You’ve taken the plunge. You’ve saved your money, booked your tickets, organised your travels... and somewhat packed your bags. This is your first time backpacking, and you’re not quite sure what you’re going to need. BAM! In a majestic cloud of smoke, I appear and show you the essential things you need for your first time backpacking. Let’s get started.
One of your most valuable tools when travelling is your research and planning. You can never be too prepared and don’t think it takes away from the authenticity of your travel experience by ‘discovering’ the country. There’s nothing impressive about rocking up to a new country and not being able to access money, or realising that your presumed travel path is not viable. Often planning and research will save you money, time and help you to see the best parts of your destination. Try a website with user-generated content like www.wikitravel.com, for tips of entry/exit, recommendations and other important information.
An imperative item for any backpacker, even if you aren’t going to be doing any water-related activities. A waterproof bag is easily strapped to your backpack and is perfect for dirty laundry, separating it from your clean clothes and giving you extra space for your presumably tightly packed portable home.
Another very important part of backpacking is having cash. Given the fact you will probably be travelling across many countries/destinations, there will be instances where you can’t access ATM’s, banks or your own money for reasons outside your control. Ensure you have the cash for emergencies and enough in foreign currency to buy necessities before you can access electronic funds. US dollars are accepted almost everywhere and have a strong and consistent exchange rate. Bring some with you on your trip!
If you’re backpacking, you’re more than likely on a budget. Affordable travel option systems like Skyscanner, BusBud and Lonely Planet will help you to get the cheapest options and compare things such as price, distance and time. Skyscanner is great for flights, and as long as you’re flexible on dates, it is fantastic for scooping up a cheap flight. BusBud is also excellent for buses and will show you many different providers as well as the quality of the bus and price comparisons. Lonely Planet guides will help you with accommodation, food and general travel options.
Overnight buses, long planes and cramped hostel rooms. What do they all have in common? YOU JUST WANT TO SLEEP, DAMMIT. Invest in a sleeping headband, essentially an eye cover with built-in headphones. This $10 purchase will revolutionise your sleeping pattern, eliminating that war-cry level snoring in your hostel or bright lights on a bus. Turn on Andrea Bocelli and let that beautiful Italian man serenade you to sleep.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Spread out your valuables across your luggage and day pack, ensuring that if you lost one, you would be able to survive until you could make arrangements. Put one bank card in your backpack and the other in your luggage. Keep cash in your luggage, backpack and on your person to ensure you will always have money in a precarious situation.
The power of this is not to be underestimated! An offline maps service such as maps.me is invaluable when travelling. Since you don’t need wifi to use the system (only the GPS of your phone), it is perfect for real-time navigation when you’re looking for your hostel, landmarks or getting around a new city. Download the map pack before you arrive, and you can quickly search through several helpful categories including ATMs, restaurants, accommodation and wifi zones.
A very useful mentality to encompass throughout your travels. Things aren’t always going to be smooth sailing, and you need plans for when these rough seas come about. Print off travel visas, a copy of your passport, airline tickets as well as digital copies on your phone. Always carry spare cash. Arrange a backup credit card. You’re going to have a fantastic trip, but don’t confuse negativity with realism.
Samuel Turner is an Australian journalist with a passion for adventure, travel and food. Follow him on Instagram @turnernator and Facebook Samuel Turner
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.