Money is just something you throw off the back of a train

Tom Waits

Posted by James Anderton on October 24th, 2018

Which train? Unless you are some kind of a digital nomad, professional photographer or writing a novel going on an extended bike tour will involve jacking in your job. Saying goodbye to your monthly paycheck. Letting go of your comfortable existence and throwing yourself into the unknown. It is arguably the bravest thing about the whole business. Way scarier than cycling off into an unheard-of desert, descending a mountain in a snowstorm or carrying your bike over a free flowing river. It is also the most liberating thing you will ever do. You will not regret it. We all have budgets. Some different from others but for the vast majority of cycle tourists keeping costs down is a necessity. The good news is cycle touring can be done extremely cheaply in any country in the world. Here are a few tips on how to save money whilst pedalling around the globe. I will also list a few ways you can make money whilst on a long cycle trip.

Saving Money

Love your tent

Home sweet home

Wild Camping can be done anywhere in the world. In some countries it is very easy. It some cases it can be tricky but with a little persistence you can always find a place to pitch your tent. I have written an article here for tips on how to go about wild camping. It will save you a fortune. No accommodation costs. It can be difficult to begin with. On my first tour I found it hard to embrace camping but that is because I had spent the previous 30 years sleeping in a bed. However I soon began to love my tent. Every night in a new place out in the wilds. The stars in the sky. Waking up to the birds singing. I even learned to love the game of finding a spot for the evening. I now consider it one of the best things about cycle touring. Some nights you have to pinch yourself when you are camped high up a mountain watching the sun go down a million miles from anyone or anything.

Warmshowers

Warmshowers is an online hospitality exchange specifically for touring cyclists. It now has a global network of over 100,000 members dotted in all corners of the globe. It is a great way to meet kindred spirits, swap stories, sleep in a bed for free and yes have a warm shower. I have hosted many people at home in England. From all over the world from New Zealand to Chile to South Africa to South Korea to Poland and many more. It is always great to help out a fellow cycle tourer knowing how much they appreciate you giving a temporary haven to a stranger. Especially in a crazy expensive city like London. Throughout my cycle travels i've always been amazed by the kindness of strangers so it's nice to have the opportunity to give back. I've also enjoyed the hospitality of many people whilst on the road myself and have met some incredible people on the way. The worldwide cycle touring community is growing and this is a great way to be a part of it and save some money at the same time.

AirBnb

I draw short of urban wild camping so when i'm in a city I use AirBnb. You can find some real bargains. Either getting a entire place to yourself or a private room in someone's house. These places are often in authentic neighbourhoods and are a great way to get a true feel for a city. Living like a local in a genuine suburb instead of a charmless hotel room. Let's face it if you've seen one hotel room you've seen them all. Even cheaper you can get a private room in someone's house. These are often excellent value and you get to meet a local who more often than not will bend over backwards to make sure your stay is comfortable. Always go for someone with positive feedback when booking a place to stay.

Casa de Ciclistas

Casa de Ciclistas are a great way to save a few quid and meet fellow cyclists. A local cycle enthusiast makes his home or an empty apartment available for cycle tourers to get some much needed rest and chill for a few days. I've only ever found them in South America. I had a an excellent rest at these cycle havens in La Paz, Trujillo in Peru and Quito but there are others dotted around the continent. You can find a full list of them here.

Casa de Ciclists, La Paz

Casa de Ciclista, La Paz.

House Sitting

Never done it myself but I might have to one day. It sounds too good to be true. There are luxurious homes all around the world that you can enjoy for free. Often all you have to do is look after their pets.

https://www.mindmyhouse.com/

Food

I once cycled with a German guy for a few days in Croatia and he told me that he only spent 2 Euro's a day. At first I didn't believe him but after a few days I wondered what he spent the other Euro on. Obviously he camped every night but his real genius was in what he ate. He was some kind of biological expert and he knew exactly what plants were edible and which weren't. He would regularly pull over and dive into the woods and come out with various leaves and plants which he would shove into his panniers. He carried a fishing rod. We would try and camp by lakes and rivers so he could fish for his supper. We would stop at bakeries and he would ask for yesterday's bread. Bakeries tend to only sell fresh bread so anything left over from the day before will often get thrown out. The bakery owners will more often than not happily give it you for free. His commitment to saving the pennies was absolute and quite inspiring. He also went dumpster diving. For those of you that don't know that's when you search through the dustbins for something to eat. I draw the line at that. I'm not from Liverpool. All he would buy was rice. One evening he made us a fish risotto consisting of the fish he had caught, the plant life he had picked up that day and rice. It was infinitely tastier than my regular fare of noodles and sweetcorn. It turns out the other Euro went on ice cream. He had a weakness for ice cream.

I am nothing like as extreme as this guy but i have used the yesterday bread tactic especially when in Japan and Norway where food is extremely expensive. It is very important to carry a stove. I cook all my own food. A stove that runs on petrol/white gas will save money. You will more often than not get your petrol for free from a garage. Cooking noodles is a good idea as not only are they extremely cheap but they are filling and use a lot less gas than pasta/spaghetti. The broth also makes for good soup ensuring no water is wasted. I also eat a ton of bread. Easy to get hold of anywhere in the world, always cheap (sometimes free) and full of carbohydrates to keep you pedalling.

