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 63 best travel tips.
It doesn’t matter if you are traveling in Paris or Kathmandu, the mountains of Pakistan or the jungles of Colombia… my backpacking tips will give you an edge wherever you find yourself on this amazing planet.
Becoming an expert traveler takes time, but if you’re armed with the right travel tips, tricks, and hacks, and just generally know how to go backpacking, you will have an advantage as you gain new life experiences traveling around the world.
So, in no particular order, let’s get stoked on the best backpacking tips and tricks to be found anywhere in the backpacking blogosphere! These tips for traveling are going to make your adventures smooth and your landings soft.
Ultimate Travel Tips for Backpacking
Boom! Prepare to feast your eyes upon a decade’s worth of important travel tips. Settle in…
1. Don’t pack too much stuff
The number one backpacking tip is to remedy the classic backpacker mistake: bringing too much shit on. 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, the more you’ll discover that you really don’t need that. 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 backpacking 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.
2. Be mindful of your health
It’s easy to go overboard while you travel because there’s often no one around to call you out. This means you’ll be more susceptible to drinking too much, overeating, and doing reckless or dangerous activities.
Is it any wonder that some backpackers just look like shit after a couple of months? They just sacrificed half their savings and whatever figure they’ve been working on for the sake of complete hedonism.
If you’re going backpacking for a long period of time and don’t want to break down halfway, then take care of yourself: it’s the best piece of backpacking advice for any traveler. Eat as you would back home, that is, consciously. Don’t drink too much. It may be one of the hardest traveling tips to follow, but maybe try and working out every once and while as well.
3. 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 and a top tip for first time backpackers, 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 other meals that day. Or one. Or none if you’re hardcore
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!
4. Travel with a group to split costs
There are certain places in the world that are just really expensive to travel alone in. Norway, Iceland, the USA, Australia; all of these countries can be destroy your finances if you foot the bill for everything by yourself.
One of the best budget travel tips that you can take advantage of is traveling with a larger group in order to split costs. Booking a shared apartment, paying equal parts for a rental car, switching up who pays for gas or groceries; these are great ways to save cash while traveling.
It’s also a good way to travel safely. Larger groups are more intimidating to would-be thieves and everyone can watch each other’s back. It’s strength in numbers, my friends: backpacker travel gets easier with a team.
5. 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 backpacking tip.
If you are in the market for a solid, lightweight, and reliable tent, I highly recommend the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 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 a more budget, check out our review of the best budget backpacking tents to take traveling here.
6. Bring a microfiber towel
Relying upon hostel/hotel towels can get really annoying – they are either gross, stolen immediately, lost, or absent altogether(or cost extra). For that matter, nothing is worse than getting out of a lukewarm shower and drying yourself with something that feels like a cat’s tongue.
Microfiber towels can absorb more, dry quickly, and are very lightweight. For travelers, they are one of the most useful items that they can have in their bag.
My travel tip for backpacking with one of these? Hold onto to it tightly because everyone will want it!
7. 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 on 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!
And make sure you pack a sleeping bag suited for the conditions you’re heading into!
8. Bring a deck of cards or a book of games
One of the first things that I do when I check into a hostel is to convince everyone to play a game of cards with me. Why? Because card games (and any travel game, really) are great ice breakers.
I cannot tell you how many weird and awesome interactions I have had with people over a game as simple as rummy. If there’s alcohol involved, you can be sure that we’ll all be passing out together that night.
If you need some help thinking of a game to play, then I suggest picking up a compendium of sorts that illustrates various games. One of my favorite types of games involve questions, like the ones you find in this one. Pick a copy to kill those awkward silences.
9. 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 in the 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 and my advice for backpackers is to weather it: before long your constitution will toughen up.
I have eaten at some very questionable street food venues over the years, and I don’t really get sick these days. ‘Cept maybe in India,
10. Keep your backpack within sight
This is a travel safety tip that applies more or less to different regions. If you’re backpacking somewhere like Scandinavia or Japan, then chances are you can leave your backpack somewhere and it’ll be there when you return. If you’re backpacking in South America or Southeast Asia, keep that backpack in sight at all times!
Countries like Colombia, Cambodia, Brazil, and South Africa are notorious for bag snatchings. If given the slightest chance, thieves will snatch your backpack right out from under your nose. They could steal it from the back of your chair, your feet in a park, the beach, or when you’re sleeping on the bus.
Read up to see if certain countries suffer more or less from petty theft and then take the proper measures. Keep your bag literally on you while on the bus (I wrap a strap around my leg at all times). Get a bag tag if you’re putting it in a storage hold.
