Backpacking Tips
Planning the Trip of a Lifetime

People all over the world from very different backgrounds, regardless of age, find backpacking a fun, rewarding and life changing experience. Most consider their first experience backpacking as being like birth into the world.

Without constraints or firm schedules, backpackers are completely free. With only your pack on your back, there are no limits to what you can do or see. Experiencing different cultures, overcoming language barriers, and making new friends (locals and other travelers) are all part of the adventure.

Backpacking across Europe can be confusing, exhausting and possible dangerous. Therefore, preparations need to be made. However, no matter how much you plan for your travels, adjustments will need to be made. Therefore, you should plan for these adjustments and set backup plans when possible. This web site is provided as a guide for those planning to set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Essential Gear for Your Trip

Backpack (Invest the extra money to get a comfortable backpack that fits well. Your backpack is your constant companion and the key to comfort and convenience on your trip...use care to choose the right pack. You’ll be glad you did! Anything larger then 4500 CUI is going to be more trouble then it is worth)

Fast Drying Towel (These are available as most camping stores. The last thing you want to do is pack a wet towel in your backpack.)

Walking Shoes (When walking to and from the train stations, you’ll be happy you have comfortable shoes.)

Socks and Underwear (Bring an extra pair. It’s not also easy to do laundry and you don’t want to recycle these essentials.

Long Underwear (Depending on the season and whereabouts you are travel. Hostels are not also that well heating so long undies are crucial.

Pillow Case (If you are planning to sleep in Backpacker Hostels, your own pillow case is nice.

Sleeping Bag (Backpacker Hostels require you to rent sheets or use a sleeping bag. The latter is less expensive.)

Passport (Don’t leave the country without it.)

Spy Wallet (Pickpockets are all around and they love travels. Since your lively hood is in your wallet. It’s not a bad idea to divide your money up.)

Day Pack (Many backpacks come with a detachable daypack. If yours doesn’t, it might not be a bad idea to bring one along.)

Camera (Digital is nice but you’ll need a lot of extra storage space.)

Journal (If you don’t have anything else to do, why not write in your journal.)

Flip Flops (Use them in the shower!)

American Express Traveler’s Checks (Perhaps more trouble then they are worth. It can be difficult to find someone to accept them.)

Wet Wipes (Nice to have in a pinch and don’t require much space in your pack.)

Landry Detergent (An extra travel pack might come in handy.)

Space Savers (These are key. They are available at most camping stores and make packing much easier.)

Rain Coat (If you are going to be traveling for a while, it is going to rain.)

Lock (Backpacker Hostels usually provide lockers but you need to provide the lock.)

Band Aids (Chances are that someone is going to fall or cut themselves. Be prepared.)

Travel Guide (Travel Guides are great. However, those thick books weigh down your pack. Take a razor blade and cut out the pages you don’t need.)

Shampoo, deodorant, soap, toothpaste (You know the drill.)

Clothing (The night before you leave, pack everything that you think you need then take out half. Clothing just ways too much. You can only take what you can carry.)

Backpacking Europe. Australia. Alaska.

Travel between destinations can be difficult. Dealing with schedules can be especially frustrating. When possible, it is best to plan your travel schedule well in advance. When traveling by train, timetable booklets are not always accurate. Therefore, it is recommended that you visit the information desk at the train station a day or so in advance and firm up your plans. Long journeys often require reservations in addition to tickets. If your journey is longer then six hours, you may want to consider reserving a sleeper on an overnight train. Sleep reservation are relatively inexpensive and can save you the cost of a hostel or hotel. The difference between first class and second class are usually minimal. Therefore, there is no reason to shell out the extra cash.

As with inner city travel, it is important to weigh the pros and cons when deciding whether to purchase single destination tickets or multi-destination tickets. For travel throughout Europe, there are multiple options. A Eurorail pass can be purchased that is valid for unlimited travel during a specific time period or a Eurorail Select pass can be purchased that allows travel within a certain number of countries for a certain number of days.

Non-American owned airlines offer great deals on travel and you can cut your travel time way down. For travel within Central and South America, you are limited mostly to bus travel. Bus travel is typically less comfortable then train or air travel. However, the fares are cheaper. You have to make due with what’s available.

Backpacker Hostels And Budget Hotels

Backpacker Hostels cater to the backpacker’s needs and are the preferred choice for budget travelers. Hostels usually offer single beds in private rooms, doubles, or dorm rooms. Dorm rooms typically contain 6 to 12 bunk beds from which you get your choice. Most hostels only allow travelers under the age of 30 and there is typically a limit on the number of nights you are permitted stay. Beds usually come with a heavy blanket and a pillow. Many hostels require that you either rent sheets or use your sleeping bag.

