The Ultimate Guide for Travel Backpackers

 

Whether you're taking your first steps into the world of backpacking or a seasoned explorer hungry for new insights, The Ultimate Guide for Travel Backpackers is for you. Collaborating with a select group of backpacking bloggers and industry professionals, we've compiled a diverse range of knowledge, essential hacks, and insider tips to meet you wherever you are on your backpacking journey.

 INDEX

1. What Is a Backpacker?
2. What Kind of Travel Backpacker Will You Be?
3. Choosing Your Travel Backpack
4. Backpacking Packing List : Clothing
5. Backpacking Packing List : Accessories
6. Budgeting
7. Destination
8. Travel Documents & Organisation
9. Arriving & Getting Around
10. Accommodation
11. Meeting People
12. Safety
13. Advice & Letter To You

     

    I. What Is a Backpacker?

    The Oxford Dictionary defines the term “backpacker” as “a person who travels or hikes carrying their belongings in their backpack”. However, the Oxford Dictionary is missing subcategories. Travellers and Hikers are very different. Then there are Campers who are also considered “backpackers” too.

    If you research just “backpacking”, you’ll get diluted information. This can be really confusing for somebody who is backpacking for the first time. Just think about it. Somebody who is hiking or camping with a backpack is going to need different gear than somebody who is travelling with a backpack. Yes, there is a good amount of overlap. For the best guidance, make sure to do your online research under "Travel Backpacking" or "Backpacking + Travel" (something along those lines). As a Travel Backpacker, you’re not going to need trekking poles like a hiker or cast-iron pots like a camper. Keep this in mind while you prepare for your trip.  

    (Mark, Founder of Generation Nomad. Backpacking through New Zealand)

    II. What Kind of Travel Backpacker Will You Be?

    There are four main types of Travel Backpackers. The differences between the four really have to do with work and budget while on your travels. Follow the graph below to find out which Travel Backpacker you will be.

     

    What Type of Travel Backpacker Are You

     

    Digital Nomads

    Digital Nomads leverage technology to work remotely while traveling. They have the flexibility to choose their destinations and often opt for locations with a good balance of work amenities and recreational opportunities. Digital Nomads can be freelancers, entrepreneurs, or remote employees who prioritize the ability to work from anywhere with a stable internet connection.

    Backpacker Volunteers 

    Backpacker Volunteers are those who combine travel with volunteer work. These travelers seek opportunities to contribute to meaningful projects in exchange for accommodation and, sometimes, meals. Backpacker Volunteers are motivated by a desire to make a positive impact or learn new skills while travelling. You'll often find them volunteering at hostels, homestays, farms, and eco villages.

    Flash Packers 

    Flash Packers are a modern breed of backpackers who combine elements of both luxury and budget travel. Flash Packers are willing to invest in higher-end gear, experiences, or accommodations. They seek a balance between affordability and comfort, often embracing technology and top travel accessories. You may find them staying at nicer hostels or unique Airbnb experiences.

    Budget Backpackers 

    Budget Backpackers are travellers who prioritize cost-effective options in all aspects of their journey. They aim to minimize expenses on accommodation, transportation, and activities, allowing them to stretch their travel budget for longer periods. Budget Backpackers are resourceful and often find creative ways to explore destinations without breaking the bank.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which type of Travel Backpacker you are. However, it is good to know while you are in the planning stages of your backpacking trip. For example, if you are a Digital Nomad, you'll need to plan to travel around with more technology and figure out how to stay connected to do your work. If you are a Budget Backpacker, you’ll want to start budgeting and saving as soon as possible for your trip. Et cetera.

     

    III. Choosing Your Travel Backpack

    Backpacks are typically measured in litres (liters) (L), referring to their carrying capacity; their volume. For readers who are more familiar with imperial measurements instead of metric measurements, it's helpful to equate liters to something familiar. For instance, a gallon jug holds around 3.7 liters of liquid. Therefore, a backpack with a capacity of 20 liters would be equivalent to approximately five and a half one-gallon jugs in terms of volume (20 ÷ 3.7 = 5.4).  So what size backpack for travel?

    The average Travel Backpacker needs between 40L to 70L in volume in backpack space.

    Consider the following factors to help you narrow down your selection even further.

    Personal Comfort: Choose a backpack size that feels comfortable and manageable for you.

    Climates & Seasons: If you are traveling in colder climates, you'll need to bring around more or heavier clothing.

    Technology: Will you be bringing around a laptop, camera, or drone? You'll need more space.

    Airline Restrictions: If you're planning to use your backpack as carry-on luggage, ensure it complies with airline size restrictions. Generally speaking, a backpack under 45L in volume counts as a carry-on and doesn't need to be checked. Don't be confused if you see a backpacking pack that is larger than 45L marketed as a carry-on; usually these packs break down into two smaller ones.

    You could always travel backpack with two backpacks such as one 40L bag and one 20L bag as one could be a carry-on and one can be considered a personal item. If you bring just one large travel backpack, you'll need a little fold up packable daypack. Even though a little fold up daypack is great for all travelers, you can get away without it if you are bring two backpacks with you.

     

    Front Loading Backpacks vs. Top Loading

    Most Travel Backpackers opt for Front Loading Backpacks but what is the difference between Front Loading and Top Loading? Think of it like the difference between front and top loading wash machines.

    Front-Loading Backpacks:

    Front-loading backpacks, also known as panel-loading or suitcase-style backpacks, feature a zippered panel on the front or side of the pack that allows for easy access to the main compartment. This design resembles that of a suitcase, making it convenient for organizing and accessing your belongings without having to unpack everything.

