I’ve been on a long-term trip for more than 5 years. Here are my 36 best tips for your trip around the world as a backpacker and individual traveler.
1. Expect everything to go wrong
And be happy if it does work out. An individual trip often does not stick to a plan and there is no one to complain to.
Even if you find someone responsible for the delay or the poor quality: getting excited doesn’t help. There is nothing you can do about it, so don’t get upset unnecessarily.
Tip: Learn what serenity means while traveling.
2. Plan as little as possible
We are masters at planning. But don’t forget: the best research cannot prepare you for how you feel about a travel destination.
Already have a temple fever on the first day?
Do you like national parks better than beaches?
Even if you find someone responsible, you cannot even react to your wishes. And if not you then who?
Tip: Only plan loosely beforehand and commit yourself to travel day by day.
3. Try not to plan anything at all
Traveling is very easy in the popular backpacking countries in Asia and Latin America. Almost everything can be done straight away, just drop by on-site. You don’t have to book buses, tours, or accommodation, and you don’t have to organize almost anything else.
If you book in advance you pay more than with flexible travel and you have noa what you are getting yourself into. I haven’t had to reserve accommodation in 5 years.
Tip: Save yourself the stress of planning and travel flexibly.
4. Accept that you cannot see everything
Thailand in 4 weeks? India in 3 months? Half a year for South America? In such a short time you will only be able to see a fraction of the interesting places, get to know culture and people only superficially.
The sooner you come to terms with it, the more you can enjoy your trip.
Tip: You only have enough time for tastings and that’s fine.
5. Spend more time in fewer places
Resist the urge to step on the gas to see as much as possible. If you want to get to know a travel destination, you’d better go in-depth rather than in-depth.
“Turtles can tell you more about the way than rabbits.”
Halve the number of places to get to know them better in twice as much time. The slower you travel the sooner you can participate in everyday life. The untouristic experiences are at least as important.
6. Food is the best reason to travel
Most of the people in the world have never eaten pizza, burgers, cereal, corn flakes, and other western foods. They have their kitchen and, like us, don’t like trying anything new.
Unfortunately, because getting to know the different dishes of the world is one of the best reasons to travel. Love goes through the stomach, also love for your travel destination.
Tip: Eat everything you see and not just everything you know.
7. Eat local food in local restaurants as often as possible
The booth on the corner with old grandma and only one dish? The little corrugated iron shed in front of which the locals sit? There is more food there than in your accommodation or the tourist restaurant.
You only have 3 meals a day. Don’t arbitrarily waste any of these on junk food or dishes that you can eat at home. It starts with breakfast.
8. The lower your budget, the more you experience
Do you have 800 euros for 2 months in Southeast Asia? Do you want to travel through India for 3 months with 1,000 euros? You’ll sleep on dubious beds in windowless rooms and spend many hours on local chicken buses. You will eat what everyone eats here and explore on foot. You will come into contact with locals frequently and will have to rely on their help again and again.
In other words, you will have the journey of a lifetime!
Tip: Traveling with little money is the most intense way of traveling.
9. Traveling is cheaper than staying at home
A short vacation is expensive because you want to experience as much as possible in a short period. But a trip doesn’t have to be a short vacation. The more time you have, the cheaper it will be to travel.
If you travel long enough to cancel or sublet your apartment, traveling is even cheaper than staying at home, for r example in these 25 travel destinations
You can exchange time for money, whether you are working or traveling.
Tip: Travel doesn’t have to be expensive.
10. 150 out of 200 countries are much cheaper than the other 50
We come from a rich industrial nation and have a strong currency. Thanks to geo-arbitrage, 3 out of 4 countries are very cheap for us. If you want your euro to last longer, avoid industrialized nations and travel to the G77 and non-aligned countries. (approx. 150 countries)
If you’ve seen everything interesting there, you can still blow your money in London, Paris and New York.
Tip: The choice of a travel destination has the greatest impact on your budget.
11. Don’t be stingy
You have saved a long time for your trip and want your euros to last a long time. Sometimes we travelers get into a savings mania and then haggle for minutes for 10 cents. The trader also likes to haggle, but at a certain point, it is too much of a good thing.
Also: “Live and let live!”
Tip: Count your euros, but not your cents.
12. Don’t be wasteful either
You think what the extra few euros do or maybe you give a good tip. If everyone does this, it is expected soon and travelers after you will at some point only be seen as walking purses.
Even the locals do not benefit from the price gouging in the long term.
Tip: Pay fair and think of travelers after you.
13. Agree with your euros
Your purchasing power when traveling is much higher than that of the local population. After all, you saved a long time for the trip and also come from one of the richest countries in the world.
