Free places to sleep while cycle touring

So where do you sleep while cycle touring? This question comes right after “where do you shower and go to the toilet” question.

It may sound very intimidating for the beginners to imagine sleeping outside and not knowing where you’re going to sleep tonight. You may even be scared. That’s all ok, a little self-preservation helps in preventing some difficult situations.

We’ll emphasise all the options that are free and you’ll be surprised how many free places to sleep while cycle touring you can find.

 

12 free places to sleep to try on your bike tour!

Wild camping

Forest, field, beach, meadow, desert…. All the places that don’t clearly belong to anybody and don’t state private property/no trespassing. Then there’s the other factor that are the laws of the country.  Before planning your trip, make your research about the attitude towards wild camping in your destination. Because the laws are one thing, another one is how they are acted upon. What the citizens and police think about it. When you want to start with wild camping, it’s better to choose countries where it’s not seen as an offence. And when wild camping, we mean overnighting, not camping on one place for days.

Some tips for wild camping

  • away from the villages/towns
  • well hidden from the road
  • try to wait before getting off the road when there’s no traffic in sight
  • be mindful of your surroundings (flash floods, river beds, insects around, hide behind a structure when strong wind, careful about the trees above you in thunderstorm/strong wind, about high tide when on the beach…)
  • start looking for the spot hour/half an hour before sunset and leave early in the morning
  • respect the fire precautions, better skip making fire at all and cook on the camping stove
  • leave only footprints
  • bury your s..t

 

Warmshowers

Warmshowers is a hospitality network for long distance cyclists we mentioned many times before. You will find most hosts in Europe and North America. You don’t pay for accommodation but please don’t take it as a free hotel. Socialise with your hosts. They can’t cycle at the moment so they invited you to their home to at least tell them stories and experiences. It’s a great way how to get in touch with locals, they can advise you on your route and feed you some local specialties.

 

 

Couchsurfing

Another major hospitality network for travellers in general. We find it more difficult to find a host among all the inactive accounts etc. But it’s worth trying in countries where warmshowers don’t have very dense network.

 

Bomberos (firefighters)

Staying with bomberos is very common in Latin America. They usually leave you to sleep somewhere on their property where you aren’t in the way in case of emergency. They have toilets and showers and usually don’t mind sharing their dinner with you. Bomberos are really nice guys in general and they’re curious about your journey.

2 cyclists and group of firefighters posing for a photo

 

Cruz Roja (Red Cross)

Red Cross is another popular option in Latin America. This very much depends how much space they’ve got, we were turned away couple of times but usually pointed to bomberos who were just next door.

 

Casa de Ciclistas

This option is either free or for a symbolic fee. It’s usually a house owned by a cyclist or someone who supports cyclists. Popular in Latin America. The most up-to-date list of Casa de Ciclistas here.

 

Churches

You don’t have to be practising religious person to ask at the church :). Some of them have nice areas where you can camp and adjacent bathrooms.

Schools

We don’t have personal experience with this one (yet) but there are many cyclist who have been using this option. Especially in smaller towns and villages where you can easier locate the person who’s got the keys.

 

Sport playgrounds

Many small villages/towns have got nice playgrounds where you can pitch up your tent if you speak to locals. We once camped on a school playground and shared it with a horse :D.

Restaurants

Many restaurants do have a space either on their patio or grassy area around where you can put your tent. Usually it’s nice if you at least eat there something as a thank you for their hospitality.

 

Petrol stations

Some of them have got nice grassy areas and if they’re not on a super busy highway, you get good nice sleep. Bathrooms attached.

 

Farms and ranchos

This is a good option if you’re crossing a huge area full of these. Usually the properties are huge, they can even point you to the outhouse if they’ve got one and if you’re super lucky you may end up with a room as it happened to us in Canada.

 

Few tips for paid options

Obviously hotels, hostels and airbnbs. We prefer airbnb as it gives you the homely feel with kitchen etc that you may be missing on the road. The important thing is asking where you can store your bicycle, ideally if you can put it into your room as that’s the safest option. Cheap are hike&bike campsites in the US state and national parks. You can find the list here. Canada is expensive to camp in official campgrounds (around 30 CAD). Europe depends how touristy the area is but we encountered the cheapest campgrounds in France with great services.

 

Hope you feel more comfortable about where to sleep on your first bike tour, especially the free places to sleep.  Once you start you will be surprised how many options there are and more importantly you’ll be able to find perfect wild camping spot much easier. It just needs practice 🙂

 

See you next time!

 

PS: If you missed our two previous articles about cycle touring for beginners, you will find them here and here.

 

 

 

Follow Luba Lapsanska:

Older woman, 33 years old, experienced. She stopped being a doctor and started being a traveller. She likes animals more than people because they don't lie. She also likes looking at the the world through the viewfinder of her camera.

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