People gravitate to backpacking for the freedom and ease it offers. But the truth is, it can actually take more preparation to travel this way than going the traditional hotel and package tour route. You need to think about where you’re staying, how to get there, and how to keep costs where you need them to be. Following a few key tips will help you get the most out of your adventure.
The way you pack is as important as what you pack
You’ve probably already realized you’ll be carrying that backpack around for a lot longer than the average traveler. It pays to put only what you really need in there, and when you’ve been carrying it around a few hours, you’ll be glad you left behind that extra bottle of sunscreen.
But it’s also very important to pack sensibly. The last thing you want to do is dig through a big bag of clothes, toiletries, and shoes every time you need anything. Make sure that you put the items you’ll only need occasionally—especially bulky ones—at the bottom of the bag. Arrange a place near the top for your passport, sunglasses, camera, and anything else you want to be able to access in a hurry.
Consider your time frame when you think about prebooking
If you’re planning to be gone for months, you will almost certainly want to make only a few bookings in advance. The rest of the time, you’ll want to be free to move around as you please, stopping in a great place for a few extra days or hightailing it out of there if the destination is a dud.
On the other hand, if you’ve only got a couple weeks to do your trip, consider booking everything in advance. Doing so will let you make the most of your more limited time. Find and mark your local options for luggage storage so you can stash your stuff and head out to do some strenuous hiking or epic sightseeing.
Save money by eating what the locals eat
It’s always cheaper to eat from the grocery store than to go out for meals. You’ll want to enjoy a couple of special meals along your journey, but the rest of the time you can keep within your budget by sticking to street food and cooking in your hostel.
How do you know if the street food is safe to eat? Just remember the two key details: time and temperature. The hotter the food, the fewer bugs there are that can make you sick. The longer the food has been sitting out, the more likely it is to make you ill. Remember those two concepts, plus always use your common sense.
Look into buying a train pass
In a lot of places you can pre-purchase a train pass that will let you travel anywhere in the country or region within a set period of time. Not only is train travel an amazing way to see a place, but having a train pass means your options have just opened up.
With a train pass, if you want to spend a little more time in an area you can do so without penalty. If you hear about an amazing opportunity somewhere else that you want to check out, you’re free to grab a seat and head off over the horizon at any time.
Be careful with your alcohol
One of the most lucrative tricks for local businesses is to soak tourists at bars, clubs, and restaurants. Establishments located near major tourist attractions or hostels will often wildly overcharge, assuming you won’t know the difference. Additionally, you don’t see the liquor being poured out, or sometimes even who is doing the pouring, and things might not always be safe.
Find the local liquor store and get your own stash to imbibe at the hostel. You’ll enjoy it just as much, you’ll save yourself a lot of money, and you’ll be safe doing it. So grab your backpack, make your plans, and then get out there. The world is waiting.