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Why Backpacking Is So Expensive (And How to Save Money on It)

Backpacking is an enriching experience, but it can also be expensive. From the cost of flights and accommodations to the price of food and activities, many expenses add up quickly. But why is backpacking so expensive?

This article will explore some factors contributing to higher costs when traveling on a budget. We’ll examine how transportation, accommodation, food, activities, and other miscellaneous expenses can increase prices. Finally, we’ll offer tips for keeping costs down while having a fantastic backpacking adventure.

Reasons Why Backpacking Can Be Expensive


Backpacking often requires specialized equipment, such as a regular backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and other items. This backpacking gear can be expensive, especially if you choose high-quality, durable items.

If you’re on a budget and just starting backpacking or hiking, it’s essential to consider the cost of all your gear before buying anything.

Here are some tips to keep travel costs down:

  • Buy used gear. Check Craigslist and other online sites for good deals on used tents if you need one, hiking backpacks, hiking boots, and other backpacking gear. You can also buy used gear from outdoor stores or from other people who have already bought new backpacking gear but are no longer using it.
  • Buy used books and maps. Buy used books and maps: backcountry guidebooks are expensive but can be purchased at used bookstores or online. You can also use free maps and guidebooks that are available online. You can save money by buying used books and maps at outdoor retailers or secondhand bookstores instead of buying brand-new books at full price at an outdoor store.
  • Buy secondhand clothing. You don’t necessarily have to buy new clothes for your trip – look for used clothing at thrift stores or buy hiking boots secondhand or at charity stores instead of buying new clothes from Patagonia or North Face.
  • Buy used backpacks. Backpacks are another expensive item to buy new, but you can find used backpacks at thrift stores and online auctions for low prices.


Backpacking is a great way to see the world and save money. However, travel can also be expensive.

  • Air Travel. Air travel is the most common mode of transportation for backpackers because it’s fast and convenient. However, it can also be costly if you don’t compare airfares before booking.
  • Train. The cost of train travel varies greatly depending on the country you’re traveling in and the type of ticket you buy. Some trains offer discounted tickets for students or seniors, so check your options before you buy your ticket.
  • Bus. Bus travel is usually cheaper than other forms of transportation, but it takes longer to get from point A to point B due to traffic conditions on the roads. Many bus companies offer online booking systems that allow you to buy tickets in advance at discounted prices. Taking buses or trains instead of cabs or a car rental can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re traveling a long distance.
  • Public transport.  Public transport is usually the cheapest way to get around if you’re in a city. Many cities offer day passes that allow you to take unlimited buses and trains for a fixed price. These are ideal for getting from one part of town to another.


Backpacking is an affordable travel method, but it’s not always cheap. Accommodation is one of the most expensive parts of traveling.

When backpacking, you can stay in hostels, which are often cheaper than hotels. However, consider a hostel or other budget accommodation if you want to save money on accommodation. However, these accommodations also have disadvantages: they’re often noisy and crowded and offer few services or amenities (such as Wi-Fi).

You can also try to find a Couchsurfing host. This service allows you to stay free with locals who have agreed to host travelers. On the Couchsurfing website, you can search for hosts in your destination city by clicking on the city name in the drop-down menu at the top left of the homepage.

Another option is to stay on trains or busses if you have a long trip to your destination (say, 10 hours), so you can save an overnight stay.


Food is expensive when backpacking. There are a few ways to eat cheaply on a backpacking trip. One of them is to cook your food as often as possible. This saves money and is also healthier than eating out all the time. However, this may not be an option if you don’t have a kitchen or stove in your hostel.

Another way to save money is to buy food at markets or supermarkets instead of restaurants or cafes. Or if you’re in Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, or Africa,  where there’s a lot of street food, get something freshly cooked there for a low price.

If you’re hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or are on a camping trip in North America, make sure the food you take with you has a long shelf life and doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so it doesn’t spoil before you use it up!

Overall, backpacking can be expensive due to the cost of equipment, travel, lodging, and food. However, there are ways to save money when backpacking, such as choosing budget accommodation, cooking for yourself, and traveling in the off-season.

How to Save Money on Backpacking

Plan ahead

When it comes to saving money on backpacking, there are so many ways you can go about it. Here are a few ways you can save money on backpacking:

If you have to fly, the best way to save money is to book as far in advance as possible. When planning a trip, don’t wait until the last minute – especially if it’s high season at your destination or you’re traveling during vacations or festivals.

A week or two before departure is usually too late. If possible, you should book your flight and accommodations three months before you leave. You may not get exactly what you want at this point, but you should know where you want to go and how much it’ll cost.

Airlines will raise ticket prices if demand for seats on your route is high. The longer you wait until the day of departure, the more expensive they’ll be. It’s also important to be flexible with your dates – if possible, try to fly during the week instead of the weekend, as this will help you save on the ticket price!

You can set up a Skyscanner cheap flight alert to know when airfares for your destination drop.

Lightweight Gear

The biggest challenge with backpacking is the weight of your backpack.

