42 Travel Tips for Broke Backpackers

Nothing can prepare you for living on the road like actually being on the road; after a decade of backpacking, traveling, and living as a digital nomad myself, I am still learning new tricks every time I hit the road on a new adventure…

Over the last ten years, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons and I’ve compiled some of them into my 42 best travel tips.

Becoming an expert traveler takes time, but if you’re armed with the right travel tips, tricks, and hacks, you will have an advantage as you gain new life experiences traveling around the world.

travel tips

Welcome to my epic list of travel tips!

Traveling is truly an art form, and any artist will tell you mastering an art form takes time, practice, and patience… On your travels, you will need plenty of patience!

This is my ultimate travel tips manifesto for broke backpackers!

It doesn’t matter if you are traveling in Paris or Kathmandu, the mountains of Pakistan or the jungles of Colombia… my travel tips will give you an edge wherever you find yourself on this amazing planet.

So, in no particular order, let’s get stoked on the best travel tips to be found anywhere in the backpacking blogosphere!

 

Ultimate Travel Tips for Backpackers

Boom! Prepare to feast your eyes upon a decade’s worth of important travel tips. Settle in…

 

1. Don’t Pack too much Stuff

A classic backpacker mistake is bringing too much shit on a backpacking trip. We’ve all seen backpackers carrying WAY too much fucking stuff – don’t be one of them, you look like an idiot and getting on public transport is a nightmare.

The more you travel, you’ll discover the less you need. Traveling with three pairs of shoes, a make-up bag that weighs four kilos, three or four jackets, 15 t-shirts, five different cameras, and more than one full-sized backpack is just not necessary.

Firstly, when packing for a backpacking trip, take the pile of clothes you think you need and cut the number in half. Then cut it in half again. Seriously.

Rather than pack multiple items of mediocre quality, invest in multi-purpose gear and clothing that will give you years of use in a variety of different climates. In time, you will find you only pack the bare essentials and you’ll be much happier when your pack is a comfortable weight.

If you are not using what you packed at least once a week, then it doesn’t belong in your backpack.

For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.

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You don’t need a ton of stuff to enjoy this. Photo: Ralph Cope

 

2. Stay in Hostels with Free Breakfasts

There are some hostels I have stayed in that I will never forget, both for the right and wrong reasons… However, I always remember hostels that serve amazing breakfasts!

A crucial hack for the broke backpacker, free breakfasts can sometimes provide the entire nutrition required for one day of adventuring… I have in the past survived just off breakfasts. So – book a hostel that serves free breakfast. Free hostel breakfasts can come in the form of muesli and milk, plain white toast and jam (shit), or a full spread including pancakes, eggs, and coffee!

Whatever form the breakfast comes in, it is a blessing because free breakfast means that you only have to sort out and pay for two meals that day.

A hostel serving breakfast might be a few dollars more than the competition (though not always), but if the price difference isn’t huge, you’ll save money in the long run if you consistently don’t have to pay for breakfast!

If you’re heading to Europe and want to party, check out some of my favourite party hostels here!

best travel tips

Mmm… mmm free breakfast.

 

3. Pack a Quality Tent

I’m a broke backpacker – I camp. But it’s not just because I like to save money…

Sleeping in a tent under the stars, away from wifi signals and the huddled masses of humanity, is one of the main reasons why I go backpacking. I like to be in wild places (preferably with a joint and an attractive girl).

Traveling with a tent does have one major disadvantage – it’s added weight.

But, with a tent, you have the freedom to sleep in places you otherwise would not be able to. The door to multi-day hiking escapes suddenly opens. Getting off the beaten path just got much easier!

On top of all of that, bringing a tent backpacking will save you money. On countless occasions, I have stayed at hostels that allowed me to pitch my tent outside for a fraction of the cost of staying inside the hostel itself.

Plus, camping is the only way to backpack in places like Scandinavia affordably. It’s also the only way to see some pretty remarkable natural places only accessible by foot.

If you are prone to spontaneous adventures, mountain exploration, and finding yourself in beautiful remote places, then having a tent with you is a no-brainer.

