Preparing for your first backpacking trip can be super daunting. Whether you’re going solo or with a friend or partner, you can often feel a bit lost: how are you going survive the great wide world for a matter of months with only what you have on your back? Luckily for you, this has been done before many times. Even though you’re heading into the great unknown, you certainly aren’t heading into the absolute wilderness. In the end, there will be lots of like-minded people in the same situation as you! That being said, there are some things you can do to make your life a little easier and feel a bit safer on your globetrotting adventure.
1. Take Backups for Everything
While backpacking, the worst thing you can do is only take one bank card or mobile phone. Think about it: if you lose your only bank card you’re pretty much stranded out there with no money. Pretty scary concept if you’re travelling alone, right? Take a bank card for another account and keep it hidden somewhere in your bag (wash bag, in your knickers, literally wherever); that way, if you have one too many buckets in Thailand and misplace your first card, you’ve always got another way to access your funds. Same thing with a phone: keep a spare one somewhere in your bag, even if it’s just an old Nokia. You don’t want to find yourself lost somewhere without being able to contact someone!
2. Be As Social As Possible
The best part of backpacking is the lifelong friends you make during your trip. It can be daunting walking into a busy hostel where everyone seems to know everyone. But surprise, they don’t! Everyone else is backpacking just like you and more often than not they’re all complete strangers. While it might feel scary and strange to just waltz over to a group of people and introduce yourself, trust me, it’s completely normal. You’ll be welcomed into the group like an old friend!
3. Don’t Book Everything In Advance
I know it seems odd: you’d think being organised on your backpacking trip is important, right? Whilst in some scenarios organisation is key (don’t miss out on a tour that always books up super quick), sometimes it’s nice to go with the flow and not have every second of your trip planned out. Sometimes the place you planned to stop in for just one night turns out to be your favourite place. The same way the place you intended to stay for a week is not at all how it looked online. So don’t plan everything and see where you end up!
4. Tripadvisor and Hostelworld Are Your New Best Mates
CHECK THINGS OUT BEFORE YOU BOOK THEM! I repeat, check things out before you book them. That hostel that looks nice? Yeah, those pictures were taken 20 years ago and now it has a nasty bedbug issue. Reviews on sites like Hostelworld are from real people and they’re not paid to write them, so you can trust them. Same with day trips: that boat might look great on the leaflet, but the trip might be really poorly run and boring. Read people’s reviews and if you can, ask around! Someone from your hostel could have been on the trip at some point and can give you some quality advice.
5. Barter, Barter, Barter
Yes, the nice man at the market might be telling you that hat is worth the equivalent of $20, but he’s most likely sold it earlier today for the equivalent of 30 cents. Barter and set a price first: you’ll be amazed at how much money you can save from negotiating with people. Slight disclaimer: this tip is pretty much only applicable in S/E Asia, so don’t try and barter with the man running the corner store in Canada – it probably won’t work.