    Pros:

    1. Ease of Access: The wide opening provides easy access to the entire contents of the backpack, allowing you to find items quickly and efficiently.
    2. Organizational Options: Front-loading backpacks often come with multiple compartments and internal organization features, such as mesh pockets or compression straps, making it easier to keep your belongings organized.
    3. Suitcase-Style Packing: With its suitcase-style design, front-loading backpacks allow for neat and organized packing, similar to how you would pack a suitcase. This makes it ideal for travelers who prefer a more structured packing experience.

    Cons:

    1. Limited Overstuffing: The zippered panel restricts the backpack's ability to overstuff or expand beyond its dimensions, which may limit the amount of gear you can carry.
    2. Less Secure: Since the main compartment opens fully, there's a higher risk of theft or items falling out if the zipper isn't properly secured. You'll definitely need a cable combination lock.
    3. Heavier Construction: Front-loading backpacks often have a more rigid construction to support the zippered panel, which can add weight to the pack.

    Top-Loading Backpacks:

    Top-loading backpacks feature a single opening at the top of the pack, usually secured with a drawstring closure and a top lid or flap. This design is reminiscent of traditional hiking and camping backpacks and is favored by outdoor enthusiasts for its simplicity and versatility.

    Pros:

    1. Generous Capacity: Top-loading backpacks typically offer a larger main compartment with fewer internal dividers, allowing for greater capacity and flexibility in packing bulky or irregularly shaped items.
    2. Versatility: The single, large opening makes it easy to stuff gear into the backpack quickly, making it ideal for outdoor activities.
    3. Lightweight Construction: Top-loading backpacks often have a simpler, lighter construction compared to front-loading packs, making them more suitable for extended outdoor adventures where weight is a concern.

    Cons:

    1. Limited Accessibility: Accessing items at the bottom of the pack can be challenging since you need to remove or rearrange the contents to reach them. Not ideal for Travel Backpackers. 
    2. Disorganized Packing: Without internal compartments or dividers, packing can be less organized, and finding specific items may require more effort.
    3. Potential for Overstuffing: The large opening allows for easier overstuffing, which can lead to discomfort and strain on your back if the pack becomes too heavy or unbalanced.

     

    Front Loading and Top Loading Backpacks

    IV. Backpacking Packing List : Clothing

    "Backpacking is the art of knowing what not to take." - Sheridan Anderson

    Utilize this list for clothing that all Travel Backpackers need as the bare minimum. Keep in mind that the more you pack, the less often you need to wash and vice versa. Similarly, the more you pack, the heavier your backpack will be. Any additional clothing to this list you should ask yourself, do you really need this? 

     Additional Items for Colder Climates

    Try to pack colors that can easily be mixed, matched, and layered. Solid and neutral colors work best.  

    Compression packing cubes are going to be your best friend when it comes to packing your clothes and keeping your backpack organized. The TOP REASONS to invest in compression packing cubes are because they

    1. Optimize Backpack Space
    2. Maintain Organization
    3. Reduce Wrinkles
    4. Mitigate Movement of Items While Traveling
    5. Add an Odor & Water Resistant Layer to Packed Clothes
    6. Make for Easier Packing & Unpacking

    Haven't used compression packing cubes before? Check out our journal entry about everything you need to know about compression packing cubes here.

    Packing Cubes for Backpackers

    V. Backpacking Packing List : Accessories

    TRAVEL ACCESSORIES FOR ALL TRAVEL BACKPACKERS: 

    OPTIONAL BACKPACKING ACCESSORIES:

    Backpacking - Packing Bags

    VI. Budgeting

      Before setting foot on foreign soil, planning a bit is a must. Begin by outlining a budget, accounting for expenses such as accommodation, transportation, meals, and activities. This financial roadmap will serve as your guiding light throughout your journey, ensuring fiscal responsibility without dampening the spirit of adventure. There is a simple formula for a travel backpacker's budget:


      Accommodation + Food + Transportation + Activities

      Additionally, you'll have one-time expenses before the trip. Such as the airline tickettravel insurance, vaccinations, passport fees, and purchasing all your essential travel gear.

      To budget for Accommodation and Food expenses, Google the average daily price for accommodation and food in the country you plan to visit. Always round up these estimates to accommodate unforeseen expenses or instances where you opt for pricier alternatives.

      The primary contributors to expenditure will be Transportation Costs and Activities.

      Transportation Costs can accumulate swiftly as you travel, even when utilizing cost effective services like buses and trains and avoiding air travel. It's important to outline your transportation plans between major destinations and estimate associated costs to foresee any surprise expenses. Also, if you can buy these tickets ahead of time, do so.

      For Activities, research what interests you the most about the destination you are going to. You don't have to do everything or see something just because it's popular. Really understand what interests you the most will help you financially plan accordingly.

      Budget For Travel

      VII. Destination

      You can Travel Backpack to any country in the world (as long as you meet the country’s visa requirements). However, there are definitely countries that are easier for the backpacking community. Easier countries are more developed and have really good transportation options. They also have their areas of interests for Travel Backpackers closer to each other instead of more spread out. We’ll list some most frequently visited countries for Travel Backpackers below in Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced categories.

        If you are a Budget Packer, there are definitely some countries from the list above that are more budget friendly than others. Think more Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Central America, and South America. They include Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Philippines, and Laos.

        I feel the USA, Canada, and Australia should be in their own category. Of course they are developed and English speaking countries but they are also massive. You can find areas of each country that are easy for Travel Backpackers but some of the real beauty is quite remote and far.

        Travel Backpackers in Vietnam

        (Some Travel Backpackers I met in Vietnam)

        VIII. Travel Documents & Organisation

        You would think with the advancements of technology that we would need less documents to travel with, but in fact the opposite is true. Keeping your travel documents organized is especially tricky for Travel Backpackers as we don't have the luxury of having a lot of space. While you pack, you’ll need to understand what items you’ll encounter and strategize which items are best in physical vs digital form. Remember: Organization is personal. What works for one, may not work for others.

