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5 travel essentials that backpackers never think of


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I'm in the midst of planning my 12-month backpacking trip across Asia, and it baffles me how people survive travelling without doing their research. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally in favour of going with the flow and being spontaneous but a girl needs to fulfill her organised reputation a little - right? 

The more I read up on what I should be getting organised, the more I realise how clueless about long-term travel I was to start with. 

Are you planning a gap year? Here’s what I’ve discovered you must pack, through 100 days of extensive travel planning, pinning and preperation since booking my one way ticket back to Southeast Asia.

1. Spare passport photos 

My first discovery wasn’t at all obvious… to me anyway, but is certainly an essential for long term travel. Unless you want to be wandering the streets of your new destination in search of a passport photo booth (potentially late at night, tut tut) you will need to carry some spares for use at immigration. Countries like Indonesia require you to have two photos to process your visa and enter smoothly. Save yourself the hassle and get them done beforehand.

2. Onward travel tickets 

So if the lack of an ID photo hasn’t stopped you travelling to your next location, the lack of this document may cause you further obstacles at immigration. (Don’t make me tut tut you again!)

Once more, little be-known to me, you need to provide proof of your departure from a country if you plan to enter on a one way ticket. Makes sense I suppose - how else would they track if all these backpackers were sticking around past their visa allowance?

Except, proof must be a flight out of the country. By air only. Strictly SKY travel people. Aka, the most stupid travel rule ever written! (Anyone else planning overland transport share my frustration?)

What about the three-day slowboat from Thailand into Laos? Doesn’t count. The 10 hour bus from Vietnam to Cambodia? Doesn’t count. The Ferry from Cambodia to Thailand? NOPE.

Most backpackers do the typical Southeast Asia loop via overland travel only, as I plan to, but when this exit isn’t excepted you must be prepared or else authorities may not let you enter a country or board your initial flight into it. Be ready with a cheap domestic flight booking (e.g. £15 from Thailand – Cambodia) and get a refund on the other side of the boarding gate. 

3. Photocopies of your documents

This one is to keep your mum happy, mostly, but for your own good too of course.

Photocopy your passport and ID so that you have two (or more) copies. And keep them in separate places whilst on the road - if anybody decides to rob you of your most important travel essential (your passport, duh) then you will be ready with a backup to take to the local embassy! Top travel marks.

Keep yourself a digital copy on email or somewhere safe (like Dropbox or Google Drive) and leave a copy at home. Your mum always has your back, after all.

4. Backpack rain cover

I learned this lesson the hard way!

It was the hot season in Thailand, but that didn’t stop the storm rolling in over Koh Phangan. We all grimaced at each other at the thought of our passports and belongings getting soaked on top of the truck taking us from the ferry port to the guesthouse. As we retrieved the dripping bags from the roof of the taxi, cameras and passports were the first things to be checked for water damage.

It’s a good idea to invest in a backpack cover or one that has a cover included with it. The rainy and monsoon seasons abroad are infamous for causing floods and putting cities on pause, particularly in Southeast Asia.

5. Which brings me onto…  Ziploc bags 

Yes, they aren't just for sandwiches! Bring a pack of these for those essentials that you don’t trust to stay in good condition when living at the bottom of your endless backpacks for months on end. Wrap up your passport, emergency cash and small electrics to protect them from whatever you get up to on your gap year.

That concludes my top five travel essentials. Leave any of your recommendations in the comments.   


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