Tips for Backpackers: Before you Go

I’m off in 2 days, I’m so excited! …And I have so much to do. Here is what I’m getting up to, to make sure I’m ready to go:

  • Pre-pack your rucksack and go for a walk with it on to test the weight. You’ll look a bit ridiculous but it could be a back-saver. Also check you can actually lift it above your head if you’re going to be using the high luggage racks in trains and buses.Colosseum at Rome.
  • Clear out your phone, cloud and camera memory. Delete any apps you don’t need, transfer photos to a portable hardrive… it’s way easier to do this at home than halfway through your trip, when you’ve got no storage space but want to continue taking 129375 photos of  Rome. Trust me.
  • Look up events early (eg one day festivals or the address and opening times of a museum etc), book ahead and put them in your phone calendar. This saves you wasting mobile data or looking for wifi when googling them later, and also you can add a reminder so you don’t forget.
  • Ditto with hostel addresses. Put them in your phone, and then write down/screenshot the googlemap directions (or save the map so it’s available offline) so you don’t need internet to access the map.
  • Download useful apps beforehand. AirBnB, TripAdvisor, HostelWorld and Rail Journey Planner are excellent. Want £25/$31 credit for your first AirBnb stay? Sign up here!
  • Check HostelWorld reviews against TripAdvisor reviews, sometimes they differ greatly for hostels.
  • Look up important contact details (your bank, mobile phone company and Embassy). Also let your bank know you’re going abroad.
  • Buy a cheap pay-as-you-go phone that will work in the countries you’re going to – it’ll help keep your phone bill low. My phone works like normal in certain countries because of the plan I bought, but in other countries it costs a fortune, so having the spare gives me peace of mind.
  • Read smaller travel blogs, not travel websites. Travel blogs are personal experiences, and are less likely to have sponsered posts, unlikely to be trying to sell you something, or write about wildly crazy or expensive things. This means they’re more likely to be honest, and do/talk about the same things you’ll do. Also they’ll be appreciative of your readership and will likely give you more tips!
  • A basic first aid kit should contain (at LEAST): plasters, blister plasters, a bandage, small scissors, microdermal tape, bite cream, painkillers, sun cream (if you’re going somewhere hot).
  • Actually read exactly what your travel insurance is going to cover before you buy it!! Eg, what if you get toothache and need a filling half way through, are you covered? What if your travels get disrupted for some reason and you have to go home for a bit before returning – will you get any financial cover? What happens if your phone gets stolen?
  • Recheck your visas, any jabs or meds you may have to take. Check in/book seats on any travel you need to (especially if using Interrail).

Have you got any more valuable tips? Share them below!

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26 thoughts on “Tips for Backpackers: Before you Go

  1. bringbabyabroad says:

    Very useful advices! Thanks for writing 🙂
    I would recommend to download maps.me application. It is free and it works offline!!!! has all the hotels/restaurants/ bus stops/hiking trails, well pretty much everything!!! I even dont know how we would travel without this app.
    Also as for the phone, we usually buy a sim card in a new country to make local calls if needed. On average the price for a simcard from our experience around the wold is around 2 dollars.To talk with your family/relatives/friends at home whatsap and skype is a good option.
    Also about insurance, believe it or not, we travel without one!! But of course it is personal choice 🙂

    Have a great trip and keep posting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • EmilyGoesForth says:

      Oooh thanks for the advice!! I’m going to download maps.me now, it sounds invaluable🙂 I always use Skype and Watsapp when I’m abroad, but you are so right, having a sim card is really good idea if you don’t have access to steady wifi – I did it in Africa and it was sooo helpful. Thank you for stopping by!

      Like

      • bringbabyabroad says:

        No problems! 🙂 I am sure you ll love maps.me. You also can download each country separately and then delete it once you leave. In this way, you save a great deal of your phone memory!

        Enjoy your trip!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosie says:

    All great tips! I tend to find that UK banks aren’t that interested if you go abroad – I’ve told my bank before going away, they’ve said it’s not a problem and they then block my card anyway! (Cheers Barclays!) I’d also add mosquito repellent to the list if going somewhere tropical, though I ended up covered in bites regardless in Hong Kong! I like to make an itinerary on Word before I go, with details of places, transport between each place, hostel addresses, emails and contact numbers, and screenshots of GoogleMaps – this way I can print a copy (and a spare) for myself, which saves relying on phone battery/ wifi, and send a copy to my family so they know where I’ll be (it gives them peace of mind).

    Liked by 1 person

    • EmilyGoesForth says:

      Thanks! I’ve been lucky so far with my card but I try and take my STA travel card with me too now, just in case.
      Haha you’re exactly like me, I’m such a list girl. I have lists and spares and paper back ups of everything. I’ve had total mares when I first started travelling before where my phone refused to work and I couldn’t get wifi – lesson learnt! I do the same with locations and my family too – when I was on ship I could go without contact for weeks, and at least by tracking my itinerary they had a rough clue where I was!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rosie says:

        I use a currency card, but sometimes my bank have difficulties recognising that I sometimes travel to multiple countries in one trip and block me from topping it up! Nothing a Skype call can’t fix, mind. I think I’m a bit too addicted to making lists, but if I didn’t make them then I think I’d find travelling quite stressful – I can’t ever picture myself going on a trip where I just turn up and find somewhere to stay etc.!

        Liked by 1 person

      • EmilyGoesForth says:

        It’s lucky you can fix it so easily! Yep this trip I’m about to go on is about adventurous as I’ve been whilst independently travelling – I’m not booking my accommodation until I’m in the country before as I’m not sure how long I want to spend in each place. Bit nervewracking but thought it would be a fun challenge.

