We all picture ourselves, traversing the road-not-taken with a backpack and some money in our pocket. But it is easier said than done. There goes a lot of determination and preparation in backpacking across an alien land. So, if you are one of those wandering souls who hit the road without any worries of where you will sleep tonight, then this ultimate backpacker’s guide is for you.
Calm, composed, practical and cautious are some of the qualities of a backpacker that separate them from ordinary travellers. But you don’t need to worry if you haven’t done backpacking. You can still be a master backpacker with a few backpacking and travel tips, that will help you navigate easily, with bare minimum money and a bag full of memories. So, without much ado, let’s check out tips for solo backpackers and be prepared for our next journey.
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Research Before You Leave
Common sense – research well about the place you are about to visit. This will help you in making wise choices and give you a brief idea of what to expect. Researching also helps you plan better. From picking the places you wish to visit to learning basic greeting words in the local language to knowing the culture and traditions, these things can help you traverse better in a foreign land.
Choose The Right Time For Flight Booking
While yes it’s true that booking flight tickets in advance ensure cheaper deals, but booking a year in advance leaves you at disadvantage in terms of flexibility or price. Also, booking at the last moment will burn a hole in your pocket, so the best time to book a flight ticket for a cheaper price is 1.5 to 3 months. You can also check out websites like skyscanner.com or momondo.com for cheaper airfare and use other fare comparison sites for the cheapest deal.
To Pre-Book OR Not To Pre-Book, That Is The Question
The biggest question for every backpacker– whether to book in advance or be spontaneous. Brain says book it now but the heart says to go with the flow. Well TBH, it totally depends on your travel plans. If you are planning two weeks backpacking trip, then it’s better to have a rough itinerary and basic bookings but if it is going to be a long adventure, it’s better to go with the flow and see where it takes you.
Stick With A Budget But Be Ready To Blow It Off
One of the most important backpacking tips for budget travellers is before you plan a month-long voyage across a new country or a new destination within the country, you have got to have some rough idea of your budget. Having a rough idea of how much you can spend is always good but then being rigid can suck away all the fun from your trip. Be prepared for impromptu dinner, late night parties and crazy adventures. The last thing you would want is to miss out on a life-changing adventure because you wanted to save some money.
Pick Your Shoes Wisely
They are going to be your companion for the next few days or months, so you need to be really cautious while buying them. Go for shoes that are versatile — one which can be worn in cities and rugged terrains too. This doesn’t mean that you wear hiking boots while visiting cities, rather go for shoes which fit both the criteria. Consider spending some extra bucks if it means you will get a really comfortable pair of shoes.
Your Backpack Is Your Best Friend
Your backpack is going to be your entire wardrobe during your trip and imagine carrying an entire wardrobe with uncomfortable shoulder straps. Doesn’t sound fun, right? A comfortable backpack can be a major difference between a memorable trip or a miserable trip. Seek a comfortable backpack with apt size. Also, you need to be very discreet in what you pack. Pack light because most of the times, you would be carrying the backpack on your shoulder. Get rid of extra clothing items and gadgets you won’t be using, rather you can use the extra space to bring back souvenirs from your voyage.
Pick A Tent Meant For Backpacking
A mistake most of the travellers make is that they go for tents which are bigger and bulkier. If you are planning to backpack across a country, sleeping in your tent for most days, you should opt for tents which are lighter yet spacious enough. As you would be carrying them with your backpack for most of the days, you wouldn’t want extra weight on your shoulder just because you wanted a spacious tent.
Pick A Badass Sleeping Bag
A sleeping bag is backpacker’s best friend and if you are planning to spend some time exploring the wilderness of the destination, then you need a badass sleeping bag. One of the backpacker basics, your sleeping bag should have an ideal balance of comfort and lightweight. Pick a sleeping bag as per the requirement. Each sleeping bag comes with temperature durability and you don’t necessarily need -10-degree Celsius sleeping bag if you are not planning to camp amidst the snow.
Get Travel Insurance
There is a famous saying,” if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling”. Travel Insurance is an ideal way to ensure that you travel is stress-free. Feeling sick while travelling — travel insurance will take care of it, lost your baggage while travelling– travel insurance will take care of it, flight got cancel– travel insurance to your rescue. Also, most countries have now made travel insurance a mandatory procedure. So, even if you are going on a short trip, choose suitable travel insurance.
Crash Onto Someone’s Sofa With Couch Surf
One of the most important tips for backpackers on a budget is couch surfing is cheaper than your hostel and budget hotel stays. I wished somebody would have told me this before my first budget trip, but homestays and couch surfing are super cheap if not completely free. But remember, a good guest with manners is a good promotion for backpackers across the globe. So, if you are staying at somebody’s place, make sure to chip in with grocery or wine or help in cooking or cleaning. Also, your hosts can be a good tour guide to the place so make sure to be on your best behaviour.
Use Public Transportation
Public transports are the cheapest means to travel within the city but there is one more way to save money on the commute which is one of the most important backpacking tips for budget travellers – go for multiple days pass as they cost less. Most of the city metro offer multiple day tourist passes which are cheaper than the actual cost, saving you a lot of money on travelling within the city.