        5 Universal Tips Regarding Organizing Travel Documents

        1. Invest in a Travel Document Pouch Organizer:

        A dedicated travel pouch, wallet, or organizer for your physical documents can be a game-changer. These come in various sizes with designed compartments. The best for Backpack Travelers are minimalistic, lightweight, and not bulky.

        And no, a passport cover is not the same as a travel document pouch or organizer.

        2. Prioritize Essential Documents:

        Not all travel documents are created equal. Prioritize the most important ones, like your passport, visa, or ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) and keep these at the front of your organizer. Other documents such as your travel or health insurance are rarely needed but you should definitely bring them.

        3. Make Copies:

        Before you set off on your adventure, make photocopies of your crucial documents. These copies should include your passport, visa, ID, and credit cards.

        4. Go Digital:

        Embrace technology by scanning your travel documents and saving them in a secure digital format. You can store them on your smartphone or in a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox. Making a travel folder in your email can be very useful as every confirmation email can also be filed in this digital folder where you stored all your documents. Also consider travel apps that help you store all these documents on your smartphone. Lastly, keep in mind that you will need data or wifi to access these documents. Investing in an eSIM card to assure you have access to these documents is always good idea when traveling abroad.

        5. Establish a Routine:

        Get into the habit of returning documents to their designated spots after you use them. If you have any documents that you no longer need such as used tickets or past reservations, throw them away. A routine will help ensure everything stays organized throughout your trip.

        Travel Documents You May Encounter

        Travel Backpackers should utilize this list as a guide to what they may encounter in regards to travel documents. Then note how you will organize each item - will you store it physically in your bag, digitally on your smartphone, or both? 

        Travel Document Holder | Generation Nomad™
        • Passport: Remember to also keep it easily accessible as international travelers often need to show their passport at every accommodation they check into.
          • It is recommended to have both a digital and physical copy stored of your passport.
        • Visa(s): If you require visas for your destination(s), they should be in or with your passport.
        • ETA(s): Also known as 'Electronic Travel Authorizations'. These are becoming more and more common. In short, they are a pre-clearance and a fee for a traveler whose nationality falls under a Visa Waiver Program with the country they are entering. Once issued an ETA, they are often valid for numerous years and need to be shown at Customs.
          • US/UK/Australia/Canada Passport Holders - This is what you will need when you enter the European Schengen Zone in the future. Please note that the roll out of this program is now delayed until 2025. You can find the most current updates from the European Commission's website.
        • Driver's License and/or International Driver's Permit: If you plan to rent any sort of vehicle, bring your driver's license. Some countries may require an 'International Driver's Permit' in order to rent a vehicle which in short translates the information on your driver's license into other languages. You'll most likely see this requirement in countries that don't use the Latin alphabet.
        • Transportation Tickets: Train, bus, ferry, plane tickets, etc.
          • You also may travel to a country where they need proof of a future departure in order to issue a visa or to pass customs. If you encounter this situation but don't have fixed travel plans yet, check out Onward Ticket.
        • Insurance: Keep a copy of your travel insurance policy and health insurance (if applicable). We recommend World Nomads.
          • If you do encounter a disturbance with your travel plans or health, you’ll want easy access to your travel insurance policy. For example, if you get sick while traveling, your travel insurance company may ask for a letter from the doctor you visited while traveling. Find out what they may need while you are at that destination instead of trying to hunt down documentation later.
        • Vaccination Records: If required, carry proof of vaccinations or medical exemptions. Double check the vaccination requirements and/or recommendations before traveling to certain countries and regions.
          • Especially in regards to COVID-19 or Yellow Fever.
        • Credit and Debit Cards: Bring necessary credit and debit cards, and notify your bank of your travel plans.
          • Consider bringing a credit card without foreign transaction fees.
        • Cash: You'll want to keep some spare local currency and widely used currencies such US Dollars or Euros with you. You don't exactly need to carry cash in your pocket everywhere you go, but to know you have access if you ever need is important. We've encountered hostels and dormitories that don't even accept cards.
          • Even popular travel destinations such as Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania have very cash-based economies.
          • Keep in mind, with recent higher inflation in OECD (Organization of Economic Development) member countries, you may receive discounts if you pay in cash over card.
        • Emergency Contact Information: Write down contact numbers of family and friends in case of an emergency. You may also want to have handy the information of your embassy or consulate.
        • Accommodation Reservations: Print out or save accommodation reservations and address details. Often international customs would ask for at least one address of the places you are staying at. If you are doing a tour group, print out the tour itinerary. This is perfect proof to show customs.
        • Travel Program Cards: Consider Global EntryClear, or TSA Pre-check program that helps you navigate through security and customs easier.
        • Digital Travel Apps: There are so many useful apps out there. Download relevant travel apps (ex, airline apps, navigation, translation) on your smartphone and make sure to keep them in one folder so they are easily accessible. We have an awesome blog entry about The Best Mobile Apps for Backpacking Travelling that you can read more details on this.
        • Prescription Medications: If you carry prescription medication, it is recommended to print out a short information sheet regarding your prescriptions.
        • Writing Utensil: A simple pen is very useful for jotting down notes, addresses, or filling out customs forms.
        • House Rules: If you are staying at a hostel or dormitory, usually you are given a small sheet of House Rules. This often lists important information such as wifi passwords, quiet hours, entry access codes etc. Make sure to keep this handy or even take a photo of it on your smartphone.
        • Proof of Car Insurance: If you are renting a vehicle abroad, car rental companies will up-sell you on insurance. However, if you bring proof that you have insurance or are covered under a parent or partner's plan, you can save money and the headache of having to purchase their insurance plans

          IX. Arriving & Getting Around

          So now you’re all packed, you chose your destination, and have all the right travel documents in order. You’re ready to arrive in a foreign country and see the world. You may be asking, how on earth do I get around. What is so great about Travel Backpacking is that you are not limited to where the sidewalks are flat to wheel around a suitcase. You can experience more authentic travels by getting to spots where your two feet can take you. Here are some tips about arriving in a new destination and getting around.

