Tips from the Trail


Backpacker (Claudio Vaccaro)

1.   Camp. Jaws dropped when people learned that I carried a tent around Europe last summer. Get over it. It’s not that uncomfortable and nothing is more satisfying than starting the day by brewing a kettle on a camping stove and drinking Yorkshire tea, whether doing so on a dewy lawn in Ljubljana, a muddy mound in Prague, or a sandy pitch in Split. Camping is usually a third of the price of the cheapest hostels in the same area.

2.   Agree a price with taxis before you get in. If you’re in a country that uses two currencies make sure you are clear which currency you are dealing in. 10 Nicaraguan córdobas (£0.24) are very different to 10 US dollars (£6.48)!

3.   Get an ISIC card. International Student Identity Cards cost £5 to buy online, and allow for good discounts all over the world. Normal student cards are not accepted in many countries.

4.   Travel by bus. Overland travel is much cheaper than flying, and buses are particularly inexpensive. In the UK, Megabuses go from Durham to London for £1. In Peru, you can fly the 1100km from Cuzco to Lima for £200, while the most luxurious buses are only £30.

5.   Travel overnight. It saves spending money on accommodation and it prevents you from travelling in the precious sight-seeing daytime!

6.   Eat street food. It is SO TASTY and SO CHEAP. You cannot appreciate a culture without appreciating its food, and it is entertaining to sit in a night market surrounded by locals advising you on which fruit counteracts their spicy kebabs, which psychedelic drinks are most nourishing, and who might give you free semolina pudding if you compliment their noodle dishes. Being able to see your food cooked in front of you is a privilege you will not get in hotels or restaurants. Eat where the locals eat and your belly should be safe and satisfied.

7.   Don’t get ill. Be sensible about food, water and vaccinations. This is far cheaper than getting ill! Also, being ill prevents you from enjoying yourself, so you are wasting the money you spent on getting to the country in the first place. I know someone who spent her entire summer in a hospital in Thailand because she hadn’t had her injections and contracted a disease after being bitten by a monkey. That’s an expensive fee for staring at the white walls of the ward for eight weeks!

8.   Tape solves all sorts of problems. Wrap a few strips of duct tape around your water bottle. If your tent rips, cover the hole with tape. This is far cheaper than getting it repaired, and also cheaper than buying treatment for diseases that you would have avoided had your tent been in one piece and kept the insects outside….

9.   Take a travel sewing kit. A cheaper option than having to buy a new pair of shorts just because your only pair ripped at the crotch! Hotels often have complimentary travel sewing kits alongside the usual array of shampoos and coffee sachets. If your parents travel with work or you ever find yourself in a hotel, make the most of this freebie for future adventures.

10.   Split your train ticket. In the UK, you can save a fortune by splitting your ticket every time you travel. For example, every time I visit home (Sheffield), I buy an off-peak return Durham to York, and an off-peak return from York to Sheffield. The price of these two tickets combined is far less than an off-peak return from Durham to Sheffield, and I don’t even have to change trains. does this for you, but it’s worth playing around with it yourself as the website still isn’t glitch-free.

Photograph: Claudio Vaccaro

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