This is one thing synonymous to backpacking and one of the most important tips for solo backpackers. Hitchhiking is an ideal way to save some travel money but you need to very cautious. Your spidey sense should be your guiding force while you hitchhike. Only if you are 110% sure about the person offering you the ride, should you go with that person. Also, hitchhiking isn’t something that can be taught but with spidey sense and experience over the time, you will know when and where to hitchhike.
Locals Would Be Your Best Guide
You can research hours and hours about the destination you are about to visit but nothing would guide you as perfectly as a local person. They are the best guide of the place. From cheap eating joints to cheap hotels and dos and don’ts, they know it all and with little patience and friendly gesture, you can have access to all that information.
Save Money on Attractions with Your Student Id Card
Most of the countries across the globe allow free entry or cheap entry to famous monuments and tourist attractions for students, so if you happen to have a student identification card, use it. Also, explore places that are free. Go to parks, museums with free entry, take city walking tours, go to bar and experience live music or explore the open air markets, free of cost.
Eat Local or Cook
Do you wish to know one secret to be healthy and also save money while travelling? Learn to cook a budget meal for yourself. A traveller who can cook is always the most popular at the hostel. In case you can’t cook, eat local. Yes, they might not look as fancy as fine dining restaurants, but they would be delicious, cheap and would give you the taste of local culture. A must-know backpacking tip for budget travellers, this will keep you healthy while saving a ton of money on food.
You Should Have Secret Money
If you are travelling within a city, it is always better to hide most of your money in a secret pocket or belt. The best way to go about is to use the travel money belt which gives you a hidden pocket inside the belt. Pickpockets over the world are highly skilled and you need to be cautious about how you hide your money. Do yourself a favour and protect your money.
A secret that nobody is going to tell you but you should know – for most of the countries in this world, haggling is the part of everyday’s life and you need to haggle to get the best price. But there is one reason why you must bargain for a cheaper deal as most of the foreign countries you visit would charge you extra. They have a local price and a foreigner price. While paying 10% or 20% more than local price is still acceptable but 5 times the local price seems like a loot. So, remember this, if you seek cheaper deals, you have got to bargain.
There is nothing better than trekking while backpacking. While the cities can give you all the amazing travel memories, it’s the wilderness which satiates your travel appetite. The best part about trekking is that it’s cheap, if not completely free. You only have to pay the nominal entry charges and you can stay in your own tent. Also, it gives you the much-needed break and a new perspective for your future endeavours. Nothing heals better than mother nature and spending some time amidst nature will freshen you up for the battles to come.
Stash Copies Of Passport And Visa
Accidents occur when you are on the road for months and it’s better to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Losing your passport and visa in a foreign country is one of the worst things that can happen to you, but not if you have copies of passport and visa. They can make your life a little less hell, while you seek a new passport and visa. Also, they might come handy in the places where you need to submit photocopies of them to local police in countries like Nepal and Pakistan.
Carry Basic First Aid Kit With Some Necessary Meds
Under the category of “what to arrange before you travel”, there is one thing most of us overlook and that is carrying a basic first aid kit. Your long voyage across alien lands will come with some bruises and cuts. In such times, your first aid kit would come in handy. Also, carry some antibiotic meds for mild fever and cold you might experience with changing topography and climate conditions.
Travel With A Notebook And Pen
Yes, it is the world of digital and technology but believe me on this, carrying a notebook and pen is a great. You will come across thousands of things to write about and pen and paper are the best way to document your travel tales. You always won’t be carrying your/ laptop with you and in times like those, you can always trust the old-school method of documenting. Also, having a travelling journal would help you in creating those awesome travel blogs, if you are into that.
They will be your saviour during nights when your roommate and the hostel decides to snore for the entire night. You might feel like killing him or her, but remember that there is an easy way. A good pair of earplugs will save you from going to jail and would also give you a much-needed good night sleep. Remember, there is no fun in travelling without sleeping.
Download Podcasts For A Long Journey
Travelling from one destination to another or travelling within the city can sometimes get monotonous and to beat the boredom, you need some entertainment. Every time you get a free internet connection, download podcasts or shows that will help you pass some time.
Stay In Contact With Your Family
One of the best backpacking tips and one of the must remember tips for solo backpackers, stay in touch with your family. Although travelling seems glamorous, with you meeting new people every day, the truth is that it can get really lonely at times. So, stay in touch with your family, and you can also keep them updated about your whereabouts.
Travelling is adventurous, therapeutic, glamorous and what not, but there goes a lot of preparation behind it. One wrong move and you can be stranded in a foreign land with no help. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t travel. By all means, you should travel more often. Backpacking is liberating, gives you complete freedom over your plans. But always remember to be prepared before you leave for your voyage. With this ultimate backpackers guide, stay stress-free and focus on your travel goals. So travel more and share your stories with us.
Also, if you feel that I have missed any important backpacking tips, let us know in the comment section below.
About the author
Born and brought up in the Lucknowi tehzeeb, Ashwini wishes to someday settle in a quaint little town in the Himalayas. If you do not find him daydreaming about his travel plans, you’ll find him exploring the vastness of Youtube and Netflix. A travel romantic and a cricket fanatic, he also wishes to try every cuisine ever made in this world.