Cities offer big things: big activities, big skyscrapers, big menus from the local restaurants, and generally big hearts from the people welcoming tourists in their towns. Backpacking across a city (Paris? Amsterdam? Rome? Auckland?) is going to be one of the most exciting adventures of your entire life. It’s not a surprise that you feel overwhelmed.
To address all your concerns about living, eating, and exploring a city as a backpacker, Worldgoo has just happened to put together this huge list of actionable tips. From the moment you pick a city on the world map to putting items in your bag, it’s going to provide you with advice every step of the way.
1. Avoid High Seasons
Summers are the worst for backpacking across popular cities, as they’re super expensive and crowded during that time. Instead, consider backpacking during the offseason as there’d be less of a crowd and accommodations will be 25-30% cheaper. The only thing you’d have to watch out for is the cold weather, which you could easily tackle with a good quality fleece. Also, you don’t actually need the summer heat to take part in activities; skydiving, mountain biking, bungy jumping, whale watching – these can be done at any time of the year.
2. Eat Big During Lunch
Lunch is the primary meal of the day in most cities. From Monday-Friday, most restaurants will be publishing a menu deal for lunch. This is usually posted outside of the eatery, so you’ll exactly know what’ll be put on your plate and how much you’ll need to spend. The lunch menu deal costs a bit more than what a backpacker would ordinarily spend at lunch hour (grab a sandwich perhaps), but if you stock up at lunchtime – as locals do in many popular cities, you’d be able to save big on dinner. And hey, the bread put on your table isn’t always free, so double check with the waiter to ensure it’s a complementary item.
3. Be Smart with Museum Visits
Cities like Madrid and Florence have several fascinating museums that you should definitely consider making a trip to. You’re in luck if you were planning to dive into Picasso’s world. But know this – visiting the best museums in those cities can quickly add up – expect to pay USD 7 – USD 15 per entry. The good news is that many of these museums also list free entry timings on a regular basis. A few, like the Museo Del Prado and Reina Sofia National museums in Madrid, allowing visitors to come inside for free during evening time. But if you can’t make it during the time when entrance is free, take along a student card. Several museums offer large discounts to individuals studying abroad and on a local basis.
4. Learn About the Typical Scams and Traps
It’s possible for backpackers to save plenty of money by researching common scams and traps for the cities they’re intending to visit. Want an example? Sitting down in a coffee set up in Italy and drinking coffee there can cost you over 10 euros. If you conducted research beforehand, you should have known that it’s better to drink coffee while standing up or on the go to prevent this crazy charge from draining your budget. Also, watch out for people trying to help you buy tickets at the metro and other similar locations; they’re usually associated with pocket picketers. They’ll keep you engaged, driving your attention away from your belongings until thieves get the job done.
5. If Both of Your Feet Are Healthy, Walk!
It’s hilarious when some travelers or even temporary visitors visit places like Rome and complain about having to walk from one attraction to another “why can’t we just take a taxi?” – well, no, there’s no need to. Backpackers can save that money and see more sights along the way. Also, taxis could mean sitting 4-5 times longer in one place (if there’s traffic), and Uber surcharge could burn a hole in your pocket. When you’re backpacking in a city some places are much more beautiful when you explore them on foot. Of course, you could take breaks in between by resting in parks, sitting on benches, or having a quick snack at a relaxing café down the street.
6. Stay in Hostels
You’d find hostels in almost every city. Staying in them not only saves you money, but it is also a great way to make friends and meet other backpackers. Some great sites for hostel booking include Hostelbookers.com and Hostelworld.com. And while you’re researching potential accommodations, avoid booking private rooms as they’re much more expensive in hostels than in Airbnb’s or budget hotels. Another thing you should consider doing is in a hostel that offers free breakfast. Why not save in two ways instead of one? Lastly, avoid booking hostels located near the city center; these are usually more expensive that’s located within walking distance or are a short bus ride away.
7. Say “No” to the International Phone Plan
Nowadays you can stay in touch with friends and relatives using free communication apps like Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. And with free WiFi almost everywhere in big cities, you don’t have to stress over not being able to stay in touch with your loved ones. Hence, you might not need an international phone plan to get around. However, if you don’t want to depend on public WiFi or depend on cafes for using it, you can buy a portable WiFi that’d keep you connected regardless of where you are in a city (these are city-specific, so make sure you get the one for the place you’re going to visit).
Go Forth and Backpack
Just because you’re going to backpack across cities doesn’t mean you won’t be able to create and capture unforgettable experiences. The city backpacking tips above will help you start off on the right foot so that you can embrace all the world’s best cities have to offer, without going broke!