11. 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 to 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 and pick up a travel water bottle.
12. Pack a camera
I used to hate traveling with a camera because I always thought they were cumbersome, expensive, and, in a way, took away from the raw experience. I opted instead for shitty photos from my camera phone and making imprints in my memory.
After years of traveling, I kinda regret not having a camera all of those years. I could have taken some awesome photos on some Brazilian beach or in the streets of Buenos Aires. Instead, I have grainy pieces of shit.
Do bring a travel camera with you. It doesn’t have to be the best Canon DSLR on the market – it could be something as simple as a point-and-shoot. The point is you have something to help record all of your amazing adventures.
A friend of mine actually brings a Fuji Instax with him so that he can hand photos to local people, which, if you ask me is an awesome idea. If I could give my former backpacking self any piece of travel advice, it would be to do this.
13. 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 or Lyft 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.
14. 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!
15. Take advantage of layovers
If you’re like me and take advantage of awesome flight deals, you may end being stuck in a very long layover. If it’s no extra cost to you, then why not turn it into a couple of days?
I would much rather spend my time exploring a city than being stuck in its airport. Hell, it’d be worth it to me even if I had only a couple of hours. (I once spent a 4-hour layover going on a pub crawl in Amsterdam at 9 am.)
In summation, one of the best airport travel tips I can give to you is don’t stay in them at all. Get out, use your time wisely, and enjoy every moment you can.
16. Look for food and drink specials
It’s always happy hour somewhere guys! (Am I right?) There’s always some sort of special deal going on down the street and on certain days of the week. Granted, not every country or city celebrates happy hour but that doesn’t mean that aren’t other savings around.
So do your research, ask locals, and look for deals around town. Amass coupons and check online for nightly specials. As one local once told me: “Only suckers pay full price.” This is a tip for saving money backpacking to not ignore.
17. 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, so to prepare for your backpacking trip, learn a few cheap and easy recipes before you take off
18. Learn how to use a keffiyeh
I used to judge those dudes who would show up to parties in a keffiyeh. You know, those guys who rock a black v-neck, cargo pants, a fedora, and this military-looking scarf.
While I still get irked a bit when I see one of these scarfs in a lounge or restaurant, I’ve found that they are extremely useful in general. I now include them almost always in my packing travel tips.
Seriously, you can do so much with one of these scarfs while traveling. They can be used as an extra blanket, a headdress, a sarong (for temples), as a sling; all of that and then some. Honestly, I never travel anywhere without one of these accessories now and I fear that I too will soon show up to a club in one… Another trave; tip for backpacking packing is harem pants – they’re so comfortable, light, and dry super fast!
19. 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 stove to your gear checklist is just another step to self-sufficiency and an important travel tip for long-term backpacking.
20. Pack synthetic clothing
Ever heard the expression rotten cotton? It refers to the fact that cotton materials degrade rapidly after heavy use and exposure to certain elements like heat and water.
Now, guess what popular backpacking destinations like Central America or Southeast Asia have lots of? You guessed them – the sun and the ocean.
I guarantee you that your cotton singlet and your whitey tighties will fall to shreds after a month of backpacking in places like these. By the end of the third month, you will be a shell of your former self – a bumbling Robinson Crusoe clinging to nothing but a loincloth.
Synthetic clothing is much more durable and much easier to wash than cotton clothing. A couple of good synthetic shirts and pants will last you much longer and will not fail you as quickly. You’ll need to be careful around hot irons though so make sure you tell the person cleaning your clothes.
21. Make sure your backpack has a rain cover and 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 vicious 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.
22. Wash your own clothes
If you’re looking for some more budget backpackign travel advice, then I suggest that you wash your own clothes to save a penny. The process isn’t as hard as you think it might be and you can make your clothes look pretty crisp with practice.
You’ll also avoid losing or ruining your clothes at the hands of the cleaning staff. Stuff always seems to go missing – be it accidental or intentional – when you hand over a giant bag of clothes. Maybe it’s best that you do it yourself then.
23. 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.
Knowing how to haggle is knowing how to go backpacking. 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 and it’s a backpacking trick you will master with time
24. Bring toilet paper everywhere
Ah, the infamous squatter toilet; what fond memories I have your cavernous portal, your undeniable aroma, the unassuming water can that is intended to clean my glorious nether regions. I cannot tell you how many times I mistakenly walked into on these and immediately regretted not having brought toilet paper with me.
If you’re traveling in an Asian or Middle Eastern country, chances are you will be using a squat toilet. Most likely, said squat toilet will not have toilet paper either. Unless you become a master of watering your own crack or scrub your hand to a nub after doing your business, I suggest you have a roll with you.
