Bicycle Travel Etiquette: How To Be A Good Guest

May 30, 2013

Photo by Traveling Two

This entry is the second in a series on Bicycle Travel Etiquette. To read the first entry, see An Introduction to Bicycle Travel Etiquette.

When you are planning your trip, where to sleep is a big part of the equation. In fact, unless you are able to swing free camping nightly, it can be the most expensive part of your tour. The average bicycle traveler cobbles together a variety of options. Depending on the destination, it will probably include a combination of camping, hotels, and homes of friends and family. Warm Showers, the free worldwide hospitality exchange network for touring cyclists, and our Cyclists Only Camping/Lodging category on our maps, are growing options as well.

As a potential guest of a stranger, there are some things to keep in mind to help create a positive experience for both sides especially bearing in mind that your host is extending their trust by inviting you to stay in their home or on their property. Some of the suggestions below were compiled from people who host cyclists regularly.

How To Be A Good Guest

Your Hosts’ Preferences Are Your Rules

Give as much notice as you can about your request by making contact ahead of time, most of the people you are encountering still have their everyday responsibilities to attend to.

Respect your hosts' property/belongings, don’t use anything you haven’t been given permission to use, including phone, computer, and internet connection. If you are in a country you are not native to, make adjustments for cultural differences. Adhere to requests for alcohol prohibitions, and religious observances. As much as this is about your journey, show some interest in the life of your host as well.

Don’t Assume Anything

Discuss expectations with your host about meals and/or kitchen privileges, bathroom usage, and sleeping arrangements. Are you allergic to pets? Inquire if pets are part of the household.

Leave Things Better Than You Found Them or Leave No Trace

This is not a hotel, you are in someone’s home, always pick up after yourself and offer assistance as appropriate.

Golden Rule

Treat your host the way you’d like to be treated if you were offering your home to them. Keep agreements made about time and place, if your schedule changes for any reason, let your host know.

Trust Your Gut

If you feel uncomfortable about the situation for any reason, don’t agree to stay. If something does not feel right in your first conversations, it likely isn’t a good fit for you, listen to that and pass on the opportunity.

A Little Goes A Long Way

Even if they insist, remember what Benjamin Franklin said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Limit your time with any one host, do not overstay your welcome.

Contribute or Show Your Gratitude

Show your appreciation by contributing to shared meals with food stuffs, a special beverage, cleaning up, and the like. Before leaving, get their mailing address and send them a postcard of thanks from the road. Or email a favorite picture of your time with them/in their area. For many hosts, having bicycle travelers as guests is a vicarious travel thrill. When asked, share stories or pictures of your adventure. Reciprocate by asking about their travels or bicycling experiences.

You are An Ambassador of Bicycle Travel

Whether you like it or not, your behavior is a reflection of the bicycle travel community as a whole. Be a kind, courteous and respectful guest so that others may enjoy this same hospitality in the future. If your host is part of the Warm Showers network, leave feedback on their profile for the benefit of other bicycle travelers.

If all of this sounds like too much to think about as part of your trip, being a guest in someone’s home may not be your best option for accommodation. If you’re craving a break or time alone, it might not be the right time to say yes to the offer of a bed indoors. Be aware of your limits and needs and honor them for everyone’s sake.

The next entry in this series will focus on How To Be A Good Host for those considering opening their homes to bicycle travelers.

Photo of Warmshowers guests Lysanne and Louis of On Roule La Boule from traveling two on Flickr.

GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer 'Jenn' Milyko, an Adventure Cycling cartographer, and appears weekly, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.


John Day September 12, 2018, 2:33 PM

I'd like to add one more concern. After 7 cross country rides since retirement, I've stayed with hundreds of hosts and have only heard one frequent complaint from hosts that stuck. Warmshowers is basically a social organization. It is very impolite for a guest rider to share a meal and then jump right onto the host's wifi, not to be heard from again. There is the strong possibility of the host feeling that he/she has been taken advantage of or used.

Adventure Cycling Association September 12, 2018, 2:51 PM

Insightful comment and something for us all to keep in mind!

Another Host to Cyclists April 2, 2015, 4:39 PM

I started hosting via CS two years ago, soon discovered WS and prefer it, so mostly cyclist are our guests. Beeing fan of cycling tours myself, I do not mind smelling fellow cyclist. I wild-camped repeatedly, sometimes did not get a chance for shower, sometimes I cleaned myself just by swimming in the lake or river - and Did not Want to use soap - to not pollute the nature... Smell Is Human, I am happy to get over it :-)

A Host to Cyclists August 7, 2014, 3:22 PM

I want to add one thing to being a good cycling guest: CLEAN *YOURSELF* UP. I have hosted many cyclists through couchsurfing can't tell you how wonderful it is to meet such awesome people. But I also can't tell you how awful is to smell people who do not bother to be clean, wash clothes regularly and shower upon arrival *with* soap. My apartment has stunk for days after cyclists have left, and to be honest, after a few repeats of this, I have stopped taking cyclists altogether.

Jennifer Milyko June 13, 2013, 8:23 AM

Thanks for the comments everyone. This is a great community to be part of, let's keep it that way, your participation makes a difference.

Louis Melini June 12, 2013, 10:11 PM

A very nice article. Well written, succinct and should be read by anyone seeking a place to stay in someone's home. I like how you used the term "ambassador".

MomOnBike June 1, 2013, 12:39 PM

Last year on my tour I found myself looking for thank-you cards to send to Warm Showers hosts. The search was not always as successful as I would have liked, so I started thinking. Could Adventure Cycling sell thank-you cards for those of us who still send them? Perhaps pre-stamped postcards? A handful of those tucked in a safe place in my panniers would have come in handy several times.

Jennifer Milyko June 13, 2013, 8:20 AM

This is a great idea, MomOnBike! Over the years we have occasionally offered note cards or postcards for sale. Keep your eye on the store, I hear there may be another offering on the way.

John Day September 12, 2018, 2:06 PM

It's very inexpensive to design your own 'thank you' card. I go to and create a post card each ride which shows my route map, a photo overlay of my bike, and the saying "What is there more kindly than the bond between Host & Guest?" The other side is blank for a personal thank you message and their mailing address. Sorry, there is not the option to include a photo here to demonstrate.

Jane Clarke June 12, 2013, 10:04 AM

Great idea, Mom on Bike! The USPS sells prepaid postcards, plain or with Disney characters.

di424242 June 1, 2013, 5:59 AM

WOW! Tremendous advice and nicely phrased with excellent suggestions and practical details; which will sustain and enhance our global biking community...after all it is about COMMUNITY UNITY! Grateful for this site and everyone's efforts as well. Most sincerely ...wheeling along in the mountains of New England! Smiles and wheel on! Di Stobaeus (di424242)

Pedal Power Touring May 31, 2013, 12:07 PM

We agree and we would like to add, some "host" seem to have only signed up (Warmshowers) so they can benefit from only staying with others (as guest) and not truly wanting to be a host. We say this because during our current travels we are coming across a lot of host's profiles wanting 2 weeks and even a months notice from their guest! Sorry but we find this to be an difficult and extreme.

Jennifer Milyko June 13, 2013, 8:13 AM

Thanks for your comment! Be sure to see this week's post in the series, How to Be a Good Host (

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