When it comes to finding somewhere to sleep when bike touring, you can take your choice from wild camping, hotels, hostels and newly found friends. Here's some suggestions of the best places to stay the night when bicycle touring.
Where to sleep on a bike tour
Over the years, I have slept in all manner of places when bike touring around the world.
Some memorable experiences include wild camping by the Nile, staying at kind WarmShowers host houses, relaxing in a hotel room with a jacuzzi, and paying 30 cents for a room in Ethiopia where a cow was staying in the room next door!
In short, you can pretty much stay anywhere when you are bike touring. Your choice of accommodation is only really dictated by location, time, money, and imagination.
Related: Cycling Across Europe
Bike and Sleep
For some people, the romance (and wallet-friendliness!) of wild camping every night is a vital aspect of their tour. For others, staying at locally owned bed and breakfasts so they can enjoy a few beers every night and get some social interaction is the whole point.
We're all different, and want to experience different things not only as we bike tour, but in life as well. This guide suggests a few ideas of where you can stay at night when on your next bicycle tour, starting with where to sleep for free.
Wild Camping on a Bike Trip
Most people planning a long distance bike tour will factor in the need to wild camp at some point. Stealth camping has many advantages, with the main one being that wild camping and biking will save a ton of money over the course of a tour!
There's also other advantages to rough camping which are not quite so obvious. One, is that you don't need to finish each day in an inhabited area, so you can plan each day's ride distance with more flexibility. Another is that you'll also end up cooking for yourself – another great money saver!
There are some downsides to free camping though, namely being that you'll have to find that perfect spot that is in a quiet isolated place where you won't be disturbed. In principle finding places to pitch a tent for free sounds easy, but in practice it's not always the case!
You might think that wild camping options are abundant in places like Africa, but there's so many people around it's not always possible.
More bicycle camping tips here: How to wild camp when bike touring
Another free or very low cost option when it comes to places to stay when bike touring, is to use a hospitality network site. Couchsurfing has been around for years, but there's also a cycling specific one called Warmshowers.
Using these, a touring cyclist can find accommodation in what might be normally expensive places to stay. For example, you won't find anywhere to wild camp in New York, but you might find Warm Showers hosts willing to put you up for the night!
The downside to hospitality sites, is that you shouldn't rely on them having availability at the drop of a hat. Take the hosts in Canada and Alaska – they hear from no one for 6 months a year, and then everyone seems to want to stay all at the same time!
Have a backup plan in case your desired host doesn't have room, or lets you down at the last minute.
Hospitality networks touring cyclists can join to find places to sleep include Warm showers, Couch surfing, and finding out from local riders about casa de ciclistas.
One of the great things that happens on a bike tour, is that moments of serendipity seem to occur more frequently. You might find yourself invited to stay at the home of a person you have just met. You might cheekily ask a farmer if you can camp in their field, an then all of a sudden you are invited into their home.
Use your judgement, and decide whether to accept the offer or not. One of the best places I stayed when bike touring was at a home in the desert in Syria out near Palmyra. Fun times in better days!
Leaving our free accommodation options behind, we move on to places you have to pay to stay when on your bike tour. Usually (although not always), the cheapest option is to stay at an official campsite.
Most campsites have some sort of facilities that the bicycle traveler can take advantage – normally a shower block! In addition, a night or two at a campsite can be an opportunity to get all the electronic gadgets charged up, do some bicycle maintenance, and be a little social with the other campers.
The downside to bicycle touring camping at official sites is that sometimes they can be comparatively expensive, and you won't know how much noise you'll have to put up with until you're there.
Hostels / Backpackers
Perhaps the next cheapest places to stay when bicycle touring are hostels or backpackers. These places are geared toward budget travelers, and can be a good place to share information on the road ahead. You might also be something of a novelty arriving on your loaded touring bike!
The only problem with these places, is that people come and go at all times of the night. Unless you are a sound sleeper, there's no guarantee that a night spent in a hostel is going to be very restful.
Hotels and AirBnbs
These are normally the most expensive options (but not always as you can get very cheap rooms in Asia). If I'm on a long bike tour, I like to stay at a hotel or room for rent for a week or two every 3 or 4 months just as a way to recharge, update blog posts, and take a step back from it all.
I also prefer to stay in cheap hotels when I'm in a city where I want to do a little sightseeing. Most hotels will have somewhere to keep the bike, and in my experience, most will also let you take the bike up to the room.
My preferred online platform for sorting out accommodation like this is Booking.
The only downside that many cyclists find is that to spend the night in paid accommodation is one way to blast through your bicycle touring budget!
Do you have any suggestions, or any experiences you have on places to stay when cycle touring? Leave them in a comment below to share them with others!
Cycle Touring Tips
You might also want to read these other cycling tips and gear reviews:
- Duct Tape Bike Repairs: Bicycle Touring Tips and Hacks
- Best Bike Pump For Touring: How to choose the right bicycle pump
- How much does it cost for world travel by bicycle
- Best saddles for bike touring
- Multi purpose cycling shoes
- Things to look for when buying a lightweight tent
- How to save money for travel
Related: Why is my bike pump not working
– Dave Briggs
Dave has cycled around much of the world on different bicycle tours. He's biked from Alaska to Argentina, and England to South Africa and in addition to these suggestions on where to stay on a bike tour, he's written many other guides to bike touring.
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