What Only Traveling Alone Can Teach You

What Only Traveling Alone Can Teach You

Traveling is a story that many dream of writing but never pick up the pen to do so. Hopping on a plane, disappearing for days, months, or years… sometimes getting up the courage to embark is the hardest part. Then as you set foot out in the vast world, you realize that this journey is going to teach you things you would never have learned at home. There are some lessons that only traveling alone can teach you.

the art of solo travel

1. You depend purely on yourself

If you have ever been told you are too dependent on others or are completely selfless, then travel will transform you into an independent, invincible person. You will learn not only how to do what is best for you and no one else, you will know what it means to trust your gut feeling and go with it. Furthermore, you will learn responsibility, time management, strategy, and budgeting.

When you are on your own, no one is going to pay your bills for you or hold your hand at the doctor’s office. You have to figure out everything about getting around more or less unassisted. Yes, it can be mortifying, but you will not regret the results.

2. You learn what “tolerance” means

New cultures can be bizarre, mind-boggling, and honestly, frustrating. Culture shock will not be an alien idea to you as you travel. Your first round with it will be the worst. The second and third time will come and go like the sniffles. Traveling means understanding that everyone and every culture has its unique quirks and norms, and you learn to accept those differences instead of fighting them.

3. You figure out your passion

Traveling alone gives you a lot of time to just sit and think about the world and your place in it. You can reflect on your life, who you are, and what you want. Traveling, after all, means following your heart and living as you choose to live, so do not be surprised if you unearth your purpose while traipsing through a jungle or cave spelunking.

4. You learn how to live without luxuries

For those who choose the backpacker’s way of travel, which often deals with jamming the necessities into a hiking pack then couch surfing and jumping from hostel to campground and back again, there is no time for makeup, souvenirs, and bundles of clothing. In fact, you lose interest in anything that will weigh you down. The simple things in life, like walking along a beach as the sun goes down, or freshly brewed tea with new friends, are going to be more valuable than the new iPhone.

what you learn from traveling solo

5. You get skilled in making acquaintances

Traveling alone helps you understand how to entertain yourself and be comfortable in your own company. However, just because you are independent does not mean you will not be meeting new people. As you travel, you will run into other backpackers, and you will share your stories. The art of small talk gets mastered quite easily this way. Also, the locals will be interested in where you are from and your motivation. You will find yourself talking to more people than originally anticipated, it is guaranteed.

Flying to a foreign country is just the first part of an experience filled with marvellous memories and experiences that will be unique to only you. Travel is the greatest teacher, especially when you are alone. With no one beside you, no one to sway you, your mind opens up to possibilities and ideas that you would have never thought possible. That is why these lessons can only be learned abroad. So get ready to pack your bags and open your mind.

A guest post by Charlie Alf – BackPackHack


This article was published in May 2017.


Popular Backpacking Route for Thailand

asia/oceania routes

southeast asia | thailandmyanmar | vietnam | indonesia | indiaaustralia


Thailand Backpacking Route

The Thailand backpacker scene has changed dramatically over the past 20-30 years and some would say for the worse but travellers continue to flock to the so-called ‘land of  smiles’ in ever-increasing numbers. The main backpacker destinations, particularly the most popular islands in the South have become much more commercialised and predominantly party-orientated, which is great if you want to party all night and recover by day on beautiful golden beaches. If that’s not your scene, it’s not hard to find quieter more peaceful destinations sometimes even on the same island.

Bangkok remains the beating heart of the country, a true city of sin which love it or hate it makes for a truly intoxicating travel experience. It’s almost impossible to visit Thailand and Southeast Asia for that matter without passing through Bangkok at least once or twice given it is the core of the country’s transport network and home to the biggest two airports. The North still retains much of its old charm and places like Chiang Mai are the ideal spots to really get to grips with ancient Thai culture while there are plenty of natural wonders to be discovered outside of the towns.

Many of the destinations on this backpacking route for Thailand have already been covered in our South East Asia travel itinerary but split into two separate parts to get around the need for a visa (see bottom of this page for info on sorting out a visa for this route). However given it remains the most popular backpacking destination on the planet, we figured it could use its only dedicated route and here it is!


TIME NEEDED – 2 MONTHS

Allow 2 months to get round the whole route although it could be done in less time particularly if you are not so fussed with the party/beach element.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1250-1650 | €1400-1900 | US$1500-2000 | 50,000-70,000 THAI BAHT

Backpacker budgets in Thailand vary dramatically depending on the kind of trip you want to have. The lower figure we have quoted is a real shoestring budget and would involve staying in the cheapest places, eating local food and not going wild on the partying. The higher figure is perhaps a more typical backpacker budget these days but still requires some self-discipline as even though Thailand is cheap, there is temptation to spend almost everywhere, particularly if you are a party animal, in which case you should definitely allow for a bit more.

These figures were updated in January 2017 but DO NOT include the cost of flights to/from Thailand, visas, vaccinations or travel insurance.

Read more on the cost of travel in Thailand.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR THAILAND

Most nationalities do not require a visa for Thailand (30 days) but this route is for 2 months. We have detailed info on how to deal with that at the bottom of the page.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

We recommend World Nomads, who specialise in backpacking trips and cover all kinds of activities that are typical for backpackers in Thailand.


FUNKY GUIDES – BACKPACKERS GUIDE TO SOUTHEAST ASIA 2017-2018

Ebook – £2.99 | €3.49 | $3.79

Paperback – £4.99 | €5.49 (+ VAT) | $5.99


Backpacking route for Thailand


 BANGKOK & AROUND

Time Needed – 10 days should be more than adequate.

backpacking route from Bangkok

Bangkok

(3-4 days)

Logical starting point with flight connections to all 4 corners of the world. The Thai capital has many faces and chances are you will find one that is to your liking. It has a reputation as a real life Sin City and certainly it’s seedy sexual side is hard to ignore but there is plenty more to it than that. Great shopping, vibrant nightlife, buzzing street markets, delicious food and a few stunning palaces mean you will never be short of things to see and do in Bangkok. Most backpackers head straight to the Khao San Road which is the biggest backpacker hub in Southeast Asia and the perfect place to make some travel buddies, which is handy in those lonely early days, particularly if it’s your first time travelling alone.


MFT RECOMMENDS – The Aris Hostel, Bangkok 

Just 100m from Khao San Road, Aris is a good place to base yourself in Bangkok.


Ayutthaya

(1 day)

Can be done as a long day-trip from Bangkok or with an overnight stay. This ancient city, the 2nd capital of Siam was the largest city in the world in the early 18th century with 1 million residents. It is a shadow of its former self now but the remnants of its heyday are still spread across town and give clues to its former grandeur.

Kanchanaburi 

(2-4 days)

This chilled out riverside town has becoming a big backpacker destination in recent years. The bridge over the River Kwai is the main point of an interest and most of the sights relate to the dark history of the so-called Death Railway to Burma during World War II. Nature lovers will also find plenty of thrills around the town and there are several interesting historical sites dotted about too with highlights including the Tiger Temple (very popular but has come in for fierce criticism from animal rights groups), Hellfire Pass and Erawan National Park.

Hua Hin 

(1-2 days)

Thailand’s oldest beach resort is getting its groove on once again. It’s popular with Thais in Bangkok due to its proximity to the capital and gets lively at weekends and during national holidays. Budget travellers tend to prefer the islands further South but Hua Hin is still a popular stop and breaks up the journey from Bangkok down to Southern Thailand.


Getting to Southern Thailand from Bangkok and Hua Hin

You have many options, the most interesting of which is to take the train down to Chumphon and connect to a boat to Ko Tao (All-in-one tickets can be bought including train, bus to the ferry port and ferry to Ko Tao or one of the other islands). Hua Hin is on the main trainline from Bangkok to Chumphon so it’s very easy sort out.


SOUTHERN THAILAND

Time Needed – roughly 4 weeks*

* This depends on how much you enjoy the beach and party life. The time-frames suggested for each destination are just a guide. It’s very easy to extend your stay on any of the islands if you are enjoying it. Each destination has its own subtle differences and points of interest but there is an element of ‘same same’ about the backpacker scene at each place so some travellers choose to skip a few of these destinations in favour of spending longer in one place and perhaps doing a diving course, a bit of voluntary work or if you’re low on funds perhaps finding a bit of work for one of the bars or hostels. Either way it’s probably best not to plan a rigid schedule in this part and just relax, enjoy the lazy beach lifestyle and move on when you feel ready.

Backpacking route for Southern Thailand

Ko Tao

(4-7 days)

The smallest and quietest of the 3 main inhabited islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Ko Tao is a beautiful island and very popular with backpackers, some of whom end up staying much longer than intended. It is a fabulous place to do a PADI diving course and many of the centres also provide accommodation.

Ko Pha Ngan

(4-7 days)

Home of the famous full moon parties. Once a month the travellers flock to Ko Pha Ngan’s Haad Rin beach for a night of debauchery under the moonlight. The island gets very busy during this time although the other end of the island is much quieter. It’s a good idea to book accommodation in advance here around Full Moon night, something which isn’t really necessary anywhere else. There are big parties every week though so you don’t have to come for full moon with black moon and jungle parties also worth checking out and arguably better than the main night itself.