I have traveled with a tent in dozens of countries on five continents. Looking back, I can say with certainty that having a tent really added to my experience on those trips. I rarely travel without a tent and neither should you if you’re off on a long trip. I love the options that having a tent gives me…

If you are in the market for a solid, lightweight, and reliable tent, I highly recommend the MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent. This compact tent is up to the challenge of battling uncooperative weather.

To get to know this tent better, check out my in-depth MSR Hubba Hubba Review.

For more info on choosing a decent, check out our review of the best tents to take traveling here.

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Living that #tentlife

 

4. Pack a Badass Sleeping Bag

Like a tent, having a quality sleeping bag is crucial to staying warm, safe, and comfortable whilst camping. Not everybody needs a sleeping bag – it really does depend where you are going and how much camping you plan to do but if you want to camp a sleeping bag often means the difference between a comfortable night’s sleep and a shit night’s sleep.

The tent + sleeping bag combination means that you have shelter and warmth with you on your back where ever you go, which is an awesome feeling.

Again, I’ll emphasize packing a quality bag. It’s worth spending the extra money if this is your main sleeping gig. Moreover, you want to pack a light sleeping bag that packs down as small as possible since you are stuffing everything you own inside a backpack!

You want to pack a bag as warm as possible for your conditions. There is no need for a 20 F bag if you’re only backpacking around Central America and South East Asia, but don’t get stuck in cold conditions with a summer bag either.

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Nothing beats a good sleeping bag…Photo: Kyle Murphy/@briskventure

 

5. Eat Street Food

Experiencing new foods is one of my favorite parts of traveling. Some of the tastiest meals of my life have been purchased from random dudes on the street serving mind-blowing meals from tiny carts, food trucks, or market stalls.

The best part? Street food is always the cheapest eating-out option in town.

Eating street food does come with its own dangers. Almost every backpacker has a story about getting sick after eating street food somewhere in the world. I admit it does happen. Though the risk/reward ratio long term is very positive indeed.

You will probably get sick at least once from eating street food over the course of your backpacking career. This is your body reacting to bacteria it has never encountered before. For me, getting sick from street food is a rite of passage. Once you get sick, you will come out of it on the other side a stronger traveler (eventually).

I have eaten at some very questionable street food venues over the years, and I don’t really get really get sick these days.

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Damn,I love street food.

 

6. Carry a Water Bottle, Always

Having a water bottle with you is one of my best travel tips on this list. You’ll save money and you’ll reduce plastic going into the oceans…

From a budget perspective, it is a complete waste of money in most countries to purchase water in one-liter quantities multiple times a day. Buying bottled water every day of your trip for months on end gets expensive.

More importantly, the world is facing a HUGE plastic pollution crisis right now. Backpackers around the world contribute to this problem by purchasing plastic water bottles with staggering frequency. Don’t be that backpacker!

Instead, reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles; the plastic ends up in a landfill or in the ocean.

Instead, pack a tough and cool travel water bottle. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single-use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, pick up a water bottle here. 

Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker, as it covers much more than being environmentally conscious.

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Active Roots is now making awesome water bottles for backpackers!

 

7. Use Rideshare Apps Not Taxis

I hate taxi drivers. Over 70% of the negative encounters I’ve had whilst traveling have been with taxi drivers trying to fuck me over. Rideshare apps like Uber make getting around cities both affordable and a lot more pleasant.

I love that with Uber, the price is always fixed. You can save your haggling energy for other stuff instead! Moreover, in some cities – especially at night – Rideshare apps are safer. Grab works best in Asia.

 

8. Buy Public Transportation Tickets in Bulk

I’m just rolling with the transportation theme now. When backpacking in big cities, you need to use public transportation to get around.

Almost without fail, subway/bus/tram tickets are always cheaper when purchased in bulk or as a multi-day pass. Not only that, you’ll save a lot of time queuing up for tickets for every ride.

If you know you will be backpacking in Paris for a couple of days, you can buy multi-day passes to save you from buying tickets individually every time you take the subway. In many cities, the tickets are universal for public transportation, meaning you can use them for the bus or the subway!

Want to become an expert traveler? Master your backpacking game with my list of 42 epic travel tips gleaned from a decade on the road.

