Bicycle touring in a foreign country like South Africa doesn’t cost nearly as much as you think.
During the month of April, 2013, I cycled more than 1,400 kilometers from Cape Town to Ficksburg, South Africa and spent only $705.13 USD during the entire month. This cost includes everything from hotel stays, to food, toiletries, entertainment and more!
Read the article below for a detailed breakdown of my monthly cycle touring travel expenses in South Africa and my suggestions on how to save even more money when conducting your own bicycle touring adventures.
Hotels – 3,755 Rand ($404.93 USD)
The biggest expense this month was for 11 nights of lodging in various hotels and B&Bs across South Africa. If you do the math ($404.93 divided by 11 nights), you will see that the average cost per night was a mere $36.81 USD per night. If I had been sharing my room with another person, I could have easily spent far less.
Food – 1,513 Rand ($163.16 USD)
Food from supermarkets and local corner markets were my second biggest expense. Because I am traveling without a camp stove on this particular bicycle tour, I was not eating anything that needed to be cooked, but instead was eating mainly cold picnic-style foods. Lots of fruit (apples and bananas), uncooked veggies (such as carrots, lettuce, cucumbers) and lots of packaged crackers, peanuts and more.
Included in my monthly food costs here is the money I spent on bottled water throughout the month. I didn’t buy bottled water every day. In fact, most days I drank either out of a well or straight from the tap. But if I felt the water was unsafe, I purchased filtered water and these costs do escalate over the course of the month. A 1.5 liter bottle of water in South Africa costs $1.10 USD or more.
Restaurants – 839 Rand ($90.45 USD)
I’ve listed any food purchased at restaurants or fast food chains separately from the food I purchased at markets because I want you to be able to see how the price of eating out differs from the price of eating store bought foods and making your own meals. Because I do not have a stove with me at the moment and can’t cook my own meals, I ate out more this month than I normally would. But even so, I still didn’t spend more than a hundred dollars during the course of the month on eating out.
Sleeping Pad – 150 Rand ($16.18 USD)
During April, the Exped sleeping pad I had been using for the previous 10+ months to sleep on when camping in my tent, developed a major defect that prevented me from using it for the remained of my time in South Africa. Because of this problem, I needed to find a replacement sleeping pad. Unfortunately, finding such a thing in the small towns in central South Africa is not an easy thing to do. However, I was able to find a small hunting store in Beaufort West that had a cheap plastic sleeping mat for sale. I bought it, threw my Exped mat in the trash, and then moved on. The new replacement mat worked for about two weeks before it too finally stopped working, but it was a good temporary fix… and for only $16 USD, I really can’t complain.
Toiletries – 125 Rand ($13.48 USD)
Just like if I were at home, I spent a small amount of money on toiletries to get me through the month. This month the costs were for two main things: sunscreen and toilet paper.
DVD Rentals – 48 Rand ($5.18 USD)
During a few of my hotel rest days I rented movies at a local DVD rental store in order to pass the time. Many DVD rental chains will not rent to you if you are not a local, but I only had a problem with a few such stores in South Africa. Almost all of the DVD rental stores I asked about renting movies from were fine with the fact that I was not a local and was simply passing through. “Just make sure you return the movie tomorrow before noon,” they’d tell me.
Clothing – 36 Rand ($3.88 USD)
Even though I planned my bicycle tour during the month of April, which is really South Africa’s autumn season, I imagined it was going to be incredibly hot. And it was at times! There were days when it was really, really hot! But at night it got very, very cold… and after a few nights of freezing my butt off in my tent, I realized I needed to spent a little money and purchase a beanie (to keep my head warm) and a pair of gloves (to keep my hands warm). Luckily, South Africa’s PEP clothing store sells these two very things… and at extremely low prices.
Postcards – 36 Rand ($3.88 USD)
I wanted to mail my friends and family some postcards, so I bought six postcards at 6 Rand each. I didn’t buy the stamps this month, however. The cost for stamps will be included in my May expense report.
Kite – 35 Rand ($3.77 USD)
This is a really silly purchase I made this month. I was walking through a supermarket in Burgersdorp, South Africa and I saw that they had kites for sale for only 35 Rand. I was in Burgersdrop for a few days, so I thought that it would be fun to fly a kite. Unfortunately, the kite never got off the ground. The thing was simply so cheap and poorly made that it did not work. I tried for several hours to get the kite to fly (making several modifications to the design, etc), but the thing ended up breaking after just a short amount of use and I threw it away the same day I bought it. Doh!
Toilet Access – 2 Rand ($0.22 USD)
Finally, I paid 2 Rand to access a toilet (that should have been free) in a small South African town. I really needed to go to the bathroom and even though I hate paying to go to the restroom, I was willing to part with less than $0.25 at that particular moment.
During the month of April I spent 11 nights in hotels, 19 nights camping in my tent, and cycled more than 1,400 kilometers. I met hundreds of people, experienced things few people will ever experience in their lives, saw more of South Africa than most South Africans have ever seen… and I did it all for just $705.13 (that’s only $23.50 USD per day).
World travel does not have to be expensive. In fact, it can be downright cheap (especially when you do it as part of a self-supported bicycle tour).