|L to R: Hector Blazquez Hernado and Luis Sancho Gonzalez|
Cycle touring is not only a great way to see another country, but also to meet and get to know its people. One initiative that makes this even easier is a free worldwide hospitality exchange network called www.warmshowers.org
Started in 1993 Warm Showers is run by volunteers and funded through voluntary donations. Numbers signing up have increased every year with over 25,000 registering in 2015. Currently there are 88,676 members and 38,419 hosts worldwide. 46% are based in Europe and 36% in North America.
Here’s how it works:
· Cycle tourists and hosts sign up on the website for free.
· Hosts indicate the type of accommodation offered and usually provide a little information about themselves.
· An interactive map and search tools help travellers find hosts on their route.
· Cycle tourists send a private message to potential hosts through the website.
· Hosts let the enquirer know whether its convenient for them to stay on the night requested.
The hospitality offered is down to the host. It may be a couch or floor to sleep on, a bed for the night or somewhere to pitch a tent. Some hosts offer an evening meal and breakfast, but its not expected. Unlike airbnb, hosts aren’t allowed to accept any payment. Its also expected that guests are true cycle tourists and don’t turn up in a car or by public transport.
The number of hosting requests you get tends to depend on whether you’re on a well-cycled ‘tourist’ route. We’ve been registered for 9 years and have probably only been able to host about half who have requested accommodation. In that time we’ve had an American on a European tour, a Chinese guy who cycled over for the London Olympics, a Spanish vet on a year long world tour and three Brazilians who cycled from Land’s End to Orkney one January as part of their training for a planned world circumnavigation through both poles using bikes and snowkites. We’ve just welcomed another two guests, Hector and Luis from Madrid. They flew into Birmingham, bought a couple of secondhand bikes and, over 4 days, cycled to meet up with a friend in Lynton, North Devon.