          Arrive in a New Destination in Day Light

          Whenever you get to an unfamiliar or new destination, it's best practice to arrive during the daylight. No matter how much you studied a map, you don't know the neighborhoods well or how they are at night. Remember, you're literally carrying everything you "own" on your back and don't want to be caught in a tricky situation. Opting for late night transportation is enticing because it's cheaper, but usually not by much. It is worth it to arrive during the daylight so you can familiarize yourself with your surroundings well.

          Secure Valuables

          Keep your passport, cash, credit/debit cards, ID cards, and electronics secure at all times. Utilize a combination of methods such as a money belt, hidden pouches, or combination locks to deter theft and safeguard your valuables.

          Another type of theft is cyber theft. Think about a RFID Blocking Wallet or RFID Blocking Passport Holder to stop thieves from tapping into your credit, debit, and ID cards via radio frequencies. If you haven't heard of RFID Blocking technology, check out our journal entry here all about RFID and how it works.

          A lot of Travel Backpackers these days also take around laptops, cameras, and other electronics on their travels. My biggest piece of travel safety advice for you guys is to properly insure your stuff. If you do get robbed, it is crucial that you get a police report – this will make your insurance claim quick and painless. Make sure your travel insurance covers for your electronics too.

          Get Some Data on Your Phone

          The importance of having a little data on your phone is everything. It can help you navigate the streets, contact a friend or family member, or even contact a rideshare service. You don’t actually need a full SIM card with a foreign phone number. An electronic SIM card like Airalo where you can buy a little data as needed should be a Travel Backpacker’s standard. You can always turn on and off that data as needed. Also, bring around a portable power bank to make sure your phone has charge.

          The Most Reliable Transportation: Ridesharing

          Opt for reputable transportation options. Ridesharing apps tend to be the most convenient, affordable, and provide safety measures like tracking, registration, and customer support.

          I have heard situations of taxi drivers acting sketchy or upcharging passengers. These risks are mitigated by using ride share apps like Uber or Lyft. These apps know exactly where you and the driver are and often have reviews of the driver. Uber operates in over 70 countries but you’ll want to also check what other ridesharing apps locals use at your destination.

          Embrace Public Transportation

          Public transportation is often the most budget-friendly and efficient way to get around in a new destination. Whether it's hopping on a subway, tram, or local bus, you'll have the opportunity to see the city like a local and interact with fellow travelers. Apps like Google Maps can be very helpful if your destination has a well-organized public transportation system.

          Explore By Foot

          Travel backpacks have versatility, functionality, and convenience that make them an indispensable companion for any trip. Whether you're navigating through crowded airports, exploring remote trails, or simply strolling through foreign streets, a well-designed backpack ensures that you have all your essentials at hand while keeping your hands free. 

          Backpacks allow you to travel to areas that a wheeled suitcase wouldn't be able to. I remember staying at home-stay in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. In order to get to the home-stay, we had to take a canoe-like boat. I can't image wheeling a suitcase onto a boat like that. A backpack let me get onto the boat smoothly and then navigate through uneven dirt roads to get to the home-stay.

           

          Travel Backpackers in Spain

          (Some Travel Backpackers and I on a ferry)

          X. Accommodation

          Travel Backpackers don’t usually plan too far in advance when it comes to accommodation. Unless you have a very time restricted trip, they’ll usually plan week by week. We all know in the travel industry that prices closer to the date of service are more expensive than in advance. There are tips and tricks on how to find reliable accommodation not so far in advance.

          Hostels

          Hostels are going to be your most flexible and most reliable accommodation to book last minute. They are no longer the dingy hells that our parents told us about. In fact, most hostels are cleaner and more reputable than your average budget hotel. Hostels are social places where you can meet other solo travellers and come equipped with shared kitchens. Nowadays, you can find hostels that even have luxury amenities like swimming pools, hot tubs, game rooms, gyms, and their own bar.

          Hostels serve all different types of Travel Backpackers.

          • A Digital Nomad may look for a hostel that is dedicated to remote workers and have legitimate work space and high speed internet.
          • A Backpacker Volunteer may reach out to a hostel to volunteer working for them or teach a class. In fact, most people that you will come across working at a hostel, are volunteers.
          • A Flash Packer may be interested in hostels that are equipped with nice amenities and common areas. They may search for hostels with private rooms or social events.
          • A Budget Packer may look for hostels that are the most economical with just a safe space to rest at night.

          Hostels could serve all these different demographics. There even could be hostels that are dedicated to younger folks and others that have a lot more older folks.

          The best thing to do to find the right hostel for you is to go to on Hostel World and check the ratings and reviews. You should be able to easily note the vibe before arriving. Booking.com is also a great way to find and compare hostels. We have an awesome blog post about Everything You Need To Know About Hostels to dive deeper on this topic.   

          Budget Hotels

          Occasionally, you'll find that a private room in a budget hotel costs the same as a dormitory bed in a hostel. While I cherish the camaraderie of hostels, there's a distinct charm in cozying up in small, family-run budget hotel. These accommodations often offer private rooms where you can connect with the local hosts while enjoying your own space. Although most budget hotels lack kitchen facilities, some may provide basic amenities like a fridge, microwave, or toaster. When selecting a budget hotel, consider various room types; shared bathrooms often come at a lower rate than on-suite bathrooms. Non-refundable rates are typically more economical than flexible bookings.

