Backpacking is something that many desire to do, but it takes time and skill to get good at it. It's not necessarily something you can be bad at, but it does require some experience to know all the ins and outs of how to travel well cheaply.
If you're a newbie on that matter, don't worry, I'm going to give you some good tips on how you can start your journey to being a budget backpacker, and keep the costs low.
But firstly, what's so great about backpacking anyways and why should you consider it? To start, you get a much more authentic experience. Luxury holidays are lovely and sure, a lot less stressful, however, you miss out on truly experiencing the country you're visiting in its rawest form.
You'll experience a richer culture, learn from the locals and eat the traditional dishes. Secondly, it's SO much cheaper! Yes it does come with a little hustle and effort, but it's so worth it.
Last but certainly not least, you'll meet some amazing people. The friends you make when travelling this way will be some of the best connections as you may either meet many locals, or make friends in hostels. You really can't beat it.
So, let's get into it!
Prepare yourself to be a budget backpacker
First of all, you need to do a bit of preparation. I know it sounds boring but unless you want to be weeks into your travel and penniless, let alone realising that you don't have half the stuff you need, then I recommend you don't skip this step.
A lot of people may decide to be a budget backpacker on a whim and think they can go ahead and just hop on a plane. True, you can. But if you're in it for the long haul then you're going to want to think it through a little bit first so you can make the most out of your travels.
Plan your costs and your incomes
Okay, so the fun part (not). A big part of backpacking is your budget, and what you will be spending it on. Before you even think about booking any travel or accommodation, it's a good idea to plan out yourbudget.
Take a look at your current earnings and savings and roughly workout what you will need for your trip. To do this, think about these things:
How long do you plan to travel for?
Where do you want to travel?
What modes of transport will you take? (Tip: When looking for travel, search in incognito mode to save prices from rising)
What experiences do you want to have? (Is there something specific you've always wanted to do that you know might cost a lot?)
There's a lot more to think about, but that's a good place to start. Obviously, you can never be certain of how much you'll need and where and when money may be spent but you can do your best to ensure you have a rough plan so you don't overspend when you can't afford to.
Doing so will save a lot of time and stress in the future when you're in the midst of your travels and just want to enjoy yourself as much as possible!
Gear up for your budget backpack trip
So, you've decided on a place and how you're getting there etc, but what about packing? I know this is the part that everyone hates, but it must be done.
There's the obvious items you'll need like clothes, toothbrush and wallet, but there's somethings you may want to consider too like a padlock, washing powder, reusable water bottle, first aid kit, hey maybe even toilet paper! It really depends on where you're going but just make sure you have the necessities.
If you don't want to lug about lots of clothes (who does) but still want to look fresh, why not try a clothes swap? You could do this in a hostel, or at a local clothes swap.
Don't forget to get insured for the trip
The less exciting part of travelling, but just as important. Sure, you can travel without insurance - it isn't always necessary but if you get into a difficult situation, you'll wish you had had it. Though it may cost you a bit of money upfront before your trip, it's well worth it as you can have full peace of mind knowing that you're covered.
7 essential tips to be a budget backpacker
1. Try hitchhiking
Hitchhiking gets a bad reputation in many places, but it can save you so much money. I'd only recommend it if you are travelling with someone else, and the person picking you up is kind and trustworthy - be sure to stay vigilant.
Note: If you're a woman or someone more vulnerable, I don't suggest this is the best idea. It's sad to have it this way, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. That goes for anyone - if your gut is telling you it's better to spend 30 euros on a train, do it. You may have less money in your pocket but at least you'll be safe.
2. Use your network
Knowing someone in the place you're going to is great for a few different reasons. If possible, it's good to get their contact details so if anything happens, you have someone you know and trust to help you.
Also, if you know someone well enough, you may be able to stay with them for a couple days. Just make sure to be respectful and offer your help if they need it in return for staying.
3. Avoid acting like a tourist
Every budget backpacker has to learn how to don't look like a tourist. Things like learning a little bit of the language to get by can do wonders, and will mean you can understand more so people can't rip you off as easily.
Often when people hear a foreign accent, they assume that you will be an easy target to con. That includes taxi drivers, con artists, pit pocketers and any other malicious person.
Another thing to do is avoid the tourist hotspots. Cafes and restaurants that scream non-authentic are likely to be pretty pricey compared to traditional places.
4. Bag the bargains
I'm about to sound like a middle aged woman here, but we all love a bargain don't we? When you're backpacking, you don't have the choice to be picky. Forget the fancy restaurants and high end supermarkets, oh no, you're going to want to find the best deals. Going to supermarkets in the evening, and cafes/restaurants close to closing time is likely to guarantee you some sweet offers.
5. Budget backpack with a friend
Solo travelling is fantastic (believe me, I've done it) but sometimes you just can't beat a good travel buddy. Why not lower the costs even more and travel with a partner or friend?
You'll have a blast together. However, if that doesn't float your boat you also have the great advantage of making friends along the way in hostels, and wherever else you end up! Someone who you're staying with may be traveling to the next country you are, so why not join them for the ride?
6. Trade your skills for accommodation
If taking an extended period of time off to travel seems unlikely because you can't afford much hotel rates then you should consider doing a volunteering work exchange program.
Worldpackers is a great platform to start volunteering - it is a global community formed by conscious travelers and welcoming hosts that has been promoting thousands of connections and unique experiences since 2014.
Are you particularly skilled at something? Digital art? Editing? Teaching? Well thanks to technology you can easily make a living by working online. Sites like fiverr are great for those who are looking to sell their services, especially for creatives. You set your own prices and wait for customers to roll in.
Another idea is teaching languages online - there's many websites that offer you to teach a language to kids. You may even be qualified in something such as yoga teaching or personal training, in which case you better set up your YouTube channel now because jobs like these are really taking off.
The best part about online jobs is that you can build a community from wherever you are in the world, and keep it wherever you go. As long as you stay connected, your community will follow (figuratively, of course).
So what are you waiting for? Follow these tips to make the most of budget backpacking and go explore the world!
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Hey I’m Lauren! I’m from a small town in sunny (I wish) Scotland and took on my first solo travelling trip after graduating in 2019 My experience was way better than I could’ve imagined – meeting wonderful people, seeing amazing things, great experiences and even teaching weekly yoga! I couldn’t have done all this without Worldpackers, I’m so grateful I came across the website. I think everyone should get to experience travelling at some point in their lives – wherever and whatever it may be! My advice if you’re thinking about it is – don’t think too much! Just do, you won’t regret it.