10 Backpacking Tips You Can’t Travel Without
When you’re planning your first time backpacking, it’s totally normal to feel pretty clueless. But once you’ve got the right backpack and have an idea of where you want to go and who with, you’ve nailed down the basis. Then it’s time to really get prepped for the adventure of your life. Here at the Flying Pig, travel is what we know and love best. Our travel know-it-alls have come up with a list of simple backpacking tips that’ll help make your trip the best time of your life.
Read on for the 10 backpacking tips you won’t be able to travel without…
Pre-book but don’t overdo it
This is potentially our number one tip for backpacking. The worst thing you can do if you’re travelling for an extended period is restrict yourself by panicking and pre-booking EVERYTHING. The thing with being a backpacker (however organised you think you are) is you never know who or what might show up to cause you to veer off your outlined route. Booking the first hostel of your trip is a good idea so that you know where to head when you first land from overseas. Also, booking accommodation for big events that you know you’ll be in a certain city for is essential - for example King’s Day in Amsterdam, you’ll want to have that one booked well in advance of your trip or who knows where you’d end up for the night…
You might meet someone who you want to carry on your journey with, or you might be highly recommended to visit a city you’ve never even heard of! Anything could happen to make you grateful you didn’t book each and every night of your trip.
Download maps as soon as you hit wifi
Some people love getting lost, but we assume most normal people would like some way of knowing where they are, no? If your phone contract doesn’t allow you free data roaming abroad, downloading maps while you’ve got wifi is essential. Maps.me is a great app that allows you to do this, and it also lets you pinpoint places you might want to remember to visit. It works all over the world, plus it tracks your location even when you download it and have no signal.
Ask hostel staff and locals for recommendations
Makes sense. These guys will know better than anyone where you should visit that’s authentic and usually off-the-beaten-track. Definitely don’t skip the main tourist attractions (places like the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum and Sagrada Familia draw in thousands a day for good reason) but getting a feel for real local living is one of the best parts of travelling. Spark up conversation with a local or speak to staff at your hostel to pick their brains on where their favourite spots in the city are. Local knowledge is the best.
Google what events are on in each city
A great way to kick off your travel planning is to find out what’s going on in each city you want to visit over the period of time you’ll be away. Think how gutted you’d feel leaving a city the day before their biggest national party of the year, just because you didn’t think to do a quick Google search. Then if you do find any cool events, you can outline your itinerary marking those dates as definites. Backpacking is all about being just the right level of organised.
Take overnight trains if you can
A great way to save both time and money is to travel through the night on overnight trains. Whether you’re crossing countries through Europe or between cities in China, pay two for one on transport and accommodation. It’s all part of the travelling experience!
There is an art to packing a backpack, and it’s one of the most annoying parts of being a backpacker. Be as stingy as you can with your packing, taking only what you really need plus maybe a few small luxuries if you can fit them in. Packing cubes are an ideal way to keep your belongings condensed down, plus it makes it way easier to find anything. Another packing tip? Roll your clothes, don’t fold them.
Check out this St Christopher’s Inns article on How to Pack for your Travels like a Boss
Make a checklist of all the boring (but important) stuff
Insurance, IDs, medication, vaccinations… All the boring parts of travelling are, of course, crucial. Make yourself a checklist of everything you need to remember to do in the lead up to your travels to avoid any unnecessary bumps in your journey.
Check the weather WELL in advance of packing to leave
“I’m going to Madrid so it’s going to be boiling.” Um, wrong. You might be going to sunny Spain, but if you’re not there until January or February or March, you still want to pack a warm jacket. The weather in Europe especially is up and down throughout the year - it may be sunny but cold, or torrential rain one second and bright skies the next. Check the weather forecast way before you start packing so you know exactly what you need to bring.
Say YES (to an extent)
Obviously don’t say yes to anything. What we mean by this is that travelling is all about creating new memories and living in the moment. Step out of your comfort zone and say yes to something you never imagined you’d ever do! As a backpacker, you can get away with unleashing your wild side…
Wise up on local scams
Unfortunately being a backpacker does make us targets for pickpockets and scammers - it’s like having the word “tourist” written across our foreheads. In every city you’ll visit, the scammers will all have different ways in which they manage to catch people out, and often you’ll find them in certain areas, too. Paris, Prague, Barcelona, London… The pickpockets all have their own ways of getting to your cash, so wise up on what you should be looking out for to avoid this happening to you.
Article by Darcy King