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Biking through Europe -- money, food, and transportation?
December 7, 2007 6:21 PM   Subscribe

I need advice on how to get food and money while traveling through Europe, and how to transport my bike.

I'm planning a trip to europe from the US. I want to do this probably in february until.. who knows, open ended. I have, naturally, some questions.

I want to bring my bike and plan to do a lot of cycling to get places. I am comfortable with long distance cycling/touring. Will i be able, though, to bring my bike on the planes, trains, and boats? How will this affect cost? Will my beloved (i work on bikes, the one i'll be taking is custom built) be damaged?

Naturally i want to keep things cheap, and i am already investigating things like WWOOF and Couch Surfers for food and stay, but what other ways are there? I know there are things like farmers' markets, but are these generally expensive? Where else would be cost effective to buy (hopefully good and fresh) food?

I also plan to camp places. I have read that in most places unofficial camping is ok, as long as i am quiet and pack up and clean up quickly. What have you heard?

I would like to stay in some of these places more than my budget allows, so this would mean getting a job. What sort of jobs would be available? I mean, "under the table"? Could i realistically get a work visa?

My stats: completed a semester at my state uni, leaving for adventure. I speak German and English, and i have basic understanding of Spanish, Swedish/Norwegian/Danish and am very interested and passionate about languages (i'm a linguistics major), and i can learn quite quickly.

Countries i am interested in visiting: Ireland, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany (i have friends in all of the above), Spain, and Italy.

If there are any details You might see in my statements above that would lend themselves to a good response that i may not have asked directly, please feel free. Any resources are appreciated!

Thanks Metafilter!
posted by fjardt to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
The hip term is FCHD - Freecycle, CouchSurf, Hitchhike, Dumpsterdive.
Think 'H for HospitalityClub' in your case and you're all set.

Freecycle has little to do with bicycles: it's a riff on 'recycle'. Sign up, request what you need.
Scandinavia is excellent for dumpster food: be discreet.
Stay well away from the Lonely Planet loonies and you'll be fine.
Lookup VirtualTourist and GlobalFreeloaders.
Craigslist does an excellent 'Free' section and is fairly popular with the expats.
Consider learning Esperanto, if only for the very interesting ppl you meet.
Laws vary from country to country. I pitched quite a few tents in Germany and Finland; Sweden was harsher.

What equipment are you packing? Ultralights recommended for long distances.

My grandmother used to say: 'when you're finished packing, throw out half your clothes and double your money'.
(This lady hitchhiked across South America in the 1950s. Sound advice.)

I've done Europe twice, N America thrice and S/SE Asia once. Fun. Also a linguist.
posted by sushiwiththejury at 6:57 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


This may not answer your question directly, but you may need to bring an appropriate amount of money with you, even if you don't spend it. When I flew into the UK just after university, the customs guy asked me to prove I could support myself, even though I said I was staying in the UK with family for a month and then moving on to Europe. I had to produce my return ticket, traveller's cheques, cash in wallet and even offer to get a copy of my bank statement. And I was a preppy-looking 23-y-o.
posted by acoutu at 7:00 PM on December 7, 2007


I hitchhiked & camped in Ireland in 1998. It was great. I don't know about now, but back then in Southern Ireland/County Cork hitching was still very commonly done. You could find many farms where people would let you camp on their land for free or a few coins. I knew of a few people who worked under the table at pubs to make cash, you could probably still do that I'm guessing. In the rest of Europe I mostly traveled by Eurail and slept on trains whenever possible to avoid paying for a hotel. Didn't do the hitching/camping thing... stayed in cheap youth hostels when not on a train.

Now that I'm older I like a comfy bed in a private room, tho. So I'll just live vicariously through you. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 7:20 PM on December 7, 2007


Both Spain and Italy have Englishtowns: places which provide free room and board to native English speakers, in return for talking to fantastically friendly Spaniards and Italians. They're a week each, and at this point there are four in Spain and one in Italy.

I can personally recommend Sierra de Gredos, in Spain. And you can do them all back-to-back, if you'd like. That comes out to a solid month, free, in Spain.

