So you’re planning your first big backpacking trip overseas? You’re in the right place! Backpacking is one of the most economical and easiest ways to travel around any country, some countries however are more backpacker friendly than others. As a result, we’ve conducted a list of the best countries to travel for first time backpackers, so when you’re planning your big trip, choosing where to travel will be a bit more straightforward.
Backpacking across the globe can broaden your horizon, providing unique experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. If you’re finished with school or just need a new adventure in your life, take some time to see the world this way.
Best Countries To Travel For First Time Backpackers
Thailand is a backpackers haven. If you’re wanting a main stream experience full of other backpackers whilst also delving into new cultures Thailand might be the one for you. It is also perfect for budget-conscious backpackers looking for a tropical land with a rich culture and delicious food for cheap prices. Backpackers can enjoy Bangkok on as little as US$20 a day. Try your hand at Scuba Diving in Koh Tao, then take the short ferry ride over to Koh Phangan and dance the night away the full moon party. Check out the best party hostels on Koh Phangan. If culture is more your thing, wander around Buddhist temples and architectural masterpieces that are full of the country’s history in Bangkok, Ayutthaya or Chiang Mai.
Transportation? is generally easy and very cheap. You can travel by bus, train or plane throughout the whole country and boats when you’re round the coast.
Flights? Flying into Thailand is generally THE cheap gateway into Asia. Airlines like Etihad, Turkish Airlines, China Southern, Jetstar and Qatar all have common sales on so keep an eye out. If you’re travelling from the USA or Canada, usually United, Japan Airlines or ANA have great deals too.
Cost Per Day? If you’re on a real tight budget, you can easily sleep and eat for around US$10-15 a day. If you’re travelling around the country and partaking in activities it is still amazing value for money compared to other destinations.
Australia is easily one of the best places to travel solo for the first time. English is their first language, tourism is a huge industry and the whole place is geared up for backpackers! Whether you choose to wing it whilst you’re out there or sort out your accommodation and tours before you fly is up to you. The East Coast is full of backpackers, many first timers and it won’t be long till you’ve made lifelong friends.
Outside of the major cities there is so much to explore, from the Great Barrier Reef to the infamous Outback and impressive coastline. After all, it is a continent full of different extremes. We are about to set off on a 6 month road trip around Australia! Sounds tempting? Check out our ultimate road trip itinerary.
Transportation? Australia is MASSIVE! No joke, you can fit the Netherlands into Australia 240 times! Despite this, Australia is surprisingly easy to travel around (especially the East Coast). For backpackers the easiest way is by bus e.g. the Greyhound or hiring/buying your own car depending on your length of stay. Check out our beginngers guide to buying a car in Australia!
Flights? Australia is far from pretty much everywhere, apart from New Zealand. Asia is around 7 to 10 hours away, USA and Canada around 15 to 20 hours and Europe at least 20 hours! Flights from Asia are becoming cheaper due to low cost carriers like AirAsia, Scoot and Jetstar. Even airlines like Etihad and Qatar have great sales on from time to time. However, if you’re after a real bargain from Europe or North America then don’t forget the Chinese Airlines like Air China, China Eastern and China Southern.
Cost Per Day? Australia is not cheap for backpackers. If you’re after a budget destination then Australia might not be your first bet. Even if you’re on a tight budget be prepared to pay at least US$20 per night on accommodation however in cities like Sydney prices can be as high as US$50 per night for a simple bunk bed.
3. New Zealand
New Zealand is a great place for first time backpackers for the same reasons as Australia. They speak English, it’s safe, tourism is a huge industry and the country in general has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. What’s not to love?!
With heaps to see and do, loads of hostels to choose from and a wide range of destinations, we think New Zealand could easily become one of our favourite places, seen as we’re going in just under 4 weeks and can’t wait!
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, avid hiker or a Lord of the Rings fanatic, New Zealand is perfect for all types of backpackers.
Transportation? Like Australia, New Zealand is surprisingly easy to travel around. Having a Hop on, Hop off bus pass like Kiwi Experience or Stray travel are a fun way to get around, whilst meeting other backpackers. Plus they have the flexibility of being able to travel for up to 12 months. If you’re wanting even more flexibility hiring/buying a camper-van or car may be the option for you, and you’ll be able to travel to lesser known areas away from the real tourists.
Flights? Same as Australia, really. It’s far away and expensive to reach from pretty much anywhere in the world. Most of the time, airlines from Asia offer the best prices to New Zealand and even Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines can be quite cheap when flying from Europe. When coming from America, sometimes the US carriers or Air New Zealand do actually have some decent prices straight down to Auckland, which would save you from the long detour via Asia. Otherwise, it might be worth having a look at Fiji Airways leaving from Los Angeles, you might even get a stopover in Fiji for no extra money!
Cost per day? It is very similar to Australia, maybe a bit more affordable here and there, but then again a bit more expensive for other things like bungee jumping and cruises.
We have yet to visit Vietnam, but we’re planning an epic backpack trip around South East Asia for 2018, so stick around! We heard so many amazing things about Vietnam, from the culture to nature, Vietnam is great place to explore for first time backpackers. The capital of Hanoi is packed with famous monuments and ancient sights. A trip to Halong Bay is a must do and is definitely one of the more popular things to see whilst travelling around.
Transportation? The main form of transportation is either by bus or motorbike. If you’ve never driven a motorbike before it may be sensible to travel by bus, which many backpackers do. However, if you’re up for an adventure like many backpackers are, then consider hiring a motorbike.
