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First Time Backpacking: Where To Go


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Lolly Mullis



Embarking on your first backpacking adventure is an exhilarating experience filled with new discoveries, cultural immersion, and unforgettable memories. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a newbie, backpacking can be a life-changing journey that allows you to explore the world on a limited budget.


However, choosing the right destination for your first backpacking trip is crucial. It can determine the level of comfort, affordability, and overall experience you’ll have. With so many incredible places to explore, it can be overwhelming to decide where to begin. But fear not, as we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ll highlight some of the top destinations for first-time backpackers, providing you with a range of options based on your preferences and interests.


Please note that travel restrictions and advisories may vary due to global events or circumstances. It’s important to stay informed and check the latest updates from official sources before planning your trip.


Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Backpacking Destination:


1. Budget: Determine your budget before selecting a destination. Some countries may be more affordable than others, considering accommodation, food, transportation, and activities. It’s crucial to plan accordingly and choose a destination that aligns with your financial capabilities.


2. Safety: Safety should be a top priority when choosing a backpacking destination. Research the current safety situation in each country you are considering and take the necessary precautions. It’s always wise to travel with travel insurance and to register with your country’s embassy or consulate.


3. Interests: Consider your interests and what you hope to experience during your backpacking journey. Are you a nature lover seeking breathtaking landscapes? Or are you more intrigued by cultural immersion and historical sites? Understanding your interests will help you narrow down your destination options.


4. Ease of Travel: For a first-time backpacker, it’s generally recommended to choose a destination with a well-developed backpacking infrastructure. This will make it easier to navigate, find affordable accommodations, and connect with other travelers or local backpacking communities.


Now, let’s dive into some of the top destinations for first-time backpackers!


Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Backpacking Destination:

Before embarking on your backpacking adventure, there are some important factors to consider in order to make an informed decision about your destination:


1. Budget: Determining your budget is essential when choosing a backpacking destination. Some countries may be more expensive than others, and it’s important to consider the cost of accommodation, transportation, meals, and activities. Researching the average prices in your chosen destination will help you plan your budget effectively.


2. Safety: Safety should always be a top priority. Research the safety situation in the countries you’re considering and check travel advisories from your government or reputable sources. It’s also a good idea to register with your embassy or consulate and have travel insurance that covers you in case of emergencies.


3. Interests: Think about what you hope to experience during your backpacking trip. Are you interested in exploring historical sites, immersing yourself in different cultures, or seeking outdoor adventures? Consider destinations that align with your interests to ensure a fulfilling experience.


4. Ease of travel: For first-time backpackers, it’s beneficial to choose a destination with a well-established backpacking infrastructure. This means there will be plenty of budget accommodation options, reliable transportation networks, and easy access to places of interest. Having a supportive backpacking community or a well-traveled route can also provide a sense of security and assistance along the way.


5. Season and weather: Consider the time of year you plan to go backpacking and the weather conditions in your chosen destination. Some places are more enjoyable during specific seasons, while others may experience extreme weather that could impact your travel plans. Researching the climate and seasons will help you determine the best time to visit.


6. Visa requirements: Check the visa requirements for the countries you’re interested in visiting. Some destinations may offer visa-free entry or visas on arrival, while others may require advance applications. Make sure you have the necessary documents and allow enough time to obtain any required visas.


7. Language and culture: Consider the language spoken in your destination and whether you’re comfortable navigating in that language. Also, be aware of cultural norms and customs to ensure respectful interactions with locals. Learning a few basic phrases in the local language can go a long way in enhancing your experience.


By taking these factors into account, you can narrow down your options and choose a backpacking destination that aligns with your budget, interests, and safety considerations. Now, let’s explore some of the top destinations for first-time backpackers!