Another backpacking travel tip is that you can use the toilet paper for other uses, like lighting a campfire, wiping your nose, and cleaning up a food mess. TP sounds pretty necessary now, right?
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 (it’s a crucial budget travel tip). 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.
26. 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…
27. Get organized
You can always judge the experience of a backpacker by the looks of their backpacks.
The novices have their stuff strewn everywhere in a chaotic mess and appear to have no method to their madness. Most likely, there’s a sandal in their diddy bag and a toothbrush in their hiking boot.
The veterans have a system in place – their stuff is packed away in space bags, in packing cubes, and in ziplock bags. Hell, some backpackers (like me) even label their individual bags, which may or may not be a sign of sociopathy.
Be a pro and prepare for a backpacking trip properly. Organize your stuff and save yourself the stress (and embarrassment) of repacking it haphazardly. You’ll gain some peace of mind and will be better prepared when you need to move on.
28. Pack a power bank/external battery
In the developing world, electricity cuts are sudden and frequent. Having a power bank to keep your electronics charged on the road is an integral tip for backpacking.
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!
29. 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.
30. 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. (Not buying a SIM card is a backpacking tip to force this.)
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.
31. Get the touristy stuff out of the way first
As much as the touristy places irritate me – with their crowds and insistent panhandlers – sometimes you just gotta do them. After all, how can you travel to Rome and not see the Colosseum or San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate? Attractions like this are worth your attention, but not all of it.
When I travel to a really famous city, I spend the first day knocking out as many tourist attractions as I can. That way, I can spend the rest of my time actually exploring a city and enjoying it.
With no commitments, I can visit the little intimate restaurants, the overlooked art galleries, and whatnot. Best of all, I won’t feel pressured to see or do anything.
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. Make sure you do something for your host; any of these:
- 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.
Just do something!
33. 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
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 signaling 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. 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.
34. 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:
35. 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.
36. Travel during the off seasons
One of the truest and most tested international travel tips out there is that you should take advantage of off-season prices. Seriously, some of the most famous cities in the world can look completely different in low season. Museums will be deserted, streets will be inhabited by locals – not tourists – and prices will be much more reasonable.
If you plan your backpacking trip very acutely, you can even have your cake and eat it too. Shoulder seasons – the period between high and low – are great times to travel because you’ll benefit from thinner crowds AND comfortable weather. This is my preferred time to travel.
37. Carry a headlamp
In addition to your other camping necessities, buying a headlamp 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.
This is a number one backpacking tip: do not skip the headlamp. I cannot stress there imprtance enough.
38. 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, 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. It’s a very important piece of advice for backpacking. 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.
39. 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).
40. 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.
41. Travel solo for a period of time
If you can manage it, traveling by yourself can be an extremely rewarding experience. You’ll have the freedom to go where you want, when you want, and how you want. You’ll experience local cultures without any filters that may be created by compatriots. Best of all, you’ll really get to know yourself.
But traveling alone can be difficult because it can be:
It really comes down to toeing that fine line between being free and secure. If you can set yourself up for success though – by making friends, being flexible, and traveling on a budget – then you’ll soar.
We’ll be releasing a list of the best places to travel alone soon. In the meantime though, my top choice would be Europe. For travel tips on doing this, you can read this article here.
42. Use a water filter
Portable water filters like a Grayl Geopress 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. Check out our roundup of the best filtered water bottles or just skip the fuss and buy the best – a Grayl Geopress!
43. 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. Here’s a wholde damn list of things you can do for free:
- 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.
Keep the awesome free backpacking tips coming!
44. 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.
45. 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.
46. Bring a sleeping pad
Sleeping pads are not just great for camping. They’re useful in any situation that may be uncomfortable to sleep in.
Let’s say you have a long layover in Kuala Lumpur (everyone does, seriously; KLA can burn in a fire) and are contemplating sleeping on the ground. Well, good thing you packed your sleeping pad! (Must’ve been that great airport travel tip you read about.)
Or, maybe you’re a group of three and accidentally booked a room that sleeps two. “Don’t worry guys, I’ll sleep on the ground with my self-inflating mattress. Y’all can buy me dinner tomorrow.”
Honestly, packing one of these is a game-changer, as you’ll be able to sleep soundly just about anywhere. That’s professional backpacking advice right there. Here’s our roundup of the best sleeping pads for backpacking.
