51 Things You MUST Know Before Backpacking - from someone who has done the damn thing

50 BACKPACKING TRAVEL TIPS:

1. NEVER CLOSE YOUR EYES ON A BUS, TRAIN, ECT

You never know what you could miss. 

2. ARRIVE STARVING

 Your first meal will be that much better. 

3. IF IT SEEMS LIKE THERE IS SOMETHING OFF ABOUT SOMEONE, THERE PROBABLY IS

4. SAVE YOUR BLANKET FROM THE PLANE

So you can use it to protect yourself from a crummy, dirty bed in a crummy, dirty hostel.  

5. DON'T GIVE AWAY YOUR PASSPORT

A lot of places will ask for your passport as collateral for a key.  Um, unless they are holding it while you borrow the crown jewels, refuse to hand it over.  Offer something else.

6. DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL EVERY DAY

Your body is all you have. Without it, you cant do anything. Hike, walk, swim, stretch...

7. ALWAYS PICK THE WINDOW SEAT

You can lean up against it to sleep, plus you get the best view - this is how I saw Afghanistan when flying to Sweden from Thailand.

8. DRINK SO MUCH WATER YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE

Hi, this is water.  It is your new best friend.

9. BE WARY OF PROPRIETORS WHO PUSH TRIPADVISOR

They often focus their energy on appearing like a good place, then actually being a good place. Stellar TripAdvisor reviews does not a stellar experience make...

10. LISTEN TO PODCASTS

Anywhere, anytime - bus rides, exploring temples, walking down streets....

11. TOILET PAPER AND HAND SANITIZER - ALWAYS

Mostly for Asia, but not a bad travel practice to get into.  In Asia it is flat out necessary. 

12. VIEWS FROM THE GROUND ARE PRETTY COOL TOO

Listen, if they can charge you for it, they will.  Case in point - any view ever.  Just because it costs money doesn't mean it is worth it. If you don't feel like paying or waiting in line, don't sweat it. Views from the ground up the tower can be pretty cool too. 

13. THE FIRST WORD YOU SHOULD LEARN IN ANY LANGUAGE IS SORRY

and then hello, cheers, goodbye, and thank you

14. CHECK FOR YOUR WALLET, PHONE, CAMERA, AND PASSPORT ANYTIME YOU LEAVE ANYWHERE

Did you hear me? ANYTIME you leave ANYWHERE. You should always know the last place you saw it.

15. DON'T EAT SEAFOOD ON A PLANE

or anything that isn't packaged nuts, to be honest.

16. PIN YOUR NEXT HOSTEL OR HOTEL BEFORE YOU LEAVE WIFI

or you'll get off that overnight bus at 5am, realize you don't have internet, nothing is open, and you have no clue how to get to your hostel.

17. USE MAPS.ME OFFLINE MAPS

18. DOWNLOAD MUSIC, AUDIO BOOKS, PODCASTS, ECT. BEFORE YOU LEAVE WIFI

Before you leave your hostel, the last thing you should do to get your money's worth is download a ton of stuff on their wifi... plus you'll have something to do while en route to your next destination. 

19. BREAK LARGE BILLS AT AIRPORT ATMS BY BUYING SOMETHING SMALL AT THE AIRPORT

There is nothing like getting stacks of literal million dollar notes from an ATM. Break them at the airport - they should have change (most smaller places won't).

20. MUSIC CAN TRANSPORT YOU TO ANOTHER TIME, AND ANOTHER PLACE

This can be a good or bad thing - proceed with caution.

21. ACCEPT THAT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO SEE IT ALL

22. FOLLOW OTHER TOURISTS

How often do I say this? Never.  I mostly mean when you aren't sure which exit to use at a subway stop, or which counter to stand behind at the airport.  Have crowd mentality in these moments only.

23. HOTELS WILL DO YOUR LAUNDRY

Even if you aren't staying there. Just walk in and ask. 

24. DON'T WALK AROUND WITH YOUR PHONE IN YOUR HAND

That shit is going to get snatched.  

25. DOWNLOAD WHATSAPP BEFORE YOU LEAVE

This is how the rest of the world texts.

26. FOOD AT REST STOPS IS STALE

So don't get too excited when you have your first oreo in months.

27. THE SUN IS STRONGER THEN YOU THINK

Don't be an idiot, lube up.

