Budget travel planning aid for backpackers: pt 2
Budget travel planning aid for backpackers pt2 continues where part 1 left off
(This budget travel planning aid does include a few affiliate links. There is no cost to you clicking them, it just earns me a few pennies)
If you are following on from budget travel planning aid Part 1 you can skip this paragraph and get right into it.
Budget travel planning part 1 recap
However, if you’re looking for help with planning a backpacking trip and wondering how to structure it, but haven’t read part one yet, I strongly recommend you to go back to read budget travel planning aid part 1 first. Otherwise you will be jumping in half way through and will have missed out on:
- Initial research
- Visa checks and different types
- Initial budget check
- Safety check
- Route mapping
- Flight research
- Accommodation research
- Transport research
Researching things to see, do, experience
It’s at this point in your travel planning that you start to lick your lips, the excitement will start to build, the juices start flowing and you start picturing what your backpacking trip will be like. It’s time to look into the main reason you want to visit this particular destination; time to look into what to see, do and experience while you’re there.
Although It’s good to do your travel planning and research, make a note of the things you do want to see and do, there is no need to make a packed itinerary. There is no need to plan to do things on specific days unless it’s an event that happens at specific times. You want to know what there is to see and do, and have a good picture in your head.
It’s a good idea to check open and closed seasons with some national parks or famous landmarks. There’s nothing worse than turning up to a place to find It’s closed for the season you arrived in.
Remember the golden rule – Keep your plans loose but research well.
Ways to find what to see and do
There are plenty of ways what to see and do through the internet and word of mouth. You might have friends or family that have told you about something or you might already know because It’s famous.
To delve deeper, there are plenty of blogs, vlogs, instagram, pinterest posts in which you can delve into to find out more about a country or region. The country or region will have specific tourism websites, even google maps will have landmarks and famous places listed. Just type in ‘things to do and see in….” and watch the plethora of web pages listed for you. However, do be careful, a lot of bloggers get ‘free trips’ for promoting a certain place or thing in a positive manner, so you have to read between the lines and look at a selection to get a decent idea of it.
Backpacker vlogs are the same, watch a selection but you do more of an visual insight into the particular things you want to see and do. Take you time, really look into what you want to see and do, if there’s anything you consider ‘must see’ and ‘can’t miss’ and see where things fit around that loose route you decided on.
Guide books are guide books not bibles
There is also TripAdvisor and lonely planet guidebooks too. Remember though, guide books are just that; they’re guides, they are not bibles. I’ve met so many people over the years who follow lonely planet and TripAdvisor to the letter, they don’t stray away. If it’s not listed in the books for them, they won’t even consider it. However, many of us long term backpackers don’t every even peek into them, we rather find out things ourselves, and from getting local knowledge. You will find so much more by getting to know local people.
An example I can give you, during my second trip to Portugal, while normally backpackers and tourist head straight to the touristy and famous Algarve from Lisbon, a local friend of mine gave me a list of places to visit on route. These places are not listed in guide books because they’re just little local coastal fishing towns.
Without my friends knowledge of the place, I wouldn’t really have known about them, but these places were spectacular. They were much more worth the visit than the touristy algarve was. Now I’m not saying they were totally secret, they had travelers passing through, but it was because of local knowledge not what was written in a guide book.
TIP: Bookmark the websites and apps you use they might come in handy again
Tours Vs Independent travel
Before we get into this part of your budget travel planning, let me just say, It’s up to you how you choose to backpack, weather that’s by doing tours or doing it independently. I say this because believe it or not there is backpacking snobbery out there, people for some reason like to show off how they backpack.
At some some you will come across somebody who will frown upon you for merely mentioning doing a tour. There are backpackers who brag about how basic they travel, that they only ever take local transport and would never do a tour. On the other hand you have backpackers that only do tours and look down on those who do it independently.
Who gives a fuck how you do it? It’s a personal decision, you travel how you feel most comfortable. You don’t have to be one type of backpacker either, if sometimes you want to do a tour and other times do it by yourself, there is no problem with that. For me personally I prefer doing things independently but there are times I’ve chose to do organised tours.
That being said, while you’re doing your travel planning and looking into things to see and do, you’ll have noticed the amount of tour companies out there. The more famous something is, the more touristy it is the more tour companies there are going to be.