The lighter your regular backpack is, the less you’ll have to pay for luggage.

If you take buses or trains, you may pay extra for large or heavy luggage. A lighter backpack is easier to carry and may result in lower fees.

The lighter your backpack, the cheaper and easier it’s to travel.

Avoid the High Season

One of the benefits of traveling in the off-season is that you can often find lower prices on flights, accommodations, and activities. Many travel companies offer discounts during the off-season to encourage travelers to visit the country during a quieter time of year.

For example, flights to popular destinations are often much cheaper during the off-season. Hotels and other accommodations also often offer lower prices during this time to attract travelers.

Another benefit of traveling in the off-season is that you may be able to negotiate lower prices for activities or accommodations. Many service providers are willing to lower their prices to attract new customers in the off-season, so it’s worth asking for discounts.

In addition, traveling in the off-season can have other advantages. There are often fewer crowds, which makes it easier to get around and enjoy activities.

Overall, traveling in the off-season can save you money on flights, accommodations, and activities and provide a more enjoyable and relaxing travel experience. So it’s worth considering if you want to stretch your budget further.

Take Advantage of Free Activities

When you’re backpacking, every penny counts. But it’s worth spending a little extra money on free activities that let you explore your destination in a new way.

  • Check the internet for lists of free activities in your destination city or country. Also, keep an eye out for local newspapers and magazines, as they often publish articles about free activities in the city.
  • Visit museums. Sometimes museums offer free admission every day or on certain days of the week or month. You may also be able to get discounted tickets if you visit outside of opening hours or during the off-season when museums are less crowded (e.g., May through September).
  • Visit local markets. Visiting local markets is one of my favorite ways to make a backpacking trip cheaper while learning about the local culture. Many countries worldwide have street markets selling everything from fresh produce to clothing and souvenirs. You can usually find something that suits your budget and interests.
  • Visit street markets. Street fairs often have food vendors offering delicious snacks at affordable prices, so bring your wallet! Some street fairs also feature live music and other entertainment.

Plan for Unexpected Expenses

When planning your backpacking trip, you must consider all the costs that may come up during your road trip. There are many unexpected travel costs that backpackers may encounter on their trip. Some of the most common are:

Emergency Medical Care

It’s easy to forget that you can get sick when planning a fun trip abroad, but getting sick while traveling can throw you for a loop! Even if your health insurance covers emergency medical care, it may not cover all the costs associated with treatment outside your home country. You’ll also have to pay for prescription medications and follow-up appointments, which can add up quickly.

Lost or Stolen Items

When traveling, it’s important to ensure that all of your belongings are safe. If you’re staying in a hostel or sharing a room with others, you have an increased risk of having something stolen. To avoid this, you should purchase travel insurance, so your policy covers lost or stolen items.

Transportation Issues

Weather-related or mechanical transportation problems may cause you to miss a flight or cause a long delay in transferring from one destination to another. This can cost you time and money in additional transportation costs or hotel stays while you wait for flights to resume.


A small repair to your backpack can add up quickly when you’re traveling internationally and don’t have access to the same parts and tools you have at home. An extra pair of shoes and socks are always a good idea, just in case!

Natural Disasters or Other Emergencies

If you’re traveling to an area where natural disasters or other emergencies are common, you may need to pay for additional accommodations or transportation to leave the area safely.

Entry or Exit Fees

Some countries charge tourists fees for entering or leaving the country. These fees can drive up the overall cost of your trip.

Currency Exchange Fees

When traveling internationally, currency exchange is a normal part of the experience – but it can also be expensive! If possible, try to exchange money at home before you leave so you don’t have to pay these fees abroad.

Some banks also charge a fee for using their ATMs abroad

Therefore, before you leave, check with your bank to see if they charge fees for withdrawing money abroad ATM. You can also use an ATM that doesn’t charge a fee, such as an ATM at a major hotel chain.


Tipping is a normal part of traveling – but it can also be expensive if you’re not careful! Here are some tips on how to make sure you don’t over-tip while abroad:

If you’re unsure how much to tip, ask and see what other travelers are doing. People are usually happy to share their knowledge with other travelers!

Alternatives to Traditional Backpacking

Backpacking is a great way to see the world and meet people, but it can also be expensive. If you’re looking for a more affordable way to travel, there are many alternatives to traditional backpacking.

Work Exchange Programs

If you want to travel but don’t have much money, you can work in exchange for room and board. Some programs offer free lodging, while others pay higher than minimum wage to cover food costs. Work-study programs are offered worldwide and can last from a week to several months. The best thing about these programs is that you can live in one place without paying rent or buying food. Plus, you’ll be paid by your host family or employer, so you can save up some money before heading off on your next adventure.


Volunteering is another way to travel for free. There are many volunteer programs, from teaching English in another country to working on conservation projects in the Amazon rainforest.

Volunteers can stay anywhere from a few weeks to a year, depending on how long they’re willing to work and how much they want to travel during their stay. Some programs provide meals, lodging, and transportation, while others require volunteers to pay for their stay.