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How Much Does Bike Touring Cost? We do the math.


On our way home, coming up to MidgicWhat does it cost to go bike touring? A mere $23 U.S. a day, if our record of expenses is anything to go by. A bargain!

Try booking any other type of all-inclusive holiday for that price. Even if you just hop in your car and drive around for a month, you’ll spend at least as much at the gas station alone.

And we probably could have done it for even less. Part 2 of this post tells you how to go further with less cash.

First though, let’s look at how the costs for our 3-year, round-the-world adventure can be broken down. We have the following categories:

  • Daily Expenses – daily food, lodging and sightseeing
  • Bike Maintenance – new wheels, rims, derailleurs and other parts
  • Gear – sleeping bags, clothes and shoes also had to be replaced
  • Visas – permits and letters from embassies required to get visas
  • Insurance – a 12-month policy, which we renewed each year
  • Transport – planes, trains, taxis and buses (not public transport in cities)
  • Healthcare – doctor visits, medication

Daily Expenses by country :

Europe – $39.64 per day x 278 days = $11,019
Morocco – $40.00 per day x 64 days = $2,560
Syria – $23.89 per day x 57 days = $1,362
Iran – $17.16 per day x 88 days = $1,510
Turkey – $53.97 per day x 36 days = $1,942
Turkmenistan – $15.21 per day x 7 days = $106
Uzbekistan – $19.09 per day x 18 days = $344
Kazakhstan – $18.07 per day x 29 days = $524
Kyrgyzstan – $26.58 per day x 27 days = $718
Thailand – $32.33 per day x 70 = $2,263
Cambodia – $34.11 per day x 29 days = $989
Laos – $22.00 per day x 27 days = $594
Malaysia – $28.59 per day x 30 days = $858
Singapore – $20.70 per day x 3 days = $63
Australia – $33.01 per day x 60 days = $1,980
New Zealand – $34.67 per day x 87 days = $3,016
America – $39.00 per day x 38 days = $1,482
Canada – $30.06 per day x 138 days = $4,148

*You may wonder at some of these costs. Why was Turkey so much? We drank a lot of beer there! A desert tour drove up the average daily price in Morocco. Singapore was so little because we stayed with friends. For more information, read the small print.

Daily Expenses Total: $35,478

Is there anything Duck Tape can't fix??Bike Maintenance: If you go a long tour, of course you’ll have to budget for replacement parts. The first year, we didn’t need to do anything to our bikes but in the second and third years we had a variety of expenses related to our bikes. We each went through 3 sets of tires, we had to replace our rims twice, we had our bikes cleaned and tuned up in Bangkok and then there were issues like a broken rack and frame for Andrew, which we had welded in Cambodia and then again in Australia.

Bike Maintenance Total: $1,399

Gear: It’s not just the bike that needs a bit of tender loving care. We also went through a bit of gear. We replaced our sleeping bags and tent once. We had to buy new clothes occasionally and sometimes we added little extras to our camping equipment.

New and Replacement Gear Total: $2,600

kh-visaVisas: Visas didn’t feature in our expenses for the first year or towards the end of our trip. For the second year in the Middle East and Central Asia however, these costs started to mount. In Central Asia, you can count on spending at least $100 per person, per country. Sometimes, you have to pay not only for a visa but also for a letter from your home embassy, testifying that your passport is valid.

Visa Total: $1,499

Insurance: Some cyclists travel without insurance. We prefer to be covered in case of catastrophic events so we purchased coverage for bicycle touring from the BMC. We never used it, but it was good for peace of mind.

Insurance Total: $1,847

Transport: We didn’t always ride our bikes. In addition to a few trains, ferries, buses and 5 days on a cargo ship, we also took flights.

  • London – Montreal – London
  • Almaty – Bangkok
  • Singapore – Perth
  • Auckland – San Francisco

Transport Total: $7,038

Healthcare: We never used our insurance because, thankfully, we never had a big problem. Little things weren’t worth claiming because they never went above our deductible so when we went to a doctor or saw a dentist, we paid out of our own pocket.