        Liked by 1 person

      • EmilyGoesForth says:

        Current plan is Bucharest, Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg and Paris… but it may change as I go! I’ve only been to Paris out of all those cities, and I leave on Tuesday, so excitement it properly kicking in now

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      • Rosie says:

        That sounds like an exciting itinerary – I’d love to visit Berlin and would quite happily return to a few of the others! I did a solo trip to Prague/ Brno/ Vienna/ Salzburg two years ago on my year abroad – a lovely part of Europe. The John Lennon Wall was my favourite attraction in Prague, best visited early morning to avoid the crowds. I stayed in an Airbnb in Prague and the hosts gave me so many good recommendations – Cukrkávalimonáda is a good place for coffee and cake (not far from the John Lennon Wall), and Bakestop (edge of Jewish quarter) is also good. If you want to try schnitzel in Vienna, Schnitzelwirt is cheap and tasty, though a bit out of the centre. I’ve been to Amsterdam, Brussels and Luxembourg (and Paris years ago), so if you want any other tips let me know 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • EmilyGoesForth says:

        Oh my gosh yes please any tips would be fantastic! And thank you for the food tips I hadn’t even thought about that. I try to eat as much traditional food as possible when I’m away.

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      • Rosie says:

        Ok, here goes! Prague: unless you’re really into lavish ornate interiors/ paintings, skip on entering the castle and enjoy the grounds and the views instead (I took this advice from my Airbnb hosts as I only had 24 hours in the city, and having spoken to others who did go in I don’t feel I missed out too much); you can go up the tower on the western side of the Charles Bridge, well worth doing for a nice view of the city and pretty cheap too; if you’re into random buildings, check out the “Dancing House” (it’s supposed to represent Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire); the Jewish quarter has a lot of character and is worth a wander – not far from the Astronomical Clock & Old Town Square. Vienna – again, I didn’t have long here, but found it was nice just walking round admiring the architecture; St Stephen’s cathedral is impressive, I just peeked inside but you can climb the tower and take a tour of the catacombs (visiting in February meant the were limited options for me!). Brussels – I spent almost a week here in spring 2014, and as Belgium has a great train network it’s possible to visit Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp easily if that takes your fancy; there are lots of waffle shops along the road which leads to the Mannekin Pis statue (I ended up eating one a day haha) and look out for stands selling authentic Belgian fries (they’re infinitely better than those in France); the Forêt de Soignes is a nice escape from the city too. Luxembourg – I went to Luxembourg City for the day when I was living in Alsace, but haven’t visited anywhere else in this very small country – the lower town of Grund was my favourite bit of the city, it’s very picturesque (and there’s a signposted lift if you can’t be bothered with the steps/ don’t have the time). Amsterdam – the Jordaan district was one of my favourites for wandering, and Vondelpark is always nice (several art museums are located next to the park along with the famous Iamsterdam sign); if you plan on visiting the Anne Frank House, aim to arrive 15 minutes or so before it opens to be in with the best chance of skipping the long queues. Hope that helps and enjoy your trip! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • EmilyGoesForth says:

        Thank you so, so much, that’s really sweet of you to go into so much detail for me! Literally going to write this all down so I can try and do as much of all this as possible. Will try my best to do it all!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rosie says:

        No problem at all, I’ve found lots of people in the blogging world have given me lots of useful tips so I’m happy to pass them on 🙂 more content for those lists haha!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rosie says:

        That’s me on my travels too – made worse by the fact I hoard leaflets for scrapbooks and collect an absurd number of postcards on my trips!

        Like

      • bringbabyabroad says:

        I have to recommend the best card for any backpacker/world traveler hands down. nothing even comes close, but you have to be american or haved worked in america to get it (need SS number). it’s a charles schwab checking account. they never block you from any country, they give you the exact exchange rate, no foreign transaction fees, and the finally is they pay you in cash any money other banks around the world charge you for taking money out of their atm’s. thats right at the end of each month they send me 5 -50 dollars or whatever i’ve ranked up in withdrawing money. all this with no fees at all, i don’t have to travel with a wad of 100’s in my pocket. to get the card you have to also sign up for a brokerage account but this account needs a 0 balance and you never have to invest anything (i’m proof of this). the whole set up of multiple accounts takes some time but has been the best thing i’ve ever done related to money and traveling (5 years with the card and over 700USD in ATM rebates and counting). http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/banking_lending/checking_account –here is a link, and no this isn’t spam nor do i work for them, I’m in Batumi Georgia (the country :)) traveling for over a year now, they must hate me as a customer since i only use their checking/atm card and they give me amazing benefits. (this is Jose deCos, Liliia’s worst half talking under her account )

        Liked by 1 person

      • EmilyGoesForth says:

        Thanks Jose! That sounds like the ideal travel card, especially if you’ve had no trouble at all with all your travels. I was actually looking into taking a trip to America in the next 12 months…

        Like

  3. Dieter Snyman says:

    South Africa, especially its rugged East Coast has to be up there with the most mystical places to go to as any type of traveller. A rich heritage of European mainly Dutch and English architecture, gives the land rich history embodied in the native and settlers accounts of the great settler wars and the native folk tales of the great kings and queens who once occupied that great land.
    Its a pity OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg, has got some of the most worrying stats of luggage pilfering on the planet. Protect your valuables at all times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • EmilyGoesForth says:

      South Africa is wonderful isn’t it? I really can’t wait to visit again. I was lucky, I sailed in rather than flew in – my luggage was safe at all times. I heard similar worrying things about Johannesburg – definitely something to be wary of!

      Like

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