Every backpacker will have stories to tell and advice to give about their travels! When it comes to travel tips, everyone has their own preferences, and there can be a lot of good ideas to choose from!

The tips listed here should give you a helping hand with your planning, covering everything from what to sort before you travel, to personal safety precautions, to protecting your worldly goods, possessions and money!  Follow them, and you can get into your traveling life knowing you’ve catered for most eventualities, which will leave you organised, relaxed and ready to enjoy your exciting new adventures.

1.    Buy a Return Ticket

If you booked a return ticket alongside your outward flight, that’s fine! But if not, you’ll need to make sure your money does not run out – or you won’t be able to afford the trip home! Aside from giving peace of mind, buying a return ticket often works out a lot cheaper, because advance booking can give cheaper deals. When travelling, you will also need to have a return date for your insurance.

2.    Travel Insurance

Before you go, it’s very important that you take out travel insurance; likely for a long duration, and which covers you for everything you’ll want to do. A specified backpacker policy will normally offer all the cover you need for your trip, but it is worth checking. If you intend to try adventurous activities or sports such as scuba diving, parascending, hiking, or even camel or elephant riding – you will need to check you are covered for these activities before you travel, as you may need to upgrade to a slightly more comprehensive cover.

  • Before purchasing, check the list of activities on the policy wording to make sure your likely holiday pursuits will be covered.
  • Purchase your travel insurance before you depart from the UK otherwise your policy won’t be valid. Validity also requires that you return home to the UK when your travels are finished.
  • Keep your insurance policy schedule, or a copy of it with you at all times so you have it to hand should an emergency. Most hospitals will ask for your cover details before they treat you. If you are injured or in need of treatment, you will need to ring the 24 hour emergency assistance line and they will be able to help you sort out medical care. If you are seriously ill and unable to carry on with your trip, your insurance company will arrange for you to be repatriated back to the UK – if that is covered in your policy. It really is worth reading through your travel policy before you travel so you are aware of what is, and what is not covered.

3.    Vaccinations

Before you travel, usually 6 weeks ahead of time, it is wise to check if you need any immunisations with your GP’s surgery. Your doctor will know what vaccinations are appropriate for the reasons you plan to visit, and the activities you plan to do. They will also check the dates for jabs you may have had in case you need any boosters. Do this in good time before your travel date as you may need to begin a course of malaria tablets before you go, or may need the certification of immunisation to cross through immigration.

4.    Keep copies of documents

Bring copies of all your important travel documents (including your passport) with you, and keep then separate to the originals. This way you will have a copy in case they get lost or stolen. You can scan copies to your mobile phone too, or email them to yourself. This way you will have additional accessible copies, via the cloud or through a quick visit to an internet cafe. Lastly, you should leave copies of your passport and other documents with friends or family at home as a back-up. They can always email or mail them to you if necessary.

5.    Wear a Money Belt

Keep your passport, tickets, bank cards & cash, in a money-belt under your clothes and don’t show it when taking out money. Keep a very small amount of cash in your pockets (ones that have fastenings) so that you don’t have to ‘reveal’ your belt. If you don’t have access to a safe, keep your cash and belt under your pillow when you sleep, or in your sleeping bag.

You should always separate your money and keep it in different locations. A lot of travellers have secret pockets sewn into their underwear for safe keeping of cash – an ingenious deterrent to pick-pockets. Splitting up cash also means you won’t loose everything, should someone find your stash. Be careful when using an ATM and be aware of pickpockets – remember that some of the very best can be children.

6.    Travel Light. Carry Little Cash & No Valuables

  • Experienced backpackers leave the bulk of their cash in the bank, and leave their valuables at home.
    Only bring the essentials you need and don’t take anything you can’t replace.
  • Spread your cash across 2 or 3 bank accounts and take multiple debit or credit cards in case one card malfunctions and refuses to dispense cash, is not accepted at your destination, or is lost or stolen.
  • Don’t keep all your cards together in one place.
  • Sleep with your money belt on or keep it close by in a safe or sleeping bag where it can’t be stolen.
  • Get a pacsafe. These are steel wire nets that cover your backpack and have a chain and padlock to secure it to something.

7.    Personal Safety

Be aware of personal safety at all times. Try not to be a target for thieves e.g. be discreet with an expensive camera hanging round your neck, and keep an eye on your belongings. Try not to stand out from the crowd or draw attention to yourself if possible!

Don’t leave your bag, mobile, camera, or iPad unattended while you go and buy drinks or food. Even when you’re sightseeing, there may be opportunist thieves waiting. Tourist sites are theft hotspots. Get yourself used to being vigilant at all times especially in crowded areas. Be aware in areas where local income is low, as thieves will be more likely to operate in these places.

Typically when you’re away, relaxing and having fun, a few drinks are a common sight! However try not to get so drunk that you have no control over what happens to you, it’s best to stay alert in unfamiliar places.

Always be mindful of local scams, theft or worse. People approaching you to distract you in some way, helping to prop you up if you stumble, and unlicensed taxis are all common threats. Keep in touch with family and friends throughout your trip so they know you are safe, and arrange a time that you will be back with people in your dorm.

8.    Local Knowledge

Before your trip, find out all about the places you are visiting to get knowledge on the culture, the best places to visit, learn about any typical local scams, and to secure some general local knowledge. This will give you a head start on your arrival, and allow you to better understand the culture. You will meet a lot of fellow travellers who will be able to give you some great ideas for places to see or tips they have already found. Always respect the culture of the country you are visiting. For example certain countries will require you to dress modestly in places of worship, or may have different and very strict rules on drinking.

9.    Avoid Hitch-hiking

Though you may think hitch-hiking will make your money go further, you don’t know anything about your potential free driver who may see you as a wealthy target, so this is a very risky activity. If you were at home you would probably not take a lift with a stranger for safety reasons, so don’t do it abroad. Public transport is a far safer mode of travel. Remember that there is safety in numbers.

10.  Personal Hygiene

With the need to travel light you will need to take just the minimum of luxury and comfort items in your backpack, and every traveler has their own preference! In addition to a small medical kit, basic ablution items that you should bring with you include:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Alcohol gel-based hand sanitizer
  • Cotton bandanna or wash cloth
  • Wet-wipes/baby wipes
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Absorbent pack towel
  • Toilet paper in its own plastic bag

Happy travelling – have fun, make new friends and travel safe!


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ERGO Customer - December 2019