There’s a lot to think about when you decide that you’re going to go backpacking around the world – when to go, where to go, who to go with and what to pack, among many things!
Travelling, backpacking, and moving abroad requires preparation and as your trip gets closer and closer, once you’ve decided when and where to go, there are a number of things you need to make sure you have done, have paid for and generally, have thought about to make your travels a lot easier and safer.
I’m in the process of preparing for a big backpacking trip around the world and I have been writing down things I need to do, things I need to get, appointments I need to book and things I need to buy before going travelling.
So I thought I’d share this pre backpacking checklist with you (in no particular order as everyone is different) as I’m sure it will be helpful and hopefully you won’t forget anything important!
This checklist is for things you need to think about and do before you go travelling and backpacking and I would recommend starting to think about this list 8-6 weeks before you go travelling so you are prepared as appointments can take quite awhile to book these days and you need to leave time for follow-ups.
So here goes, a checklist of what you need to do to prepare yourself for a backpacking trip:
Passport – Double check when your passport is due to expire! Even if you are going away for 3-4 months a lot of Countries will not let you in unless you have at least 6 months left on your passport so if you have less, you’ll need to get a new one!
Visa – Does the first place you are visiting require a visa before you can enter? The USA, Turkey, India, Australia, Vietnam and many other Countries require you to get a visa before you arrive which can be purchased online as a evisa. Many other Countries offer a visa on arrival or don’t require a visa which means no preparations beforehand but be sure to look into your first Country, and your first few Countries ideally, so you are prepared, as some have processing times of a few days.
Onward Flight – Check if the first Country you’re going to, and the first few Countries if you know them, require an onward flight before you are allowed in. If it states online that you do need one, get one (except for Thailand as you never get asked and can leave by land), otherwise if you get asked to prove onwards travel you’ll have to book one there and then at the airport. It’s annoying as it depends on the airport you fly from and the staff member but it’s better to book one just in case. Either book one you think you might use, or try and find a super cheap one and then it doesn’t matter as much if you don’t use it.
Tell Your Bank You’re Leaving – If you haven’t been away before or don’t go abroad regularly it’s a good idea to tell your bank that you’re going away so they don’t think that your transactions are fraudulent and block your card!
Get a Prepaid Travel Card – On that note, it’s really handy to get a prepaid travel card rather than using your actual bank card as it will save you money on international transactions, and if you lose it or an ATM swallows it (it does happen), you have your actual bank card as a back up and you only need to get onto the App of the travel card rather than contacting your bank to cancel the card.
I have signed up with WeSwap and I’m going to take their prepaid travel card with me on this trip. I really like what WeSwap have to offer and I’m excited to use it!
Firstly, it’s a MasterCard so it will work anywhere that accepts MasterCard.
Secondly, they have 18 currencies that you can top-up in. From past experience cards from the Post Office or Banks only offer a few general Currencies like EUR, AUD & USD. Whereas they have 18! If you are visiting a Country that uses one of these 18 Currencies (view the list here) you can swap your currency for that currency in advance to get the best rate (They swap our money with other travellers so they can offer the best rate so there is no middle man). That’s the idea of it. If you go to a Country that’s not in those 18, that’s fine as the money will be taken from your home currency and converted that way, which is what happens with your normal bank card anyway.
Thirdly, they have an app which looks really great and is always helpful and better than trying to contact your bank.
Fourthly, if you and your friends or partner both have a card, you can transfer money in the app between yourselves which is great when it comes to splitting bills easier!
From what I’ve seen, this looks like the best Prepaid Travel Card out there, so to sign up too, visit WeSwap here, click ‘Join Us’, then in the promotional code box (3rd box down) enter the code THEWAN10 and you’ll get £10.00 credit when you top up by £50.00 when you join! Because who doesn’t like Free Money!
Book a Dentist Appointment – The last thing you want is to go away and have toothache, so unless you have regular 6 monthly appointments and know your teeth are fine and healthy, get a check-up booked in at the dentist and give yourself time to have follow-up appointments before you go incase you need any work doing.
Update and Get Relevant Travel Jabs – You will need to have all jabs and vaccines up to date and there can be a number of them if you haven’t had any jabs done in your adult life. Book an appointment with a travel nurse so they can recommend the right jabs based on where you’re going (googling ‘what travel jabs do I need in ….?’ also helps!). It’s better to be overly cautious here and remember that your travel plans might change. You may think you’re not going anywhere with Yellow Fever but if you’re going to South America of Africa you might (I got a yellow fever jab done before South America just incase). Some vaccines are free, others are not, it also depends where you live but it is better to get them done and be safe. Plus a lot of jabs last a good few years (yellow fever now lasts forever) so it’s worth getting them done and then they’re done!
Get a Smear Test – Ladies remember you need to get a smear test done every 2 years. In the UK, doctors are frustratingly funny about getting these done earlier than your 2 year mark but if you know you’re going to be away when the 2 year mark hits push to get one done before you go away! Note that if you’re going to Australia on a working holiday visa, the doctors there are so much better and more cooperative about smear tests and you can get one done when you are there.
