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Ten Backpacking Travel Tips for Beginners

A list of travel tips for beginners I maintained during my travel.

The following tips are based on experiences of my travel in South East Asia. As a beginner of traveling I started to maintain a list of notes which turns out to be a useful list of ten travel tips for starters or maybe even advanced travellers. The list is, of course, not finished and some tips might not apply to you. If you have any suggestions feel free to mention them in the comment section.

Temples of Angkor Wat

1. Decide if you want to travel alone or not. I travelled alone for two months and travelled with my brother for one month. If you travel alone, you will have more time for yourself to reflect the recent experiences without the influences of others. You can decide on your own, what to do or where to go next on your own pace. You will meet more people than travelling in a group or as a couple. And you will really get to know somebody when travelling together for a while. I got in touch with a lot of different personalities of backpackers in my relatively short travel of three months and it was insightful to see travel and life in general from different perspectives. Travelling together is fun and you can have a good time enjoying the travel, including sharing experiences and getting to know each other better. I think it could really strenghten a relationship no matter if your travelling with a long-term friend or with your girlfriend or spouse. In conclusion, both types of travelling make sense. Nevertheless, I would deeply suggest that you should try both.

2. Before the travel, write down passwords, PIN codes etc. I learned this one from another story: After I was released from the hospital after only two weeks, I could not remember the login and encryption passwords for my computer. This was a shocking moment, because I thought that all my private data was lost. Fortunately, I remembered them after a couple of days. Nevertheless, this is a crucial tip when you are going on a travel.

3. Get recommendations, read travel guides. I think the best way to know where to go are recommendations from friends who share the same interest. Nevertheless, the are some very popular travel guides for maybe any country. The classic is a Lonely Planet travel guide book, which offers background information, maps and lists of places to eat, sleep, nightlife and activities. It costs about 25 Euro and you can take it everywhere you want. Be aware, the book might weigh a lot. If you are travelling with tablet or notebook, I suggest buying the PDF. Furthermore you can check out wikitravel.org and tripadvisor.com. The first offers information about the country and cities as well as VISA constraints. The latter is perfect for checking the reviews for a certain place for sleep, eat, party or any other activity offered in the destination city. But do not trust information on the internet easily, it might be out of date.

4. Take a notebook on your travel and write notes in the moment, because you will meet interesting people who might inspire you on different topics you are interested in. A travel is long and you easily forget even the most exciting ideas. Furthermore, as I already mentioned, you might get recommendations of your travel buddies, jot them down before you forget them. Of course, you can use your smartphone, but in my opinion it consumes too much time, and the anti-social behaviour that comes along with the use of a smartphone might discourage people on the table.

5. Travel lightly and keep a packing routine. Choose a lightly and thin (if your going to hot countries) clothes. It is even better if the clothes can be washed by hand, just in case there is no laundry arround. Take shoes and sandals that you can bend for storing. Things like shampoo you can buy almost everywhere and rent things if you need them. At one point of my travel I carried three books arround, maybe 2.5 kg. I think you are better off with an e-reader. If you are afraid of bad battery lifetime, take a USB power bar with you. Do not bring your DSLR, bridge cameras like the G-series of Canon will do the job. If you take your GoPro, you can use a tablet with an SD card reader to import the pictures and movies to the tablet. A backpack of 8 kg or less is perfect. While travelling leave things you do not need behind or ship them home. Furthermore, it is better to keep a packing routine. Use specific pockets for certain things, like important travel documents. This way you will not panic in case you need them quickly.

6. Take or buy a separate bag and a lot of zipper storage bags. In the separate bag you can store things you need while you are exploring the city and leaving your backpack at the accommodation. Make sure the separate bag is easy to store in your backpack and does not require much space. In my opinion, the best bags for this use case are drawstring bags or dry bags, depends on your travel. Take zipper storage bages, because you can separate stuff into different bags. For instance, a bag for electronic devices, a bag for important travel documents etc. Becaue of its waterproofness it is even useful for a day on the beach. You can use garbage bags to separate bigger stuff, like dirty clothes, from the rest or even save bigger equipment like a laptop computer from water damage.

7. Take or buy a pad lock, ear plugs, a sleeping mask, a classic watch. Most of the hostels have lockers to store your backpack and important things. Nevertheless, if you do not bring your own pad lock, you might end up buying or renting an overly expensive one. Make sure it is small and will fit most lockers. This one is optional: take a mosquito net, especially if you will stay near the water. A well-used mosquito net might even protect you from snakes and bugs like cockroaches. Ear plugs and a sleeping mask are useful if you stay in dorm rooms. It is easier to find cotton balls and a lightweight scarf in the stores. This equipment is even useful for long rides on buses or trains. Nowadays nearly everyone has a smart phone (I travel without a phone). But in case your battery is flat, or you do not want to bring it to a night out, a cheap watch with alarm clock is always good to have arround.

8. Do not book more than one night but stay longer. I met people who always like to book a bed or room in advance and I met people who like to spontanously decide between different accommodation. The first one is obviously the better choice if you know the city might be full of backpackers. Apparently, you dont want to end up staying at the worst hostel. The latter, remains flexibility, maybe you will meet interesting people along the ride to the city and want to stay with them for a while. Nevertheless, if you book a room or bed, just book one night, so you can decide after sleeping there one night if you want to stay or change the accommodation. In one or two days you will not get a representative impression of the place, stay longer, like five to seven days, there should be no need to rush on your travel.

9. Leave your travel documents at your accommodation and keep a money stash. In my opinion it is better to leave your documents, like passport or credit card at your accomodation. The exceptions might be, for instance, renting a vehicle (a passport is needed) or money withdrawal at an ATM. If you loose either passport or credit card, the rest of the travel might be a nightmare. The latter would be even worse, especially if you travel alone, so keep a money stash to survive the days until you have a new credit card. I met people who have two wallets and two credit cards, and leaving one pair at the accommodation.

10. Backup your photos and videos. Even on your travel it makes perfect sense, to backup your travel memories like photos and videos, because you can not be sure that your smartphone, camera or laptop will be stolen or will break. In case you take a laptop, use a SD card or USB flash drive to backup your data. Otherwise, you can probably use computers at the accommodation.

A good travel, take care and I will see you arround ;).

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