Top 10 Tips for Backpackers
After travelling around the world and visiting 9 countries we feel like we're partially qualified to give out some tips for travellers. The following are some of the most crucial things we learned on the road and we're passing them on to you to make sure you're Kinging-It on your travels.
We’ve all done it, we’ve booked the trip of a lifetime and we want new clobber so you look like a boss in all your photos and videos, but don’t do it! If you have a 20kg bag, then leave AT LEAST a third of it empty. When you get to your new destination there will be a SHIT ton of stuff you want to buy, and trust me, it will be WAY cheaper than anything would be at home or online (apart from sunscreen, ALWAYS buy sunscreen before you leave!). Also, who wants to carry around a huge heavy bag? For the ladies, FYI your boyfriend doesn’t want to carry your bag either. I always end up lugging Aimee’s bag across beaches and up stairs and I’m not very chatty when it’s bulging at the seams and near enough 25 Kilos - think of your other half!
Now that you have booked your ideal trip it’s time to cover your vulnerable ass. Don't do what Aimee did (mid-crashing our scooter in Bali above). Search for insurance using websites like www.moneysupermarket.com (if you’re in the UK) they usually give you the cheapest companies to go with and MAKE SURE IT COVERS WHAT YOU NEED COVERING! We ended up taking out cover with insureandgo.com and we paid a whopping amount (mainly because we went to America, and it was for 12 months worldwide cover) but when Aimee’s iPhone was stolen in Bali we were told they wouldn’t cover it…. Nightmare.
Read the small print, or even better call them up and make sure they’re going to cover your bits and bobs as well as your skull.
You may get insurance, but remember to look after your things too. We bought a small lock for our suitcases and made sure they were put on when we left the hostels. If they offer lockers, double up and use them too.
If you are going to New Zealand they have something call the ACC (The Accident Compensation Corporation) that covers you if you have an injury. When I came off the mountain bike in Queenstown and had a concussion, I didn't have to pay anything in the hospital (our insurance had ran out by that point) so that was lucky. When I broke my neck in New Zealand (in 2008) all of the health side of things were covered (in the region of $250,000 worth of surgery and parts) but luckily I was still insured. The insurance company paid for my Mum to fly out, first class tickets for us to fly home (because I couldn't sit up for that long) and I had a lump sum payout for cutting my trip short - result!
If you're going to milk the insurance you've got to do it properly. Take my advice, don't break your neck but get insurance, and make sure it's the right one!
Before you leave or even before you start thinking about where to go you need to do some research. You can literally find ANYTHING on the internet about any place on earth. If you want to go to one specific place then aim your research around what is good to do in that place. I LOVE jumping off stuff, so a lot of my research was on what cliffs I could jump off in each country. The photo above was of a place on Big Island in Hawaii called South Point. It was the bottom of the island where the cliffs ended and there was a huge 30ft jump into the deep blue ocean. Once you have finally swam to the top, there was a big old rusty ladder to climb back up. I never would have known about this unless I had done some research into that place, and it was totally worth it!
Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor are superb sources for places to stay and visit, 90% of the time we used one of these two to look for the best activities or hotels in each place we went. Books are pretty helpful too if you're more old school, you can pick up Lonely Planet books for fairly cheap and these are really helpful when there is no Wifi knocking about.
Also, looking at other travel blogging websites can help loads. People that have already done the trip you're about to do will have extensive knowledge of the best places to go, eat, drink, dance, smoke the best crack. They may have also become friendly with the town's local people and know secret passageways, beaches or hidden gems that some well known books or websites may not know. It's all about the insider knowledge!
Everyone likes a schedule, we had one and it’s super exciting knowing where you’re going and what you’re doing. But do you know what’s even more exciting? Not knowing what you’re doing and changing your plans last minute to go and scooter through the countryside or jump on a boat to another island. Our most exciting 5 weeks were in Indonesia where we had a ticket in to Bali and a ticket out. No accommodation, no plans and no friends.
We ended up riding all over Bali (on a scooter, not a bike - Aimee wouldn't have left the house!) We met some friends for life, got a boat to Lombok and Gili Trewangan Island and slid through a natural waterslide through a mountain. What a time to be alive!
So yeah, have a rough idea of what you want to do, and once you meet people that you really want to hang with then you’ve always got that option to go on an adventure with them instead of going to a cooking lesson with Mrs Poo. (She actually exists - google her.)
This is an absolute essential especially when you’re moving to a new place and you have a taxi driver who speaks minimal English. One time we were in Laos and drove around for 90 minutes trying to find a hostel, it turned out it didn’t even exist but if we had known the address and not just the name we would have worked it out sooner!
Another time (again in Laos – we love you Laos!) we got to our hostel but only after driving around for 2 hours as the taxi driver didn’t know what we were saying. It’s such an ignorant thing to say as I don’t speak any other language than English but when you’re in that situation it can be very testing.
An INCREDIBLE app we downloaded is called maps.me. You have to download the maps whilst on Wifi but it’s extremely helpful because it doesn’t use any data and is so handy when you’re wandering around new cities. It wanders with you.
Another useful tip is to get the hostel up on Google Maps on your phone/ipod/android whilst you’re on Wifi, and it will always show your current location (via GPS) without using any of your data – BEST TIP EVER.
As vloggers this is sort of hypocritical of us to say but don’t get too caught up taking photos and filming everything. If you’re running a vlog then you are excused (to a certain extent) but if you’re just filming hours and hours of footage to show people when you get home, trust me, no one is going to want to sit through that!
