New to backpacking? Then be sure to go over this list and try not to miss any of these points. That’s not say that seasoned backpackers shouldn’t be fully aware of all these. I’ve hitched rides with other fellow backpackers many times, and on once than one occasion they were in some kind of trouble one way or the other. Also, keep in mind that this is my personal system. Every person organizes their lives in a particular manner, and as such their trips as well.
1. Check your passport and visa. You’re all hyped about your trip to that beautiful foreign and exotic country, but trust me, the last thing you need is to get stack for hours at customs or even worse at the police station. Situations where tourists are turned back from whence they came are not unheard of. So, please check that your passport isn’t expired and also check whether you need a visa, and how long in advance you have to apply for one.
Be sure to run this through every country you’ll intending to pass through. Situations may arise when your passport or ID gets lost or stolen. If you aren’t sure you can’t secure your documents, leave some photocopies with a trusted friend back at home, who you or the authorities can call in the event. If the hotel or hostel requires your passport, make sure you have a copy and get the original back as soon as you can.
2. Handling money. If possible, carry as little cash on you as possible and rely on credit and debit cards when sure these will work. It’s better if you organise a variety of ways of accessing your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers’ cheques and cash.
3. Book in advance. You’ll spare a lot of money, time and hassle if you book your accommodations and travels in advance. Most places will take a booking online, plus you’ll be safer knowing that you have somewhere to stay when you reach your destination. Actually I find this to be very important, and advanced booking has helped avoid a lot of troubles in the past. I’ll follow-up with a lengthier article of its own about the importance of advanced booking, but for now keep in mind to look for establishments like hostels that have great word of mouth reviews, be it personal or online, and that are close to public transportation.
4. Travel light. One of the most common mistakes beginner backpackers make is they pack way too much stuff with them. Are you sure you need all those books with you? Maybe you’d be better of buying food on the road instead of packing it. Will you have access to WiFi or even electrical current through most of the locations you visit? Then there’s no need for all those electronics. Just go with the bare minimal at first.
Also it’s a lot cheaper to travel with a lighter load. Most airports, for instance, charge extra for luggage. A good advise is you buy the largest pack that you can take with you as cabin baggage when flying, so that you don’t need to pay extra. Don’t worry about having a huge backpack lying around through your house, since you can always buy storage units of any size back at home.
Whatever you decide, make sure your backpack is not too heavy for you to carry, fully loaded, for a full day’s walking.
5. Network and make friends. Through out my travels, I’ve come across many cultures and met a lot of interesting people. Naturally we connected and keep in touch to this day. Don’t be shy – blend with the locals if needed. Remember, when in Rome…
Don’t be too afraid of hitchhiking either. Sure, some people are really dubiously looking, but they’re fairly obvious to spot and if you believe you won’t be too save sharing a ride with that person, don’t do it. For one, I’ve never had one incident while hitchhiking. Instead, however, I did make a lot of friends and traveled thousands of miles for free.