Unlock your Mobile Phone – If you are moving to live and work in another Country you’ll definitely want your phone unlocked so you can switch to a sim card there. Even if you aren’t moving to another Country and just travelling, it’s likely you pay want to get a local sim as they can be handy even for just a few weeks and your phone will need to be unlocked to use another sim.
Print Photos From Last Trip – I don’t know about you but I like to print photos from my trips and life, I have done since I was 7 and I still do. If you’ve been on a trip or holiday recently or just want to remember your life before travelling, remember to print off some photos. I used Truprint to print off photos from my 2 and a half years living in London and my many European City Breaks and it was nice to know I had them done and packed away ready to look at in the future.
Get Travel Insurance – This is a biggie and one I’ve nearly forgot in the past! You need to get travel insurance, and get it to cover technology if you have a lot of tech. You may have been used to only getting holiday insurance for 1-2 weeks up until now and your usual company doesn’t offer 6 month cover for example, however that’s where specialised travel companies like World Nomad’s & Alpha Travel Insurance come in.
They know what backpackers and travellers want, they know how we travel, and how long for. With World Nomad’s you can even extend your insurance whilst you’re away as they know we don’t always know how long we’re going for. They each offer a range of add ons for technology and certain sports, and are one of the best companies you can choose from.
IMPORTANT: If you don’t know when you are going to be returning home (like) and don’t have any proof that you are going to go home, go for World Nomad’s. They are more pricey I know, but they cover you with no return ticket booked.
If you are from the UK you know when you’re going to return home, you have a flight booked or a work contract etc to prove that you did intend to return home if you need to claim, I recommend Alpha Travel Insurance as they are cheaper but they require proof of intent to return back to the UK if you need to claim!
Buy a Backpack – You’ve probably thought about what you want to take with you but do you know what you’re going to pack it into? I’d really recommend taking a backpack as a suitcase’s can be really annoying! I have gone for the Osprey Farpoint 70L S/M backpack this time and I’m really pleased with it. If you haven’t got your backpack yet be sure to check out this post on what to look for when choosing and buying the right backpack for your travels!
Get Spare Passport Photos & Make a Copy of Passport – You often need to provide passport photos for visa’s, especially in Asia so make sure you have a few printed off, or take the old ones you have stashed in a drawer at home. If you don’t its not the end of the world as you can get photos done when you are travelling, remember so many places are set up for travellers and day after day they’ll have people turn up without extra passport photos, but it’s handy to have them anyway and a cost saver when you’re travelling. Make sure you also scan or make a photocopy of your passport and keep it on you or your phone/laptop. If anything happens to your actual passport it’s so good to have a copy and will be a big help!
Book Your First Few Nights Accommodation – I really recommend not over booking on trips, it’s nice to be able to go with the flow and be flexible but I would definitely recommend booking a few nights accommodation at your first stop before going away so you know where you’re going to when you land and you know you’ll have a nice place to relax. On that note if you plan to stay in hostels during your trip in dorm rooms but can afford a private room for the first night or two, I’d recommend it as you’ll be able to relax and get a lot more sleep to help beat the jet lag!
I’d recommend looking on Booking.com to find accommodation as they offer great deals and cancellation options, incase you do change your mind before you go. Plus when you book, use the code ‘THEWAN100’ and we’ll both get £15.00 off which buy you your first few beers or coffees when you arrive!
Buy Contact Lenses – This may not apply to you but if you wear contact lenses, be sure to stock up on a few packs before you go. You can buy these when you’re away but it will be nice not to worry about it for a few weeks or months. I recently purchased 4 months worth on Feel Good Contacts and they were so much cheaper than other sites for the exact same product so I would recommend buying your contact lenses for travel from Feel Good Contacts.
Medication Supplies – On this note, if you are on any medication or even the pill, be sure to speak to your doctor about getting a supply to last you whilst you’re away. Again, you can buy a lot of stuff elsewhere but if it’s not too heavy to carry with you, I’d get it at home and then you don’t have to worry.
Key Items – There are a lot of things you need to take travelling and backpacking, and most of these things will depend on where you’re visiting and how long for, but no matter where you go in the world there are a few key items that you’ll need and find really useful. These items are:
- Flip Flops – I find Haviana’s the best quality and they are so handy to have.
- Packing Cubes – Keep your bag tidy and your clothes separate with these.
- Packable Rain Coat – Having a raincoat is a must no matter where you visit and a packable/foldable one is the best idea.
- International Adapter – Plugs change from Country to Country, this adapter will ensure you always have the right socket.
- Power Bank & Travel Adapter – This is an adapter but it’s also a portable power bank which charges when you plug it into the wall to charge your devices, it’s literally a 2 in 1 game changer and so handy!
- A Good Book – Books really help pass those long journeys – this is my list of best backpacker reads!!
- Long Phone Charger – Plug sockets aren’t always close to the bed and an extra long charging lead really comes in handy!
I think that’s it but I’ll keep adding to this as I go so that it’s a fully up to date checklist of what you need to do before going travelling to make sure you are prepared!
Let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @wandering_quinn what you think to this list, has it helped you? Do you have any other recommendations?
Here are some more posts that will help you on your travel’s: