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Top 9 backpacking mistakes

1. Being a Lisa (Lisa, 19, spent three months in Australia)

The first tip is aimed particularly at solo travelers: please don’t be a Lisa, who spent three months in Australia at the age of 19 and used every opportunity to talk about it! If you backpack outside of Europe, you will meet many like-minded people. However, if you get to know new people, please don’t brag about all the places you’ve been to already. Most have also probably been to several places.

Also, what about backpackers who are on their first trip ever? Don’t take the excitement away from their first experience. Of course, the conversation about where you have been to, often comes up, and it’s great to find out that you have something in common with others, or to get some tips from them. Just don’t outdo the others with your backpacker experience. Backpacking is an individual experience that is about quality instead of quantity. No one cares about how many countries you have travelled to, but rather how your particular experience was.

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2. Wanting to stick to the plan

Sure, most people inform themselves about their travel route before the trip and usually implement it in the same way. However, what if things turn out different due to unforeseen reasons? Mistake number two is clear: don’t worry too much about sticking to a plan! It is highly unlikely that everything will work out as planned. Sooner or later, adhering to the schedule may become difficult, be it due to illness, missing a bus/train/flight or whatever else comes up.

Many of us want things to work out as we imagined them to; especially on a backpacking trip. So, take it as it comes and who knows, maybe you will suddenly discover places that enchant you, although they weren’t even on your bucket list. After all, isn’t it much more exciting to just let yourself go and have no real plan anyway?

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3. Having sex in a dorm

Again, this mostly affects solo travelers, particularly single ones. Sex in a dorm is never a good idea. On previous travels, we’ve encountered people like this a few times, and even if it’s understandable that they want to have fun, please do not do it within earshot of the other travelers!

Most of the time, it was also extremely embarrassing for those affected the next morning, because what a surprise, alcohol was always involved. Alcohol is known for allowing you to drop your inhibitions, and suddenly it doesn’t sound so bad to have sex in front of six strangers. Nobody will see it when the lights are turned off, right? But people can still hear you…. No matter how quiet you consider yourself to be. There are definitely better places for sex.

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4. Bringing too much luggage

It is common knowledge, that deciding what you should and shouldn’t take with you is difficult. With our packing list, you already have a perfect overview of what should definitely be in your backpack. Otherwise, the motto is – at least for us – everything that is needed on site, can also be purchased there.

However, research beforehand which products may be more expensive/difficult to get at your chosen travel destination; pack those just to be on the safe side. In Southeast Asia, all cosmetic products (shower gel, deodorant, etc.) are significantly more expensive than in Europe and, moreover, most of them include whitening-substances. We recommend taking those kinds of products with you and instead leave some clothes at home, since you can easily go shopping there, for a lot less money.

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5. Not remembering standard prices at your destination

After arriving at the airport, you want to take a taxi to a hostel? The taxi driver tells you some amount, and you hop in. However, at the hostel, you find out that you paid approximately four times the usual price. To avoid these kinds of situations, it is always important to check the regular prices on the Internet before your arrival.

It makes negotiating with the locals far easier, and will prevent a nasty, unexpected surprise afterwards. On the other hand, be aware that, in many countries, you will pay a slightly higher price than locals, simply because you’re a visitor.

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6. Looking up everything online beforehand

Who doesn’t know that feeling when you look at a place on the Internet; you are enthusiastic about the photos and decide to travel there. After arriving, you realize that the images do not necessarily correspond with reality. You are left feeling disappointed after looking forward to this magnificent sight (maybe even created by Photoshop) for so long. To avoid this experience, look at as few pictures as possible. Now, you may be asking: How am I supposed to know where to travel to?

First of all, check out our travel guide! And second, one of the best sources available are other backpackers! It has happened countless times that while I was talking about wanting to visit a particular place, a travel acquaintance said, “If you want to see something like that, it is better to go to this place instead, because it is even nicer.” No sooner said than done, and I was never disappointed.

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7. Last-minute souvenir shopping

Oh, no! In two days, it’s time to go back home, and you don’t have a single souvenir for friends and family. It is not uncommon to dislike souvenir shopping and always delay it until the last minute.

What good does it bring, though? Wandering around some market for hours without a plan and the slowly rising despair about only bringing home some junk again, because you just can’t find anything suitable in the last minute. Hence, our next tip: keep your eyes open for gifts for your loved ones from the start. When you see something you like, don’t think twice; just buy it. This saves you a lot of stress during the last few days of your trip.

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8. Not checking distances

You thought it’s not too far from the bus stop to the hostel, and you can easily walk the distance? Then you realize that you underestimated the distance and find yourself in an unfamiliar part of the city after sunset. Probably not a good idea. So, whether by car, bus, scooter or foot, be sure to research beforehand how long your route takes and when you will arrive. Especially when you’re out in the dark. Check the way beforehand on maps (for example, some apps like Maps.Me offer offline maps and navigation service) and almost nothing can go wrong…. Which brings me to my last point.

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9. Thinking that mistakes won’t happen

You can be sure that something will go wrong on your trip! There is always a solution; you just have to be open-minded and not panic. For more catastrophic cases (for example, a lost passport), there is an embassy in every country that will help you. For the not so terrible mishaps, there are incredibly helpful backpackers and locals.

Of course, the funniest and most unbelievable stories can result from mistakes. Drove to the wrong airport and therefore missed the flight (yes, that actually happened to me)? Well, you might get transferred to a flight from this airport and get to your destination even faster than planned. 

Truth be told, I never expected this story to end so well, and even if it happened years ago, I still can’t quite believe it. That’s precisely what I mean: Be prepared that something might go wrong. Who knows where your next “mistake” will lead you, and what great story you will have to tell afterwards.

Tell us your craziest / most exciting / funniest story that happened because of a “mistake” down in the comments. It might help other backpackers overcome their fear of making mistakes!

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