Ko Samui

(2-4 days)

The Southernmost island in the Gulf of Thailand is less popular with backpackers and is unquestionably very touristy but it’s a big island and there are so many different beaches that you are sure to find one to your taste and it’s a fun place to explore for a day or so.

Krabi (Ao Nang or Krabi Town)

(2 days)

Krabi is the name of the province and most visitors either stay in Krabi Town, its capital or Ao Nang, its principal beach resort, which is about 30 minutes by bus from the town. The town is full of dirt cheap accommodation and restaurants and has a few interesting things to see and do but nothing remarkable. Ao Nang is a lively beach town packed with bars, restaurants, hotels and massage parlours (mostly not of the ‘happy ending’ variety). There are a couple of great beaches to relax on.

Rai Leh (Railay Beach)

(2-3 days)

Rai Leh is only 15 minutes or so round the coast and although it is not an island, it can only be accessed by boat as it is engulfed by huge cliffs on all sides. Active travellers and anyone who wants to do more than just bum around on a beach and get drunk should definitely check it out and might want to spend a fair while here. It’s a great destination for climbing, perhaps the best in Thailand and is also popular for its hiking, kayaking and snorkelling possibilities.

Ko Phi Phi

(3-5 days)

Phi Phi is one of the iconic destinations of the Thailand backpacker trail. Phi Phi Don is the only island that is inhabited and possible to stay. 20 years ago it was a very quiet island and although it is still beautiful, the main beaches and village on Phi Phi Don are now full on party-orientated not dissimilar to Haad Rin on Ko Pha Ngan. There are numerous boat trips you can do around the bay, most of which include plenty of stops for swimming and snorkelling in beautifully clear water and a visit to Maya Bay, where the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed.

Ko Lanta

(3-5 days)

If you found all the other islands a bit too crazy and just want some time to rest and most likely detox, then Ko Lanta is the perfect place. It is home to miles and miles of long white sandy beaches, clear waters and not many people!


Getting from Southern Thailand to Northern Thailand

Getting from Ko Lanta or any of the other Southern destinations to Northern Thailand is best done by flying unless you want to spend in excess of 24 hours on buses and trains and still end up spending roughly what you would have had you opted to fly. Thai Lion Air offer the cheapest flights and allow you to put your backpack in hold for free which is a big advantage on Air Asia that also offer good deals also but place heavy charges on anyone with more than just hand luggage.

From Ko Lanta, it is best to fly from Krabi Airport, which is about 2 hours away via boat/bus transfer. You may find it cheaper to book two separate flights to move onto the next leg of our route. The first would be from Krabi to Bangkok and the 2nd from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. If you are a bit flexible with your times and perhaps willing to spend a night in Bangkok, you should be able to do the whole trip for around 2000 Baht (roughly 50 Euros).  Note flights will be to Bangkok’s older Don Mueang Airport (which handles domestic flights). A taxi to Khao San Road or Central Bangkok should set you back between 250-400 Baht and take 20-30 minutes depending on traffic and whether you take the toll road (which you will have to pay an extra 150 Baht or so for so tell the taxi driver ‘No Toll!’ if you are in no rush) or not.


NORTHERN THAILAND

Time Needed – 2-3 weeks.

Backpacking route for Northern Thailand

Chiang Rai, Golden Triangle & Around

(3-4 days)

Given you will most likely need to return to Bangkok to leave the country it is probably best to start your Northern Thailand adventure in Chiang Rai which is the furthest away from the capital and then work back. The town of Chiang Rai has 1 or 2 interesting sights and some nice museums that can occupy you for a day or so but its main purpose from a travellers perspective is as a base that will allow you to explore the region or even do a day-trip to nearby Tachileik in Myanmar (no need for a visa).

Most travellers also head to the golden triangle, which is a small area in Chiang Rai province where the River Ruak meets the mighty Mekong River and where Thailand meets Laos and Myanmar. It was well-known as a famous opium growing region and there a few interesting sites where you can learn about the trade. Nowadays though the Golden Triangle is undoubtedly a tourist trap and is more or less completely dependent on tourism for income so those looking for a more authentic Thai experience, sometimes turn their nose up at the mention of it.

Mae Salong

(1-2 days)

This can also be done as a day-trip from Chiang Rai but there are a few guesthouses with rock-bottom prices in town so it’s nice to stay overnight in what is a really small village with beautiful surroundings. It has a fascinating history and was the home of a group of 12,000 Chinese Nationalists who fled China to Mae Salong in 1949 following the rise to power of the Chinese Communists. They continued their insurgency, part-funded by the opium trade for several decades from Mae Salong. There are several museums relating to this in the village, which nowadays is famous for producing excellent oolong tea.

Chiang Mai

(3-4 days)

Another key destination on any backpacking route in Thailand. Chiang Mai is a cosmopolitan city with a very international vibe like Bangkok, but much smaller and more relaxed and without a lot of the hassles that go with the capital. It’s a great place to get to grips with traditional thai practices such as massage, muay-thai boxing and thai cooking and has a reputation as the country’s cultural capital.

You could potentially split your time in Chiang Mai into two separate stints as you will probably need to return after Mae Sariang in order to take a train down to Sukhothai as there are no easy and certainly no direct connections between Mae Sariang and Sukhothai.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Mapping Hostel, Chiang Mai 

Dirt cheap bungalows and dorm beds in a beautiful location overlooking the river.


Pai

(2-4 days)

Pai is another stop which has turned into a real backpacker place and it’s not hard to see why. With only 3000 permanent residents it is very small and is located in a really beautiful valley North of Chiang Mai. There are a whole range of different ways to witnessing the nature from lazily chilling out in one of Pai’s plentiful backpacker bars and taking in the views to tubing, trekking, zip-lining, white-water rafting and plenty more.

Mae Hong Son

(1-2 days)

This is another very small town not far from Pai. You probably won’t need as long here but it’s certainly worth hiring a motorbike or at least a bicycle for a day or two and getting out to the surrounding areas which are home to a few points of potential interest including a mud spa, a bamboo bridge, a waterfall, a palace and a fish cave!

Mae Sariang

(2-3 days)

Close to the Myanmar border and without the crowds of Pai and Chiang Mai, this is a good place for trekking in the mountains and getting to see small local villages and tribes. Its remote location means the ‘hilltribe’ experiences are much more authentic here so be sure to get out to the Karen and Lawa Hilltribe villages.

Sukhothai

(1-2 days)

Thailand’s original capital is located 1 hour by bus from Phitsanulok, which is on the main trainline between Chiang Mai and Bangkok at almost exactly the halfway point (express trains take about 7 hours to reach either city from Phitsanulok) so it is a convenient stop if you opt to get the train back to Bangkok for your flight home or onwards. The train journey alone allows you a glimpse into the remoter areas of Thailand away from the travelling hordes so it is well worth doing although price-wise there is usually little difference between flying from Chiang Mai to Bangkok or taking the train.

Old Sukhothai is 12km west of the modern city and quite a lot of effort has been put in to restoring it to something like its 13th Century glory and it has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Consider renting a bike (which you can do for as little as 50 Baht) and exploring the ruins.

And that’s the end of our Thailand backpacking itinerary although you may want to spend another day or two in Bangkok taking advantage of the great shopping centres to grab a few bargains while you wait for your flight home. Certainly don’t rely on the train to deliver you from Phitsanulok to Bangkok on-time for a flight the same day.


Extending Your Trip

There are plenty more destinations in Thailand that are worth a visit and where it might be easier to escape the crowds and get a more authentic Thai experience. Head over to Indie Traveller for an in-depth Thailand travel guide.

Most travellers in Thailand these days, visit at least one of its neighbouring countries too. Our Vietnam backpacking route takes you on a train-ride to remember from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City with numerous stops in between. Alternative options include neighbouring Myanmar.

Check out our Burmese backpacking route for some inspiration there. Leaving mainland SE Asia behind you might also want to check out our Indonesia route, which takes you around some of the country’s most popular islands.


Budget Accommodation in Thailand

Advanced booking isn’t important as there are backpacker districts or streets almost everywhere on this route and some of the beaches on the islands are almost entirely full of hostels and backpacker accommodation that rarely sell out. That said advanced booking during festivals and certainly for full moon parties is an absolute must.


Do I need a Visa for Thailand?

If you are from Korea, Brazil, Peru, Argentina or Chile you get 90 days visa-free and therefore won’t need a visa for this route.

Travellers from 52 countries do not need a visa for 30 days of travel in Thailand. Here is a list of the countries elligible for this 30 day visa exemption. If you are not from one of those 52 countries you will need to arrange a visa in advance in your own country via the Thai Embassy or through a Thai Embassy in another country.

