To date, we’ve been to 25 (ish) countries which is a tiny fraction of the planet but during this time we have accumulated advice in abundance from fellow travellers and from the genuine f**k ups we’ve made along the way. We’re letting you in on a secret (or 10) as these travel tips for first time backpackers will save you a lot of stress, space and money on your adventure!
1. Mix up your Luggage
Simple, if travelling as a couple unpack half your suitcase and swap it with your travel companion that way if one of you lose your suitcase not all is lost. One of our most used backpacking tips and tricks – mix up your hand luggage also, pack essentials such as pants, your toothbrush and a spare set of clothes into your carry on so if all hold luggage is lost your wanderlust won’t be.
First time backpacking? No idea where to start with the packing? Download our backpacking travel essentials checklist here. Or take a peek at our backpacking travel essentials for some packing inspiration (including the backpack we swear by!)
2. Photograph your Hotel
If like me, you a) have the worst sense of direction ever and b) enjoy copious amounts of wine then c) you often forget where you’re staying. Whether it’s finding your tent at a festival, making your way back to a hotel after a stag do, finding your hostel in a street full of hostels, it is so easy to forget where you are staying after a vino or 5. I photograph a memorable landmark nearby (usually a flashy-signed kebab shop as its somewhere I’m likely to visit on the way home.)
Especially if it’s your first time backpacking, those navigational skills ain’t too hot yet (or in my case, non-existent) so another tip is to simply screenshot your location on Google maps. That way you can show said smarty pants screenshot to a taxi driver or it’ll simply jog your wee hazy memory.
3. Cleaner isn’t always Safer
Street markets and stomach upsets has a wonderful ring to it. However, a great tip for first time backpackers is that, it is a common misconception that the food stalls with the overflowing bins alongside, would make you overflow in the bathroom. Go for the stall with more plates/plastic forks/paper napkins beside it as it means more people have ate there, therefor more popular and trusted = less likely to die from food poisoning.
Stalls that are less popular (and probably look cleaner) may have had food sitting out longer which is never good especially if it’s a rice or noodle dish. Use discretion wisely here, however!
4. Don’t compete with other travellers
We had left Venice before we realised we hadn’t gone on a Gondola. Imagine it, no cliché Instagram snap of us snuggled up as a striped stranger serenaded us, how would anyone possibly know we’d even been to Venice? We couldn’t care less. It’s one of the hardest tips for first time backpackers, as you can feel constantly overwhelmed however do not compete with other travellers.
Explore your way, take photos and make memories of the things you enjoy not the things you think you should do because everyone else has done them. Or worse, because you think it’ll get you more likes on Facebook.
5. Look Up
This is one of the tips for first time backpackers I wish I could scream from the rooftops (at least it would get people to look up and listen.) Too often, too many travellers spend their days with their heads looking down at a screen, missing the majority of their surroundings to watch a funny cat video on YouTube or to see a Snapchat of what their cousin ate for breakfast.
If it’s your first time backpacking, you may be missing home or you’re simply glued to sharing every moment on Instagram. Yet, from insane architecture to stunning street art or simply the sign for your hotel, the best bits are often out of eye line – so pause the cat video and look up.
6. One Adaptor
Not just for your first time backpacking, the best hack for girly holidays or simply to keep the peace between you and your travel partner. How many fights have you had when you need to use the hairdryer but they need to charge their phone and there’s only one adaptor. For years, we’ve packed one adaptor with an extension plugged in, allowing your phone and hair to be good to go at the same time.
For other travel essentials, including the adaptor of dreams (we have used it in over 20 countries!), take a look at our essential travel packing list.
7. Kindness gets you everywhere
There are times we have regretted our Britishness (we’re always the last ones off the bus as we let everyone go in front, we seem to be the only people that know how to queue, and we’ve seriously considered removing a TripAdvisor star if the waiter didn’t say please & thankyou) BUT karma rules the world folks. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our first time backpacking is that a simple smile goes a long way.
Our cheerful North East approach has earned us free drinks, upgrades (hello Mustang for free – more on that later) and a kind Greek lady offering to cook us dinner as we got chatting at a bus stop.
8. Get up Early
Have you ever seen a photo of the Taj Mahal without the crowds of people in front of it? You must be in the queue at 5am if you plan to photograph it without the selfie sticks and bus tours. Painful but pays off. One of the most forgotten tips for first time backpackers is to get up early. It means you skip the largest crowds and queues, have the best light for taking photos and not to mention the dodgy taxi drivers, scammers and general dodgers usually sleep in, so you’ll avoid those too!
9. Have offline & Online copies
In other words, back it up. Back everything up. Then back it up again. Not just the 7000 selfies and “hot dog or legs” photos but photocopies of your passport, plane tickets and hotel reservations. Having copies in “the cloud” such as Dropbox, Google Photos or Amazon drive but also on physical hard drives and old school printed for the most important ones.
When it was our first time backpacking, we also then swapped our docs. Now we do it every time we travel – he has a copy of all my documents and photos and vice versa. Y’know, just in case one of us kidnapped or the day actually comes where I leave him behind. Having one of those days too? This post is our best travel advice for travelling as a couple, maybe take a peek first before you sell those documents on the black market.
10. Don’t live it through your lens
When I was 16 I went on a school exchange programme to volunteer in Tanzania, during which I went to the Ngorongoro crater on Safari. This was my first time flying internationally and the photos from this trip were to be used for my photography exam. I will always remember the words my photography teacher said to me before I left and to this day, feel it’s one of the best tips for first time backpackers,
“don’t live it through your lens”
The majority of trips you will go on will be once in a lifetime adventures, which understandably you will want to capture on camera to show friends and family but there are some moments too magical to witness through a lens and should simply be lived not spent stressing over a filter, Snapchat story or how many likes it will get on Facebook.
As our adventure continues, our list of tips for first time backpackers will continue to grow. . . feel free to let us know if you’ve any backpacking tips and tricks you cannot travel without – or if any of these saved you a drama/dollar/dilemma or two! You might also enjoy our best apps for backpackers post as it too will save you money, time and stress.
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