A real if not definitive list of what you really need to pack for travel / backpacking and take with you (not just everything). Along with explanations of why you may or may not need certain items, such as the great sleeping bag and foot-wear debate. Take it from those who have learnt the hard way and are not selling or promoting anything other than the concept of travelling light. What you pack can really make a difference to your trip... read on for why, packing tips and general advice on everything you need to carry with you in terra incognita.
Where to go backpacking? Well actually just a few ideas - the real planning is up to you with some hard choices to be made. This section contains tips on planning and names of some places you may not have necessarily heard of, but certainly require consideration. The highlights and lowlights of the world - a few ideas of the good, the bad and the ugly!
Unsure as to what malaria prophylaxis, jabs, money or visas you need? The 'before you go' bit is tougher than the trip itself and can seem like an administrative nightmare. Take a look at this section for information on: necessary jabs / immunizations, malaria prophylaxis, how much your trip will cost, in what form to take your funds, insurance, buying air tickets, travelling alone, visas, guidebooks in the planning stage, travel photography and general safety.
What will you find there? Country summaries are a detailed country by country break down of all the information that's really handy to know in the planning stage or simply for a vicarious trip. A whole load of information - constantly updated and added to - more succinct than could (if they featured it) be found in regular travel guides. Regions featured: Australia and the Pacific; North and South Asia; South East Asia & Indochina; Central, South & North America; East, West, North & Southern Africa; The Middle East; The CIS and the Caribbean. Up to-date topical facts and tips - now you have no reason for apprehension or bad planning.
'On the road' is a comprehensive guide explaining and offering an insight into some of the things that you need to face and deal with whilst travelling and how to deal with them, such as food poisoning and bus travel. Covered are: getting ill and staying healthy, moving around, sleeping, looking after your things/avoiding crime, dealing with beggars and hassle, bargaining and responsible tourism, guidebooks, staying in touch, English language media, books, washing clothes, cultural expectations and culture shock, toilets, buying counterfeit goods, details on drugs and vice, and other tips.
A selection of recommended travel resources: planning guides, guide books, travel reading. Regions covered: Pre-trip planning, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand & Pacific & Latin America. Also insurance and hostel/guesthouse booking.
A collection of several hundred backpacking and budget travel links; a few well organized essential links and tons more for you to wade through. If you have a web page yourself and have enjoyed this site, please create a link to it and pass on the word. Conversely you can recommend your link (please note commercial sites will not be listed unless truly worthy and we can link up - we are looking for sites like this one, by travellers for other travellers) if you can't already find it.
A taste of some places around the globe. Many of the hundreds of images that were posted need up-dating, so for now it is a selection of the best.
Contribute: This site tries very hard to provide independent travellers with the latest information, but things are always changing. So your support is needed! If you have been anywhere recently, let us know about any change you encountered or any addition that you think would be worth integrating. A few lines in an e-mail is all it takes to help keep info fresh and provide for future travellers. It's also a big thank you.
Feedback: Please click on the links above and tell us if this site has helped you, what you found useful, or not. Remember, if you found information missing, want to add any (please...) or have any other questions, please get in touch. All reader comments and questions welcomed. I would like very much to further the guest book.
It goes without saying that the majority of the information on this site is subjective at the very least.
Furthermore attempting to write something to cover all eventualities within the budget / independent travel context would be impossible. However, many a long hour has been spent (you have no idea!) constructing these pages in order to try and help and enlighten others.
Much imitated Travelindependent . info, unlike many similar sites calls on repeated trips over a +ten year period to every major region of the globe (around two/thirds of the world's nations at last count - not just one RTW trip). After every trip the site is updated and revised and has been slowly shaped in this fashion since early 2002 when the first version was posted.
We are sure more experienced travellers will find some information a little patronising, but no one is really putting anything new out here - it's just how it is.