Healthcare Total: $571

The Grand Total: Add all of this up and you come to a total of $50,432. Divide that by 1,102 days on the road and then again by 2 people and you come up with $22.88 per person, per day.

Let’s call it $23. Better yet, let’s call it an amazing price for the adventure of a lifetime.

The Small Print: Costs change, exchange rates vary and travel Andrew with his mouth fullstyles are unique. These figures reflect 2006-2009 prices, a strong British pound until near the end of our trip (our savings are in a UK bank account) and a lifestyle that was above rock bottom but not quite flashpacker. All prices reflect the cost for 2 people travelling together.

To give you a better sense of our travelling style, we did a lot of wild camping, but in towns we often took the second or third cheapest hotel, not the one at the bottom of the heap. We also spent time with friends and family along the way, helping to lower our accommodation costs.

We cooked almost all our own meals, aside from street food in budget-friendly countries like Thailand, but equally we enjoyed a few beers. In New Zealand, we didn’t go bungee jumping but we did frequent many bakeries and ice cream shops. You get the idea…

Also, it’s important to note that we did not keep careful track of our set-up costs (buying the bikes, initial gear). If you want high-tech equipment, you might easily spend $1,500-2,000 on a custom bike and another $1,000 on gear. Spending $3,000-5,000 on new gear would add between $3-5 to your daily cost over 3 years. This is a high estimate and also remember that you will likely come home with much of this gear and still be able to use it. Our bikes are still good to go for the next tour, as is our stove, our cooking equipment and our rain gear, among other things.

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23 Responses to “How Much Does Bike Touring Cost? We do the math.”

  1. Wow, thanks for all of the helpful information and inspiration! It’s hard to find actual, current cost breakdowns for travel — this will help me a lot with my upcoming trip.

  2. RichNYC says:

    Thanks for sharing;)

    Just to add my 2 cents to cost of cyclo-touring: When I cycled around the Himalayas in 2006 for six months, I was able to easily stick to about US$12-15/day. That was a quite generous number given that in countries I traveled everything was quite cheap: India, Pakistan, China/Tibet and Nepal…

    This excluded the flight to and from India (JFK – New Delhi) which was about US$1,400 at the time. All added together, (with bike upgrades and new touring equipment, too), I had an amazing, and I must add, truly life changing, six months for less than $5,500!!!

  3. fubek says:

    I collected some data from this and other websites. Daily expenses in the last ~5 years.
    Hope it helps someone:

    € 46.00 for 2 worldwheeling.de
    € 13.00 for 1 http://teacherontwowheels.com/2009/02/11/week-70-stats-cumulative-info/
    € 22.15 for 2 http://www.worldbiking.info/updates/update20_capetown.html
    € 15.80 for 2 http://www.radfahren-gegen-krebs.de/index.php?id=1017
    € 32.67 for 2 http://travellingtwo.com/1716 and http://travellingtwo.com/resources/the-cost-of-bike-touring
    € 25.00 for 2 http://db.goingslowly.com/

    Happy cycling, fubek.

  4. Tyler says:

    Thanks for posting this guys! It is really nice to have some sort of a baseline of comparison for ourselves.

    If anyone reading this wants an even more ridiculously detailed look at the costs involved in a long term cycle tour, you can check out our database here:

    http://db.goingslowly.com/

  5. Amaya says:

    Thanks for being one of the first to come forward with straight talk about what bike touring really costs.

    Our daily average hovers around $20. Surprisingly, traveling in the US and Europe we don´t spend much more than in developing countries in Africa and Central America. I guess it´s becuase we cook more and hook up with hosts from Warm Showers and COuchsurfing.

  6. Andrea says:

    Hi there. Its interesting to read your breakdown of costs (just as I am doing my own). But I think your reasoning gets a little flawed once you start to split the costs from one person to two.

    Is it really half the price for a hotel room for one person? Not in my experience. Do you really spend half as much on food if you are one? I don’t think so. Is a taxi going to cost less because you are not two people?

    That said, its interesting to see how you managed and you’ve done a nice job with your website.

