To answer this question, I would like to give the floor to 11 travel bloggers who share their experiences of backpacking with you. I hope this will help you in the preparation of your future trip. Let’s go for a list of tips for your first backpack trip!
Reduce the pharmacy and health kit
You know that huge medicine kit you put in your luggage? Get her out of here! I swear to you, you don’t need all this! During my first trips, I left with so many products, medicines and preventive potions because of the fear that I had been made to get sick. Trust me and cut in half, then cut in half!
Unless you are going to the bush where you don’t have access to pharmacies or doctors, it is strictly not necessary to bring so many health products when travelling. Take some anti-nausea, anti-diahea, anti-histamine pills, then some against headaches. No need to bring the whole box of each of them, it takes up space and you won’t use them. If they are really essential, you will have enough for a few doses, then you will have plenty of time to find others depending on what your condition requires.
Take some basic dressings. The emergency kit filled with bandages, disinfectants and other magic stuff is only practical if it is kept on us at all times, which we usually don’t do during the day anyway.
I assure you, you don’t need everything you put aside before you leave. Sort, sort, sort, sort and don’t panic despite what you are told, you won’t spend your time being sick!
Book just 1-2 night(s) on arrival
During a first backpack trip, you can be a little stressed about the unknown. I advise you to always book one or two nights in the destination city. When you arrive after several hours on a plane, you are often tired. It’s really cool, to be able to go directly to your inn (yes, if possible an inn to meet people). That then gives us 2 days to soak up the atmosphere of the country and discover the surroundings serenely. The hotel and hostel comparator FindHotel will help you find the best prices for youth hostels.
For the rest of the trip, however, I advise not to book anything and to let yourself be carried away by the wave of travel and the unexpected. That’s what I love about travelling, not knowing where you’ll be the next day. In addition to having a trip full of surprises, it allows you to adapt your itinerary according to encounters, favourites and disappointments. We do not all have the same tastes, the same desires. So even if you have been told to stay 4 days in this city, because it is magical, maybe you won’t be so dazzled. On the contrary, you may have a huge crush on a place that has disappointed others.
In short, for a first backpack trip (and for the others), we book the first nights for safety and serenity, then we don’t book anything else to let the magic of the trip work for the rest.
Google map usable offline
Each new trip is for me a first backpack trip. Each trip is different and the vision of the trip changes at each destination but the habits remain the same.
I download the Google map of the new place I am going to, this map can be used offline.
I use this map to find my way around when I take the bus or taxi from the airport for accommodation. You can never be too careful and it saves you the stress of not knowing where you’re going.
On this map, I identify the places where I want to go during my stay and the places I want to visit.
When I visit the city, I go through these places using google maps, GPS and all this without an internet connection. If you’re up in the air and you’ve gotten lost, there’s no more worries, just see where you are on google map.
Securing your business
For our one-year world tour, we had a lot of concerns, especially about the security of our business. And more particularly our big bag in the holds of buses, planes or in the instructions of inns.
Before the trip, we therefore invested 15 € each in transport covers, initially designed for air travel (to prevent the straps from getting stuck everywhere…). Finally, we kept them on our bags for almost a year!
They protect against rain, dust and all other products that may flow on our bags during the trip. We could also wear them on our backs, while keeping the protections on our backs. Or, close them up and carry the bags over the shoulder, in airports for example.
Very practical, we were also able to put a lock on it, in the night buses or when we left our bags in the lockers in the youth hostels.
Result: no theft for 1 year, no unpleasant surprises and our bags are still in perfect condition! Something to feel like leaving again….
My advice is to accept that you can’t do everything or see everything
When you travel for the first time, you have a head full of dreams. We want to respect his timing, his itinerary, that everything is perfect and that the weather is good all the time… We always have many expectations during a first trip.
I would like to talk about one of those expectations, the fact that I want to do everything and see everything.
I will illustrate my remarks with an experience from our long journey. We are currently travelling in South America. This experiment took place in Patagonia. I can’t count the number of times we’ve heard the praise of Torres del Paine Park in Chile. On the road, we collected tips, travel stories, tips to know to carry out the trekking called “O” (the one that makes the complete tour of the mountainous massif). All this had whetted our appetite. Not to mention the magnificent photos that circulate on the net.
