The beauty of being a backpacker is you can travel light and enjoy travelling at your own pace. When it comes to preparing for your trip, the more thought you put in early on, the smoother your journey will be.
Use these top ten backpacking tips to make your trip memorable for all the right reasons.
1. Buy a good backpack from a trusted brand. Schedule a visit to a camping and travel store and be prepared to spend some time finding the right pack for you. Ask an assistant for help to make sure that the bag isn’t too big for your height and weight, has good back support and all the right features. Good retail outlets will have someone on hand who can adjust the bag in store to make sure it fits perfectly.
2. Photocopy your passport. Keep a copy in your luggage and email a copy to yourself, so you’ll have access to the details online. It’s also a good idea to give a copy to a friend or family member, as well as providing a copy of your itinerary and contact details to them in case of emergency.
3. Organise your visas. Little ruins a travelling experience more than being stopped at the border because you haven’t got a visa. Make sure you research the visas you will need for the countries you intend to visit and allow plenty of time to organise them.
4. Have a cash backup. Because it’s so easy to use a card instead of cash these days we often forget a backup plan. If you’re travelling off the beaten track, it’s a good idea to keep $100 in American currency as a backup. It’s accepted in most countries and you can even use smaller notes in many places around the world.
5. Secure your bags. Though most hostels offer great security, also make sure you have good locks on your bags. A chain can also be used to attach your luggage to the bed - this way your bag can’t simply be grabbed and taken while you’re out of your room. Remember that only TSA (Transportation Security Administration, the US agency for transport security) approved locks should be used when Airport security inspectors may cut off locks used to secure checked bags if they’re not TSA approved.
6. Be prepared. Have a copy of all your hostel addresses handy (and translated if travelling abroad), as well as the hostel phone numbers and the contact details for the embassy of the countries you’ll be visiting.
7. Allow time. When booking flights always check the time zone differences if you have connecting flights, and make sure you give enough time between flights to change terminals, pick up and transfer your luggage.
8. You’ll meet plenty of great people as you go, but you may get home after a couple of months travel and have trouble remembering who was who. When writing down phone numbers and emails, write a little bit about the person next to it. It may seem silly at the time but you’ll appreciate it after you’ve been on the road for a while.
9. Pack for all occasions. If you use sites such as TripAdvisor or Hostelworld you’ll be sure to find great accommodation. Some places, however, will be quite basic – especially outside of the main centres, so take your own water, pillowcase, sheet insert, earplugs for a good night’s sleep and flip flops to avoid foot nasties in the shower.
10. Use your manners. Last, but not least, being polite can make or break a trip and how you’re treated. You’ll have a great time if you respect the culture of the countries you visit and make an effort to dress appropriately and learn at least some basic words, such as hello, please and thank you.