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Get ready for adventure: How to plan a backpacking trip

Updated: Apr 1

There is no more liberating feeling than putting on a backpack and heading off on an adventure.


Embarking on a backpacking adventure is more than just a trip; It is a path of self-discovery, enriching experiences, and immersion in culture.

If you have already decided to leave your routine behind and embark on this adventure, then this article is for you.


Planning a backpacking trip requires organization and consideration of several aspects, from choosing the destination to the practical details of the trip. Throughout this essential guide, we will cover topics such as itinerary selection, budget, choosing the right equipment, and tips to ensure an unforgettable trip.


Are you ready to start this adventure? So, let's go!


Disclaimer: In this article you will find some links to different travel's partners. They are all trustworthy and if you use some of them to book an experience or stay, for example, you are helping us maintaining the work we do on this project.

Step-by-step guide to help you plan your backpacking trip


Establish objectives and the destination:

The first step is to define your goal for this trip. Do you want a cultural, adventure, or relaxation trip to enjoy several beaches?

Next, it's time to choose your destination: Europe, Southeast Asia, South America? These are perhaps the 3 best-known backpacker trips. Choose the one that best suits your interests.

Keep in mind that the choice of destination will also determine the budget. A backpacking trip through Southeast Asia is much more affordable than one around Europe.


Define the Budget: 

The second step is one of the most important – establishing a total budget for the trip.

This point largely depends on the type of trip you want to take. Considers costs such as air tickets, local transport, accommodation, food, activities, and unforeseen expenses that may arise.

In our case, we chose Southeast Asia, which is a destination that can be very affordable. After doing some math and following tips from other travelers, we established a daily average of €40 per day per couple. And as incredible as it may seem, we managed to do it!


Travel duration:

Now that you have defined the budget you have for backpacking, determine the time you have available to do it. Do you intend to go for 6 months, 1 year, 2 years? Do you want to take an unpaid leave of absence or say goodbye and go on an adventure with no return date? This is a very important decision, as it can define your future when you return from your trip.

In our case, we quit our jobs and left with a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia.


Basic itinerary:

It's time to choose the destinations you most want to visit and create a general itinerary with the order of your visit.

Sharing our experience, since the destination was Southeast Asia, we chose to follow the "Banana Pancake Trail", a well-known route among backpackers. This itinerary begins in Thailand, continues to Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and then returns to southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. This route is recognized for providing a mix of adventure, nature, paradisiacal beaches, and a relaxed atmosphere. On this route, traveling is quite easy, as it is possible to cover the entire distance to Malaysia by land, without needing to take any plane.


Note: Leave room for flexibility and improvisation, if you want to add a destination or experience.


Best time to go:

Depending on the destination you choose to go backpacking, it is important to consider some aspects such as the weather and the season.

In destinations like Southeast Asia, it's crucial to avoid the monsoon season so you don't run the risk of being cooped up in your hotel for days. The best time to travel to this side of the world is between November and April, as temperatures are milder and there is less chance of rain. However, it is important to note that the monsoon season varies in each country, so we recommend that you visit the website https://www.selectiveasia.com/ to obtain specific information about each destination you have chosen.


Documentation:

Before leaving, check that you have all the necessary documents, such as:

  • Passport: valid for a minimum of 6 months after the date of return;

  • Vaccination card;

  • International Driving License: If you plan to drive during your trip, an international driving license may be required in some countries;

  • Visa: Check if the first country you are going to visit requires an entry visa. Throughout your trip, check the visa requirements for each country you intend to visit and obtain them in advance if necessary;

  • Copies of documents: Photocopies of your passport, insurance policy, and driving license may be useful. Keep them separate from the originals.;

  • ATM Cards: The Revolut Card is great for travel; We always use it and have never had any problems. With this card, you do not pay exchange fees for the local currency.


Make sure your passport has enough validation
Make sure your passport has enough validation

Vaccines and Health:

Check with your traveler to find out if there are mandatory and/or recommended vaccinations that you should take before leaving. In our case, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and Japanese encephalitis were recommended. The latter was sold out in Portugal, so we took it in Bangkok, our first destination.