Top Destinations for First-Time Backpackers:

When it comes to choosing a destination for your first backpacking adventure, there are several incredible options to consider. Here are five top destinations that offer a mix of adventure, culture, affordability, and a well-established backpacking scene:

  1. South East Asia: South East Asia is a popular choice for first-time backpackers due to its affordability, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia offer a diverse range of experiences, from exploring ancient temples to relaxing on pristine beaches. The backpacking infrastructure is well-developed, making it easy to navigate and connect with fellow travelers. Plus, the local cuisine is a culinary delight for food enthusiasts.
  2. Europe: Europe is a dream destination for many backpackers, offering a mix of historical sites, vibrant cities, and picturesque landscapes. Popular backpacking routes include exploring the rich history of Rome, partying in Berlin, or hiking the stunning trails of the Swiss Alps. While Europe may be slightly pricier than other regions, budget-friendly options are available, such as staying in hostels and utilizing affordable transportation options like trains or buses.
  3. New Zealand: Known for its breathtaking scenery, New Zealand is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking through the majestic mountains of Fiordland National Park to exploring the geothermal wonders of Rotorua, there’s no shortage of adventure in this country. The backpacking community in New Zealand is strong, and there are plenty of budget-friendly accommodations and transportation options available.
  4. South America: South America offers a diverse range of landscapes, cultures, and experiences. Backpackers can explore the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, dance the night away in vibrant cities like Rio de Janeiro, or trek through the stunning Patagonian wilderness in Argentina and Chile. The cost of living is relatively low in South America, making it an attractive destination for budget-conscious travelers.
  5. United States: While the United States may not be the first choice for budget backpacking, it offers a multitude of experiences for those willing to explore on a shoestring. From the iconic cities of New York and San Francisco to the stunning national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon, there’s something for everyone. Budget-friendly options include staying in hostels, camping in national parks, and taking advantage of affordable bus or train travel.

Remember, these are just a few examples of the top destinations for first-time backpackers. There are countless other incredible places waiting to be discovered. Consider your interests, budget, and desired experiences when selecting your backpacking destination, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!


South East Asia

South East Asia is a backpacker’s paradise and a perfect destination for first-time backpackers. It offers a unique blend of stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and affordable prices. Whether you’re seeking laid-back beach vibes, mesmerizing temples, or bustling city life, South East Asia has it all.


Thailand: Known as the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand is an ideal starting point for your South East Asia backpacking adventure. Explore the vibrant city of Bangkok, visit the ancient temples in Chiang Mai, or relax on the beautiful beaches of the islands like Phuket or Koh Phi Phi. The Thai street food is a must-try, offering a tantalizing array of flavors at incredibly low prices.


Vietnam: Vietnam is a country filled with fascinating history, breathtaking landscapes, and mouthwatering street food. Explore the bustling streets of Hanoi, cruise through the picturesque Ha Long Bay, or ride a motorbike along the scenic Hai Van Pass. Don’t forget to indulge in a bowl of pho or try the famous Banh Mi sandwich while immersing yourself in the local culture.


Cambodia: Cambodia is a captivating destination known for the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Take a journey through history as you explore the ancient ruins and learn about the Khmer Empire. Don’t miss the charming riverside town of Battambang or the stunning beaches in Sihanoukville and Koh Rong for a relaxing getaway.


Indonesia: With its diverse landscapes and cultures, Indonesia offers an abundance of experiences for backpackers. Explore the vibrant city of Jakarta, hike up the volcanic peaks of Bromo or Rinjani, or relax on the idyllic beaches of Bali or Gili Islands. The warm hospitality of the locals and the mouthwatering Indonesian cuisine will leave a lasting impression.


These are just a few highlights of what South East Asia has to offer. The region is known for its affordability, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious travelers. Accommodation options range from budget hostels to guesthouses or home-stays, providing backpackers with plenty of choices. Transportation is also easily accessible with local buses, trains, and budget airlines connecting various destinations.


One of the highlights of backpacking in South East Asia is the opportunity to meet other travelers from around the world. The backpacking community is vibrant and welcoming, with plenty of social events, group tours, and online communities to connect with like-minded individuals. It’s an excellent chance to make lifelong friends and share incredible experiences.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, cultural exploration, or simply want to relax on pristine beaches, South East Asia offers a well-rounded travel experience for first-time backpackers. So pack your backpack, prepare your taste buds for delicious flavors, and get ready for an unforgettable journey through this captivating region.