Don’t go out with a bag of lenses and tripods and shit, if you have a DSLR then just choose one lens for the day, your photography will improve and you won’t be so anxious to constantly change lenses and also you won’t be lugging around a huge bag looking like a ‘tourist wanker’. I wrote another article on vlogging equipment if you are curious about what gear to take on your travels- check it here.
Enjoy everything you’re experiencing instead of living it through your LCD screen. Smell the air (sometimes it's gross, sometimes it's lush), look at the people (fascinating new faces!), and touch everything! (Don’t touch people you might get KO’d). Living in the moment is the most gratifying part of travelling, take it all in, because when you leave you'll always be able to go back to that memory bank and relive that epic moment. Interact with people, both travellers and locals, some of my best memories are shared with local people laughing at me trying their cuisine and seeing my reactions. Being submerged in it is the only way to get the most out of it, and you'll be richer for the experience.
You’ve seen the typical rowdy tourists, whether it’s on shows like ‘Sun, sea and suspicious parents’, or you’ve experienced them first hand on your travels, they are an embarrassment to us all and the main reason locals begrudge westerners. BE RESPECTFUL. Manners don’t cost a thing. SMILE! Attempt the language that’s the best advice I could give you. Even if you learn ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’, those simple phrases will be embraced and will get you very far. (And perhaps 'toilet' in Craig's case)
Don’t be wearing your baggy elephant trousers and your Jack Daniels singlet, burnt to a crisp because you didn’t wear sunscreen on your day trip with the lads, drinking cocktails in the street chanting shit football songs; don’t be a dick head just tone it down and together we might not be hated by the locals. You might be laughing but that is 50% of the tourists you’ll see, especially in Thailand…
Another note is that when you visit temples and other sacred places, make sure you cover up. Some places offer baggy stylish attire if you’re showing too much skin. The last thing you want is to drive across town and not get in because your denim shorts are riding so high your cheeks are clapping to the same beat of the gong in the temple.
This is specifically aimed at Southeast Asia but I’m sure it’s the same in places like South America as well. You can literally barter for everything. When I say ‘barter’, I mean haggle/persuade/negotiate the price. And when I say EVERYTHING I mean everything. Tuk Tuks rides, excursions, taxis, boat trips, clothes and sometimes food. A friend of ours, Alex, actually bartered for tablets at the doctors whilst we were on an island in Indonesia - mental!? The best tip for getting taxis is to do the ‘walk away’. Have a price you want to pay in mind, ask them for the taxi on the meter or for that price. If they don’t agree (your price must be reasonable – these people have families to feed!), then do the ‘thank you’ and walk away. 75% of the time they will call you back and offer a discount but keep going and you’ll get the price you want. This also works if you're looking at buying clothes or other items on stalls or at markets. Again going back to being respectful, when you barter do it in a fun business like way, not rude and abrupt - a smile and a shake of a hand will get you some decent discount.
When you’re moving to a new place it’s always a safe bet, especially if it’s a long journey, to book accommodation. That’s what we did. It wasn’t until about 2 months into our trip that we actually walked around to see if we could find somewhere cheaper. We had been staying at a popular backpackers on Gili Trewangan (Gili Backpackers) and got about 2 hours sleep. Our room was right next to the communal area and there was a fresh batch of tourist wankers drinking and groaning all night.
After that chaos we wanted to move so we walked about 5 minutes from the hostel and found an elegant bed sit around the corner. A bamboo jungle with wicked air conditioned rooms, an open air shower and room service… for HALF THE PRICE of the hostel. So yeah, make sure you just book ONE night and have a look about before you book into a hostel for a week and regret it for the rest of your life...
When ever we arrive somewhere new we love to just dump our bags and walk or scooter around. It’s literally my favourite thing about travelling. You can watch all the youtube videos, travel shows and documentaries in the world but until you get there, smell it and take it all in you won’t know what you’re missing! We absolutely love it, new faces, new smells, new stalls (that end up being on every street in every town in that country - but still awesome), new food, new everything; it’s like a buffet for your senses. The natural thing to do is to take photos of everything, but just take it in, if you’re there for a few days you can take photos tomorrow!
Another super exciting way of getting around is via scooter. We only got brave enough when we got to Indonesia to rent scooters but once you’re confident (unlike Aimee, when she crashed one) it’s the funnest way to get around and get around fast. We scootered to heaps of waterfalls, temples, up and over mountains in Vietnam, to an Elephant sanctuary in Laos, to floating markets in Thailand and through some of the most breathtaking landscapes we’ve ever seen.
One time in Lombok we got lost so we pulled over and asked some locals where to go. It started out being two guys outside their house, after a few minutes there was a family of about 12 all outside fascinated by us lost, western visitors. They were super lovely and all waved us off when we left. That wouldn’t have happened if we had jumped in a taxi or got a tour guide- sometimes getting lost is when you have the most fun.
Another extra tip (don't say I never give you anything!) is just to be aware of your environment, if someone or somewhere looks a bit dodgy or you’re getting bad vibes then maybe move on. Don’t pull out your new flick knife and try and be a badman; you don’t want to end up in prison or somebody’s wife!
So there you have it, Kinging-It’s most crucial travel tips!
If you follow all of these tips then you should get by just fine and have a banging trip!
How could I forget the most important tip of all -
RULE YOUR OWN WORLD!
Love Craig & Aimee x
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