          Home Stays

          For an immersive cultural experience, consider a home-stay, where you'll reside with a local family. Home-stays offer not just a bed, but also the opportunity to share meals and engage in cultural exchange. Whether you're looking to practice the local language or delve into native customs, home-stays provide a unique window into the community. Many language schools also offer home-stay arrangements, ensuring a fully immersive linguistic experience. Explore options on platforms like Homestays.com, boasting a diverse array of choices worldwide.

          Airbnb

          In destinations that lack hostel options or when seeking extended privacy, Airbnb emerges as an awesome and convenient choice. From cozy bedrooms in local homes to entire apartments, Airbnb offers a spectrum of accommodation styles to suit various preferences. However, since each property differs, carefully review each listing to ensure quality and suitability.

          Coliving Spaces

          With the rise of digital nomadism, coliving spaces have gained popularity as communal living hubs tailored to remote workers. Whether in dormitories or private rooms with shared amenities, coliving spaces foster a sense of community among like-minded individuals. While hostels embody a form of coliving, coliving companies now offer apartment-style accommodations catering specifically to the needs of Digital Nomads. There are usually minimum length stays at coliving spaces because of the community they try to build.

          Short Term Leases

          For Digital Nomads or slower Travel Backpackers seeking extended stays, short-term leases offer flexible solutions. Providers like Flatio specialize in furnished rentals for periods exceeding a month, catering to diverse needs. While these accommodations may not suit fast-paced Travel Backpackers, they provide comfort and convenience for those settling into a destination for an extended period. Another great option to find short term leases is on Facebook. Search for a Facebook Group at your destination that offers shorter term houses (it’s usually the least expensive).

          Campervans

          Embrace a nomadic lifestyle by exploring the world in a campervan. Offering freedom and flexibility, these mobile accommodations allow you to traverse diverse landscapes at your pace. Whether equipped with full amenities or basic essentials, campervans offer self-contained living while fostering a deep connection with nature. However, logistical considerations such as parking and electricity access necessitate careful planning, especially when crossing international borders. These could be great options in more remote areas such as Patagonia in Argentina or the national parks of the USA.

          Glamping & Camping

          For budget-conscious adventurers seeking immersion in nature, camping presents an affordable lodging option. From traditional tent camping to luxurious glamping sites, Travel Backpackers can tailor their outdoor experience to suit their preferences. While camping demands packing essential gear, glamping sites often provide all-inclusive amenities for a comfortable stay. I’ve found awesome campsites where the tents are already made with fresh sheets and everything. So you get a unique outdoor experience, without having to bring or rent your own camping gear.

          I remember when I was travel backpacking through Albania with a friend. We wanted to check out a camp site even though we didn't bring any camping gear. It was located along the sea, under the pines, near old war trenches. It was more "glamping" than camping since the tents had bedding and there were functioning showers and bathrooms. There are a handful of campsites just like this in Albania. The one I stayed at was called The Sea Cave Camping in Himare.

           
          (Glamping in Himare, Albania)

          Indulge In Luxury

          Occasionally, indulging in luxury accommodations adds a touch of splendor to your travel backpacking experience. In destinations like Southeast Asia, luxury hotels offer exceptional value, allowing travelers to revel in lavish amenities at affordable rates. While budget constraints may steer you towards hostels, occasional splurges on unique accommodations can elevate your journey and create unforgettable memories.

          When embarking on long-term backpacking travel, flexibility is key when booking accommodations. While some people prefer spontaneity, others opt for pre-booking to secure peace of mind upon arrival. Utilize reputable booking platforms like Booking.com, Airbnb, Expedia, or Hostel World to compare options and read verified reviews. Additionally, seek insights from fellow travelers and travel blogs for firsthand experiences and insider tips for each destination. Whether immersing yourself in local culture or seeking solitude, selecting the right accommodation enhances every facet of your backpacking adventure.

           

          XI. Meeting People

          Travel backpacking solo is an adventure like no other. It's a journey of self-discovery, independence, and exploration that allows you to step out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself fully in new cultures and experiences. For many solo travel backpackers, one of the most enriching aspects of the journey is the opportunity to meet fellow backpackers along the way. But where do solo travel backpackers meet, and how can you connect with like-minded individuals while traveling alone?

          City Walking Tours

          City walking tours offer a lot of benefits for solo Travel Backpackers seeking to immerse themselves in a new destination while fostering connections with fellow travelers. You'll be able to familiarize yourself with your surroundings and get to know the city from a trusted tour guide. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours delve into the heart of a destination, uncovering hidden gems, historical anecdotes, and local insights that might otherwise go unnoticed.

          City walking tours often are free (tip based) and serve as a natural meeting point for solo Travel Backpackers. As participants walk throughout the city streets together, it’s so easy to strike up a conversation as you walk from Point A to Point B on the tour. Solo travellers are easy to spot in these groups. Just look for the person who is by themselves as the tour walks or waiting for the tour to start.

          Every single city walking tour that I have went on, I've made friends to grab food, a drink, or explore with. You'll want to download the apps GetYourGuide and GuruWalk.

          Another word of advice is to get a money beltcross chest bag, or a cross body bag for these walks. You'll be distracted and trying to follow a group. This makes for a prime target for pickpockets.

          Hostels & Coliving Communities

          Hostels and coliving communities are the quintessential hub for solo Travel Backpackers. These accommodations not only offer a place to rest your head but also provide a vibrant social atmosphere where travelers from all walks of life come together. Whether you're sharing a dorm room, cooking in the communal kitchen, or lounging in the common areas, hostels foster a sense of community that makes it easy to strike up conversations and make new friends.

