Before You Go: 
Backpacking Checklist

Picture of a notebook, camera and a pen, ©

This backpacking checklist is about the practical things you need to think about before you head for Asia.

Going through a checklist can be boring, but necessary in my opinion.

Picture this:

You arrive at the airport and ready to check-in. The nice lady behind the desk asks for your itinerary and passport. You think: "Yeah, of course." You look inside your bag and...wait a minute...where's your passport?!

You start panicking, throwing all your stuff on the floor. Damn, you forget it at home! You don't know what to do, tears are coming and you can't think. PANIC!

So, I will help you avoid this and alike by going through the tips in this article. Here's my painless backpacking checklist! And I've divided it into a time schedule!

Backpacking Checklist 
- 1 year-6 months to go

  • Start reading up your destinations. Find out what the climate is like in each country and work out your route.
  • To find out how much the flight will cost you, surf on the internet or visit travel agents with your rough itinerary and dates. Ask them for estimates and compare prices.
  • If you have a job/or go to school: Is your vacation permit OK?
  • If you resigned your job: Is there a possibility for you to get a job when you return home? 

    If it takes a while for you to get a job, do you have enough money while you're unemployed?
  • Start exercising - do some cardio and strength training! You need to be in shape for diving and/or trekking.

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Backpacking Checklist 
- 3 months to go

  • Book and buy your flight ticket (if not 6 months before...)

Travel Insurance: simple & flexible

What you need to know about World Nomads travel insurance

  1. You can buy while away from home
  2. Available to people from 150 countries, travelling worldwide
  3. Extend & claim online
  4. Cover your adventure, including over 100 sports & activities
  5. Give a little back to a local community
  6. Stay informed & safe when you travel
  • Is your passport still valid? Enough pages? Now's the time to get a new passport.
  • Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss vaccines and malaria medication.
  • Have you taken care of subletting/selling/resigned your apartment/house?
  • If you haven't done the mentioned things above, who's going to take care of your apartment? (family, friend, neighbor?)
  • If you resigned your contract: Are you keeping the furniture? Or are you going to sell the furniture?
  • If you're keeping the furniture, where are going to store it?
  • Do you have a place to live when you return home?
  • If you don't have a place to live when you return home, do you have enough money to rent an apartment? If you have pet(s), have you made the arrangements? Who's watering your plants? Or do you have special pots with a self-watering function?
  • If you're going trekking, buy new shoes now so they're well broken in by the time you leave.

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Backpacking Checklist 
- Two months to go

  • If you booked through a travel agency, have you received your ticket/e-ticket?
  • Does the name in your passport match the name in your itinerary? Any misspellings? You have the let the agency know if there are my misspellings so you avoid hassle at the airport. 
  • Start recording your favorite music to take with you - it always takes longer than you think! Maybe you need change your Spotify subscription so you can listen to your music offline?
  • Have you read up on social customs for the countries you're visiting?

Read about Thai culture, Lao culture, Cambodian culture, Indian culture, Malaysian culture, Philippine culture and/or South Korean culture. 

  • If it's possible, have you stopped your monthly bills? (Mobile, magazine, internet, bank loan, Mastercard etc.)
  • If you're going to pay bills while you're abroad, have you made the arrangements?

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Backpacking Checklist 
- One month to go

  • Go to a dentist/optician for a check-up. If you use glasses, you'll need a document that says what eye strength you have. In case your glasses get broken, you can get new ones abroad or even new pair of lenses. 
  • Check the dates on your credit cards. If they're due to expire during your trip, order new ones now.
  • Check the gear, like camera, torch, MP3 player are working properly. Do they need repairing or cleaning?
  • Set aside a day for shopping. Make a list and tick off everything as you go. Doing it now gives you the time to buy anything you might forget.
  • Book accommodation in advance, so you have a place set on your first night in Asia

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Backpacking Checklist 
- Two weeks to go

  • Order traveler cheques
  • Have you converted some money into Thai baht, Indian rupees, Malaysian ringgit or other relevant currency? Don't exchange too much money - you only need a little so you can take a cab or the bus into town, and maybe for some food and drinks on the way. If you don't come from the United States, have you changed some money into US$? US dollars are widely used in Cambodia and at border crossings in Laos. 

