Tom's Travel Blog

Independent travel around Eastern Europe, East Asia and beyond


by tom on 09/09/2012

Tips for a round-the-world trip of your own, derived from my own first-hand experience.


  • Get travel insurance. This could save you a vast amount of money in the long run, and can be easy and flexible if using the right provider. I’ve used several insurance providers in the past, and the best I’ve found is World Nomads
  • Get a pre-paid currency card. The main reason for this is to save you money on currency conversion, and with no withdrawal fees (other than those charged by the local bank for using the ATM), can be the cheapest and most convenient option for managing your money whilst abroad. I’ve used several currency cards, and the best I’ve found is TransferWise
  • Use local SIM cards. They are cheaper and much more convenient than international SIM cards. The experience of buying a SIM card in each country can also be quite fun, and locals are more likely to contact you if you have a local number
  • Find out how much the local currency is worth before entering a country. This will stop you from getting ripped-off as soon as you get off the plan or cross the border!
  • Always carry US Dollars with you. Some places that you go to will not have ATMs and these may come in handy if you run out of the local currency!
  • Take an old laptop. At the time of my first trip, I got a refurbished X61 Lenovo laptop which fit in my rucksack easily. As long as you have a data connection, you can book hostels, organise finances and contact your friends and relatives from anywhere.

Less important:

  • Use the hostel/hotel reception! They usually speak English, have local knowledge and can read Cyrillic (if in Russia). It makes things a lot easier and they’re usually pretty friendly, too!
  • Take some earplugs. These are especially useful if you are sharing a room with other travellers and they are being particularly noisy, or if you’re on a train and want to drown out the background noise
  • Get an international driving permit. This may come in handy if you want to rent a scooter in a country that requires it and may make the difference between being able to rent one and not being able to rent one
  • Take a water bottle. It sounds obvious, but something that you can re-fill is far more environmentally friendly than buying bottled water. Most hostels have filtered water and many hotels and restaurants have boiled water, so you have something that you can drink wherever you go
  • Take water purification tablets. You never know when you’re going to need them and they may come in handy if the place you are staying in has no way of re-filling your water bottle
  • Take a soap dish. You will need soap and hostels don’t tend to provide it
  • Book a doctor’s appointment as soon as you get back. You can then get a referral for a Post Tropical Screening at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, which is free, but can take weeks to arrange.

Completely optional:

  • Shop around for your travel vaccinations. You can get some for free on the NHS, others for cheaper through a private clinic and others for cheaper from an independent pharmacy. My anti-Malarial tablets were £0.79 each at one private clinic and £0.15 at an independent pharmacy. The pharmacy even did away with the prescription charge that another clinic was requesting!
  • Take an old phone. Try taking an un-locked, 2G/3G phone such as a Nokia. You don’t have to worry about it getting broken or stolen, the battery will last for ages, and it’ll force you to use physical notes and maps and interact with the locals
  • Take a notebook. Even if you’re documenting things on-line, it’s useful for the email addresses and contact details you will inevitably acquire, plus it can be good having somewhere to write things down as you’re going along
  • Take a phrasebook, in addition to the city/country guide(s) that you will be taking. I took a Lonely Planet phrasebook to Russia and it was the best £5 I spent. It meant I could communicate with the other people in the carriage and it also came in handy for odd situations where there was something in particular that I wanted to say
  • Either take or buy sandals along the way. They are especially useful for getting around hostels, but are pretty much compulsory in Russia. The type with the open-back are the best, but if you want to use them afterwards, I bought some more durable ones in China which let you add and remove the rear strap, meaning you can use them outdoors too
  • Take a sleeping-bag liner. I didn’t take a sleeping bag, as it took up too much space and the liner by itself is useful when you’re not provided with a duvet (just a blanket) or if the bed sheets don’t look like they’ve been changed and you don’t particularly want to sleep in them
  • Sign-up for the YHA before leaving home. If you want to register for International YHA membership, you need to have signed-up in your home country first.