THE CHEAPEST B&Bs IN HOLLAND – ‘Friends on the bike’

Mevrouw T and I can stay in any one of thousands of B&Bs for a maximum price of 19euros (USD26) each. I can assure you that’s a serious mates’ rate, especially in the larger cities.

The only condition is that we have to get there by cycling, walking, canoeing, skating or skeeling* (I have no idea what that is either, but apparently energetic people in Friesland enjoy getting around that way).

We’re members of a Dutch organisation called ‘Vrienden op de Fiets’ (Friends on the Bike), that promotes active travel. Membership is open to anyone who forks out a paltry 8 euros a year**. For this we get a book with over 3600 B&B addresses in the Netherlands, as well as several hundred in Belgium, Germany and France, and a number in other European countries. There are even a few in Peru, Australia, Israel and the US.

[As my correspondent Arie pointed out to me in the comments box, most hosts are not running fully professional B&Bs and trying to make lots of money; they’re just families with a spare room who enjoy taking in like-minded cycling guests.]

Once you have the book, you ring your hosts to make a reservation, and if they’re able to accommodate you, get there in some athletic way. Walking from the car to the B&B front door doesn’t count, even if you’ve had to park around the corner and are lugging a heavy suitcase.

The website of this worthy enterprise is www.vriendenopdefiets.nl . The home page is in Dutch, but fear not, there is an English or German translation available too.

NOTES:
*I’ve googled it now; it’s ‘roller-blading’.

**To have the Vrienden op de Fiets book mailed to an address outside the Netherlands costs 2 euros for Europe and 8 euros for all other countries.

44 Comments

Filed under Budget travel, Cycle touring, Holland

44 responses to “THE CHEAPEST B&Bs IN HOLLAND – ‘Friends on the bike’

  1. Ina Fine

    I agree, a terrific organisation.We twice did a cycle trip in Holland. We also stayed in Amsterdam with them, minutes from Vondelpark.
    Some of the places you can stay longer and come by car as they also belong to other organisations.
    The Australian address is us! We don’t expect people to come by bike but expect people to want to walk, use our bikes or our canoes.
    Only had 2 people so far but it was a lot of fun.
    cheers Ina

  2. Thanks for the tip, Ine, and may you get lots more V.o.d.F. visitors in Australia.

    It’s a great idea and more places should develop it!

  3. I wish we had this in Canada. It’s a terrific idea and makes traveling that much more affordable.

  4. Pingback: MY WORST TRAVEL EXPERIENCES OF 2011 | Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

  5. Gary Keese

    I rode around the Netherlands for four weeks in May and June 2011, and stayed with about twenty members of Friends of the Bike in nearly every part of the country. What a wonderful group of people. One host was a 74 year old man who regularly rides 120 MILES (not K) into Germany IN ONE DAY AND THEN RIDES BACK HOME THE NEXT DAY. Another was a 80 year old woman whose son was about halfway into his ride to China. Fabulous people, wonderful organization.

    • Glad it worked out for you Gary, and indeed you do meet some very good cyclists in Holland. We were riding round the Netherlands in June 2011 too – from Friesland to Zeeland on the Pieperpad. We hit a lot of bad weather and it was great to have some Vrienden op de Fiets to stay with. We think it’s a great organisation too – long may it prosper!

  6. Shirley Malnis

    I have checked on the site and there is only a place to order a catalogue – is this how you become a member?
    Also, do you know how you become a partner host; we are cyclists who live in BC (Western Canada)?
    Thanks
    Shirley

  7. Arie

    Because of other hosting formulas, people sometimes think that hosting is reciprocal with Vrienden op de Fiets, but it’s not.

    So, if you’re looking for bicycle friendly places to stay: become a donor, fill in the form and you will receive a request to pay the corresponding amount for your membership.

    If you want to host: let them know by sending a mail to administratie@vriendenopdefiets.nl There’s no form on their site for that for people living outside the Netherlands and Belgium. You don’t have to be a member. Getting listed in their booklet happens for free. One problem however. The address book for 2012 is being printed now, so your information will only be available in the 2013 edition.

    If you want both: being hosted while cycling and hosting other touring cyclists, then you have to go for both.

