Motorcycle touring doesn’t have to be expensive. There are loads of great ways to save money while on the road. Here’s around the world traveller Andy Davidson’s top five…
The biggest expenses you’re going to come across while riding abroad are using your bank card and withdrawing cash, accommodation, fuel and food and drink. Saving a little in each of those four categories adds up rapidly. Put these tips and tricks into play and travel can last longer for less.
Who do you bank with?
What if I told you that you could use your bank card abroad and not get charged a penny on foreign transactions and withdraw for free? I’m sure you’d say I sound like a bank advert… but there is a way, we use it and it’s saved us a miniature fortune.
The answer is digital banking, which is like using prepaid top-up cards. The two we use are Monzo and Revolut. Don’t panic, it won’t cost you anything, it won’t affect your current bank, there’s no switching or any of that malarkey and it’s not a credit card. You simply apply for a card, top it up from your bank account with however much you want and then use it at home and abroad like a regular card. Both of these banks are digital only and work as an app on your phone. They’re seamless, incredibly easy to use and ultra-fast. They both run on Mastercard and we’ve used them everywhere in the world from at home in the UK to little villages in Vietnam to high mountain towns in Tajikistan and they’re perfect.
You won’t get charged a penny for any non-sterling transaction fees. And you can withdraw up to £200 a month abroad without any withdrawal fees (compare that to your local bank which charge non-sterling fees and exchange fees). If you go over £200, you’ll get charged 3%, which is still lower than most banks in the UK. Our trick to work round this is having two cards, one Revolut and one Monzo. That way we can withdraw £400 if we need it. But we mainly use the cards for transactions.
Surely everyone knows about AirBnB by now, but there are loads of people out there who still don’t use it. It’s an excellent service, which can help save the touring-motorcyclist money, especially in Europe. You can either rent a whole apartment or opt for someone’s spare room for as little as £9 a night. We’ve had some wonderful experiences staying with locals for next to nothing. Beats staying in a secluded, overpriced hotel room.
But if you want to lower your costs as much as possible, then try wild camping. Official campsites can be pricey. Have a go at tucking yourself away in a forest or by a pretty river and have completely free accommodation under the stars!
You can save a few quid on your fuel if you’re selective where you buy. Petrol is almost always more expensive on motorways and autobahns, especially in Europe. It’s worth peeling off the main road and diving into a little village for a quick top-up. It’ll take an extra minute or two but saves money if you’re covering serious mileage. It all adds up!
Food and water
Avoid motorway service stops as much as possible. Yes, they’re convenient but the mark-up is ridiculous and the food is nowhere near as good as a proper cafe. If you’re turning off the motorway to grab your fuel in a town, then just have a look for a restaurant or cafe near the station. No doubt you’ll find a tastier, cheaper little patisserie and a more authentic lunch.
But if you really want to save the pounds, go back to your schoolboy days and visit the supermarket the night before and prepare a packed lunch. Drink is also a silent but deadly pocket burner. Instead of buying a bottle of water every day, just fill up at your hotel and nothing eats into your wallet as hard and fast as alcohol.
A little planning goes a long way on a bike trip. Touristy places inflate their prices during peak seasons and cut them in half in the off-season. Take a look at the roads you’re planning on taking and make sure you avoid toll roads. Plan where you’ll stay that night so you’re not caught off-guard in the dark and are forced to head to an expensive hotel. Prepare food and drink in advance and don’t leave your fuel top ups to the last minute so you’re forced to take expensive motorway petrol. Thinking ahead will save you a load of money and let you travel further for longer.
Andy and Alissa have been motorcycling in far flung corners of the world for the last 10 years. But on January 1st 2018 the pair gave up their lives in the UK for an indefinite life on the road. You can follow their round-the-world adventure online at www.madornomad.com or on social media as Mad or Nomad.