Backpacking is an experience everyone and anyone should try out once in their lifetime. Who wouldn't want to take time off to see the world, learn new things, meet great people, and open your eyes to new horizons? It does, however, require a lot of planning, research, and precaution (all in moderation, of course) to have a successful backpacking trip. Whether it will be your first time backpacking, or you're looking for some extra ideas for the road, we decided to help new and old backpackers alike with a list of a few basic things to consider when travelling abroad. We offer advice on how to simplify your packing plans, save money on accommodation, and learn about new cities by joining free walking tours! Without further ado, here's HostelCulture's essential basic guide to planning your backpacking trip:

Book your ticket to and from your final destination


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If you have a limited time to travel and you know the dates you both leave and return, save on travel expenses by booking a round trip or open jaw. Are you on a tight budget and open to flying anywhere? Your chances of saving go up. Flying in hight or low season? This makes a difference in airfares as well! Take a week to look at airfare deals on various websites and compare rates. When you get to your first destination, have an idea of where you want to head next and then check local travel opportunities to see where it would make sense to travel next. There are a number of ways to get from one city to another (more on that later).


Pack Light - Challenge yourself to one carry-on


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Checking in a bag every time you travel can be such a hassle, especially if it's heavy. Our advice is to keep it light and stick to the bare minimum. Challenge yourself to carry one bag, the size of a carry on (usually a 40L backpack will do!). If you're traveling the continent, you don't really need five pairs of pants, do you? Be wise and make a list of the essentials, categorizing them by weather probability, outfits, etc. Say you're going to Spain, Italy and Greece in the summer months. The chances of needing a sweater are very low. However, if you're planning on exploring Scandinavian countries as well, make space for some outerwear! If your budget allows, you can invest in travel clothing with technology geared towards warmth (and sweat-wicking) without compromising style and fashion. If you're worried about doing laundry- don't! Most hostels have laundry service, so you can always have fresh clothes on the go.Here's an example of a basic packing list for minimalists:

  • One pair of shorts

  • One pair of pants

  • One pair of runners/sneakers/comfortable walking shoes

  • For girls, one pair of flats that go with those cute shorts are fine - but that's it!

  • Two or three t-shirts/shirts

  • Two or three pairs of socks (Grandma's advice - you will always need socks)

  • Electronics - phone, phone charger and/or  camera, camera charger

  • Sunglasses

  • Sun-shielding hat (for summer) or warm hat (for colder seasons)

  • Jacket (really go with the weather on this one, you might not need it in July)

  • Reusable water bottle (really cuts back on the water expenses)

  • One micro-fibre travel towel

Don't waste valuable backpack/luggage space on bottles and beauty products. If you can't live withoout a certain product or you know you can't purchase it at your destinations, by all means take it. Otherwise, you only need the essentials to start you off like a small tube of toothpaste and toothbrush. If you're travelling long-term, we reccommend nail clippers and file as well, something many travellers forget on their packing list. The rest of your toiletries can be purchased once you arrive at your destination. Things you can easily buy abroad, use, and throw out once you're done:

  • sunscreen

  • band aids

  • shampoo

  • soap

  • lip balm

  • more toothpaste

Save on accommodation



We all love to go on vacation in style every so often. But when you have so much to see in so little time and on a tight budget, it's what you see around the city that counts, right? You don't need to splurge on a luxury hotel, because there are so many lovely and affordable hostels out there. If you don't know where to begin, you can research and book hostel accommodation through HostelCulture. When you finally decide from the hundreds of options, chances are you'll meet great people along the way with the same sense of adventure as you.


Buy groceries on the go


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Everyone loves a good meal in a restaurant. But nobody eats out three or four times a day, because it eventually gets pricey, especially for budget travellers. Food is a necessity, and for backpackers constantly on the go, it's essential you're eating as healthy as possible (with a splurge every once in a while). To make sure you're full and energized, our suggestion is to find a local market or grocery store and keep some food in your room (if allowed) or in the hostel kitchen for easy access to simple meals and snacks. Don't waste your time on cooking five-course meals and have a handful of snacks ready for when you get back from a long day of exploring. Bread, crackers, cheese, fruits, and vegetables should suffice. If you do choose to go out for a bite, try looking for local eateries offering the local cuisine (usually at cheap prices).

Tip 1: Granola-nut bars are excellent sources of energy and space-friendly.

Tip 2: Book a hostel offering free breakfast (or alternate meal) for efficient spending!


Consider land transportation


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Flying is faster and a great option when your next destination is far, far away. But for shorter distances, consider a smarter, more responsible way to travel: land transportation! Travelling to the next country via bus or train means cheaper fares in general (especially with student discounts), you don't need to arrive at the station at least 2 hours ahead (that's time wasted), and you're making less of an environmental footprint on the planet (yay!). There are plenty of bus companies to choose from headed to all major cities and towns, and if you're lucky enough to be traversing through Europe, countries are well connected to each other via train. Pros of land travel: prices are quite affordable, travelling conditions are great, and don't forget the beautiful and inspiring views of the country landscape. You also have quality time to relax, reflect, and even write in your travel journal in between destinations. Wherever you are, you can find information on booking transportation tickets at the local central train station and bus terminal.


Book a free tour



Free walking tours can be a great way to cover a lot of ground in a city in a matter of hours. Not only will the local tour guides help familiarize you with their city through entertaining stories and historical facts, the tour is also a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people who are, most of the time, like-minded travellers. HostelCulture currently offers free tours in 5 European cities. Carefully and individually designed, you can enjoy a tour in Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, or Dublin free of charge, which is perfect for budget travellers! Keep in mind although your tour is free, the guides work for tips (their only source of income from their work). So if you liked your experience on the tour, you can choose to show your appreciation with however much money you think the guide deserve.


Don't forget Travel Health Insurance


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Better safe than sorry. If anything should ever happen to you during your adventures, any injury is usually covered by most insurance providers. Depending on what kind of trip you're taking- city exploring or adrenaline junkie styles, for example- there are travel insurance companies which cater to your style so it's best to do research on which company will be the best deal. If you want to avoid a gigantic medical bill (international rates are quite different than for residents and citizens), make sure you're covered with a solid plan.


Bonus tip

Our last piece of advice would be to wear comfortable shoes. Always. They're simply a must. Backpacking is all about sightseeing and lots and lots of walking. Please, do this for yourself and your feet: pack comfortable, padded footwear (there are plenty of stylish options available these days). You'll thank yourself for it!

Now that you have an basic list and guide to planning your backpacking trip, do you think you are ready for your next adventure? Let us know your essential travel tips below! Happy planning and bon voyage!

Aleksandra Koplik