No planned route, no permanent place to stay, no family or friends around. Super scary but YAY! Welcome adventurer! As passionate travellers ourselves, we all remember our first backpack adventure. And boy, did we wish we had been given these 10 tips for first time backpackers.
1. Go easy on all travel gadgets BUT bring these
First time backpackers tend to go overboard with all travel gadgets (tech and non tech). Filled with excitement, you’ll be like a kid in the candy store. But seriously, you don’t need it all. Our top 3 would include:
- a travel sheet. Nice hostels, like the Amstel House Hostel Berlin, will provide fresh bed linen, but some hostels might not. So carry your own travel sheet and be fresh!
- an external phone battery. Your phone always runs out of bettery in the most inconvenient moments. Bring an external phone battery and you’ll be in business again minutes later.
- a universal adapter. A must if you’re travelling to countries that do not support your plugs.
2. Learn the basics of the local language
It’s polite and nice, and will be appreciated greatly when you learn the basics of the local language of the country you are visiting. A simple ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ and counting until 100 will get you a long way.
3. Choosing a compatible travel partner
Whether you start out together or pick up a travel bff on the way, make sure it’s someone you are totally comfortable with. You’ll be so sorry otherwise as an incompatible travel partner can ruin half the travel fun. Think about it carefully and if things don’t work out, split gracefully 😉 Afraid you’ll have trouble making new friends? Read these 15 tips on how to easily make new friends when traveling. And see number 5 below!
4. Be prepared for scams and fool the muggers
Prepare yourself and do some research before you depart on the most common travel scams in the region. And a few practical tips:
- act local. Don’t catch the attention by opening up maps in public. You’ll be the instant tourist target. Check the route before you leave, carry a local newspaper under your arm and act like you know your way around town. Reduces your chances of being mugged by about a 1000 per cent!
- carry a wallet with some small notes or change. If you’re mugged, hand over this wallet. You’ll loose some small change but not all your travel papers and cards.
- minimalize after dawn. When you go out, be sensible and only take the essential amount of money and ID cards.
5. Volunteer at local events or festivals
Check out the festivals and events at your next destination and ask if you can volunteer. Excellent way of meeting fun people and enjoying the local vibe.
6. Street food rocks
You’ll be advised not to eat the local street food by many just before you leave, mostly for hygiene reasons. But our experience that, in most cases, this is not true at all. It will enrich your culinary senses and it is often the freshest you can get. As with everything, be sensible and judge per region/situation, but eating street food is a great way to enjoy local cuisine.
7. Bring extra passport photos
For visas and other local documents, you often need a passport photo so safe yourself the hassle of looking for a local photographer that meets all requirements and bring a set.
8. Digitalise your important documents
Please do this! Digitalise your passport, travel documents , driving license and list of most important contact numbers and save them in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Docs, whatever suits you). It will make your life so much easier in case you should loose any of them.
9. Travel slow
If you have the luxury of a bit of time, take it slow and don’t make it a must to visit all the hot spots. Rather skip one or two. Go with the flow. It will save you money and give you the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy everything, meet locals and leaves room for spontaneity.
10. Step out of the comfort zone
Literally. Eat the spider, climb the volcano, take the off the beaten track route and do other stuff that you would normally consider to be outrageous. Why? Because it will make you a stronger, more confident, more adventurous person. You’ll grow mentally and physically and that is what travelling is all about!
11. (BONUS) Pack light!
Finally, we’ve written a few blogs with tips on how to pack light. Be sure to do so because it will make your travels so much easier and nicer. You don’t miss what you don’t have and you’re not travelling to the moon, you can buy stuff on the road!
Please feel free to add to our list of tips for first time backpackers below in comments.