Wondering whether backpacking is dangerous?
You’ve come to the right article as I’ve written a complete guide to answer the question.
I’m a full-time backpacker and I’ve visited more than 20 countries living out of my backpack, so I like to consider myself pretty well-experienced.
Lots of people have concerns before setting out on their first trip about whether taking a backpacking trip is actually dangerous or not.
So I’m here to answer the question of “Is backpacking dangerous?” once and for all.
Is Backpacking Dangerous?
Most of the time, backpacking is not dangerous at all.
To clarify, if you haven’t realised already, throughout this article I am talking about backpacking as the form of budget travel. If you are planning on backpacking as in hiking, this isn’t the post for you, sorry.
But yes, most backpacking trips aren’t dangerous at all. The thing about backpacking is there are lots of common backpacking routes which people tend to follow, so you aren’t alone.
For example, if you follow the backpacking route through Southeast Asia known as the Banana Pancake Trail, then there are thousands and thousands of other backpackers on a similar journey to you at the same time.
This means that while a lot of the time backpackers travel solo, they are never actually alone. I always stay in hostels to meet new people and make new friends, so I always have a group of people to go out with and socialise with, rather than going out on my own.
Immediately, this makes me more safe than being out alone. It’s one of my most important backpacking hacks.
Another reason backpacking isn’t dangerous is because no matter where you are in the world, someone will have been before. You won’t be the first person to ever solo travel in Rome, or the first person to ever visit Hamburg on a budget, someone will always have been there and done that before you.
This means that you can learn from other people, just like you’re learning from me now. Google, social media, Lonely Planet books and more; they’re all there to help you. If you stay in a hostel, which I recommend, then the hostel staff can give you recommendations and answer any questions you have.
Some people have concerns that hostels are dangerous, but to be honest, hostels are usually very safe. Everyone is in the same boat, and most people are like-minded. I feel just as safe in a hostel as I do anywhere else.
But the main reason backpacking isn’t dangerous most of the time is because you’re simply travelling. People don’t think travelling is dangerous, so why would backpacking be?
Some people assume that because you are travelling for cheaper, you’re less safe.
If you’re just at a tourist attraction, it makes no difference whether you’re backpacking or whether you brought 3 suitcases and are staying in a luxury resort.
That being said, it’s no lie that sometimes backpacking can be dangerous. But this isn’t down to backpacking itself, it’s more down to the location.
Backpacking has an association with going to countries which are cheap to visit, and sometimes this means they aren’t as safe as other countries would be.
Countries like Pakistan are popular to backpack, and while I disagree with most of the bad rep that Pakistan has, there’s no denying that it’s not as safe as the UK, for example.
But again, there are ways you can make it as safe as possible. As long as you take personal safety seriously, which you should no matter where you are, then you will be fine.
To answer the question “Is backpacking dangerous?“, no, it’s simply another form of travel. It’s no more dangerous than travelling to a country “normally“.
Josh’s Backpacking Safety Tips
Even though I don’t think backpacking is dangerous, there are some things you can do to help look after yourself and stay safe. Most of them might be common sense, but I’d rather say it and you go “That’s obvious, duh” than me not say it and you get into trouble.
As I said, I’ve been backpacking in more than 20 countries and I’ve always managed to keep myself safe and out of trouble, so these are some of my top safety tips.
1) Don’t get drunk on your own: One of the biggest safety mistakes I see backpackers make is to get drunk while alone. Alcohol and backpacking do tend to go hand in hand sometimes, but it’s only a good idea when you’re in a group. You don’t want to get drunk alone and not be able to make it back to your hostel, or get into a silly argument at the bar, or have someone take advantage of you, or get into any form of trouble. Don’t get drunk alone, simple.
2) Avoid dark streets and alleys: This one should be common sense, but don’t walk down a dodgy street or alleyway, especially at night, unless you absolutely have to and have no other way of going. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and walking for an extra 5 minutes rather than walking through some shifty-looking side street is worth it.
3) Take a padlock for your locker: Not only is it important to keep yourself safe when backpacking, but it’s also important to keep your belongings safe. Most hostels will have lockers, but you need to have your own lock. I strongly recommend having one with a code rather than a key. I’ve lost too many keys for padlocks to make that mistake again.
4) Don’t wear flashy items: Backpacking is all about travelling on a shoestring budget, so there’s no need to bring expensive jewellery on a trip with you. It simply makes you a target for theft. Some backpackers even go as far as damaging their backpack so it looks worn and like there’s no value to it. I don’t personally go this far, but the theory is solid. Don’t actively make yourself a target.
5) Know the emergency services number: Every country’s emergency services number is different, so it’s important to learn the number of the country you are in, especially if you are visiting more than one country. You don’t want to phone the police in Thailand when you have a problem in Laos, right?
6) Check in with loved ones: A simple text to your parents or partner telling them where you’re heading could save your life. But an added bonus is that it’s good to keep them up to date on your travels as I’m sure they are interested in what you are getting up to.
