Friends on the Bike: what is it, and how does it work?

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.

Elderly-American-couple-cycling-in-the-Netherlands
Friends on the Bike is all about connecting with other passionate cyclists and walkers. Image: Depositphotos

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.

older-couple-taking-a-break-on-their-cycling-vacation-perparing-food-and-camping
Friends on the Bicycle publishes a booklet with hundreds of guest addresses. Image: Depositphotos

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.

young-woman-cycling-through-the-alps
Thanks to Vrienden op de Fiets, you can even explore places like Austria or Switzerland. Image: Depositphotos

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!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Chuka Nwanazia
Chuka Nwanaziahttps://www.beejonson.com/
A renegade wordsmith, freelance writer, poet, and digital marketer based in Amsterdam. Besides writing, he extremely enjoys traveling around Europe in search of old and rare books, writing poems while riding the train to nowhere, performing at poetry events, spending too much time reading books, contemplating the meaning of life, preparing tasty dishes and desserts, and searching for the perfect bookshelf.

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What do you think?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. I’m (Australian) planning to travel on cycle through the Netherlands from East to West in the summer of this year –2024– and look forward to meeting lovely hosts through this group–hopefully late July.

  4. We found that Friends OTB was an integral part of our cycling holiday enjoyment, not just an alternative and low-cost option to sleep.
    Hosts offer generous advice on their local area which we always followed, discovering sights we would have overlooked.
    While we didn’t need tools or help fixing our bikes that can be an option too – there is a symbol in the guide I think.
    Our experience was as Dad (me) and 1 adult son in 2023 then Dad and 2 adult sons in 2023.
    Unique and special times we will always remember.

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