Don't overdo it. You'll find ATMs in Southeast Asia, East Asia and India. 

  • If you've bought a new backpack, make sure it's properly fitted to your frame
  • If you're taking Lariam (malaria medication), start it now so you have time to check if you're experiencing any side-effects.

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Backpacking Checklist 
- One week to go

  • Prepare an itinerary and copy it to your friends and family
  • Take two photocopies of your ticket/insurance details/passport and visas/credit cards. Leave one set with someone at home (in case of emergency)
  • Get some passport photographs taken for visas en route
  • Deliver any pets or plants to whoever's looking after them. Leave enough money to cover food, any injections etc.
  • Start making a pile of everything you're planning to take with you
  • Arrange a "good-bye" party with your friends - don't party the night before you leave - hangover on long-distanced flight is NOT fun!
  • Have you paid the bills that can't wait?
  • Made any arrangements for your mail? And have you stopped your newspaper subscription?

This will minimize the chances of breaking and entering. It's obvious that thieves look for empty residences, and one of the ways of doing that is to check your mailbox or your entrance door. If there's like a pile of newspapers on your doorstep, that will give the signal that no one's home. 

  • If you haven't stopped the mail/newspapers, who's going to pick it up for you? 
  • Have you bought something from Ebay or other online stores before departure, which haven't arrived yet? Then you have to make sure that others can pick it up for you at the post office. 
  • Do you have any valuables that you should store somewhere safe? 
  • Does your apartment/house have an alarm? 
  • Do you have a smoke detector? And have you changed the batteries? 
  • If something happens to your apartment/house (burglary, fire, humidity damages, lightning, explosions, vandalism etc.), is the insurance for your residence still valid? And is it valid for the whole period you're away?

If not, you should renew it.

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Backpacking Checklist 
- Three days to go

  • Reconfirm your flight and check that vegetarian or kosher meals have been requested
  • Reconfirm the room booking
  • Do you have long legs? Call the airline and ask if you can sit by the exit door where there's more leg room.
  • Do you have a house phone? Have you redirected the phone line?
  • E-mail at work: Have you set up an auto reply absence message?
  • Start washing your clothes now, so they're dry for packing the day before departure
  • Start emptying your fridge now, and don't buy any more fresh food. Remember that you have to empty it before leaving. 

Backpacking Checklist 
- The Day Before

  • PACK! If you miss something
  • Do you have travel paper tickets or electronic tickets? Printed out the itinerary?
  • Have you brought your passport and insurance card and papers?
  • Brought your vaccination card?
  • If you have diseases/allergies/special needs: Have you packed the medical certificates?
  • Pre-book a cab to take you the airport or ask a friend to give you a lift. Allow some time - try to arrive two hours before departure.
  • Have you emptied your refrigerator? Cleaned it?

To save money on electricity, you should consider emptying it instead of letting it run for several months. Get rid of milk products, juice, eggs - everything that will expire while you're away. You can only imagine how bacteria, fungus and insects will bloom in leftovers… and it will stink up your entire apartment!

  • The same for your freezer box. Have you defrosted and cleaned it?
  • Give frozen meat to shelters or family.
  • Have your charged the batteries for your mobile phone, iPad, camera or other electronic device you're bringing?
  • Have you remembered to set the alarm before going to bed?

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  • Have you packed your travel documents in your handbag?
  • Have you closed the windows?

If some bastard breaks into your place, the insurance company will check if the loss was a result of negligence as they call it, like if you forgot to close the windows.

Have you unplugged appliances like TV, Playstation/X Box, radio, computer, washing machine, lamps, coffee machine etc?

By doing this, you minimize the chances of fire.

  • Have you turned off the water to the washing machine?
  • Have you turned off the heat?
  • Have you shut the water to the dish washer?
  • Have you closed the curtains so thieves can't look inside?
  • Have you taken out the last garbage?


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