Europe is a dream destination for many backpackers, offering a diverse mix of history, culture, and stunning landscapes. With its well-developed transportation networks, rich heritage, and an abundance of budget-friendly options, Europe is an ideal choice for first-time backpackers looking to explore this fascinating continent.


Italy: Italy is brimming with iconic landmarks, delicious cuisine, and a vibrant culture. Start your journey in Rome, where you can marvel at ancient ruins like the Colosseum and wander through charming neighborhoods. Visit Florence for its stunning art and architecture, and immerse yourself in the romantic charm of Venice. Don’t forget to indulge in authentic Italian pizza, pasta, and gelato along the way.


Germany: Germany offers a blend of history, natural beauty, and vibrant cities. Begin your exploration in Berlin, with its rich history and vibrant street art scene. Experience the beauty of Bavaria by visiting Munich, famous for its Oktoberfest celebrations and stunning architecture. For nature lovers, the Black Forest and the Rhine Valley offer breathtaking landscapes and outdoor activities.


Spain: From the bustling streets of Barcelona to the vibrant nightlife of Madrid, Spain is a country that will capture your heart. Explore the stunning architecture of Antoni Gaudí, indulge in tapas and paella, and soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches of Costa del Sol or Ibiza. Don’t miss the historical sites of Andalusia, such as the Alhambra in Granada and the Mezquita in Cordoba.


Greece: Greece is a country steeped in history and natural beauty. Begin your adventure in Athens, where you can visit the famous Acropolis and Parthenon. Explore the beautiful islands of Santorini and Mykonos, with their breathtaking sunsets and stunning white-washed buildings. Greece offers a unique combination of history, mythology, delicious cuisine, and crystal-clear turquoise waters.


Europe offers a wide range of accommodation options suitable for backpackers, including budget-friendly hostels, guesthouses, and even camping grounds. Along with affordable accommodation, there are various transportation options available, from budget airlines to efficient train systems like the Eurail pass, making it easy to travel between countries and cities.


One advantage of backpacking in Europe is the ability to experience different cultures and languages in a relatively small area. You can hop from one country to another in just a few hours, exploring the diverse cuisines, traditions, and architecture of each place. Additionally, Europe is known for its safety, making it an ideal choice for solo travelers or those new to backpacking.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, food lover, or nature seeker, Europe offers an endless array of experiences. From the picturesque landscapes of the Swiss Alps to the romantic canals of Venice, this continent is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories and a desire to explore more.


New Zealand

New Zealand is a bucket-list destination for many travelers, and it’s an excellent choice for first-time backpackers. Known as the “Adventure Capital of the World,” this country offers breathtaking landscapes, adrenaline-pumping activities, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere.


North Island: Begin your journey on the North Island, where you can explore the vibrant city of Auckland and visit the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Experience Maori culture and immerse yourself in incredible natural beauty at Tongariro National Park, home to the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Don’t forget to visit the beautiful Bay of Islands, where you can relax on pristine beaches or go dolphin watching.


South Island: The South Island of New Zealand is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Start your adventure in Christchurch and make your way to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Try thrilling activities like bungee jumping, skydiving, and jet boating. Explore the stunning fiords of Milford Sound, hike the Abel Tasman National Park, and marvel at the majestic glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef.


Great Walks of New Zealand: For nature lovers, New Zealand offers some of the best hiking trails, known as the Great Walks. These multi-day hikes will take you through spectacular landscapes, including the famous Milford Track, Routeburn Track, and Kepler Track. It’s a rewarding way to immerse yourself in the country’s natural beauty and experience its diverse flora and fauna.


New Zealand’s infrastructure caters well to backpackers, with a range of accommodations available, from budget hostels to backpacker lodges. There are also camping sites where you can pitch a tent or park a campervan to explore the country at your own pace. Public transportation options include buses and trains, making it easy to get around and discover the beauty of both islands.


One of the highlights of backpacking in New Zealand is the friendly and laid-back nature of its people. Kiwis are known for their hospitality, and you’ll often find yourself sharing stories and making new friends along the way. The local cuisine is also a must-try, with traditional Māori dishes, fresh seafood, and world-renowned wines.


