No one said love was easy. And the same can be said for backpacking. But while it might not be as simple as an all-inclusive package holiday, it will be far more rewarding.
To make life a little less difficult, here’s a few tips to get you started on your adventure. And remember this is only what I’ve figured out along the way. You will no doubt add to this list with your own well-earned pointers.
- If time is on your side and you’re able to do so, book a one-way ticket for ultimate freedom. Some countries require you to have an onward ticket, so if you have to get one check up on how easy it would be change it and how much it would cost.
- ATMs are everywhere nowadays so gone is the need to get money exchanged before you get to where you’re going. However, always have a backup plan in case you lose your card. Your VISA debit card will work fine so your credit card will be a great backup.
- On the subject of banking, tell your bank that you’re leaving the country and ideally where you’re going. Many will block your card as soon as it’s used in a foreign country if they’re not informed.
- Living on the edge is one thing but not having health insurance is stupid. Don’t be forced to fly home early just because you’ve got a kidney stone.
- Take only the bare essentials. Stuff will (in most cases) be cheaper where you’re going anyway.
- For plane tickets Expedia.co.uk is great for multiple destinations. If you’re doing one-way to one place, going through the airline may be better. Be warned, though, Expedia is great for getting flights but disastrous if you want to change them.
- When packing clothes, choose items that can be used for multiple occasions. You’ll require less.
- It’s common to turn up to a town without having booked a hostel, going by other travellers’ recommendations. But for peace of mind book the night before. A guide (like Lonely Planet) can be useful “just in case”.
- On the subject of booking hostels, Hostelworld is my recommendation for easy online booking. If you’re going to be booking more than five in the space of a year, become a gold member for £5 so you don’t have to pay the £1 booking fee.
- Check the NHS website for the vaccinations you’ll need for your chosen countries. If you do it early enough they should be free. If you’ve left it until the last minute go to your nearest Trailfinders Travel Clinic – it will cost but again it’s one less thing to worry about.
- If you’re going to Malarial countries but staying in hostels, there’s no need for mosquito nets. This is only needed if you’re hiking and likely to spend nights outside.
- On the subject of Malaria, try and get your pills before you go. If you find yourself short you might be able to go into a local pharmacy and by some more, but this depends greatly on the country.
- Bug spray is a must for most backpacker destinations. Don’t bother with anything that has less than 25% DEET, 50% and up is best.
- Be wary of countries’ customs. For example, if you go to the cinema in Thailand you’ll need to stand for the King’s tribute before the film. Just roll with it and remember you have an obligation to be respectful to a country and its people.
- The greatest weapon in a backpacker’s arsenal is common sense. Apply things to your own country; if something sounds too good to be true, don’t think just because you’re in a foreign place it might be true anyway. Say to yourself “if this was back home would I fall for this?”And as a final thought, it’s worth noting that there is one major difference between those who like backpacking and will do it again, and those that just can’t hack it. On all accounts, no matter what happens, keep an open mind and you’ll have the best time ever.
MARK D. EVANS doesn’t write for any one particular genre but does enjoy working with material found on the darker side of life. Short stories are available from online ebook retailers and his first novel is on the way. He currently lives in London.
Find out more at markdevans.com.