15 Travel Tips for Backpacking the World
If you’re new to the wonderful world of backpacking and need some advice, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together fifteen of our top tips that we wish someone had told us before our first trip!
None of the recommendations mentioned are sponsored. They are from personal experience and are recommendations we genuinely feel are worthwhile to pass on.
1. Get enough sleep
This is harder than it sounds, trust us! Dorm rooms and hostels in general can be noisy and the temptation to go out and party every night of the week is very alluring. But you need to remember why you are in this new country; is it to discover new experiences and explore the culture, or to get wasted in a bar that could pass for one in your hometown?
Obviously there is a balance: definitely let your hair down and party, but don’t overdo it. Save your energy so that you can get out of bed early and make the most of every day ahead. In other words, don’t burn the candle at both ends.
2. Stay at hostels that offer free breakfast
Like most backpackers, you’re probably on a pretty tight budget. The biggest trick here is to avail of free breakfasts at hostels that offer them. Make sure to get up on time to avail of this free food and stock up! Don’t be afraid to go back for seconds or grab a banana to save for later.
We always try to eat enough during these free breakfasts to last us the day. That way we just need a hearty snack during the day instead of spending money on lunch, and then can look forward to one big meal in the evening.
The free breakfast at Abraham Hostel in Tel-Aviv
3. Keep your valuables in sight
We cannot stress this enough!! Either keep your valuables (passport, bank card, phone etc.) in a locked locker or in your sight. Unfortunately, no matter where we go in the world, this is something you’ll need to remember!
This is especially important during bus or train journeys when your main backpack may be stowed away from your eyesight. Always keep a smaller carrier bag or backpack on you with your valuables, and if you’re deciding to take a nap during said journey make sure to wrap your arms or legs around this smaller bag.
4. Don't overpack
There is nothing worse than an over-packed backpack. As tempting as it may be to bring three white cotton sundresses or twenty knickers, there really is no need. Pack the basics that you know you will definitely use, and then keep your “maybes” until the end - only putting them in if you have plenty of space.
There is super cheap local laundry services practically everywhere these days, or pack a laundry soap bar to wash your clothes yourself. Bring travel size toiletries and top up as you go. Don’t forget you can always pick up some clothes and other necessities along the way if you really need.
Which brings us to our next point - haggle! If you’re in need of a new t-shirt or fancy buying a souvenir, don’t be afraid to negotiate with the shopkeeper. For a lot of cultures, haggling is the norm.
Most markets and small local stores will be overcharging tourists (by a lot!) so work your magic to save yourself a dollar or two. You’ll most likely still end up paying more than a local would but standing your ground could result in a 20% higher price instead of 200% more!
Prepare to haggle at markets! Photo cred: @novaturientgypsy
6. Prepare for rain
Heading to India during dry season? Traveling around Australia during their hot summer? Well we’re sorry to break it to you, but the rain will come when you least expect it. And you’re going to want to protect your valuables.
Pack a fold-up anorak, it won’t take up much space in your bag and will be a god-send when you get stuck in a downpour. Cover your backpack with a rain cover to avoid the wet seeping through into your belongings. All of SunDrift’s backpacks come with a rain-cover built in so you can always be prepared.
7. Pack a deck of cards
Cards are universal and a great way to make friends, whether its on a train journey or in a hostel common area. Break the ice and suggest a game with a stranger, we guarantee you will make a few pals this way.
8. Bring a Kindle
There will be days with long journeys and reading is a great way to pass the time. But obviously lugging books around is not even an option. Hello, it’s 2019! Time to get yourself a Kindle if you don’t already have one.
Take the time to research some books with stories about the country you’re visiting, it’s always fun to feel immersed in the culture you’re reading about.
9. Talk to locals
Chatting to locals is the best way to have an authentic experience and learn the most about their culture. Whether it’s the server at the local cafe or the owners of your hostel, ask them questions! You will probably find they are very happy to talk to you and that you’re interested in their country.
You never know what it could lead to! An invite to a home cooked dinner at their family home or being brought along to a local street festival that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
Spending time with a Filipino family
10. Bring toilet paper everywhere
We mean e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. When nature calls and you’re stuck in a local heritage site with nothing but squat toilets and not a scrap of toilet paper in sight, you will regret ignoring this tip.
You may get lucky and never have to use the toilet paper you’ve been carrying around for weeks, but it’s best not to take that chance. It would be a risky little game!
11. Pack earplugs and an eye mask
We mentioned noisy hostels before, right? It’s no fun when some drunken monkey comes stumbling into your dorm at 3am and turns on the lights. Or if another dorm-mate has an early 5am wake up call and you’ve just been in bed for 3 hours.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Throw those earplugs in and that eye mask on and get that beauty sleep you so much deserve.
12. Invest in a microfibre towel
Don’t waste your money on renting a towel at every hostel you stay at. Pack a light microfibre towel. They fold up super small and dry so quickly so they really are perfect for backpackers.
Lots of people buy the larger sizes so they can double up as a beach towel when needed.
13. Carry a water bottles
You’re going to want to stay hydrated along your trip, especially in warmer countries. Packing a reusable water bottle will save you heaps of money and is so much better for the environment. There’s already too much plastic in our oceans.
If you’re worried about filling up from the taps, bring a water filter too or boil it first.
14. Try the street food
This is one of our favourite parts of exploring new countries! Some of the most incredible mouth-watering food we’ve ever tasted has been from food stalls or trucks in the streets. Be open to trying new flavours!
Plus, street food is definitely the cheaper option! Look, you might get sick - it happens. But the chances are lower than you would think. If you’re really concerned about that, stick to cooked vegetarian options.
15. Prepare for sickness
Speaking of getting sick… Nobody likes it, but it is even worse when you’re far from home, in a strange country and staying in a basic hostel. Bring a general antibiotic as well as some other meds you may need, for example stomach ache meds.
We also recommend bringing a small first aid kit with antiseptic cream, bandages etc. And of course make sure you get any necessary vaccines well in advance of your trip.
We hope these backpacker tips help you on your next adventure. Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more where these came from.