With its stunning landscapes, adventurous activities, and welcoming atmosphere, New Zealand offers a truly unforgettable backpacking experience. Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping adventures, tranquil natural beauty, or cultural immersion with the indigenous Māori people, New Zealand has something for everyone.


South America

South America is a continent of diversity, offering a wide range of experiences for first-time backpackers. From ancient ruins to vibrant cities, lush rainforests to towering mountains, South America has it all. This continent is perfect for adventurers, culture enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike.


Peru: Peru is a must-visit destination in South America, thanks to its rich history and stunning landscapes. Explore the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, trek the famous Inca Trail, or immerse yourself in the vibrant colonial city of Cusco. Don’t miss Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, and try the delicious Peruvian cuisine, including ceviche and lomo saltado.


Argentina: Argentina is a country of contrasts, from the bustling streets of Buenos Aires to the serene beauty of Patagonia. Tango in the streets of Buenos Aires, marvel at the breathtaking Iguazu Falls, or hike the impressive Perito Moreno Glacier. For adventure seekers, head to the southern region of Patagonia for hiking in Torres del Paine National Park or wildlife watching in Tierra del Fuego.


Colombia: Colombia has emerged as a popular backpacking destination in recent years, offering a mix of vibrant cities, stunning coastlines, and lush jungles. Explore the colorful streets of Cartagena, hike to the Lost City of Teyuna, or visit the coffee region for a taste of Colombia’s famous coffee. Don’t forget to try arepas, empanadas, and the refreshing drink of aguapanela.


Brazil: Brazil is a country known for its vibrant culture, beautiful beaches, and lively festivals. Dance to the rhythm of samba in Rio de Janeiro, explore the stunning Amazon rainforest, or marvel at the breathtaking Iguazu Falls. Immerse yourself in the diverse cultural heritage of Brazil, indulge in delicious churrasco, and witness the passion of a football match.


South America offers affordable accommodations, with options ranging from budget hostels and guesthouses to unique stays such as eco-lodges in the Amazon rainforest. Public transportation systems are well-developed, making it convenient to travel between cities and explore different regions.


One of the most enticing aspects of backpacking in South America is the warmth and friendliness of the local people. Embrace the opportunity to learn about different cultures and traditions, and be open to forming connections with fellow travelers along the way.


From the ancient wonders of Machu Picchu to the vibrant streets of Buenos Aires, South America is an adventure waiting to be explored. Whether you’re seeking breathtaking landscapes, cultural immersion, or thrilling outdoor activities, this continent will leave you with unforgettable memories and a desire to return for more.


United States

The United States is a diverse and expansive country that offers countless opportunities for first-time backpackers. From iconic cities to breathtaking natural wonders, the United States has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for vibrant urban experiences or breathtaking outdoor adventures, the USA has it all.


New York City: Begin your American adventure in the iconic city of New York. Explore the bustling streets of Manhattan, take a stroll through Central Park, and visit famous landmarks like Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. Indulge in diverse culinary delights and immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural scene.


California: California is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts and sun-seekers alike. Explore the scenic beauty of Yosemite National Park, drive along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, and experience the vibrant atmosphere of cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Don’t forget to soak up the sun on the stunning beaches of Santa Monica, Malibu, or San Diego.


Grand Canyon: The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder that should be on every backpacker’s bucket list. Hike along the rim or venture into the canyon itself for awe-inspiring views and breathtaking sunsets. The Grand Canyon offers various hiking trails and camping options, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this iconic destination.


Florida: Florida is known for its sunny beaches, vibrant nightlife, and theme parks. Visit the famous Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, explore the unique ecosystem of the Everglades, or relax on the beautiful beaches of Miami and Key West. Enjoy the diverse cuisine, including fresh seafood and delicious Cuban food.


Accommodation options in the United States range from budget-friendly hostels to motels or camping grounds. Transportation within cities can vary, but most major cities have efficient public transportation systems. For longer distances, you can consider affordable domestic flights or take advantage of bus services like Greyhound or Megabus.


