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Tips & tricks: Travel

You'll be relying on intuition for most of your journey, but it is always nice to take along a few extra hints from those who have previously traipsed down the same travel path. Here you'll find is a selection of cycle and not so cycle travel tips associated more with everyday life. From transport and travel issues like dealing with airports; hotel and bike security; to ways of travelling responsibly and getting a bit closer and wiser to local culture. There is bound to be one or two of the following travel tricks that you could use the next time you embark on your travel journey.


business cards



if you promise to send
a copy of a photograph,
then please make sure
you do it.


digital camera


worldwide insurance

velcrose straps

velcrose straps keep
your electrical cords
neat and tidy

A handy little memento
Having business cards printed with your email, website or blog information is definitely a growing trend among travellers these days. And here's why:
easierthan writing your details down a million times on bits of paper, only to be lost in trouser pockets
people tend to put a business card in a safe spot somewhere
no misinterpretation of handwriting or email addresses
impressive introduction to hotel owners and businesses you meet on your travels
if you make them unique, you'll be remembered

And it is not necessary to go to all the trouble of getting them professionally made and then carting them around with you. A simple layout on an A4 sheet of paper can be easily printed off in an internet cafe; cut up and dealt out as required. As soon as you need more, just print another page or two off.

Self addressed stickers
On the road, you often get the chance to snap a shot of a local. Not only do they often get a kick out of seeing the result on the camera screen, but they want a copy too. Living in the western world means access to email addresses and internet, so sending a photograph is not really a big hassle. People from poorer countries don't always have this privilege and it is a little more effort to get a photograph to them.

Since we always appreciate it - when people forward on pictures they take of us - we try our very best to do the same. The biggest problem that arose was not printing off the photograph and posting it, but trying to read or copy the address they had written down for us, especially if it was in another script.

So now, instead of writing it down on any old bit of paper, we give them a white sticker or blank square of paper so they can write it down themselves. Just glue or stick the address on the envelope and pop it in the mail. They really will appreciate receiving it.

Shining a new light on your digital pocket camera
Our little pocket camera is one of the most useful items in our electronic gear. Not only do we use it for taking pictures, but also for a wide range of other tasks:

A handy way of storing and accessing maps for use while cycle touring or entering towns.
Saves carrying the guide book with you. Copy the town map; list of restaurants; attractions you want to see.
Take a snap of an information or address plaque, street sign or place that you visited for future reference.
Keep a copy of useful or official documents with you.
Have family or home photographs ready to show others.
Taking a series of snaps at memorable points during the day to help you remember when writing up your blog
If the language is difficult or in a different script, take photographs of signs, addresses or even your hotel to show to a taxi driver.
Have a permanent bright sky shot at the beginning to use as a back-up light.

In the Vagabondish Travel Tip article: 12 Clever Uses for Your Digital Camera, Mike Richards explains that you can add a bit of camera safeguard by taking a picture of a marker-pen written reward flyer, stating your name, email address and possibly a reward as well. Lock the file and should your camera be lost, there is a chance that an honest citizen might return it to you.

Mike goes even further to say that your digital camera can help you when renting a car and  become a mirror too. Talk about a multi-functioning piece of kit. Definitely stays on our touring pack-list. Take a look at the article if you want to find out more.

Handy velcrose straps
Whatever you call it: velcrose, rip-zip, or hook & loop, this haberdashery item is useful in many impromptu and permanent situations. We always have a supply of it in the sewing kit.

Most electrical cords come with a handy strap these days, but if they don't, it is easy enough to make your own. Not only this, but a strap can hold tins tight or be a temporary fastener if one of your bag buckles breaks. Some people even use these straps to tie their brake handles to the handle bar when parking their bike on a hill.

One small problem that could arise, is when either the hook or the loop side gets clogged up with grass, hair, or dirt. An effective way to clean this is with duct tape. Rip of a piece, place it over the velcrose strip, rub slightly and pull off. All dirt on the strap will now be stuck to the tape.

Learning the local language
While it is not possible to learn the language of every country you visit - especially if your trip is going to be short - you can at least make the effort to say a couple of important words: hello, thank you and please are the first three that spring to mind. And then there are the words associated with eating and drinking. Locals really appreciate foreigners making an effort, no matter how small. If you tell the chef in the kitchen his meal is "delicious" then you will be loved forever and probably given an extra helping next time round.

They love it too, if you know something about their country, so do a bit of general knowledge research before you leave. Guaranteed, if you come from the western world, they'll know quite a bit about your country of origin.

Carry a little dictionary along for the ride
We have had some of the most memorable conversations with the use of a dual language dictionary. Not only can you look up words to explain yourself, but the person you are speaking to can too. One of the classic examples I still remember was in Thailand. The conversation had come to a halt. Ali had tried, I had tried; we just couldn't pronounce and explain what we wanted to say. The man we were talking with didn't understand a thing and it was quite frustrating. So, in an action to lighten up the mood, Ali flipped open the dictionary on a random page and read the first line that caught his attention: "Would you like this dance with me?" The whole table burst out laughing. He had said it perfectly and it was a cracking icebreaker.

