You can tell your friend that it is definitely possible to travel from Brussels to Tel Aviv on less than $2,000.
The trick is to leave the USA with nothing. Yes, buy a used bike and all of your supplies when you get to Europe. Buying them in the USA and paying to have them shipped or loaded on the plane as cargo would cost most of the money in your budget.
Buying a Bicycle in Europe
I have completely provisioned myself for bicycle travel in Europe two times now – once in Portugal and again in the Czech Republic – for well under $200. The key to purchasing a used bike upon arrival is that all of its parts should be locally made and on the European scale. This means that your bike will be easy to repair when it breaks – it will break – and you will be able to purchase spare parts for it easily and cheaply. Riding a bike made in the USA on the American scale means that you will may have to pay extra for parts that will fit it.
I have found that it is vastly cheaper, and in my opinion better, to buy a junky old used bike and outfitting it with new parts. Low quality new bikes in Europe tend to be expensive, but good quality new parts are cheap. This is a funny scenario that I came across when I suited up a $50 bone shaker bike in the Czech Republic with top of the line parts for under a hundred bucks.
Having a crappy looking bike also means that it will be less attractive to thieves. There are tons of bike thieves in Europe. I stored my Czech bike at a hostel in Budapest for the winter and it was gone in a matter of weeks. The chains were cut and the bike was gone.
After you find a bike – try to get one with the least amount of gears as possible and one with a rack on the back – it is time to gear it up for long haul travel. I have done this twice by simply rescuing an old plastic milk crate from the trash (or from behind a store) and tying it to the gear rack on the back of the bike. I then put my backpack and camping gear in it and fasten it all down with bungee cords.
I usually also pick up a couple other cheap bags and tie them to various places on the bike frame – like the handle bars. I sometimes also ride with a backpack on my back.
This is the bicycle and setup that I used to travel across Portugal.
Bicycle and setup that I used to travel across Eastern Europe.
If you get a used bike, I would recommend changing the chain, tubes, and tires as soon as you can. I usually carried two extra tubes with me as well.
As far as camping gear goes, I say the cheaper the better. You can usually pick up a tent and a sleeping bag from a department store in Europe for under $50.
Try to stay away from the highways and pick up bike trail maps from tourist information offices whenever you can. Many European countries have long distance bike trails that are really fun to ride on.
As far as sleeping goes, set up your tent in the woods or in hidden in ag fields. When you get to a major city, you can splurge on a hostel (expensive!) and take a shower. Or you can use Couchsurfing.com to find places to stay for free.
You can find more information about traveling by bicycle on the following pages:
Finding a Bicycle for Travel
Outfitting a bicycle for long distance travel
Bicycling Czech Republic
If you have anymore questions you can ask them here.
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So my friend, who is 25 and a real live adult, want to travel by bicycle to Brussels, Wurzburg, Bulgaria, Turkiye, Tel Aviv, all with spending less then $2,000. I suggested he check out your website. Any other tips you could give him? I’ll send you another story if you could help him out!