Posts

Most travelers dream of hitting the road with the most essentials packed into the lightest load. When planning to travel with only the necessities on your back, deciding what you need to bring on your trip can be an overwhelming process.

You shouldn’t carry too much unnecessary weight on your back or worse, heavy items that take up so much space that you miss out on packing essentials such as sunblock, insect repellant, or your handy pocket knife.

So before you hit the road, run through your backpacking checklist and start filling it up with some of this essential gear.

If you are a first-time backpacker, one of the most important things to start early on is a visa, and if you’re traveling to a neighboring country or going on an expedition with a group of people, it is important that all your travel documents are correctly collated.

Check iVisa.com to apply for your eVisa and Health Declaration.

Here is a list of items that you can pack that will make your trip a light one:

A durable backpack

Your backpack has to fit your body (height and torso length) properly and brave the elements like rain, dust, and a heavy fall if need be. Also, make sure to get a bag that has many zip-up pockets and compartments for optimal packing.

Sleeping bag

Sleeping bags come in a variety of sizes, either spacious or streamlined, and a wide range of materials. For a backpacker traveler, sleep is very important, so you won’t sleep well if you’re cold, so consider these key factors when picking one:

  • Rate of temperature: you should pick a sleeping bag rated a bit lower than the typical low temperatures you anticipate.
  • Insulation type: The big choice is between down or synthetic. Synthetic offers solid performance at an affordable price, but down is more sought after because it’s lighter and more compressible.
  • Weight: The quality of your insulation and the cut of your bag are big factors. When you are comparing weights also compare bags with a similar temperature rating.

First-Aid Kit and Toiletry Bag

Your personal hygiene and safety should come first, so your toiletries and first-aid kit are very important. Make sure to pack a bar of soap, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, and toothpaste, toilet paper, wipes, moisturizer, as well as any prescription medications you may need. Take along an SPF-rated sunscreen and lip balm.

Clothing and footwear

When packing clothing, pack according to the predicted weather. Keep in mind that gentle hikes on smooth trails usually require hiking shoes or trail runners while steep hikes on rocky, rugged trails will likely require a sturdy pair of hiking boots.

If you are planning a backpacking trip in the near future, then it is vital that you prepare yourself to ensure that you are completely safe while travelling. To ensure you have a memorable and enjoyable time on your trip, you should take a look at the following travel safety tips for backpackers. This will provide you with all the information you need to feel secure when abroad. 

Always plan ahead

One of the most important steps for safe travel should occur well before you step on the plane, starting with your passport. Before you do anything, make sure you check the expiry date on your passport, as an out-of-date passport will not be accepted in any airport around the world.

Checking your travel documents is one of the most important travel safety tips

Some countries require travellers to have at least six months left on their passport from the entrance date. If your passport has run out or you have less than six months until the expiry, make sure you apply for a new passport at least three months before travelling to be on the safe side.

You may also require a visa to gain admittance into the country you are visiting. Of course, this will depend on where in the world you are travelling to, as some destinations are more lenient than others.

One country that does require a visa is the United States. If you are taking a backpacking trip to the US, you will need to obtain an ESTA before your trip. This applies to 38 countries, including the UK, EU countries, Australia, New Zealand and more. If your country is not listed, you will need to apply for a B-2 tourist visa which will grant you six months of travel access across the US. 

Protect yourself

When backpacking, you protect yourself at all times. This is especially important right now, with the COVID pandemic spreading around the world. While travel is restricted, there will be a time when borders are lifted, and backpacking trips will begin again.

When this occurs, you need to ensure that you maintain excellent hygiene standards by washing your hands regularly and keeping a compact hand sanitiser nearby at all times. It would help if you looked up the guidelines regarding COVID for each place you visit by checking the destination’s government or embassy website.

Travel Safety Tips in the age of Coronavirus

By sticking to the guidelines and maintaining good hygiene habits, you can significantly reduce your chances of getting sick. However, we are all human beings, and sometimes we get sick, especially when travelling, as this could result in reduced sleep, which may affect your immune system.

