Backpacking is seen as a highly popular traveling method these days. In fact, it started off as almost a jokey term that people used. Now, many travellers are keen to have a backpacking experience. If you’re new to all of this, then backpacking basically means you go around lots of different places with hardly anything save the bag on your back. Think of it as barebones traveling without all the usual luxuries. It’s more about heading into the world and exploring new things, rather than settling down on a beach for a couple of weeks in a row.
Naturally, this method of travel is different from a lot of others. A backpacker will have a remarkably different experience compared to someone that’s just going on vacation. Therefore, if you’ve never done this before, then you may be confused as to how it works or how you should prepare. So, here are my travel tips for first-time backpackers:
Make sure you have the right insurance
The very nature of backpacking puts you at more risk than regular vacationing. That’s not to say that anything bad will happen, it’s more that you have more opportunities for things to happen. For example, if you go on holiday to Italy, then you may lose your suitcase at the airport or your flights could be delayed. This can only happen twice during the whole trip. By contrast, what if you flew to Italy and then traveled around Europe? Suddenly, you may have multiple flights or train journeys that can be canceled, and various opportunities for your luggage to get lost.
Likewise, if you move around different countries, then you have more health risks to worry about as well (pay attention to the next tip for additional health advice). All in all, it means you need travel and health insurance that covers you during your whole trip. There are loads of insurance options out there, and the key things to look for are how much coverage you get, and for how long the coverage lasts. Be sure to take out insurance that covers you for the entire trip and protects you from some of the most obvious risks.
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Get your shots
No, I’m not talking about shots of vodka – though there will probably be plenty of them during your travels. Instead, I’m talking about medical shots that protect you against certain diseases. A few contagious diseases are common in certain parts of the world – particularly in places like Africa, Asia, and Australia. Usually, this is because there’s a lot of wildlife in those areas, meaning diseases can spread from animals to humans.
This isn’t something to worry about if you get the correct shots. There’s a great travel vaccine checklist that you can have a look at to figure out what you need before you go. Nobody will check if you have them or not, so it’s your responsibility to get these sorted out!!
Create some sort of plan
Many people enjoy backpacking because it seems very free and open. A lot of people go to a country without a specific plan and let the wind blow them in different directions. I don’t think this is a good idea! It sounds fun, but you need some sort of structure in your life!
For me, the best approach is to come up with some sort of backpacking travel plan. You don’t have to map out specific things that you will do every single day, but at least have a plan of where you’ll go and how you’ll move from place to place. This can provide you with a nice route to follow and can help you experience as much of each region as you can. If you let yourself live free like a bag blowing in the wind, then you can be all over the place and end up missing out on so much.
Consider organized tours
If you’re backpacking alone, then it can sometimes get quite lonely. My next tip will also help with that, but so will this one. Booking yourself onto organized tours is a great way to be around travelers like yourself. The great thing is, you can book tours whenever you like, for different places. There are always lots of trips and tours to China and other Southeast Asian countries all the time, African safari trips are popular, scuba diving trips in Australia, etc. You don’t need to book a tour for every single part of your journey – that’s the beauty of it.
My advice is to save the tours for countries or cities where there is a lot to do or see. Specifically, areas with a lot of history where you will benefit from hearing a guide talk you through everything. Also, if you want to do anything involving animals or local wildlife, then tours are essential.
Stay in hostels
Avoid hotels and stay in hostels throughout your trip. Okay, maybe treat yourself to a hotel every once in a while – or at the very end of your trip. There are so many benefits to staying in hostels compared to traditional hotels. They are always a lot cheaper, which allows your money to stretch a lot further.
However, the main reason to stay in hostels is because of the shared environment. You can share rooms with other travelers, making it the ideal place to make friends on your travels. Many backpackers meet up with people who are on a similar journey to them, and you end up exploring together. It helps with any loneliness you feel, and your fellow travelers can provide extra tips and advice for you. They may know some secret hidden gems that you had no clue existed!
If you’re new to the backpacking game, then these are the main tips I would recommend you follow. Obviously, it should go without saying that you need to wait until it is safe to travel once more. When this article is published, lockdown measures are still in place for most of the world. Be patient, and use this time to plan your backpacking adventure and save up for it!