Around the world
It’s better to be very flexible. Have a loose plan of where you want to go and a timeline but be prepared to go with the flow.
Purchase travel insurance and be sure to read the small print. Make sure you have visas sorted well in advance.Check out our checklist page for extensive lists on preparing for your trip.
When choosing your destination
Be sure to consider seasonal weather in tropical areas.
Budget – developing countries are cheaper.
Time of year – festivals, tourist seasons etc push up prices.
Political climate – just be aware of volatile hotspots, ie Syria, Iraq etc.
Find out about customs in different countries, clothing etc, especially North Africa, Middle East.
Language – most countries that welcome tourists will have English spoken to some extent but be sure to learn a few words and make the effort.
Book ahead when possible, especially during busy seasons or times of the year.
If you arrive in a place with no accommodation booked, leave bags in the station lockers or with one of your group and head off to find somewhere. It's easier without bags and you won't get hassled by touts.
Pick up a cheap mobile or sim card as soon as you arrive. It’s always a good idea to have a phone on you for emergencies.
If taking your own mobile, check with your network provider what you have to do to use international roaming and the costs involved. Remember, you might have to pay to receive calls or listen to voicemail, also you might be charged twice per text message for messages to or from home. Consider buying a new sim card for use on a local network. Take an international adaptor for your charger.
Calling outside the country you're in - Dial 00 first, the country code, the area code (without the 0) and the local number. Click here for international calling codes.
Take down separately the number of the credit card(s) and where to phone if you lose them. You should also let the credit card company know that you're travelling as they may shut off the account if they detect abnormal activity, such as spending more than normal or spending from outside your home country.
Contact your bank or credit card provider as soon as you can if your card has been stolen. This will prevent you being liable for any purchases that were made by someone else.
Cash – split money over two cards in case you lose one – pre paid credit cards.
Crossing land borders
Be courteous and smile.
Dress nicer than usual.
Have passports and photos ready for visa if needed and any money needed.
Have your passport open on correct page.
Fill out forms correctly and neatly.
Know any entry regulations.
Do not carry any drugs or weapons.
Leave the border area as quickly as possible – people here looking to take advantage of newcomers.
Safeguard your photos – back them up as you go. Use a cloud service such as dropbox if you can.
Bring flip-flops for the beach and shower.
Drink bottled water.
Pack a ball of string.
Eat street food, just like the locals.
Talk to other backpackers about tours. The best advice can be from your fellow travellers. They may help you avoid getting ripped off on some tour that you were considering doing.
Google Translate and Bing Translator allow you to download specific language packs so you can use them offline when you're abroad.