Travel budgets: the topic debated more than tire and luggage choices put together, yet still as relevant as ever since we all want to stay on the road as long as possible spending as little as possible. While exact travel budgets will vary just as much as mileage, it helps to plan the budget in a way that lets you travel with some peace of mind and some “what if?” scenarios factored in. However much you’re planning to spend – or save – here is what can help to stick with frugal travel:
Round the world or across one continent at a time, cheaper destinations always mean less expenses. South America, Asia, parts of Africa, and Eastern Europe are all places where the cost of living is much cheaper than in North America, Western Europe, or Australia. Planning your route so you spend more time in the cheaper countries can save you a ton of cash over the long run.
The same goes for bike shipping routes: South America – Europe and Europe – South Africa are among the cheapest shipping routes, and if you can plan your journey along them, the costs of shipping can be kept to a minimum.
Finally, you’ll save money if you stay away from carnet countries. South and Central America, Europe, big parts of Africa, Central Asia – most countries here do not require an expensive carnet de passage saving you money on carnet documentation and deposit.
This may sound like an obvious one, but getting your bike in top shape before leaving will potentially save thousands of dollars along the way. If your bike is old and hasn’t been serviced and maintained frequently, you risk paying an arm and a leg for a fast DHL or FedEx shipping of clutch plates or shock to somewhere remote, not to mention the costs of hotels and Airbnbs while waiting for the part to arrive. Some things like tires and brake pads will wear out eventually, but those are easy and cheap to find and replace; more serious issues, however, can cost double or triple abroad simply because parts may not be available, and international shipping an import fees can be exorbitant. That’s not to say you can’t travel the world on an old bike – just make sure it’s working well and there’s no risk of any major failures along the way. Otherwise, try to order parts ahead; if you suspect your clutch plates might give up the ghost in the next 2,000 miles or so, find a capital or major city within that range and order them ahead so you don’t have to panic-buy and express-ship to somewhere barely accessible, which inevitably costs more.
Another method of frugal travel is slow travel. If you have the time, be sure to book longer hotel or Airbnb stays as hosts will always offer discounts when you book for more than two days; if you can do this, the bonus is the ability to leave luggage behind and explore the local area in more depth with an unloaded bike.
A trick to find cheaper places to stay is to keep out of touristy hotspots, major cities, beach resort towns, and the like. Even if you need to visit a big city for bike repairs or shopping, book a place some 30 or 40 miles out – smaller towns and villages will typically have much more budget-friendly accommodation.
Planned Home Visits
If you’re going to spend a year or more on the road, chances are, you’ll want to fly home every once in a while to see your loved ones. Try and plan your home visits in advance: flights are always cheaper when you books months ahead. As an example, a flight from Bogota, Colombia to Amsterdam, the Netherlands costs around $800 if you’re booking for next week, but only $400 if you’re booking a few months ahead.
Hopefully, the pandemic-related restrictions will soon be a thing of the past, but presently, costs of frequent PCR testing can quickly add up if you’re crossing multiple countries. Getting the vaccine might be the best option, as PCR tests typically cost around $100 a pop and, if you need them every month or so, that’s going to leave a dent in your budget. Additionally, opt for travel insurance that covers pandemic-related issues: we’ve all learned our lessons from 2020, and it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Avoid Visa Fees
Much like with cheap destinations, frugal travel is easier to achieve when you don’t have to pay for visas. It may be unavoidable if you aim to, say, ride around Africa, but most countries around the world do not charge for visas and give travellers temporary entry permits or e-visas. Another expense to watch out for, and one that is easily preventable, is to never overstay your visa or permit. Visa or entry extensions can be costly, especially if you add the cost of extending your temporary bike import.
How do you cut costs and stick with frugal travel on the road? Share the tips in the comments below!