Just in case the term Gringo Trail confuses you.... it's a term that was coined to refer to all the most frequently visited places throughout Latin America by North American and other foreign travellers. I use it to refer to any place that sees a lot of foreigners following their Lonely Planet guides, etc. and staying near the most popular tourist sites.
Thanks Terry, I'm taking your advice on this one to be honest! You're the only person who has said not to book in advance but I think you're right. I will only book what is necessary, such as a onward ticket in places like China, which is required.
Got to take the plunge sometime, thanks again.
Book in advance when there's famous festivals, celebrations, etc. happening and it's obvious that accommodation and transport will be difficult to procure. Book in advance if your destination has really limited access and accommodation.
Otherwise, in my opinion you're missing out on the whole reason for independent travel... the ability to explore and discover as you go. Not being flexible with your itinerary means you could be missing out on some great stuff. I guarantee you'll hate some places that you thought would be great... and you'll discover other places that never turned up in your research but are so fabulous that you'll never want to leave...
I also agree with CheersT regarding not booking a whole trip in advance. In my experience the more plans you have, the less freedom. And when you are in Asia meeting cool people and starting to understand the place by actually being there (rather than reading guide books from far away), you will really appreciate the freedom of doing what you want when you want.
One important consideration though is visas. Some visas are easy enough to get on the road...others are easier to get from your home country. Have a solid plan about how you will be obtaining visas for each country you intend to visit.
When I first started travelling I would book the first week or two so I had a structured plan to settle in with...and then the rest would be open. It's easy enough finding wifi and booking things on the run.
A good day pack is essential. Think about things like-
- is it comfortable enough to wear all day?
-does it actually fit everything you want to put in it?
-does it have double zippers with holes big enough to slip a small padlock through (i.e. can you lock the zips closed)?
-does it fit as carry-on luggage?
-does it have practical compartments to be able to organise your gear?
-does it come with its own rain cover (some are in-built) or will you need a separate rain cover (waterproof sheet with elastic that stretches around the back of the daypack)
-if you are yet to buy a rucksack, you will discover that many rucksacks come with daypacks that can attach to the back of the rucksack and be removed when you want to use it separately.
I have never had anything stolen. Make sure you protect your gear more than the guy next to you (they will become the easy target and not you). In some hostels you can get an immediate idea about security by what others are doing with their stuff (eg sometimes you walk into an empty room and everyones bags are out, electronics are being charged, laptops are lying on beds). This can give you a sense of how worried you need to be...but don't let it make you relax too much. Don't get into any bad habits because people around you are relaxed about their own stuff - always keep valuables out of sight...think about carrying a miniature retractable cable lock (eg pacsafe brand) to lock your rucksack to your bed. Remember that no security system is perfect (if someone really wants to steal something they will find a way)...the idea is to make things hard to steal...and like i said...harder to steal than other people's things nearby. In my experience, most people that have things stolen have not done common sense things to protect their gear.
Hope this helps! I'm excited for you. You're bringing back memories of my first big adventure overseas
[ Edit: Edited on 21-Oct-2015, at 20:31 by Budgie Escapee ]
Thanks again guys, all your advice is much appreciated. I am bursting with excitement right now! I can't wait.
Thanks again for all your help.
Sorry to post again, following your advise I thought "great! I'll just wing it" however looking into it further it seems like every country I'm visiting requires an onward ticket not sure what to do now, kind of defeats the object of travelling like you guys said...
Yep, working out how to navigate through multiple countries can be a big nightmare! I am currently doing my own research for how to cycle through Asia (riding across land-border crossings rather than using planes/buses/trains etc). This research is taking me weeks of work. Some countries would be reluctant to give me a visa if they knew exactly how I intend to get through their country, so to obtain some visas I need to create fake itineraries and make bookings that I don't intend to use. This sort of thing is taking things to the extreme though. The point I am making is that it can get very complicated and frustrating...don't feel alone if you are finding it difficult to manage!
The freedom to which I was referring was generally to do with having freedom once you have gotten into a country - going where you want, when you want. Having freedom with regards to moving between countries is tricky because of the specific requirements of some countries' visa applications. As you have found, they want to know when you will enter/leave and sometimes exactly where you will be staying.
I have read another of your posts where you have said you want to sort out all your visas before you leave home. If this is the case...and visa applications require proof of onward travel...then yes the easiest thing to do will be to arrange a complete schedule, booking your mode of transport (flights/buses) between countries so that you can say when/how you will be entering each country and when/how you will be leaving.
Remember that you can still have a certain level of freedom within the country by not booking all your accommodation at once. But...a visa application might require you to indicate where you will be staying for the entirety of your stay in the country. If this is the case, you can either (a) make bookings and stick to them, (b) make bookings that you can later cancel free of charge, or (c) try and get away with providing as much information as possible about where you will be staying...without making bookings (you can just pretend to know where you are staying...once you have the visa, you will be able to stay wherever you want, you won't be tied down to what you said on your visa application).
I have not looked into the specific rules that apply to UK citizens, but speaking as an Australian - some countries offer visas on arrival (sometimes at airports only, and sometimes at both airports and land border crossings). On arrival at the airport (or as mentioned in certain cases at the land border crossings too) you simply visit a desk, pay a fee, and get the visa entered into your passport (no questions asked...you will be free to do what you want, as long as you leave before the visa expires). If you as a UK citizen can get visas on arrival in some countries, then you could consider not bothering to get these visas while in the UK. This could give you some freedom.
The other possibility is getting visas while on the road before you arrive at the country. Being on the road, you will have a better idea of when you will enter/leave. For example, I want to visit Vietnam and I need to have a visa before I arrive. I plan on getting my visa by visiting the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. The process might take several days so I will have to wait in Bangkok during that time.
The way I see it you can either:
1) Secure all your visas beforehand as you have been planning. This might involve you booking specific flights and accommodation. So be it! You will have peace of mind that you know you can get into each country that you want to visit...and you will have an idea about what you will be doing in each country. Remember that if you go down this route, you will still find yourself in amazing places having an amazing adventure...so don't worry too much about "lack of freedom"...it will be hard not to have the most awesome time anyway.
2) Do the minimum you have to before you leave home and work out the rest along the way. The minimum being getting only the visas that you absolutely have to get before you leave home, and making only those bookings that are required to secure these visas. This will give you some freedom on the road...but it will also give you less peace of mind because before you leave home you won't be able to tick off the box that says, "All visas are organised, I'm good to go!"
There is no easy answer. If it was me planning my first adventure I would probably go with option 1, because I would stress out a lot if there were so many 'unknowns' regarding visas etc. Now that I have experience travelling around the world, I am now happy going with option 2.
Hope this helps!!!!
[ Edit: Edited on 22-Oct-2015, at 08:27 by Budgie Escapee ]
Thanks Budgie, I reeeeally appreciated your posts as well as Terry's. You have both been really helpful. I think I'm going to go with option 1, I want to minimise stress so I'm going to book in advance. Final answer
Once I get there I'm just going to enjoy myself etc. And when it's time to leave I'll leave, if I want to go back, I'll go back! I'm taking a few extra thousand more than I need so I have money to play around with or if I get myself in a bit of a dilemma. Once I get to Cairns I will relax and wing it from there to Perth.
Thanks again for all the advice, it's been tremendously helpful.
No worries at all Good plan! And probably means you can breathe a sigh of relief and get on with being excited rather than stressed.