Just a reminder... This is a personal website/blog, and not an agency or a business. No one receives any commission for any advice. Only a few Amazon and recommended links pay for bandwidth. We try to give as much as an idea as possible about independent budget travel, but can't take any responsibility for any inaccuracy in any of the information provided. We'll respond to any e-mail as quickly as possible.
As you might expect, up-dates and new information are always sought. Even a simple thought shared can help build the site's content for all who love travel.
If you are interested in using any of the material in
this site, would like extra material for commercial purposes
or would like to support the site with a paid link,
then please contact us via e-mail using the address at the bottom
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Featured advice: Travel Insurance - the pit falls and where and how to get the best deal on backpackers travel insurance. Looking after your things and avoiding theft - It can be a scary world out there and it need not be. Even minor theft can taint a really good trip. Don't let the bastards get their hands on your worldly goods. A guide to keeping everything safe and sound. Or at least as much as you can.
"We shall not cease from exploration, And the end of all our exploring, Will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time "
- T.S. Eliot
Illustration (left) by Jerry Swaffield - taken from 'First-Time Asia: the Rough Guide'
Travel Independent .info is an independent, non-commercial site by travellers for travellers to encourage people of all ages to travel independently and give them the information they need to feel confident about it. It is not a blog endlessly updated with ramblings or promises to show you how to 'travel for life', there are no e-books for sale, twitter feeds or flashy layouts - only what's important to get you 'on the road'.
This intro has been included as the first thing you might read so it may perhaps provide inspiration and so I /we may communicate the motives for creating this site. That 'I' word is used a few times in this intro, but nowhere else. The rest of the site is not about personal travels or inflating a sense of achievement. It's created with contributions from many, grows weekly and is about sharing knowledge that makes any trip achievable and enjoyable. If you are planning to go travelling independently (short or long term) and are perhaps a little apprehensive, this site is for you. So please read on through this section as something to bear in mind when looking at the following pages, or... see chapter headings to the left to skip this preface.
Everything you need to know (about independent travel, aka. backpacking)? That's what we came up with, to the ends of sharing everything learnt from thousands of accumulated very busy days travelling in more than two-thirds of the world's countries spread across the globe. Also it sums up the whole site when it comes to independent travel and backpacking. This site is about sharing all the information that is so very obvious to anyone who has experienced it, but can be so frightening to a first timer and a real inhibitor to good planning in the way of time, money and what you carry on your back. It's hoped the site fills a gap encountered when I tried to research this information on the Internet myself before setting out for the first time (loads of travelogues, but no real information). You won't find this site treading around any issues. For example most travellers come across contraband, vice or beggars while abroad and wonder about toilets - that's covered. More questions? Is Colombia/Iran safe? Should I go to Timbuktu? Is Angkor really that great? It's all here and a lot more besides. Maybe the title should be: here are the mistakes I made and what it's like - learn from them/it.
Because most don't have unlimited funds, but maybe 'affordable' is a better term. Far from being the only choice available to the typical adventurous traveller, it is a sacred doctrine for many: to get the most out of what they have. Understand that no one is advocating hardcore '$10-a-day' travel; there are times when splashing out and/or taking a local tour is appropriate. Independent travel allows you to do more and see more, since it puts you in direct contact with locals and offers greater challenges.
Any suffering on bumpy buses or in the odd crappy hotel room will only make your experience seem more real and give you that extra sense of achievement and personal satisfaction (every pleasure has got to have an inch of pain - so buy your ticket and don't complain!).
The number one thing conveyed is that backpacking travel is in no way esoteric, and in pretty much all countries, very easy. It is not really difficult at all. Frustrating at times, yes - difficult, no. All you really need is a measure of gumption and you are away. Of course travelling and place names like Lhasa and Istanbul, sound adventurous, but my grandmother could find her way round most of them (backpackers don't have to be young) and would not be alone in doing so.
