16 Tips for Backpackers on a Round the World Trip
In the past four years I’ve traveled as a backpacker on two round the world trips, as well as countless individual country trips. In that time I’ve learnt a few things to make my travels more comfortable, as visiting more than one continent in a single trip can make traveling a little more complicated.
Hopefully these tips will better prepare you for your upcoming round the world trip.
- Save the cheapest countries for last
If possible visit the most expensive destinations at the start of your travels, as you’ll be scraping by at the end of your trip anyway. It will be easier to spend less in the cheaper destination, especially if you’ve overspent in the first half of your trip.
- Choose your accommodation wisely
If there are two or more of you traveling together, you’ll often find the price of a private room is the same as the price of two or three beds in a dorm. So, unless you really want to share a room with others, a private room may work out better.
- Work out your shoe size prior to traveling.
If you’re anything like me you’ll probably go through a few pairs of shoes on an extended trip. Hence, it’s easiest to know your shoe size in the country you’ll be visiting. This can speed up the process of trying on shoes while abroad and save more time for experiences.
- Need help? Seek out a twenty-something.
If you’re in a country where English isn’t common, your best chance of a confident English speaker is someone in their twenties. In many countries English is taught in school, so the older the person, the more likely they’ve forgotten how to speak it.
The younger generation is more likely to remember, and those in their twenties are the most likely to help. This is especially true in places like China, where despite English being taught in schools, a lot of Chinese feel too shy to speak it.
- Bring a luggage scale
If there’s one thing in my backpack that has been invaluable it’s my luggage scale. Electronic or manual, these devices will ensure you know exactly what your bag weighs to help you avoid overweight baggage fees.
They’re especially handy if you’re flying on budget airlines.
- Always screenshot the hotel name, telephone and the address
This is important in any country as not all taxi drivers will know where your hotel or hostel is based on the name. It seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget if you’re in a rush.
In countries where characters are used, such as Japan, China and South Korea, it’s essential you get the address in the local language, rather than the English version.
The telephone number is helpful in case your driver gets lost, or if the hotel is located where cars can’t go.
- Eat two big meals a day
Unless you have a big appetite, you can save some money by eating two meals a day instead of three. While this tip may not work for everyone, it works for me while traveling. I normally eat at 10am and 4pm and if I’m feeling extra hungry I make sure they’re bigger meals.
Two larger meals are normally still cheaper than three normal sized meals.
- Download Grab or Uber.
While I hesitated at first because I didn’t really understand how the apps worked, the best thing I did was join the ride sharing revolution. Not only does it help to know how much you’ll pay up front it also feels safer than using normal taxis.
- Estimate prices to avoid being ripped off.
Even if you’d prefer to use a taxi you can use Grab or Uber to see a fair price for where you want to travel. Expect to pay 20-40% more for a taxi for the same distance though as taxis are always going to be more expensive.
However if the price the driver is quoting you is three times the fare on grab, then there’s a chance you’re being overcharged.
- Book Airbnb if staying in a place for a month or longer.
Often Airbnbs will knock up to 50% off the price if you stay for longer than 28 days. This makes them a good alternative to hotels for longer stays.
- If you have any allergies or need to ask for directions, write it down.
You may have practiced saying it in the native language but that doesn’t mean the locals will understand you. If they can’t understand your accent or pronunciation you can show them the piece of paper.
- Group perks
If there are two or more of you may want to look at private tour options. While this is not true in many parts of the world, in places such as South East Asia you can often get a good deal by booking a private tour on arrival.
Get a group together and it may be cheaper to hire a car or boat. Especially in places like the Philippines where it can be cheaper to hire a boat and plan your own island hopping activity instead of joining a shared day tour.
- Pick your splurges carefully.
Personally I think it’s worth saving for the little bit longer so you have enough to do most of what you want on a trip. However, realistically we all probably leave for the trip before we reach the ideal dollar amount.
Hence, it’s best to pick your splurges wisely. Make a list of your must do’s and steer clear of the maybes along the way.
The easiest way to do this is to allocate a separate amount of your budget to special activities. Take note of how much you need for the “must do’s” and how much you have left over to spend on “maybe” activities.
This will ensure you still have money left over for must do activities and any point in the trip.
- Bring a multi-plug adapter
Instead of bringing an adapter for each of the countries you’ll visit you can often find universal adapters. They normally include all the common plug sockets for a range of countries in the one adapter, cutting down the amount you need to pack.
- Bring a powerstrip if you have lots of electronics
A power strip is an item that allows you to plug multiple devices in at once. It’s invaluable for those of us who travel with a number of gadgets so you can charge multiple items at once. This is extra handy if you only have one plug adapter.
If you’re traveling as light as possible, skip this one, but if you have the space available it can come in handy. It also is useful for solo travelers staying in hostels, as some hostels don’t offer plugs per user, instead only a few per room.
- Pack a small doorstop
For a few dollars you can find a range of small, cute doorstops online. When you go to sleep at night you can use these to add extra protection in case someone tries to break in.
The one I currently use is shaped like a leaf and is half the size of the palm of my hand. They don’t have to be big to be effective and they take up next to no space in your luggage.
Hopefully you’ll find some, if not all of these tips helpful for your round the word trip. As someone who’s been on two longer backpacking trips and countless 2-4 week holidays, they’ve always served me well. If I could suggest only one thing it would be the luggage scales – the amount of times they’ve saved me overweight fees I couldn’t count on one hand. Hope you have an amazing trip.