting costs is preparing the coffee, tea and soup along the way using a portable stove. I use the JetBoil which will make two cups of hot drink in two minutes in the most scenic places. The cost of that is only  €0.25 compared to €5 when ordering coffee at a restaurant.”

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The Cyclist & The Trip: Graeme Wilgress. Cycled 4,000 miles around the UK coast in 2011.

Graeme Wilgress

The Cost: Around $30-50 U.S. a day (£20-30). “This was a medium-budget trip. I wild camped a few times but found myself drawn to campgrounds for the company that I knew I’d find and because I could shower, clean and dry my clothes. This is important in a predominantly damp climate like the UK. I also allowed myself ‘treats’ in the form of meals out with a beer sometimes, usually when I was resting or after a really tough or significant day. The rest of the time I cooked my own food from ingredients.”

Biggest Expense – “Food accounted for around half of my budget. Meals out weren’t more expensive than cooking when you take into account the additional cost of the gas I was using (£4-5 per cylinder) but add in a couple of drinks and it’s way more expensive. I should have taken my petrol stove! Since it was rarely warm enough to sit outside, cold food didn’t work well for me. I ate lots of rice and pasta but the cost was down to volume of food needed rather than expensive ingredients. I could have saved lots by not going in cafés and eating processed meals. It wouldn’t have helped my moral though, which is why I allowed myself quality food and coffee. Food was my daily reward, so if I wanted a steak I’d cook one!”

Tips: “Drinking tea will save around 50% of the cost of coffee. You get several cups and most cafes will fill the pot again if you wish. In Yorkshire they give you about 2 litres anyway!”

***

The Cyclist & The Trip: Friedel & Andrew. Live in the Netherlands, and have done numerous short trips there in 2011. Cycled in Spain and Denmark in 2010 / 2011. “Our style of travel varies between low and medium budget. We love to wild camp and cook our own food but don’t hesitate to take a hotel room or enjoy a meal out if we feel like it.”

Cycling just outside of Marmelojo

The Cost: About $40-50 U.S. a day, on average as a couple. “This can go as high as $130-150 U.S. a day if we take a simple hotel but on average the cost is far lower. When we’re cycling around the Netherlands, we try to make use of wild camping sites (free) or simple campgrounds where the cost is around $15 U.S. (€10-12 euros) a night. Our favourite treat is a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie, which costs about $5 U.S. per person. The further south you go in Europe, the cheaper prices become. In Spain, for example, eating out is around half the cost of the Netherlands and you can easily find a simple hotel room for around $50-60 U.S. but in the Netherlands you’re looking at closer to $100 U.S. for a double room.”

Tips: “Bring a stove and be prepared to wild camp where possible. There are many beautiful forests and rural places where you can pitch your tent. These two things will lower your costs significantly and free up cash to see some of the museums and historic sites that Europe is famous for.”

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The Cyclist & The Trip: Lars Erik Sira. Lives in Norway and has done several bike tours there.

Lars cycling in Norway

The Cost: Around €30 a day for a one-month trip in 2011 (spent roughly €1000 for the month), on a low to medium budget.  “I like sleeping in a tent and making my own food, although a soft bed and restaurant food is occasionally very nice. For this tip, about half of the cost was food, including 10-12 meals at restaurants. I camped for two out of every three nights and spent the rest in hotels, cabins and at homes of local people (Couchsurfing). The costs of overnight stays summed up to a little less than €400. ”

“Most foreigners will regard Norway as a high cost country. Dinner in the cheapest restuarants starts at €12-15 and an aditional €7-10 for a beer or a glas og wine, pitching a tent at a camp site is from €12 and upwards and it’s hard to find a cabin for less than €30. A cup of coffee is €2-5.”

Tips: “It is possible to cycle in Norway without spending a fortune. You are allowed to put up your tent nearly everywhere, according to the Outdoor Recreation Act. And if you mainly cook your own food on a stove you’ll get by with buying groceries. Fishing opportunities are by the way excellent along the coast, and free!”

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Can You Help?
Keeping these sections up-to-date and adding new sections relies on the community. That’s you!

If you’ve recently been on tour and can tell us about your daily budget, please Get In Touch and share your answers to these 3 basic questions:

1. What did you spend per person, per day on average? This is for daily expenses like food, hotels, public transport within a country but not exceptional extras like bike repair, flights to/from the country.

2. Can you briefly describe your style of travel? Are you ultra low budget (e.g. a devoted wild camper, cook all your own food) or more medium budget (e.g. will occasionally splash out on a hotel, meal in restaurant)?

3. Any tips you want to share related to costs in this region? Was something particularly cheap or expensive? How would you recommend others save money?

We’ll add your answers to the relevant page, along with a photo of you on tour and a link to your bike touring blog (if you have one). Thanks!

Comments

  1. Kalilileth
    15th February 2012 at 7:11 am #

    IRELAND
    For touring in Ireland (mainly Connemara and the Galway/Mayo/Roscommon/Sligo area) I usually budget €1 per day to bring with me for food-shopping and treats. I bring a basic food stash from the pantry and I cook my own food and wild camp. I just make sure I have between €20 & €50 in emergency cash with me in case of having to return home for any sort of problem in a hurry, by bus with the bike.

    I buy methylated spirits for the Trangia before I leave, as it can be hard to get in more isolated areas. Usually only Chemists sell it here, but not more than about a pint at a time because people were drinking it or using it in poteen making, so sometimes you are quite heavily quizzed when you look to buy any quantity. So this is not included in my budget and costs between €2.75-€3.50 a bottle. Better to pick up in a big town by getting a bottle in 2 or 3 of the local Chemists, if they won’t sell you more than one in each.