Flights? As earlier mentioned, Bangkok is the gateway into Asia. Many first time backpackers buy a ticket there and then a cheap flight to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Check out AirAsia, VietJet Air and Nok Air.
Cost per Day? Again like Thailand, Vietnam is cheap. If you’re on a tight budget you can get away with spending roughly US$20 a day on accommodation and food together.
We love Budapest, the capital of Hungary! It’s one of the most backpacker friendly city in Europe (and to us the most fun!). Party till the morning in ruin pubs or on a boat party and cure the hangover with some sightseeing and delicious Hungarian food. The architecture is stunning, especially the Parliament Building and Hősök tere.
Don’t forget to relax in the infamous thermal spas located all around the capital. The most famous, Széchenyi thermal bath is a must. If you’re there in summer make sure to attend one of their Sparty’s (Spa Parties), although it can get pretty wild!
But Hungary isn’t just famous for its capital, make sure to visit other areas like the beautiful Lake Balaton which has beaches, volcanic hills and vineyards in the region.
Transportation? When visiting Budapest, everything is pretty much within walking distance. If you’re not up for walking long distances then the underground metro is easy to use and will take you to all the famous sights throughout the city. Overland you can either go on operated tours from Budapest or take buses or trains.
Flights? If you’re already in Europe, you can score flights for as low as US$15 from major cities like London, Rome, Paris etc on RyanAir. If you’re from North America, look out for sales to other cities and then fly internally within Europe.
Cost per Day? Compared to Western European cities, Budapest is a very cheap capital city to travel to and the rest of Hungary is even cheaper. If you’re budgeting, you can easily score hostels for as little as US$8-12 per night. There are also free walking tours and historic sites throughout the city.
Italy is great because there are so many places to go and explore. Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, Sicily, Naples, Pisa, you name it. From ancient cities and towns all over the country to beautiful mountain landscapes near the Alps or Lake Garda up north, to active volcanoes down south, Italy has it all. You can go trekking, explore various cities, or enjoy some beach parties in summer. The food and their ice cream is fantastic and the people are usually friendly and energetic.
Transportation? Italy is really easy to get around which is great for first time backpackers. The public transport system has become really good and reliable over the recent years. Modern high speed trains are available between most cities for a reasonable amount of money and lots of overland buses go to the more rural places. If you’re in a hurry, internal plane tickets are affordable too.
Flights? Same as Hungary: If you’re already in Europe, there’s nothing to worry about. There are hundreds of daily cheap flights from anywhere into various airports in Italy. If you’re from America or elsewhere in the world and there doesn’t happen to be a cheap deal to Italy, just look for any particularly cheap flights to a random place in Europe and check if it’s cheap to get to Italy from there.
Cost per Day? Italy is not among the cheapest countries in Europe, but isn’t that expensive either. The costliest thing could be accommodation if you’re coming in summer and want to stay in the historic city centres, which really are quite expensive all around Italy. Prices significantly drop if you’re not coming between June and September. For a hostel bed, plan to pay between US$15 and 35 a night depending on where you are. Food can be cheap in the less touristy spots, but really expensive in for example a Hard Rock Cafe in the middle of Rome. Plan US$20 to 40 for a day worth of food if you like eating out (which you probably will do in Italy). Drinks are not too badly priced but obviously not as cheap as in Eastern Europe.
Essential Gear & Things To Consider
Before heading off on your first time backpackers trip, getting the right gear is important for being comfortable, safe and at ease whilst on your travels.
Here are our recommendations for essential products and things you should never travel without.
Backpack: Osprey Farpoint 55 / 70 litre
We have been through countless backpacks in our time, and nothing compares to the Osprey Farpoint Backpack range. This is a great backpack for any type of travel, it’s a front loader meaning you don’t have to scramble from the top and reach down to get your clothes but instead you can unzip the backpack like a suitcase (so handy!). It also comes with a daypack for daily sightseeing activities and treks.
Depending on the length of your trip, you can choose between the 55 litre and 70 litre. I personally have the 70 litre and for me it’s the perfect size for me.
Rest of World: Buy Your Osprey Farpoint Here!
I’m not kidding when I say these organisers have been a life and time saver when on the road backpacking. If you’re a first time backpacker, once you invest in packing cubes, then you have them for life, and they offer a compartmentalised set up to your case or backpack, allowing you to find things much easier.
My personal favourite brand is Eagle Creek, they come in a variety of sizes from small to large depending on the items you want to pack. The number of times I’ve squished clothing into these cubes without them breaking is impressive, they are without a doubt super durable!
Rest of World: Buy Your Eagle Creek Packing Cubes Here!
This is a simple quote that sums it up pretty well: “If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel.” It’s really that simple. You may be thinking, nothing ever happens to me, I’ll be fine. Please don’t take the risk. Accidents happen all the time which may not always be your fault.
The price you’ll pay for insurance is a hell of a lot less than a hospital bill or the purchase of a new laptop/camera that was stolen.
We always travel without insurance, and quite frankly we’d feel nervous and anxious if we didn’t. The insurance provider we always use is World Nomads.
Read our review on why you need travel insurance with a more in-depth explanation about why we use this awesome company!
There you have it. In no particular order, five great destinations of varying costs and levels of adventure!
Do you have a recommendation for a good place first time backpackers should check out? Please share them, or your experiences in the comments below!
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