If you pay to take selfies with stunned tigers or long-necked women, then you vote with your euros for such practices.
Tip: Spend your money consciously and think about the consequences on site.
14. Save the most money on intercontinental flights
Stopovers are a way to see more than one travel destination at no extra charge. Stick to intercontinental low-cost airlines and “race tracks” with a lot of passengers and high competition.
One-way flights are better than round-the-world tickets. Round trips are better than one-way. Open-jaw flights are better than round trips. Error fares are best.
Tip: Book flights smart, this is where the greatest savings potential can be found.
15. Let flight experts search for you
If you can’t find an error fare or otherwise a good deal, let flight experts help you. There are people whose job is to find the best flight connections. You won’t find many of them as normal mortal.
If the offer of the flight experts is not at least the finder’s fee better than your flight, you pay nothing.
Tip: The biggest mistake when searching for flights is only to look for it yourself.
16. Land travel
There is no alternative to intercontinental flights. But once you’re in the right region, buses and trains are the best way to see something of your destination. If you only fly from A to B you will miss everything in between.
You will also come into contact with locals and other travelers much better, especially on the train than on a short-haul plane.
Also, get on the local chicken bus for an unfollow your travel destination
Tip: stay on the ground to dive deep into your travel destination.
17. There is no such thing as being too touristy
Bangkok is too touristy and Kathmandu too? Just a 10 minute walk from Khao San Road and Thamel, you’ll have a hard time finding more than one tourist.
Streams of tourists are only concentrated in a few places and at breakfast time and before that you even have these places all to yourself.
So please don’t miss the sights of the world. Sooner or later you will come “Off the beaten path” all by yourself.
Tip: Stay calmly on the beaten path or better fit for 10 minutes.
18. Leave the travel guide stuck sometimes
A travel guide is a good tool to not miss anything that interests you. But more information is not necessarily better.
The best way to discover a new city is to lose yourself haphazardly in the alleys. At least on the first day, leave the travel guide attached and give your travel destination the opportunity to surprise you.
Tip: Do not disenchant your travel destination by finding out all the details beforehand.
19. Visit many festivals
Museums, ruins, and temples show the glorious past. To see the culture and mentality of the present in-depth, take a look at the festival calendar.
Most of the time, you only have to change your route slightly to be able to experience several celebrations at the same time.
Tip: Visit festivals to see your travel destination at its best.
20. Do tours on your own
You can do most of the guided tours on your own. Do some research and then get started. No matter whether it’s a short city tour or a multi-day hike in the Himalayas, it is extremely fulfilling to get along in a foreign country on your own.
Sometimes, however, a guide is also a good idea, e.g. in Mongolia, or even mandatory, e.g. on the Manaslu tea house trek. On other teahouse treks such as Annapurna or Everest Basecamp, guides are unnecessary.
Tip: Find out beforehand whether you need a guide
Also Read: Hepatitis Protection For Travelers
21. Take more photos
Anyone who makes fun of taking photos while traveling has not tried it yet. With the camera, you can experience your travel destination even more intensely. When you are back home you can review your trip again.
Take the selfie stick with you or let other people take pictures of you. You’re not a narcissist just because you want some nice pictures of yourself.
Tip: Traveling makes you happy and so is photography.
22. Bring a good camera suitable for travel.
Don’t waste your great motifs by taking photos with a cell phone camera or by lugging a camera that is too heavy with you, which is in the room most of the time.
When I left 5 years ago, I had to carry a heavy DSLR with me for good image quality. Thanks to modern camera technology, this is unnecessary today. My travel camera is now a 300g professional compact camera.
Tip: Professional compact cameras are the ideal compromise between size, flexibility, and image quality.
23. Learn the basics of photography
The automatic mode delivers great pictures. But you can’t take many photos with the automatic. You don’t need to know a lot to control your camera and take better pictures.
The 20% minimum basic travel photography skills make 80% of your photos better. The remaining 20% also come with experience and you will get more than enough of them on your trip.
Tip: Learn a few basic photography skills for many better pictures.
24. You only need half as much luggage as you think.
Buy a high-quality, light, and not too large backpack (~ 40l, ~ 800g), pack it, and then unpack half of it again. You can leave what you don’t need at home. You’ll want to send it home after a week anyway.
If you do forget something important, you can easily buy almost everything on site. You are also not out of the world on a world tour.
Tip: When it comes to luggage, less is usually more.
25. Traveling with hand luggage saves time and money
With hand luggage, you never have to wait at the baggage carousel or pay a baggage surcharge again. Your luggage can never be lost or damaged again.
