10 Best Backpacking Tips for Beginners

This is our list of the 10 best backpacking tips for beginners.

Read how we saved hundreds of dollars only with the right credit card and Annis life with the right medication!

The cool thing about backpacking is that anyone can do it everywhere in the world. It’s the most simple way of traveling and a great way to experience the wonders of our planet.

For beginners, there are some key tips and hacks that will ensure you make the most out of your adventure.

The last year we were backpacking over 10 months in Southeast Asia and learned so much about this kind of traveling.

Interested in backpacking Southeast Asia as well?
Read our top 10 thing-to-do in Southeast Asia!

Common issues for backpacking beginners:

  • How much should I pack?
  • What should I do before I go backpacking?
  • And what is important but nobody really thinks about?

Our list of best backpacking tips for beginners will answer those and more questions!

1. light luggage

What to pack? How much should I pack?

Our first and best backpacking tip for beginners:
Less is more!

Reasons or light luggage

During the best time in your life you don´t want to worry much about your stuff, do you?

Minimizing luggage makes traveling cheaper and safer. Traveling with only “hand-luggage” helps to save money on transportation. On top of that, it is safer because of the decreased risk of losing or destroying something.

Comfort and speed with light luggage

It is way more comfortable to have just a light and a small backpack when hopping on and off trains or buses. In addition, it will speed up packing and unpacking and you will have more time enjoying your journey.

When we started backpacking, we wanted to be prepared for everything! This is a pretty common rookie error! Afterward, we regret packing too much because backpacking is simply more fun with less stuff.

On the road, we met backpackers, who were even traveling with a maximum of 8kg (16lbs).

In practice: Figure out what is really essential and what is additive!
To give you an example, here is our essential list for warm countries:

  • 1x sweater
  • 1x long pants
  • 2x short pants
  • 1x board shorts/ bikini
  • 4x shirts
  • 1x towel + essential toiletries (really essential!)
  • 1x sneakers
  • 4x socks and underwear
  • 1x universal adapter
  • 1x sunglasses
  • simple medication (+ antibiotics)
  • mosquito spray, sunscreen
  • lunch box, cutlery, reusable bottle, reusable bag (be a responsible traveler!)
  • personal documents (passport, driver’s license, vaccination certificate) + copies

2. Pick the right backpack

One of the most important decisions is whether you want a front opening ( also panel-loading or clamshell) or a top opening backpack.

Make sure to pick a high-quality backpack which should last for several years. Good backpacks are a bit more expensive but don’t be too stingy, because this is the most important investment for your trip.

Our tip (non sponsored): We made really positive experiences with the backpacks of Osprey and Deuter, but there are also several other good brands.

Trekking bags "Xena" and "Xenith" from Osprey
Our backpacks from Osprey

3. FIT yOUR BACKPACK

Even though there might be attractive offers online and apps to configure the fitting of your backpack, we definitely recommend going to a store.

Fitting your backpack is so important, especially when you plan to go on longer trips.

4. Pack in Units

Easier said than done.

Smart packing is a real challenge. Nevertheless, it so much easier to be master of the mess when you pack in units. Like this, you’ll be able to separate things in unities to relocate them easier and faster.

Still, you need to figure out what needs to be reached when and where. This is an individual problem each backpacker has to find out himself or herself.

5. the right credit card

There are plenty of providers for “travel credit cards”, which seem to be very beneficial at first sight. Unfortunately, there is a catch in it usually. Most banks have annual fees or a minimum turnover.

Numerous credit cards in a jeans pocket
Choosing the right credit card can be really difficult

After tons of research, we decided on two different VISA cards – one from the German bank DKB (Deutsche Kredit Bank) and another one from Santander, which is a Spanish multinational commercial bank.

Both of them have no hidden fees and are free of charge to use abroad.

There is still one problem remaining:
the transaction fees of the foreign banks. In many countries, foreign banks charge you a certain amount on every withdrawal (usually between 2-7$ per transaction).

Our solution (non sponsored):
The VISA of Santander!
Because they refund even these fees.

All you have to do:
Send a photo of the receipt to Santander via mail. Santander will compensate the fee in the next accounting.

We saved hundreds of dollars with the credit card of Santander and therefore highly recommend it!

In practice:
We used the Santander for cash bills and the DKB for online and credit card payments, whenever they were without an additional fee.

6. vaccination and medication

It is important to plan vaccinations sufficiently far ahead. Depending on where you go, at least a few months before your date of departure!

Please talk to your doctor and check your vaccination certificate.

Basic vaccination is essential for travelers

Routine vaccinations are:

  • measles, mumps, rubella
  • tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis
  • polio

In addition, we took a bunch of essential medicaments with us, including antibiotics (saved Annis life once).

Antibiotics saved us in Vietnam once. Sometimes the next hospital is out of reach.

For more information about vaccinations and travel health tips have a look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

7. travel insurance

Do I need travel insurance?

The answer is: YES, you do!

But NOT those “extra insurances” for anything you can imagine. Keep in mind the industry is earning money “playing” with your fears.

The only insurance we recommend is general travel insurance (from an authentic insurance company).

In order to travel on a low-budget, we have never had any additional insurances and luckily never needed them. The monthly costs for a normal international travel insurance should be around 40$/35€.

Picking the right travel insurance depends on a few considerations. To choose the right travel insurance for you we recommend visiting this blog post from ytravelblog.com.

TIP (non sponsored): We have travel insurance from Allianz and we are really happy with their support.

8. WHERE AND WHEN to travel

Some of the most popular questions we always hear are: where should I go and when should I go?

We spoke to many travelers and wondered why opinions differed about the same countries are so much. To make the most out of your backpacking trip it is important to find out what you want to see and when is the best time for you to travel.

Answer yourself the following questions:

What Type of Backpacker are you?

  1. Culture vs. beach
  2. Adventure vs. luxury
  3. Nature vs. cities
  4. Hidden-gems vs. bucket list

when should i go?

  1. High season vs. low season
  2. High/low-seasons for special animal encounters
  3. Check dates for festivals and (local) holidays!
  4. Are there any upcoming political conflicts and predictable geological events during my stay?

9. Visa application

Make sure to get trustful information.

Say what?
We met lots of travelers who got wrong information and therewith made rookie mistakes.

The ministry or department of foreign affairs of your home country normally is a good address when it comes to fees and deadlines for Visa applications.

List of selected ministries and departments of foreign affairs (or the equivalent):

For other countries visit the list of ministries of foreign affairs on Wikipedia.

10. BRING yOUR REUSABLES

Our last tip is already on our essential list (in 1.light luggage), but for us, it is important to highlight this topic especially.

Four reusable drinking bottles standing on a dark surface
Avoid plastic whenever possible

We all should strive to become more environmentally sustainable backpackers. Avoiding single-use plastic is an easy step to begin with.

Interested in sustainable traveling?
Read our full blog post about responsible and sustainable tourism.

So don’t forget your cutlery, lunch box and reusable bottle when you go on your next backpacking trip!

Summary

This is our personal selection for backpacking tips for beginners. Of course, there is so much more to pay attention to but we believe if you follow our tips your trip is very unlikely to fail.

This is it! We hope you enjoyed reading our backpacking tips for beginners.

If you have any further questions leave us a comment because we are happy to answer anything for you!

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