If you are from one of those 52 countries you have a few more options. Seen as this route is scheduled for 2 months, the 30 days visa exemption will not be enough so here are your choices:

Option 1: Get a tourist visa valid for at least 60 days before you enter Thailand

This is something you should do before you leave home but it can also be arranged at a Thai Embassy in other countries if you are doing a long trip visiting various places. It’s best to sort it well in advance of your trip though and you most likely won’t be required to visit the embassy in person. Prices vary from country to country but this is certainly the most hassle-free option and once you are in Thailand you can relax and not have to worry about such issues.

Option 2: Visa Run

You can do a visa run, which basically means you will leave Thailand for a neighbouring country before your 30 day visa exemption expires and then return immediately or after a few days and you will get a fresh 30 days visa-free in Thailand. Note that only people from UK, USA, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Macau, Hong Kong, Laos and Vietnam get 30 days when crossing at both airports and land borders. Other nationalities get 15 days at land borders but 30 at airports.

The most obvious points for visa runs on the route are to Malaysia from any of the destinations in Southern Thailand (particularly Krabi, Ko Lanta or Ko Phi Phi) with Penang or Pulau Langkawi on the Andaman Coast of Northern Malaysia a nearby popular destination for a couple of days or so. Alternatively in Northern Thailand you could head to Laos and the town of Huay Xai very close to Chiang Rai although the need for a Laotian visa makes this option a bit less attractive unless you particularly want to go to Laos.

It may also be tough to fit this into this route without rushing your time in Southern Thailand although you could always leave the first section (Bangkok & around) until the end of your trip (i.e. spend 4 weeks in Southern Thailand first, leave then come back and do Northern and Central Thailand within your new 30 days). You can also often get very cheap flights to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore from cities across Thailand, which may be handy especially if you are from one of those countries who only gets 15 days at land borders.

Option 3 – Extend your 30-day visa-exemption while in Thailand.

Since August 2014, you can now extend your 30 day visa exemption to 60 days by visiting an immigration office in the country and paying 1,900 Baht (roughly US$55). The immigration offices are plentiful enough and wherever you are, you won’t be far away from one but queues can be long in some centres and it isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend a morning or afternoon so getting a visa in advance seems more logical if you’re certain you will be spending more than 30 days in Thailand.

 

PLEASE NOTE – This is correct as of March 2016. The Thai government does from time to time change these visa rules so try to verify this info is still correct if you are reading this at some point in the distant future ;).

Feel free to post a comment below if you know of any changes to these rules and we will update this info. Also let us know what you would include in your backpacking route for Thailand and any of your favourite off-the-beaten track destinations, which can be a welcome relief from the tourist trail.

 


This article was published in March 2016. 


 

Popular Backpacking Route for India

asia/oceania routes

southeast asia | thailand | myanmar | vietnam | indonesia | india australia


 Backpacking Route for India

India is one of the world’s great travel destinations and ticks almost every box you can think of when you sit there wondering where to go for your next adventure. It’s such a big country, it would be impossible to see it all in just 2 or 3 months but our backpacking route around India aims to take in the best it has to offer and give you a taste for life in various different parts of the country from the wonders of Rajasthan to the beaches of Goa with chaotic cities, heavenly temples, cultural delights and ancient settlements all part of the fun. By the end of your trip, for sure you will have discovered the many faces of India, for better or worse and immersed yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of this incredible country.


TIME NEEDED – 2 MONTHS

Depends greatly on your travel preferences. Some travellers end up spending months in Goa or Kerala alone but based on the time you might need to see the best of each destination and have enough time to get around the country which can be very time-consuming then 2 months should be sufficient and 10-12 weeks would be more relaxed.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1000 | €1150 | US$1200

These figures are based on prices and exchange rates as of January 2017. India is very cheap to get around by train and food and accommodation is also inexpensive. Real shoestring types should be able to get by on less than this by travelling on insanely cheap sleeper class trains and eating in more local restaurants, although your body might not always take kindly to either experience. Some travellers reckon it’s possible to get by on under $15/day in India but you should probably allow for a bit more, certainly if it’s your first time.

Read more on the cost of travel in India.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR INDIA

Almost all nationalities need a visa. You can confirm that is the case for you by using our visa check tool.

Most likely you will need to contact the Indian embassy in your country. They often outsource visa services to an official provider. If you are from the UK, it is VFS Global and the last we knew it was £90 for a 6 month multiple-entry tourist visa. Allow several weeks for your application to be processed.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

You should also definitely get travel insurance for your trip, we recommend World Nomads.


INDIA BACKPACKING ROUTE


WEST BENGAL


Kolkata

Formerly known as Calcutta, this is India’s cultural capital and one of its largest cities. It has produced some of India and the world’s great poets and writers and amongst the chaos, there are some incredible buildings and remnants of life gone by, particularly of colonial periods when the British tried to turn it into the London of the East.

It’s a good place to start your trip, especially if you’re coming from Southeast Asia as it is the closest of the big Indian cities to the region and flights from Bangkok can be found for as little as £50. From Europe there are regular flights with Qatar Airways and Emirates amongst other airlines although you may still find it cheaper to fly first to Mumbai or Delhi and then take a national flight to the spacious modern airport in Kolkata.

Kolkata to Bodh Gaya – 470km


BIHAR


Bodh Gaya

This is the place where the Buddha Sakyamuni is said to have attained enlightenment and it is the first of the great spiritual destinations on the route. Inside the main Mahabodhi temple complex you can experience the lotus pond and meditation garden, while there are plenty of other temples and monastries from predominantly Buddhist countries in walking distance of Mahabodhi.

Bodh Gaya to Varanasi – 250km


UTTAR PRADESH


Varanasi

Varanasi in India

Varanasi is to Hindus, what Bodh Gaya is to Buddhists and already you should have a taste for the rich religious diversity that exists in India. Located on the banks of the River Ganges this is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities of the world. Pilgrims come from all over India and beyond to perform devotions here and you can witness the incredible sight of them bathing in the river in front of some incredibly old temples at sunset each evening.

Hindus often come here as they are approaching death, as some believe dying in Varanasi brings salvation and you can witness funeral ceremonies and the burning of corpses from the banks of the river provided you are respectful to the dead and don’t take photos.

Be warned Varanasi is a dusty chaotic city and is certainly not the peaceful place you might imagine it to be. Varanasi is a real attack on the senses and is a fascinating place to visit just don’t expect to relax and beware of irritating hawkers who will try to extort money out of you by the riverbanks.

Varanasi to Khajuraho – 410km


MADHYA PRADESH


Khajuraho

A small town home to some wonderful Hindu and Jain temples and one of a number on this route to have achieved UNESCO World Heritage status. Check out the erotic sculptures that have been skillfully carved into the walls! If that’s not enough to get you excited then you can just spend some time relaxing or doing yoga, which is very popular here, in the outdoors in front of a stunning backdrop thanks to the Vindhya mountain range that looms large over Khajuraho.

Khajuraho to Agra – 410km


UTTAR PRADESH


Agra

A popular stop on almost every backpacking itinerary for India. Agra is the home of the world famous Taj Mahal, India’s grandest temple. The city itself is fairly grim however there are two other interesting sites of interest in and around Agra besides the Taj Mahal. Nearby Fatehpur Sikri and the Argra Fort in the city itself are both worth a visit and help take your mind back to the glory days when this was the capital of the Mughal Empire. You won’t really need more than a day or two in Agra though.

Agra to New Delhi – 220km


MFT RECOMMENDS – Bonfire Hostel, Agra 

Dirt cheap but pretty cool hostel with beds from the equivalent of just 2 Euros per night!


DELHI


New Delhi

The Indian capital is an enormous city with plenty of famous sights such as the Red Fort and Humayun’s tomb. You can shop in giant bazaars, explore some of the best museums in the country and just watch life go by in one of the most chaotic places you will ever visit. If you’re not a fan of big cities, you probably won’t enjoy New Delhi though or perhaps any of the main cities on the route but it’s worth a visit just for the experience of life in India’s capital even if you only stay a few days.

New Delhi to Jaipur – 270km


RAJASTHAN


Jaipur

The last leg of the so-called Golden Triangle of New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Known as the ‘Pink City’ there is so much to see and do here with amazing temples, palaces, forts and stunning gardens dotted around town. This is also the biggest city in the state of Rajasthan which forms the core of many backpacking routes in India. Once you’re done exploring, there are excellent transport links west into the desert towns.

Jaipur to Pushkar – 150km

Pushkar

This small but pretty town is made up of predominantly white buildings and temples set around a lake of great religious significance. It’s a nice place to hang around for a day or so and learn about the legends relating to it and find out why Pushkar forms one of the Hindu religion’s Hindu Trinity. For the record alcohol is forbidden within the city limits, although the coffee is said to be excellent!

Pushkar to Jodhpur – 190km

Jodhpur

The monster of a fort that perches over the city.

Literally on the edge of the great Thar desert, Jodhpur is a very hot city where the sun always shines bright. If Jaipur is pink and Pushkar is white, then Jodhpur is most certainly blue and almost every house and building in the old town is of some shade of blue and it can make for stunning photos, especially at sunrise and sunset with the best views to be had from the menacing fort that looms large over the town. This is the biggest city in the state and there’s lots to occupy you here in a town which has a fascinating history dating back to the 15th Century.

