Backpacking has become a rite of passage for those who have slaved away years at University. It is a tiring, dirty, yet eye-opening and once in a lifetime experience you’ll never forget. So before you head out on your personal journey of discovery, here are 5 of the best backpacking tips for beginners.

Best backpacking tips for beginners: do your research

The first and most important tip is to do your research. An Australian website called Smart Traveller is a good way to start. It has loads of travel advice, medical advice and how to register your travel details in case something does happen.

Backpacking means living out of a back-pack

Travelling around for weeks or months, you need to be wary of how you pack. You’ll need a decent size pack which you need to pack light. Even though you may pack light, your pack will become heavy after some time. So don’t forget to rest every now and then. The last thing you want is to end up in a clinic with a busted back. Oh and when travelling, remember to lift your pack with your legs.

Keep in touch with friends back home

This part is pretty straight forward and easy with Facebook and other social networks. Most places have Wifi connections which makes it even easier. Since  The occasional status update or phone calls, email, skype session or even an old school postcard will keep all your family and friends from having an anxiety attack at the thought of you trapped in some volcano in Iceland! The last thing you want is a search campaign set by your parents, whilst you’re kicking back on the beach in Thailand.

Familiarise yourself with local customs

As a rule of thumb, and as a backpacker, all this stuff will be new to you. This means you will be wondering into areas will be highly unfamiliar. So do your research on local customs of the places you plan to visit. You need to adhere to local customs or you might find yourself in a heated argument with a local for wearing shorts into an ancient temple. Not a good idea.

Learn a new language

To prevent getting lost or stranded always have a local map and phrase book with you. These will come in handy if you find yourself lost and surrounded by non-English speaking people. Make sure you know what you’re asking, and not asking for a local’s permission to marry their goat. And if you’re in a Spanish speaking country, don’t add an ‘O’ or an ‘A’ on the end of each word thinking it will fly. It won’t. I heard a blushing traveler once say I’m Embarasado which meant I’m pregnant.  Not a good look.

Stay safe when travelling

Be conscious of where you’re going, how you are going to get there and what you need to do if you find yourself in trouble. The best advice is to have fun and experience moments you may never experience again, whilst staying safe. Then again you might find yourself in a screwed up scene from the movie The Hostel.

Remember travelling takes time, unless you’re rushed or pressed for time, take it slow and don’t let the flowers of life pass you by. You’ve been waiting many years for this experience so enjoy it. Some of your most memorable experiences come from the places you spend the most time in. Don’t be afraid to get to know the place. Traveling isn’t about ticking off countries and places, it’s about forming  relationships with people and the places you experience.