Top 10 Cheap Backpacking Tips

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway

We know you’re pinching every penny, trying to get through the gauntlet of college life. That doesn’t mean you can’t kill it with an incredible backpacking trip. You need to play it smart, though; finding ways to cut corners and watching your wallet very carefully to maximize this adventure. The crew at StudentUniverse has a singular goal here. We want you to grab a backpack, wander confidently, and come back with some cash still in the bank.

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The best part about backpacking is that you make the rules, but you need to hit a few checkpoints first. You need to pick the country you want to visit, figure out how exactly you’re getting there, and make sure you still have a little money left over after for your next trip. Use these 10 tips to keep your backpacking trip on budget, while still having the trip of a lifetime.

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Top 10 Cheap Backpacking Tips

  1. Pack Light

    With backpacking, your mantra should always be pack light. Four pairs of jeans is just going to weigh you down when you’re hiking or running for a train. You need to leave stuff behind and streamline what you’re bringing with you. Leave your favorite jewelry or your grandfather’s watch at home too; bringing valuable or sentimental stuff with you is asking for a disaster. Only pack what you can replace, and save money of overweight luggage fees when you fly.

  2. Camp Out

    If you can, you should really camp out for part of your backpacking trip. In a lot of countries, there are plenty of comfy campgrounds that won’t drain your monetary resources. This is a great option if you have some experience camping and you have the option of carrying your own tent. If you’re ready and willing to embrace your inner Bear Grylls, you can make camping work just about anywhere. Make sure to stay safe, though, especially if you’re backpacking solo.

  3. Get a Hostel with a Kitchen

    Camping isn’t for everyone. You might not be able to bring all the gear you’d need, or you might just want the comfort of a bed. Try one of the hundreds of backpacker-friendly hostels across the world. The best ones have free breakfasts, or even a communal kitchen with access to cooking stuff. If you buy groceries and make a couple meals in the hostel, you can save a ton of money over a long trip. Bonus; you make new friends in the hostel kitchen.

  4. Bring Your Own Snacks

    Being on an adventure and living out of your trusty backpack can really drain you. Snacks might seem like a silly addition to your gear, but it can really help you keep energy levels high between meals and rests. Even in the cheapest countries to visit, local vendors know that snacks are necessary during travel, and they tend to jack up the prices on quick bites to eat; dodge this unforeseen expenditure and bring your own protein or granola bars.

  5. Buy a Train Pass

    In a lot of places, especially Western Europe and all over Asia, there are train passes you can pre-purchase. These passes can allow you to travel all over the country you’re in, without worrying about cost after that initial purchase of the pass, for a set period of time. If you’re gonna be bouncing around a certain region, a train pass can save you hella money over the course of your entire trip. Train-hopping can really get you a great view of a country.

  6. Walk, Don't Take a Cab

    Don’t let the convenience of a cab ride lure you in. There are milage costs and tipping the driver. Also, sometimes cab drivers take you on the “scenic route” to hike your fare, or just flat-out overcharge you. Walking, while also being super good for your body and the earth, is really good for your budget. If you want to go somewhere and it’s too far of a walk, look to public transit to get you there. Busses and trains are cheap and usually reliable.

  7. Be Careful of Pickpockets and Scam Artists

    No matter where you’re backpacking, if it’s Europe, Southeast Asia, or somewhere else, cities have some form of pickpockets or scam artists. They can spot a tourist from a mile away, and will go out of their way to take advantage of you. It’d be heartbreaking to be staying on budget and then have that all ruined by a theft, so you need to keep your money close at hand. The best way to do this? Hidden pockets and money belts.

  8. Visit the Liquor Store

    Local businesses love making money off tourists, and that is apparent big time in bars and clubs. The ones near tourist destinations will overcharge because they figure you won’t realize. Pre-gaming at the hostel will solve that. Check local public drinking restrictions before you go. Also, a lot of European clubs have punch cards for drinks, and you cash out when you leave. Don’t let your bartender over-punch, and don’t lose your card. Check out this list of best travel guides to get all information you need to know.

  9. Avoid Tourist Traps

    Watch where the locals go. Eat lunch where the locals eat. Spend friday nights where the locals do. Keep a running list of the cool stuff to do in a location that doesn’t cost anything; going to a parks and gardens or doing some window-shopping. Take advantage of free walking tours, but remember you’re supposed to tip your guide. Find the attractions that have deals for students or discount days. Museums and playhouses are the best source of these.

  10. Travel with a Group

    Backpacking solo is a freeing experience, but there’s always strength in numbers. Traveling in a group can save you cash by sharing various duties. One of you is a good cook? That’ll help big time. One person is detail oriented? Let them set up the train trips. One’s a seasoned camper? They’ll have the gear to camp comfortably (and cheaply). A group complicates the planning process, but don’t let that scare you. You can always break away and meet up later.

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