Jodhpur to Jaisalmer – 280km

Jaisalmer*

Known as the Golden City, Jaisalmer is dominated by its enormous Fort which unlike many in India, is still inhabited and operational. Perhaps the most popular thing to do and a real highlight for many backpackers in India, is to take a camel tour into the desert. Multi-day trips that go right up to the Pakistan border are available and are highly recommended although speak to other travellers before choosing a company.

*Jaisalmer is a bit out of the way and you will almost certainly have to back-track to Jodhpur to continue on to Udaipur and further south.

Jaisalmer to Udaipur – 500km

Udaipur

The last destination in the wonderful state of Rajasthan, Udaipur is perhaps most famous for its lakes and enormous lakeside Palace that was featured in the 13th Bond film, Octopussy. Indeed many movies have been set here and with plenty of beautiful romantic backdrops, it’s certainly one for the lovers.

Udaipur to Mumbai* – 750km

*Consider flying if you’re not on a very tight budget. Daily flights between the cities with Air India, Jet Airways, and SpiceJet.

You can find out more about these cities in our article on the Top 5 Cities in Rajasthan.


MAHARASHTRA


Mumbai

Formerly known as Bombay, this is India’s biggest city and its most prosperous. It serves as the country’s finance capital, complete with glitzy skyscrapers, modern shopping malls and lively nightclubs. It’s a cosmopolitan town with residents from all over the world and is a complete contrast to those further north. It is also the centre of the Bollywood film industry which fills billboards and cinemas across this country and also has a large worldwide audience.

Of course this is still India and the wealth has by no means trickled its way down to the poorest and the city still has large slums where poverty is a daily fact of life. If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire you will have probably seen a few of them and there are a few companies that now offer slum tours to travellers where you can visit local families and although it is a little bit voyeuristic, the money helps them put food on the table.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Backpacker Panda Appetite, Mumbai

There is some awful budget accommodation in Mumbai. This place has a ridiculous name but is a safe bet.


Mumbai to Aurangabad – 340km

Aurangabad

India backpackers come here for the magnificent caves at Ellora and Ajanta. There are spectacular cave monasteries and temples cut into the rocks which are an important holy site for the Buddhists, Jains and Hindus. Aurangabad itself is an old city with over 400 years of history and is perhaps most famous for its 13 historic gates which are still proudly upstanding.

Aurangabad to Hampi – 650km


KARNATAKA


Hampi

Almost certainly the best ruins in India are found at Hampi, a small village just outside the unremarkable city of Hospet. The ruins are spectacular though and cover an enormous area and date back to the days when Hampi was the imperial capital of Vijayanagar, a 14th century empire. It’s a great place to spend a few days and the surrounding nature is also awesome with leopards and swath bears often found roaming around the nearby hills and countryside.

Hampi to Goa (Vasco da Gama) – 350km


GOA


Goa

Anjuna Beach, Goa

The smallest state in India it may be but it is perhaps the best known outside of the country and one of the most popular with travellers, some of whom end up staying for weeks, months and even years. This former Portuguese colony has a unique blend of cultures but is generally speaking far more westernised than any of the other states, which still isn’t saying much. It is home to some of the best beaches in India and every now and then you can find the odd wild party but its heyday as a party destination was in the 1960’s and 70’s so don’t expect anything too crazy now, especially during the off-season.

Vasco da Gama and Panaji are the main ‘cities’ and best places to arrive at but neither are anything more than small towns in reality with populations of less than 100,000. There is a lot of debate about where the best beaches are to be found and you are quite literally spoilt for choice. Anjuna (the hippy beach) and Arambol are among the most popular options with backpackers but it’s worth exploring a bit to try and find one that is perfect for you.

Goa (Vasco da Gama) to Gokarna – 150km


KARNATAKA


Gokarna

If Goa’s not chilled out enough for you then head south to Gokarna which has great beaches and a very relaxed atmosphere with fewer foreigners than you find in Goa which can get crowded during peak times. Hindu pilgrims also visit the town to experience one of Shiva’s holy temples and what is claimed to be an original image of God!

Gokarna to Kochi* – 640km

*Night Trains take around 15 hours.


KERALA


Kochi

The coastal city of Kochi is a major port and your first introduction to Kerala, which certainly has a distinct feel to it and is much different to the North. Kochi is a bustling town with a large navy presence and it has a few interesting sites although nothing remarkable so consider spending just a day or two here. It is a good place to sample the excellent cuisine that can be found in these parts. Don’t expect anything to happen quickly here though and waiting and customer service in Kerala on the whole is often comically bad. It is also worth noting that Kerala is a fairly dry state where alcohol can be hard to find.

Kochi to Alleppey – 50km

Kerala Backwaters

Taking a bout out on Kerala Backwaters

For many travellers, a backpacking route around India is not complete without a trip on a houseboat along the famous Kerala backwaters. They are basically a chain of lagoons, lakes and rivers that stretch an astonishing 1500km in total although you probably won’t get that far out of Alleppey, which is the best place to start your trip and has the widest selection of boats. If you can get a group of travellers together you can hire out your own boat for a few days and explore the backwaters at your own leisure. It is quite pricey though and it is worth getting to the houseboat pier in Alleppey (aka Alappuzha) early (around 9:00am) to view some boats and negotiate your price although fixed price government houseboats are also available.

1 Bedroom Houseboats start at around 6,000 Rupees per day, while 2 bedroom houseboats will be 9,000+. The fee includes 3 meals and the costs for a crew of 2-3 people who cook your food and drive the boat. Use a forum like India Mike to get up-to-date info on prices and for tips on how to go about finding the best boat at the best price.

Alleppey to Varkala – 120km

Varkala

After your boat trip, head to Varkala for some more chill-out time in one of India’s most beautiful beach destinations. The main traveller area is along a huge cliff facing West over the ocean and after a not so hard day on the beach or taking advantage of the Ayurvedic massage spas, you can kick back with a Kingfisher beer and a curry while looking out onto the most perfect sunsets.

Varkala to Madurai – 280km


TAMIL NADU


Madurai

Madurai Temple

Into the final state on our route now and Madurai, another of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world with life here dating back to the 4th Century before Christ. It’s most popular thing to see is the Meenakshi Temple which is a spectacular Hindu temple in a city which is known as the City of Temples! It’s a great place to visit if you’re not all templed out and also has some interesting museums, mosques and hosts a wonderful 12 day carnival every year, usually in April or May.

Madurai to Mahabalipuram – 420km

Mahabalipuram

This makes for a nice stop before ending your Indian backpacking trip in Chennai. Mahabalipuram is most famous for some wonderfully artistic stone carvings, some of which have admittedly seen better days but efforts are being made to restore the town to its former glory. It also has a beach which you can share with turtles and it is a pretty popular destination with surfers.

Mahabalipuram to Chennai – 50km

Chennai

The state capital, formerly known as Madras is the main gateway to Southern India and with the 3rd largest airport, it’s a sensible place to end your trip. You may need to fly to Delhi or Mumbai for a better connection home but there are direct flights to London Heathrow (with British Airways) and Frankfurt (with Lufthansa) as well as cities across Asia.

While in town, you can spend your last few days in India (or first if you do this trip in reverse) getting your taste of local culture with vibrant arts, music, dance and culinary scenes prominent. There are plenty of remnants to the British empire to be found in town and there is a large amount of religious diversity here with plenty of churches, mosques and temples.


 


Budget Accommodation in India

Hostels and hotels in India are like most things, great value but the size and difficulty of getting around the cities means its usually better to sort them out a few days in advance by booking online.


Extending your trip

You can find more inspiration by checking out our main India page, which has links to plenty of useful resources that will inspire and help you to plan your India trip.

There was plenty we had to leave out here and everyone’s idea of the best backpacking route for India is different but it should be fairly easy to adapt. Some of the other highlights including heading into the far North and the regions of Kashmir and Punjab, which are a bit further removed from the typical Indian traveller trails.

Another way to extend your Indian travel itinerary would be to take the famous Darjeeling express up towards the Himalayas and sample the beautiful mountain views and perfect tea in Darjeeling. For many travellers this part of the country is their favourite as it more peaceful and relaxed. Read our Top 10 things to do in the Indian Himalayas for some inspiration.

Of India’s neighbours Sri Lanka is a definite highlight and many backpackers head from India to Sri Lanka or vice-versa and it is easy enough to fly into Colombo from any of the main Southern cities. Sri Lanka is a lot more relaxed than India and has nicer beaches where you won’t have to deal with as much hassle of gawping stares. Prices are only marginally higher too although hostel style accommodation can be hard to find in places.

Nepal is pretty easy to visit too and there are plenty of flights and land connections but most of India’s other neighbours aren’t the most accessible or appealing. Pakistan is largely considered dangerous for foreigners so few head that way while at the other end Bangladesh isn’t really considered much of a travel destination. The Chinese controlled region of Tibet which borders India can be a difficult place to get a visa for, likewise tiny Bhutan which can only be visited on an organised tour and independent travel is forbidden.

