Frugal Travel: The Beauty of Bike Sharing

Getting to a destination is often the most expensive part of travel, be it by plane, train or car. Often, when I’m planning out the budget for a trip, I account for travel to a place, but not for travel in the place. Getting around, especially in a city, can be pricey. You have taxis, subways, cars (and usually exorbitant parking fees). Of course you also have your own two feet, but those might get tired after a while.

A great option when you’re exploring a new city can be a bike. Biking is faster than walking, allowing you to cover more ground. It can also be substantially cheaper than taking a car, taxi or subway.  This is especially true with the rising popularity of bike-sharing programs, now offered in cities around the world, which make it incredibly easy and convenient to rent a bike.

Today, I’ll share a few experiences I’ve had with bike rentals as a way of cutting the cost of travel.

Miami, Florida: Citi Bike

Miami is an expensive city. BF and I spent a long weekend in Miami over the winter. The main purpose of the trip was to visit my grandmother, who lives nearby, so we had to have a rental car in order to get to and from her home. Let me tell you, rental cars in Florida in February are not cheap. Also not cheap? Parking in Miami Beach. We were lucky to find street parking a few times, but the rates were only a tiny bit cheaper than garages. And they even charged for street parking on Sundays! What a rip off.

In any case, because parking was so expensive in Miami we tried to avoid moving the car so as not to incur additional charges. That left us on our own two feet, until we discovered Citi Bike! For $6.41 each, BF and I were able to walk up to a Citi Bike station, no reservation necessary, and rent two bikes for a ride along the beach and through the city. One benefit of a bike sharing program is that you are able to pick up a bike in one location and drop it off at any other bike sharing location. It couldn’t have been simpler, and the price was extremely reasonable (especially as compared to everything else in Miami. In case it wasn’t clear, I found Miami to be a bit much).

Biking around Miami on a Citi Bike

Biking around Miami on a Citi Bike

New England travel: Martha’s Vineyard and Portland, Maine

BF and I have also rented bikes on some travels around New England. During a family trip to Martha’s Vineyard a few summers ago, my mom rented bikes for our whole family for a half-day exploratory mission of the island. It was a little hilly, but overall an excellent way to see the island. We didn’t have a car there (it is very expensive to bring a car over on the ferry), so without the bikes it would have been challenging to see the different towns on the island. This was a more traditional bike rental, not a bike sharing program. I didn’t pay for it (thanks mom!) so I’m not sure how much it cost, but it was definitely worth it for a day of fun and self-powered travel.

BF and I also spent a long weekend in Portland, Maine a few summers ago. I believe the original draw there was a craft beer festival. In any case, we decided to head over to Peaks Island on our second day. We took the ferry over from Portland and quickly stumbled upon a very informal bike rental shop. Most bike rental places, especially in touristy areas, require advance reservations and have a fleet of identical and well-maintained bikes. Not so at this place. You simply walked up, found the best bike you could (they all had quirks), paid $5 ($5!) and were on your way. No time limit, no hidden fees, just good, old-fashioned bike riding fun. It turned out to be a great way to explore the island for a few hours before it was time for ice cream and a ferry back to the mainland.

Paris, France: Velib

I’ve been saving the best for last. By far the best deal I’ve come across in the world of bike sharing is Velib. Velib is an absolutely massive bike sharing program all throughout Paris. They have stations on nearly every corner, and according to their website they have a fleet of over 20,000 bikes. The bikes are well maintained. The city itself is also very friendly to bikers, with bike lanes on nearly every street and a healthy population of fellow bikers, both using Velib and their own bikes.

The Velib station around the corner from our Paris apartment

The Velib station around the corner from our Paris apartment

Here’s the best part of Velib: the PRICE! For a mere €30, you can get a Velib pass for the ENTIRE YEAR! The first 30 minutes of each ride are free, and if you need to take a longer ride you can just return your bike and get a new one at any of the many convenient stations. If you lived in Paris, you would be paying only 8 cents per day to use Velib. Even though we’ll only be here for two months, we’ll still only pay 53 cents per day for the service. Now that is a bargain.

Have you used bike sharing or rented bikes while travelling? How do you save money on travelling within a city?


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4 thoughts on “Frugal Travel: The Beauty of Bike Sharing

    • That is a great approach! We try to stay in a central location whenever possible and use transit, too. It is convenient, usually inexpensive, and a great way to see real people living life in a city!

  1. I love biking to explore new cities! The bike sharing thing in Paris sounds very much like the one in Montreal. It was awesome! We’d just pick up bikes at one station, bike around town, find another station to park them at. So convenient and fun!

    • Yes – it is exactly like that! I haven’t been to Montreal in ages but would love to get back there. Good to know they have a good bike sharing program!

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