While You're Away
- Buy a good backpack that fits your body properly. Go into your nearest outdoor store, try on multiple backpacks with weights inside (anything bigger than 65L is too big unless you're taller than 7"1)
- Make a daily budget and breakdown including food, accommodation, travel expenses, excursions. And then expect to double it.
- Spend the money on a good pair of walking sandals (Clarks or Sanuk are personal recommendations)
- The kind of shoes you need depend on the type of trip you're taking. In Europe, we mostly wore walking sandals and a cute pair of black flats for 'a night on the town'. In Australia and Southeast Asia, a lot of trekking and hiking meant runners and sturdy sandals were a necessity. In Africa and India, its safe to keep your feet cover in closed toe shoes, so we stuck to runners. Bring shower sandals if you're anal about athletes foot, gross hostel showers or worms
- Have a rough itinerary but don't book too far ahead. Jot down a few things you want to see in each destination, but don't fully commit incase plans change (which they will). Be open to recommendations and schedule changes along the way.
- Remember that whatever you pack, you are carrying on your back. Save yourself from misery and pack 1/4 the amount you think you need.
- Pack a mummy liner for overnight trains and disgusting hostel beds.
- Buy camping style utensils; they come in handy for eating a takeaway salad or yogurt from Tesco, or save you from using dirty utensils at the hostel.
- Most hostels will provide a towel for free if you ask. If they don't, use your bed sheet or carry a microfibre towel.
- Photocopy your credit card, travel visas, passport, drivers license. Send a copy to your e-mail and bring copies on your trip with you.
- Carry at least 6 passport style photos with you, especially in Asia. They are required for obtaining travel visas.
- Ensure you have researched travel visa rules and regulations for each country you plan on going. Places in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam, India and Myanmar require you to obtain your visa ahead of time. Travel visas can be obtained at the airport upon arrival in most African countries. Europe is a breeze unless you're going for over three months.
- Packing cubes are a Godsend. Especially if you have a backpack that only opens from the top and not the bottom (not recommended), these cubes are a good way to keep your clothing organized and within easy reach.
- As long as you have your passport, everything else can be bought along the way.
Before You Go
- Go on every free walking tour in every city they are offered. These are available predominantly in European cities and an amazing way to get oriented in a new destination. Free walking tours are lead by travellers like yourself who have fallen in love with the city enough to share it with others. They make their money off of tips, so ensure you bring 5 euros to give to them as a thank you.
- Choosing a hostel can be a daunting task. Websites such as hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com are full of traveller reviews and make it easy to narrow down which accommodation is best for your needs. Being backpackers on a budget, while travelling in Europe the both of us chose hostels that provided free shit; breakfast, linens, wifi, towels, laundry, excursions and pub crawls. Location, location, location. You'll save money and time staying closer to the things that brought you to the destination in the first place. Other things to look out for are communal kitchens so you can cook your own meals (a great way to save some cash), good common areas to meet people, especially if you're a solo traveller and a friendly and fun atmosphere.
- Say yes to every opportunity that arises. You didn't travel thousands of miles to sit in your hostel dorm room because you're tired.
- Be aware of scams and gypsies, but not to the point that your day revolves around it.