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Pangong Tso lake

10 tips for a better backpacking experience

One difference between backpacking and leisure travel is in adapting to the environment. Backpacking also gives you a lot of opportunities to learn and grow as an individual. Here are a few tips to make your travel experience memorable.

1. Learn to bargain while backpacking

Backpacking

While backpacking, you’ll have to negotiate on prices for any service or commodity. New backpackers or visitors are especially at the risk of getting overcharged. It helps to be street-smart in these scenarios. You learn to negotiate and make better deals. And overall, you end up spending lesser money. Unlike our elders, most of us might have lost touch with our bargaining skills due to the supermarket or mall culture that we live in. But it’s never too late to practice bargaining at your local markets.

2. Read up on the places you’re visiting

Sri Lanka map reading

Getting a background about the places you’re visiting will help you better understand the people, history, culture and norms of your travel destination. And remembering names of local landmarks will help you get around from place to place, with ease (even when your phone battery is drained out). It is also noteworthy to make a rough itinerary of places to visit and places to dine at, based on your research from travel blogs, travel books (lonely planet) and other available information. This just helps you to make the best out of your backpacking trip.

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3. Note down commonly used terms in the local language

Yolo cafe Kasol

While travelling to remote locations or places where a majority of the people speak in a foreign language, it’s a good trick to note down translations of a few commonly used terms for food, water, directions, accommodation, markets, bus stops, train stations, etc. Another alternative these days, is to simply download the Google translate app on your phones and make use of it when there’s a need. Also, attempting to speak in the local language can help you connect better with the locals, who can see the effort you’re taking to communicate.

4. Blend in

Nako village group picture

A few benefits of blending in are that you won’t be outright considered as an outsider or a foreign traveller. You tend to avoid unnecessary attention from inquisitive and trouble making locals. And, you can have an in-depth experience of being a part of the local communities.

5. Be kind, but be wary

Langza Spiti valley

You’ll meet many people along the way during backpacking. Most of them will greet you with respect and kindness. And in return, it’s best you behave the same way. But try and draw the line when locals get too kind and persuasive, especially when they have something to sell or offer. Some acts of kindness are just a marketing gimmick, and you should learn to be able to detect and find the difference between the genuine and fake ones. This skill takes time to acquire, and it will also help you to make better decisions on whom to trust.

6. Write travel notes

Scribbling small notes during backpacking can help you document snippets of information about your overall experience. Jotting names of important places and people, sketching rough maps of your itinerary, and sometimes just doodling and writing in these small notes, will help in recording your memories, in a way that a photograph or video never can.

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7. Invest in a multi-utility tool

Hiking in Chitkul

A multi-utility tool, commonly referred to as the ‘swiss knife’, is a compact device with multiple utilities. It can be used as knives, spoons, screwdrivers, bottle openers, etc. There are many multi-utility tool options out there, with sometimes as many as 20+ different features. You can save a lot of space in your backpack and just carry one of these, instead of a lot of other different items. You just have to choose which one fits your budget and will be the most useful to you.

8. Carry a ‘gamcha’

Shillong market

A gamcha is a long piece of cloth, similar to the dupatta, but much more useful. During cold nights it can act as a muffler, during sunny days it can cover your head to avoid the heat, it can act as your substitute towel, and it can also be worn as a lungi if (and only if) you’ve completely run out of clothes. With so many uses for one single piece of extended cloth, it’s good to carry one around.

9. Travel light

Hiking to Grahan

Simply put, your backpack shouldn’t be the cause of your back pain. Travelling light also means being minimal and packing efficiently. And, it is a life skill that gets better with time. Lighter tees, cotton pants, compact sleeping bags, and backpacks with a padded cushion for the back, are a few tips for a lighter and carryable backpack.

10. Hitchhike

Langza donkey ride

Hitchhiking is a cheaper alternative to the normal mode of commuting. You sometimes meet interesting people, hear amazing stories from locals, and also learn unknown facts about the places you’re visiting. Additional you get to experience travelling in trucks, jeeps, lorries and other unconventional vehicles. Just a word of caution, though. Hitchhiking is fun, but much safer done in groups instead of alone.

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If you have any more such tips from your personal backpacking experience then do share it with us, below in the comments. We’d love to hear from you. And cheers to your next backpacking experience!

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