To prevent any problems with illness, you should purchase travel insurance which will cover you if you need to visit a doctor or require medication. It will also protect you financially if you suffer an injury such as a broken ankle. If you are hospitalised and miss a flight, having travel insurance will be a God’s send, as this will prevent you from splashing out on a new flight.

Watch what you eat and drink

It may seem like obvious advice, but maintaining a balanced diet is one of the most important travel safety tips when backpacking. Sometimes the distraction of sightseeing and meeting new people can result in missed meals or an unhealthy diet, which can leave you feeling lethargic or even ill.

Some people may think eating a balanced diet means you must eat healthy at all times, but this is not the case after all your backpacking trip should be all about fun and treating yourself to local food is part of that. However, you should try to be careful, especially if you have a weak stomach, as some foods may not agree with you, resulting in sickness.

Staying hydrated is also a massive must, especially if you are travelling to hot destinations. To ensure you keep on top of your water intake, you should pack a few reusable water bottles which you can put in your backpack or clip to your side while hiking, exploring and sightseeing.

Travel Safety Tips and COVID

Now you have all the travel safety tips you need for an exciting and super secure backpacking trip, why not look at our article on COVID-19 and backpacking. This guide will offer all the tips you need to stay sane before you can start travelling around the world again.

With 2021 full of hope, it’s time to dust off your backpack and think about where to go next. If you’re on a budget, you may be wondering about the cheapest countries for backpacking travel. The thing is, especially if you’ve been aching to get back out there, ‘budget travel’ can be a bit of an oxymoron. People go traveling to see something new, and once it finally becomes possible to go backpacking in 2021, the last thing you want to do is restrict yourself.

The way to travel on a budget without feeling too limited is to go backpacking in countries where food, accommodation, and transport are cheap. This will allow you to stretch your budget and splurge on the occasional special activity to get the most out of your trip. The good news is, after you figure out a cheap way to get to your destination, it is possible to travel around some of the most beautiful destinations on earth for less than $20 a day. Believe it or not, it can sometimes be cheaper to be on the road than to stay at home considering your normal rent and daily expenses! 

So without further ado, here is our updated list of the cheapest backpacking countries for 2021.

Bulgaria – The best Eastern European country for budget travel

Even though Bulgaria is the cheapest backpacking country to visit in Eastern Europe, it has an abundance of gorgeous landscapes that rival its neighbors. During our 5 days in Bulgaria were able to see Alpine mountains, forested countryside, sandy beaches on the Black Sea, plus beautiful cities like Sofia and Veliko Tărnovo.

The Rila Monastery near Sofia in Bulgaria, one of the cheapest backpacking countries in the world

The Rila Monastery near Sofia, Bulgaria

Because we were traveling in the off season, we were able to splurge on the occasional high-end luxury accommodation for less than $100 a night. Of course, you can always find cheaper hostels in Bulgaria. Food and drink are also super affordable, with the average price of a beer being about a dollar.

Learn more: Backpacking in Bulgaria

India

India is one of those countries where budget travel is almost entirely dependent on your willingness to haggle. If you strike the right tone, India can be one of the cheapest backpacking countries in the world.

When booking guesthouses, you’ll most certainly get a better price by booking directly with the guest house versus booking online through an agency. Transportation-wise, it is super cheap to get around in India. In the big cities, we recommend using Uber it’s actually much cheaper than the prices you’ll be quoted for a tuk-tuk ride. For intercity travel, trains cost between $8 – $30, and you can even find flights within that price range!

Learn more: Backpacking in India

Portugal – The cheapest backpacking country in Western Europe

Portugal is a great option in Western Europe for travelers on a budget. You’ll be able to experience the vibrant European culture as well as world-famous food and wine at a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay in France or Spain. 

Learn more: Backpacking in Portugal

Cambodia

Cambodia has so much to offer, and you can travel there for about $20 a day. Private rooms in a nice guesthouse will cost you about $10, and tuk-tuk rides are a savvy way to get around. Our guest house helped us arrange a private tuk-tuk driver to help us visit the many temples of Angkor Wat for just $12!  You can even get a 30-day SIM card with 1.5 GB of data for $2.