Private and double rooms often come with a private shower. These rooms go pretty quick and usually require a reservation well in advance. More often then not, you will be stuck in a dorm room. You’ll have access to a community shower. Community showers vary from hostel to hostel. However, don’t expect too much and always bring a pair of flip-flops.

Hostels are becoming more and more modern. Many hostels provide internet access, laundry, and free breakfast. Use your travel reference to find a hostel that satisfies your needs. Breakfast is served during a specific time period. Be sure you know when breakfast time is so you don’t miss it. Many hostels also provide access to a community kitchen. Vending machines are also common.

During the daytime, there is usually a lockout time from early morning to late afternoon when the rooms are being cleaned. Most hostels provide free lockers but you’ll probable have to either rent a lock or use your own. Keep your pack locked up and spend the day sight seeing. In the evening, Backpacker Hostels provide a social setting. There are typically community area with couches, TV’s, pool tables, etc. where you can hang out and mingle with other travelers. Bars inside the hostels are also common and offer cheap drinks. As the evening rolls on, you may want to set out into the night with your new friends. However, be aware that many hostels have curfews.

Backpacker Hostels are very affordable. Prices are usually around twenty-five dollars per night. Since backpackers are almost always on the go, there isn’t much need for more. However, when the going gets tough, many backpackers find relief at budget hotels. From time to time it’s nice to stay at a hotel where you can sleep in, get a hot shower, and most importantly have some privacy. Discounts are often available on the weekends when business travelers are away. Don’t forget…if you’re traveling with a group, budget hotels can be as inexpensive as hostels.

Eating on a Budget

By being mindful of your budget and taking advantage of the resources available to you, you can eat well and cheap. First and foremost, if the hostel or hotel that you are staying at offers free breakfast, make sure you get up in time and eat as much as you can. After all, it’s free. The breakfast offered might not be the tastiest, however, you are not going to find a better value then this. Secondly, many hostels provide kitchen access so put forth the extra effort and pick up some items at the local grocer and make use of it. Other travelers may leave leftovers in the kitchen. This food is usually up for grabs. Check it out and see if anything looks appetizing.

Buying food from street vendors is a great way to go. Prices are economical and you get to experience authentic foods. If all else fails, you can almost always find a McDonald’s wherever you travel.

Mastering Public Transportation

Backpackers need to master public transportation. It’s a little overwhelming at first. However, most likely you’ll settle into it after your first few days as a globetrotter. Besides from dealing with transportation schedules, knowing how to get the best value on ticket prices is the biggest obstacle. I keen traveler will also have a grasp on what modes of public transportation are available in a specific region.

Especially in Europe, most major travel destinations have extensive public transportation systems that include buses and a metro system. Alternatively, taxis are usually available but are almost never worth what they cost. Taxis drivers are also known to take advantage of travelers by charging higher fares. Tour buses are another option. In addition to a lift to key tourist attractions, you’ll usually be provided with an overview of the sights. Of course, tour buses cost a little bit more. Further, backpackers, working off a limited budget, are usually better off exploring on their own.

Most metro systems are divided into zones. Therefore, you should be aware of what zones you will need access to. Metro tickets that permit travel in multiple zones cost more. Therefore, only purchase tickets for zones that are necessary. Pocket size metro maps are typically available for free at tourist office and metro station information desks. We recommend that you pickup one of these as soon as you arrive. Large wall maps are also on display at metro stations and act as a good reference when you’re on the go.

Depending on how much ground you plan to cover, multi-day passes might save you money. However, weighing the costs is advisable. If you only need to use public transportation a couple times a day, you’re probable better off purchasing single trip tickets. When purchasing single trip tickets, be sure you have the correct change. Ticket machines often do not give change and/or require exact change.

When you first arrive at the train station or airport, your first trip should be to the tourist office. Here you can pickup the all important tourist map. This map usually includes all the main tourist attractions and main metro stations. Backpackers often find themselves on foot quite a bit. The tourist map is a vital guide.

Seeing the Sights The Quest for Adventure

Taking excursions away from your original plan is part of what makes backpacking fun. However, when you arrive in these “unplanned” destinations you might not know what there is to do or see. Upon arrival, your first stop, regardless of whether the destination is on your original travel itinerary or not, should always be the tourist office. Here you can pickup a free tourist map and ask questions about what to do or what to see. Tourist maps usually contain all the vital tourist information. You could get by with just this. However, a travel reference guide is ideal. Reference guides provide useful information such as tour fees and the time required to visit specific sights. There is also a wealth of information available for free on the internet.