One of the incredible aspects of backpacking in the United States is the diverse and welcoming culture. You’ll have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and experience the unique regional flavors and traditions throughout the country.


From the towering skyscrapers of New York City to the stunning natural wonders of the Grand Canyon, the United States offers a plethora of experiences for first-time backpackers. Prepare to be captivated by the rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant energy of this vast and diverse country.


Tips for Planning Your First Backpacking Trip

Planning your first backpacking trip can be an exciting but overwhelming experience. To help ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey, here are some tips to consider:


1. Research and Plan: Do thorough research on your chosen destination, including the best time to visit, must-see attractions, local customs, and safety considerations. Create a flexible itinerary that allows for spontaneity while still ensuring you make the most of your time.


2. Pack Light: When backpacking, packing light is essential. Only bring the essentials, such as clothes suitable for the climate, a sturdy backpack, a first aid kit, toiletries, and travel documents. Consider versatile clothing options and invest in quality travel gear that is lightweight and durable.


3. Budget Wisely: Set a budget for your trip and stick to it. Research the average costs of accommodation, food, transportation, and activities in your destination. Look for budget-friendly options such as hostels or street food stalls to save money. Keep track of your expenses during the trip to stay on budget.


4. Learn Basic Phrases: Familiarize yourself with a few basic phrases in the local language, especially greetings and polite expressions. This will show respect to the locals and can help you navigate and interact with others more effectively.


5. Stay Flexible: While it’s essential to have a plan, be open to unexpected opportunities and changes along the way. Embrace the spontaneity of backpacking and be willing to adjust your itinerary based on recommendations from fellow travelers or local insights.


6. Prioritize Safety: Your safety should be a top priority. Research the safety situation in your destination and take necessary precautions, such as using reputable accommodation options, staying aware of your surroundings, and avoiding risky situations. Purchase travel insurance to protect yourself in case of emergencies.


7. Connect with Other Travelers: Backpacking is a great opportunity to meet like-minded travelers from around the world. Connect with fellow backpackers in hostels, join group tours or activities, or use social media platforms to connect with travel communities. Not only will you make friends, but you’ll also gain valuable insights and travel tips.


8. Be Mindful of the Environment: Practice responsible and sustainable travel by being mindful of your impact on the environment. Respect local customs and traditions, dispose of waste properly, and support local businesses and initiatives that promote sustainable practices.


9. Embrace Local Experiences: Immerse yourself in the local culture and experiences. Try local cuisine, participate in traditional festivals, and interact with locals to gain a deeper understanding of the destination. Be respectful of local customs and traditions, and always ask for permission before taking photos of people.


10. Enjoy the Journey: Remember that backpacking is about the journey, not just the destination. Embrace the ups and downs, the challenges, and the unexpected moments. Keep an open mind, step out of your comfort zone, and embrace the incredible experiences that backpacking brings.


By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on your first backpacking adventure. Embrace the excitement, learn from the challenges, and create memories that will last a lifetime!



Embarking on your first backpacking trip is an exhilarating adventure that opens up a world of possibilities. By considering factors such as budget, safety, interests, and ease of travel, you can choose a destination that aligns with your preferences and ensures a rewarding experience.


Whether you choose the enchanting landscapes of South East Asia, the cultural richness of Europe, the natural beauty of New Zealand, the diverse experiences of South America, or the exciting journey through the United States, each destination offers its own unique charm and adventure.


When planning your trip, remember to research your destination thoroughly and create a flexible itinerary that allows for spontaneity. Pack light, budget wisely, and prioritize safety to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. Embrace the opportunity to connect with other travelers, immerse yourself in local experiences, and practice responsible and sustainable travel.


Backpacking is not just about the destinations you visit, but also the incredible experiences, personal growth, and lifelong memories you create along the way. Embrace the excitement, challenges, and unexpected moments that backpacking brings, and savor the freedom of exploring the world on a limited budget.


So, grab your backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey. Your first backpacking adventure awaits, and it’s time to create your own story of exploration and discovery.