Top 5 backpacking rules to live by

Backpacking around the world can be one of the most enjoyable, eye-opening experiences of a lifetime – but there’s a handful of unwritten rules that (we think) we should all live by!

Backpacking at sunset

The connotations of an adventure combined with rules may seem like a strange mix – but our backpacking rules to live by are designed to enhance the experience, not detract from it. 

We’re not talking about curfews and careful language choices, far from it. Our rules for backpacking are all about respect, awareness and – most importantly – having fun.

So whether you’re new to backpacking or you’re a seasoned adventurer looking for a set of rules to get along with, you’ll find our top 5 backpacking rules listed below!

1. Respect the countries that you visit

While traveling, it’s likely you’ll see and experience people and cultures that are different from your own.

Bali Indonesia

Show interest by asking questions and demonstrating that you’re willing to take the time and effort to learn about them. If you’re travelling in a Muslim country, such as Indonesia, don’t be the person in the pool loudly complaining about being woken up by prayer in the mornings (yes, I actually witnessed this). 

Check and make sure you’re dressing appropriately, particularly when visiting religious sites such as temples or mosques. If you wish to take photographs, do your best to get permission first before snapping shots of locals. 

This will not only make your travel experience far more authentic but will also make people more likely to open up and share the best of their country with you.

2. Be a good roommate

If you’re staying in a hostel, especially if you’re sharing your room with others, it’s important to be respectful of that.

Hostel Check In

If you have to get up early in the morning make sure to pre-pack your things the night before so you aren’t turning on lights or rustling around while everyone else is trying to sleep. When it comes to nightlife, lots of hostels have common areas or will offer group activities that depart at a certain time to give the people who want to go out the opportunity to do so, while also giving those who want to sleep a bit of peace and quiet. 

It works the other way too – if it’s only seven-thirty in the evening and you’re the type of person who’s already in bed and complaining about noise, you probably shouldn’t stay in a hostel! 

Last but not least, when it comes to cooking in a common kitchen make sure to tidy up as you go so the area is ready for the next person who wants to make something. This will make your stay (not to mention everyone else’s) much more pleasant, and you’ll find it a lot easier to make friends!

3. Stay alert

Keeping your wits about you is one of the smartest decisions that you can make whilst you spend time in unfamiliar surroundings.

Wallet full of cash

When travelling, I like to try to blend in as much as I can, and avoid wearing fancy jewellery that might make you a target for thieves. The same goes when it comes to cash – I keep a small amount in one area so that when you bring it out to pay I’m not flashing a bunch of bills around.

Depending on where and how you’re travelling, you might want to carry your passport and other important documents around your neck, rather than putting them in your other bags. I also always carry money in two different places, ensuring that there’s a backup option if I lose any

Paying attention to where all of your belongings are at any given time is a valuable mindset that will prevent any luggage mishaps or even theft. Similarly, it’s a good idea to be aware of who and what is around you, and try to make sure at least one person knows where you are and what your plans are. If necessary, check with someone who knows the area well and ask if there are any particular areas you should be avoiding.

If you’re travelling with someone else it doesn’t hurt to lock your bags together when putting them on a bus or truck, as this can help deter someone from snatching them as they walk by.

4. Don’t overpack

Whatever you’ve got packed, take half of it out. Seriously.

Travel Essentials

On a similar note, if you’re looking at buying a new backpack, go with the smaller one because if you don’t you’ll just end up overpacking anyways! Be realistic about what you’ll need for the climate and for what activities you have planned, and don’t go overboard. 

Use things like packing cubes to help save space and keep yourself organized, and try using the roll-up technique. You’ll definitely want to make sure you have earplugs and a spare roll of toilet paper on hand, and I would recommend a facemask as well. A Buff also makes for a great, versatile facemask alternative that can be used in plenty of situations. 

At the end of the day, packing light will save you baggage fees, weight, and make you less of a target for thieves.

5. Have fun!

It goes without saying that one of the best parts of travelling should be the experience.

Diving with an inflatable

If you feel like taking a day to relax, do it! If you want to stay longer in one spot rather than rush to another, then stay. 

I travelled through South America with a group of friends and they decided to do a 7-day hike through the jungle. I knew that wasn’t my idea of a good time, so I split off and went to Colombia instead. I spent a week taking Spanish lessons and walking around Cartagena (which ended up being one of my favourite cities in the world) and never once regretted the decision. 

You should definitely be open to trying new things, but don’t commit to something you know is going to make you miserable. Instead, make sure you listen to what your body is telling you and do the things that YOU want to do.

The unwritten backpacking rules

To be a good traveller, all you need is a healthy amount of respect for others and the environment around you. 

Be tidy, considerate, and willing to learn about other cultures and countries and you’ll be just fine on the social front. When it comes to preparing for your trip, remember less is more when it comes to both packing and planning. Be aware of your surroundings and use your common sense, and you’ve got yourself covered! 

Most importantly, remember why you’re there – hopefully, to see and experience new things, and have a good time!

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