You can go further and ask grocery stores for food with cosmetic imperfections or food too close to its expiration date to sell.

In small-town grocery stores, keep an eye out for the bargain basket. There aren’t enough people in town to keep every item on the shelf from going bad, so a lot of them are marked down and tossed into the basket.

Water

We cyclists need a lot. Not only does the expense add up if you are always buying bottled water but it is also very bad for the environment. A sad thing cycle touring makes you realise is just how many plastic water bottles there are lying around on this planet. Carry water purifying tablets or iodine to purify water when you are unsure how clean it is. Boiling water is the surest way to ensure water is drinkable.

Better yet get a water filter pump. I like the Katadyn pump as it's tough and, according to the spec, "removes particles, bacteria, cysts, parasites, and protozoa." You can use it for back country water sources, as well as tap water. The UV lightpen purifiers are also a good option. They're cheaper and lighter than a pump. They use rechargeable batteries and require much less hassle with hoses and bottles since they clean one bottle of water at a time.

Laundry

Do your own laundry. In hotel rooms, you can use a bathroom sink, bath tub or bucket with a little soap. I often carry a bit of a string and create my own clothesline off the back of my bike whilst I'm on the move. One drying trick I've learned is to wring out the wet clothes and then twist them up in a towel. Wash small loads; you don't want to carry a pannier-full of half-dried gear. You can strap small things to the back of the bike to dry during the day, assuming it's not raining.

Bike Maintenance

Become an expert cycle mechanic. It's a shame I don't always practice what I preach I might have saved myself a fortune. It's sod law your bike will start falling apart when you are in a super expensive country. This happened to me in Japan. Maybe I could have saved myself a few quid if I knew about these bicycles I spend half of my life sat on. Often you will need new parts but sometimes you will be able to fix the problem yourself. Or least an improvised solution until you get to a more affordable place to fix it.

Flights

Avoid it if possible. Obviously flights are expensive. The cost of flying with a bicycle has also gone through the roof in recent years. Airlines are struggling and are looking for every way they can squeeze a few more quid out of you. I once managed to convince the check in girls that my bike box contained only camping equipment and avoided the ridiculous sports equipment charges. If you must fly research the prices thoroughly. Prices tend to be cheaper during the week so think about when you book. Check bicycle fees before you book. Clear your cookies. Many travel experts have reported that airlines and booking engines are using cookies to show higher airfares on routes that you have searched often. If you are researching flights from London to New York and have checked airfares on the route frequently in recent days or weeks, the site “knows” you really want these fares, and “guesses” that you might be willing to pay a bit more for them. Clear cookies or use a different browser to get round this. Some airlines even track IP addresses so you may want to try a different device. Don't fly on Friday or Sunday if you can avoid it. Obviously popular days to fly so prices will be higher.

Pay as you go phone deals

Don't be paying mobile phone bills whilst you are away. The last thing you want to be doing is roaming when you are abroad. You will no doubt communicate with everyone via whatsapp or skype or whatever the latest chat app is. You just need wifi for that so move to a pay as you go deal. You will still get to keep your number and invariably your monthly mobile bill will be zero. If you do need to make a call then get a local sim in the country you are in.

Ask Locals

They are a fountain of useful information.

How to make money whilst cycling

Blogging

Check out Goats on the Road. They are the experts.

I scratch your back...

If you do write a blog or have a website then you can endorse a product or company. You can then contact the company and see if they can do anything for you in return. I'm yet to have any success with this tactic because I simply do not get enough traffic through my website but it never hurts to ask. To be fair I've only tried once. Thanks for nothing Air Canada!

Teach English

Get a TEFL qualification and you can teach English abroad anywhere in the world. Countries such as China, Japan and South Korea pay well as do many countries in the Middle East.

Teaching English overseas

Teach English Online

Teaching English online is a fast growing industry. Take a rest from your cycles, get yourself a cheap AirBnb and make money teaching English to kids in China.

Teaching English online - Teachaway

Digital Nomad

Stop and work. In this high tech age we live it is often no longer a necessity to live in the same country as the company you work for or want to work for. Often you can do the job perfectly well from the other side of the world. Companies are recognising this more and more every day. Plus they can benefit by offering you a slightly lower salary than to someone in their own country. This salary will still be a great deal for you if you are in a country where the cost of living is low so everyone’s a winner. There are now many job websites devoted to working remotely.

Digital Nomad Job Vacancy Sites

Stock Photos

Whilst cycling around the planet you will get countless opportunities to take staggering photos. If you have a talent for photography this lifestyle is a wonderful opportunity to capture some beautiful images. I have no talent for photography whatsoever and I have managed to take some amazing photos. It is not only the incredible scenery you pass through everyday but also the people you meet on the way going about their daily business.

Alamy - Stock Photos

Selling Videos

Way more lucrative than selling photos. If you have a You Tube channel you may find you get frequent offers.