7) Be aware of scams: There are so many scams that are common all around the world. That man coming up to you and trying to put a bracelet around your wrist? It’s a scam. Be aware of the most common scams and make sure to stay well clear of them. This applies to taxis too. Although not every country has metered taxis, make sure you aren’t getting ripped off.
8) Don’t hold your phone out on the street: In some countries, stealing phones from bikes is a really common form of theft. Don’t hold your phone out in a position where it would be easy for someone to drive past and take it off you. I recommend not texting while walking either, I only use my phone for using Google Maps and for taking photos while I’m out on the street.
9) Keep digital copies of your documents: This was something that I was lazy about for a long time, but I never had a picture of my passport on my phone. Now I’m much more careful and take photos of all visas and any other important documents. You never know when you could misplace them so I keep a copy on my phone, but you also never know when you might need them. If you backpack Mexico for example, you’re technically meant to have your passport on you at all times, but most officers let you away with a picture.
10) Trust your gut: I’m not a scientist so I have no idea how this works or how to explain it, but usually, if something feels off, it usually is. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Though travelling has somewhat disproved this second theory because I’ve had lots of experiences that seem too good to be true such as taking a dolphin tour in Tampa– that was magical.
Safest Countries To Backpack
If you’re planning on going on your first backpacking trip, I recommend visiting a country where backpacking is super common, or at least easy. You don’t want to throw yourself in the deep end visiting an expensive country like Switzerland and wonder why you’re not able to survive on a shoestring budget. Those skills come with time!
And the countries that are easiest to backpack, coincide with the countries that are safest to backpack. So here are 5 countries I would consider the safest countries to backpack.
Australia is one of the most common countries to go backpacking in. Backpacking in cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and more is extremely popular.
There are lots of things to do while backpacking Australia such as learning how to surf, going skydiving, experiencing the Australian outback, seeing all of the wildlife, and even travelling the Great Ocean Road.
Thanks to its popularity, and the fact Australia is a first-world country, it is very safe to backpack Australia. There are tons of hostels and things to do on a budget, and the backpacking culture in Australia is one of the strongest in the world.
Backpacking Singapore is common for anyone heading to Southeast Asia for a long backpacking trip, but it’s also common for a layover for those going to backpack Australia.
You only really need a few days to see all of Singapore and what it has to offer. It’s a really safe place to visit, so safe in fact, that I saw a social experiment where someone left a laptop in Starbucks for an hour and no one took it. There aren’t many countries where that would happen!
Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world, and while it’s one of the more expensive countries in Southeast Asia, it’s definitely worth backpacking.
Taking a backpacking trip to Thailand is one of the most common trips amongst budget travellers.
It’s a country filled with culture, beaches, jungles, temples and so much more. There’s a reason it’s so popular and that’s because it epitomises what backpacking stands for.
And because it’s so popular, it’s extremely safe. There are thousands of hostels in the country, and you will meet so many people backpacking Thailand at the same time as you.
But if you’d prefer, there are lots of backpacking tours of Thailand which you can opt for too.
It’s an unbelievable country to visit- it’s like visiting another planet.
The only downside about backpacking Iceland is there aren’t many hostels to choose from, but Reykjavik has a really nice atmosphere and the nightlife is great too.
Malaysia is another common country to backpack in Southeast Asia as it’s pretty cheap. Comparing Malaysia to Singapore, for example, it’s half the price of Singapore.
And it’s also very safe. It’s widely regarded as one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia, and there is an extensive network of backpackers too.
Which as I’ve reiterated throughout this post, popularity means safety. Strength in numbers is a big thing when it comes to solo travelling. Remember my advice is to stay in hostels so you can meet people and go out with them rather than on your own. One of the best benefits of travelling solo is the people you meet.
Is Backpacking Dangerous: FAQ
Below are some common questions related to “Is backpacking dangerous?” along with my answers to each question.
Backpacking through Europe is generally safe, especially when compared to other regions worldwide. Europe’s well-established tourist infrastructure, abundance of hostels, stable political climate, and extensive public transport systems contribute to a secure environment for travellers.
The safest places to go backpacking are Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. The backpacking communities are strong in these countries and thanks to the popularity of these countries, they are safe to backpack.
Taking personal safety seriously is important when backpacking, following common sense like avoiding dark alleyways, not getting drunk alone, and not flashing valuables, are just a few ways you can stay safe while backpacking.
Final Thoughts: Is Backpacking Dangerous
And there you have it, a complete guide to “Is backpacking dangerous?”
Most of the time, backpacking is not dangerous, it’s just the same as travelling in any other way.
But some countries are dangerous to visit, and it’s always important to take personal safety seriously.
Now that we’ve established backpacking isn’t dangerous, you can continue planning your first trip. I’d recommend checking out the Gringo Trail.