28. SAVE PLASTIC BAGS

Wrapping up wet/dirty clothing, carrying breakables, transporting laundry... keep them. You will be happy you did. 

29. BRING A SPEAKER

30. TRY TO BOOK YOUR HOSTEL AT LEAST 1 DAY IN ADVANCE

There are two types of people reading this: 1 - the person who can't imagine showing up in a city and then figuring out where they are sleeping, and 2- the type of person who can't imagine taking the time to book in advance. I hover somewhere in the middle.

However, the "good" hostels book up fast (you know, the one everyone recommends). If you really want to stay somewhere, try to reserve a spot a few days in advance.

31. BEFORE YOU BREAK YOUR NECK TAKING A PICTURE, THERE WILL BE ANOTHER PHOTO OPP

When walking up to a monument, don't fret. You will see it again on the way out.  Drop your camera, live in the moment. 

32. BRING MANY PAIRS OF HEADPHONES

33. ACCEPT YOU'RE GOING TO GET RIPPED OFF

34. ACCEPT THAT YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO WEAR A FRONTPACK

35. ACCEPT YOU'RE GOING TO GET LOST

and it hardly matters, because it is 2017.

36. MIX COFFEE BEFORE YOU DRINK IT

In Asia they sweeten coffee with condensed milk.  They pour in the condensed milk, pour coffee on top, throw in a straw, and then serve it to you. LISTEN TO ME - mix the coffee before you take a sip. A mouthful of condensed milk can seriously ruin your day. 

37. JUST BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE DOING IT, IT DOESN'T MEAN IT IS SAFE

We travelers are an adventurous bunch.  While a random sample of the world's population might not go cliff jumping, a random sample of travelers might.  Give the phrase, "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it?" more heed when traveling.  Motorbikes, animal fighting, fire dancing... just be smart, people!

38. PIN SPOTS ON GOOGLE MAPS/MAPS.ME FOR LATER

If you hold your finger down on a spot on Google Maps and Maps.Me, you can pin it for later. This is great for saving your hostel/hotel's location, but also remembering cool places you want to revisit later. 

39. IF YOU "SAVE SOMETHING FOR LATER," REMEMBER TO ACTUALLY LOOK AT IT

I seriously had lists and lists of "must visit spots" scattered in journals and on my devices during my trip.  I didn't find half of them until after I left the areas mentioned. Do yourself a favor - condense these lists, and remember to look at them!  

40. SOMETIMES YOU'RE GOING TO BE "OVER IT"

It will pass. 

41. REMEMBER TO EAT

because even the most lovely place in the world sucks when you're hangry. 

42. DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU PURCHASE SOMETHING

or you will be me, the girl who paid $70 more than everyone else on her Mekong River Cruise. 

43. SUNRISES MIGHT NOT BE WORTH IT

If you ever hear me say I am getting up for a sunrise, stop me. Clouds - fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, three times... four times... five times... shame on me. 

44. IF YOU LOVE A PLACE, DON'T LEAVE

It is better to properly enjoy one spot than cross a million places off your list. 

45. TRANSPORT - BUSES, PLANES, TRAINS, - ARE THE BEST PLACES TO MEET PEOPLE

Yeah, you can force conversation in your hostel, but transport is actually the most natural place to make conversation.  Find the other people wearing backpacks and ask: "Are you also going to *city name*?" "Do you know where you are staying?" "Where are you coming from?"

46. USE CANDY TO MEET PEOPLE

This is literally the creepiest thing I have ever said, but I carry around a bag of sweets for low moments when traveling. If I want to talk to someone, I offer them a piece to start a conversation. Is that super creepy? Please lmk.  

47. DON'T BE AFRAID TO DO THINGS ALONE

48. PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY TO HELP YOU IF YOU ARE KIND, NOT DEMANDING

49. EVERYONE SMOKING CIGARETTES DOESN'T SUDDENLY MAKE THEM LESS DEADLY

Cigarettes being $0.75 a pack doesn't make them any less deadly. 

50. WHEN YOU'RE BEING TIRED AND LAZY SUCK IT UP... BECAUSE ONE DAY YOU'LL BE BACK HOME, AND THE ENTIRE TRIP WILL FEEL LIKE A DREAM

Phew.  There. Now you are ready to take on the world!

Keep reading:

<More Southeast Asia backpacking tips

HAPPY GALLIVANTING! 

<Destinations
<Backpacking Tips