Backpacking around different Continents
Backpacking is a low-cost way of travelling which includes visiting many different locations in one trip whilst carrying around your possessions with you and staying in accommodation such as cheap hostels and lodges. It’s a unique way of travelling that is mainly done independently and by people aged 20 to 25 who make up about 2/3 of the people who go backpacking and can be a great way to experience many different cultures.
Backpacking is different from normal travel as you must carry all your equipment and possessions wherever you go so what you take with you is very important. You want to take a backpack that is waterproof, lightweight and durable, many travellers have reviewed and suggested the best backpacks to take and created reviews such as this blog post which rates backpacks on the different qualities it has. Packing as light as you can will help your travelling experience be a lot more enjoyable, this means only packing the necessities and buying specialised travelling equipment such as quick dry travel towels, multi-use cooking and eating utensils and dehydrated food so that your luggage is as light and easy to carry as possible.
Europe is made up of 45 countries, so when backpacking around Europe you need to decide on the countries you want to visit, depending on the type of trip you want to have. Each country is very different, offering different languages, cultures, architecture and landscaping which also makes it great for first timers. Some of the most popular places to visit include the famous cities such as Paris, London, Rome and Madrid to see the capitals and their landmarks but Europe has so many other areas with different activities and sights to see. Travelling around Western Europe is known as the grand European trip, offering countries like France, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Belgium and the UK. The Western European route is very backpacker friendly, due to it being visited frequently by tourists and is very accessible as well as having a rich history and diverse culture to learn about and get involved in.
Eastern Europe is the route that is most budget-friendly, this covers countries like Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltics. These countries offer hostels and accommodation for cheaper prices whilst still having beautiful sights to see such as the Bran Castle in Romania.
The best way to travel around Europe and to see many countries is the interrail, an interrail ticket allows you to travel on the majority of trains in Europe with one simple, digital ticket. To get more information on how the interrail works and its advantages, check out my blog post here where I go into more detail. The interrail website also has recommended routes to take for specific types of trips and the trains you would take.
Backpacking in South America:
South America has become a popular backpacking destination in more recent years, the most common route is the ‘Gringo trail’. This is the classic route travellers take which covers Western South America and many of the most popular countries to visit in the continent. Starting in Columbia, the most northern country in South America, it has a combination of city, nightlife and tropical beaches and rainforests and is the most accessible place to start due as many airlines fly to the city of Bogata located here. It also has a reliable bus service that takes you around the rest of the country so you can easily experience everything Columbia has to offer. After Columbia, the route passes through Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina before ending your route in Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is the fast-paced capital of Argentina that is a great place to end your journey due to having many museums, fairs, restaurants and parties to visit to end your trip on a high. Many people recommend staying in the neighbourhood of Palermo to see its true culture and is the best place to party!
However, travelling around South America does have its challenges and could be a few reasons not to make South America your first backpacking destination. The first thing to consider is simply how large the continent is, South America is 1.8 times bigger than Europe so travelling to and from different countries can take a lot longer and many travel guides recommend 3 to 6 months to travel around South America. Due to its size, the quickest way to travel is also by plane, making it a more expensive trip too, there are night busses as an alternative transport to take as a cheaper method, but they take a lot longer. Another challenge can be the large amounts of different currencies used, there are 14 currencies in south America so exchanging money more frequently can be another worry and require a bit more planning.
Backpacking in Oceania:
The continent of Oceania holds some of the most popular destinations to go backpacking, including the top-rated New Zealand. The popularity is due to the variety in scenery and culture it offers as well as interesting, outdoor activities that can be done, Oceania holds some beautiful coasts and beaches to see but also has some of the best cities in the world too, such as Melbourne and Sydney. A common place for backpackers to start their journey is in Sydney, Australia’s biggest city. This is the easiest part of Australia to get to from the UK due to its airport location, it’s also home to some iconic sights such as the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. It’s a great first destination due to being a busy city filled with lots to do but also many beaches, coasts and wild areas to get the best of both worlds! The most popular route for backpacking is the east coast route, from Sydney heading North to Byron Bay and then to north Queensland. This route offers variety and lots of opportunities, such as visiting national parks, and rainforests and opportunities to go snorkelling, surfing and skydiving as Australia is famous for its water sports.
Due to the variety of locations on the East Coast route, it also means lots of job opportunities and the chance to earn whilst you travel to help with any additional expenses. This could be working in the local bars, restaurants and pubs of which there are many in the cities, the city Newcastle is known as the student city and is famous for its nightlife so has many public places to work in. However, you could prefer to work teaching a skill you have such as surfing or snorkelling at one of the beaches or doing odd jobs such as fruit picking and crop farm work.
Many travellers and experienced backpackers say a minimum of 4 weeks to travel around Australia alone, however, most people also visit New Zealand whilst on the continent. New Zealand is the top-rated place to go backpacking and is also seen as being an easier destination to travel through, most cities have airports that have international flights, travelling around New Zealand can be done easily by ferry or even by road. New Zealand is a very easy country to navigate around, there are frequent busses and backpacker’s busses to take, and camper vans and cars are easy to rent if you prefer driving. The Rental company Jucy is the most commonly used in New Zealand.
Safety during backpacking:
Whilst backpacking safety is most important, most backpackers are solo travellers and out of the solo travellers 80% are women so ensuring you can look after yourself is key. This will include packing safety essentials such as a first aid kit, medication, sanitary products and water, as well as packing gear that could be useful in emergencies like headlamps and safety whistles.
Before you go to your chosen destination it is also good to research about it, so you are as prepared as possible and know what to expect. Having knowledge on your location, any specific risks and what is advised to take will lower any worries or stress and will also mean you are prepared to respond to issues that may arise whilst travelling.
Also, protecting yourself through insurance is important, Backpacker insurance gives you the same cover as normal policies but with added extra protection. For example, many cover a wider range of activities and sports that are not usually covered by standard travel insurance such as skiing and water sports and cover you for multiple destinations and a longer duration.
Backpacking is an exciting way of travelling that allows you to see so much during your time, being able to see different cultures, celebrations and destinations whilst living life in a completely new and unique way. For so many of us travelling and seeing all different areas of the world is top of the bucket list and something we aspire to do, backpacking can be a way of making that a reality. However, no matter your preferred way to travel, it’s important to keep safe by being knowledgeable, prepared and responsive. So, stay safe and follow your dreams.
Written by Mia Lorriman