The other excellent travel communication book is Point It: a passport sized picture dictionary by Dieter Graf. Not much extra baggage at 8.9 x 12.7 cm and only 45 grams. Now, everyone in the world will be able to understand you.


Tipping: How much should I leave behind?
"Is tipping customary?" : one of the many cultural questions that pops into a travellers' mind when stepping from one country to the next.

While it is commonplace in the US, it is not necessarily the norm in other countries. For example in Mexico and Central America, it is usual to tip the kids bagging your groceries, whereas in Korea and Japan it is considered rude to leave a tip behind in eating and drinking establishments. In fact, you'll have the waitperson running after you to give you your change back.

The best advice would be to do some homework before you leave home. There are a multitude of country info websites out there to peruse for this sort of information. One such site is worldtravelguide, but cross referencing is always a good idea. Another way of knowing what the custom is, is to watch locals closely when it comes to paying in a restaurant or supermarket. It's not that hard to work out what is going on through body language and gestures.

See our money tips for more tips on handling your money while travelling.
Country specific tipping customs can be found on our individual country information pages.

How to handle hassling salesmen!
Ali cleverly devised this 'one liner' that worked a treat for us in Turkey. The carpet salesmen quite often use the attention getter: You come from Australia? - or whatever country they think of at the time. it is just a ploy to start up a conversation and then invite you into their shop. The only problem is they don't give up and end up following you down the street running through every western country of the world.

In order to stop this: turn around and direct the same question back at them: "You come from Turkey?" It either stops them dead; or they start laughing giving you a few seconds and enough time to walk out of hearing distance.

Sharpening those bartering skills
You are either good at it or you are not. Whatever the case, remember that bargaining is just as much about socialising with locals as it is about saving money. So enjoy yourself while you are doing it.

Here's a couple of tips to help keep the price down:
Bargain in local currency.
Know your market so you don't: accept the first price; or contrastingly, think you are being ripped off when you are not. Ask another local what something costs if you really want to know local prices.
Stick to your guns and don't be afraid to walk away.
Don't be too proud to come back.
Remember that bargaining takes time.
Have a variety of notes and change on you.
Don't purchase form the obvious tourist stores, move further a field.
Respect economic differences: if you think its a good price, pay it. Don't haggle just for the sake of haggling.
Time permitting, make yourself known to the shop owner before purchasing from their store.
Keep smiling, it is supposed to be fun.

More money tips on our money tips and tricks page.

Thanking locals
During your travels you will be amazed at how many people will come to your aid and help you out of a sticky situation, share some important knowledge with you or welcome you with open arms into their home.

You can of course, leave with heartfelt thank you's and gratitude hugs. That is okay, but you can also leave behind a little trinket from home. While you might think the koala fridge magnet or the Dutch clog key ring is tacky and unoriginal, people on the other end of the world really do enjoy receiving these little gifts.

The postcard decides
This tip was given to us from John and Linda, a couple of perpetual travellers like ourselves. They claim that postcards can actually help you decide which of the main attractions you should visit and which ones you can give a miss.

The logic behind this is as follows: if you have limited time and can't visit everything or you are simply in two minds about visiting a particular museum or tourist feature, then head to the nearest postcard rack and check out what is on offer. They usually have the best features on display and this way you can get an overview of all the main drawcards in town. From here you can choose which you might like to see.


how much
should I really tip?


carpet salesmen

watch out for those
carpet salesmen


learn to barter

bartering is a fun way
to socialise with locals


dutch souvenirs

postcard rack


bike travelling on pick-up

locals knew exactly
the best way to strap
the bike to the pick-up


taxi on top of taxi

when locals put a
motor-taxi on top of a taxi
we knew the road was
going to be bad


bikes boxed for airport

bikes boxed ready
for the airport


bubble wrapped bike

bike bubble-wrapped
for flying

Letting someone else steer the bike

There will be times when you are faced with the decision of whether to put your bicycle on some other form of transport. Often it will be out of necessity, but occasionally you want the luxoury of getting to another destination fast.

Touring cyclists  have been known to use all kinds of transport and for all types of reasons: visas running out and the country is too big to bicycle from border to border; an ocean or river gets in the way, the weather and wind change making it too dangerous or impossible to cycle; injuries; or just because they don't fancy pedalling a particular stretch. The latter doesn't really happen very often, because the general consensus is: if a cyclist can pedal it, then that's what they would rather do.

The reason for this is the hassle involved with taking another mode of transport other than pedalling the loaded bicycle yourself. And in our experience we’d prefer putting our bikes on, in order of preference: ferries, boats, trucks, pick-up cars, buses or trains and coming in last by a very large margin – for both annoyance and environmental reasons: the airplane.

