We’ve compiled our best pieces of backpacking advice for all of you who are considering long-term travel.
Backpacking is the answer for an affordable yet fulfilling adventure. You’ll see so many incredible places, meet new people and make memories that will last you a lifetime. It’s an experience like no other. Our first backpacking trip changed our lives – so much so that now we pretty much live out of a backpack!
We had so many questions about backpacking when we first decided to travel long term. Firstly, how on earth will we have enough clothes to last us 9 months? Is a backpack really a better idea than a suitcase? How much money will we need and what should we take?
To help you solve all your unanswered questions, we’ve put together this handy backpacking advice blog post. It contains answers to all the questions we could possibly come up with, along with some of your suggestions!
Am I Too Old To Go Travelling?
Absolutely not! There’s a misconception that you need to either have finished secondary school or graduated from uni to qualify for the backpacking club. Being in our mid-twenties, even we thought we might be slightly too old. How silly we were. You can go backpacking at any age.
Yes, there were throngs of gap-year travellers, but we didn’t feel out of place once. In fact, we met travellers of all ages and backgrounds. Our biggest piece of backpacking advice is that everyone travels in different ways – you may not travel the typical backpacker route or frequent the backpacker hotspots, but that’s fine!
Remember, it’s your life to do with as you please. If you’ve got the money and you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, don’t let age put you off from living your dream!
How Do I Do Laundry On The Road?
Hollie was quite stressed about this before we went backpacking, but then again, she’s particularly fussy about separating colours and following wash instructions! If laundry isn’t something you really care about, then this question probably hasn’t entered your mind.
How you do laundry will depend on where you’re staying. Many Airbnbs will have washing facilities, so make the most of them when you can. Otherwise, check to see if your hotel or hostel offers a laundry service – most probably will. Laundromats and laundrettes are commonplace and cheap as another option. In Asia, a wash, dry and iron will cost mere pounds, plus it will come back de-creased and folded to within an inch of its life.
The last-resort option of course is to use the bathroom sink or shower… something we did a lot.
WMJG Backpacker Hack:
Some great things to pack – especially if you’re going off the beaten track – are some pegs, a travel clothing line and a universal sink plug. Don’t laugh, we used them A LOT.
What Do I Do About Toiletries?
Don’t even consider buying holiday-size miniatures because you think they’re the only thing that could conceivably fit in your wash bag. Not only are they a horrendous choice for the environment, but you aren’t on holiday anymore.
It’s usually very easy to buy essential toiletries while travelling, especially if you’re frequently passing through large towns and cities. If you’re worried about luggage weight, don’t take any of the essentials with you at all – just bring what you think you’ll need for the first night. Most accommodation, from hostels to Airbnbs, will have the basics (shampoo and shower gel).
Those of you who wear makeup, you might want to bring a spare of any of your favourites. Most brands are available, but you might be disappointed.
WMJG Backpacker Hack:
On a budget? Save some pennies and the environment by refilling your shampoo and shower gel bottles when you stay somewhere with supplies.
Will I Have To Stay In A Dorm?
Nope. Not if you don’t want to. Many hostels have private rooms which aren’t that much more expensive. Besides, if you’re travelling as a couple, it often works out more expensive to rent two dorm beds.
What we would say is don’t completely write off dorms, even if the idea of them is filling you with dread. Some hostels offer genuine five-star accommodation – you just have to sleep in a room full of other people!
Will I Meet People?
That’s really up to you! In the right hostel, it can be nearly impossible not to meet people. If you like organised tours, this is also a great way to meet other travellers.
If you fancy sticking to yourself then that’s also absolutely fine. We found it a bit harder as a couple to meet other travellers as we nearly always stayed in private hostel rooms or budget hotels, but that’s not to say you can’t make an effort to be sociable!
How Much Money Will I Have To Save?
This will depend on how you want to travel, how long you want to travel for and where you want to travel to. Yeah, we get it, it’s not an easy question to find a straightforward answer to.
