If you are getting ready for your first trip, here’s a list of backpacking for beginners tips from those who have already traveled a lot. Keep them in mind to avoid serious mistakes and make the best out of your journey.
1. Backpacking for Beginners: Go to the cheap places
If your budget is tight, choose more competitive countries. In Europe, for example, most people head to Paris or London, while many areas across the continent are underestimated, even though they are not only beautiful but also affordable. Go to the Balkans, climb the mountains, swim in the seas, dance to the rhythms of trumpets and drink Rakia with charming locals (they will be happy to share this traditional spirit with you since hospitality in Balkans is as obligatory as kissing the cheeks in France or siesta in Spain). For more of a quiet experience, visit the sleepy Baltic States, full of forests, lakes, saunas and charming wooden houses.
The countries of central and eastern Europe are fascinating as well, with their delicious cuisine, beautiful architecture and modest charm. The same rule can be applied to the whole world. So many countries in Asia, Africa, and South America are as cheap as magical. It is not only about the countries, though, but also towns and cities. Even in relatively expensive U.S. and Australia, you can find affordable spots. Instead of spending days in a madly expensive capital, you can only go there to see the highlights and then move to a smaller town, traditional and non-tourist.
2. Follow the locals
Keep a guide with you, take a smartphone with its internet and all imaginable info, but whenever you have a chance, ask the locals. Where to eat, what to see, how to reach a given place and any doubts you might have. No one knows better than he or she does. You might discover some hidden treasures and little corners of a visited city. Taste traditional dishes in a tiny restaurant no tourist has ever stepped into before or take a bath in a river that is not stunning enough to be mentioned in a guide, but charming and close enough to be a favorite spot of local adventurers. Besides, asking this kind of questions is a great excuse to start a conversation. So many marvelous stories of love, friendship, and life-changing encounters start with “I did not know where to go, so I stopped this person on the street…”.
3. Learn how to cook
That is not only for economic reasons but also for the sake of cultural exchange and gaining new skills. If you have a chance, cook with the locals and other travelers (that is why hostels with a kitchen are so great). Many of them will be glad to show you how to prepare traditional dishes. Ability to cook something yummy and exotic is one of the loveliest things you can bring back home.
4. Share stories with other travelers in backpacker hostels
There’s something special about backpacker hostels that no other form of accommodation has. Most of the hostels have an energetic vibe and, even if they are perfectly clean, there’s always something messy about them. People constantly come and go, taking their stories with them, but with a bit of luck, you might hear some unbelievable tales. If you are not yet totally exhausted, have a chat with your dorm mates.
5. Let the stars be your roof
What about sleeping outdoors? Okay, it might not be the best idea if you are somewhere in Alaska and the temperature does not rise above -10°C, yet if you are somewhere warm, in nature, why not? All those glistening galaxies right in front of your eyes that is a view you will never forget.
6. Use hospitality exchange
CouchSurfing, BeWelcome, HospitalityClub, all these communities provide an excellent opportunity to meet open, friendly people while you are backpacking. For beginners, it is usually extraordinary people are ready to welcome strangers in their homes, but it is such a pleasant surprise. Many members of these communities are genuinely hospitable and kind, always willing to help a traveler. It is not only about providing space to sleep but also about the meetings, parties, group sightseeing or exchanging tips. Even if you decide to stay in a hostel instead of surfing somebody’s couch, you can always join an event or meet for a coffee.
7. Hitch-hike a limousine or a hippie van
Yes, that is possible! You can even hitch-hike a yacht, a bike or a plane. Check what’s the situation in the area you are heading to since not all the world knows what hitch-hiking is and in some places, it gets complicated (HitchWiki is a perfect source of detailed information). Some adventurous wanderers hitch-hike all around the globe, and they even manage to cross the oceans. As a beginner, you might want to try some short-distance hitch-hiking in not-such-hard core places first. Then, if you see it is your thing, well, the world is out there, full of cars and bored, helpful and curious drivers.
8. Travel light
That is one of the most important things to remember about backpacking for beginners. Almost everyone makes the same mistake in the start, taking way too much stuff. You don’t want to carry it all around on your back. Get a small backpack, definitely no more than 65l, preferably up to 50l. Before you finish packing, take a look at the things you are planning to take and analyze carefully if you need them or just want them.
9. Stay in touch
All right, it is cool to be free, independent, and travel the world like a bohemian. But let’s not forget about those who stay home. No matter how much you enjoy the journey and how busy your mind is with all the adventures, stay in touch with your loved ones. It is normal they get a bit worried. Don’t torture them; send a message once in a while just to let them know you are fine.
10. Choose the right travel mates
She might be your best friend, and he might be an excellent roommate. But it does not mean you will get along while traveling. That is an important thing concerning backpacking for beginners sometimes difficult to accept, especially when it comes to realizing a favorite friend from childhood will not make a good company. Before you decide whom to go with for a trip, talk with the person and ensure that you have similar goals. You do not need to be the same, but you should be able to communicate and compromise when it is necessary.
11. Take care of yourself
Well, you always should take care of yourself, but when you travel, it is easier to forget about it. Eat, sleep, rest once in a while, observe the people around you and try not to get into trouble. You do not want to miss on climbing a magnificent mountain, just because you have eaten too much of spicy food the day before. Or otherwise, have your camera stolen because you have been waiting for a bus and fallen asleep on a bench.
12. Collect souvenirs
Pictures, videos, thoughts are written down in a notebook, stories shared with others, friendships, new skills, and knowledge – these are the most valuable souvenirs. Be present, focus on what’s around you. Keep your mind open, and experience as much as you can. So that when you go back home, you will feel like you have learned something important.
Do you know more tips for backpacking for beginners? Please let us know and share them with us. We love to hear from you.