Tourism is the world's biggest industry and all but a very, very few places (normally the ones of no real interest or recently struck by war or a natural disaster) are well on the beaten track with the subsequent support industries plentiful. The information on this site is not what you would normally come across in often ambiguous guidebooks. It consists mainly of tips, backpacker relevant information and details on more alternative subjects avoided by published guides. Anyway, trying to duplicate information that is found easily in guidebooks would be rather pointless.
Second to that, demonstrated is just how accessible the world has become - perhaps heading solely to Australia/Europe to work for a year with a stop-off in Thailand or America on the way back is not exactly travelling and a little bit of a cop-out. It's your choice but those who do so are missing out on so much. Let's face it - how often in your life are you going to have the chance, time or money to do this? Did you want to travel or have a holiday? Please, please, still do that (Oz, Thailand et al. are great places) but be aware that so much more is available to you and there is no reason why you should not give it a go. Even if it is not for you, at least try getting to some interesting places, talk to some interesting people and do some interesting things. At worst you will save some money and leave early. The world really is your oyster: you can go pretty much anywhere you like. Try to understand that repeatedly the less appealing a place seems at home, the more appealing it often is there - because you are doing something unique for yourself and have limited expectations.
And the independent thing? So often abroad, you see groups on tours - and they are always a certain type of people - sure China sounded really exotic at home, but now you're here its not exactly the wilderness. Well the succinct answer is either that a tour really is right for them (for whatever reason), that they are a little lazy or that they didn't know what is being shared here! (don't take my word for it - readers' comments). This is the essential, no holds barred information you need to get going - so hit the subject title links to the left, read on and be enlightened.... or in the words of Mark Twain:Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
By popular demand, here is a new FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions page.
This site is constantly updated and revised with new travel info, tips and reader contributions.
» 2014 - Updated Chile, added Caribbean: Cuba and Jamaica » 2013 - Added Cape Verde, updates on Bolivia. All of Europe visited. 2012 - Celebrating ten years of travelindependent.info
» 2011 - Article in Mayalsian New Strait Times. Indonesia, Tanzania and Laos updated. Thailand and China update. Cameroon coming soon. Featured on: 'Get Rich Slowly' blog and on: 'Make Use Of' - 10 Sites For Budget Travel & Backpacking Trips Across The World. » 2010 - Korea (North and South), Caucasus and Ethiopia just added. Fuel for the great Malaria prophylaxis debate. Do I need to take Malarial medication? Is it alright to take Lariam? What are the alternatives? See before you go section.
» 2009 - Uganda, Russia, Georgia and Central Asia added - full Philippines update coming soon. New articles: the 7 secrets / realities of really cheap travel and just added: Budget Airline lowdown, fly cheap in places you might not have thought possible. Mozambique added (thanks Alex) all costs updated revised from GBP to USD. » 2008 - Libya and Tunisia added - full Japan update now posted. Coming soon: Russia and Central Asia. Plus RTW ticket advice update. Also new: the great sleeping bag debate plus eating and vegetarianism while travelling.
» 2007 - Celebrating five years of travelindependent.info with a total overhaul and a plead to all that find it useful to help it's growth by contributing any info they can. New articles: volunteering and 'voluntourism', Thai train system explained. Update Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay & Uruguay. Added: Bangladesh - many thanks to George Schoneveld.
» Comment: (Ella Bowden)
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to plan travelling for ages and haven't known where to start, all
the books I've read don't want to commit to giving you the details
you really want to know. I don't think I could have been confident
in planning my travelling without this site, you have positively
influenced my life in a huge way. Many thanks."
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Apologies for the fact that this site contains many errors of the grammar, spelling and English usage kind. Proof reading is on going, but is a hell of a job (last word count was over 200,000). Please, please if you spot any of these errors let us know via e-mail no matter how small - no offence will be taken. Many thanks to the wonderful Angela Van Dyke, Peter John and Sam at Travellers Point (a Travel Community site worth having a look at) for his CSS work on this page. If anyone else can help, then please don't be shy.