I must admit, I’ve never backpacked myself, and the idea might scare plenty of people. However, simply keep your wits about it, and there would be plenty of great experiences to enjoy on a budget. Here are some tips for a first-time backpacker:
Make sure you buy travel insurance
Too many people think that as long as they remain vigilant and play on the safe side, they wouldn’t need travel insurance. Be it a backpacking journey or a lavish vacation, insurance is a must. There are plenty of unanticipated events that could happen on your trip: missing a flight, losing your passport, getting pickpocketed, etc. Ensuring you have the right coverage might save you from being stranded on the streets with nowhere to go or feeling like its the end of the world after getting robbed.
Pack light, but pack smart
Packing light doesn’t mean you should just bring two sets of clothing and nothing else. Simply put, bring what you need, and what would be useful in an emergency. If you intend to work or document your trip, a laptop or tablet would be really helpful. If you just wish to trek the Fjords of Scandanavia and soak in the natural beauty of the region, maybe simply a cellphone and a few portable chargers would be a wiser choice.
Take it easy
Try not to squeeze too much stuff into your itinerary. Chances are, as a backpacker, you’re gonna be doing a lot of walking with not the comfiest nights. Filling your itinerary to the brim can be pretty draining, and if there are any delays along the way, it could mess up your schedule and freak you out.
Also, be conscious of the climate. You would likely not need a sweater at all if you’re backpacking through Southeast Asia, and tee-shirts would hardly be necessary for Europe during the winter.
Go with ground transportation whenever possible
Planes are essential for long-haul trips, but once you get to where you want to, try taking ground transportation instead. Buses, trains, or even renting a scooter or car. They’re typically very cheap, especially in Asia, and you get the chance to see some great views en route to your next destination.
Unless you’re in Europe. Then low-cost airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet would likely be far cheaper than taking the Eurostar. Getting to Europe now is also much more affordable for Singaporeans, with direct flights to Athens and Berlin on Scoot!
Using the Wego app, you’d be able to source for the cheapest flights with ease. The app shows you when the most affordable dates are to fly, and also makes a comparison on which site has the cheapest tickets if you need to fly on specific dates.
Do your research
Yes, spontaneity is exciting, and you sometimes make the most amazing discoveries when you just ‘let things happen.’ However, going to a country you have no knowledge about and wandering onto any random street can be very dangerous. Just this summer, I had a couple of friends who were robbed at gunpoint in Oakland. And they didn’t have travel insurance either (read above).
Make sure you know where you’re going, what are the dangerous locales to avoid, and what the local cost of living is. Do you want a lively hostel where you can mingle with other backpackers, or do you prefer some peace and solitude? Also, pre-book your accommodations to ensure you don’t end up in a dilapidated hostel when the good ones are full when you arrive. Try to look for booking policies that include some level of flexibility in case of any itinerary changes.
Via the Wego app, you could easily filter choices to fit your budget, choose your accommodation type, the districts you prefer to stay in, how well-rated each property is, etc. This makes searching for the perfect stay so much easier!
Bring as little cash as possible
While it may seem counterintuitive to not bring cash on a backpacking trip, it might save you from a whole lot of headaches if you lose it or get robbed. Instead, apply for cards like Revolut or MCO that allow you to hold multiple currencies virtually, or provide you with real-time wholesale exchange rates. You could use them directly as debit cards or withdraw funds as cash via a local ATM. The latter being useful for countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Broaden your mindset
Lastly, don’t be too fixated on the preconceived notions of what you think might be the cheapest option. People usually think that hostels and buses are the most economical. However, you could sometimes get a terrific Airbnb stay that might be as cheap as a hostel, and flights may end up being less expensive than taking the train or bus.
Traveling is one of the most fulfilling and fun things to do, but it also can be extremely stressful if you aren’t well prepared for it. But as you go on your travels, you’d naturally gain more experience, and before you know it, you’d be doing it like a pro!