          When choosing a hostel, opt for ones known for their social atmosphere. Look for hostels with organized activities such as pub crawls, city tours, or group dinners. These events are designed to bring travelers together and create opportunities for interaction. You can easily scout out the atmosphere of a hostel by reading reviews on Hostel World. Some hostels are known more for their social aspect, others are more for digital nomads that are working remotely, and others can be lame as hell.

          Even if you are not staying at a hostel, in bigger cities there's usually a hostel that has a bar on the ground floor. You can usually find a handful of solo travelers there.

          Couchsurfing Meetups

          Out of all the apps out there, this is probably the easiest one to meet people. Couchsurfing is known as a community where people offer their couch for travellers to stay at. However, they also launched Couchsurfing Meetups. You'll simply create a profile with all the basics and set your status as available to hang out. When you set your status as available you can choose from a few options of what you are looking to do such as eat food, grab a drink, explore the city etc. You then can see all the people nearby that are also free at the moment. You'll start a Meetup and others usually request to join.

          What is nice about this app is that there isn't much small talk via the app like other apps have. People leave reviews about people on their Couchsurfing profiles so you'll know right away by the reviews if this person seems normal. I also like how on the app you can set the Meetup point so if you accept any others to join, they can easily see where you are on the map.

          One thing to note about Couchsurfing, is there is a small fee of around $2.50 USD per month to use the app. Which is nothing and worth it. However, Couchsurfing waives this fee for people from developing countries. So don't be alarmed if you see somebody who registered from a country that is different from their own. It seems like they're just trying to avoid the monthly fee.

          Airbnb Experiences

          In recent years, Airbnb Experiences have emerged as a valuable resource for solo travelers. Airbnb Experiences offers unique activities led by locals. Whether it's a cooking class, a guided hike, or a photography tour, these experiences provide an intimate setting for meeting like-minded individuals who share your interests.

          I once did a paella cooking class at somebody's house in Spain and there were a handful of other solo travelers who also signed up for the class. 

          Embrace Spontaneity and Openness

          Remember, you're traveling and in a city where nobody knows who you are. Live a little and get out of comfort zone. Embrace spontaneity and strike up a conversation to somebody at the park or in a cafe. Why not? You never know where a random encounter may lead or what meaningful connections you might make along the way. Remember that most people you encounter on your travels are also seeking connections and new experiences, just like you. 

          (Some Travel Backpackers I met in Portugal)

           

          XII. Safety

          Travel Backpackers should always prioritize safety at every step of their backpacking journey. Whether you're exploring bustling cities or remote villages, being prepared and vigilant can make all the difference.
           

          Arrive During Daylight

          Whenever you get to an unfamiliar or new destination, it's best practice to arrive during the daylight. No matter how much you studied a map, you don't know the neighborhoods well or how they are at night. Remember, you're literally carrying everything you "own" on your back and don't want to be caught in a tricky situation. Opting for late night transportation is enticing because it's cheaper, but usually not by much. It is worth it to arrive during the daylight so you can familiarize yourself with your surroundings well.

          Stop Using Back Pockets *ATTENZIONE PICKPOCKET*

          Pickpockets find it easiest to snatch wallets from back pockets, where our attention is diverted. We are less likely to notice their actions “back there”. Placing your wallet and valuables in front pockets is a simple yet effective measure. Your belongings remain within your line of sight and are closer to your body, making it significantly more challenging for pickpockets to access them. If you are bringing around a day bag, opt for a cross chest bagcross body bag, or a day bag that you can lock.

          Another safety precaution may be to consider a money belt to hide the valuables that you want to carry around. I usually don’t bring around a money belt unless I am in a city known for pickpocketing tourists. I’ve seen many casual accessories that hide your essentials like scrunchies and scarves too.

          The top 15 Cities that are notorious for pickpocketing travelers are Barcelona, Rome, Prague, Paris, Madrid, Athens, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Florence, Bangkok, Hanoi, Marrakech, and Naples. Definitely be extra cautious in these touristic cities.

          Pack Light and Pack Smart

          Minimize the weight of your backpack to enhance mobility and reduce strain on your body. Prioritize essentials such as clothing, toiletries, and versatile accessories that serve multiple purposes. Avoid overpacking, as it can weigh you down and make you a target for theft.

          If you really want to pack like a pro, start by investing in some compression packing cubes to minimize volume space and keep your backpack organized. Also check out our entries: How To Pack Backpack for Backpackers & What Size Backpack For Travel.

          Secure Valuables

          Keep your passport, cash, credit/debit cards, ID cards, and electronics secure at all times. Utilize a combination of methods such as a money belt, hidden pouches, or combination locks to deter theft and safeguard your valuables.

          Another type of theft is cyber theft. Think about a RFID Blocking Wallet or RFID Blocking Passport Holder to stop thieves from tapping into your credit, debit, and ID cards via radio frequencies.

          A lot of Travel Backpackers these days also take around laptops, cameras, and other electronics on their travels. My biggest piece of travel safety advice for you guys is to properly insure your stuff. If you do get robbed, it is crucial that you get a police report – this will make your insurance claim quick and painless. Make sure your travel insurance covers for your electronics too.

          Backup Important Documents

          Create digital copies of important documents such as your passport, visas, travel insurance, and emergency contacts. Store them digitally in addition to your physical copies in in a travel document holder. Don't forget a physical copy of your passport too. We have an awesome guide about all the travel documents you may come across and how to store them physically and digitally. Check it out here.

          Get Some Data on Your Phone

          The importance of having a little data on your phone is everything. It can help you navigate the streets, contact a friend or family member, or even contact a rideshare service. You don’t actually need a full SIM card with a foreign phone number. An electronic SIM card like Airalo where you can buy a little data as needed should be a Backpack Traveller’s standard. You can always turn on and off that data as needed. Also, bring around a portable power bank to make sure your phone has charge.

