Friday, 17 October 2014

The Feel Good Blogging Challenge #3 How To Prepare Yourself for a Backpacking Trip: A Beginner's Guide

Did you manage to catch Day 1 and Day 2 - have a sneaky peak.

So here's Day 3 - a tutorial...a 'how-to' for my readers.

I can't help but laugh to myself...all I can hear in my head is 'Andie Anderson, our resident how-to girl' and then start giggling about my love of How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days - amazing film!

Aaaanyway, my 'tutorial' post as instructed by Host Alex.

How To Prepare Yourself for a Backpacking Trip: A Beginner's Guide.

As I've spoken about many, many times (aka. bragged) I have recently returned from travelling the world. I had a beautiful trip across South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I said in my post for TFGBC Day 2 just how much I believe people should travel and see the world. We live in our tiny little bubble day to day and forget what amazing places there are out there.

For my trip, I suppose, minimal planning went into it. My friends and I booked our first flight to Bangkok and first nights accommodation and that was it. We pretty much winged it the whole time with hostels, booked flights along the way etc but the one thing you need to do: 


It really helps to have a route in mind - this not only allows you to plan your time (if you're restricted - by time or by money) but it also means you always travel in a geographically logical way - ie. you wouldn't start in Thailand, fly to Australia, fly back to Cambodia then go to New Zealand - big time waster and a huge strain on your bank account.

For my trip we went Thailand > Cambodia > Vietnam > Singapore > Bali > Australia (then I spent a while in Oz before NZ then back to Oz)

You have to be realistic. And I would really stress, you don't necessarily need a time scale unless it's more of a backpacking holiday than a backpacking life-escape you're venturing into.


I probably spent about 7 months saving up for my trip - I managed to get a fair amount in that time considering I was renting a property (an a pricey one at that! AND running a car too) but you really need to be a complete Scrooge for as long as you possibly can; it will not only make you feel more at ease but it will also mean you can do all of the things you want to do and, if you're doing an extended backpacking trip, not have to find work as soon. As well as putting away a chunk of my wages each month, I also sold bags and bags of stuff on eBay - one man's junk is another man's treasure - is that the saying? Well, whatever...people seemed to want to buy my twice-worn shoes and dresses! As far as Christmas/birthdays go - ask for money instead of presents because you really aren't going to need that beautiful polka dot teapot when you're traipsing round Angkor Wat with your hair scrapped back, no makeup on and a bumbag on, are you?


Your travel jabs and malaria tablets aren't the cheapest of things - especially the malaria tablets is. Trouble is, you need this stuff - it will literally save your life should something go a little wrong (Ubud has MANY monkeys hanging around so it's worth it!) I didn't end up having my Japanese Encephalitis jab but I would 100% tell you you need to have the Rabies jab. Fit For Travel is a great place to check the ones you will definitely need depending on your travel route. Malaria tablet wise - I have always taken Malarone. Doxycycline are known to have side effects and I know a lot of people that have suffered nausea or sensitivity to sunlight so wouldn't personally take that risk, especially having had Malarone on numerous occassions and been fine!


You need to shop around for a rucksack - some places might offer a complete bargain but the quality may not be great and you could be faced with a stitchy-situation (get I bought the Osprey 65 Litre Ariel outand it was AMAZING. Ridiculously sturdy, it opened in the middle (so no constant repacking which is always a winner!) and, even when full, wasn't completely unmanageable to carry. I found the most useful advice given to me was from staff at walking/hiking shops - I went to Outside in Hathersage (Derbyshire), which is where I bought mine too, and the advice they gave me was fantastic (they even molded it to my back as well - the backpack...not the advice, doh!)


As with the rucksack, shop around for the best price and maximum cover - sounds obvious I guess! I got my policy with Explorer Travel after a lot of reading up on it - they had the best price and best policy for me. I even renewed with them after deciding to extend my trip.


Most of the places I visited allow you to sort your visa out on the border/at the airport when you arrive. I seem to remember Vietnam being the only place we had to sort our visa out beforehand (which we did at the embassy in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.) With places like Australia, you need to have applied and had it confirmed beforehand. Australia has the tourist visa and the working holiday visa (note: you only get this up to the age of 30 AND you only get the one, so use it wisely!) A lot of jobs pay cash in hand so I do know people that did work whilst on a tourist visa but, if you're planning to do the regional work and stay an extra year, you need to ask yourself whether it's worth the risk of getting caught working without the appropriate visa. Here's some of the SE Asia visa advice I used.


Overpacking is inevitable! I made sure my backpack was 3/4 full, at most, and I still feel like I took way too much. If you're doing Asia, clothes and everything you could probably need is so cheap that you will end up buying things - so do not stress if you forget something. You really don't need that much, especially for the warmer climates. For places like Europe (ie. to inter-rail) you would probably pack very differently than you would for Asia/Australia/NZ. With the hotter climates, you end up just wearing light clothing, flipflops etc. If you're looking to do 'proper walking', you might want walking shoes/sandals but with the trips we did, I either did them in flipflops or Vans (for the more strenuous occasions - HA!)


Keeping my money safe was probably one of the bigger worries I had while I was away and pre-trip. When you're carrying your whole life in a little shell on your back, it can be a daunting thought when it comes to how to look after things in the best way. I opted for the STA Cashcard - you deposit your money into the account online or instore and it's ideal - no charges for pretty much every country and it means it's all safe in one place (plus, you budget a little more when it's not all in your purse - which would also be CRAZY incase it got stolen/lost). For my credit card (which I would definitely recommend when booking flights as it acts as an insurance policy) I chose the Post Office Credit Card - this has no international charges and they are ridiculously helpful if anything goes wrong. 


Finding flights is similar to finding travel insurance and rucksacks - you NEED to shop around for the best price. It also will depend if you're flying direct or not too. I am a creature of habit and like flying Emirates (I've flown a hell of a lot with them and the service has always been fantastic) - so Birmingham > via Dubai > Bangkok with them was my first (and my one-way flight). This was booked online through Skyscanner - a great little company for booking flights as they allow you to compare all of the latest prices. I know a lot of people that have booked through STA but, from personal experience, have always found them to be more expensive. While you're away, again, Skyscanner are great. For hostels and nice but cheap hotels, Hostelworld are brilliant (I would also suggest checking reviews on TripAdvisor as well as the Hostelworld reviews - it doesn't hurt to get a more thorough and honest opinion of the accommodation pre-stay)


It might seem like there's loads to think about but seriously, go and enjoy yourself. Have your wits about you, be cautious with strangers (SO many other backpackers and locals are ridiculously nice but remember to not make too quick judgement of people) Travelling and backpacking are two of the most amazing and fulfilling experiences so don't spend too much time worrying and overthinking your plans or whether you should do this, this or this - just go for it!

I hope this little how to will help anybody thinking about going away - there's so much more I could write and I intend to write many more posts related to my trip. Let me know if this is helpful!

Here's a couple of my travel planning posts from last year:
Planning a backpacking trip and How I made a start.

If you do fancy reading more about my trip, have a look at my Travel section.
I still have months and months of new updates so expect a lot more content over the coming weeks.



  1. Well, this came up a just the right moment. Been thinking about saving for a backpacking trip...

    1. Literally could not recommend it enough - get that backpack and head off! One of the best things I've ever done :) xx