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HomeTop News8 things I learned the first time I went on an international backpacking trip, from how to save money on hotels to carry-on luggage hacks

8 things I learned the first time I went on an international backpacking trip, from how to save money on hotels to carry-on luggage hacks


On my first international backpacking trip.Marielle Descalsota/Insider I went on a backpacking trip for the first time on a recent reporting trip to Malaysia. It wasn’t easy traveling light and on a budget — especially when most of my destinations were off the beaten track. But I learned many things during my trip, including how to stay in expensive hotels for less.  Before my recent backpacking trip to Malaysia, I typically stayed in nice hotels or luxury resorts when I traveled.Me at Forest City’s Golf Resort.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderFor the longest time, my top priority when traveling was comfort. I flew on some of the world’s leading airlines, splurged on accommodations, and packed more than I needed in a large suitcase.I’ve always wanted to backpack — I was inspired by the adventures of travel vloggers like Mark Wiens, but I had many reservations about ultra-low cost travel. Would it be exhausting carrying a giant backpack around? Was it safe to stay in hostels abroad? Could I actually stick to a budget?I built up the courage to go on my first international backpacking trip during a recent reporting trip to Malaysia. It wasn’t easy traveling light and on a budget, but I learned many important things along the way that helped me become a more efficient traveler.Here are eight key things first-time backpackers should know.1. Carrying a backpack with a removable trolley was the best decision I made as a first-time backpacker.Winning’s large backpack had a removable trolley which made it versatile.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderI only spent a week traveling in Malaysia, but it was jam-packed with transits, road trips, and flights. I took this into consideration when planning for my trip and opted for a large backpack with a removable trolley over a hiking or trekking bag.I wheeled my backpack around the airport, but carried it when I was on rockier terrain, like when I visited the mountain resort Genting Highlands. A trolley backpack was the best choice for a novice backpacker like me — I saved energy and had minimal back pain.2. Renting a car will save a lot of money — the bulk of my travel expenses came from ride-hailing.Driving is the most cost-effective transport in Malaysia.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderTraveling by car is the most efficient way to get around in many Southeast Asian countries. I made the mistake of relying too much on ride-hailing services — which not only racked up a hefty bill, but also wasted time. During my visit to Malaysia’s “ghost town” in Johor Bahru, there were barely any cabs or ride-hailing services around, and there were several days that I had to pay hotel staff to drive me to my destinations. A one-way trip with hotel staff cost me between $10 and $25 Singapore dollars ($7 to $18) — and I typically had at least four destinations in a day.It’s certainly difficult to get around without a driver’s license, so arranging for a private hire driver is the next best option. Hiring a driver for half a day costs around $45 in Johor Bahru.3. Carry-on luggage like backpacks and hand baggage are weighed at many airports. I carried a foldable tote that helped lessen the load on my backpack, which means I didn’t have to pay extra for excess baggage.Longchamp’s foldable bag was a lifesaver.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderIt seems like airlines are stricter than ever about luggage weight limits, and it pays to plan ahead if you think you might buy something on your travels.The weight limit for carry-on luggage at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport is seven kilograms (15 pounds). But my backpack weighed almost nine kilograms when I flew on a domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru. Thankfully, I carried a foldable tote that was light and spacious. I noticed many local travelers transferring their items into their handbags and I did the same, saving me 80 Malaysia ringgit ($18) in fees. 4. If you want to stretch your dollar, fly domestically on a budget airline. My one-way ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru cost only $3.80.Malaysia Airlines flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderI initially planned to travel to Malaysia on a first-class coach, which cost S$88 ($64). But I ended up forgetting my passport and had to return to Singapore. I then booked a last-minute flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines. It wasn’t cheap — I booked a seat in economy class for S$156 ($113) and spent way more than I should have.But the cheapest way to travel to Malaysia from Singapore is actually crossing the border via bus from Tuas for S$4, and then flying domestically. A one-way ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru cost only 17 RM ($3.80) and took only forty minutes. 5. Backpacking was the best way to travel to off-the-beaten-track destinations.Temperatures in Malaysia ranged between 15 and 33 degrees Celsius.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderI visited some of the most beautiful sites in Malaysia without much hassle because I traveled light. I experienced a spectrum of what the country has to offer — from the cool, foggy mountains in Genting Highlands to a quaint fishing village on the coast of Johor Bahru (pictured above).Traveling with just a backpack made it easy for me to travel beyond just typical tourist attractions.6. I learned how to book suites in luxury resorts while saving money.I found a way to save money on hotels.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderI initially booked a deluxe suite in a luxury golf resort in Johor Bahru for around S$170 ($123) — it had a panoramic balcony, jacuzzi, and a large living room. While I thought it was value for money, I realized that booking the cheapest room (S$70 or $51) and then upgrading to a suite costs less, as the hotel charged me in the local currency —Malaysia ringgit — which has a favorable exchange rate for Singaporeans. Room extensions also cost significantly less than pre-booking a suite; a great tip if you’re traveling somewhere that isn’t typically mobbed with tourists and don’t have to worry about your hotel being booked up.7. A hostel is the best value for the money — especially if you stay in a private room.A private room in The Explorers’ Guesthouse.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderI stayed in a private room at The Explorers Guesthouse, the cheapest hostel in Kuala Lumpur, for only S$15 ($10). Staying in a low-cost hostel is one of the best ways to save money while traveling.If you’re comfortable rooming with strangers, most hostels also offer shared rooms. The Explorers Guesthouse had bunk beds in its mixed dorms for only S$5 ($3).8. Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or just want to get some travel shots for your Instagram feed, ditch your bulky SLR and opt for your phone or a smaller camera.My trip was built around destinations that were off the beaten track.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderAs a visual journalist, I usually travel with a bulky Canon SLR and a fat zoom lens for my assignments, which weigh around 1.15 kilograms (2.54 pounds).But for this trip, I had to downsize — not only did I do away with packing bulky footwear (I only packed a pair of sandals and flip flops) and rewear the same pair of jeans multiple times, I also decided to opt for a more compact and lightweight camera. I took photos using a mirrorless camera with a small prime lens which only weighed around 500 grams (1.1 pounds) and my phone, and still ended up with some gorgeous photos.Backpacking taught me that travel doesn’t have to be expensive, excessive, or bulky. It allowed me to experience a country that I’ve been to many times in a totally different way — and now, it’s the only way I want to travel the world. Read the original article on Insider

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