It’s a lot easier than you think to shrink to carry-on size. With most airlines, you can take 7kg luggage and a personal item with you, e.g. a laptop and camera bag that fits under the seat. So you can take around 11kg of hand luggage with you. You don’t need more, whether it’s 2 weeks or 2 years.
Tip: Traveling with hand luggage is easier and more liberating than you think.
26. Take several credit cards with you
A passport and credit card are the only things you need on a trip. Guard your passport like the apple of your eye and take enough spare credit cards with you.
A machine in Bolivia already ate my credit card, another credit card was irrevocably blocked because of suspected fraud. I was happy to have my set of toll-free credit cards.
Tip: take at least 2 credit cards with you. If you travel alone better 3+.
27. Take out health insurance abroad
You don’t have to plan a lot before the trip, but you should get foreign health insurance. You protect yourself from an existential risk for little money and can visit modern private hospitals worldwide without regrets.
Comprehensive foreign health insurance is available for as little as 30 euros per month.
Tip: A foreign health insurance is the most important travel preparation.
28. Travel paperless and make backups all the time
Scan or photograph all important documents from passports to TAN lists to international health insurance and store them in the cloud.
Always try to have an up-to-date backup of your photos and documents when you are on the move. Bring an external hard drive with you.
Tip: Make frequent backups in multiple places.
Focus on people
29. Share experiences with travel companions
“Only shared happiness is true happiness” is not true, but it is still more fun to travel with one or more suitable travel partners. The emphasis is on fitting, with the wrong fellow travelers the trip quickly becomes a nightmare.
But you must also travel alone. When traveling alone, you get to know yourself and gain a good deal of self-confidence.
Alone doesn’t necessarily mean lonely. In popular backpacker countries, you are only lonely if you want it to be.
Tip: Traveling as a group is nicer, but you must also travel alone.
30. Get to know other travelers
Wanting to talk to like-minded people is only human. The best encounter with a local cannot replace that. So seek out other travelers by staying in hostels and staying on the Banana Pancake Trail.
In almost every major city there are weekly couch surfing meetings with a 50-50 mix of locals and other travelers. You don’t have to want to couch surf or have a profile. Meetup groups and Facebook are other ways to get to know people.
Tip: Exchange ideas with other travelers, not just for first-hand information.
31. Learn a few words in the local language
You should know “thank you” and “hello”. Any word beyond that is not only helpful but also shows your respect. Together with your dialect, even the grumpiest local has to smile.
The numbers from 1 to 10, “How much”, “That there”, “Yes” and “No” are particularly helpful.
Unfortunately, even with European languages, learning a language halfway takes several months and is only worthwhile for the world language Spanish.
Tip: Make yourself popular with a few words of Quechua or Mandarin.
32. Trust other people
Trust those around you and you will find that most of them are helpful and friendly. But listen to your gut instinct and don’t turn off your common sense. There are always a few bad apples.
The more touristy a place is, the more caution is required. In the backpacker capital Bangkok, for example, you should distrust any Thai who speaks to you in the old town or city center for no reason.
Tip: Trust other people, but not too much.
33. Be smart
Traveling means, above all, waiting. You’re always waiting for something. Maybe you pass the time with thick books on your Kindle. Then you are an exception in the internet age.
To still use your time wisely, you can listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Due to the constant change of location, you have a kind of automatic memory palace.
34. Leave your comfort zone
after the first culture shock is over, you quickly fall into one even on a trip routine. The craziest trip to the most exotic country can become very banal.
That would be a shame because a trip is a great opportunity to get out of your rut. This is a great way to get rid of a few old habits that have gotten stuck.
But a trip is only a chance to step out of your comfort zone you have to yourself.
Tip: When in doubt, say “yes” rather than “no” to challenges.
35. Use your youth to travel
At some point you have to realize it: you are not getting any younger! Instead of waiting for retirement, travel when you are young. Not only are you more open-minded and curious, but you also get along much better with poor infrastructure, night buses, and squat toilets.
Traveling to India when you are old is no fun, even if you do not have any physical disabilities.
In addition, the world we live in is constantly changing and not just for the better: Afghanistan was once a backpacker mecca …
Tip: You only have one youth, don’t waste it
36. Life cannot be postponed
Let’s not get around the bush: You’ll be dead soon! People don’t like to talk about that anymore. But if you keep reminding yourself of this “little thing”, you get a necessary sense of urgency.
Too many things in your life you have to say “I don’t have time for it, I’ll be dead soon”.
This is the only way you can do what you want, no matter what you dream of. And if you dream of a world tour, there is only one guarantee: you will not regret it!
Tip: If you wait too long, it’s too late.