A lot of the times although tour companies will offer different prices, and entice you with certain things, most tours offer the exact same thing. So if you are looking into tours, shop around, get the best value for you, and do some due diligence as there are a lot of scam tours out there too.
It’s good to also know about tour companies before you arrive, if you already have an idea of them while you’re doing your travel planning,when you book the tour there are no nasty surprises. And remember in some places there will be an element of haggling involved to get the best price.
A couple Pros and cons of tour companies
The plus side to tours, is that everything is organised for you, the hassle is taken away. You just have to pick the ones that suits you best, turn up and get led around and taken wherever the tour takes you.
The down side to tours is that you only have limited times in places so you don’t get a good feel of a place. And they can work out a lot more expensive than doing it on your own. So while you’re travel planning a backpacking trip take that into consideration.
TIP: A lot of the times It’s cheaper to book tours once your at your destination rather than online in advance.
If you feel confident enough, want to backpack in a more liberated way, you might just want to do and see things by yourself without the need of a tour. Many of us long term backpackers prefer to travel independently. There have been times I’ve taken a our because of time restraints but wished I did it by myself.
If you choose to do things independently, do your travel planning & research into the best way to get there, weather that’s renting your own vehicle or taking local transport. Check out if the place you want to see charges an entrance fee or if It’s free. If there is a charge, check if there are different fees for tourists and locals. Also It’s good to find out the best times to visit during the day. Some places will be heavily crowded in mornings because armies of tour companies or vice versa in the afternoon.
A couple of Pros and cons of independent travel
On the plus side, you get to see things from a locals perspective and you have do things on your own terms. You organise when and how you want to do it, there is more freedom and choice of how long you spend there and have a chance to get a real feel for it.
On the down side, there are more opportunities for things to go wrong, local transport can break down and you can get delayed. You have to do all the organising and travel planning yourself, sometimes It’s a hassle figuring out how to get there especially if It’s in a rural area there is a lot more travel planning to do. There are elements you have to take into account, safety, weather, local relationships with tourists and travelers. There is a chance of taking the wrong turns or transport and getting lost (that’s half the fun though).
TIP: Getting to know local people who can give you deeper insights into where you want to go and see is a huge help.
Whichever way you choose to travel, remember there is no need to book anything at this point in your travel planning. Just make notes, drop pins, and increase your knowledge of what to see and do.
Researching travel Insurance
Was there any potential dangerous activities you found during your travel planning into things you see what to do and experience? Are you thinking of going on some crazy hikes up into the mountains or deep into the jungle? Any extreme or winter sports? Are you heading to a destination witch has potential for natural disasters? If you are, travel insurance will no doubt creep into your thinking during your travel planning.
Even if you’re not planning on doing anything that has a risk, you might be like many backpackers who will think travel insurance is a necessity no matter what. Or you’re like many others who will think buying travel insurance is a nuisance cost and waste of your budget.
I’ll be honest, I’m one of those who hate buying travel insurance. Why do I hate it? Well because I have to spend money on something I never want to ever use. I’ve been lucky enough to not have had any major incidents over the years (except for a few bruises, scrapes and stitches here and there). I will pick and choose when I buy it, there are some destinations I think I might have to call upon it during my travel planning and others I know there’s little chance of needing it so I won’t buy it.
So, my advice to you is that you should definitely buy it! – No, not really, it’s completely up to you if you want it and through your travel planning you will have an idea if you do or not.
The correct type of backpacker insurance
What the fuck is the correct type right? This is the part of your budget travel planning where your head can really go into a spin. Why? Because there are so many options, everybody and their dog will try and sell you insurance from your bank to that add that keeps popping up on your instagram feed. So how do you choose?
The best thing to do is filter the process, think about how long you’re planning on traveling for (this cuts out a big chunk of companies), what is the main purpose of your trip? Are you planning on doing any adventure/winter sports activities? Think and look back at the research you’ve done and filter down as much as you can, it will make picking the right one easier. Look for budget backpacker specific travel insurance, and check out backpacker budget travel companies like STA Travel or Geckos Adventure to see what they are offering.
