Nine Weird Backpacking Hacks No One Tells Newbies About
So you’ve decided to venture out into the world in search of #wanderlust – your dreams of hitting the road with nothing more than what you can carry are coming true. You’ve even bought yourself a fancy backpack with all sorts of zips and compartments. And as an absolute backpacking newbie, you’ve considered rolling your new pack in some dirt to disguise the fact you have NFI how to act the part.
Before you start ripping holes in your fave jeans, or perfecting your story about that time you “travelled through Asia” (actually Bali for schoolies), take note of these weird backpacking hacks that no one tells you about so you can immediately start living your best nomad life.
#1 Take the free walking tours
The first thing you should do in any destination is to find a free walking tour. Or if you’re in search of profound life lessons, some say this is the first place you should visit. Apart from the obvious fact that this is free, it will allow you to find your bearings as quickly as possible – avoiding situations where you might get lost (and need to unnecessarily spend money on public transportation or cabs). You also have a rich source of information in your guide, so ask as many questions as possible. While the tour may be free, make sure tip if you enjoyed the experience.
#2 Borrow things from other travellers
Chances are you’ll never see them again in your life. In all seriousness, this doesn’t mean you should be a complete scab and take things from other people. However, you really don’t need to carry around every single thing that might be necessary on your trip.
Good backpackers take care of each other and are happy to help when they can, so if you cut your finger chances are someone will be able to help you out with a bandaid. As long as you have the same attitude towards other travellers, there’s no need to feel guilty about asking.
#3 Ask Mum for cooking tips before you leave
Cooking in hostel kitchens is not only a great way to save money, it’s a fun way to bond with your new travel mates. Have a few easy go-to recipes up your sleeve to both feed and impress the masses. They’ll be grateful to you, which is the perfect way to kick off a friendship.
#4 Volunteer your time for unique experiences
Even if you can’t find a set program, it’s always a good idea to get in contact with wherever it is you want to go and ask if you can work for board. The opportunities are endless: hostels, yoga retreats, animal sanctuaries… Maybe it’s a long shot. But the worst that can happen is they say “no”. It may just be your luck that wherever it is would appreciate and extra hand on deck.
#5 Talk to strangers
Make friends with other travellers in hostels or on free walking tours. Find out where they’re going, and see if they want to team up and split costs to get there. Things can often be cheaper when organised in a group.
You should also talk to locals and get their tips on where’s good to visit. You never know what opportunities can arise from making friends with new people. Also chat with people about what they’ve learnt in their travels, and pass on your own backpacking hacks.
#6 Street food actually won’t kill you
Surprising, I know, but the food that locals eat is usually safe for consumption, and street food makes for some of the tastiest, cheapest meals in the world. Look, there is always a risk that you can get food poisoning, but it’s not only from street vendors that there’s a risk. The golden rule is to stick to hot food, and vegetarian is always best.
Go with your gut instinct – if a place looks dodgy, and there’s no-one else eating there, it’s probably best to avoid it.
#7 Ask if you can share a hostel bed to save money
If you’re travelling as a couple or with a close friend, some hostels will allow you to share one bed between you. Sure, it’ll be cramped, and you’ll be all up in each others’ space, but it can save you a bunch of cash.
#8 Early flights are the best
If you book an early flight, you can be up and onto the next destination before you’ve even properly woken up. And you can always nap on the plane. When you arrive, depending on the length of the flight, you could have most of a day to explore (or see #1).
If it’s early enough, and you’re out the night before, you can even skip sleeping and head straight to the airport. The person seated next to you may suffer from your lack of shower, but you will save money on both flights and accommodation.
#9 BYO water and travel snacks everywhere
Of all the backpacking hacks on this list, this might be the most under-appreciated. Bring water wherever you go, and squirrel away stashes of free food whenever you can – zip-lock bags are great for this.
Make sure you always travel prepared with snacks – whether it’s muesli bars, soy crisps, fruit or Jatz, just bring food with you everywhere. It’ll come in handy on flights, during delays, or on activities on which you thought there would be food but there’s not. I promise, among all these backpacking hacks you’ll thank me for this bit of advice.
(Lead image: Wild / Fox Searchlight Pictures)