Okay, I had 4 backpacking trips before, to Bangkok twice, the first trip I couldn't get the full experience of Bangkok because of demonstrations and Riots, Second trip I went with BTS and by foot only from Saphan Kwai to Siam. Third, I went to Bali, Petitenget, Ubud, Legian Kuta. Fourth, I went to Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
I am a solo traveler. Why? I just love travel alone, I call it my 'me time'. It's the time when I escape from routine and a time when I can do everything I want, have my own schedule, decide what I want to go or do, what to eat. And of course, I can meet a lot of people along the way. So far, I've met Spanish, Italian, French, and Germany. I also met Thai people. It's incredible to chat with them, besides practicing my English speaking, they shared some information of their hometown, their country, how they live and also I learn some new languages.
I must admit that being a backpacker is not as easy as it looks. But, trust me it's really fun and exciting! Well maybe, bacpacking is not for everyone. You have to put up with the conditions, you can get dirty, you obviously going to be sweaty if you're traveling in a tropical country. You have to be able to walk everyday and in a long distance with your backpack. But, you also find things that you won't find in a tour. Like for example, when you walk you might pass some interesting buildings or museums or markets that you didn't know and not in the attraction list. And you can stop by to see those things since you're not in a bus, or in a tour. Another advantage is that you will know the way to a lot of places because you look in the map and you figure out by yourself where to go.
When I got home after my backpacking trip, I burned my skin and my shoulder was stiff after carrying my backpack. My feet got scratches and hurt because of a long walk. No, it's not pretty but trust me, it's worth it!
So, here it is!
1. Do a research about the country you will visit
You have to know the season of the month you visiting, also find out about the language they're speaking. You don't have to learn the language, but if it's the country with a lot of tourist, mostly the native know English. But like some countries, they are not familiar with English, like France or Japan.
Make your own itinerary, no need for a precise timeline. A list for day 1, etc is enough. Then you know where you have to go. For solo travelers I don't suggest the 'Just wing it' type. It's better to know your destination before you get off the plane. I did my itinerary but along the way I changed the destinations if I found other interested place or usually I added some places after I arrived in the location. The itinerary is only your references.
2. Budget Plan
Find out where you going to stay or book first on the website. I didn't book before since I want to move places, but it was a nightmare. I ended up on a bad one because everything was full booked. It's better to find out where you're going to stay first, you can see the pictures and review on the website, what attraction it is located in, and you can find out if the place is near the rail station or bus terminal. Since you're traveling solo, you need to make sure your own safety, right?
If you want to move places to stay according to where you are that day, you still can book the place before. That way you can also put it in the budget since you know how much you're going to spend for a night.
Ex. I'm going to Myanmar, I will arrive in Yangon and at night I'm going to Mandalay by bus, the trip is overnight, so I don't need to book anything for day one, but I booked a place to stay on day 2 since I'm staying in Mandalay.
I also do research for the food prices, so I can count my budget for meal. Usually I added it up in case it's more expensive.
Ex. 700 kyat is the food price in Myanmar. I put it 1000 kyat. 1000x3 times a day = 3000 kyat x 5 days = 15.000 kyat
That goes the same for Public transportation. I find out what bus or train I should take and which one is better. People's reviews are important. And also the prices for transportation.
You also need to search for the attraction fee, how much is the price.
Also prepare a budget for gifts if in case you want to by some.
3. Find out the currency
I always prepare the currency of the country I will visit before I go. But if the currency is not available on your hometown, you have to exchange your money in the airport when you arrive or in the city. It is important to find out the currency and where is the best place for exchanging money. Because some country won't accept your country currency. I always prepare some cash of my country currency for emergency case.
Ex. for Indonesian to go to Myanmar we have to exchange our currency to USD and they exchange USD to Kyat in Myanmar.
4. Do some research on places you want to visit.
Some of the attraction have do's and dont's. There are rules to be obeyed and as a traveler, that doesn't mean you're ignorance. Rules made for your own safety so make sure to obey it as we're not in our country.
It is important to know beforehand so you can prepare your clothes before your trip.
Ex. in tiger temple Kanchanaburi, visitors aren't allowed to wear bright colors since it would provoke the tigers to attack. In what Arun, you have to wear decent clothes, no short pants or tank tops.
5. Prepare a map
You can buy before the trip or just buy it in the airport or bookstore in the place you visit. Usually the tourist sections at the airport will give you free map. Trust me, map is your loyal friend when you travel. It helps a lot, (well also google maps) and if you asked some local people and they don't speak English, you can point the map and they can show you the direction or might be better they can tell you what public transportation you can take!
On my last trip to Kanchanaburi I used map and google maps. They worked well together. I knew the location of the places from the map and I know how long it took to walk or by bike to the destination.
6. Prepare your backpack
I always pack my stuff on a night before I go. Make sure you're travel light. You don't have to bring a lot of clothes, for 5 days I just bring 3 tops and 2 pants. You have to choose your clothes based on the season and the attraction do's and don'ts.
Ex. If you want to visit waterfall, better pack your swimsuit.
Also, you have to know flight regulations. It doesn't really matter if you put it in the baggage but it you bring your bag with you on the plane, you have to make sure all liquid is under 100ml and total maximum liquid is 1000ml. That's the general rule, but for some airlines they have maximum weight of a bag, ex. Airasia only allowed 1 carry on bag with 7 kg maximum weight while Tigerairs allowed 2 carry on bags with total 10kg maximum weight.
7. Make friends
This might be my favorite part. Along the way you will find another travellers or backpackers. The first opening sentence would be Hello/ hi, where are you from? and Voila! you got friends!
8. Be aware
Be aware of your surroundings. Remember there are a lot of criminals and bad people. Bring your passport, money identity card, electronic stuff, flight itinerary with you all the time. That's your life line while you travel.
Be aware of what you drink and eat when you eat with another people you just knew. Never eat or drink if it's given not by the seller or the restaurant.
Also prepare your personal medicine before the trip. I always bring medicine for flu, anti allergic, and bandages (Hansaplast) and body spray to keep bugs away (mosquitoes and etc)
8. Get lost
Get lost somewhere! It is amazing! I've tried wing it from Thonburi station to Siam. I didn't know where to go but I know what transportation I should take. Getting lost sometimes has its merits. You find interesting things you didn't know before. For a backpacker, you gotta have the 'No panic situation', just stay calm when you get lost, you definitely will find your way out in the end, just think of it as a challenge. Anyway with map you won't get lost too far.
Enjoy the backpacker's life!! :)