Dealing with airports: the fight for your bike
I don’t have aviophobia, but I certainly hate flying when I'm on a cycling holiday and the dread normally begins from the moment we book the flight. After flying nine times with a loaded bicycle you think I'd be used to it, but unfortunately, there is no one standard and each airline (and sometimes even airport) has its own method of handling this situation.

Firstly, with such a diverse array of check-in baggage regulations and ambiguous wording of  exactly how you must pack your bike, problems can arise. And believe me they nearly always do. Not one of the nine check-in experiences has ever been the same. Lastly, and this is the most frustrating, you will probably find that you are more knowledgeable about airline baggage policies than the airport staff behind the counter.

At this point just smile
There are virtually no flight companies these days that accept a bike without some sort of protection and this is more about ensuring that fellow passengers’ luggage is not stained with grease or damaged by your bicycle. And I can see their point. The problems usually arise when your chosen method of packing doesn’t appear to be the check-in staff's idea of company policy  - even though you read the terms and conditions thoroughly, sent off numerous emails and received confirmation that your packing concept was fine for flight carriage.
Heed the advice below and you will be armed with the best ammunition to fight for your bike.

At this point stick to your guns
We need to rewind a little to the moment just before you booked your flight. You haven’t clicked on any confirm buttons yet and you are reading the airline’s company wording very carefully to see what conditions apply for taking your bike on board. You have weighed up cheap flight costs versus excess baggage fees and are satisfied with your decision. You hit “book flight”, not forgetting to fill in special equipment fields mentioning that you will be flying with a bicycle. Though not usual these days, if there isn’t a place for this information, send a separate e-mail to the customer service outlining your flight details etc. Okay, now for the really important part:

  • printout a copy of your flight confirmation details;
  • make copies of all e-mail correspondence regarding bike packing terms;
  • if you telephone the company, write down the name, position or department of the person you spoke to.
  • printout the terms and conditions of special baggage allowance; specific packing instructions
  • printout excess baggage conditions and costs involved
  • make sure all documents have dates & times on them: every bit of evidence is vital for the day
At this point you are armed and ready for combat
If you have flown with a bicycle more than once in your life, you will realise that there is no one set of rules out there: it is completely dependent on individual airline regulations. While most flights require you to turn your handlebars level with the frame; remove pedals and deflate your tires, the exact packing specifications is as varied as the world you are travelling in. Here’s a couple of prime examples:

British Airways: We will accept non-motorised bicycles of all dimensions provided they are packed in a recognised bicycle bag
Qantas: To be accepted for carriage, bicycles must be suitably packed in a bike box
Delta Airlines: Your bike must be packaged in a cardboard or canvas container in one of the following ways: handlebars fixed sideways and pedals removed or handlebars and pedals encased in plastic, styrofoam or other similar material
Ryan Air: Bicycles  MUST be contained in a protective box or bag
EasyJet:The bicycle  must be packaged in a bicycle box or bag
Air France: Place your bicycle in a protective container (cardboard, hard plastic)
Scandinavian Airlines: We recommend that you pack your bicycle in a bicycle bag
Air China: Regardless of the actual size, the following objects can be treated as luggage if total length of three sides is less than 158cm. All checked baggage must be properly packaged, have the ability to sustain a certain pressure, and can be safely loaded and transported under normal operations. Checked baggage may not be placed in a plastic bag.

The guidelines from all the above airlines are pretty easy to follow, except there is one ambiguous factor: “what exactly is a protective or recognised bicycle bag”?

  poly plastic bag bubble wrap cardboard bike box bike bag bike suitcase
? mattress shop
purchase at CTC *
post offices
office supply stores
refrigerator boxes
strong fruit boxes
bike store
bike store
online shop
bike store
online shop


cheap & lightweight
easily sourced
take with you on tour
use as ground sheet
good rain protector
baggage handlers can see what it is
medium protection
baggage handlers can see what it is
good protection
unusually shaped article & stands out

cheap if sourced from bike shop
purpose made
fits range of bikes
very good protection
can fit in pannier
no airport hassles
purpose made
best protection
no airport hassles
easy to carry


not all airlines think ·this good protection
can leave your bike vulnerable to damage
able to ride to airport
takes time to pack
not eco-friendly
able to ride to airport
heavy & adds to baggage weight
baggage handlers can't see what it is
difficult to transport to airport
heavy & adds to baggage weight
baggage handlers can't see what it is
standard box
difficult to transport to airport
very expensive to purchase at airports
takes up a lot of pannier space
awkward & heavy to carry around
able to ride to airport
size specific
bike must be pulled apart or folded
problem of storing when cycling unless it becomes a trailer

* CTC has a letterhead document to download certifying their poly bag as a "purpose made bicycle bag. It looks very professional and official and could help you out when trying this method of packing. Don't forget to take it along with all your other documents.