          Safety In Numbers

          Consider riskier situations to try to be surrounded by more acquaintances or friends. There is no doubt that if you are in a group that it is safer simply because there is safety in numbers. You can always break up your solo trip and sign up for a group tour to less safe locations.

          When I did my 5-month backpacking trip, I did my Egypt leg of the trip on a group tour because of safety concerns I had. A group tour is also great since you get to make new friends and have knowledgeable tour guides. You can find group tours that range from just a few hours to ones that are a few months. We have an awesome entry about group tours that you can read about here.

          (Hiking with some Travel Backpackers I met in Spain)

          Familiarize Yourself About Local Scams

          Each country has its own repertoire of common scams that target unsuspecting visitors. Numerous country-specific safety tips exist, far too many to cover here. It's essential to acquaint yourself with the most prevalent scams whenever you visit a new country. This knowledge enables you to identify and sidestep such schemes. Conducting research online or seeking advice from the staff at your accommodation is everything.

          Don’t forget the oldest trick in the book - someone offering unsolicited help scam. A stranger offers you help when you are not looking for it, then proceeds to give you something you don’t need while demanding a tip or fee for it. It could be as simple as taking a picture for you, or claiming a place is closed and taking you to a similar place that is open to get a finders fee. Another old trick is when somebody pumps your car rental for gas and doesn't reset the ticker down to zero.

          Sleep In a Room Where Doors Locks

          Whether you are sleeping alone or with others, make sure your accommodation has a functioning lock. If you are staying at an Airbnb or Hotel alone, you can always invest in portable door lock for you to add another layer of security to the locks.
          The same goes for if you are using a locker or bathroom. Make sure the doors do lock.

          Don't Say Your Name Out Loud At Check-In

          Don't ever say your name at check-in out loud. Simply hand your accommodation your ID card. You don't want anybody linking your full name with your room number. You never know who is listening. God forbid somebody gets your full name and room number together, and pretends they are your friend visiting and the accommodation hands them a spare key. Like we mentioned before, get a portable door lock if you are staying in private rooms alone. 

          For similar reasons, if you are staying in a private room alone, don't stay on the ground floor. The majority of commercial airlines don't permit their staff to stay on the ground floor so that should say something.

          Practice Responsible Photography

          Respect people's privacy and seek permission before taking photographs, especially in culturally sensitive or sacred locations. Avoid intrusive or disrespectful photography that may offend locals or infringe on their rights.

          Besides for people not wanting their photos taken, religious or historic places may ask you not to photograph or use flash photography. Also, some regulated or sensitive neighborhoods as well. Such as the redlight district in Amsterdam or the greenlight (open cannabis trade) district of Copenhagen.

          Trust Your Instincts – Listen To Your Gut!

          Listen to your intuition and trust your gut feelings. If a situation feels unsafe or uncomfortable, remove yourself from it immediately. Pay attention to warning signs and take proactive measures to ensure your safety.

          When it comes down to it, no amount of safety travel tips can rival the power of intuition. Some individuals are simply more attuned to it than others. Whether you're backpack travelling solo or in a group, being able to trust your instincts is essential for staying safe.

          If something doesn't feel right, chances are there's a valid reason. Trusting your gut could mean avoiding questionable street food that might make you ill or recognizing when someone's overly friendly demeanor might conceal their alternative motives. Even if you worry about overreacting, prioritizing safety over regret is always the wisest choice.

          Blend In with Local Culture (and Gender Norms)

          Respect local customs, traditions, and dress codes to avoid standing out as a foreigner. By blending in with the local population, you reduce the risk of attracting unwanted attention and minimize the likelihood of encountering trouble. Act local. Look local. Be local.

          Unfortunately, gender inequality persists as a significant issue in the modern era. Women often face differential treatment compared to men, both for good and bad. The extent of these challenges varies depending on the country. Venturing to destinations like the Middle East or Central America could present considerably greater challenges. Traveling as a woman demands heightened vigilance and being able to rely on intuition to evade sketchy situations. It's essential for female Travel Backpackers to seek out advice from other fellow solo female travellers.

          We aim to highlight to our female audience that no destination should be deemed "inaccessible". Although traveling as a woman might demand additional effort and vigilance, it must not discourage you. Many women undertake solo backpacking trips with great experiences. We urge you to embrace such experiences.

          (Sharing a meal with some Egyptians)

          Learn Basic Phrases

          Familiarize yourself with essential phrases in the local language, such as greetings, directions, and emergency phrases. This not only facilitates communication but also demonstrates respect for the local culture and enhances your ability to navigate unfamiliar situations. Perhaps download some Duolingo classes.

          For those traveling with a serious allergy or a dietary restriction, know critical diet information in the local language. It doesn't hurt to print out or purchase a translation card for your serious allergy.

          Don’t Consume Everything

          In some countries, health regulations may differ from those in Western countries, leading to a greater incidence of food-related illnesses that can greatly affect your international trip. While not all eateries present hazards, maintaining cleanliness is crucial for ensuring safe travels. If a restaurant seems unsanitary, the chances of getting sick rise. Additionally, food left exposed for extended periods might contain harmful bacteria. Stay cautious where and what you are consuming. Don't forget about drinking the tap water in some countries. 

          (Snake infused alcohol in Vietnam)

          First Aid

          Having essential items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and other medical supplies in your toiletry kit can make all the difference in providing immediate care and preventing minor injuries from escalating into more significant problems. Bring around enough medications that you need. I have really bad seasonal allergies and I make sure to stock up on all meds that I know work beforehand and use a pill chest.  