In short, we learn that a reservation system has been put in place to limit the influx of visitors. I am not against nature protection at all. Sometimes it is indeed necessary to limit access to protect it. But this is a hell of a place to book. We can’t, supposedly, stay two nights at the same campsite, prices are exaggerated, free campsites are filled months in advance, the entrance fee to the park is exaggerated for foreigners. A set of elements that should have persuaded us to give up, so we seemed a little upset. But we were ABSOLUTELY keen to see this park. We should have followed our first impressions. Our experience has been catastrophic. Low clouds, non-stop rain every day, people on the paths and icy rivers to cross because the bridges were washed away. In the end, we will have seen almost nothing of the park except its muddy path.
What do I remember about all this? It is that we must listen to each other and recognize that we cannot see everything and do everything while travelling. You have to change your mind and ignore certain activities.
Importance of a credit/debit card
A backpack trip requires more autonomy than an organized trip or a family trip. The question of money is a major aspect of this autonomy: how to access your money on the road, while reducing risks (theft, loss, card cloning, etc.)? My suggestion: bring a minimum of two cards from two different issuers (VISA and MasterCard, for example). So if there is a problem with one of them, the other one remains. In addition, cards are not always compatible with local ATM networks (such as Cirrus or Plus) and ATMs do not always allow you to enter the correct number of PIN numbers (a fact of life). Reasons more to drag at least two cards.
Now, every transaction made with a card generates fees. Their total varies according to several factors, such as foreign currency conversion fees or fees charged by the card issuer. One of my financial institutions once advised me to make cash advances on my credit card (because there are fewer fees than with a debit card) and to immediately repay these funds via its website, in order to avoid interest. Another essential tip: distribute cards and cash in various places in your luggage. There will then be at least one card and some money left in case of a problem. In fact, the ideal would be to bring a combination of credit cards, debit cards and cash to cover all scenarios. There you go. These tips – passed down from generation to generation since Ibn Battûta – should help any new backpacker.
Travelling with a backpack for the very first time can be a little scary if you are used to travelling with large suitcases. Indeed, it is necessary to know how to take only what is necessary and to get rid of everything that is not essential. If we had one piece of advice for you, it would be to travel light! Nothing worse than a 20kg backpack to carry around! The key to freedom and backpacking is to travel with the essentials only, to be free to move where you want.
After 3 years of backpacking, we arrived at an ideal weight of 6kg for me with a 50L bag and 9kg for Maxime with a 70L bag (well, I cheat a little because he’s the one who takes the toilet and pharmacy kit, but he’s stronger!). It sounds incredible like that, but believe me, it’s not that hard to just take the basics and ration your stuff. Plus, it leaves you room to bring back some souvenirs, and you can always buy what you need on the way! And don’t worry, most of the time your bag will not be on your back, but rather in your accommodation or in a locker (in a station, for example), so during the day you only have a small bag. Once you’ve tasted the light journey, you can’t do without it!
Choose your destination carefully
For a first backpack trip, it seems very important to me to choose the right destination. But the ideal destination will not be the same for everyone. So the ideal is to take stock of your desires, your skills and your budget. Try to choose a country where it is easy to travel, and therefore a tourist country. The more tourists there are in a country, the easier it is for tourists and backpackers to organize. For example, it is very easy to travel to Thailand and Southeast Asia in general, as well as Australia and New Zealand. All these countries are no problem if you speak English. I think that for a first trip, the language spoken in the country is also important. If you speak Spanish well, you can try Latin America, which I do not recommend if you do not. Start with a rather safe country like Peru, Bolivia or Costa Rica for example.
But the budget is also important, choose a country where you will be financially comfortable. You don’t want to struggle for lack of money on your first trip, it might disgust you. If you have a small budget for example, forget Australia and New Zealand and go to South East Asia, and rather to Peru and Bolivia than Costa Rica because Costa Rica is an expensive country.
And finally to reassure you during your first trip, if you are European, you can choose a country in Europe, it is quite easy and above all, the fact of being near your home is reassuring. In case of problems, you can easily get back quickly and cheaply.
Leave room for the unexpected
Organizing her first trip can be quite stressful, at least it was for me, before I took the plunge to embark on a four-year world tour. Today, after tens of thousands of kilometres of hitchhiking, the best advice I could give you is surely to let yourself be carried along with the opportunities and encounters that will be available to you. To plan ahead is to try to visit as many sites and monuments as possible, but it also means closing doors and preventing yourself from going off the beaten track. To reconcile the two, do not forbid yourself to plan your trip, but leave yourself a few blank pages, you will be in this way available to live beautiful adventures that you could not have envisaged in advance: plan not to plan everything, the world will return it to you!
What advice do you find most useful for your backpack trip? Do you have any other advice for a first trip?