Planning

VISAS

Trying to work out in advance what the requirements are for different countries can be time consuming and too often the information is out of date or contradictory. So I will try to provide information at least what my experience was and I hope it helps other enthusiasts on their way there.

Silk Road
The only visa I got in advance was the Chinese one, its pretty easy to get it in Barcelona, takes a week, costs 40 euro, no need for an invitation or plane tickets. The rest of the visas for the Silk road countries I picked up enroute due to many reasons but the most important is that they would expire before I get to the country. I described in details how to get the Uzbek, Turkmen and Kyrgyz visas in Istanbul and Ankara posts. Looks like that Turkmenistan is the most complicated country in the whole “Stans” area but I can't avoid it. I applied for a transit visa in Istanbul (gives you 5 days) and I got it in Ankara. I don’t even wanna mention what the deal with the tourist visa is – just to say that it involves lots of money and nerves. The whole visa thing about Turkmenistan is quite tricky because you need to have an outward visa which in my case is Uzbekistan, so first I will apply for that one. I  ordered the LOI (letter of invitation) from Stantours (basically they are the LOIs experts for all the “Stans”), which cost me 30 euros. 
The Iranian visa in Trabzon, near the border with Armenia, Georgia and Iran. It's the best place in the whole world where you can get the Iranian visa in just 2 hours – no LOIs, no plane tickets, no reservation needed.
Armenian visa you get at the border and no Georgian one is required.
AUSTRALIAN visa I got online (it´s pretty complicated for Bulgarians, it was a mission but I´m an expert now, can give detailed info to anyone who needs to go there), NEW ZEALAND is visafree but only 3 months within a year.
SOUTH AMERICA. Most of the EU citizens do not need visas. Nevertheless, travelling on Bulgarian passport I needed visas only for 2 countries - Bolivia (its easy and free if you get it in Santiago, Chile) and Colombia (probably will get it in Ecuador).
No visa for FRENCH POLYNESIA if you are from EU and you can stay as long as you want (for Canadians, Australians, New Zealand and US citizens max 3 months, plus they need an onward flight ticket or a bond).
No visas for TONGA, FIJI, COOK ISLAND, NIUE, VANUATU. JAPAN and ISRAEL are visafree too.
The BALKAN countries are also visafree almost for everyone, just keep in mind if you get to KOSOVO from a country different to Serbia, you won´t be allowed to go to Serbia. Solution: just leave Kosovo and go Serbia via Montenegro. 

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Finding an insurance company that is prepared to cover you whilst travelling through some of the most worlds more “colourful” countries can be something of a challenge. There are a few specialist companies out there that claim to be able to cover you but I found there were often catches that made them unsuitable for me. It looks like holding a Bulgarian passport and living in Spain, doesn’t offer you many possibilities. Most of the popular backpacker’s round the world insurance require British residence. On the other hand lots of the other travel insurance come to 800 which is way over my budget. Finally I got mine from OCASO, the feedback looks acceptable, and the insurance policy covers all the risks (accidents, hospitals, dentist, robberies, flight delays, civil responsibility, etc.)  and it cost me 145 euro.
And I used it 3 times already, worked pretty well.

THE BACKPACK 

The 2 backpacks
Blue and cute, that’s how I chose it J Well, It’s quite a small one (55+10 l) but I tend to travel light. I bought it my last week in Barcelona, looks comfortable so far but we´ll see. I also take a small one, which has a compartment for the laptop.  I carry a small summer sleeping bag and no winter clothes since my intention is to follow the summer on all continents.
In terms of technology, I’m taking a netbook Asus with me (1,3kg), small digital camera Canon and MP4 player Philips (thank you girls!) and my very “old fashioned” but still working mobile SAMSUNG…somehow I have the feeling that it will survive the whole year of travelling.
Also: a head torch Petzle, a decent multi-tool (I call it man-tool), sewing kit, ziplock bags, clothes line and pegs, 3 different sized padlocks (very useful in hostels), a few Bulgarian souvenirs for my CS hosts, chargers, USBs, tension converters...Colour photocopies of my passport, extra passport photos and some other documents, saved to my laptop and emailed to myself so I have multiple back-ups. And 2 0,5l bottles of rakia, will see how long they will last :).


MOSQUITOES

It’s something that always makes me nervous when I go travelling. Knowing myself and how the mosquitoes and other bugs can ruin my holidays, I´ve taken the needed precautions this time: anti-mosquito bracelet, it holds a tablet which lasts 14 days, it saved me last time I used it in Laos and Thailand; Vitamin B1 (called Binerva in Spain) – you take one every day and they say it changes something in your blood or your smell, who knows…but the bastards don’t bite you that much; Ride tablets and its device which you plug in, while sleeping; Insect repellent – doesn’t help much but in combination with the mentioned above options increases the protection…

COUCHSURFING (CS)

I will try to use CS in order to be hosted or just to meet the locals everywhere it is possible. It has never been an issue finding a couch but it all depends on the time I have and the internet access and of course people in some countries are more hospitable than others. It also takes some time to do the couch search, then to write the couch request and of course in couple of days you have to get on internet again to see the answers, get addresses and phone numbers, find out how to get there and sometimes you just decide to spare yourself all this hustle and go to a hostel. But anyway, I totally support the idea of Couchsurfing, having met some of the most amazing people hosting or being hosted.

VOLUNTEERING


I volunteer using WORKAWAY http://www.workaway.info/. Sometimes I get really tired and I want to have my own bed for more than 3 nights and my own little space in a house and take some of my stuff out of the backpack...And if the place where you volunteer is the right one for your state of mind at that moment and you meet the right people, when you leave you are full of energy and ready to see more...I learnt a lot and I made very good friends volunteering.
So far I volunteered in
an echo farm in Turkey:
http://www.workaway.info/14599494144b-en.html
a surf camp in Australia:
a surf hostel in Peru, Lobitos:
http://www.workaway.info/279292713348-en.html
a beautiful farm/hostel in Colombia:
http://www.workaway.info/984691861172-en.html
a backpacker hostel in Buquete, Panama:
http://www.workaway.info/567945235666-en.html


CREDIT CARDS

In Spain, Caixa Galicia offers a debit card which lets you withdraw money anywhere in the world without paying any tax or commission so it saves you lots money and worries (no need to withdraw big amount of cash every time and then worry about carrying it). And a credit card of course! Some cash in $ and € because in some countries (for example Venezuela, Iran or Turkmenistan) the ATM is not an option.

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