Ta Prohm Temple in the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Cambodia, one of the cheapest backpacking countries

Ta Prohm Temple in the Angkor Wat Temple Complex

Learn more: Backpacking in Cambodia

Georgia

With medieval fortresses, majestic mountains, and friendly locals, the country of Georgia should be much higher on the list of top backpacking destinations. And with delicious meals starting at $3, and $1 local buses, it’s one of the best countries for budget travel. You don’t have to withhold on the cultural activities here, since most entrance tickets cost around $2.

The Caucasus Mountains in Georgia

The Caucasus Mountains in Georgia

Learn more: Backpacking in Georgia

The Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, the old trope ‘beer is cheaper than water’ is actually true. While the Czech Republic boasts much of the same beauty as its neighbors like Germany and Austria, it’s possible to travel here at a fraction of the cost.

Learn more: Backpacking in the Czech Republic

Bolivia – the cheapest backpacking country in South America

Bolivia is one of the cheapest backpacking countries in the world and is very popular with adventurers. Here, it is possible to get a 3-course meal for less than $2. Accommodation in a hostel dorm room costs between $8-$12 a night, and local and long-distance buses are a cheap way to get around. Even the most famous backpacker destination in Bolivia, the Uyuni Salt Flats, won’t break the bank, costing around $200 for 3 days, which is relatively cheap for this bucket-list destination!

Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia

Learn more: Backpacking in Bolivia

Nepal

Trekking in Nepal doesn’t have to cost as much as you might imagine. Other than the Everest Base Camp Trek (an exorbitant expense), there are plenty of beautiful Himalayan treks where it is possible to go by yourself. The Short Annapurna Circuit, for example, is well-marked with guesthouses along the path for about $5 a night, so you won’t have to carry tons of gear. (If you want to go all the way to Annapurna Base Camp, you’ll need to go with a guide). Food and drink in Nepal are also very affordable, with meals costing between $2-$3.

Learn more: Backpacking in Nepal

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is certainly one of those countries where you can travel on a budget or live in the lap of luxury for relatively affordable prices. Their infamous train system (a bucket-list item in itself) is the cheapest way to get around the country. Or, you could hire a private taxi to travel between cities with a few other people from your hostel. Keep a special travel budget set aside for entrance fees to nature reserves and UNESCO Heritage sites!

Learn more: Backpacking in Sri Lanka

Colombia

One of our favorite backpacking destinations because of the friendly locals, diverse landscapes, and of course, affordability. You could easily backpack in Colombia for a month with just $1000 in your bank account. By taking long-distance buses, staying in hostel dorm rooms, and cooking your own food in the hostel kitchens, you can visit destinations like Medellín, Cartagena, and Salento on a budget.

The Cocora Valley near Salento, Colombia

The Cocora Valley near Salento, Colombia

Learn more: Backpacking in Colombia

Honorable Mention

Denmark

This country certainly doesn’t scream ‘budget travel’ but it’s the cheapest country in Scandinavia. If visiting this part of the world has been a dream of yours, we can definitely recommend Denmark in comparison with its more expensive Scandinavian neighbors Norway, Sweden, or Finland.

Nyhavn Canal in Copenhagen, Denmark, one of the cheapest backpacking countries in Scandinavia

Nyhavn Canal in Copenhagen, Denmark

Learn more: Backpacking in Denmark

 

Regardless of your travel style, Berlin is a must when backpacking around Europe. This city has something for everyone: history buffs, night owls, foodies. But between the history and the infamous modern Berlin vibe, how can possibly decide what to do in Berlin in 3 days?

After living here for 5 years, I have put together a list of things to do if you only have 3 days in Berlin, to make sure you get an authentic impression of the city. I share it with my friends who come to visit! Berlin’s storied past is one of the reasons I love this city, but I’ll also provide some ways for you to get off the tourist trail and see a glimpse of the real Berlin.