One route that is likely to become more popular with backpackers as Myanmar loosens its travel restrictions is the overland route from Thailand to Eastern India (through Myanmar). You might be interested in our backpacking route for Myanmar for a bit of inspiration and it’s not hard to combine a trip with our mainland Southeast Asia route.

 


This article was last updated in January 2017.


Nine Tricks to Travel the World Solo and Penniless

Nine Tricks I have used to Travel the World Solo and Penniless

A guest post by Natalie Frizza

When it comes to long-term travel, people usually find ways to prolong turning their daydreams into a reality, allowing them to crumple and disappear as the clock ticks side to side. This eventually leaves them at a time in their life when they are “too busy with work”, or now have prior commitments like kids, mortgages or future optimistic business opportunities that are bound to take off any minute. Their fond idealistic thoughts of leaving behind all their belongings and going forth, “Into the Wild”, with nothing but a backpack on their back and the road in front of them, ready to climb every mountain that stands in their way, turns into exactly that… A distant thought of what once could have been.

We’ve all heard it all before, from one time or another.

“I wish I had the courage to do what you do.”
“I wish I could just pick up and leave everything behind.”
“Well… once I pay off my debt from school/my car/house/etc,etc… I’ll go travel.”
“I’ll work for one more year (even though we all know you have more than enough money to pick up and leave for months right now) and then I’ll quit my job and travel.”

Time is, quite literally of the essence. And your time is NOW.

STOP with the excuses, stop being lazy, get up and live your life!

I have spent the past four years since finishing high school flying across the world, with almost nothing in my pocket, and I have always made it. I have always been fine, better than fine!

From a Schoolies trip in Bali, that I spent mostly blind drunk or hungover by a pool, to eating sushi in Kyoto, from running through the streets of Melbourne, comparing the cities vibrant air to NoCals San Francisco, to spending a miserable winter in Vancouver, and now a magical winter throughout Europe. I have always left Australia with a ridiculously low amount of money, and most importantly, a fire in my heart, to make my way through this Earth, creating my life to what I want it to be as I go.

 

in japan

Traveling in Japan with Niki, her Mother showing us some sites in 2011

These have been my wanderlust Endeavours over the past 4 years:

December 2010: Bali, Indonesia-3 weeks
December/January 2010/2011: New Zealand-3 weeks
September/October 2011: Japan-4 weeks
January 2012-June 2013: USA/Canada-18 months
September-October 2013: Thailand/Cambodia-5 weeks
August 2014-Current day: USA/Mexico/UK/Europe-5 months almost to the day, and counting!

This is only international, over the past four years I have made multiple trips from where I was living in Australia from my home town in Sydney up through Byron Bay, NSW and down to Melbourne, Victoria.

 

Chiang Mai travel

A hidden treasure a local in Chang Mai (Northern Thailand) took us to in 2013, beautiful and free!

Traveling on a budget is a completely different experience to traveling with loads of money. Here are my top tips to traveling almost penniless from continent to continent:

1. Don’t Be Picky

You are after all, a backpacker right? Who needs a private room with their own bathroom, in a hotel that has absolutely no character. That shit is for our parents wanting a vacation from us, or a family on a trip to Disneyland. Immerse yourself in hostels, eat local, CHEAP food, don’t settle for the first expensive restaurant you walk into, walk and ask around. It can make such a difference between spending $5 or $12 on a meal.

 

2. Hitchhike

Hitchhiking is a fast and effective way to get around and save money! As long as you have your wits about you and you don’t lack common sense, hitchhiking is easy! Getting from one place to another is a pretty boring and unadventurous task anyway, there’s no fun in sitting on a bus for 8 hours going cross country. Try your luck and see how far you get! You’ll be surprised.

 

3. When Traveling, the Internet is your friend

Social media is forever rapidly growing around us. We are all guilty of sitting on our Facebook page scrolling down our news feed seeing what everyone back home is doing, or what those travelers who asked you to join them are now doing on another some-what more appealing destination. I am just as guilty of this as the next person. BUT, when using social media outlets in moderation and accordance whilst traveling, a range of connections can be made that can help save money and guarantee an entirely unique experience.

Some examples

Couchsurfing: I have talked about this website before in past blog posts. A website that allows us to connect to other travelers or hosts in the existing area you are in, in search for a (free) place to crash or a friend to gain. I have met some INCREDIBLE people from couch surfing, people who have literally taken me off the street, hosted me in their wonderful homes, and helped me experience their town, city, country, in a truly distinct and of course, local way. A way I would never have been able to see if I had stayed in a hotel or even a hostel! There are so many benefits of couch surfing, try it on for size next time your trotting around the globe.

Rideshare: Ok I get that hitchhiking isn’t for everyone. So take it slow and ease your way into cheap ways of getting from A to B. Ride share is a great way to do this. It’s safe and super easy! Throw in a bit of cash for gas, get some snacks for the road, and be prepared to talk about your adventures and future endeavors when you get in the car for the long ride. There are many a websites for this kind of travel, in Europe you can use BlaBlaCar, and in the USA you have Craigslist as well as ridester.com and ridejoy.com.
Australia and the UK/Ireland you can use Gumtree.com.

It’s a great way to see the land and how far your stretch is from one place to the other, if you come to a nice view-point your driver might even stop and let you take photos! Try getting that kind of service on a bus or a plane.

Wwoofing and Workaway: Yes, I have spoken often and fondly of these websites in the past and I will continue to do so.

When I left Australia 5 months ago, I wanted to get my hands dirty. I wanted to learn how to be able to provide for myself, and learn more about how mother nature really works. I want to be able to live a life with minimal surroundings, create my own meals where I can taste the pure love and energy that’s placed into it and really learn about my connection, as a human, with the Earth. I set out in search for like-minded humans, in search for the same, and what I found did not disappoint.

Wwoofing in the US and Mexico was life changing. I learnt SO MUCH, yet so little and there is still so much more to learn! It is a great way to travel, you connect not only with people, but deeply with yourself, as well as the earth beneath your feet. And! You get to eat amazing food, and you have a place accommodating you in exchange for a few hours honest work a day. I believe that this is what our lives should be, an honest exchange from one another, helping each other out as we enjoy our surroundings.

Workaway is similar to Wwoofing but broadens your horizons further from just working on farms, to working in home stays and other similar arrangements in exchange for a few hours work a day, you receive a place to sleep and food.

Tinder: Yep, I have Tinder, as most of you reading this do (whether you want to admit it or not), and I use it to my advantage just like the rest of you do too. Except my advantage is perhaps a little different to societies “direct” if you will, main purpose of Tinder.

Now I agree, that it is silly that this social media dating app has taken the world by storm, and has now become a regular way for girls and guys to communicate with each other. What happened to the days when you could just walk up to a guy and say, “Hey, I’m attracted to you, let’s go on an adventure.”

Now it’s like, “Hey, you look like a good one night stand.”, and thats portraying Tinder discreetly, we’ve all had way more forward Tinder matches than that…

But I learned to use Tinder my own way, adventurously, and oh! the adventures I have had from the people I have met on Tinder! I have climbed some of San Francisco’s greatest, most hidden peaks, with Tinder matches, places I never would have known to go to unless these people had showed me. I have found myself in exclusively alternative hole-in-the-wall bars and pubs through out Arizona, New Mexico, Amsterdam, and all over, that alone I wouldn’t have known to step into with out these Tinder matches.

One time, one of my Tinder dates, walking into a tattoo parlor to meet me for the first time, paid for my tattoo within 5 minutes of meeting me (having only realized AFTER I was tattooed that this parlor was ‘Cash Only’)… I of course paid him back, but this guy hardly knew me, I could have flown back to Australia the next day for all he knew.

Multiple and MOST of the Tinder matches I have met up with have been people who, yeah sure, I thought to be attractive at the start, but in the end have turned into big brothers or best friends for me.

When traveling Tinder can be a savior, and I use it in the same way I use couch surfing. If your tired of walking around, introducing yourself to every second person you meet, hanging out with them for an hour or two then finding yourself alone again, try out Tinder, you might just end up meeting someone cool, who you really connect with. For those of you reading this with an utmost disgusted expression on your face, all I can say is, get over yourself. I meet people without even trying, in the streets, in pubs, in parks, crossing the roads and through striking up conversations with strangers almost everywhere I go. But Tinder is fun, a new way of meeting people. I don’t think its necessary to use it religiously, but why not let yourself loose on the app once in a while and find some like-minded people you can relate too.

Blogs: Travel blogs are a great way of finding out about places to visit, some of the places I’ve visited have been based on blog posts I have read from blogs I follow, of girls and guys of all ages that travel the world.

Never under-estimate a good blog! I first really started getting into researching and finding good travels blogs to read when I got back to Australia after visiting South East Asia. A girl I met in Cambodia, Ashley from the USA, had been traveling off the money she makes from her blog for over 2 years, her persistence to see the world and write about it inspired me so much to find more people through blogging that have the same passions as her and I do. I usually search for quirky and unusual blogs that stand out to my lifestyle, I then find inspiration from individual blog posts about where I want to travel too.

