To many, backpacking is seen as a budget way to experience a country. You pay almost the same amount just to arrive in a country, and you might find yourself sleeping in hostels or camping out in tents as opposed to a luxury hotel, but it’s all part of the experience. By getting up close and personal with the country instead of living life with luxury tourist amenities, you get to see what life is like for the locals and experience a new type of holiday that is both fulfilling and exciting.
But getting the most out of a backpacking experience is difficult. People make a lot of mistakes due to how little they know about backpacking, and they try to bring too many things from their homes with them. So in order to help you make the most out of your very first backpacking adventure, here are a couple of handy tips.
The first thing to keep in mind is your backpack itself. Travel lightly so that you don’t have to carry ridiculous numbers of things. You don’t want to be carrying several changes of clothes, you don’t want to carry a week’s supply of rations, and you don’t want to carry a heavy laptop either. If your back physically hurts after carrying around your backpack for a couple of hours, then you’ve made a mistake and you need to either strengthen your body or carry less. Carrying light items will make a world of difference and give you more freedom of movement.
Carry camping gear
It might seem a little drastic, but it’s actually not a bad idea to carry tents and camp gear with you so you can find a place to sleep no matter where you go. If it’s legal, then camp out as much as you can so you don’t have to spend money on things like a hostel or even a hotel. There are even some countries that have camping grounds that are far cheaper than paying for accommodation. If you’re willing to embrace nature and camp out for a couple of days, then you’ll find that backpacking can be an incredibly cheap holiday adventure.
Learn a bit of the language
If you’re visiting a place that has a different language, then you may want to consider learning a bit of the language. This is so you can converse with the locals and get around more easily. If you don’t have a phrasebook or translator handy, then you’ll find it difficult to locate places, pay for items and you may even accidentally get in trouble or offend a local. If you’re just starting out with backpacking, then you may want to pick a country where your home language is used on a regular basis so that you don’t run into language barriers.
Do some research and planning
Even though backpacking is an adventure based on freedom and doing whatever you want, you need to have some kind of plan so that you aren’t lost. Before you get on the plane or even book a flight, make sure you’re looking up places to stay, things to eat, phrases that will be useful and even attractions to visit. A little research goes a long way and it’ll make your backpacking holiday even more fulfilling. Some good places to look are travel blogs, YouTube videos or even message boards such as Reddit.
Learn to love the cuisine and culture
There’s no point visiting a country if you hate the cuisine. The local cuisine will be the most common thing you eat when you visit, so get used to it unless you want to pack rations and eat those for the duration of your stay. Make sure you also learn about the culture so you don’t accidentally offend someone. By showing a genuine interest in a country’s culture, you’ll attract local attention and they’ll be more than willing to help you out and even offer you shelter in some cases.
Don’t neglect safety needs
You’re going to be travelling without the assistance of a tour guide or someone that is reliable. You’re a lone wolf in an unknown country, so make sure you’re practising basic safety measures such as carrying a phone with you, emergency contact details and identification. Ensure you’ve got all of your medication and always carry a small bag of first aid supplies to help deal with any injuries you may get.
It’s not recommended to take a taxi everywhere. There are many options to indulge in depending on where you visit. For instance, you might be able to rent a bicycle in some countries, or you could walk everywhere and go on regular hiking trips. You should also try to learn the public transport network and how to take the bus, train or even tram. In short, avoid taking the taxi because it’s not uncommon for people to snuff out tourists and charge them extra for short trips.
Avoid the traps
If you want the best experience, then you have to avoid all of the tourist traps. Try to avoid anything with crowds and research some of the busiest tourist attractions before you visit the country in order to know what to avoid and what to take seriously. In many cases, the best things to experience are the local attractions that aren’t documented in big travel guides. The most exciting places to eat are usually the backstreet food stalls and local restaurants, not the fancy westernised places that are close to airports and hotels. In other words, go where the locals go and not the tourists.
Travelling is an experience worth sharing with friends. Instead of just taking pictures and sharing them on social media, why not bring a few friends along? Not only does it make carrying your luggage easier, it also greatly increases your security. It’s not uncommon for friends and family to backpack together because it increases the enjoyment, and you’ll create some magical memories that are worth sharing together in the future.