If bus and boat tours aren’t your thing, or you just want to explore the world at your own pace, pick up your backpack and grab your mobile. Independent, low-cost travel is so easy and so much fun, even when you do it alone. Let us talk you through it with our 6 must-have tips for travelling like a 20-year-old!
1. Install your essential apps
Let apps take the hard work out of travel. Make Mapsme your first choice for off-line information and navigation. This brilliant app maps out your route ahead of time and plots your journey as you move. You’ll never again have to ask a bus driver where your stop is because you always know where you are! Wander to your heart’s content then find your way home with a tap of the screen. Bargain down your taxi fare because you know exactly how kilometres you want to go. Mapsme also lists sights, accommodation, bus and train stations, and essential services – and it does it all off-line (just download the maps before you leave home).
Keep your bookings in one place with apps such as Hostel World and Booking.com. They’ll send you reminders of your check-in dates and booking details.
2. Don’t plan too far ahead
Let go of the need to book buses and accommodation well in advance. Outside of New Zealand (with the possible exception of very popular spots in high season), hostel beds, bus and train tickets and even budget flights, will almost certainly be available on or close to the day of your desired travel. Booking too far ahead means you’re not free to stay longer in a place you suddenly decide you want to see more of, or to give the flick to a city that disappoints – so brave it out and take it one day at a time!
3. Hostel hints
Why tuck yourself away in an isolated hotel room when a hostel has so much to offer the independent traveller? At a hostel, you’ll find company (of all ages), sight-seeing companions, free advice, and often a travel-mate to accompany you to the bus or train station, or on the entire next leg of your journey.
If you’re a woman who doesn’t want to share a room with men, choose hostels with female-only dorms. If you’re sleeping in a dorm, carry a sarong which can be strung up around your bunk to create a little privacy (or choose hostels which offer a bunk curtain that serves the same purpose).
If you’re travelling alone, opt for a super-central hostel – it means that if you choose to go out in the evening, you’re only ever a few steps from your accommodation.
4. Take the free-walking tour
In most major cities of the world (and many that aren’t so major), free walking tours operate once or twice a day. Although you won’t be asked to pay for the tour, there’s the option of tipping your guide at its conclusion. A free walking tour is a great way to kick-start your time in a new city as you can then tick off the sights you want to return to later during your stay, and explore them in depth.
5. Book the best seat!
Not all seats on public transport are equal, and you’ll only get the best if you ask for it. While many travellers are just locals going from A to B, you’ll want to sightsee as you journey, so at the time of booking your travel, be sure to ask for a window seat – and make sure it’s one with a view, as on some local buses, windows can be covered by advertising or even obscured by an air conditioning unit!
6. Get fit and lighten-up
Independent travel is so much easier – and cheaper – when you can comfortably walk a kilometre or two if you need to (after all, who wants to pay for a taxi when the hostel is just a ten-minute walk down the road!). For the same reason, it pays to keep your backpack light. Cut back on clothing – you can always buy as you go.