For example; Ashley’s blog post on “The Craziest things that happened in India” had me kicking myself for canceling my flight to Chennai from Rome in January, and writing a bucket list of things I want to see/do/witness when entering India. Check out her dramatic yet spiritual Indian adventures.

Another example; another blog I follow, heartmybackpack.com is written by a 26 year old USA/Norwegian girl named Silvia. Besides Silvia’s inspiring long luscious hair that she seems to keep immaculately beautiful through out her travels, I am also largely inspired to now travel through Iran. After reading Silvia’s blog post on road tripping through Iran’s hills and lakes, I know that whenever I eventually get to India, it being so close, I want to experience Iran as well. A young girl solo traveling through Iran is almost unheard off, but if Silvia can do it so can I! I knew this before I read this blog post, but it is nice to read the adventures of a girl who is similar in age and from a similar background as you having succeeded in solo traveling through a middle eastern country.

Search the internet for some inspiration and see what surfaces, I am very thankful to the numerous creative blogs I follow, for opening me up to places I may never have bothered even thinking about to explore.

 

Exploring California

Exploring California with a good friend I made from Tinder 2014

4. Set A Budget for the Day/Week/Month

I usually set a budget for each month, if I spend more than what I thought I would within that time frame, I am usually super hard on myself for about an hour, then I tend to relax and get over it. I’m only human after all! Setting up a budget can help you immensely though, you look at what you have left and you realize that is what you need to live off for the coming weeks. Never take out anymore cash from the ATM then what you need, once it’s in sight, it goes quicker then you can blink. I usually take out money from ATM’s monthly and hide what I don’t need deep in my backpack.

 

5. Eat The Food People Offer You!

When I first starting traveling I use to hesitate to eat the food people held out for me, even when I did eat it I would pick at it, eat it slow, and never ask for seconds. I do not have that problem anymore. These days I take what I can get, no hesitation. I’ll go for seconds, thirds and still have room for dessert. Stop hesitating and just eat! People wouldn’t offer you food, whether it be a home cooked meal or paying for your dinner, if they didn’t want to. Let them do it! They feel good for helping, you get some sustenance and everyone’s happy!

Another issue I have had with excepting food from people is my allergies, I am intolerant to gluten and dairy and I am a vegetarian. I am very serious about my food, I totally believe that you are what you eat, when I can afford it I buy only organic and local foods. However traveling, you kind of say goodbye to that privilege, and although I would obviously rather not eat things with gluten and dairy in them… most foods have them in some way or another. And I am in no position to pass up free food, so, most of the time I am very lenient with these things. I still will not touch any meats, chicken or fish no matter how hard anyone tries to push me to eat it, but as far as my allergies go, a little bread, if that’s all there is, won’t kill me.

 

6. The Best Things In Life Are Free

I have never really been a museum girl, modern art annoys me and the Mona Lisa is to small for me to see without my glasses. I thrive off running through fields of flowers, or jumping on the back of someone’s motorbike and witnessing a city with the wind in my face. Climbing peaks to see the view, and taking advantage of every ‘donation based’ yoga class I can find. Getting lost in cities on purpose and really learning the roots to each place by eventually finding your way back again before the sky night falls. The best things in life really are free, get creative when traveling almost penniless, you don’t really have a choice in the end anyway!

 

7. Take Up Some Hobbies

Since this most recent trip of traveling I have learnt how to make dreamcatchers and jewelry, I have learnt how to play the guitar (not well but as long as you enjoy it who cares!), how to cook some authentic dishes from different countries I have visited, and also picked up some awesome recipes from people I have met along the way, and I have read some fabulous books. I even picked up a hula hoop in Mexico and taught myself how to hula. I have also of course, started this blog, which is a great outlet to expressing how I am feeling, even if no one does read it, I love writing it for myself. I have also enjoyed starting to make little films of my travels as I go, and writing down inspirational quotes I want to remember in my journal. All these little hobbies have helped me stay sane as I have waited for rides, sat on airplanes, waited for people to get ready or pick me up, and when I have had nothing else to do, I turn to these things. Best of all, it costs nothing to read a book or play guitar!

 

waiting for a ride in Mexico

Waiting for a ride in Juluchuca, Mexico, October 2014

8. Be an Au Pair for a While

If you find an area you like and your hesitant to leave, why not stick around? There are many ways you can work abroad, Au Pairing is only one of them. I like Au Pairing because I of course love kids, but you can also find ways to do this with no fees from websites, craigslist for the US and Canada is a great way to find jobs, for Europe, check aupair-world. Au Pairing is a great way to immerse yourself into a different cultural whilst getting paid a little to work an easy and enjoyable job, and living for free. The possibilities are endless, but Au Pairing is a great place to start for working abroad, especially if its your first time over seas, there is something comforting about becoming a part of some one else’s family, far away from your own.

 

9. Travel to Places Where you have Friends

The beauty about traveling so much and being open to meeting new people is that you find yourself with invitations all over the world, from Thailand to Berlin, Rome to Seattle! From people you spend only a couple of minutes with to people you spend weeks with. There is obviously a deeper connection with you and the people that invite you or you invite to come stay. It’s a wonderful thing and it is something you should learn to take advantage off.

Not only will you get to rekindle your friendship with these people, but you will get to see them in their natural habitat, and you will get to live like a local!

I have been in Berlin a week, a destination I had desperately wanted to go to for years, now here I am, with one of my best friends and her typical German family right in the centre of it all! They feed me, they play tour guide, they even took me to their family Christmas where I got to witness first hand a proper German Christmas, complete with presents!

On top of that, yesterday some Swedish boys I met in Cambodia, messaged me saying they are also in Berlin, and so we spent the day together. You will find yourself constantly surrounded by amazing people from your past travel endeavors, popping up in your present travel endeavors! That is really something special!

 

Christmas in Berlin

Christmas with the best! This year in Berlin, Germany

So there it is! My top and most effective tips for traveling solo and traveling penniless! If I can do it you can too! Money does not make the world go round, people make the world go round.

It’s a big world out there with much to explore, don’t let something as silly as money put you in a bind or pull you down. Take some action and make your time count!

 


About the Author

Natalie is a 22 year old Australian girl with an EU passport and a keen eye for adventure. She has a passion for writing, talking, and inspiring. She likes to walk through the wild and listen to people speak foreign languages and also likes yoga.

Check out this video of her travels:

You can follow her adventures by reading her blog: 1 Way to Wanderlust

She is also on twitter and instagram


If you liked this post, you might also want to read 6 ways to make travel buddies!


This article was published in December 2014.


Funky 100 – FAQ’s

FUNKY 100

Frequently Asked Questions

How did you come up with the list?

We used impressions from our own travels and also contacted people from areas we’ve not visited to come up with a list of cool cities from all over the world. We also attempted to represent as much of the world as possible and all major regions are represented and no country has more than 5 cities in the list. The main criteria was the city hat to have something funky, interesting about it that make’s it an exciting travel destination.

Can I do more than one?

Yeah sure! Provided you’ve either lived in or visited a city on the list and have the photos to prove it then you can do several if you like.

Can I just get pictures off the internet if I’m lacking a photo?

We’d prefer the pictures to be your own. If you use the internet make sure they have a creative commons license! Follow this link to search for images you can use.

Is it okay if I am in the pictures?

Yes! It would be nice if you featured in at least one of the pictures as it adds a personal touch to your little segment however it isn’t compulsory.

Can I send in something about a city that’s not on the list?

We’re currently only looking for the 100 cities on our list for the Funky 100 section. We realise there are cities that we missed that you may think should be on there. You’re welcome to send articles about other cities in and we may feature it elsewhere on the site.

What size should the photos be?

Photos must be a minimum of 500 pixels wide. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you have a really ancient camera.

I want to do a city but it’s a while since I’ve been there. Is that okay?

Yes, as long as you are sure that your suggested activities are still possible. Please check before sending them in to us.

What happens when the list is complete?

We plan to introduce some kind of voting system and turn it into a competition to decide which is the most exciting city on the Funky 100.

What if a city has already been done by somebody else?

Then choose somewhere else! We are only looking for one contribution per city. If the city is in blue on the main Funky 100 page and has a link to an article with 5 things to do there, then clearly it has already been completed.

Still have questions? e-mail us!


 

Funky 100 Explained

Funky 100 Rules


WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

hong kong at night

After lots of highly unscientific research we’ve decided upon our 100 coolest and most funktastic (we’ve even invented a word) cities on the planet! For each one, a local or a visitor will suggest 5 wonderful (or wacky) things to do. The aim is to get insider tips so you’re never stuck for something to do if you find yourself in one of these 100 wonderful destinations.


EXAMPLE

We’ve done one to get things going. It is number 76: BOGOTA, Colombia


YOUR TURN!

This project depends on you lovely travellers of the world! It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes of your time to get involved with what we hope will ultimately be a collective masterpiece!

1) Choose a city on the Funky 100 list that you have been to or lived in.