  7. fubek says:

    @Andrea: Just divide the cost for two by 1.5 and you get a realistic number for one person.

  8. barney says:

    Thank you for making this information public and so readily accessible. I think the criticism is unwarranted- any one going on a similar trip could extrapolate from your figures to suit their own circumstances. Thanks again, Barney

  9. Ross Tierney says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I’m starting a tour this week in the US and this has been totally helpful!

    Happy Riding!

  10. Currently doing my expenses and just found this article on Google. It’s amazing how it all adds up, I reckon I’ll spend £14,000 over 9 months.

    I did £50 per day in Europe for 60 days. It bit much (wanted £35) but I drank a lot, went to an F1 race and had to buy quite a few parts.

    Killer for me is flights. I’m popping to places like Japan, India (pain to get in and out of) and Australia, and need to get home. I think around £3000 on flights. Ouch!

  11. Anonymous says:

    $11,000 for 278 days in europe? and you’re pretending this is cheap because you were on a bicycle? that’s pretty ridiculous, you could have rented an apartment in europe and lived a normal life that for price.

    (Comment edited to remove profanity)

    • friedel says:

      I’m afraid we wouldn’t agree with you. Our total spend works out to just under $40 U.S. a day (about 29 euros), for two people. Let’s compare like-with-like. Renting an apartment and staying in one place is not comparable to travelling all around Europe (primarily expensive Western Europe) and sightseeing along the way.

      Compared to almost any other trip around Europe, except perhaps hitchhiking, this is a cheap price. Ask the average backpacker what they spend per day, once they rent a hostel bed, pay for train / bus tickets, etc… Our 2003 Lonely Planet (already almost 10 years old) estimates that just a hostel bed will cost 15-30 euros per day and local transport 3-6 euros – that’s already the same or more than our budget and you haven’t even seen, done or eaten anything!

      Also, if you read our ‘small print’, you’d know that we were deliberately NOT trying to go for a rock-bottom budget because it was the start of our journey and we were still learning the ropes of bicycle touring. We’re not saying you couldn’t do it for cheaper. We’re saying that this represents good value for a trip that included some medium-range frills like occasional restaurant meals, hotels, etc…

      Back to the apartment point – perhaps in a cheaper country like Spain or some rural areas you could rent an apartment and live on less than $1,000 a month (our yearly spend works out to about $920 a month). Here in the Netherlands, it would be a challenge. We rented a room during our first few months here, and that alone was 400 euros (over $500 U.S.) a month.

      • Rob says:

        I have to agree. When backpacking $50 a day for one person in Europe is fairly common. Your budget is great value.

        And just for the record $11,000 wouldn’t rent you much of an apartment in western Europe especially when you have to include food and bills.

        You sum it up perfectly, a ‘normal’ life. Boring!

  12. Andrea says:

    I agree with friedel too. You can’t compare renting an apartment with a travelling budget. Everyone knows its cheaper to stay in one place than it is to move around.

  13. I am presently trying to put an itinerary together for a trip:

    The 2 options all working on £10 a day ($15 US) plus airfares on top. All wild camping or as much as I can get away with. Working on average 60km per day.

    Flight: depart May 2012 UK > Montreal. Cycle to Winnipeg then down to San Francisco. 6000km +/- est. 4 months

    Flight: San Fran > New Zealand (Christchurch). Brother lives in Queenstown. Cycle the south island. Time out 6 months plus some casual work to help the funds if possible?

    Flight: Christchurch to Sydney. Cycle to Perth 4200 km +/- est 3 months

    Flight: Cape Town and up Africa. Family in South Africa & Namibia plus friends in Tanzania. 9500km +/- est. 9 months

    Through Europe back to Blighty 2900km +/- max 3 months

    Now all this comes to with airfares appr. £8600 ($13200 US)

    Problem is I will not have this amount by May…Do’h! So trip will probably either be shorted or rushed, don’t want either. Why leave May? This route works with the seasons.

    Other option, is work till Oct, more money. Fly directly out to NZ Oct 2012, spring. 6 months full south island cycle. Then March 2013 Aus across Perth, up Africa and Europe. Hit Europe late spring 2014 and some money still in the bank, we hope!

