When you embark on your first big backpacking trip, you can often be overwhelmed with the amount of stuff you have to sort out! Not only is packing an issue, but even just starting to plan your trip can create a huge To-Do list. So I thought I would highlight the key things I needed to do when I first went backpacking.
Check what visas you need before you go and sort them out before your flights. All visas are different whether they’re just tourist ones for countries such as Vietnam or Australia. And even working holiday visas vary on the processes you have to go through. So just do your research, apply ASAP and if you have to send your passport off to an embassy, always send it and get it sent back recorded delivery.
Then, have you booked your flights?
If not then head to skyscanner.net as this is one of those compare sites that will tell you the cheapest and quickest flights. I also look on STA Travel website after skyscanner.net as sometimes this sometimes offers discounts for students and under 26’s.
Insurance. GET INSURANCE
You’re an idiot if you don’t. Some think travel insurance is a waste of money but it is a lot better to be safe than sorry. Shop around for the best insurance and check if you’re protected for certain activities (e.g. bungee jumping/winter sports). Usually you need to add on winter sports, so best to ask. My personal favourite travel insurance companies are Direct Line and STA Travel. With STA Travel you can pay a tiny bit extra to waive any medical fees, so that if you do need a doctor abroad, then you won’t have to pay a penny.
If heading out of typical ‘western’ areas then you’ll probably need a few injections. I’ve only ever needed them for south-east Asia and I made sure I got the right ones before my trip. If you’re just going to Thailand then you can get away with not getting the injections, but the ones they recommend are all free to get if a UK citizen, so why take the risk? Get Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid. You’ll need a few weeks to get all of those doses but it’s worth it. As said, they’re all free if you’re British and you go to your GP.
Let your banks know you’re going abroad as they’ll put notes on your account so that your cards don’t get blocked. I also chose to get a credit card which didn’t charge me for making transactions abroad, therefore saving me a lot of money and hassle! This card is a Halifax Clarity MasterCard.
Secondly, if you’re heading away for a while, it may be worth giving your parents, or a trusted friend, third party access to your bank accounts. You just fill in a simple form at the bank and it allows the nominated person to talk to your bank on your behalf. This has saved me a lot of hassle when my credit cards have messed up abroad. My dad is able to ring up my bank and sort everything out without the bank having to check with me first if my dad’s ok to speak on my behalf.
Again, if you’re heading away for a while, check what direct debits and payments come out of your accounts, and see if you can stop them. E.g. gym membership, phone contracts etc.
Then of course pack…
And finally, have the time of your life!