Tried and tested
We have both tried all of the above except the purpose-made bike bag and suitcase. On this tour we have bubble wrapped our bikes on three occasions: it was successful twice. There have never had any hassles regarding how we packed our bikes every time we used a bike box.
The poly bag experience was part of my first cycle tour and it put me off from ever trying it again. That said, other cyclists have succeeded. And it's possible that CTC's document could help you out here.

At this point you need to make a decision.
Whatever the terms and conditions are, whichever packing method you decide on and however well you follow the guidelines, there is still a chance the situation at the check-in desk will not go as you expected. While problems do arise, sometimes it can work out to your advantage as well:

Cycling friends of ours, Lynne and Dave told us about their positive experience: "We flew from London to Caracas, Venezuela with TAP and their website clearly stated that we would incur a €100 fee for the bikes, but the check-in staff didn't ask for anything. I'd like to say they were being kind, but actually I don't think they understood the policy."

Our own Air Canada experience is quite a long story and at the time a process involving two long hours of negotiations too. We had bubble wrapped all delicate and oily parts prior to arriving at the check-in counter, so our bikes looked very respectable. But airline staff refused to let us fly without putting them in a box, even though their policy wording clearly said they would provide plastic bags for us at check-in. Bicycle boxing at the airport would cost $US70. Because we were armed with our paperwork and prior knowledge of their policy, they waivered the $50 handling fees for each bike and we paid for getting the bikes boxed. So, we actually ended up with $30 in our pockets. But it wasn't easy and we did have to fight hard for it.

At this point you are almost ready for lift off, but first a few more tips...

Packing the bike
Put your tools into your check-in luggage once finished with disassembling your bike. Don't forget to do this because it is almost impossible to get metal objects through security and onto the plane these days.
Try loosening your pedals the day before leaving or packing your bike. After long months of cycling in the elements they can be difficult to remove. On one occasion we needed to visit a mechanic to release them. Place pedals and loose parts in a plastic bag and tape to your frame or handlebar. Never leave anything loose lying in your box or bag.
Secure pumps, bottles and helmet to frame or cages or remove them altogether.
Remove spindles from wheels if they poke out too far, or alternatively place a thick piece of polystyrene foam against them. This can be found at fresh fruit markets or from electronic packaging. Similarly a few extra layers of cardboard wedged in tight can also help.
Pad or remove your back light.
Securing a bolt between front and back dropouts can reduce the chance of bent forks. I often pack mattresses, sleeping bags or foam around this area. Bungy cords help secure these in position on the frame
Clothes bundled up in plastic bags also make good padding. Foam pipe lagging is very useful too.
Place a layer of cardboard around the contents when using a really soft bike bag for flight protection.
Take extra packing tape incase airline security wants to check inside the box.
Zip ties are handy to hold cables, chains & derailleurs in place, especially when back wheel is removed.

Packing the pannier bags
Exactly how many bags you can take on board depends on the airline. In any case, most will not let you tie small bags together with string or bungy cords. This is not good news for the fully loaded cyclist, since you've got at least 3-4 panniers and more than likely a dry sack too. Airlines don't mind however, if you put more than one bag in a bigger bag. The plastic woven shopping bags with zips commonly found in Asia or Chinatown markets are perfect for this. They come in all sorts of sizes and are roomy enough to get quite a few pannier bags in. I still recommend strapping these together with bungy cords so the contents are blocked together and don't move around too. Especially if the bag gets damaged. Meredith and Keith got two super large bags sewn together to make a custom bike bag for their travels.
Draw pictures, smiley faces, stick figures and funny text on A4 sheets - coloured paper is even better and plaster all over your cardboard box or plastic wrapped bike. Make it look really different from any normal piece of luggage. Some of the lines we use are:"Please look after me, I have to cycle around the world"; "This is my only bike, please handle with care" and "World cyclist" with our website address. Whether this works or not, I have no idea, but it makes us feel we have done all we can to protect our bikes. The rest is in the hands of the luggage department. So far, we have never had any problems with damage.

Dealing with check-in staff
Get to the airport early. This safeguards that there is enough problem solving time, but staff also tend to be more cheerful earlier on in the check-in process and hopefully more generous too.
Smile A LOT.
Feign surprise when they tell you how much your excess luggage bill will be.
Ask for a discount, especially if you are on a long term tour. Tell them you are cycling around the world and plead with them. If they say they can't do anything, ask to speak to the manager - this has worked in our favour a couple of times. Knocking off a couple of hundred dollars in excess baggage charges is worth a bit of play acting. If you are cycling as a couple, do the good guy, bad guy scene. And finally, if you don't seem to be getting anywhere, try bursting into tears.
Loading your pockets with small electronic gear and batteries; hanging cameras around your neck; slinging a small bag underneath the coat you are wearing; as well as tying your jumpers around your hips will really reduce your luggage weight considerably. When some airlines charge $20 per kilo that you are over, it is worth the funny walk and trouser hitching. Just make sure you bring a plastic shopping bag with you to put everything in once you get past security.
A bike box is generally too big for the weigh-in conveyor belt, so you need to assist by holding on to it when it is being weighed. By lifting it ever so slightly - without letting airline staff see what you do- you can get 5-6 kilos off the total weight quite easily.

