One of the great things about bike touring is that it’s always a pretty affordable way to travel: Camping, skipping the costs of rail passes or rental cars and eating simply cuts way down on costs. If you're traveling on a budget, Poland, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria remain among the cheapest countries, while places like England and Switzerland are much steeper. As a general rule, the north and west are spendier, and the east and south are less so.
But don’t give up entirely on the more expensive parts of the continent. Particularly if you’re new to cycle touring, they’re home to the most established, most logistically simple routes. Here are some ideas for both traditional and cheap routes to get you started.
Bike Touring in Europe: Danube Cycle Path
This is a European classic. A designated cycling route, the Danube Cycle Path follows the Danube River for nearly 2,000 miles, from its source in Germany’s Black Forest through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. It passes through mountains and major cities, including four national capitals: Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, and Bratislava. The stretch of trail through to Budapest is well-maintained and easy to follow; as you travel south and east, though, the route gets slightly more challenging even as your surroundings get cheaper.
Bike Touring in Europe: Spain
Of the more established western European tourist destinations, Spain remains among the more affordable. It’s also got plenty to offer for cyclists: mountains and coastline, cities and villages, and one of the lower population densities in crowded Europe. Try the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage route. Or pick a region: Catalonia lets you tap into the Pyrenees, the Costa Brava, and a rich artistic heritage; Andalucia, in the south, is home to the Sierra, flamenco, and centuries of Moorish history.
Bike Touring in Europe: North Sea Cycle Route
The North Sea Cycle Route travels more than 3500 miles, from the northernmost Scottish isles through the Highlands and down the east coast of England. From there it hops a ferry and turns north again, through Belgium and the Netherlands and up into Denmark, Sweden and Norway, finishing at Bergen in the heart of the fjords. Of course, the U.K. and Scandinavia are among Europe’s most expensive regions, but it's still possible to do them on a careful budget: Plan on camping staying in hostel dorms and cooking your own meals, backpacker style.