One of the greatest costs for anyone who wants to travel the world is simply getting from A to B, buy cycling is free.
Short flights from one country to the next are all well and good, but the cumulative costs soon mount up. Equally, ferrying around means booking in advance to get the best deals. Rail travel is often also held up as a good way of keeping gap year travel costs down, but none of these options compares with cycling. Of course, leaving the UK means taking your bike onto a cross channel ferry, but once this is done you can manage to cover a huge distance without having to worry very much about travel expenditure.
Beginning in northern France, it is easy enough to get just about anywhere in mainland Europe by bicycle. Not only is the continent—in the main—a pleasant place to cycle around with good roads but there are plenty of places to stay that are (excuse the pun) geared up for touring cyclists.
All over France, Spain and Germany, it is possible to plan a reasonable day’s travel and to book into a hostel or B&B in the next town along. Italy, Austria and the Netherlands all offer great campsites in many towns of varying size, too. Therefore, cycling with a couple of panniers and a backpack is enough to keep you going for month after month, so long as you only plan on taking a modest tent with you. Indeed, many of the places that you might stay while en route in Western Europe are also equipped to let you get your laundry done in good time before hitting the road again the following day.
For those who really want to see more of the world, however, progressing through Eastern Europe presents a few more challenges. Cycling between good overnight stop-off points requires a little more planning, especially if you are looking for a hostel rather than a campsite. However, since rail travel is a bit cheaper, you can always get over difficult stretches by taking your bike on a train for an hour or so.
Asia & Africa
Heading from Europe into Asia can be done in two main ways. Cycling through Turkey, via Istanbul, is a joy because, except for some urban areas, the roads are well maintained. The other option is to head through Russia, although avoiding southern Russia and Ukraine, where the two countries remain in conflict, is advisable. By taking either route, the whole of the Middle East and Asia opens up as excellent places to explore. Cycling through the Sinai Peninsula is still possible with a bit of planning, so entering Egypt and the rest of Africa is a favoured route. Alternatively, head through the steppes of Central Asia and you could potentially reach India.
Cycling on to Australia and the Americas can be done, of course, but the cost of transporting your bicycle by sea may mean that you have to consider selling it so that you can buy a new one to continue your travels on arrival. Nonetheless, wherever you choose to spend your gap year cycling, never be without two essential items—a waterproof and a puncture repair kit.
Where are your favourite places to cycle? Let us know in the comments below.