Travel Around the World: Prepping for Long-Term Travel

By Hostelling International / Heather Cleland

Travel Around the World With These Travel Tips from Hostelling International

While hostelling has long since shaken off the word ‘youth’ and the reputation that goes with it, it’s still synonymous with affordable travel around the world.

The good thing about budget travel is its strong relationship with long-term travel. The less you spend on the road, the longer your trip can last. Epic travel around the world, extended career breaks or working holidays aren’t as far-fetched as you might think. If you’ve ever thought about taking off for more than a few weeks but aren’t sure where to start, Hostelling International has some tips to get the ball rolling on travel around the world.

Start saving yesterday

Travel may teach you that material belongings are insignificant and that the real value of life lies in well-nurtured relationships, but relationships can’t fuel a trans-Atlantic flight. For that, you’ll probably have to pay.

As soon as you decide to travel around the world you should open a long-term savings account. If you have three months or longer to save, open up a guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) or an investment savings account, which generally have higher interest rates than a basic savings account. The longer you lock in your money for and the fewer opportunities you have to take it out, the more interest you’ll earn. Interest is the bank’s way of saying, “We honestly didn’t think you had it in you.”

When it comes to setting goals, assume you will spend more and save less than expected. If you’re paid by direct-deposit, set up an automatic transfer into your trip account on paydays so you avoid the temptation of spending your money. Handing over even a small percentage of your paycheque will add up over time.

Shop around for Round The World tickets

Buying a round-the-world (RTW ticket) sure sounds exotic, but there’s a catch—Canada is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy a RTW ticket and depending on your ideal itinerary there could be better alternatives to a RTW ticket. Consider multi-stop oneway tickets available through major airlines. For example, you can get a trip with British Airways from Vancouver to Auckland to Sydney to Bangkok that is considered one flight. RTW tickets often offer a bit more flexibility in terms of dates (with no change fees if you change your mind) but the trade-off is in the price, and while the prospect of showing your friends your RTW ticket before departing may seem awesome, the advantages of alternatives to RTW tickets should be considered.

You may also find it financially appealing to fly to London, where RTW tickets are much cheaper, and start your circumnavigation from there. Your best bet is to get quotes from several travel agents and do some research online before purchasing a RTW ticket. Also, do a quick google search for RTW tickets to see what other destinations offer these tickets at an affordable rate.

Choose a route

After figuring out how you’re going to get there, the trickiest part is figuring out where ‘there’ is. The world is an extremely big place, so be grateful there’s no such thing as budget interplanetary travel—yet.

If you’ve been keeping an Excel spreadsheet since you were nine called Places to Visit, sorted in descending order by a stokefactor ranging from 1 (No, thanks) to 10 (Hell yes!), you’re halfway there. If you haven’t, here are a few ways to help you whittle down the remaining possibilities:

Weather It is possible to travel the globe in one year, hit up all hemispheres and never wear socks once. If coming back with an enviable tan is important to you, then weather will be a big factor in deciding where to go. Keep in mind that the word for “winter” in all equatorial countries actually translates to “just kidding!”

Travel style Culture shock isn’t for everyone. If travel to you means going somewhere that looks identical to home but with a different accent, then don’t go places where squat toilets are the norm. If travel to you means only eating things you can’t pronounce, then steer clear of the banana pancake trail. Take some time to really figure out what you want from your travels and how far from creature comforts you’re willing to wander—then plan accordingly. The kind of people who stand around a hostel kitchen complaining about a place being too weird or too boring are usually the ones that didn’t do their research beforehand.

That said, take your expectations with a grain of salt and be prepared to adapt to various cuisines, customs and culture.

Budget As always, money is a great decider. If your budget is $25 a day and you’re headed to Copenhagen, one of Europe’s most expensive cities, then you’re in for a shocker. It can be done with a lot of work, but if your average daily budget won’t cut it, then spend more time where your dollars are known to get you farther, like parts of Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe or South America. Understand your priorities and if you want to free up funds for one place, you’ll have to cut back in another.

Don’t overplan

If you’re the kind of person who functions best when flying by the seat of your pants, you’re a good candidate for long-term travel. It’s good to have a general idea of where you’re heading but you’ll find it helpful to have a bit of freedom to steer into another direction once you’re already moving.

But there are instances when planning is essential. What should you plan around before you go? In short: time, money and special festivities.

Keep in mind that high seasons, holidays and special events will impact your ability to move around and/or stay in one place. When it comes to planning—and this pertains to hostels as well as transportation—if you absolutely must be somewhere at a particular time, book ahead. Keep your ears open about festivals, research the country’s government holidays or annual events and if the streets appear jammed with people eating ice cream, it’s probably high season. Also keep in mind that flying by the seat of your pants is never fun when you’re overtired, so if you’re arriving into a city when your brain is in sleep mode, do it a favour and book a bed ahead of time. It might thank you in the morning by coming up with an incredible breakfast idea.

