No one cycles more than a Dutch person. The average Dutch family owns at least three bicycles, and they don’t just cycle for groceries, school, or work — it’s also a form of vacation.
This is where the Vrienden op de Fiets concept, translated as “Friends on the Bike” was born.
Thing is, you don’t always have to travel with minimalist camping equipment to faraway exotic places to enjoy a holiday. Sometimes, cycling around the Netherlands or Europe can be just as fun.
Finding accommodation anywhere: who are Friends on the Bike?
Friends on the Bike is a Dutch hospitality foundation for those who like to cycle or walk recreationally. The foundation maintains an extensive network of accommodation addresses throughout the country.
These include private individuals who, usually in their own homes, have several sleeping places available for passing cyclists and walkers.
Friends on the Bike practices a non-commercial form of accommodation where participants join the foundation for a fee and are given access to this network of more than 6,000 guest addresses of private individuals in the Netherlands, German, and Belgian border municipalities, and with Dutch speakers in Europe and the rest of the world.
The foundation ensures that cyclists and walkers who want to make multi-day trips can find accommodation everywhere. The initiative is vital in the summer when the Dutch are more active by cycling and walking all around the country and Europe.
What do Friends on the Bike do?
Friends on the Bike publishes a new booklet every year with a complete overview of available places for cyclists to stay. The booklet lists more than 6000 guest addresses in the Netherlands and abroad!
It includes more than 260 guest addresses in Belgium and more than 100 guest addresses in Germany, especially in the border region.
Guest addresses in France, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, England, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Canada, Australia, and America are also included. Phew!
Origins of Friends on the Bike foundation
Friends on the Bike was started by Nel de Blécourt and her husband Hijbo in 1984. It began when Nel placed a call to fellow cyclists in the Arnhemse Koerier, looking for people who would be interested in offering comfortable and affordable accommodation to her and her husband.
At the time, there was usually only a choice between a pricey hotel, a youth hostel, or a tent at a campsite. More than 80 people responded to her call. And just like that, the Friends on the Bike was born.
After 35 years, the addresses have risen from 80 to more than 6,000 guest addresses, with more than 95,000 registered and active ‘Vrienden op de Fiets’ in 2020.
How do I join Friends on the Bike?
So let’s say you are also looking to adopt the Dutch tradition and habit of touring Europe on a bicycle in the summer and don’t want to spend a fortune on accommodation. In that case, the Friends on the Bike foundation might be what you need.
Count me in! Joining the foundation is easy. To do that, you can follow the steps on the Friends on the Bike website. Also, don’t forget to read the ground rules.
Additionally, the foundation annually distributes a booklet with an overview of the available guest addresses and a detailed map. Cyclists, or “Friends,” as members are called, can log in to the website with their membership number to access the current information about guest addresses.
You can also become a member for just €8 per year and receive a pass and a well-detailed cycling map with attractive routes and places to stay in the vicinity of those routes.
With your identification and membership card, you can book accommodation with breakfast at all addresses by appointment for the “friends price” of €22.50 per person per night (excl. tourist tax).
Connecting with local “Friends”
Many people often think that this foundation is a Bed and Breakfast, but the main difference between the foundation and a B&B is that you have to be a touring cyclist or walker to be allowed access to any addresses.
Thee idea is to provide an avenue for private individuals to share their homes with cyclists and walkers, as well as their stories and experiences.
The initiative has become an honest company, but idealism is still paramount. Anyone renting a room (including breakfast) may not charge more than €19 per person because the idea is not for profit.
So if you are looking to enjoy an adventurous cycling or walking tour of the Netherlands and Europe, then the ‘Vrienden op de Fiets’ experience might be exactly what you need. Do this a couple summers, and your ” integration” to Dutch society might actually be complete.
What do you think of the Friends on the Bicycle initiative? Would you give it a go? Tell us in the comments!
Next year I’m hoping to cycle, with my 2 sons, to the Sandbostel annual commemoration (Germany) on the 29th April. My wife’s uncle was killed right at the very end of WW2 during the action to free this concentration camp. We would begin our trip in Holland and cycle towards Bremen.
As a retired American, I love cycling in the Netherlands and meeting regular Dutch people through Friends on the Bike. I have made many friends that I have stayed with on several previous trips and stay in touch with other times of the year.
If you like to meet people, its perfect. Just remember-hosts are opening their homes to you as a guest – it is not a commercial bnb.