          Stay Hydrated and Nourished

          Maintain proper hydration and nutrition throughout your backpacking travels to keep your energy levels up and support overall well-being. Carry a reusable travel water bottle and snack on nutritious foods to sustain yourself during long days of exploration.

          Share Plans & Itinerary

          Inform a trusted friend or family member about your travel plans and itinerary. This ensures someone knows your whereabouts in case of emergencies and can provide assistance if needed. There is a fantastic app called Life360 where you can share your GPS location with family and friends to keep them updated on your whereabouts.

          Keep Emergency Cash

          Carry a little emergency cash in a separate location from your main wallet, providing a fallback option in case your wallet gets lost or stolen. Ensure the amount is sufficient to cover essential expenses such as transportation and accommodation. I recommend having a travel document pouch with all your physically documents and cash locked up in your bag or in your accommodation. Then take as needed from your document pouch to your daily card holder or wallet. Kind of use your document pouch as your personal ATM.

          Utilize Maps and Navigation Tools

          Familiarize yourself with maps, GPS navigation apps, and offline maps to navigate your surroundings effectively. Plan your routes in advance and avoid wandering aimlessly, especially in unfamiliar or remote areas. Bring around a portable power bank to make sure you have access to these navigation tools.

          Stay Protected from Sun Exposure

          Shield yourself from the sun's harmful rays by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. One of the big reasons why we wanted to create a toiletry bag designed specifically for Backpack Travellers is for sunscreen. Knowing that Backpack Travellers travel for longer periods of time, the little travel sized bottles of sunscreen won’t get us very far and tend to be expensive. You’ll definitely need a lot of sunscreen.

          (Beautiful Siracusa, Italy)

          Stay Well-Rested

          Prioritize adequate rest and sleep to maintain optimal physical and mental health during your travels. Avoid pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion. FOMO is real. You don’t have to see everything at a destination. Prioritize what interests you and don’t push yourself.

          Stay Informed about Local Laws

          Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations of the countries you're visiting, including rules regarding alcohol consumption, drug possession, and public behavior. Adhering to local laws helps avoid legal troubles and ensures a smooth backpack travel experience. There may be destinations where it is perfectly fine to drink an open beer on the street and other countries where drinking alcohol is completely forbidden. Google the basics of local laws that travellers should know about a destination beforehand.

          Don’t Flash Valuables

          Advertising your valuables while traveling significantly increases the risk of becoming a target for theft or scams. Flaunting expensive items such as jewelry or electronics attract unwanted attention from individuals looking to exploit tourists. It's important to maintain a low profile to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Keeping valuables discreetly concealed not only minimizes the risk of theft but also enhances your overall security and peace of mind while exploring new destinations. If you don’t see the locals wearing expensive stuff, then you shouldn’t either.

          Wear A Helmet

          What do I mean? Traffic accidents are the number one killer for Backpack Travellers. While exploring unfamiliar terrain or navigating bustling city streets, unexpected hazards and road conditions can pose significant risks. A helmet serves as a crucial protective barrier, mitigating the impact of falls or collisions and reducing the likelihood of head trauma or life-threatening injuries. Don’t worry about looking good; wear the helmet.

          Know The Local Emergency Number

          Growing up, we all learned how to call the police or ambulance. It was 911 if you grew up in the USA or Canada, 999 in the UK, or 000 in Australia. Every country has its own emergency number - Check out the map below for what the local emergency number is in the country you are visiting.

          NUMBER ONE TIP : Comprehensive Travel Insurance

          Invest in travel insurance that offers extensive coverage, including medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and theft. Read the policy carefully to understand the terms and conditions, ensuring you're adequately protected throughout your journey. If you are travelling with a lot of electronics, make sure your policy covers that. We recommend World Nomads for great coverage and quotes.

           

          XIII. Advice

          As you prepare for your travel backpacking trip, I wanted to share some words of advice with you.

          As much of a lifeline ours phones can be while travelling, I urge you to put it down every once in a while. Look up, take in the sights, and savor the moment. Take in the sounds of streets, birds, and languages as you immerse yourself in the world around you.

          Never underestimate the power of journaling. Document your journey—the highs and the lows. Your journal is going to transport you back to the places you've been and the people you've met.

          I dare you to step off the beaten path. Wander down alleyways, stumble upon hidden gems, and embrace the unknown. The most unforgettable experiences are found off the tourist trails.

          Be kind. Approach each encounter with empathy, respect, and compassion. A simple act of kindness has the power to brighten someone's day and leave an unimaginable impact.

          Lastly, don't forget to take care of yourself. Nurture your body and trust your instincts. Travel backpacking can be exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting. Remember to rest and recharge.

          Generation Nomad was a company that I conceptualized while I was on a 5-month backpacking trip from Egypt to England where I was comparing the best travel accessories with fellow Travel Backpackers. That trip led me to patenting a travel accessory that I am about to launch and also allowed me to offer guidance to thousands of new Travel Backpackers. Keep an open mind while you backpack but never stop being grateful for the opportunity you have in life to be travel backpacking.

          Embrace The Journey, 

          MARK CIPOLLINA

          I’m Mark, the Founder of Generation Nomad, Avid Travel Backpacker & Digital Nomad. I am passionate about helping others discover the world through my experiences. I solo backpacked for months at a time, lived abroad, and even speak two foreign languages. Besides collaborating on the best lightweight travel accessories for Travel Backpackers, I also love sharing my travel photography.
          Favorite Trips: Spain, Egypt & Vietnam 
          Favorite Cuisines: Italian, Peruvian & Japanese
          Quote: “Be a circle and just roll with it” 

           

           

          Have something to add to the Ultimate Guide for Travel Backpackers?
          Email us at info@generation-nomad.com

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