Breathe a sigh of relief when this process is all over. Shuffle your way towards the departure gates and airport security, removing all the electronic goods and batteries in your pockets before going through the metal detector. Put all this gear back into the plastic bag you brought along for this purpose and proceed through to immigration control. Walk a little easier through to the departure lounge. Don't look out the window to try and see if they are handling your bike with the TLC you would expect. Wait for the boarding call and enter airplane.

At this point you can sit back and enjoy your flight...

Links to airline sport or special equipment policies
Some airline companies have different rules and regulations depending on where you are travelling from and to, so it will pay to cross check these references by returning to the home page and filling in your departure region. It is sometimes difficult to find baggage specifications, but if you go directly to their sitemap you can generally spot the page link.

Air Arabia | Air Berlin | Air Canada | Air China | Air France | Aires | American Airlines | British Airways | Cathay Pacific | Condor | Continental Airlines | Delta Airlines | EasyJet | Egypt Air | Gulf Air | Iberia | Icelandic Air | JAL International 01 | JAL International 02 | Jet StarKLM | Korean Air | Lufthansa | Qantas | Ryan Air | Scandinavian Airlines | Singapore Airlines | South African Airways | Southwest Airlines | TAP Portugal | Tiger Airways | UAE | United Airlines | US Airways |

A great taking bicycles on planes article from the website by Frank and Jon. just for the ingenious way to cart a bike box on your back picture (hope for no wind): scroll down half way on the page.
CTC website: UK’s National Cyclists’ Organisation has some great tips for packing a bike ready for a flight. They also came up with the CTC Poly Bike Bag available from their shop. Coupled with the letterhead document describing the poly bag as an official “purpose-made bicycle bag”, you might just safe-sure your bikes carriage with this choice of packing method.
CTC also has a very extensive information sheet: Taking a Cycle by Air [word doc 294KB] has a number of useful links and tips here

Travel with Bicycles: a personal, non-commercial attempt to collect the experiences of bicycle tourists who use alternative transport on their tour. Either airlines, trains, buses or ferries: an excellent source of first hand bike transport stories

Bike bags and suitcases
Chain Reaction Cycles complete bike & wheels bag: this bag is really sturdy stuff with separate wheel compartments. Gets two thumbs up for protection, but at 6.2 kg and nearly 1.3 metres long, it isn't really the bag to take touring with you. Maybe for a round circuit journey, where you can leave the bag behind and pick up when you have finished cycling.

Groundeffects TAR Bag: is one of the most lightweight bike bags on the market at 1.45 kg. And even though it takes up precious pannier space, it folds up into a neat A4 package. Definitely worthwhile thinking about according to Lynne and Dave, who used them on a recent journey through South and Central America.

A Serfas Bike Transport Case or the Trico Iron Bike Travel Case: highly recommended at Amazon

Foldable bikes
If you feel like trading in all the airport and transport hassles, the following foldable bikes are the most reputable on the market. They can all be adapted for touring and companies are quite willing to help you out here.
Dahon Folding Bike: here's a real review from a Bike Friday owner on the Dahon Speed TR
Brompton: Another world reputable foldable and Heinz Stücke's choice at the moment. Coupled with an axle mounted trailer such as Radical Design’s Cyclone III, you are set.
Bike Friday: probably one of the most respected foldable bicycle tourers on the market. It's good in action!
Airnimal: very, very funky designs and makers are also committed to helping touring cyclists.

But, if you really want to see something quite amazing as far as foldability is concerned take a look at this Inhabitat article: pretty gorgeous looking bike, but probably well out of most touring cyclists' price range. And those wheels? Well, I'm not sure they are quite up to a Taldyk pass adventure just yet... But a nice idea nevertheless.

bubble wrapping bikes at airport

packing up the bikes in
bubble wrap at Incheon
airport, South Korea


foam lagging protection

foam lagging is a great
way to protect frames,
derailleurs and other
vulnerable bike parts


Asian plastic market bags

plastic Asian market bags
are perfect for putting your
panniers in by

attribution wiki commons


bike box sign

handle with care signs help
your bike box be noticed


waiting in airport queue

get to the airport early,
not just to avoid queues,
but check-in staff are
usually more generous


air canada

each airline has its own
set of rules regarding
bicycle carriage


folding bike friday

folding the Bike Friday


fully loaded bike friday

on the right,
a fully loaded Bike Friday
in action

Something other than air

Cycle touring is slow travel at its best. Not only is it a healthy way to immerse yourself directly in your surroundings, but it markedly reduces your carbon footprint too. And since one return flight from London to New York can produce about as much climate effect as a year of driving in an average European car, if you can choose another method of transporting yourself from A to B, then it is an eco-friendlier idea.

bikes in a bus

an unusual moment in
Panama when the bikes
were pushed in the back
end of the bus

panniers wrapped with bungy cord

bungy cords or elastic
washing lines are perfect
for securing your panniers


bikes in ferry

again, bungy cords are
perfect for securing your
bikes when transporting
them on ferries

Bus and train travel for bikes
While this would be our next least favourite mode of transport, it is (usually) hassle free. Even so, when purchasing or booking your ticket, it always pays to check just what the rules and regulations are regarding packing your bicycles and whether they are in fact even allowed on board. Some companies require boxing, some don't. There are also quirky details to think about. Though you'll probably never be asked to show them: travelling in Brazil, Argentina and other Latin American countries with a bicycle requires you to be in possession of a document certifying that you are the owner. We travel with a photocopy of our bicycle receipts in with our documents.

Bungy cords or elastic washing lines are great for strapping a couple of pannier bags together. Theft on buses throughout the world is a problem. If you bind your bike bags, it is more difficult for thieves to open them up in the first place and secondly, leaving no straps accessible makes them awkward, much heavier and therefore more difficult to run off with.

Sailing the seven seas
With ferries and boats you can breathe easy. Quite often you just wheel or ride your loaded bicycle on. Sea fishing and smaller river boats sometimes require a bit of muscle lifting them up and into place, but in all, this mode of transport is by far the most cycle-friendly.

It is usually the most interesting too. So don't let a river ever stop you. Bungy cords come in handy on the waterways as well. They hold everything securely to rails and poles and wrapped around your panniers add a bit of extra security too.

Bike in the back of a truck
For all sorts of reasons, we have used taxi's and trucks. Often an impromptu moment when wind and weather became too unbearable or just too dangerous to continue. Occasionally, it was a conscious decision. At these times, prices were always negotiated prior to departure and we played an active role in deciding how our bicycles would be transported.

All by my bike
Obviously riding a loaded bicycle is our preferred way of getting around and it is by far the most eco friendly. But this is not the only reason to load up the panniers and get pedalling. There is a big, wide, wonderful world out there to discover and at the same time, you might learn a bit about yourself too.

Need some relevant information about travelling on transport modes other that cycling?
Travel with Bicycles: first hand cycle touring experiences using airlines, trains, buses and ferries

Post a message on one of the forums:
Lonely Planet | Bike Forums | Cycle chat | CTC | CycloCamping | Wereldfietser (Dutch)

How much impact do you have on the environment? a carbon footprint calculator
train versus plane: a few staggering facts

Travel sickness
Although I love the ocean, boats have never really been my thing. But unless I tried to read something whilst on the move, other forms of transport were not problematic. Lots of people have an issue with that, so it never really worried me.

These days however - and it boils down to the last four years of virtually only using a bicycle as a mode of transport - I get motion sickness at the slightest bend in the road and on any form of motorised vehicle. Especially so, if the driver is anything like the chauffeur that took us to the top of Corcovado mountain to see Cristo Redentor in Rio De Janeiro.

So what do I do about it?
Well there are three methods up my sleeve, depending on the length and type of journey. And since everyone reacts differently I'll describe these on a 'likelihood to suffer from motion sickness' scale.

LOW - short ferry trips and local transport from A to B
Cross my hands and hold my thumbs on the Nei-Kuan-acupuncture point. You can find this by placing your three middle fingers on your inside wrist like searching for a pulse. Under your index finger you will locate a small hollow between the tendons: this is your nausea prevention point. By adding pressure to it during travel, you can prevent suffering from motion sickness. A step up from this DIY method is to purchase some specially designed bands. They work on exactly the same principle and save you from looking like you are using a special form of meditation.

MEDIUM - a few hours to a day ferry trip; long bus/car journeys
The next course of action involves using the above method and the intake of ginger. The best products I have found are chewing gum, tea or boiled sweets. But any thing with ginger in it will do and it really does work with calming the stomach and relieving nausea symptoms. Ingesting ginger before you embark on the journey is always a good idea.

HIGH - sailing on the ocean; small boat on the sea after more than two hours
And this is where I loose all devotion to being naturopathic. Just give me drugs! The only ones I have used are Dramamine tablets and besides the drowsiness side effect, they are fantastic. They are a powerful drug though, so do your research before deciding whether to take them or not.

The only tip I would give is to get chewable tablets, since they have a quicker action time. If you can't find these, then stick a normal dramamine pill under your tongue and suck on it. This has an almost immediate effect. However be warned, it is probably the most disgusting taste you'll ever get to experience, but it is way better than throwing-up overboard.

