Let’s face it: not everyone is cut out to be a backpacker. From the strain of lugging a 50-L pack to economizing on one’s clothes, living out of a bag takes courage and determination. Being a backpacker is not about getting the cheapest deals. It is creating an experience that caters to specific interests, resulting to an adventure that is low-cost without scrimping on the essentials.
Every traveler can take a cue from the budget habit of a backpacker, who makes sure that the things they carry are only of the utmost importance. Are you ready to be one, if only in terms of costs?
#1 – DIY Itinerary
Tours can be a bargain and a convenience, but it is not without its compromises. With a fixed itinerary, you are robbed of time and flexibility. Log in some serious hours to plot your itinerary, putting in consideration the following scenarios:
a. How far is the airport / train station / pier from your accommodations? What are your transportation options?
b. Is your accommodation near the places you want to visit?
c. What is the cost of public transportation in your destinations?
d. Are there reduced rates you can avail (e.g. free museum days, student discounts)?
#2 – Money is Queen
Especially when traveling outside the country, exchange rates can make or break your budget. The means of credit and amount of cash you carry depends on several factors: availability of ATMs, denomination accepted (some currency may not be exchanged outside its place of origin), and the foreign transaction fee of your credit or debit card. For a backpacker, here are some tips:
a. Carry loose change. It saves time, especially when paying in obscure places and faraway towns.
b. Keep your cash with you. All. The. Time. Invest in a good body pack that can be concealed inside your clothes.
c. Set a daily budget. And follow it religiously. Some print out Excel sheets, while others keep a small notebook.
#3 – Alternative Accommodations
For backpackers, hotels may be too pricey, more so for solo travelers. When looking for hostels, ask previous guests or read comments from online travel communities, such as Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor. But for the more adventurous types, seek accommodations that are unique to your journey. Stay in stone houses that are native in Batanes, or a boathouse in Amsterdam. Whatever catches your fancy, a backpacker keeps these in mind:
a. Most travel rates, from cruises to hotels, cover double occupancy. Solo travelers must look for places that offer single occupancy.
b. When using social media to look for lodging, like couchsurfing, be mindful of house rules and security concerns.
c. Know your limits. If you need to camp out but are prone to allergies, perhaps you need to rethink your living quarters.
#4 – Pay for Experience
Unless you are in a nomadic vacation, you need to deal with a finite period of stay in a certain place. So make the best out of your days by being true to your intentions as a traveler. Here are some pointers that a backpacker may share:
a. If you are an extreme sports fan, seek for thrilling activities. If you are a culture buff, visit museums. If you want to shop, research if the city you’re in has outlets. Just be mindful of your baggage limits.
b. Hook up with groups offering adventures that your destination is known for. Perhaps a whitewater rafting trip in Cagayan de Oro? Or a cruise down Halong Bay?
c. Be a local, from the food you eat to the kind of transportation you take. More or less, it is more economical while allowing you to immerse into the local culture.
d. Take short trips to cities near your base. The fare is bound to be cheaper and travel time shorter.
#5 – Safety Always
What’s the point of all your escapades if you won’t live to tell it? Backpackers must be very particular of their safety, and other travelers can take a tip or two:
a. Get travel insurance. Because you just never know.
b. Keep photocopies of your travel documents, in case you misplace your passport.
c. Always bring your medicines and a flashlight.
d. Inform your loved ones back home about your current location.
e. Be mindful of etiquettes and social customs.
f. Don’t forget your allergies and medical conditions.
g. Know traffic rules. Even bike lanes can be deadly.
h. Have fun but keep a sensible head.
Enjoy your trip!