5 Tips for Backpacking with Friends

Traveling with friends can be great, but when you’re backpacking you leave behind your regular lifestyle for a while. You may sometimes end up in difficult situations in which is easy to lose your mind and blame everyone else. Here’s a list of tips to reduce those hard times to a minimum:

1. Choose friends that you could see yourself living with.

I remember a trip to Spain, a couple of friends and I didn’t have Internet connection to book a hostel for our next destination and when we got there every single place was full. We walked for miles looking for a room and winded up sleeping on some benches at the train station. We got in a fight with one of them (the one we knew less) because he just couldn’t stand the situation.
Backpacking is a lot of fun but because of it is involves high levels of improvisation, sometimes things can get difficult. These experiences put every relationship to test so think it twice before you invite someone on your trip.

2. Make a list of countries/cities beforehand.

Each one of us travelers has a list of dream cities or countries. Unfortunately, it’s not necessary the same as everyone else’s.  After you gather your group of friends, talk about the places you’d all like to go. Then you can make a list of those you have in common, these ones will fall into the “can’t miss” category.

After you settled your places, plan your route in the smartest way possible, and by “Smartest” we mean shorten your distances and save up some money. You don’t even have to make the whole trip together! If you want to go alone or with just one from the group elsewhere; do it! Go separate ways and see what you can find. Don’t worry, you’ll meet them again pretty soon, eager to tell your stories and listen to theirs.

3. Define your transportation method.

There are many transportation methods nowadays. I’d recommend you to use the most flexible of them. Yes, there are a lot of cheap airlines that go between cities and countries, but because of their price you have very limited options when it comes to changing dates and luggage (normally just a carry-on).

As a backpacker, I can say that even if you’ve printed the schedule you made in a pretty neat Excel document, it won’t come out as you planned it. If you’re traveling to Europe there’s a website called eurail.com where you can buy train tickets that adapt to your trip. I usually buy the one that includes 10 travel days within two months. There’s also another website called blablacar.com that is similar to Uber but for longer distances and works all over Europe but as it covers greater distances there isn’t always a driver available. If not, you can always rely on buses.

4. MAPS.

Although I love Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I’m not talking about their song here. I’m talking about real maps, paper maps. Don’t just rely on your phone or tablet, technology can fail and conditions may be unfavorable. Maybe you will run out of battery or forget the charger at the hotel, or some pickpocket could take it without you noticing (hopefully not).

Perhaps there is just no signal in that certain area you went to. As soon as you set foot on a place, go to the Tourism Office and ask for a map and some recommendations. Spot your favorite landmarks, plan your days, ask around, meet new people.

5. Set an amount for common expenses.

In my country there’s a saying that goes kind of like this: “Settled accounts maintain friendships” (Cuentas claras conservan amistades). This means that when it comes to money it’s better to keep things crystal clear. When traveling in groups, generally everyone can cover their own expenses, but there are some expenses that come in a single tab. For instance, a big bottle of water to share, food at the supermarket, bus/subway tickets (it is usually cheaper to buy a 10 rides ticket) and since you’re on the go, sometimes you don’t stop to even it out and someone eventually says: “Here’s a 10, you can pay me later”. To avoid the I-owe-you-you-owe-me situation, at the beginning of the trip everyone puts 10-20 bucks in a pouch and the person carrying that pouch is responsible for the common expenses. That way, everyone spent the same amount. If the money runs out, just start over.

As the title suggests, those are just a few tips of a fellow backpacker, not commandments. As I said, you can’t really plan much a backpacker trip, in fact; you shouldn't. When it comes to traveling my motto is: the only things you really need are money and your passport.

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