Budget for cycling in America

A hiker biker site in a state parkYou’ll need at least $15 a day to tour around America but you could easily spend upwards of $100 a day if you want to eat out and stay in hotels.

Cycling on the lowest end of the budget scale means cooking most of your own meals, wild camping or staying in rustic campsites (hiker-biker sites found in some parks are particularly good value) and forgoing most tourist activities. You’ll stay away from big cities and instead focus on the outstanding landscapes in the United States, which are free to enjoy.

With $20-30 a day you can treat yourself to a beer (there are some great microbreweries to be found) or ice cream on a hot day as well as the occasional tourist attraction or hostel bed in the bigger centres. Dorm rooms aren’t as commonly found as in places like New Zealand and Australia but you can check sites like HostelWorld for an indication of what’s available and current prices.

If you plan to frequent restaurants and leave your tent at home, expect to spend at least $100 a day. The most basic hotel rooms go for $40 a night and a simple meal out can easily cost $15-20, by the time you include drinks, taxes and a 10-20% tip. On the upside, portions are large. You can ask for a doggy bag to take with you if you can’t finish it all and sometimes you’ll see all-you-can-eat options – good value for the starving cyclist!

Self-caterers should ask for a supermarket loyalty card in the major chains like Safeway. These ‘electronic coupons’ will save you upwards of 20-30% off your shopping if you choose the weekly specials. The cards are freely given out at the customer service counter.

If you’re from outside of North America, and you don’t have your bike already, you may save some money by purchasing your bicycle in the United States. Prices for bikes and parts are very competitive in places like San Francisco and New York and there are some great outdoor equipment chains like REI. The downside to this is that you’ll need to schedule in a day or two of your holiday to find everything you need.


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