    Good luck, Arie

  8. Margaret VanLeest

    Do you know if the link to friends of the bike is still active. I used the link a few months ago and it worked. I had it has a favorite and would like to join as we are going to Holland for 6 weeks on a bike trip. Thanks

  9. Eva Walters

    Hi Richard,
    Thanks for the information about Vrienden op de Fiets. It sounds like a terrific organization. I went to their website to see how to sign up and pay for the address book. There was only one page in English, and no way to sign up or pay online that I could see. Do we have to mail them the fee? Also, do most of the hosts speak English? If not, it could be a bit difficult to contact them. I appreciate you taking the time to answer this.
    Happy cycling,
    Eva

    • Hi Eva, yes, I just had a look at the English page too and couldn’t see how to pay there. On the Dutch home page it’s easier – you click on ‘donateurs’ (members) then on ‘Ik wil donateur worden’ (I want to become a member), and fill in your details, including Dutch rekening (bank account) number. They send you the address book (promptly, we found) and debit your account. Maybe if you can, you need to wait till you’re in Holland and ask a Dutch person to help you for a few minutes. They may let you debit their Dutch bank account if you advance them the cash.

      Most Dutch people speak at least basic English (and often German and French too) and are used to tourists who don’t speak any Dutch.

      Hope it works for you as it has for us – happy cycling to you too!

  10. Emily Craft

    Last week, I “joined” VodF by translating each Dutch field to English in Google Tranlaste. There was one field that asked for account and I listed Visa, thinking the site would then ask for my credit card number. I was immediately registered, but I haven’t paid any money. I can log in to the site, but don’t know where to go from there. I’d like to receive the book soon for our trip to the Netherlands in April, 2012. I’ve written to ask how to pay now that I’m a member, but all I get is a reply telling me to login with my member number and zip code. I can log in, but I still can’t request the book. Any ideas?

    • I think it can be a bit tricky, Emily, but if you know anyone with a Dutch bank account they could join for you. Our book was delivered very quickly once we did that.

    • Raquel

      Hello, we are 2 spanish people who are going to Holland in july. We’ll spend 10 days visiting the country by bicycle. I’ve tried to join VodF by translating each Dutch field to English but I don’t have a Dutch account. I’ve also written to them but I only receive an authomatic response. Did you Emily or anyone get finally the adress book?
      Thank you

      • Arie

        I am copying this from their site:
        >>> When you become a donor, you will receive the (free) address book and a donor card, which enables you to reserve your own overnight stays.

        You will find the terms and conditions for using your donor card, making reservations and method of payment in the information package that will be sent to your home address, along with the address book, within one or two weeks after registering.

        For a minimum contribution of 10 euro, you will receive a donor card and an address book, which entitles you to utilise the guest addresses we offer. <<<

        So the order is quite simple. First you register, after two weeks you get the book and the card, and then you pay. Maybe a bit unusual these days, where you have to pay on the web everything on beforehand. No question of filling in somewhere your VISA.

      • Emily Craft

        We had the same experience. Go ahead and fill in the online form, translating the fields from Dutch, and submit it. You should get a donor number which you can use to login to the site (along with your postal code as your password) and send an email. (I wrote it in English, then used Google Translate and pasted a copy of my message in Dutch.) We waited until several weeks after the email reply said we should receive our package. Then we called VodF. The man at the office, which is open only a few hours each day–hours listed on the website, told us our package was on the way. Sure enough! It arrived about a week later with an invoice for 8 euro, I think. I tried to pay it with a transfer. My bank in the US wanted $45 to send the 8 euros. So, I waited until we got to Amsterdam, went to an ING bank where we made the payment for 10 euro. No one asked for our card or any kind of proof of membership in VodF. The biking trip was the highlight of our month-long European trip. This is a wonderful organization.

    • Since your mail was from January you may have already found out. However, I signed up as to stay with hosts and received the book promptly together with a form with which to pay through a non dutch bank account, English in my case. Everything in Dutch but easy enough to translate. I find wordreference.com better than google but it is getting better.

  11. Alta Collyer

    We plan to cycle for 6 days from Arnhem from the 21st of August 2012, can anyone suggest a nice route to do please?
    Thank you,
    Alta & Lewis Collyer,
    Cape Town, South Africa

    • There is lots of good cycling around Arnhem. But make sure you go through the High Veluwe national park, and visit the fabulous Kroller Muller Museum there. Brilliant sculpture garden and Van Gogh collection.

      • Alta Collyer

        Thank you for giving me some info on the areas. We dont know the Gelderland area at all, can you tell me where to go from Arnhem, we are looking for a circle route over 6 days, sleeping along the way at Vrienden of de Fietse, we already bought a donorkaart. I know we can go anywhere we like, but would appreciate a possible circle route suggestion.
        Thank you, Alta

      • Without knowing how far you can ride in a day, I can’t suggest a specific route, Alta, other than that the Veluwe and Kroller-Muller Museum should definitely be on it. But I’ll try…

        Arnhem – Utrecht – Naarden – Apeldoorn – Deventer – Doetinchem – Nijmegen – Arnhem.