What to arrange before you leave

Now that we’ve convinced you to enjoy the freedom of the road, there are a few things you might want to pick up before you leave home that will either save you money, a headache or both.

Certain transportation passes and tours In order to boost sales to international visitors, some companies offer discounted deals on products when they’re purchased abroad. Some take it even further. For example, Eurail train passes are only available to non-European residents and often can’t be purchased at European train stations. Companies like Oz Experience and Kiwi Experience, hop-on, hop-off backpacker busses, often offer special rates to travel agents abroad that can’t be found online or through agents Down Under.

HI membership We wouldn’t toot our own horn if it didn’t sound beautiful. There really is some value in getting your Hostelling International membership in Canada before you leave.

•There will be a record of your membership in the Hostelling International Canada database. This means if you lose your HI membership card while you’re away, you can get in touch with us and we can send you a letter vouching for your membership status. Once you’re back, you can get a new card for $5 (or for free if you have a life membership). If you purchase a membership in another country and lose it, you’ll have to buy a new one at full price.

• You can take advantage of member discounts right away and some discounts that are only available to locals. With your Hostelling International membership you get 25 percent off Greyhound travel in Canada, so before you head out of the country for an extended period, swing over to Grandma’s to wish her an early happy birthday. Memberships sold to residents of British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon include a subscription to Outpost Magazine at no extra cost. 

Vaccinations & medications It’s a lot easier to get vaccinations and medications taken care of before you leave. Some vaccinations are required for entry to certain countries (like yellow fever) and some vaccinations require multiple doses at separate times (like hepatitis A or B).

If you need prescription prophylactics or treatments (for things like malaria or traveller’s diarrhea), it’s often much easier (and sometimes cheaper) to get this sorted with your own doctor and pharmacist rather than navigating medical systems abroad.

Work visas If you’re the kind of person that has ever yelled, “This round’s on me!” while standing on a bar with your shirt off, look into your work visa eligibility before you go. It’s often difficult or impossible for a foreigner to get a work visa for a country once you’re actually in that country. If you’re planning to go on a working holiday, look into this as soon as you think of it. Application processing times can be lengthy and you may be out of luck if you think of it after draining your bank account only two weeks into your year-long ‘vacation.’

Insurance Like arch support, travel insurance is the kind of thing you don’t think you’ll need until it’s too late. Like buy-five-jumbo-packs-of-toilet-paper-for-the-price-of-four deals at Costco, travel insurance is the kind of thing that sounds too good to be true, but you can’t really go wrong with it.

While you can purchase insurance outside of Canada, buying it here will mean being covered from the second you leave your house (depending on your insurance provider’s terms). Keep in mind that many Canadian insurance providers require you to have active provincial health coverage in order to qualify for supplemental travel medical insurance.

What to Pack

Instinct and your inner fashionista may try to devise ways of strapping a six-drawer dresser to your back, but expert packers will tell you that you don’t need more for two months or two years than you need for two weeks. There’s no be-all, end-all packing list out there, but before you make the shortlist, consider these guidelines:

• Think about the climates and seasons that you’ll be travelling through. Usually, people are drawn toward the equator more than the poles, which makes life easier since a pair of good Sorels could fill a backpack.

• If you’re off for a working holiday in the Spanish party island of Ibiza, that’s one thing, but always research the local customs in case a bikini won’t cut it. Unlike a dermatologist’s office, some places, such as male-dominated societies or places of religious importance, frown upon too much skin on display. Subtle recognition of cultural differences is not only the respectful thing to do but it’ll also cut down your chance of sunburn. This means pants or skirts that hit below the knee and shirts that keep shoulders under wraps. If you’re waltzing through the Pope’s stomping grounds in short shorts, you will stand out, and likely be told to cover up.

• Consider the two staple components of any good wardrobe. Nope, not sequins and feigned disinterest, but flexibility and variety. This means not packing an entire rainbow of spandex leggings or that sequined top that only looks good with your tear-away track pants. Bring tops and bottoms that match one another interchangeably and maintain a healthy balance of clothing for the beach, sightseeing, adventure, partying, and if you hope to get a job on the road, business socks.

Top five reasons Hostelling International helps long-term travel

A lot of hostels have private rooms these days
You can often cook for yourself, which saves you money
They’re everywhere: 4,000 Hostelling International hostels in 90 countries
You’re almost guaranteed to meet new people thanks to hostels’ communal spaces
They’re more than just a place to sleep at some of the best prices around

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