2)  Come up with 5 funky things you’d recommend a visitor to that city to do and find a picture for each. We’d rather the photos were your own but if you’re struggling to find the right snap you can use creative commons image search.

TIP: If it’s a well-known city like London then try and think of more original ideas (i.e. Go look at Buckingham Palace isn’t really the sort of thing we’re after).

3) Send in your list of 5 things to do and 5 pictures to:

funky100@myfunkytravel.com

If you want to include a brief introductory paragraph about the city that’s fine but it’s not compulsory. Likewise feel free to send us a bio or links if you have your own travel blog. We’ll try to include your city within a couple of days of you sending it in.

If you still have doubts see our Funky 100 FAQ’s.


Popular Backpacking Route in Australia

asia/oceania routes

southeast asia | thailandmyanmar | vietnam | indonesia | indiaaustralia


Backpacking Route in Australia

australia backpacking route

Australia has long been a popular travel destination and tends to attract young and energetic crowds to its main backpacker trail. It’s a fun place to visit and its only really challenge is the size of the place, given that they speak English and it is relatively safe and well organised compared to other popular budget travel destinations. Our backpacking route for Australia takes in six states, all the main cities, the best beaches, idyllic islands and loads of nature.


TIME NEEDED – 2-3 MONTHS

Although many travellers turn it into a working holiday so stay for much longer.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £4100 €4750 $5000

This is based on January 2017 prices and exchange rates and works out at just under 7000 Australian Dollars but doesn’t include flights to Oz which can be very expensive. You may also need a visa and travel insurance for your trip (costs not included in this budget). Consider joining couchsurfing or finding some casual work in order to cut down on costs.

Read more on the cost of travel in Australia.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR AUSTRALIA

EU citizens are eligible for the eVisitor program which enables stays of up to 3 months with no cost. Most other nationalities need to apply for a visa. Due to the cost of travel in the country, many travellers opt for a working holiday visa for Australia, which gives you more time in the country and the right to work.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

Essential for backpacking trips in Australia, which generally tend to be quite active with an increased risk of injuries. World Nomads are a safe bet for travel insurance for backpackers and are based in Australia.


Australia Backpacking Route

map coming soon.


Queensland

Cairns (access to great barrier reef)

It may be a city and quite a decent one at that but Cairns is a base for exploring some of nature’s great wonders. This is the best spot to check out the Great Barrier Reef with plenty of skuba-diving options available for you to get close up to the coral. Thrill seekers will enjoy the opportunity to bungee-jump or sky-dive while the Wet Tropics Rainforest is another essential visit.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Gilligans Backpacker Resort, Cairns 

This place combines hotel luxury with all the social benefits of staying in a hostel. There’s even a nightclub!


great barrier reef

Townsville & Magnetic Island

Sparsely populated Magnetic Island is reachable from Townsville. It’s good for jet skiing, bush walks and boozy nights and is Australia’s best destination for full moon parties.

Airlie Beach (gateway to the Whitsundays)

Airlie Beach is a big backpacker hub with a predictably chilled out vibe in the day and raucous nightlife that parties on well into the small hours. The Whitsundays are gorgeous and are made up of 74 stunning islands. Don’t be surprised if you end up spending weeks rather than days here!

the whitsundays backpacking

Agnes Water

This was the site of the original landing spot of Captain Cook in 1770 which was effectively year 0 for Australia as we know it today. It’s a nice spot to relax on the beach and read up on a bit of history at the Agnes Water Museum which documents the life of Cook and his voyages.

Hervey Bay (for Fraser Island)

From late July to early November Hervey Bay is a fantastic place to spot some whales. Its other main attraction is for access to Fraser Island and the southern Great Barrier Reef. Fraser Island is 120km long and with a mild year-round climate and lots of beautiful scenery including crystal lakes and endless beaches, it’s a great place for camping out for a few days. Swimming isn’t recommended though due to dangerous tides and lots of hungry sharks.

Noosa (Sunshine coast)

Yet more glorious long sandy beaches and nearby national parks make Noosa another popular stop with backpackers in Australia. Make it to the Glasshouse mountains and you will get a terrific panoramic view of the whole Sunshine Coast.

Brisbane

City lovers rejoice as this is the capital of Australia’s sunshine state and a good chance to stock up on anything you need at the 700+ stores in the city’s central shopping mall. It’s a youthful lively city famed for it’s live music and large numbers of bars and clubs. With a relaxed riverside location, Australia’s third largest and fastest growing city generally leaves a positive impression on visitors.

Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise)

Just South of Brisbane is Gold Coast, a city of around 500,000 people based as the name would suggest on the coast. Surfers Paradise is its touristy hub with an array of high rise structures, late night venues (some very seedy) and lots of drunk people. It’s a popular destination with Australian teens celebrating the end of high school. An Australian equivalent of Ibiza, Malia or Cancun. You’ll either love it or hate it.


New South Wales

Byron Bay

A relaxed beach setting but there is still lots and lots to do here. It’s a popular place to learn to surf, you can kayak alongside dolphins and do a bit of skydiving. An essential stop on almost every backpacking route in Australia.

Nimbin

Nimbin has gained a reputation as a bit of a hippy town and is a nice inland spot if you just can’t handle any more beaches. Can be visited on it’s own or on a daytrip from Byron Bay. The nearby Nightcap national park is home to an array of peaks, waterfalls and wildlife.

Sydney

One of the most easily recognisable cities in the world thanks to the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Its setting is one of the best of any major city in the world and a boat trip or water-taxi in and around the Darling Harbour area is a must. Add to that a few world-famous beaches and an array of fine restaurants and nightlife and you will realise that you are in one of the world’s most liveable cities.

sydney


MFT RECOMMENDS – Railway Square Hostel, Sydney 

Smack in the middle of Sydney, you won’t find a better location. Great facilities including a small pool.


Victoria

Melbourne

With a distinctly different vibe from Sydney, Melbourne is less brash and maintains a European cultural vibe with plenty of quaint remnants of Britain. Melbourne residents are sports mad with major international events such as the Australian Open Tennis and Formula 1 taking place in the city as well as numerous teams in Australia’s sports leagues. There are enough galleries and theatres to entertain culture vultures while the multicultural population serves a range of different cuisines. Melbourne is full of lively neighbourhoods worth checking out and you will need several days here to take it all in. Trips out of town include a visit to Phillip Island where you can see the nightly penguin parade.

Great Ocean Road

This 150 mile stretch of road that runs west from Melbourne features numerous points that are worth short visits but perhaps not overnight stays. These include traditional fishing villages, surfer beaches, lush rainforests and the bizarre cliff formation of the 12 Apostles.

great ocean road

Possible End Point

For those travelling on a tight budget or heading onto New Zealand, this may be a logical point to end your trip having seen the main cities and more than enough of Australia’s golden coastline. However for travellers who want the full Australian experience the route continues through South Australia into the wilderness of Northern Territory before finishing in the Western Australian city of Perth.


South Australia

Kangaroo Island

A reasonably large island off the coast of Southern Australia home to an abundance of wildlife including you guessed it kangaroos! It’s a very scenic place and has a few settlements so pick one and base yourself there.

Adelaide

Adelaide is the capital of otherwise sparsely populated South Australia. It’s the fifth largest city in the country and although it might not have as much going for it as some of the other big cities it makes for a nice stop for a couple of days. This is also a big wine producing area so vineyard visits are popular.

The trip from here to Northern territory is long but you can break it up by visiting one of the many mining communities for a perspective on a less glamourous side to Australia which isn’t all about sun, sea and surfing.


Northern Territory

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Ayers Rock is a giant lump of earth in the middle of the world’s largest island. For some it’s an amazing sight, but non-rock lovers may end up moaning about the distance and time it takes to get here (although oddly it does now have its own airport). It is found in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park which contains a couple of other sites that are considered sacred by the Aborigines. You will have to stay outside the park though probably at the nearby resort of Yulara where camping is possible.

ayers rock

Alice Springs

There is a sense of achievement for anyone who reaches Alice Springs. Most people have heard the name but given that is 1200km from the Ocean 1500km from the nearest city, few make the long trip here. Alice Springs is a base for exploring the surrounding outback and learning about the extensive indigenous history in these parts.


Western Australia

Perth

Unless you have a sadistic love of coach journeys that last days then you will probably need to fly from Alice Springs to Perth. Qantas has daily flights that will set you back between 350 and 500 Australian Dollars and take just under 3 hours.

Perth is a large but relaxed place and incredibly isolated from the rest of the county’s urban areas. Days can be spent on the beach, cycling around the city or visiting nearby nature reserves. At night enjoy a drink in one of the many pubs or delve into the lively indie or drum and bass music scenes.

As the Westernmost city in Australia, ending in Perth will probably make your onward journey or journey home a fraction shorter and many major international airlines fly in and out of the city. If you are planning on visiting New Zealand after Australia it would be more sensible to do this trip in reverse and start in Perth before ending in Cairns.



 Off the Beaten Track in Australia & Extending your trip.

