The feeling of freedom that follows a backpacker's lifestyle is attractive to more and more people. People need a break, but at the same time, backpacking can sound overwhelming when traveling to destinations with a different lifestyle, customs, culture... In this article, I would cover actionable tips on how to overcome the fear of backpacking in the region that's probably one of the most popular destinations for backpackers.
Know Before You Go
Lists are your friend, both during the planning phase and during the trip itself. Names, addresses, phone numbers, maps, bus routes, train schedules, hiking trails, ATM locations, hostel contacts…make your lists, check them twice, and enjoy the calm that comes with having that information handy.
Plan Your First Few Days Down To The Nose
Having a clear idea of how you'll spend your first few days in a new part of the world will help decrease any anxiety you have about the trip. Even if you don't stick to all of it -or any of it - just having the stability of a plan will be comforting.
Research The Local Cultures
A little bit of cultural knowledge can get you a long way! Whether it's a few basic phrases in the local language or some proper meal etiquette, respect is appreciated in all parts of the world. Doing your research and knowing a bit of what to expect (and what's expected of you) eases the fear of the unknown and also helps you avoid accidental faux pas.
Don't forget to research proper clothing while you're at it, as some countries may have more conservative dress norms than others. This is especially important if you're planning to visit any of the region's many temples or places of worship.
Keep Copies of Your Valuable Papers
Make photocopies of your passport, insurance cards, and ID cards and keep them in a safe place. It's easier to replace a lost or stolen passport when you've got copies to show to the authorities. Make sure the copies clearly show your photo, passport number, and other important information.
Practice Preventative Healthcare
Stomach trouble is every traveler's nightmare, but don't worry…it doesn't have to derail your trip. No one wants to weigh their backpack down with things they won't use, but it's much better to have some basic over-the-counter remedies like anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea pills just in case.
Pay a visit to your GP before your trip, discuss your travel plans, and make sure you're up-to-date with all vaccinations, including any special ones recommended for the countries you're visiting.
Also, be sure to bring insect repellant like bug spray and mosquito netting – not just for your comfort, but for your health. Mosquitos are notorious disease carriers; speak to your doctor about malaria prophylactics and other precautions you can take on your trip.
Drink Bottled Water
This goes along with preventative healthcare. Standards for safe tap water are lower in southeast Asia, but fortunately bottled water is cheap and available everywhere. Make sure the lid seal is unbroken before you buy it. It's safer to avoid ice as well, just in case.
Get Ready To Haggle
It's not rude, it's expected! Even if it's out of your comfort zone, get ready, because bargaining over prices is a normal part of shopping in southeast Asia. Use the listed prices at markets as your starting point for negotiations and don't be afraid to walk away – if your offered price is realistic, the seller will call you back and haggling will resume.
Expect Certain Things To Be…Different.
Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone in more ways than one! Don't expect Western-style toilets everywhere you go. In fact, expect squat toilets instead and plan accordingly by bringing your own toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes, and anything else you need to feel clean and comfortable. Also, toilet paper doesn't get flushed, it goes in the trash can.
Bring Good Shoes
Jungle trekkers and city wanderers alike will benefit from a quality pair of walking shoes – think substance over style. Bring Some casual slip-ons and flip flops too; they don't have to be expensive or fancy, just comfortable.
Try The Street Food
Southeast Asian street food is a treat for both your budget and your senses. Street vendors are everywhere on major streets and in markets and it's easy to get a great meal at a great price. Don't be afraid to try new flavors, and if you're worried about food safety just keep an eye on which stalls draw the biggest crowds – if it was bad, they wouldn't trust it.
Leave Room In Your Budget For Fun
Since both food and accommodation is cheap in Southeast Asia, this one is as easy as it is sensible! One way to do this is with sites like PlusVoucherCode, where you can find discount codes on everything from accommodation to activities. It never hurts to snag a great deal or special offer, so do some research, chat with your fellow travelers, and ask the locals. After all, you're on the adventure of a lifetime…enjoy it to the max!