Backpacking is often considered to be one of the most extreme forms of travel, but it is by far the best way to see a country, especially if you are on a budget. A favorite among the broke college crowd who still want to get their culture fix, backpacking can be exciting and rewarding—but it can also be daunting, especially if you have never backpacked before and therefore have no idea how to go about it.
There’s a big difference between imaging backpacking and actually sitting down and making plans for it. Luckily for you, we have a list of eight tips that will make it easy and stress-free to start your backpacking adventure.
1. Pack carefully. No matter how long you’re going to be backpacking, whether it be for a week or for months, you are going to want to carefully consider everything you put into that pack. Remember, you’re going to be carrying it, probably as you walk from place to place and definitely as you explore different cities and towns. You are going to be tempted to bring every piece of clothing you own (at least all your favorites), in order to reduce the amount of time you have to spend washing—but jeans get heavy fast. Instead, try packing light and allowing time to wash clothes as necessary. Don’t skimp on underwear or socks, but do think about leaving those extra sweatshirts and jeans in the drawer. Always think functionality and durability over style.
2. Don’t bring anything you wouldn’t mind losing or having stolen. Obviously, this rule isn’t going to apply to everything. You are probably going to want to bring a camera, to document your adventures for posterity. If you are going to do that, keep it closely guarded. But don’t bring too many things that you have to continually keep an eye on. As you stay in hostels and gallivant across the countryside, you are probably going to lose a few things—that’s just a fact. Don’t bring your favorite of everything you own.
3. Tell people where you’re going and don’t forget to check in. Even if you don’t stick to your plan exactly (and why should you? That’s the fun of backpacking!), give someone a general idea of where you are and try to check in with them regularly. Not only will this assuage their worries, it will make sure that someone is keeping an eye on you, in case of an emergency.
4. Don’t be afraid to cook for yourself. While part of traveling should be to sample the local cuisine, that can seriously drain your wallet if you eat out for every meal. Save your cash for one special meal a day and cook the rest of your meals yourself. Many hostels have a communal kitchen, which you can use to whip up a quick breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can even rally some of the other guests and make new friends as you try out a new recipe.
5. Watch out for pickpockets and other criminals that try to take advantage of tourists. With your backpack, you are going to be easy for pickpockets to spot. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to be an easy target. If you are carrying any valuables, keep them tightly zipped, deep inside your backpack, and don’t keep large amounts of cash anywhere a skilled pickpocket can just brush by you and snag. Money is going to be the only thing you can’t replace while traveling, so keep it close and watch it carefully.
6. Don’t take a cab. It may be tempting to jump into a cab and have the driver take you to all of the biggest tourist spots. It’s easy and you won’t get lost. However, it’s going to cost you some major cash—money you would surely rather spend on food, drink, accommodations, or activities. Plus, many cab drivers can spot a tourist at ten paces and will overcharge or even take a circuitous route to rack up the fare, just because they know you won’t be able to tell. If you really don’t want to walk, try public transport. Most is very inexpensive and full of locals who can help you get to your final destination.
7. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your original plan. Part of the beauty of backpacking is the freedom to go where you want, when you want. If you stay in hostels and pack light, you are burdened neither by reservations nor by stuff. Even if you’ve told somewhere where you’re likely to be and on which date, just call them up and tell them your change of plans. When spontaneity hits, be open to it. If you are sitting in Amsterdam and suddenly want to go to London, go for it! Backpacking should be about following your whims.
8. Buy things along the way, instead of packing them. Especially if you are going to be backpacking for more than a week at a time, feel free to leave the layers and protective gear at home, especially if you’re not sure you’re going to need it. Instead, if the weather changes once you arrive at your destination, pick up a new shirt, pair of paints, or rain poncho as you go. Not only do these things serve as great souvenirs, this concept makes it much easier to pack light.
Backpacking Tips and Tricks
By Military Travel Exchange