1. Get an Introduction to Berlin with a Free Walking Tour

If you have 3 days in Berlin, it’s definitely worth spending at least half a day soaking in the history. There’s no better way to get an introduction to Berlin’s important history than with a free walking tour. Sandemans is the most popular, and for good reason. In about 3 hours you’ll learn about Berlin’s role during WWII and how the Berlin Wall later divided the city in two. The historical center of Berlin is compact, and this walking tour will hit all the major highlights. It’s one of the first things you should do while backpacking in Berlin in order to get your bearings. During your tour, you’ll see the major highlights of central Berlin including the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, and Checkpoint Charlie.

Don't miss a stop at Brandenburg Gate while backpacking in Berlin

Don’t miss a stop at Brandenburg Gate while backpacking in Berlin

2. Explore the Reichstag and Tiergarten (by Bike!)

During your 3 days in Berlin, you should rent a bike to explore the areas around the Reichstag and the Tiergarten. You can walk the symbolic glass dome of the Reichstag, but you’ll need to make reservations in advance. Continue deep into the Tiergarten, don’t miss the Victory Column (Siegessäule). End your bike tour with beers and snacks at the Cafe am Neuen See Biergarten, where you can rent a rowboat for one of the kitschy fun things to do in Berlin.

Berlin Reichstag Parliament Building

Berlin Reichstag Parliament Building

3. Spend an Evening at a Local Watering Hole

Whether you want a swanky cocktail bar, a grungy dive bar, or an outdoor Biergarten, Berlin has tons of options. Over the years I’ve selected a few favorites that I always recommend to my friends.

I love Monkey Bar on the rooftop of the 25 hours hotel. The bar gets its name from its view over the monkey habitats at the Berlin Zoo. This place has artisan cocktails, upscale bar snacks, and an unbeatable view over Berlin’s skyline. It’s one of my favorite viewpoints in the city and should definitely be on your list for your 3 days in Berlin.

If you’re looking for a locals-style bar, you have endless choices. You can find a large concentration of great bars on Oranienstrasse in Kreuzberg or the area around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain. Some of my favorites are Mano Cafe, Das Hotel, Mein Haus am See. Keep in mind that most bars in Berlin still allow smoking inside, but if you do your research ahead of time, you can find some smoke-free options.

For an outdoor drink spot, my favorite place in Berlin is James Simon Park with its stunning view of the River Spree, Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island. You can relax in a Biergarten chair and try a Berliner Weiße (a beer mixed with fruit flavor). While in the area, wander over to Mombijou park to watch the locals dancing Salsa.

While Berlin isn’t particularly known for Biergartens (it’s more of a Bavarian thing), you still have some great options. Schleussen Krug in the Tiergarten boasts organic Biergarten fare, Prater Garten in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg was the first and still-largest Biergarten in Berlin, and BRLO Brewery is a modern interpretation of a Biergarten serving craft brews and modern food pairings.

4. Eat a Delicious Brunch

Take advantage of each day you’re in Berlin to check out some great brunch spots around the city. You’ll wish you had a full week in Berlin to try them all! I love Napoljonska in Prenzlauer Berg, Distrikt Coffee in Mitte, or Restaurant Bastard in Kreuzberg. Some of our other favorites are Hallesches Haus or House of Small Wonder (make a reservation).

5. Mauerpark Flea Market

If you happen to be in Berlin on a Sunday, be sure to visit the Mauerpark Flea Market in the afternoon. More than a market, it’s like a music festival every weekend with buskers, the popular karaoke amphitheater, and people from all over the world picnicking in the park. An afternoon in Mauerpark is one of the quintessential things to do in Berlin, and it’s not to be missed.

6. Take Your Pick of UNESCO Museums on Museum Island

If you have 3 days in Berlin, you should spend at least some time exploring Museum Island, which is home to 5 (yes 5!) UNESCO World Heritage Museums. The Pergamon is the most visited art museum in Germany and features Babylonian and Islamic exhibits. The DDR Museum is a living-history time capsule displaying typical East Berlin life. Both Museums are along the river where you can later take a Spree River Cruise to see East and West Berlin from the water.