House sitting, as well. And I know people who make solid cash by customizing bikes as they travel - and outside of my personal friends, I know this fellow did just that.
posted by laughinglikemad at 8:20 PM on December 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


I worked for 3 months in Dublin, waiting tables in the mid 90s. I actually had gone to the effort to get a student work visa, but nobody ever asked to see it. The friend I traveled with had a student visa too & she worked office temp jobs. I wasn't able to find work in Galway or other smaller cities, but in Dublin it was fairly easy. I just walked in to restaurants and asked if they needed help. I made okay money, enough to drink, eat and pay for my room. We ate and drank really well. It was easy to find fresh produce, good bread and cheese. My friend and I rented a room in an older couple's house. The room was pretty nice & spacious, it had twin beds, a sink, mini-fridge and hotplate. Look on the bulletin boards of hostels or on college campuses for similar arrangements. It's cheaper and more comfortable than staying in a hostel.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:55 PM on December 7, 2007


I did something like this, but 20 years ago, so my input is limited. The airline lost my bike and all my stuff for the first 5 weeks - and every day said they were sure to find it tomorrow - so I wound up hoofing it around a cold and breezy Greece in March, then finally cycling Greece and making my way to Rome where I stayed with friends and got some work doing babysitting. My language skills were similar to yours, as was my financial situation. I spent 5 months in all, before deciding to go back to school. I didn't want to return to the US, frankly, but it was the best place for me to go to school.

Anyway, to make it short - Greece was great. I highly recommend it. Very friendly and the food was good. Not many cars in the countryside. I camped in fields and stayed at hostels when I wanted a shower.

Good times.
posted by pammo at 1:48 AM on December 8, 2007


Gosh, there's enough in this question for 10.

Will i be able, though, to bring my bike on the planes, trains, and boats? How will this affect cost? Will my beloved (i work on bikes, the one i'll be taking is custom built) be damaged?

Bikes on planes. Many, many trains in Western Europe have bike cars. Not all, of course, but many. Some of the online booking websites or trains have little bike logos next to trains if they have one. Die Bahn does, if I remember correctly. This will help you plan in advance, since it sounds like you're the type of traveler that does a lot of advanced planning. If the boat is a ferry and accepting cars and motorcycles, they will probable accept your bike too. But again, these are things you find out while on the road and build your trip around. It's an adventure, remember?

Naturally i want to keep things cheap, and i am already investigating things like WWOOF and Couch Surfers for food and stay, but what other ways are there? I know there are things like farmers' markets, but are these generally expensive? Where else would be cost effective to buy (hopefully good and fresh) food?

Couch Surfing is a great concept, but impractical. Don't rely on it for a lot of places to stay, UNLESS you have a specific route planned out to the day, which you shouldn't. Hostels will be the way to go for cheap accommodation, of course. February through, say April will be fine, but after that the Tiki tours come out in full-force, along with the wild, hosteling college crowd (which may be your thing) which peaks during the Summer. You'll have to book in advance during these times and be prepared to fall asleep to the sound of sex, drinking, vomiting, and shitting. Good times.

I also plan to camp places. I have read that in most places unofficial camping is ok, as long as i am quiet and pack up and clean up quickly. What have you heard?

Free camping is mostly allowed in Europe. This doesn't rule out the chance that you accidentally camp on Farmer Asshole's land, so be smart about it. From Rick Steves, "Use common sense, and don't pitch your tent informally in carefully controlled areas such as cities and resorts. It's a good idea to ask permission when possible. In the countryside, a landowner will rarely refuse a polite request to borrow a patch of land for the night. Formal camping is safer than free camping. Never leave your gear and tent unattended without the gates of a formal campground to discourage thieves."

I would like to stay in some of these places more than my budget allows, so this would mean getting a job. What sort of jobs would be available? I mean, "under the table"? Could i realistically get a work visa?

I wouldn't plan on getting a work visa from the U.S. That said, here's a good resource for finding jobs abroad, but nothing beats actually being there and talking to locals, especially when you plan on working under the table.

Some forums to spend time on: BootsnAll, ThornTree.

Remember: it's an adventure; don't pre-plan everything, or the trip will lose its adventurousness.
posted by nitsuj at 8:23 AM on December 8, 2007


What sort of jobs would be available?

You could always stand around in a public space with an accoustic guitar, and sing.
posted by Rash at 2:54 PM on December 8, 2007


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