Planning my backpacking trip


Not a week would go by when I would not have randomly searched some locations on rome2rio & waytogo (was by cleartrip)


Always wanted to do a backpacking trip across Asia. Used to keep bugging all around me with my intentions to do the trip. Colleagues used to sometimes say “What’s in China? It’s always China for you…”


Come May 2017 and Air Asia launched in Mumbai and was offering cheap flights to Bali


Started searching for cheap flights from Mumbai to different locations in Asia. The search took me looking for destinations to fly out from Kochi. Bumped upon Kochi - Hong Kong for 9300 Rs. all inclusive. Started researching for further locations to Asia. Including major destinations and had drilled down to this…


Plan 1: Mumbai – Hong Kong – China - Singapore – Mumbai

Plan 2: Mumbai – Hong Kong – China – Taiwan – China – South Korea - Singapore – Mumbai


Taiwan was just 1 hour away by ferry from my first destination in China but could be included if I got a multiple entry visa in China. Same was for South Korea. Plans were to be altered if I got the multiple entry visa into China. The probability was less as first timers don’t get multiple visit visas to China


Omitted Japan at first


Japan was omitted in my first draft itinerary. Like millions I too thought Japan is expensive so better skip. Little research and I found it to be just another country with an expensive travel budget


This can be handled if proper travel passes and stay were done. Japan was included


Final Itinerary


Plan 3: Mumbai – Hong Kong – China – Japan - Singapore – Mumbai


If I get multiple China Visa then

Plan 4: Mumbai – Hong Kong – China – Taiwan – China – South Korea – Japan - Singapore – Mumbai


Paisa Kitna Lagega


Flights is major cost in travelling. Sorted the cost in the below subheads


Flights + land Travel – 48000 Rs.

Approx.Visas – 8900 Rs.

Accommodations – 36000 Rs. (1200 Rs. X 30 days)

Sight seeing + local conveyance – 30000 Rs. (1000 Rs. (per day) X 30)

Food – 15000 Rs. (500 per day X 30)

Extras – 20000 Rs.


Visa


Started out with sorting visa for the locations. Did not want to go via agents and spend excess money as all the visiting countries visas could be applied in Mumbai


Below are websites which have accurate information about visa forms and documents needed. Made a list of all required documents for each country by referring them.

http://www.thomascook.in/tcportal/visa

https://www.makemytrip.com/holidays-international/visa-information.html


Detailed planning


30000 feet plans


Hong Kong – 5 days (Still don’t know what made me block 5 days here)

Macau City sight seeing - Lantau Island

Macau – 1 day

China – 12 days (Travelled along the coast)

Guangzhou - Shenzen - Xiamen - Shanghai - Beijing

Japan – 8 days (Had to Paisa Vasool 7 days JR Pass)

Tokyo - Mt. Fuji Climb plans. Reserve hut - Kyoto - Yokohama - Hiroshima

Singapore – 3 days (Flew my parents from India to join me here)


Train & Flights


Started out with major flight booking and Hostel bookings (Needed for Visa)


Mumbai – Kochi @ 2100 Rs. – Jet Airways

Kochi – Hong Kong @ 9180 Rs. – Air Asia (With halt @ Malaysia)

This was the easiest part as cheap tickets


Travel within China was by train and one flight


Costly flying to from China to Japan


While I was planning the rates of the tickets to Japan increased. Needed to fly from Beijing to Tokyo and it was getting a costly affair. Started with reviewing airports in 100 kms radius from Beijing.


Useful website to search such scenarios: https://matrix.itasoftware.com/

Select the option nearby & the radius from the city

This options helped me find Tianjin Airport which is 130 km from Beijing

Tianjin to Tokyo was @ 11000 Rs. (50% of the fare what’s from Bejijn)

Phew...saved...Booked it :)


Train travel in China


Train travel can be booked in China from various websites for an additional fee. Tickets sell fast so it’s better to pay for the additional fees and book early. As I was on budget I booked hard seats on trains. This is basically economy class.

