How to survive backpacking

14:28 PF Song 0 Comments

Hey peeps!
I just got back from an amazing week in sunny Portugal and thought I'd share with you some tips on travelling smart on a budget. Summer is the perfect time to rejuvenate yourselves with some sightseeing and adventure. Europe is a popular destination for international students studying in the UK.

1. Budget airlines
I book my flights at least one month in advance with Ryan Air, Easy Jet or other low-cost European airlines through third party websites such as : Expedia, Omega flights and Skyscanner. They offer amazing deals on top of the original airlines promotions. I also monitor the months that offer cheap flights, and plan my travel around that time. For longer flights back home to Malaysia, I book it at least 6 months in advance, usually with Etihad, Qatar or Emirates. 
*Remember to browse the websites with incognito mode to avoid Google Chrome from saving a record of what you visit and download. 

2. Accommodation
As a backpacker, the rubric for accommodation are :
Location, Price, Cleanliness, Facilities and Reviews.
I use these websites : booking.com, airbnb.com, hostelworld.com, and hostelbookers.com. Some websites allow you to pay a small deposit online and you can pay the remaining fees at the hostel, usually in euros. Airbnb is a great experience because the hosts often offer insider's tips about the destination which are overlooked by typical tourists. The hosts can even cook local meals and be your tour guide.

3. Money changer
In Oxford, I always go to Senli Cash and Go because they offer the best rates. For currencies that are hard to obtain from the counter such as Brazilian reals, I recommend ordering the currency online weeks in advance. I always change slightly more than my budget to save the trouble of changing more later during my trip. Moreover, the exchange rate in other European countries may not be as good as in UK. Sometimes, I convert my currency at the airport of the country I am visiting, such as Egypt - great rates too. You can keep the extra Euros for future travels, don't convert it back to British Pounds.

4. Packing 
Top 3 things to bring :
Passport+Visa (UK Biometric card for international students)
Money+Bank Card+Student card
Phone+Charger

Remember also - a print out of your boarding pass if required, international adaptor (two round pins for most European countries), download Google Maps on your phone or better, stick to the manual map. Travel light and easy to ease your walking and minimize the risk of losing items. I also bring along my pillow case and towel for hygiene reasons. Don't miss out on extra camera SD cards.

5. The Departure Point
There are 4 main airports in London which I often take my flights from - Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. From Oxford, you can take the train, National Express bus, Megabus or the Airline bus to the airports. Be at the airport at least 2 hours in advance. Often, people miss their flights because of the slow service at the check-in counters and ridiculously long queues at the baggage screening area.

On your return trip, if you have a non-EU passport, prepare to spend some time with your crossword puzzle in the immigration line - I was stuck for one hour in the line at Stansted.

6. Enjoy the journey
Now, time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your hard work spent in the preparation of your travel. Be alert and street-smart, keep an open mind and indulge yourselves in the adventure! Screw that diet and eat all the gelato and Portuguese tarts you want. You could get student or under-25-years-old discounts for transportation and museums in some countries. Some museums are free on weekends. If you are staying in one place for a long time (eg : for an internship), get the local SIM card. Visit the local supermarkets or farmers market to get cheap fresh fruits and delicacies.

Walk off the beaten path and discover new possibilities. Backpacking is the perfect guru that helps mold your confidence, wisdom, and strong personality. Solo travelling allows you to be at peace with yourself, meet new people, build connections and make you an independent person.

Have an awesome adventure!
Me in Sintra







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