Psi wristbands for nausea relief at REI or at Amazon
Sea-Band is also available at Amazon
Anti-Nausea Ginger Gum
Dramamine Chewable Orange Flavour Formula

Captain Mike's rather kooky and opinionated website Seasick Cure. It's all there if you care to read it. See our health and safety pages for more about issues on travel health.


holding the "Nei-Kuan"
nausea acupuncture
points on a Belize to
Guatemala boat crossing



suffering from
seasickness is no fun at all


nausea wristbands

Psi Bands Drug-Free
Wrist Bands for the
Relief of Nausea
amazon ad


wardrobe lock

two rack extenders &
padlocks make a
deterrent lock


wire rope sling

small steel wire rope
sling which doubles as
a bike wheel lock

Hotel security

Many articles on travel security suggest putting your valuables in a hotel safe, which is fine if there is one. In our experience that luxoury doesn't come by very often.

After our room at Hotel Casablanca in Flores, Guatemala was searched by staff, we felt we could never really leave anything behind anymore. Traipsing around a town with all your electronic valuables is not really an option either. So for a long period, one of us always stayed behind. This quite frankly became a real drag.

So, we decided to find a way to create a standard sort of cupboard handle lock.

The first lock is made is using two rack extenders like these from Jandd and two small padlocks. All of these we carry in our panniers anyway, so instead of just sitting there, they have been put to regular good use.

The other cable - which Aaldrik found lying on the road and romantically gave to me as a birthday present - is a double-eye steel wire rope sling. I bet not too many gals out there can say they received one of those as a gift from their husband. They can be found at industrial hardware stores or shops dealing in wire rope. They also make an excellent "quick clamp" lock for the back wheel on your bike if you want added security to locking your bike in public spaces.

Sure, what we came up with is definitely not full-proof. Inside thieves - and unless you leave your window wide open, they nearly always are staff - could unscrew door handles, enter from the back of the wardrobe or even use bolt cutters. But like a bike lock, something is better than nothing.

I'm still a firm believer than even the smallest deterrent might send a thief looking for an easier target.

Bicycle security
I once owned, what I considered one of the most beautiful mountain bikes on this planet: a Kona Hot. I saved up all my money and in 1994, I became the proud owner of an emerald green beauty. But not for long. Even though I followed all the guidelines; even though I had the best locks (3) at the time; and even though it was in a well lit parking area with hundreds of other bikes, someone spotted her and she was gone forever.

kryptonite u-lock

Kryptonite New York
Standard Bicycle U-Lock
with Bracket


kryptonite chain lock

Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain
with Disc Lock


wire lock

a steel wire sling is only a
deterrent in public places.
It needs to be coupled with
a decent lock or chain

Having been through one bike loss, before we left, we got into some heavy research about which were the best bike locks to take with us on our world tour. After hours of internetting and looking at different brands in bike stores, we actually opted not to purchase new ones at all. We made do with an old Rhodes Gorilla U bolt and a wire cable. The following points swayed our decision:

We are travelling as a couple, so in public places and shops, one of us stays with the loaded bicycles. If our bikes can't be placed somewhere inside the hotel or guesthouse, then we don't stay there. The bikes are really old and look like they've been through the wars. If someone really wants to steal your bike, then they will do so no matter what or how many locks are used. The Rhodes Gorilla is a decent U-Bolt, though nowadays not high security. Still, it is a good deterrent and coupled with a solid wire we figure we have enough protection for what we need.

That said, some people travel with bikes of much greater value than ours or they are cycle touring alone. For them, good security is also peace of mind. I will mildly touch on the ins and outs of this bike safety subject to get you started, but the ultimate choice, well I'm afraid, that is entirely up to you. Besides, no matter what I say, it's your baby and you'll want do some research by yourself anyway.

Which lock will best prevent bicycle theft?
A good lock manufacturer will stand by their product so this will give you an initial idea about how anti-theft the product is. Kryptonite, OnGuard and Masterlock all offer protection plans on their top of the range bicycle locks. Another guide to choosing the most suitable is to look at their rating system. Then check the reviews. Comments from customers can be you an indication of what is good and bad with the product.

Generally U-locks are considered the best system for bike security and the most inferior is the cable or coil lock. Chains are also a good way of  securing your bike, but for the sturdiest brands, you’ll be carting a lot of weight around with you.  Still remember, any lock is better than no lock and two locks are better than one.

There is one other less prevalent type known as the O lock, like the Masterlock Street Cuffs and even though the company offers very good anti-theft protection there are mixed reviews.

Five brand leaders in bicycle security locks: Kryptonite | Onguard | Masterlock | Abus | Squire

Which bicycle lock will best suit me?

