What are the costs of bike travel? 1

What are the costs of bike travel?

The answer is simple. Everyone has a different budget when it comes to bike travel. Some cyclists spend 1 euro per day, others 100 euros per day on their bike trip. Which is a huge difference in the costs of bike travel. It all depends on how you live life on the bike; as a dirtbag tourer, a credit card cyclist or somewhere in between.


Besides that traveling the world on a bike is a beautiful way to discover new places, a world trip on a bicycle is often way cheaper than many other ways of traveling. There is no need to spend a lot of money on expensive tours, hostels, and transport.

With your bike being your transport, the costs of gasoline, buses or flights can be close to zero. Often are you forced to camp somewhere for there is no accommodation around anyway. And going on expensive tours is out of the question. Every day on the bike is a tour. So you can understand, it is not so difficult to keep the cost of bike travel low.

The lower your budget is, the more creative you have to get to cut down on costs. Hotels and restaurants are probably off-limits for long term budget bike travelers. You will have to wild camp or use warmshowers a lot, find places or ways to buy food cheaply and maybe even work from time to time. We found, the longer we are traveling, the easier it is to keep costs low. We’ve adapted to a relatively cheap but still luxurious way of life.

Costs of bike travel

Dirtbag touring: What can you expect with a budget of €5,-  per person per day in South America?

  • 80% wild camping, warmshowers, casa de ciclistas and hospitality of locals
  • 20% cheap hotels and hostels
  • No pizza, no latte macchiato or any other fancy stuff
  • Anything you want to eat while cycling, within reason of course
  • Able to pay for replacement parts or bike mechanics

Long term bike travel: What can you expect with a budget of €15,-  per person per day in South America?

  • 40% wild camping, warmshowers, casa de ciclistas and hospitality of locals
  • 50% cheap hotels and hostels
  • 10% sort of fancy hotel or airbnb
  • Occasional pizza, latte macchiato or any other fancy stuff
  • Anything you want to eat while cycling, within reason of course
  • Able to pay for replacement parts or bike mechanics

Credit card touring: What can you expect with a  €100,- per person per day in South America?

  • Jet set lifestyle
  • pizza everyday
  • pick up truck at your disposal
  • champagne & kaviar
  • no adventures

Our budget and costs of bike travel in South America

We budgeted €1000,- euro per month for two people, € 500,- per person, for our bicycle trip in South America. That is about € 15,- per person per day. This includes all the daily costs for that year.

Daily costs are food, accommodation, bicycle expenses like replacement parts, medical expenses and any other unexpected expenses. The € 15,- per day does not include flights and initial costs of the gear.

In the first few months, we lived slightly above our budget. At that time, our costs for bike travel were high. Which in hindsight was unnecessary, but we felt we needed some luxury. Eventually, we naturally grew into living on a budget. And our budget is, as you read, not a very tight one. 

Within a few months, we kept to the budget. Nowadays we mostly live under budget. We are content with our costs for bike travel and the way we live our cycling lives. So for 15 euros per person per day, we have the freedom to travel the way we like.

What do we spend our budget on?

The funny thing is that we don’t spend a lot of money on cycling days. On the days off the bike and the periods of rest in bigger cities, we spend most of our money. Those days we stay in a hotel, a comfortable cottage, or an AirB&B. We treat our selves a delicious latte macchiato with oreo cheesecake.

When we are on the bikes, cycling in remote regions, we are often forced to wild camp and make do with what we have. We love camping by the way, so that’s a bonus. When only bread, tomatoes, pasta and bananas are available in the next village, that is what we will have for dinner.

It actually makes life a lot easier. There are no distractions or temptations to spend our money on. The choice of what to buy is restricted to almost no choice and luxury is fresh bread with fresh coffee. It won’t get easier to stay under budget that way.

What are the costs of bike travel? 2
Wild camp
What are the costs of bike travel? 3
Ordering not one but two cheesecakes and cappuccino!

Accommodation 

Lots of cyclists cut down on accommodation costs by using warmshowers. It is a lovely platform where cyclists welcome fellow cyclists into their homes. However, we haven’t really been using warmshowers ourselves. Cycling provides a lot of freedom and our plans change constantly. We don’t like the hassle to contact hosts a few days in advance and stick to that plan.

Another known phenomenon amongst cyclists in South America is ‘casa de ciclista’. These are often houses owned by people who offer room to sleep for cyclists. You are asked to make a small donation when you leave, but it still beats the cost of a hotel 

Besides warmshowers and casa de ciclistas, there are a lot of other options to get free accommodation. You can ask locals to pitch the tent on their property. Schools often have a place to pitch the tent or to put your mattress somewhere. Fire stations in South America are often very welcoming to cyclists and will have a place for you to put your mattress. The same goes for police stations. And the local church might be able to help you to pitch your tent somewhere or even offer a bed.

One more way of getting free accommodation is volunteering at hostels. Most hostels let you stay for free if you are willing to work a few hours per day. Most of the time you’d have to some cleaning, reception work, preparing breakfast, or other chores.

Food 

We don’t cut down on costs with food. We eat what we like because it is too important to get some proper food. Being hungry all the time is already a pain in the ass, so cutting down on food to keep costs for bike travel low, is a no go for us.

Vegetables and fruit are relatively cheap and make good nutritious meals. However, in South America, you cannot beat the low prices of a ‘menu del dia’ (€ 2,50) in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. We have thankfully made use of a menu del dia for more days than we can count.

costs for bike travel
We are always hungry

Transport 

Ok, the bike is our transport, but we still took quite a few buses. Depending on the country and bus company these can add to the costs of bike travel. Extra costs are charged to put the bikes in the cargo hold. On average extra costs for bicycles on the bus are half of the price of the bus tickets. However, we found out that the cheaper bus companies are often more careful, cheaper and more willing to out you bike safely in the cargo hold. Double win on keeping costs low.

Gear 

Gear and the few clothes you will have are used intensively. We lost a few things on the road and had to replace some parts. New brakes, a rain jacket, shorts, shirts, shoes, etc. Some things will break down on your trip and you will have to spend money on it.

Do remind yourself that many things can be mended. There are a lot of tailors in South America, so it’s easier and cheaper to have your shoes mended than to buy new ones.

Costs for bike travel per country 

Of course, the costs per country differ. When we crossed the border into Chile and ordered two coffee we were shocked to hear the prices. We looked for camping to keep costs low, and they asked 35 euros to pitch the tent. We thought we would never be able to travel in Chile on our planned budget. 

In expensive countries, you just have to get more creative. More wild camping, no luxury buys and pay a bit more attention to the prices in the supermarkets. Eventually, we managed with the budget, but also because we planned in advance.

Because we knew Argentina and Chile would be more expensive, we had a lower daily budget in Peru and Bolivia. Those, together with Colombia are the cheapest countries. Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile the more expensive countries.

Especially touristy regions are more expensive. Which makes sense. A downside to the touristy regions, besides being more expensive, is that people are less willing to help. They are used to making money of travelers, so don’t be surprised if you only find paid accommodation.

Conclusion costs of bike travel

You don’t need a bag full of money to start bicycle touring or bikepacking. Especially in South America, there are many ways of keeping costs low. With a little bit extra, you will be able to afford some luxury. In the end, it is all up to you to decide exactly how much you want to spend. 

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