Getting from A to B on a Backpacking Trip
Once you’re on the road, every few days or so you’re looking for that next bus, train or boat to your next destination. For anyone on a long backpacking trip it can seem like an endless cycle of misinformation and hassle. Some countries are better than others but in places where you don’t speak the local lingo getting from A to B can be a hassle.
It’s All Part of the Fun!
On your first backpacking trip, you may find yourself stressing out about the constant challenge of finding bus stations, booking tickets and surviving long journeys to unknown destinations. The best advice is to chill, keep smiling and accept that things might not always run smoothly. Take those lengthy delays and missed connections as all part of the travelling experience. Chances are you will look back upon these moments with some peculiar fondness in years to come.
That said with a bit of background research you can increase the likelihood of things going smoothly and at the very latest save a some money. The best and cheapest ways of getting around varies greatly between regions of the world. We cover some general tips for travelling cheaply here.
On this page we will provide some links to useful links for cheap travel companies and other sites that will help you gather information on prices and timetables.
Seat61 is the best site we’ve found for information on train travel with train times, prices and info on rail travel all over the world. It also has ferry times and some information on bus travel where there are no train lines.
Bahn.com has timetables for practically every train in Europe. It’s probably not much use for booking tickets but it is a reliable source for information. The Trainline is pretty good also if your travelling in Britain.
In Europe you can book train tickets and passes via Rail Europe. If you are under 26, you are classed as a youth and can get discounted fares. Instead of buying individual tickets, consider getting an Interrail pass. Country passes can be purchased or you can get a Global Pass for travel across all 28 countries in the interrail region.
Even if you’re only planning two or three journeys it is often much cheaper to buy a rail pass than it is for individual tickets.
For coaches see Eurolines.They also have Europe-wide passes similar to the rail ones. For domestic travel each country either has a national carrier or various different coach lines serving separate routes.
In the USA and Canada, Greyhound is the place to go for coaches and Amtrak for trains. Because of the large distances involved you might want to book flights instead though. Generally speaking train travel isn’t as popular as it is in Europe. Most Americans get around by coach or car. Another option if you’re doing a big trip here is to rent a car or buy a cheap van/car and do a US road trip.
Trains are almost non-existent in Latin America so the only real option is to get by by coaches and buses. There’s no real major international company that has a monopoly on things like Greyhound in the US. Even within countries there can often be dozens of different companies handling different routes. Your best option is just to turn up at the local bus station and buy a ticket to your destination. Check times with your hostel but bus departures are typically very regular and you hardly ever need to book in advance.
In much of South America coaches are often of a fairly high standard as they are used for very long journeys. The same can’t be said for the driving which is often fairly reckless!
In Central America things are a bit less organised and it’s a case of getting on a bus going in the right direction and telling them where you want to get to in the end. They will help you to get off at the right point for a transfer. There are some decent standard coaches but the ‘Chicken Buses’ (right) are ideal for anyone on a shoestring budget.
In most parts of Asia and Africa it’s better to book transport at the station/port itself either on the day or a few days before travel. Online Information isn’t always plentiful but by talking to other travellers and staff in your hostel you can normally find out what you need to now.
In Australia, coaches are also run by Greyhound and you can get special hop on, hop off backpacker passes.
In India, the train network is very extensive and getting around the country by rail is an incredible experience. Indian Railways provide timetables and an online booking service.
This article was published in October 2013.