Bring a first aid kit with some medications you may need, such as antidiarrheals, painkillers, anti-inflammatories...


Travel insurance:

Having travel insurance is very important to prevent any unforeseen events that may arise during your trip. Before you leave, purchase insurance that covers medical expenses, cancellations, and other unforeseen events.


IATI offers different types of travel insurance, with assistance 24 hours a day.

Through our link, you have a special 5% discount on all insurance. Ensure your safety and peace of mind during your trip, prevention is better than cure.



Suitcase or Backpack:

As the name suggests, there is nothing more practical than traveling with a backpack.

We chose to take a 50-liter backpack each, and it was enough.


Remember, traveling light is essential. Only take what you need and avoid taking more than you need. It's always good to have extra space if you want to bring some souvenirs from the countries you've been to.


When backpacking, it is important to travel light and only with the essentials.
When backpacking, it is important to travel light and only with the essentials.

What to take:

- Clothing: Choose light and versatile clothes, suitable for the weather of the destination.

- Footwear: practical and comfortable.

- Toiletries: Basic items and small bottles to save space.

- Electronic Equipment: Chargers, adapters, and essential devices.

You can see everything we took in our backpacking trip in the article we made for you about what to take on a backpacking trip.


Expense Control:

In our case, we use the Travel Spend app, which is very practical and easy to use. You can enter your total budget and the number of days you want to travel. It has several functions, such as dividing by country and into different categories, such as supermarket, transport, accommodation, etc. We highly recommend it.


Communications: 

To stay connected while traveling, you have two options: get an eSIM or buy a local SIM card.


The most practical solution is to buy an eSIM. At Airalo, you have several options for several days at affordable prices. To do this, simply have an eSIM-compatible cell phone and purchase the card through the Airalo app. It's very easy, fast and intuitive.


The second option is to buy a local SIM card, which ends up being more affordable. In each country, there are several companies offering this service; just look for the one that best suits your needs.


Accommodation:

Throughout our trip, looking for accommodation was very easy. We always book through Booking.com or Agoda (an application similar to Booking, but more used in Asia).


You will find accommodation for all types of tastes and budgets. We can say that the most expensive accommodation we stayed in cost €24 per night in Kuala Lumpur, but most were around €12-14. It is important to note that all the accommodations we stayed in were double rooms and the vast majority had a private bathroom. If you choose to stay in hostels, you can get even more affordable prices.


If you plan to visit busy destinations in high season, we recommend that you make reservations in advance. For example, the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand are a small paradise that attracts many visitors. If they are on your itinerary, we advise you to book a few weeks in advance.


Transport:

Throughout the Southeast Asia region, we researched the transport options to use on the 12.go website and highly recommend them. It is very easy to use and the prices are affordable. You can book through our link.


We passed most of the borders by land, and the process was not complicated.

In some destinations, we choose to rent a scooter. This choice allowed us to have more freedom to explore places at our own pace and at a very affordable price. Normally, renting a scooter never costs more than €5 per day.


Sleep buses are very famous in Vietnam
Sleep buses are very famous in Vietnam

Food:

One way to save money is to explore local cuisine. Look for restaurants frequented by locals and avoid tourist places. Choosing to buy snacks in supermarkets also turns out to be an economical option.


Local culture:

Whatever your travel destination, look for information about local culture and traditions. This way you will be prepared to respect practices and customs, avoiding uncomfortable situations.




These are the tips we have for you, based on our experience.


Going backpacking is a unique and unforgettable experience. If you are in doubt whether you should do it, take the risk and do it. We don't know anyone who has regretted of traveling.


This adventure is not just a trip, it is also an opportunity for growth, discovery, and connection with the world around you. May this trip provide you with not only new places but also knowledge of your own essence.


Now, with your itinerary outlined and your backpack on your back, set off with the certainty that each step will be an additional page in the book of your own adventure.

Bon voyage!


Backpacking through Asia
On our backpacking trip we went through beautiful places like this

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