So now that you are familiar with the types of lock available, you have to make a choice and the following issues you should think about:
Where will you be locking your bike up? High risk or low theft areas. As a cycling tourist, your bicycle is with you most of the time. Solo tourer's have to consider leaving it alone on more occassions.
How easy is it to transport your lock with you? A chain or coil can often wrap around the seat post and a d-lock comes with a holder. For cycle touring though, the holder would be in the way of precious water bottle space, so it is generally carried in a bag or on the back rack.
How much weight are you prepared to carry with you?
Buy hardened steel locks: Unfortunately the trade-off is usually: the sturdier the heavier.
A snug fitting lock is advisable: leave no room for levers to get between the post and your bike
Purchase two locks instead of one

Want to know even more about choosing different bike locks:
REI Expert Advice: How to choose a bike lock
Bicyclesource: simple, informative and concise article
Consumersearch: Bike lock comparison between a couple of leading brands

How can I prevent bike theft?
And here are a couple of tips and resources for preventing your bike from being stolen:

  • Buy two locks, but if you only have one lock, then let it be a U-lock and don't forget to use it.
  • Position your U-lock through the frame as well as the rear wheel. If your front wheel quick releases, then detach and secure with U-lock as well.
  • Check that what you are locking your bike to something secure. Is the bike rack solid? Remember that traffic and street signs are not a secure spot to tie your bike up to. Poles can be removed as can the sign at the top.
  • Lock your bike in a well lit area that can be viewed by the public.
  • Paint over or remove quality brand names.
  • Write down your serial number and scratch a personal code or id number in the frame somewhere.
  • Don't leave your bike unattended overnight.
  • Take a picture of it for reference if stolen.
  • Secure any quick-release components either to your U-bolt or chain or take them with you.
For some more information on how to prevent your bike from being stolen:
A guide to bike security: an excellent brochure (in content and graphic form) from Bicycle Habitat
Lock Strategy by sheldon Brown
Theft-prevention-tips-for-bicycle-owner from Helen Smeaton.
A range of bike locks available at : REI | Amazon | Cyclo Camping

cycling in mexico

the rewards of cycle
touring certainly
outweigh any risks

Is bicycle touring safe?

No matter what travel activity you undertake, you are going to be confronted with certain safety concerns. The stereotyped image portrayed by media or simply the unknown of any country can play havoc with our imaginations too. The result is you "umming and aahing" as to whether entering the perceived danger zone is a good idea or not.

As far as we are both concerned, intrepid travel is always a good idea and if the country is not at war, then we say: "why not try it?" Most of your apprehensions will fade once you get there and you will be more than likely surprised by the warmth and hospitality of locals in a region of our world that sees little tourism, than in one that is overrun with it. So basically, don't let fear be a reason not to load up the bike and remember while following the well pedalled cycle route is sometimes unavoidable, it is not always the most rewarding touring.

A couple of points for cycle touring safety are discussed below, but it is a very personal issue.Your daring plays an important role in your day to day travel choices. Simply "feeling safe or comfortable" on your journey usually eliminates most of your travel fears as does gaining more on-the-road experience.

  • trust your gut instincts: these will develop, the more you travel
  • put yourself in situations that you feel comfortable with
  • plan beforehand, but don't be scared to change the itinerary if things aren't working out
  • check other cyclists blogs: use this information as a guide and not as gospel. For a selection of sites under one roof you can start with: go bicycle touring from Amaya & Eric or En-CYCLO-pedia from TravellingTwo or the links section on this site.
  • do a bit of research on the country you are going to prior to cycling there
  • if you are cycling into "so called" problem areas, have your wits about you and be on double alert
  • post questions on bike forums:
    Lonely Planet | Bike Forums | Cyclechat | CTC | Cyclo Camping | Wereldfietser (Dutch)
  • don't tell every local what you are doing or where you intend to spend the night, especially if wild camping.
  • if it feels unsafe, move on
  • carrying a defensive weapon is not really necessary and remember, if you are not trained in using it correctly or in times of stress, it could actually be used against you.
  • don't abandon your route just because locals warn of danger. Takeheed, but in most cases it is hearsay. This is where your homework comes in handy. Check again to see if any cyclists have had recent problems.
  • in big cities, keep a good watch out for your belongings and be "cycle" alert

Lastly, many people think you have to be incredibly fit to bicycle tour. This may not be entirely true. Probably the only criteria you will really need is a healthy mind, some common sense, a smile and inbuilt perseverance. These qualities will not only get you up the highest mountains and across scorching deserts, but they will allow you to look after yourself on your travels too. The more you cycle tour, the more natural it all becomes and it could, if you are not careful, develop into a way of life. For safety travel advice for women: see our travel tips for women page


No Footprint travel - COMING SOON
Whether you are travelling on a bicycle or by any other means there are ways for making your travels eco-friendly. Carrying little cloth shopping bags; battery rechargers; solar panels; water filters and reusable plastic bottles are only just the beginnng. There are also ways to help our planet while staying in a hotel or camping wild.

In the meantime take a look at:
Angela Dollar's Top ten tips for eco travel article. With 14 years of traveling the globe and as an employee of Crooked Trails, Angela is well aware of the effects of travel on local communities and on the planet. Go Green Travel Green: travel tips for the eco-conscious traveller

solar panel on bicycle

solar enegy on wheels

world wide insure


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