    For a 2 week trip this would be my food packing list:

    12 portions x basmati rice,
    6 x couscous,
    1 tablespoon x dried potatoes (as a soup thickener),
    4 tablespoon x vermicelli (cook with rice or add to soup)
    selection of stock cubes – beef/chicken/lamb/fish
    1 small bag of drinking chocolate
    1lb plain flour (to make quick pasta, noodle, chapatti or crepes or coat fish)
    8oz dried milk
    3/4lb oatmeal (breakfast & coating fish)
    1/2lb buckwheat flour (crepes)
    3/4lb lentils (1/4lb each urud dhall, green and red)
    2 carton cooked chickpeas
    1 tube tomato puree
    1 plastic jar coconut oil
    1 packet creamed coconut
    eggs
    salt, black & white pepper
    1 bag sugar
    60 teabags/herbal infusions ( I like Lady Grey and Earl Grey and can’t always get them in small country shops)
    1 onion, 2 bulb garlic, 1 large piece ginger, 1 potato, 1 carrot. (use celery seed instead of celery to save weight and space).

    1 ziplock bag containing 20-25 minizip bags each containing 1 heaped tablespoon of the herbs and spices I use most

    (Emergency food:
    1 small tin tuna/sardines/mackerel
    1 small tin luncheon meat/corned beef
    1 packet dried soup)

    cheese
    butter
    Bread

    1 large bar dark chocolate (32 squares)
    12 oz Aniseed balls

    My only expense then is to keep my veg supply topped up buying single items as I travel and to occasionally get some fresh meat (mince or offal)or fish (heads or trimmings) or cheese or baked beans.

    Shops in the countryside are way more expensive than in the big towns where there are Aldi/Lidl/Tesco/Dunnes Stores, where you will find items reduced close to sell-by date.

    Also watch out for ethnic groceries where rice is better quality and you can often buy items by the scoop rather than by the full bag.

    As I have a long-term illness, I try to stick as closely as possible to my normal daily diet: 3 meals a day –
    Breakfast: porridge,
    Lunch: home made veg soup & bread,
    Evening meal: rice/pasta/cous cous/potato/buckwheat or plain crepe with veg/lentils/beans/egg.
    During the day:
    4 pints tea and 1 hot chocolate. 1 square of chocolate per day. i dessert per week. No eating between meals – only aniseed balls and water.

    I like to make sure I always have enough to share a meal with someone else on the road too.

    I find that I usually come back with the emergency tins and packet soup, but feel reassured having these mini-sized items in case I get stuck somewhere with no shop or in case I have an accident/get sick and can’t cook, run out of fuel or am stuck somewhere waiting to be rescued 🙂

    Leftover dinner goes into the next days soup or sandwiches or gets eaten at breakfast time.

    When I am travelling, I am much more careful with money, so usually return having spent considerably less than my €1 a day budget!

    It actually works out cheaper for me to travel than stay at home as my electricity at home is metered by my landlord and extremely expensive as the cost per unit is regulated by him.

    It is worth looking out for good local soda bread, or butchers who make their own sausages and puddings.

    At the lower end of the scale, I don’t think most of the restaurants are worth bothering about – usual fast food chains/rubbish pasta joints/ethnic restaurants you can find anywhere in the world.

    If you are in Galway, it is worth going for fish and chips at McDonagh’s in Quay Street. If in Dublin go to Burdocks near Christchurch for the same.

    Pubs do reasonably priced lunches – carvery or traditional dishes. These can be good value, but you need to have a look at what the locals are eating to see whether they are worth splashing out cash on. Lunches are always better value than eating out in the evenings.

    Sometimes you will find a pub that does really good home-made soup, but a lot of the time it is just yesterdays leftover vegetables chucked into packet soup. But you could make it yourself, for way less money, on the side of the road.

    And don’t be fooled by the smell of french bread in the supermarkets and shops. It arrives frozen and is then baked in the shop, but is mainly air and no substance. Look out instead, for genuine craft bakers who sell “real” bread.

    Generally, I wouldn’t bother eating out myself when travelling or at home, but if I was in a foreign country, I would be more interested in local foods and spices.

    So my advice would be to make an initial “pantry space” of your normal food, either from home or from a big town, and then try to buy wisely as you travel. Try to shop any time except Thurs night-Sunday afternoon, to get good price reductions on expiry date goods. Always check for reduced price shelves and try to get the best deal you can. You can then enjoy your trip without blowing your budget.

    And if you are near Moycullen, blow €5 of your budget (even if you have to live on noodles for a few days)on a day in Bridget’s Garden. It is really worth spending a day looking around and you can bring your own picnic or get things from their small cafe.

    By the way, I have no commercial connection with anywhere recommended above – have just found them to be excellent from my own experience.

    • Charles
      26th March 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      @Kalilileth: What great information, priceless!

      I wanted to write to you about what you mentioned as ‘long-term illness.’ I apologize for butting into your business. If your problem is diet related, you may do better on the Paleo diet, a much less inflammatory diet. Plenty of resources on the web; on of the best is robbwolf.com.

      You would have to revamp your ingredient list. Make the emergency meat stores the staple + lots of veggies + fats. I know if I ate mostly the stuff on your list (grains, legumes, dairy) I would be quite ill. A big change, but worth doing if it’s making you sick.

      Hope that helps. Cheers!

      • Patrick
        7th February 2013 at 11:10 pm #

        I agree with that suggestion! From personal experience, I’ve been eating pales since October last year (4 months) – whilst early days still body composition and overall health are significantly better. Try it and see.

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