Travel & Places Asia Pacific

How to Spend a Semester Backpacking in Asia

    • 1). Choose your section. Asia covers an enormous area. Will you concentrate on one region, or attempt to cover the whole continent? With an entire semester to spend backpacking, it is possible to get a wide view of Asia or to gain an intimate knowledge of a particular region. Backpackers often focus on Japan and China, or Southeast Asia, or India and Nepal.

    • 2). Plan a loose itinerary. The beauty of backpacking is the ability to change plans at the last minute, to leave when a place loses its appeal, or to stay longer when the beaches are just too beautiful to leave. Still, it is helpful to have a general idea of your travel plans around Asia. If you are focusing on Southeast Asia, for example, you might decide to start in Bangkok and work your way through Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia before heading to Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Don't commit to your itinerary or book rooms for months in advance, however, as you'll undoubtedly find new areas of Asia to explore.

    • 3). Research before you go. With your general itinerary in mind, research the countries in Asia that you plan to visit. Learn about travel requirements, documents, money, and visas. Some border stations in Cambodia, for example, accept visa fees only in American dollars. It is not possible to visit China without a visa obtained in advance. Find out restrictions that apply to backpackers from your specific country. Check weather reports and forecasts for the time you will be backpacking in Asia, and pack accordingly. Weather can vary drastically between different Asian areas, so be prepared.

    • 4). Write a packing list. Consider the weather and the activities you expect to do while backpacking in Asia, and draft a packing list. Write down all of the items you might need to get an overview of the amount you want to take. Don't worry about going overboard at this point; you'll edit your packing list later.

    • 5). Buy a backpack. Head for REI or a similar outdoor outfitter, and ask an assistant for their backpack recommendations. Let them know that you'll be backpacking in Asia, and be specific about the activities and climates you're planning for. A backpack that works in Southeast Asia, for example, won't necessarily be suitable for trekking in the Himalayas. The more the store assistant knows, the more they will be able to advise you. Try on the backpack, and be sure that it fits you.

    • 6). Resist the temptation to over-pack. Your backpack is the limiting factor in the amount of items you can carry across Asia. Pare your list down to the bare essentials, and pack them first. Then, you can add in extras for comfort. Take only clothing that you are comfortable wearing, and that is appropriate for the cultures you will be visiting. Don't forget medications, and remember that you can purchase everything you need when you are in Asia. An over-full backpack can make travel in Asian countries unbearable, so pack light.

    • 7). Reserve two nights' accommodation. Book two nights in a hostel in your first city. If you have never stayed in a hostel, or if this is your first time traveling alone or traveling internationally, consider booking a private room for more comfort. Resist the temptation to book into a hotel; a backpacker's budget never allows such luxuries, so there's no reason to get used to them right from the start. Two nights' pre-booked accommodation is just enough for comfort and allow acclimatization to a new country. After that, you can change hostels or cities, and begin backpacking in Asia with peace of mind.

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