Europe Tour On A Budget !

Watching overland videos on YouTube and reading the latest travel book is all very well, but the reality for most of us is a two-week trip, often on a tight budget. It can still be an adventure though, and it won’t involve remortgaging the house. That got me thinking about Europe – perfect for a two-week tour as it’s right on our doorstep, and hassle-free. Stuff a wad of Euros in your pocket, make minimal plans, and you’re away. And by camping, and shopping at Aldi and Lidl, it should be possible to do it on minimal money.

Europe Tour On A Budget

As the date for leaving loomed, I roped in good friend Christopher Ebbs. We had a rough sort of itinerary, including Auschwitz in Poland, Lake Garda in Italy, the Millau Viaduct and the village of Oradour-Sur-Glane in France. But we didn’t book anything apart from the Channel Tunnel crossing – no campsites were booked, no back-up hotels, just ride each day to a chosen destination and let things fall into place. Or that was the idea.

The only areas to which we paid meticulous attention were our bikes and kit. My trusted 2014 Super Tenere was dressed in ARD aluminium boxes, a Garmin 660 satnav and a quickly removable tank bag for valuables. Chris was on his well maintained 2001 Kawasaki ZX6, wearing (the bike, not Chris) a set of Givi cases and topbox mounted on a heavily modified Givi frame originally intended for a TDM900.

Mobile phone and credit cards were also worth checking. A quick scan of the internet allowed me to pick up a Euro-specific card, which gave the best exchange rate with no commission fees. As for the phone, calling my network provider confirmed I had a good tariff that was valid from mainland Europe, so I could use it for calls and the internet without having to pick up a hernia-inducing bill when I got home.

Wet Start

Europe Tour On A Budget

A last Sunday lunch with my family was all very relaxed as all Chris and I had to do was make our 3.30pm tunnel booking, which would give plenty of time to finish packing and say our goodbyes. Or it was until my carefree attitude came up and tapped me on the shoulder, reminding me I was nowhere near ready, with my luggage still strewn across the living room floor! Luckily, the ARD cases were big enough for me to cram everything in without major strategic planning. So with boxes packed and the tent securely fastened to the lids I was only running half an hour late. As soon as Chris turned up, we could shoot straight off.

Europe Tour On A Budget

He turned up all right, but he was shaking his head and pointing at the front of his bike. Once I got the answer from the game of charades we were playing while wearing earplugs and helmets, it turned out his brakes needed some attention. The seals were sticking, but an hour later we had the problem solved and were away, but knowing we weren’t going to make our time slot for the crossing. And we did have an aim in mind, wanting to reach Ypres in time for the evening memorial ceremony at Menin Gate. Fortunately, the tunnel let us through on a later slot, and with 20 minutes to spare we rolled into town, watched the ceremony (which they hold every night, 365 days a year), then found a campsite and settled our minds into our trip.

It rained for the next two days and as if that wasn’t bad enough we couldn’t ride the Nürburgring, which was closed for maintenance. So we decided to battle the elements and make quick progress through Germany on the autobahns to Prague. We stopped along the way, credit card in hand, to buy a Sena headset unit at Louis (a large motorcycle accessory retailer) to replace the failing interphone unit I was using to communicate with Chris. With the new Sena now paired to Chris’s interphone we pressed on towards the border.

Europe Tour On A Budget

It was still raining as we set up camp on the outskirts of Katowice, ready for a day off the bikes and a visit to the well-documented Auschwitz. So far, this trip had included plenty of wet riding but none of the twisty roads or beautiful weather we’d been promising ourselves. But finally, as we turned south into Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia, it did, and crossing the border into Italy certainly delivered the Promised Land. Riding the mountain passes with clear blue skies above, greeting other bikers who were clearly having just as much fun, was just the tonic we needed.

We hairpinned down to Lake Garda, and with the air temperature at 36°C we wasted no time in donning our shorts and diving into the cool water. The lake is beautiful – set in stunning mountainous surroundings – and a bit of a tourist hot spot, so finding somewhere to stay didn’t pose a problem. In fact, things just got better and better as we headed further south towards Monaco, and a run along the Mediterranean coastline.

Europe Tour On A Budget

We’d got into a nice daily routine of plotting our next target, packing the tent, cooking up some porridge and a stout cup of coffee on the Jetboil gas stove before heading off. We were getting used to covering the miles as well, and would now discuss a 400-mile day as if we were popping to the shops. Of course, riding the bikes along Europe’s southern coastline meant this wasn’t exactly a hardship, and we wanted to take in as much as we could in the time left. We tried to limit our photo stops – with such beautiful scenery we were running out of SD card space.

It was day 10 that we finally pointed the bikes north for the long trek home. I say a ‘trek’ but it wasn’t in the least bit boring, and we indulged ourselves like children in a sweetshop, traversing the Midi-Pyrenees. The bikes didn’t seem quite so happy – whether it was the fact we were heading for home, or the 46°C temperature, I’m not sure.

Europe Tour On A Budget

I still had a pocket full of Euros as the credit card had come into play for everything, purely because it was so easy. Nearly all the filling stations we stopped at for fuel accepted the card directly at the pump, while toll fees were quickly dispensed with by sticking the card in the machine at the booth. Any concerns we had about language barriers and struggling for fuel were long forgotten by now – Europe is just so easy to travel around.

With the terrain flattening out as we travelled north through France, the realisation began to set in that we would soon be back into the daily routine. But even though this had only been a short 13-day trip, I felt as if I’d settled into a new routine, living on the bike and absorbing everything around me.

When we finally rolled up at home, the odometer revealed we had covered 3950 miles. Add that to the 10 countries we visited and the knowledge we had gained, and I think my £600 spend was an absolute bargain.

What are you waiting for? Book your crossing, grab your passport and have an adventure.