Also, have a look if the country/region you’re traveling to offer any health benefits. IE, If you’re from England and traveling to Australia you will be eligible for Medicare, which is like the NHS and is free for British nationals when we’re there on a working holiday visa. But that’s not the case in New Zealand on the same sort of visa.
Popular Price comparison sites in the UK:
Budget travel/backpacker insurance companies:
If your head is in a spin about travel insurance, check out this World nomads review posted by one of the most trusted travel bloggers in the world; The Broke Backpacker.
(Use this form to get a live quote)
Time to spend some money
Once you’ve settled your brain from deciding whether or not to get some travel insurance while travel planning, and if your in a position spend some money. It’s this stage of your travel planning that you turn your thoughts of backpacking into reality. You can start booking now. You’ve done your initial research & travel planning, you know where you want to go, you know the general route to take, if you need a visa or not. You have looked into cultural and language differences, have an idea of transport and accommodation and you have a good idea of the things you want to see and do and how you want to do them.
If you need a visa for your destination, apply and pay for your visa (If you need to). Once you’ve got that confirmed, It’s time to book your flight if you haven’t done so already. Can you feel that? Is the adrenaline starting to flow, are you a mix of excitement and nerves? Is there some butterflies as you duel with the thought of pressing that book ticket button or not?
Go on do it, make it reality, book your flight
The first time you book your flight, your heart will skip so fast, you’ll anxiously keep looking out for the confirmation to come through, you’ll double and triple check the details are correct, the date and time and flight are the correct ones. Once that confirmation pings into your inbox that’s it, you’re going backpacking.
Now at this stage of your travel planning, It’s up to you if you want to book your accommodation already, just for that first night or two or for longer? want to sort out your transport? Do you want to book any tours? If you can and want to, then go for it, or you can wait and do it at a later date.
This page contains the tools and resources I use when booking for and during my trips.
Take a note of all the bookings you make and how much you spend, make sure you get confirmations and receipts.
Re-adjust your budget
Once you’ve booked the things you want to, you’ve got all your confirmations sorted, at this point of your travel planning you’ll want to have another look at your budget. See how much damage has been done by the bookings, how long do you have until you fly out? Have a look and try and figure out how much you can save until you leave. Now until you go is the time to strap in, cut out all needless spending. All you should think is save, save, save!
There are money savvy backpackers out there who through their travel planning really dissect their budget. There are those who work out a daily/weekly/monthly spend while they’re backpacking. Now this is much easier to do if you’re going for a specific time and know in concrete when your return date in.
However for those of us who just buy a one way ticket, without a return date in mind this is harder to do so at this point in our travel planning. So what do we do, we see how much money we will leave with and by having an idea of costs already we have a mental idea of how much to spend.
Ways to manage your budget
You can try and seperate your budget, have one pot for accommodation and transport costs and another for spending. This works out well for some backpackers. There are also backpackers who take a chunk of their budget and put into another account. They don’t count that as part of their everyday budget It’s just a backup if shit hits the fan (clever fucks). Or you can freestyle it; try to just spend as little as possible and depending on your visa type you’ll know if you can work or not while you’re traveling.
Working while backpacking
Depending on your visa type or nationality, you will be able to work while you backpack to keep your funds replenished. This helps you prolong your journey potentially for years on end rather than just months.
It’s worth having a look into the type of jobs you can do while traveling to give you a heads up and a idea of what type of wages you can get before hand. There are specific websites for working holiday and backpacker jobs. Also have a look into tax laws (and benefits for you) while you’re doing your travel planning.
However if your visa doesn’t allow you to work legally, don’t fret there are ways to bend those laws (not break them) There are always local companies willing to pay you cash in hand or under the table for off the book/record work. Nothing too crazy but for things like labouring or bar work. You also have the chance to do volunteering work or work in hostels. You wont get paid for volunteering or hostel work, but you can exchange work for rent and food. And there are always farms looking to take an extra pair of hands on.
Exchange rates/currency convertors
It’s a good idea to look and get used to exchange rates at this point in your travel planning too. Get a feel for the difference in rates, You might be going from single digit numbers to hundreds, even thousands. You’re better off getting used to this beforehand as it gives you less of a chance to get ripped off in your destination.