Berlin Cathedral Berliner Dom

Berlin Cathedral on Museum Island

7. Stroll Around an Iconic Berliner Kiez

Berlin is famous for its Kiez-culture (Kiez = neighborhood). During your 3 days in Berlin, you can window shop, people watch, and mingle with the locals for an afternoon in one of the bustling neighborhoods in Berlin. My favorite areas are:

  • Bergmannkiez in Kreuzberg
  • The area around Kastanienallee, Eberswalderstrasse, & Oderbergerstrasse in Prenzlauerberg
  • Wrangelkiez in Kreuzberg.

8. Sample Berlin’s Best Restaurants

Berlin is home to a growing foodie scene, and there is something for everyone from takeaway Döner Kebab to Michelin Star cuisine. During your 3 days in Berlin, be sure to explore the restaurant scene. Great options are The Bird (Burgers), Zula (Israeli), but seriously… don’t leave Berlin without a Döner Kebab– they were invented here!

9. Walk the East Side Gallery

Nowadays, most of the Berlin Wall itself is gone, but the border is still marked throughout the city by a line of bricks. You’ll likely cross between former East and West sides of the city multiple times during your 3 days in Berlin! If you want to see the longest stretch of the Wall still standing, you should visit the East Side Gallery, which is basically an outdoor museum using the Berlin Wall as an ever-changing canvas for artists. After walking 1.3 km/.8 mile stretch of mural-covered wall, cross the red Oberbaumbrücke bridge into the heart of Kreuzberg. Meander along Skalitzer Strasse toward Oranienburgerstrasse, and you’ll encounter more famous Berlin street art and get a taste of Kreuzberg. End your afternoon at Markthalle 9, a culinary smorgasbord.

Berlin Wall Street Art Mural Graffiti with Trabi Car. A quintessential thing to do in Berlin

Mural of the classic East German Trabi on the East Side Gallery

10. Go Clubbing

Clubbing in Berlin may require recovery time the next day– you won’t be home before sunrise if you want to do it right. If you only have 3 days in Berlin keep in mind that one full day will be spent recovering.

To start your evening in Berlin, head to an outdoor bar near the Spree River. Badeschiff is a beach bar named after its swimming pool, which floats in the river and is actually a repurposed boat.

If clubbing is at the top of your list of things to do while backpacking in Berlin, keep in mind that the door policies differ from club to club. Be sure to do a bit of research ahead of time. People start to trickle in around midnight, but the real action gets started around 2 or 3. Most of the famous clubs are near the Warschauer Strasse U-Bahn stop. You can try your luck at the notorious Berghain or head to other favorites Club Zur Wilde Renate or Ritter Butzke. Just don’t get too dressed up because the vibe is decidedly black T-Shirt

Berlin also has a steady rotation of themed dance parties around the city (Dirty Dancing 80s, Balkan Beats, Electro Swing, etc.). If techno isn’t your thing and you just want to let loose and dance, you can probably find all sorts of theme parties happening all around the city. You’ll see posters for parties like this all over the city, or you can check out Facebook events to see what’s happening.

And More…

If you’ve already hit the highlights during your 3 days in Berlin, and you’re looking for something further afield, spend some time checking out these awesome parks and day trips.

Tempelhofer Feld

The site of the supply airdrops and airlifts for West Berlin, this huge expanse is now an open park where Residents have created ‘installations’ such as community gardens and pop-up mini-golf courses. Best explored with a bike because it’s HUGE, on a weekend you can spot kite-surfing skateboarders, or families having barbecues. The old airport building at Tempelhoferfeld is currently home to many refugees and the park is the site of a regular ‘Schön, dass ihr da seid’ (Good to have you here) welcome barbecue.

Teufelsberg

Translated as ‘Devil’s Hill’ Teufelsberg is the site of Soviet-era spy tower station where the Americans listened in on East Berlin. The hill itself is man made – it’s built from the rubble of the city after WWII. The buildings still standing at Teufelsberg are covered with street art, and you can get lost meandering through the rooms which lead to the roof. A popular room is the echo room at the top of the towers.

Next Up: Learn more about Backpacking and Travel in Germany

Liked this article? Share it with others who might be after the same information!

A 3 day itinerary for things to do in Berlin