    2nd option cost will be £7200 ($11000 US) certainly more manageable by Oct, with reserve!

    Obviously miss the Americas, another journey I think. Perhaps then I can look at North South or South North!

    I promised I would be in NZ for spring so that is a pre-requisite.

    Any thoughts/suggestions on estimates please. Am I in the right ball park?

    I am biting to leave for May but reason is saying otherwise :-/

    Nigel

    Ps. Just a thought as Friedel had mentioned at the start, try to cut out as many airfares. So perhaps out of Aus (Darwin)to the Far East Tibet/Nepal etc..

    • Rob says:

      I don’t know your route, but as a gauge when I cycled London to Istanbul it was nearer 4,000km. It also cost me around £2,000 (for 60 days). That was a mixture of wild camping, campsites and hostels (plus the odd hotel when I got stuck).

      It wasn’t extravagant nor tight. Down the middle I felt.

      The flights for me were a bit of a stinger. £2,500 in total. I don’t know what you have booked regarding them, but be prepared. It’s not always worth going with a budget airline, so you have to pay a little bit more for a decent carrier. The flight home (from Perth) is costing me £800 for a single! There’s just nothing cheaper around (according to SkyScanner).

      Just be prepared for Oz. It’s very expensive. More so than Europe. A beer alone is £6-7. Look into cooking your own food. The exchange rate (to the pound) is really bad now, under 1.5.

      So my only concern with your budget would be, is it enough? Given the countries you are cycling. Asia, no problem. US, Oz and Europe, not so sure.

      Also I didn’t bother crossing Oz. Mainly because I’m here in January and it’s baking. From what I’ve been told though it’s not the easiest, some long stretches.

      • Hi Rob,

        Thank you very much for your input.

        After plenty more thought and head scratching I am changing ideas and plans. If I departed in May as thought with the route I have mentioned, it’s just too tight and I would worrying to much over can I afford this, can I go there? Then would be rushing or cutting things short, not what we want?

        As Friedel has mentioned on the site somewhere that what they would have changed would have been, cut back on airfares somehow.

        With this advice in hand and yes like costs Perth to Jo’burg been £800 ($1200) I am looking at a direct flight out to New Zealand in Oct 2012 £500 ($750). This then gives me another 7 months of ‘fund raising’ (work!). Makes a big difference to my funds.

        With this I can spend 6 months in New Zealand and then not worry about funds as I head back to Blighty through Australia, the Far East and over the top of troubled regions! and Europe.

      • Rob says:

        @Nigel When the funds run low, just like now, I’ve always found travelling less enjoyable as all of my decisions have to be thought out a lot more. I think you’ve made a good choice.

        Better to save just a little longer and enjoy/complete the trip rather than running out part way through and always worrying about money.

  14. PSS. Presently doing a tried and tested route of selling anything that is not tied down either on EvilBay! or a particular forum. :-)

  15. Ryan Sclar says:

    I know you guys said you weren’t traveling as cheap as possible, so if anyone is interested in trying to save a little more money, I’m currently putting a website together that includes my calculations for super budget touring costs. I found I can spend around $21.87 per day traveling through the US. It’s not that much lower then your average of $23 a day, but that’s probably because the US is a relatively expensive place in general to ride. If anyone wants to see my breakdown, you can view it here http://www.bikeacrossamericatips.com/?p=112

  16. Amelia says:

    Great information!!!

    I would be interested to know a couple of things

    What insurance would you get? from which company?
    Have you known of any telephone international plans that is reasonable? Just for emergencya and occasional calls. Do you find that exchanging a local chip is a better option?

    Thank you

  17. For our two years trip, the average including everything, plane, boat, bus, new bike, food, visite, visa, equipment and beer… about 29$US per personne per day.

    Dont hesitat DO IT !

    http://on-roule-la-boule.blogspot.ca/

    DREAM, DARE, DO !!!

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks for the encouragement – we are at planning stage.
      Had a quick look at your website and will be back there for more tips,

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