Is a good idea to download a currency converter, my preferred one is XE.com. This one normally has the best live rates and best rates. Do bare in mind, currency exchange rates change all the time and many charge extra.
TIP: exchange some money before you leave, enough to get you from the Airport to your accommodation and possibly for the first few days.
Local currency/ATM machines/credit cards/cash cards
You don’t want to have too much money on you, as you’ll make yourself a target trying to figure out money in a foreign land. And at the same time, you don’t want to be left short handed. ATM machines in Airports should not even come into your consideration as they will charge you a stupid amount.
During your travel planning check, if your bank charges any fees for you to use ATM machines abroad, or if you can apply for non-transaction fee accounts, and the same with your credit cards if you’re planning on using them. If you feel you’ll be getting charged too much look into cash cards like monzo and starling.
For example, you simply transfer money from your regular account into Starling or Monzo and use them as you would debit card. Monzo has a withdrawal limit of $500 a month while starling doesn’t. There are other options similar to this too.
It’s a good idea looking into and invest in discount cards, local sim cards for your phone while travel planning too.
You might be wondering what documents you should take with you if any at all. There are some you will require but there is no need to take a mountain of paperwork with you. It baffles me when I see backpackers with a folder of paperwork; you just don’t need it.
So what should you take? Well, that will depend on the country you are from and where you’re going to as. However, in general cases the most important documents you need will be:
- Passport/photo ID
- Drivers license if you’re planning on driving on your travels
- Your flight details (Some countries require proof that you’ll leave the country)
- Proof of visa if it’s paper and not electronic (most are electronic nowadays)
- Some countries require vaccination proof depending on where you’re from
- Potentially a recent bank statement if you are traveling on a working holiday visa
Honestly the only thing I take is my Passport/ ID, I have my flight details on my phone, and proof of my visa if in paper form; nothing else.
However if you feel you need to have more, just load them onto your phone, have a backup on a USB drive, don’t weigh yourself down with needless paperwork.
Useful websites and apps
All through your budget travel planning you will have come across apps and websites, some of those will come in handy while you’re backpacking and some you might want to use again for future reference. If you’ve been bookmarking or downloading the Apps through your travel planning then that’s great, if not you might want to backtrack and do that.
There will be some websites and apps that will be lifesavers, some you will need, and others you’ll want for fun. I’m not going to go through all the travel websites and apps here but a few essential ones you should have are google maps, google translate, hostel world app, and of course you should bookmark this website. Have a look for local apps that will help you with navigation, transport, food spots, bars, and things to do and see locally.
To save you some time during your travel planning, this page contains over 100 useful travel apps and websites that will come in handy for referencing, booking, researching, and to use during your travels which you may find helpful.
The final part of your budget travel planning
There is one last thing to do while travel planning. You don’t have to do this, It’s just something I’ve picked up over the years and kept me in good stead and saved me a lot of money and time. What I recommend you do is to find out and look into the easiest and cheapest way to get to your accommodation from the airport or bus/train station before you arrive.
This is one bit of travel planning and research I always do for every country I arrive in; whether that’s by land or air. There are a few reasons I do this.
1. Saves getting hassled
The last thing I want and need when I first walk out of an Airport/bus/train station is taxi drivers and bus touts hassling me; In-fact I hate it!
2. Saves getting ripped off/scammed
One of the first things you will notice when arriving in a new country, not only will the taxi drivers and local transport operators hassle you to go with them, some will also try to rip you off. And, It’s unfortunate to say this but tourists get targeted by petty criminals because half the time travelers are naive and easy targets.
3. Don’t have to waste time/get lost/stuck
Another reason is that it simply doesn’t waste time, as soon as I walk out the Airport or station I know where to go, I know which taxi/tuk-tuk/bus/metro/train I need to take and I have an idea of how to get to my accommodation.
Your budget travel planning and researching is complete
That is it. You are all set. As I mentioned right at the beginning of this budget travel planning aid, the more you travel the quicker and more streamlined this process will become for you. After awhile you won’t use all these steps, you’ll know which ones to use and not. Over time you will learn your own tricks and hacks, have your own way and structure to plan and research.
Just remember the golden rule – Keep your plans loose, but research well (most of the time)
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Don’t forget to pin budget travel planning aid part 2
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