Check out this great guest post on 5 Unusual Things to see in Oz, most of which you won’t find on a regular backpacker’s itinerary for Australia.

New Zealand and Fiji are the other most popular travel destinations in the region and you can easily combine the two. The Northern part of Australia, where this route starts is very close to Indonesia and therefore it’d be easy to combine this with our backpacking route for Indonesia. There are loads of flights to Bali from all over Oz so it would link in nicely and would provide a bit of contrast to your trip.

If you follow this route right through to Perth, you could consider flying on to South Africa or one of the East African countries such as Kenya. This would be a nice option particularly for anyone flying home to Europe or North America. Alternatively you could fly home via Southeast Asia or take on our India backpacking route.


Budget Accommodation

You may be able to find accommodation just by turning up and asking in the smaller, more backpacker-geared destinations but it’s advisable to book in advance in the cities, where the hostels are spread all over and the better ones often sell out during peak periods.

Airbnb is also a pretty good option in OZ, certainly in the cities. Read our Airbnb review here!


Getting Around Australia

by train

Trains in Australia are quite expensive but they do represent a nice way of seeing the country and there is actually a fairly extensive network which serves almost everywhere on this route. Seat61 has good information on prices and timetables of trains in Australia.

by bus

Although it is such a large country, travelling by bus is by far the most popular way to get around Australia. Excellent ‘hop-on hop-off’ passes offer a great deal for backpackers and give you the opportunity to travel at your own leisure. Oz Experienceprovide several different passes, for example the Sydney-Cairns pass enables you to travel in one direction from Sydney to Cairns (or vice versa) and stop as many times as you like along the way. As of January 2017 the cheapest package cost 639 Australian Dollars (roughly $480, 450 Euros or £400) and includes three extra tours/activities along the way.

The Oz Experience passes enable you to travel on Greyhound buses along your chosen route. They are Australia’s only national bus service and also offer their own hop on/hop off passes which are cheaper than the Oz Experience ones but don’t include the extra activities. You can also purchase KM passes where you purchase an amount of kilometres and then can travel in any direction until you run out of kilometres, which might be a better option for those that like to do their own thing and never bother with organised trips.

greyhound australia

by plane

The fastest way to get between any of the big cities and usually cheaper than the train and sometimes the bus. Budget airline Jetstar have very cheap fares and daily flights on many internal routes. The 1 hour 40 minute flight from Sydney to Melbourne for example is typically just 40-50 Australian Dollars provided you book at least 2 weeks in advance. Fares like this make flying a better alternative to the bus in some such situations so think carefully before committing to a bus-pass. Qantas are the national airline but are usually more expensive although they do have a more extensive network.

On our route it might be best to do a Cairns to Byron Bay bus pass as there are lots of fairly short stops and then take flights from Brisbane to Sydney and Sydney to Melbourne given fares are low and there is little in-between really worth visiting. The final sections are clearly much quicker by air but much more of an experience overland.


This article was last updated in January 2017.


Popular Backpacking Route in Central America

latin america routes

south america | brazil | patagonia | central america


Backpacking Route in Central America

Mexico aside, the countries in this part of the world are really small but there’s loads to see and do. Backpacking around Central America on this route will see you pack in 6 countries, Mayan ruins, fiery active volcanoes, stunning lakes, colonial towns, and chilled out Caribbean beaches while trying to avoid the hellhole capital cities in the region (Panama City is the exception). You may well need to change buses in Managua or Tegioculpa for example but even if you’re a city lover you seriously won’t want to hang around long. As well as plenty to see, it’s a cheap region to learn Spanish, which is handy especially if you are heading onto South America.


Palenque Mayan ruins

Mayan ruins in Palenque, Mexico


TIME NEEDED – 2 MONTHS

On average we’d suggest spending about 10 days in each country although you could squeeze it all into 6 weeks at a push. With lots of volunteering and learning opportunities you could stick around for longer.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1500 €1700 $1800

This doesn’t include flights in/out of the region or other pre-trip expenses. It is based on prices and exchange rates as of January 2017.

See our Central America backpacking costs for more.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR CENTRAL AMERICA

Mostly not required for stays of up to 90 days. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua have a mutual agreement in place enabling you to travel freely around the 4 countries for 90 days without passport checks.

Use our visa check tool to see which countries you will need a visa for.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

We recommend World Nomads who provide excellent cover for backpackers.


Central America Backpacking Route



Mexico

Fly into Cancun – Leave Cancun ASAP!! the beach is ok but it’s seedy, expensive and doesn’t cater for backpackers.

Playa del Carmen- Nice beaches and party till dawn in one the many bars and clubs (girls drink free on some nights).


MFT RECOMMENDS – Hostel Rio Playa, Playa del Carmen 

Cool hostel with fun rooftop bar and pool that is great for meeting other travellers and pre-drinks prior to a night out.


Tulum – Great beach plus a few small Mayan ruins.

(Night bus to Palenque)

Palenque – Impressive ruins in the jungle (pic above), magic mushrooms.

San Cristobal – Colonial town at altitude hence a pleasant break from the heat, lots of hippy/bohemian types here.


Guatemala

Xela – Loads of volunteering options, salsa classes and clubs, local markets in surrounding villages.

Lake Atitlan – Stunning scenery with a huge lake surrounded by volcanoes and dirt cheap backpacker towns. See Destination: Lake Atitlan.

Antigua– Colonial town surrounded by volcanoes that can be explored on foot (one of our top 10 latin america experiences). It is also a hugely popular and cheap place to take some Spanish lessons which will certainly be handy as your progress further along this backpacking route for Central America.


Honduras

Copan – More ancient ruins.

San Pedro – City with decent nightlife but a bit dangerous! It’s on the way towards Bay Islands so could be worth a stop just to get a feel for city life in this part of the world but don’t hang around long.

La Ceiba – Nice beaches and place to catch the ferry to Utila.

Utila (Bay Islands) – Scuba diving hot-spot and one of the real highlights of the region. Caribbean beach paradise on a budget! The Bay Islands also feature in our article on 5 budget-friendly Caribbean destinations.

(Long day of travelling between Utila and Leon)


Nicaragua

Leon – Birthplace of the Sandinista revolution and still a staunchly pro-revolution town, cool street art. Read more about funky Leon!

Granada – Colonial town, perhaps the most beautiful in the region, lots of churches.

Isla de Ometepe – Island in middle of the giant lake with two volcanoes, excellent place for mountain biking.

San Juan del Sur – Good place to surf with some mental waves, OK nightlife, average beach.

Check out the cost of travel in Nicaragua.


Costa Rica

Monteverde (for Volcan Arenal) – 3rd most active volcano in the world and awesome cloud forests nearby.

Montezuma – Waterfalls, nature reserves and nude beaches!

San Jose – Capital city, bit rough but better than capitals further north (Costa Rica Backpackers Hostel, San Jose isn’t great but there are now other budget options).

Puerto Viejo – Surfing, beaches, marijuana.


Panama

Bocas del Toro – Chilled Caribbean islands covered in thick jungle.

David – Pleasant town on Pan-American Highway with good hostels.

Panama City – Vibrant modern city, the Panama Canal and lots of ways to spend any money you have left.

Read more on the cost of travel in Panama.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Casa Monalisa, Panama City 

Colourful hostel that is perfect for solo travellers. Sociable place and easy to meet people.


(Fly home, or see more of Latin America by crossing the Darien Gap)

revolutionary street art in Leon, Nicaraguachicken bus central america
Revolutionary street Art in Leon, Nicaragua & a Central American chicken bus


More Info on Budget Travel in Central America

Our Central America backpacking itinerary aims to give you an idea of popular travel spots but if the hostel scene is getting a bit repetitive then it’s well worth heading off to some of the less touristy parts (although mainstream tourism only really exists in small parts of Mexico and Costa Rica).

Outside the capitals, the people are generally very friendly and it’s really not that dangerous. While you could do this route in 2 months there are many places that you will find hard to leave and adding a few other destinations you could do as much as 6 months in Central America, particularly if you get involved with some volunteering projects.

Border crossings are relatively pain free. You can normally do direct buses between destinations in different countries but it is much cheaper and more of an adventure to get a local bus to the border and cross on foot. There will always be buses to the nearest town at border posts.

It can easily be combined with our Backpacking Route for South America.


 Budget Accommodation in Central America

Central America is one of the most enjoyable regions to travel in and it has a really good hostel scene. Typically each of the destinations on our Central America backpacking route will have a few hostels (in the European sense of the word), one of which might be generally considered the main party hostel. A bit of research online or just from talking to other travellers and it should be quite easy to work out which one it is.

In addition to the hostels, there are lots more very small budget hotels or ‘hostals’ which are little more than homes converted so some rooms are available for daily rent. They may be better value if you are travelling as a couple or with friends but single travellers may prefer to opt for a dorm in one of the bigger hostels. Expect to be paying anything from $3-10/night for budget accommodation in these parts.

For more on prices in the region read about the cost of travel in Mexico and cost of travel in Costa Rica.


 This page was last updated in January 2017.