The Savvy Traveller

Backpacking

Thinking of travelling but are currently cash-strapped? Fear not. You can still explore a lot of amazing places on a limited budget as long as you are open to new possibilities –and ways. This time –instead of following the more conventional means of travelling — try hitching it to somewhere new, backpacking-style.

Backpacking is the “it” way to travel for people who wish for a different taste of adventure. It is not merely an activity that students do in their gap year anymore, but is a respected rite of passage for the thrill seekers of the world. With more and more countries relaxing their visa rules and numerous budget airlines and low-cost lodgings mushrooming up everywhere, it has never been a better time –-now more than ever– to start planning your first foray into the world of backpacking.

So, with an eye on the next destination on your map, here is what you need to remember before strapping on your boots and backpacking arsenal.

What to Do:
1.Read up.
Bringing along your Lonely Planet guide book can only help so much with your travelling if you don’t do your own research beforehand. Fill up on the important information –attractions, emergency assistance—to save time and costs.

2.Stay in touch with families and friends.
It is very tempting to disconnect from the world once you go backpacking, but keeping contact with your family or friends can be life-saving in case something happens to you.

3.Stock up on medications.
If you have health problems, it is best to stock up on all the needed medications, especially the prescription ones, before you leave for your trip. Also, remember to get the necessary immunizations if you are going somewhere warm.

4.Set some emergency fund aside.
Never put all of your money in one place, particularly in your knapsack. Keep a sufficient amount of money in a small wallet that you can wear on your person at all times.

5.Pack light.
Remember, you will spend a lot of time on the road carrying your bag, so wise up and only pack the most essential items that you will need on your travel — clothing, footwear, a medical kit, and a sleeping bag.

What Not to Do:
1.Be overly trusting.
Your fellow backpackers can steal your belongings and the locals can fool you into surrendering your stuff, so listen to your instinct and don’t get too attached to other people.

2.Travel alone at night.
No matter what your gender is, travelling alone is never safe when it is done at night. Go out in groups and make sure to let someone know about your whereabouts.

3.Buy foods and drinks from shady places.
Stay away from questionable places that look unhygienic and do their trade in local food and drink. You can easily contract food poisoning or, worse, alcohol poisoning.

4.Be ignorant of the local culture.
When you are backpacking to places that value different things in social norms, be thoughtful and considerate. You are a foreigner, so keep your head down to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention.

5.Flaunt your gadgets.
It is never a good idea to flaunt your electronic stuff when you are backpacking. Only use your gadgets when you are travelling in a pack, and keep them out of sight to prevent being robbed.

For Speak! Oct., 2013.

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