China train tickets booking via

https://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/

http://english.ctrip.com/trains/


Stay


Visa applications require hotel bookings. All my stays were all at hostels. The best site I found for booking was Hostel World http://www.hostelworld.com/


Tip: When booking hostels vis Hostel World pay additional 1$ by selecting Standard Flexible Booking option. This saves your money in case of cancellation. Totally worth for the Rs. 63 spent extra

Tick Standard Flexible Booking


When booking your hostels don’t just go by ratings and the number of reviews. Foreigners rate hostels on the higher side by how much they get to socialise with other travellers. That's all what they see. Don't just go by the ratings


I booked hostels with the below points in mind


Proximity from subway / bus station (All hostels I booked were 10 mins walk from either subway/bus station)Laundry facilitiesCleanliness of rooms and toilets


Not going by the reviews I booked a new property in Kyoto – Japan & it turned out to be the best hostel on my 30 days trip. I even cancelled my Hiroshima booking and did it morning-evening (Via bullet train 700+ kms) and came back to this hostel


I had booked this @ Rs. 1400 only

Hostel link: https://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Centurion-Cabin-and-Spa-Kyoto/Kyoto/267524?dateFrom=2018-04-30&dateTo=2018-05-03&number_of_guests=2

Tip: They have a Rs. 300 unlimited drinks pass (Coffee, tea, juices, soft drinks, soup)


Your capsule rent includes the use of Onsen (An onsen (温泉) is a Japanese hot spring; the term also extends to cover the bathing facilities and traditional inns frequently situated around a hot spring.)



Connectivity


More than posting your travel stories on Social Media connectivity is also very important for searching routes, places etc.


Jot down which apps you plan to use on your travel. Will help you choose data plan. Consider the below basic usage per day for major used apps


Google Maps

Instagram

Twitter


Do you need to call or receive calls? Helps to choose if you can purchase data only sims


With the internet flooded with different sim/connectivity options for each countries it’s hard to drill down to what sim to buy or to carry a sim from India.


Here’s what I did:


Requirement: Need SIM for Internet. No calls required. India SIM needed to receive OTP messages if any


Country specific info:


Hong Kong – Buy SIM for 10 days @ 600 Rs. From airport


China – Buying SIM from market was a costly affair. I activated India Airtel SIM for 10 days @ 2999 http://www.airtel.in/mobile/irpacks#/index (Coverage in China with Airtel roaming was just brilliant, much much better than India :D )

Activate International roaming @ 149 Rs per month Check thier plans @ https://www.airtel.in/ir-packs


Vodafone as has similar plans but again most people I know have had complaints


Japan – Buy SIM from airport or from town. Would prefer town as u have like million options. There are supermarkets for SIMS ( Rs. 3999 for all internet u can use)


Singapore – Buy SIM from market - Rs. 1200


Carrying money


Carrying cash for a 30 days trip was unconventional as I would be staying at hostels and wanted to be least bothered for my luggage. Plan the necessary expenses you will incur in each country


Here how I planned carrying money for my trip:


Hostel expense in each country. I know the exact amount I would be spending for 30 days as they were pre-booked. Also check if they accept card or cash. Sort your details with


Country / Hostel / Which currency it needs to be paid? / Amount / Amount in INR / Accept card or csh


Add the remaining components of expense (approx.)

  • Travel

  • Commutation

  • Food

  • Extra


So for each country you will have the total amount needed to survive. Now to decide the mode of currency you need to carry.


Carried cash for the first country and multi currency debit cards for the rest of the countries with approx. amount of currency as per my needs


Most multi-currency card have 3 free cash withdrawals and zero charge swipe charges. Check before you buy.


Enter each country withdraw cash in 3 instalments for the next few days. Repeat till end and you are sorted


ProTip:


Never withdraw cash from the machines thats show foreign currency available etc. Always use local bank machines and choose the country’s currency when doing withdrawals. Select Current account if asked. Don’t know logic but no additional charges got deducted when used the option.


Same to be said to vendor upon swiping the card. If other currency selected you will incur charges.

Convert the remaining cash of the country visited to the next countries currency upon arrival


Check for the same currency companies in all cities if possible. They will waive of the admin charges. Keep bills and show them.


Addition: I stuck with Riya Money Exchange while in Europe & almost saved 5K over 12 countries


Country 1 - Hong Kong – Hong Kong Dollars – Cash + Multi Currency Axis Visa Card

Country 2 - China – Multi Currency Visa Card

Country 3 - Japan - Multi Currency Visa Card

Country 4 - Singapore - Multi Currency Visa Card ( Take a master card for Singapore, So many offers on Master card )


Websites used for my travel research


https://matrix.itasoftware.com/ - Check connections multiple locations flights

https://www.skyscanner.co.in/ - Booking tickets and view of cheap tickets in a month option

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