Much of your budget will be spent on accommodation, so do some research before you leave. Find out how much your ideal hotels cost where you are headed. If you plan to follow an erratic path and travel large distances between countries, you should definitely budget more for transport. Remember, slow travel where transport and activities are more spread out will be cheaper than if you want to pack a lot into a short trip.
Our Southeast Asia Budget:
- £60 per day (£30 per person)
- Includes transport (not flights from the UK), accommodation, sightseeing and food.
- Most of the time, we did not spend this much per day but we wanted a buffer
WMJG Backpacker Hack:
If you’re travelling as a couple, your cost per person will be lower due to sharing accommodation and food.
How Do I Deal With Visas?
Visa rules vary from country to country and will depend on your own nationality too, so the best thing to do is research information from official government websites.
You may have to arrange a visa before your trip or you may be able to apply for a visa upon arrival in your destination or you may not even need a visa at all! A lot of countries nowadays are offering e-visas, meaning you can arrange a visa easily online without the hassle of visiting an embassy.
Be aware, though, that there are plenty of scam sites that offer fake e-visas, so be careful where you get your information from!
Will The Backpack Hurt My Back?
It really really shouldn’t. If you’ve bought a high-quality backpack that fits you and the straps are done up correctly then you shouldn’t have any pain in your back. Make sure that most of the weight is sitting on your hips rather than your back and shoulders.
What Sort Of Shoes Should I Take?
You’ll likely need a few different pairs of shoes, but you should make sure they’re all lightweight and go with as many outfits as possible.
- Running trainers – these were our go-to shoes. If you like to exercise, then these will allow you to run, hike and walk for miles.
- Birkenstocks – the backpacker classic! These are so comfy and sturdy, and they last for years!
- Flip-flops – if you’re headed somewhere hot, then these are a no-brainer.
- Walking boots – not a necessity. Unless you plan on doing some serious hiking, sports trainers will probably suffice. Although if you’re headed somewhere that’s rainy and cold, walking boots might be a worthwhile addition to your backpack.
Is It Safe?
That’s a difficult one to answer without knowing whereabouts you’re going. But is anywhere truly ‘safe’? Before we give you any backpacking advice, ask yourself this: can you walk around London or New York without knowing there’s a chance that a crime will be committed against you?
There are several ways to mitigate any safety concerns, such as not carrying a lot of money or valuable items and avoiding poorly lit areas. Keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine!
It also helps to be aware of potential scams being run in the area you’re travelling to so that you can avoid them. There are plenty of forums and blog posts online, so do some research before you travel.
Do I Need To Worry About My Stuff Getting Stolen?
Just like you would at home, try to look after your things! Lock your items away in hostels and never leave your bags unattended.
WMJG Backpacker Hack:
If you’re out and about, carry minimal cash and bank cards. We only ever carried the cash we needed for one or two days and we split our funds across different banks and different bank cards. That meant that if any got stolen, we’d still be able to access our money.
Will My Stuff Get Ruined?
We’re not going to lie to you – yes, some of your things may get ruined. You’re likely to be packing, unpacking and repacking every few days and that can take a toll on your belongings. Throw in sand, sea, dust and mud and you may find you need to replace or upgrade a few items along the way. Bear this in mind when packing and don’t be afraid to say goodbye to a few favourite pieces. Trust us, it will be worth it.
How Do I Manage My Finances?
You can adopt a number of measures to manage your finances well when backpacking.
Firstly, put your money in banks that won’t charge you for foreign transactions or withdrawals. We use Starling, and our experience with them has been great! Trust us, getting this right will save you a lot of money. Those withdrawal fees can add up!
In terms of managing your daily budget, use a budget tracking app. One of the best travel apps for backpackers is Travelspend, a great app that we use every day to track our spending. If you don’t use some kind of tracking method, you could end up running out of money (or not enjoying yourself enough).
Should I Go Backpacking?
If you can and you want to, then why on Earth shouldn’t you?
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