 

9. Cook your own Food

Want to learn an important secret to traveling long term? Learn to cook budget meals for yourself!

Eating out at restaurants every single night in any country will eat into your budget big time. If you are backpacking in Europe for a couple of months, there is simply no way you can eat out every night without blowing through money.

Moreover, eating out consistently for more than a couple weeks probably isn’t the healthiest option. Learn how to cook your own food on the road and you will make new friends in the hostel kitchen, eat well, and save a fuck-ton of money long term.

A backpacker well-versed in healthy budget cooking is always the most popular person at the hostel.

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Cooking healthy food on a budget is easy… Make an awesome people for the fraction of the cost of eating out.

 

10. Bring a Stove (to make cooking real easy)

When a hostel kitchen isn’t an option, you’ll still need a way to cook.

Having a small lightweight backpacking stove means you can make a coffee, cook a meal, and even heat up water to wash your face no matter where you are. Emphasis on the coffee!!! No need to buy a latte every single day; just another way to kill your long-term budget.

If you are trekking, having a backpacking stove is absolutely essential.

For backpackers looking to have real freedom, adding a backpacking stove to your gear checklist is just another step to self-sufficiency and cheap long-term backpacking adventures.

Check out the best backpacking stoves for traveling here. My two personal go-to stoves are the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 and my Jetboil.

cooking stove for backpackers

Coffee. Anywhere. Sorted.

 

11. Make Sure Your Backpack has a Rain Cover + Bring a Rain Jacket

When the skies open up and the rain pours down you need to protect your stuff. Unless you are traveling to the desert or some other dry place, it will rain at some point during a multi-month trip. Regardless of where I am traveling, I always have a rain cover with me.

Without fail, as soon as you visit the driest place on earth without a rain cover, that’s the afternoon when it rains for the first time in 200 years. You get my point. Rain seems to come in especially viscous torrents when somebody is unprepared for it.

You need some way to keep your shit dry so if your backpack is NOT at least water resistant, it is worth buying a rain cover.

 

12. Haggle Your Heart Out

For many cultures around the world, haggling is a fact of everyday life. It is just an unwritten fact that the first price is never the best price, and one needs to negotiate.

In many countries, there is a local price and a foreigner price. This is not necessarily unfair and I don’t mind paying a small premium – say 10-20% more than a local. But I’m not cool with paying 500% more than the item, service or whatever is worth… India is the worst place I’ve ever been from the point of view of touts attempting INSANE rip off prices, you HAVE to hold your ground and haggle.

For backpackers, haggling is yet another sub art form. More common than not, vendors at street markets will try to rip you off once they see your face or hear your foreign accent. You have two choices: accept the bullshit price they are quoting you or unleash your haggling game on them.

It is important to remember to be reasonable and fair when haggling. Don’t haggle so low for a handicraft that someone else spent hours upon hours crafting. Pay people what they deserve, but at the same time don’t get ripped off. Haggling truly is a finely tuned skill that needs to be developed over time until your haggle radar and abilities are top tier.

haggler in Bagan

Haggling for art in Bagan.

 

13. Hitchhike

Hitchhiking is an exciting and rewarding part of the backpacker experience. It offers up the chance to meet locals and to save tons of money on transportation costs. If you are in no huge rush to get somewhere, hitchhiking is an excellent way to go.

You never know who is going to stop and pick you up! Knowing that you need to be smart when hitchhiking anywhere in the world. Assholes do exist in every country.

I would NOT try to hitchhike in or around major cities. When accepting a ride ALWAYS have your spidey senses firing. If a person sketches you out, fuck em. You have time. Be polite, don’t say fuck em, but turn the ride down all the same. Better to wait for a ride that makes you feel 100% comfortable. Check out my mega hitchhiking guide for more practical tips.

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Hitchhiking in Iran…

 

14. Don’t Over Plan

Leaving room for spontaneity whilst backpacking is very important indeed. Planning your trip down to the last hour is not practical because having rigid plans where one delay derails the trip is far too stressful to be fun.

Whilst you should book your accommodation in advance when visiting expensive places during the high season or going somewhere during a festival, don’t over plan your trip.

The essence of backpacking is to let events develop and unfold before you. You need to be open and ready for the curve balls life throws at you. A happy backpacker is one who is organized and driven, yet not obsessive in regards to planning and booking shit. Being flexible is just another characteristic of the expert broke backpacker… Go with the flow maaaaaan.

backpacking Ireland

Leave room for spur-of-the-moment adventures Photo: Kyle Murphy/@briskventure

 

15. Pack a Power Bank/External Battery

In the developing world, electricity cuts are sudden and frequent. Have a power bank to keep your electronics charged on the road no matter what the power situation is.

I’ve done 30+ hour bus and train journeys… when you run out of power, it sucks.

Some power banks can be bulky and heavy. Depending on what your electricity needs are, I recommend going with an external battery that has multiple USB ports so you can charge several devices at one time.

For long bus/plane/train rides, power banks keep all of your devices charged and ready to go. If you’re on the trails, you can use your power bank for your camera. Don’t forget to charge your power bank before embarking on long journeys!

 

16. Go Trekking

Trekking and hiking are two of the most rewarding activities one can do whilst backpacking… Discovering the wild, beautiful landscapes of a country is arguably the best way to connect with that country.

The best part? Trekking is very cheap, if not free! Apart from paying national park entrance fees, trekking permits, or mountain hut costs, trekking is cheap and accessible for all backpackers.

Many of my top life experiences have occurred on various trekking adventures around the world. All you need is some motivation, your own two legs, and the right gear.

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Trekking takes you to some pretty radical places… this is in Pakistan. 

 

17. Talk to Locals

Far too often there is a divide between backpackers and locals. Certainly, every backpacker wants an authentic travel experience, and connecting with locals is a great way to get the most out of your travels.

Being on your phone is the best way to miss out on interactions and spontaneous connections – don’t waste all your time on your phone or use it as a social crux to hide anxiety (I have at times been guilty of this)… Break free from phone addiction and get back to the real purpose of traveling; meeting people and having mind expanding experiences.

Don’t let your only interaction with locals be from ordering food at a restaurant or buying a beer in a shop. Take the time to stop and talk with locals. Try to bridge the language gap if possible. Ask questions about their reality. Find out what they like to eat. Learn about what they enjoy doing in the place where they live.

After years of doing just that, you will find that you have gleaned a collective amount of wisdom from folks around the world – a priceless part of the travel experience. Couchsurfing is an epic way to meet local people.

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Hanging out with this local dude in Cuba. Photo: Andrea Cacciatori/ @keshph

 

18. Couchsurf

One of my favorite ways to meet locals and save some cash is to use Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing truly is one of the best tools available to help save you money traveling. Plus, you are always bound to meet interesting people! 

If you really want to experience life with a local, I can’t recommend Couchsurfing enough. Couchsurfing has opened up so many awesome friendships for me over the years that I have lost count.

Sure you save money, but the real reason to Couchsurf is to meet new folks and gain new insights into what life is like for people living in any given place. You can make life-long friends through the platform as well as gain a perspective you would have otherwise never considered.

Let me be clear. Couchsurfing hosts are NOT free hostels. You are NOT entitled to a free place to stay.

If people are kind enough to host you, offer to cook a meal or two. Chip in for groceries. Bring a bottle of wine. Clean up after yourself. Peel the potatoes. Be flexible with their schedule. Do something!

couchsurfing reviews

With my Iranian host…

 

19. Hide your Money

I don’t care what other people say. Hiding your money in a travel money belt is a great idea. I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash and weed. 

It is important to remember to actually conceal your money belt if it is more of a pouch than a belt. If you wear it on the outside of your shirt like a fanny pack, you are basically signalling to all the pickpockets within the vicinity exactly where all of your cash and valuables are.

Use common sense and be discreet about how you wear your travel money belt.

Pickpockets the world over are highly skilled individuals. It doesn’t take much of a window for them to rip you off. Do yourself a favour a protect your cash! Hide it! I’ve written a whole post about how to hide your money on your person! 

Check out this article for more awesome travel money belts.

best travel money belts

An Active Roots security belt in action.

 

20. Wear Good Shoes

Apart from your backpack, your shoes might just be the most useful piece of gear you own.

Ideally, you should travel with versatile, lightweight shoes good for both urban walking and hiking. This doesn’t mean you need to travel with a heavy hiking boot if you are primarily visiting cities.

That said, save yourself from packing multiple pairs of shoes. Just pack one pair that covers all of your needs. Personally, I’ve been wearing North Face Hedgehogs for ten years and I doubt I’ll ever change.

In my experience, it is better to have shoes that can easily transition from the mountains to the city with more emphasis on the mountains. That way, you will never find yourself saying “Oh, I can’t do that hike because I don’t have the right shoes.”

For all of your travel shoe needs, check out these articles:

best travel tips

Be prepared for any adventure with a good pair of hiking shoes…

 

21. Book your Plane Tickets Early, but not too Early

Typically, the best time to book airplane tickets is 1.5 – 3 months in advance. Booking plane tickets one year in advance is not a good idea in terms of price or flexibility.

Of course, waiting until the last second won’t get you the best price either. Finding that sweet spot is a challenge. Airline fares are constantly changing and there is no set formula regarding how to get the guaranteed best price.

I recommend checking out price comparison websites like Skyscanner.com. You can easily check prices by the whole month, which can help you decide which day of any given month has the cheapest flights.

For how to find great deals on flights, check out this article on secret flying.

 

22. Carry a Headlamp

In addition to your other camping necessities, having a headlamp/ headtorch is very important when traveling in areas prone to power cuts or if you plan on camping.

There are countless practical uses for a headtorch. From cooking in the dark whilst camping to finding your way to the hostel bathroom in the middle of the night; you will find yourself using your headtorch for one thing or another every single day.

man with headlamp

Let this light guide you in the darkest of places Samwise. 

 

23. Stash Copies of Your Passport and Visas

A nightmare scenario for backpackers involves losing a passport. Nobody wants that. That said, it does happen and having copies of your passport and other important documents will really help you get by until you have a replacement passport.

Furthermore, in certain countries like Pakistan or Nepal, you need to have copies of your passport on hand to give to police at checkpoints.

An expert traveler has this mentality: hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Even if you don’t end up needing copies of your passport during the course of a trip, it is always a good habit to have them around anyway.

 

24. Pack a First Aid Kit

Having a well-stocked first aid kit is always a good idea. Inevitably you or a fellow backpacker will slip with the knife whilst chopping onions, burn a hand on a hot stove, have itchy bug bites, get a scrape from a hiking fall, or twist an ankle after a drunken mishap on the stairs. Shit happens.

With a first-aid kit handy, you’ll have everything you need to manage minor incidents as they happen without having to rely on other people (or an unnecessary trip to the local hospital).

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Having a first aid kit with all of the essentials in always a good call.

 

25. Carry Generic Antibiotics

Part of a well-stocked first aid kit should include some basic antibiotics. On a recent trip to Pakistan, I needed antibiotics within a few days of arriving into the country. Instead of having to go to the hospital with a horrible illness, I was able to mitigate the situation by taking antibiotics as soon as I broke out in a fever.

In big cities of developing countries, antibiotics are cheap and readily available. If you did not have time to pick up antibiotics before leaving your home country, absolutely pick some up in the city where you arrive. That way you don’t find yourself out in some far-flung corner of the country—sick as a dog—without any proper medication. I tend to carry amoxicillin.

 

26. Use a Water Filter

Portable water filters like a Steripen are extremely useful at times when clean water is scarce. They take up virtually no space within your backpack.

Also, using a water filter is a great way to avoid buying single-use plastic containers. Whether you are hiking or in a city, water filters save you money, keep you healthy, and help the environment.

Think of it this way, for the price of buying a months worth of plastic water bottles, you can own a water filter that you’ll use again and again.

 

27. Visit the Free Attractions

All destinations around the world have awesome free things to do. You don’t need to spend any money on activities to have a good day.

Explore city parks. Go to museums on days where admission is free. Catch some live music at a bar. Walk through open-air markets (the sweet treats aren’t free). Take free city walking tours. Visit beautifully constructed churches/mosques/religious buildings. Take the time to just wander around taking photographs.

