If you are planning a backpacking trip, either around the world or to a specific exotic destination, then you will need to spend a significant amount of time organising and preparing for your trip to make sure it goes without a hitch. This is where the anticipation and excitement of a backpacking trip really starts to build as you research the destinations you’ll be travelling to and begin to imagine the amazing time you’ll have whilst on your travels.
Depending on where you are going, you will need to apply for visas, arrange holiday insurance, organise inoculations against various unpleasant diseases that you could come into contact with on your travels, and also decide what you need to take. Packing for this type of trip is very different to packing for a fortnight in Ibiza. The key question here is, “Do I need it?” If you can live without it, it doesn’t go in your pack.
Don’t underestimate just how important a visa is. In many cases, visas need to applied for well in advance and, if you turn up at a border unannounced without the appropriate authority to enter, you can expect a warm reception of the unpleasant kind. You may need to jump through a number of hoops, fill in numerous forms and divulge all kinds of information, but if you want the visa, full compliance is your best bet.
If you need to apply for your visa in person at an embassy, it is a good idea to think of it as an interview. Present yourself in clean, respectable clothing and make sure you have the required documentation. Take your own pen and maybe a note pad and be prepared to put up with at least a little bureaucracy. Rules and requirements will change from country to country, so do your research and go prepared.
Make sure you apply for the right visa. If you want to work in the country, apply for a working visa. Don’t risk getting caught travelling on the wrong visa as this can lead to arrest and deportation.
It is worth remembering that not every country in the world has a national health service which is as accommodating and well equipped as that in the UK. If you become ill or are injured or if something else unplanned for or unexpected happens, your travel insurance will be worth its weight in gold. Whilst this is not compulsory, and you may well be tempted to save the money and put it toward your travels, taking the attitude that it won’t happen to you is a mistake. Have a look at specific backpacker holiday insurance to ensure you get the right cover.
Your destinations and the time spent on your trip will have a bearing on how much money you will need to support yourself. You will also need to be realistic and honest with yourself as to how much ‘slumming it’ you are prepared for. Research this before you go and decide how much you will need per day – take into account hostel or hotel costs, food and sightseeing. Do your sums and note that even if you allow yourself just $50 per day (you can do this on a tight budget), that is still $1500 a month.
There are a few precautions you can take to make sure your hard earned cash is safe whilst you travel and these are as follows: purchase a money belt that you can wear underneath your clothing (and keep on your person during the night if staying in a hostel) and be careful not to keep reaching into your clothing to retrieve your money in front of people as this will give the game away.
It’s also a good idea to split your spending money over a few different methods of payment and pre-paid credit/debit cards are ideal for this – and a secure method of payment thanks to the chip and pin service. Only carry enough cash on you to cover the cost of food and accommodation for 2-3 days and try to use the cash machine during the day if travelling on your own.
Above all else though, don’t let these recommendations put you off and remember that this is a trip of a lifetime, so make sure you do as much as you can and have fun!