Making plans for a lengthy multi-country trip can get pretty stressful. Unless you already have a healthy savings account it’s definitely no last minute thing either, my boyfriend and I were discussing and saving for well over a year whilst I was at university before we actually got anything booked. That said, it’s definitely doable for anyone who’s serious about it – everyone I speak to says they want to travel, and if I can do it as a student on a part-time Wetherspoon’s wage then so can you!
The first thing you OBVIOUSLY need to do is make sure you have a valid passport in good condition, with plenty of time left on it. Sounds stupid I know but you really don’t want the unnecessary stress of discovering your passport is out of date a month before you go. With that sorted you can decide on your budget and make a realistic plan of the countries you want to visit. I basically want to go everywhere so I found it hard to narrow it down. We started off looking at traveling Asia and Australia but eventually decided to cut out Oz (it just seemed like a hot England with deadly animals to us) as it meant being able to see so much more of Asia and also stray from the beaten track a bit. I know some people prefer not to plan and like the idea of just booking a one way flight and seeing where they end up, however if you want to visit countries with strict visa regulations this isn’t really possible and a route needs to be decided in advance. Either way, it’s probably good to have a rough idea of what you want to do so you know how much money to try and bring. We have a fairly set plan for our first month traveling through China, South Korea and Japan as these aren’t typical backpacker territory, but from Tokyo have a flight to Bangkok where our plans will loosen up and we’ll just kind of go with the flow through South-East Asia.
Paperwork and Other Formalities
Depending on where you’re going, visa applications might be a big part of your planning process and an additional cost to consider before you go. The first country on our itinerary is China which we’ve learned has a notoriously complicated visa system. Basically you have to have every day of your trip to China accounted for before you go, meaning proof of flights, hotel bookings, train journeys etc. before you can even apply which is a total ball-ache, and pretty stressful as you always risk the possibility of not even being accepted. It also costs around £200 which makes a fairly heavy dent in a backpackers budget. Thankfully though most other Asian countries are more lenient with their entry requirements, many don’t require a visa for visits under 30 days and others just ask you to fill out a form at the border, or so I hear. (I should add here that we have no intention of working while we’re away so are only applying for tourism visas; work visas are a whole different ballgame that I really have no idea about, soz). Another practicality to think about is multiple currencies and how to carry your money around between countries, something which completely confuses me. I’ve been recommended Revolut by someone at my bank, which is a card that can be loaded up and used in 90 different currencies without any banking fees, and controlled through an app on your mobile. I’m told this is really simple and reliable, so it’s likely to be the option I go for. Another thing, it’s a good idea to book in with your doctor a couple of months before your trip to find out about any necessary vaccinations and other precautions that need to be taken beforehand.
Even if you’re a big organiser I don’t think there’s any point in obsessively mapping out your schedule for each country – you’ll end up missing out on the spontaneous, unexpected experiences – but it is fun to research the places you’re going and pick out a few things that you don’t want to miss. This is definitely the most exciting bit of the planning; I’ve spent hours reading other travel blogs and watching videos on Youtube. You can also find out about tons of hidden gems from the experts by reading travel books. I’ve found ones from Lonely Planet and Rough Guides to be the most useful, and I managed to pick up an absolute mountain of them from my local library. These have helped clue me up on all the main tourist destinations as well as making me feel smug that I’ve got some local knowledge about more unusual places that I might not have heard of otherwise. Travel blogs are particularly good for up to date recommendations on things like hostels and cheap places to eat and drink that you can start taking note of. I’ve picked up so many tips from bloggers and vloggers and if nothing else it’s a great way to build your excitement up and give yourself a break from the headache of budgeting and visa applications.
So these are just a few tips for planning a long-term backpacking trip. If anybody reading this has, unlike me, already been there and done that, I would appreciate any other advice you have!