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Discovering beautiful (free) parks in Paris

 

28.  Travel with a Notebook and Pen

Traveling with a notebook and something to write with is very handy indeed. If you’re like me, you may find you get a lot of ideas on the road and having a way to record your thoughts is invaluable.

Journaling is a great practice to have whilst traveling as well. A single journal entry can transport you back in time to that very moment when read several years later. Your memory is never as good as your same-day notes are. I follow a bullet-journal system.

I find myself constantly writing down bits of information (not just because I’m a writer). Plus, if you always have paper, you never have an excuse not to write a letter to someone.

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Carry a notebook and put it into use!

 

29. Employ Earplugs

Have you ever spent a night in a room with someone who sounds like the devil is trying to escape through their throat? It fucking sucks. When you are constantly sleeping in hostels, dealing with people snoring is a fact of life. Sleep deprivation never makes for an enthusiastic or happy backpacker.

Bring along several pairs of earplugs and fight the good fight for a decent sleep. I promise you earplugs make the world of difference!

Be sure to try the earplugs before you use them on a backpacking trip. They should be comfortable and most importantly, they should work! I prefer foam earplugs myself.

 

30. Find Free Wifi

Let’s be honest. Wifi is important for travelers. You should know how to find free wifi (that doesn’t require you to purchase anything to use).

Libraries are usually my go-to place to find free wifi. Certain coffee shops will let you use wifi without buying anything, but not always. Mcdonald’s and other big fast food chains have free wifi (without a purchase). Wifi should be the only reason you ever set foot in a Mcdonald’s.

Many airports offer free internet connections. Keep in mind that at most airports the wifi connection drops as soon as you step foot outside which can make it a challenge to find your Uber or Grab!

Some downtown areas of big cities now offer free wifi too. When using public wifi, I highly recommend using a VPN to protect yourself from data thieves. You never know who is on a public wifi network with zero security.

I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections, handy for keeping all devices connected without purchasing multiple VPN packages.

best travel tips

Sweet, delicious wifi.

 

31. Travel With a Sleeping Bag Liner

Sleeping bag liners are basically soft bed-sheet like cocoons that add a few degrees of warmth to your sleeping bag and crucially keep you from touching anywhere not-so-clean you may have to sleep.

When times get tough, they are also totally necessary when sleeping at un-hygienic hostels. If you arrive at a hostel/guesthouse/hut and the sleeping conditions are not the cleanest, you simply whip out your liner (which the French call a ” meat bag”) and avoid coming in direct contact with the mattress or unclean sheets below.

You can pretty much sleep anywhere and be sure that you’ll have some sort of a barrier between you and whatever you have to sleep on.

 

32. Read up on the Country You are Visiting

Gaining a basic understanding of the history and culture of where you plan to go backpacking is important.

The more you know about a place, the more you can appreciate and enjoy it. Having knowledge about your destination can also help you break down barriers with locals. If you show a genuine interest in their country, they are more likely to open up to you.

Becoming familiar with places and the history of those places offers up the chance to connect with the country even before you set foot there. Plus, reading up on a place is a sure way to get yourself amped to go backpacking.

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What the hell do those prayer flags symbolize? Read up on it to find out 😉

 

33. Listen to Podcasts

Long bus rides, rainy afternoons, flights, train journeys, beach loafing—at each instance you have downtime on your hands. Podcasts are awesome for keeping yourself informed, engaged, and entertained on any long journey. You can find a podcast on just about every subject these days.

Whether it is staying up with world politics, listening to a comedy show, or going deep within a series of TED Talks, podcasts are great for killing time.

Be sure to download podcasts over wifi before traveling so you can access them offline later.

 

34. Bring along a Stash of Coffee/Tea

Are you addicted to coffee like me?

I tend to always travel with either a personal stash of coffee or a handful of my favorite tea bags. Often the coffee served at hostels is shit. Going to a cafe every morning to get your fix gets expensive quick. Even if you are just carting around a plastic bag full of instant coffee, you are doing well.

If you are not a coffee drinker, pack some of your favorite tea. This strategy provides both convenience and a way to cut costs down every single day.

