[W]hether you’re a first time backpacker on your gap year from university, or you’re a seasoned traveller hitting the road one more time, it’s always good to check up on the latest ways to stay safe, save money and find tips and tricks to enjoy backpacking as much as possible.
Backpacking is one of the best ways to see lots of sights, experience other countries in a different way and really get stuck into the local culture without spending thousands of pounds.
But you need to make sure you stay safe.
After all, you’re launching yourself on a country where you’re unlikely to know the language, understand local customs and where you’re generally a fish out of water.
And, of course, you don’t have a handy tour rep on hand to show you the way.
This is, of course, part of the attraction for the intrepid traveller – most backpackers want to throw themselves into the experience without a guide – it’s about surviving, enjoying and really becoming part of the city or country you’re visiting.
It’s still wise to get some information together and get a few things sorted before you jump on that plane.
Plan Before You Go
There are plenty of resources online to really get an insight into your intended destination – check out one of the many traveller forums online and consult Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor for advice on where to stay and how to find cheap accommodation that is safe.
Lonely Planet and Rough Guide are particularly useful for giving you the heads up on stuff you need to be aware of to stay safe.
For example, if you’re really going off the beaten path and outside of the normal destinations frequented by tourists, then you need to be aware if there are any social or political circumstances that would preclude Western tourists from being welcome.
This doesn’t mean you can’t take the risk and still go, but it’s best to equip yourself with all the information before you leave.
Check Visas and Entry Information
The Foreign Office website is an invaluable resource – not only will it tell you if there is anything to be on the alert for in your destination countries, it will advise you on whether to go at all and will list the documentation and Visa information you might need to get into the countries.
Make sure you have plenty of time left on your passport – some countries won’t let you in if you only have a few months to go.
Plan Your Itinerary
Your family will be glad of it – it’s good to give friends and family at home an idea of where you will be going and when.
If you change your plans on the way, make sure you tell people as well, as this can be invaluable should you run into trouble along the way.
Get Your Communication Sorted
You may be intending to blog about your travels or at the very least share a lot of your adventures on social media.
Be aware of how very expensive this can be if you’re using your normal SIM card – even going online using roaming for a few minutes can result in ‘bill shock’ when you get home.
One of the best ways to make sure this will never happen and to get sorted before you go is to buy a local SIM card for your destination countries before you go.
Ritesim.com sell local online SIM cards which will give you a local phone number for your destination country, along with local customer service and local rates on calls, texting and data usage.
This means that people from home can call you without being charged and international call rates are slashed.
You can order the SIM cards before you leave home and have them ready to go as soon as you arrive – all you need is a cheap unlocked phone (it’s best to leave your fancy smartphone and tablet at home anyway, as you run the constant risk of it being nicked).
Go with Other People
No matter how prepared you are, it’s definitely more risky to go travelling alone – being in a group or with just one other person makes you much less vulnerable.
Passport, visa, cash, valuables – you have to be constantly alert to the risk of getting these stolen, particularly if you’re crashing in public hostels.
Keep your documents and cash on your person at all times, preferably under your clothes.
Don’t let your rucksack out of your sight and lock it up whenever you can. Dress in a way that helps you blend into the crowd and not stand out – basically try to not look like a tourist if at all possible.
And beware touts outside of stations and airports offering services that will most likely turn out to be a rip off.
Most of all, have a great time!