47. 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). Here are some places that nearly always have free WiFi:
- Sometimes coffee shops will let you use WiFi without buying anything
- Mcdonald’s and other big fast food chains have free WiFi (WiFi should be the only reason you ever set foot in a Mcdonald’s)
- Many airports offer free internet connections
- 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.
48. 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. Here’s our review of the best sleeping bag liners.
49. Keep in touch with people that you meet
I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of relationships that you form on the road are pretty vapid. Most people are just blips on the radar; acquaintances that may be good for a wild night out or for visiting a temple or two.
In these cases, I don’t blame people for not following up.
But there are some people that you have a genuinely awesome time with – people that you vibe with, share the same interests, maybe even have amorous possibilities.
In these situations, my traveling advice is to pursue these rad folks. Try to travel with them some more! Organize a meetup in a different country! Host them in your own home if they ever pass through!
I have lots of travel buddies. Maybe 1 in 10 of them are people that I call friends. For me, that’s a pretty good ratio.
Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle.
50. 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. An important tip is to always prepare for your backpacking trip.
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.
51. 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. And take a good pair of headphones!
52. Don’t try to do too much
We all have one – an epic bucket list of places to go and things to do that we will stop at nothing to complete.
We’ll ride buses for 30+ hours just to get to the mountains. Some will pay hand over fist to travel into the wilderness, all to see an oversized cat. Others will take four connections and a fuckin ferry to reach some abandoned island in the middle of the East Indies.
As much as love seeing that lost civilization or unnamed peak, seeing everything is exhausting. By the end of some journeys, you look and feel more like a refugee than an adventurer.
Do yourself a favor and take a break every once in a while. Trying to knock out every single point of interest in a given place is going to wear you out. Then, you probably won’t enjoy them much either.
That’s a top international travel tip from your humble Broke Backpacker. Don’t burn out.
53. Bring along a stash of coffee and/or 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.
54. 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!
55. Memorize the location of your hostel
One of the best travel tips, for Europe especially, that I can give is to know where your hostel is and how to get it. Some cities, particularly the older ones, can be a labyrinth and navigating them can lead to frustration or, worse, danger.
When you arrive at your hostel, seriously study where it’s located – learn the local landmarks, find where the bus/train lines are, plan intended routes.
If you’re having trouble orienting yourself, at least ask for a business card from the hostel. You can show it to some locals and they can give you directions.
56. 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!
57. 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.
58. 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.
59. Buy a Kindle
I’m all for the nostalgia of smelling a dusty old book, not to mention the tactile feeling of actually turning the page.
But carrying physical books can be super tedious when you travel – they’re heavy, cumbersome, and difficult to pack. You also need to swap them out with others when you finish, which can be fun or frustrating depending on what’s available.
I eventually packed a Kindle on one of my backpacking trips (upon receiving some packing travel tips from a friend). Since then, I’ve never looked back.
Having a Kindle is such a convenience. You can literally store thousands of digital books on a device that is often half the size of a regular one. The newer ones have amazing battery life as well and can even behave in a very similar fashion to full-on tablets.
So while I miss having a real book in my hands sometimes, I do not miss carrying them around. A Kindle is way better for traveling in my opinion. And there are so many good books to read.
60. 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.
61. 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 abroad. 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.
62. 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!
63. 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. Read our review on World Nomads.
Bonus Backpacking Tip #64 – Have Fun!
Seriously, it’s an adventure, a journey, a backpacking trip, a vacation… whatever word you use, it’s not about you. It’s about the world and all the people in it. In case you haven’t heard, the world is pretty fucking beautiful.
You’ve now got 63 (plus 1) of the best backpacking tips available straight from me – The Broke Backpacker! With these traveltips, applied with finely-targeted abandon, you’re going to have a truly epic time. I promise.
Whether you’re a veteran extraordinaire catching up on some revision, or a first time backpacker, let these tips for backpacking guide you on an amazing adventure. Be safe, never be sorry, and just keep traveling.
As you do go frolicking across the globe, be sure to take note of your own habits and secret backpacking tips and tricks. If you think they’re worth sharing, please do so in the comment section below! Honestly, we’re never done learning and would love to hear any more travel tips that you may have for us.
Have a fucking grand time, amigos.
Updated: January 2020 by Ziggy Samuels at Zigz Writes Things.
“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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Writer and entrepreneur. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will has been on the road for thirteen years, travelling to far-flung lands on a budget. Today, he runs a number of online ventures, including The Broke Backpacker – the world’s largest budget travel blog. He is passionate about solving the plastic problem and cleaning up the oceans. Currently, Will is based in Bali where he plans to open his first Tribal Hostel in 2020.