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Oh hell yes. You’ll thank me for this travel tip.

 

35. Learn New Languages

Try to learn at least a handful of words of the language spoken in the country you are traveling in. Locals really appreciate you making an effort to learn their language.

Knowing the local languages has huge advantages for you as well. If you can count in the local language, you are less likely to get ripped off. And it’s much easier to haggle in the local language too.

Even learning how to say “thank you” and “how are you?” and being able to count to ten will take you far. That said, I’m sure you will take your learning far beyond that!

things to do in cuba

Learning a little bit of the local language will help you to connect with locals.

 

36. Don’t Drink at Bars Every Day

Going to a bar in a new place is fun; I get that, though it’s a little too fun. Going out for drinks is always going to be more expensive than buying drinks from a supermarket or shop and drinking in the hostel.

Unfortunately, going out drinking at bars every night will murder your budget faster than you can put down five shots. Going out once in a while is ok, sure, but you should get used to buying booze from supermarkets or wherever it is cheapest.

I still recommend buying the local stuff. You can try local beers, wines, and liquors at the supermarket, and for even cheaper too!

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This shit rarely happens, so you’re not missing much by not going out to the bar…

 

37. Be Careful Buying Drugs

In many countries of the world, drugs are abundant and cheap. Backpackers and drugs seem to go together like fucking steak and chips. In many cases, you don’t have to look far to find whatever substance you seek.

Sometimes though, buying drugs can put you in sketchy situations, either with dealers or with the police.

Be smart about how and where you buy your drugs. Check a country’s policies, and if a country has especially strict drug policies, you should think twice before making a huge life mistake.

Be aware that many dealers don’t give a shit about you… They may sell you MDMA and it could be speed instead (which is fine) or rat poison (which is not). In general, I tend to avoid buying MDMA unless a local friend who I trust provides the hookup. Weed is easy – what you see is what you get.

NEVER try to smuggle drugs across an international border. The last thing you want is to end up in a jail filled with murderers and lunatics.

Check out my post on drug advice for backpackers. 

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Enjoy your smoke, but be safe about how you get it.

 

38. Have Safe Sex

Have sex! Lots of sex! It’s good fitness… But be smart and safe about it. Use condoms or some other sort of protection whilst you are traveling and having sexual encounters on the road.

Flings and one-night-stands are common on the backpacker trail. Keeping yourself and your body safe is an important lesson not just for traveling, but life itself. I won’t get all philosophical on you; just remember that STD infections are no fun, and if you take the steps to protect yourself you’ll be fine.

 

39. Use Maps!

Cell phone maps can be unreliable whether they are offline or not. If you plan on doing going on road trips or backcountry trekking, pick up a hard copy of a map and put it into use.

Familiarize yourself with how to read a map properly before you start driving down the highway or out on the trails! Many local tourism offices or national park entrances will give or sell you a map.

best travel tips

Yes, an old explorers map! 

 

40. Get off the Beaten Path

Getting off of the main backpacker trail is crucial to finding unique life experiences and really getting to know a country well.

Some of the most rewarding parts of any journey are discovering places you’ve never heard of, or where few foreigners go.

Get to know a country’s national parks and reserves. Spend time in small villages and communities. Volunteer. Get lost in cities (within reason). Camp out under the stars.

However you want to get off the beaten path, there are countless opportunities to discover new places, people, and things…it’s all up to you.

best travel tips

Take the time to get the vibes of places like this. (Norway)

 

41. Pack a Down Jacket

A down jacket keeps you warm and doubles as a pillow on any journey; plus, down jackets are versatile enough to wear in cities and in the mountains. Unless you are only going to the tropics, pack a down jacket!

 

42. Buy Travel Insurance

Shit happens when you are traveling. You get hurt, sick, or you lose something valuable. For these scenarios and countless others, you’ll need to have health insurance.

Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your backpacking adventure but please do get insurance.

This is our mantra: As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on a backpacking adventure! Traveling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.

 

Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible…

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”


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Want to become an expert traveler? Master your backpacking game with my list of 42 epic travel tips gleaned from a decade on the road.

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