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Backpacking for beginners can be tough. Let’s face it, as travelers, we want to be adventurers. We follow the pursuit of freedom and we all dream of the perfect backpacking trip. We believe that winging it is THE way to go and we have wide-eyed faith that following the spur of the moment is the only way to guarantee that we will make the most of our experience.

This all sounds like a dream, like paradise…but for beginners, backpacking can and will be tricky. Lots of mistakes are waiting. So it’s a good idea to see what kind of mistakes experienced travelers did, right?!

We dwell in the romantic idea that being spontaneous is the ultimate truth, that the winds will provide us with the most incredible experiences, and that planning and organizing are good for all-inclusive resort vacations only (aka: lame).

A pilgrim in Santiago de Compostela

Because ladies and gentlemen, we are not tourists. We are travelers: travelers who actually experience the culture of the country they visit, who let themselves be drawn to the unknown and who are not afraid to follow the white rabbit, which will inevitably led to special connections and to experience situations that will be unique and that we will then claim as our own exclusively.

And while this is all very romantic and true for the most part – you need to leave space for the unexpected when you travel (and in life in general, for that matter) in order for it to become magical. Yet, there are a couple of things to keep in mind in order to make sure we do, indeed, make the most of this life altering experience.

Also, try to avoid mistakes when booking your hostels. Here are our 11 hacks for bookings hostels. These are very useful, and essential for a backpacking for beginners guide.


Here are a couple of situations, which can easily happen and result in exhausting, useless and even dangerous mishaps and can clearly be avoided by keeping and eye open and a sharp inner compass. Other than these 14 worst travel tips, these listed 5 things to avoid as a backpacking beginner and newbie are always a good idea to keep in mind.

Turn on the backpacker music, and let’s get started:

1. Drinking the tap water

This may sound pretty basic, but it might be worth mentioning anyway. No, even after 7 months of traveling, sleeping in jungles and eating local food on the street, our bodies do not become stronger or develop magical shields against water poisoning, and do not become used to the bacteria found in the water of most countries in Asia, Latin America or Africa.

If the travel advisory recommends avoiding non-filtered water at all costs, there is probably a reason for it. It is a wise move to choose to be safe and not sorry for once, and to actually avoid non-filtered water at all cost. A very simple step to avoid experiencing frightening stays at strange hospitals in, say, La Paz, Bolivia, and get your system pumped up with antibiotics.

Important: Ask first to be safe!

Drinking Tap Water

2. Think that you’re too cool for school

While we are for the most part generally dotted with a reasonable survival instinct, we might be tempted to sometimes stray a little bit from the safe path and let’s say, wander deserted squares at night in dangerous parts of capital cities (namely, Montevideo, Uruguay), just because we can.

Here’s a tip, folks: don’t.

Being mugged by an armed homeless drug-addict in the middle of the night is not fun, not cool, not romantic, and best case scenario will leave you with a small trauma and a couple of sleepless nights having nightmares (provided it doesn’t get worse and go terribly wrong).

Therefore, ask at your hostel just to be safe. Also, make sure you check out general backpacking for beginner advice.

Traveling off the path can be tempting

3. Wait last minute to book your flight in high season

With spontaneity come a lot of last-minute decisions. And while we can easily get addicted to the rush of adrenaline provoked by the unknown, it might be a good idea to just double check when the high season rates apply to avoid paying double the price of an airplane ticket, and getting there with all the accommodation options full (meaning that it is very likely to end up wandering the streets of a packed town at 2am and spend the night on a park bench: no bueno. Especially in the middle of winter when traveling alone and as a girl).

Paying double the price of your plane ticket will not get you anywhere faster or make your seat on the plane more comfortable, either.

Good to know: Sign up for newsletters of flight search engines. This can be a great way to score some sweet deals!

Also good to know: Same goes for hostels! Many of these great hostels out there are usually fully booked during high season. If you will get a space to stay, it’s likely you don’t have much options for the different hostel room types. Sure, it’s great to stay spontaneous. However, as soon as you have your travel dates fix, we recommend to get your hostel reservation done.


4. Pack too much stuff

Rookie mistake as it may seem, this is a very common one, and an easy one to make too. Once more, last minute is not (always) your friend. We all want to avoid extra weight charges for check-in luggage on the plane, but what we might sometimes forget, is that for these couple of months of our lives, we have to see ourselves as turtles (or snails. Whatever works for you): we will literally be carrying our life on our back for a while.

And while it usually works out pretty well, remember that backpacking means walking a lot, and the longer you carry a weight, the heavier it gets. Try holding your empty hand in the air for 5 minutes, see how it feels. Every gram counts. Have a look at the packing list for Hostels. We even create a non-packing list for Hostels for things you need to get off your list.

The golden rule for packing light is simple: Pack your backpack…and then remove 50%. That will be all you need!

Packing Light is key!

5. Travel in herd

This is a tricky one: part of the fun and the magic of backpacking, and of hostel life, is that we make really deep connections, fast. Some of the connections made during a backpacking trip can turn into real friendships, which will surely last forever.

There is something so unique about what we do, about finally meeting like-minded people, that it’s easy to just forget about everyone’s individuality and see the whole hostel as close family. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it, in the contrary. Where this can get delicate though, is when you suddenly discover that six of you are headed the same way at the same time, and you decide to all travel together for a while.

Most importantly: Try to find your own travel style. A great way to get an idea of the different styles of travel are travel blogs. Have a look on the 11 bloggers sharing their secrets.

The Romance traveling alone

While this sounds (and is!) like a lot of fun, it can bring a lot of tension and unnecessary stress at the time of choosing where to eat, at what time to wake up for tomorrow’s adventure, or how to get to the next town (Bus? Train? Hitchhike?).

Nobody wants to be a loner and riding it solo all the time is not all it’s cracked up to be; but it’s a good thing to remember to pick your crew. Making sure you have the same level of “easygoingness” as your temporary family will allow everyone to have a lot more fun.

Backpacking for Beginners - making mistake is part of the experience

Summary Backpacking for Beginners

Making mistakes when traveling is part of the experience. So, before anything, try not to be scared of making mistakes. Have a look at all our Short Travel Stories. Many of them simply happened thanks to mistakes.

For us wanderers and backpackers, traveling is one of the most rewarding things there is to experience and it can be so amazing they can literally change your life. Think about how many of us made a drastic move when going back “home”, by either moving abroad or switching for a totally different lifestyle!

But there is no need to make the same mistakes everyone else go through if you can avoid them: it just takes a tiny bit of planning to make this experience one of a lifetime! Go out there, and star exploring!

Do you have another backpacking for beginners advice?

Help fellow travelers avoiding the common backpacker mistakes; share it with us in the comments!

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Backpacking for Beginners? 5 Most Common Mistakes to avoid!