A First Timers Guide to Backpacking – RatPack Travel

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A First Timers Guide to Backpacking

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Heading off on your first backpacking trip can be intimidating. You’re a long way from home and it’s a big ol’ step in to the unknown but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the best time ever. Travelling is all about letting go and having an epic time. I’m sure you’re super excited to get going, but don’t be afraid to admit if you’re feeling a little apprehensive – we’ve got your back.

We’ll be sharing with you tips all about:

  • What hostels are really like
  • How to make friends
  • What to do if you get homesick
  • AND, should you pre plan?

All of our tips come from our own experiences! None of us are born with backpacks on and it takes a little time to adjust so thats why we’ve put all tips together for you…

A Trip of a Lifetime...

When I first set off to Australia there is no denying that while being super excited and so ready to get out there, I was extremely nervous. I didn’t have a clue what travelling would be like – I was used to hopping on a 2 hour plane to somewhere nice in Europe – this whole backpacking malarkey was completely new to me. You’ve just gotta wing it! It’s the best thing to do. None of this waiting for the right time to go and scheduling every second, you’ve just got to go for it…believe me, you’ll have a banging time.

Here at RatPack, all we want is for you to have the adventure that you deserve. We want you to get out there feeling stress free, rid of any worries and ready to embrace the backpacking lifestyle.

So, here are some of our tips and tricks for all you first timers out there. 

Let’s gooooooooooooooo…

Should I pre-plan my trip?

Yes, yes, YES! Pre-planning and booking in advance is essential. It’s also more likely that you’ll get the cheaper deals and discounts.

Of course this is all up to you – if you wanna wing it, go for it. I booked as I went along which was absolutly fine (well, apart from ending up in some pretty awful last minute dorms and spending too much on an Airbnb because I couldn’t find a room). But hey, it’s all part of the adventure!

We can create you, your very own calendar based on your timeframe, travel plan and budget…

Visas and flights

Flights

  • Give Skyscanner a look over – it’ll give you a list of all the cheapest flights. Sometimes it can be a little misleading though and the prices do jump up when you click on them – so be careful.
  • Book direct from the airline – surprisingly this can sometimes be cheaper, so always compare before you buy.

Visa

  • You can do this yourself on the Australian immigration website. All it is is a pretty straight forward form to fill out. Whatever you do, don’t pay a travel agent to do this, it’s SUPER easy to do by yourself.. Save the money for the trip!

How to choose a hostel?

Australia is a hub for backpackers, everywhere you look there’s a hostel so you shouldn’t struggle to find somewhere.

  • Check Hostelworld – this will give you a list of all of the hostels in your area.
  • Book direct – always compare the direct price with Hostelworld. I found that it was usually cheaper this way.
  • Ask people for recommendations and ALWAYS read reviews.

Make sure to pre-book in Sydney, Byron, Noosa and Melbourne – they all get pretty busy.

What are hostels really like?

You’re in luck if you’re travelling to Aussie. Overall, the hostels are pretty damn lovely…but obvs there are some things to prepare yourself for if it’s your first time:

Kitchens

  • Expect them to get pretty busy.
  • Fridge space is communal – so always label your food (grab a big cool bag from the supermarket and just store your food in there).
  • Check out the free food shelf if you need some inspo.
  • Everything is hand washed, so just check how clean something is before you use it.
  • Use the communal eating space as a place to mingle with the other travellers.

Bathrooms

  • Usually communal (male and female separate).
  • From my experience, they have always been super clean.
  • Remember to bring a canvas bag with you to hang your towel and dry clothes on the door whilst you shower (this is a life changing hack)!
  • Oh, and wear flip-flops (don’t want soggy wet feet do we?)

Lockers

  • Most hostels should provide lockers buuuut, some don’t.
  • Bring a padlock to lock up your valuables in a bag if this is the case.
  • You tend to just leave your backpack on the floor by your bed (no ones gonna want to touch your dirty backpacker clothes anyway – so they’re safe here).

Social aspect

  • Most people will be in the exact same boat as you – first timers or looking for friends just as you are.
  • Use the communal spaces to have a lil mingle.
  • Join in with the hostel ran activities – grab some drinks and socialise.

Will I make friends?

The concept of making friends when you’re halfway across the world can seem intimidating but, just keep in mind EVERYONE is feeling the same as you. Everyone wants to come away having met some amazing new people, so it’s just a case of putting yourself out there and throwing around the typical comments of ‘where are you from’, ‘where are you going next’…

  • Hostels – great place to meet people in shared dorms.
  • Tours – you’re bunged together with a load of people having the time of their life – you’re gonna make some pals.
  • Hostel events – join in on the pub crawls, bbq’s, pizza nights and quizzes.

How to budget?

Australia is known for being on the pricey side, which makes it very easy to underestimate your budget.

Getting a budget plan together BEFORE you go is essential.

  • Book all tours in advance – this way you can avoid tourist traps and last minute panic buying.
  • Put together a little budget diary to keep track of your day-to-day spending.
  • Get a travel money card to transfer over a daily budget – so you don’t over-spend.
  • Pre-book hostels when you can to avoid paying on arrival which can be more expensive.

Check out my post on how to budget in Aussie – it’s got all the tips and tricks you need to stretch that dolla… click here

What if I get homesick?

This is SUCH a normal feeling to have when you’re travelling. Everything around you is so new and home is far away. So, don’t feel like the odd one out if you are feeling homesick – truth is, most people around you have/are probably feeling it too.

  • Facetime – we’re so lucky that we can use this!
  • Keep busy – book that tour, get yourself out of bed and head on that walk…Aussie is so beaut it’s not hard to find something to do.
  • Hang out with people – put yourself out there and make some friends.
  • Remember, it’s ok to take some time to yourself and have a day off. It doesn’t all have to be go go go!

Ready for this trip of a lifetime?

Chat to our Team

We operate a 24/7 service across multiple time zones. Our RatPackers have all been there and done it! Get the ball rolling on your upcoming trip. Send over your rough travel plans (including your flight details / dates). If you are yet to book a flight and seeking advice – HIT US UP ↡

I hope my first timer tips and tricks have given you everything you need to head off on your first travelling adventure. Just don’t forget to pre-plan, remember that you will make friends and hit us up for any of your questions about tours and creating a calendar! But most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself RatPack Style. 

Yewwwwwwwwwwwwww Holly (RPT Blog Writer) 

Stay Tuned for my next piece…

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