        That takes in some of the nicest towns in the area. And bear in mind it need not be a loop ride – you can take a bike on a train for 6 euros and get back to Arnhem from anywhere in the Netherlands.

        Other than that, I suggest following the knooppunt (node) numbers by roads and bike paths on the Fietsroutenetwerk (Bike route network). They are designed to take cyclists on the scenic routes. I wrote about it here: https://richardtulloch.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/the-brilliant-dutch-cycle-network-amsterdam-to-laren/

        The website for planning a route using the network is: http://www.fietsersbond.nl/fietsrouteplanner/

        Any Dutch person (or Friend on the Bike) host should be able to help you interpret it.

        Have a great ride!

  12. Raquel

    Thank you very much for the information, I’m feeling better now that I know about your experience. I’ve already filled the online form, translating the fields from Dutch, and I’ve got a donor number which I can use to login to the site but I don’t know how to send them an email. I can’t find the email adress. I think I should wait and I hope the book will arrive in time (we’re living on 30 June)

    • Emily Craft

      I seem to remember that once you login to the site, there’s a link to an email, but I’m not sure. Also, we received an email with our donor number which I used to reply to. In my opinion, the best way to contact VodF is by phone. Their hours are listed on the site. Be sure to translate to the correct time zone. In our experience the Dutch speak better English than they write. When we called, we simply said, “English ok?” Immediately the other party started speaking English. He periodically asked if we understood. Following the phone call, we received our packet within the week. The biking trip was fabulous. Hope yours is as enjoyable. All of the VodF hosts were charming and delightful, yet each family was unique. It’s such a rich cultural experience.

      • Raquel

        At the moment, I’ve been able to send them an email in Dutch using Google Translate and they’ve answered telling me that I’ll receive news next week. It’s going well!
        Thanks a lot, you’ve been very helpful. I keep your information in case I need to call them
        Raquel

      • So glad that’s working out for you, Raquel.

        Keep Google Translate in the smartPhone. You can speak the message into it, translate it into Dutch and play it back to anyone who knows that language. It may not get you the information you need, but it will make someone laugh!

  13. Blanca

    Hello! I’ve recently joined the foundation and I plan to stay in some the houses in my trip this summer. However, I’ve heard that some people have had bad experiences with the accomodations in bigger towns (Amsterdam, The Hague, Brugges…) Could you please tell me what was your experiece in those places?

    Thank you very much!

    • Blanca, the accommodation will vary of course, from quite luxurious to very basic, all for much the same (low) price. These are not professional B&Bs, but ordinary people’s houses. But we’ve met only very nice people through the system, and will put up with a cramped room if we’re received by a helpful,friendly host.

      Maybe others can tell you more about the bigger towns – we’ve only stayed in small ones.

    • Sean

      Blanca,

      I’ve stayed in Berlin, Bruges, Ghent and Namur and all people were simply wonderful.

  14. Blanca

    Richard, Sean, thank you very much for your answers!

  15. Pingback: Amorrosea Just Love Pink

  16. Claire

    These posts are old but I thought it worth adding – having just joined Vrienden op de Fiets from the UK (brilliant organisation!) – we were able to pay by paypal using their “administratie” email address. Not advertised on the site but they provided the details when asked, and a lot cheaper and easier than an international bank transfer.

    • Thanks Claire, that’s really good to know and pleased it all worked out for you.

      • Alta Collyer

        Thanks for the info, we always enjoy your input, and are looking forward to more. Alta Collyer. South Africa

        On Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 10:50 PM, Richard Tulloch’s LIFE ON THE ROAD wrote:

        > ** > Richard Tulloch commented: “Thanks Claire, that’s really good to know > and pleased it all worked out for you.” >

  17. Jon Clark

    I have enjoyed reading of everyone’s plans to bike in Holland. Last year my wife and I joined Vrienden op de fiets and were hosted throughout Holland over 4 weeks. We only met one unusual host, the rest were really nice people and some went out of their way to give us a great welcome even though we stayed for one night only. Now we are a donor in New Zealand so come on through, we have terrific biking here.

    • Thanks Jon. I’d love to get back to NZ with the bike soon. I had a great ride from Queenstown over the Haast Pass and up the West Coast a couple of years ago – one of the best trips I’ve done.

  18. Jon Clark

    Nice to hear from you Richard. Glad you’ve experienced some biking in NZ. Epic stuff from Queenstown over the Crown Range, through Wanaka and the Haast Pass. Good for you. We have just come back from a month down there biking and tramping in one of the best summers we have seen.
    Best wshes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s