10 Things Backpackers Do But Don’t Often Talk About

Backpackers aren’t always the world’s most ethical travelers. Having little money, and being in places where no one knows them, they get away with quite a bit. For the most part, it’s nothing terrible, just a few misdemeanors. Here are a few of the ones that most backpackers don’t tend to brag about:

1 – Wear Dirty Underwear

Sometimes, backpackers forget to do laundry. Sometimes, it’s more of a question of money. Sometimes, they lose their clean underwear in a freak gasoline fight accident. Or whatever. It’s just not always possible to maintain a fresh supply of clean underwear on the road. The only thing worse than putting on dirty underwear, is telling other people that you’ve put on dirty underwear.

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2 – Steal Toilet Paper

What can we say? When washrooms rarely have toilet paper, and you’re on a low budget, the temptation of taking extra napkins from the café you’re in, or even taking a whole roll from a posh restaurant’s washroom, can overtake many a backpacker, clandestinely walking around with a huge wad of toilet paper in his or her backpack. Sure, they’re only about 10 cents a roll, but it’s still money saved.

3 – Eat Other People’s Leftovers

You can catch them in the act if you carefully scan a restaurant for the hungry-looking travelers (usually slightly disheveled) eyeing up a table that is nearly finished their meal. As soon as the table leaves, the backpackers scoot over and grab whatever looks edible and slightly tasty. It’s not their proudest moment, but at least they saved money on bread, if not their dignity.


4 – Pee in the Water

Be it a lake, an ocean, a pool, whatever, backpackers love it when they can avoid the often dirty, dingy toilets that blanket backpacker-frequented areas. And when you’re on a beach, the temptation to use the sparkly ocean as their toilet can outweigh any moral dilemmas they might have about it. A little pee in the water never hurt anyone, and when you gotta go, you gotta go, they tell themselves. Sure, it’s disgusting, but it’s only one person doing it, right? Right!?

5 – Have Sex in the Hostel Common Areas

You don’t want to think it happens – you don’t want to think that the beanbag chair you’re sitting in may have been someone’s love nest the night before. But it happens more than you think. Hey, backpackers at hostels have urges too, and where else are they going to fulfill them but in the common areas after everyone else has retired to their beds? They just better hope there are no security cameras to record their exploits.


6 – Lie About their Status

Whether it’s saying they’re a student to get the student discount, pretending their significant other is their cousin in order to get a room with them (in religious countries), pretending to be royalty from an obscure country in order to garner attention and preferential treatment, or saying they’re married to get an aggressive local off their case, backpackers don’t usually hesitate before making up some convenient alter-past. No one around knows them, so they figure, why not tell a little white lie to make the situation work in their favour?

7 – Stereotype

We hear it all the time: Typical Germans – always have to leave right on time; those Japanese and their cameras; they must be American since they’re loud…backpackers get to know different nationalities, quickly form opinions of the entire nation from those encounters, and hesitate little before sharing their often misinformed opinions with their fellow travelers. But they would also later deny their stereotyping ways.


8 – Drink their Dinner

When on a tight budget in a party town, sometimes backpackers have to choose between food and drink – and many backpackers choose the latter, thinking they’ll also save on booze since drinking on an empty stomach is far more potent than on a satiated stomach. But they don’t usually tell their friends, since this is also known to be a sign of alcoholism.

9 – Put the Toilet Paper Down the Toilet

In many backpacker countries, the plumbing is not developed enough to handle toilet paper down the toilet – there are signs everywhere imploring travelers not to throw anything down the bowl. But muscle memory often takes over and the toilet paper ends up in the wrong spot more often than most backpackers would care to admit.

10 – Crave Western Food

Backpackers are meant to be well versed in travel culture, eating local foods and turning their noses up at Western chains like McDonalds. However, though few admit their Big Mac cravings, every traveler sneaks into a Western chain every once in a while. And if they aren’t in an area where Western food is available, they will just dream about it.

Further reading:

Photos by Kaila Krayewski


Leave a Comment

  • Liz Kennedy said at 2014-02-08T03:10:19+0000: lol, sounds about right :)
  • Nick Siddall said at 2013-06-29T15:21:02+0000: Sometimes I dream of a Big Mac or Whopper & Pizza hut/ Pizza company, when I see the yellow M, I say to my wife 'The yellow M is calling me'..lol I also take toilet roll, but mostly for the travel as many of the bus break toilet stops don't have any paper, & also just in case the next g.h/hotel doesn't have any, at least I have a back up supply.
  • Liv'in Cebu Cdo said at 2013-04-25T11:45:40+0000: hahahaha, some are true... but definitely not No. 3
  • Magu Bee said at 2012-09-10T20:18:08+0000: When in India, I learnt pretty quickly that whenever people ask me if I have a bf, I should always says 'yes'. A little later I learnt that I should also say 'yes' when they follow up with the "but do you have a boyfriend in India?" question :) Other than that I still seem to have a lot of things to cross off when it comes to this list.
  • Emily Sussell said at 2012-10-09T20:18:49+0000: Great article. I'm guilty of at least half or these!
  • Coral Musgrave said at 2012-09-10T19:34:20+0000: Three. One by accident.
  • Dante Harker said at 2012-08-28T12:53:26+0000: I think these are all great apart from the stealing food from other's tables. That's just dirty. The rest seem fair enough.
  • Chisa Iwuagwu said at 2012-08-13T23:26:26+0000: This article confirms I'm just not cut out to be a backpacker.
  • T Nick Usalis Knight said at 2012-05-12T22:53:56+0000: In some countries, Western chains become a quick safe option.
  • Evelyn Gaa Cezar said at 2012-05-10T00:26:42+0000: aaawww funny article! But true!
  • Claudia Leão Fracalanza said at 2012-05-05T18:04:57+0000: hahaha I've done almost all of that! Very funny!
  • Kelsey Timmerman said at 2011-09-13T18:29:30+0000: One of life's greatest pleasures is peeing in the ocean. I refuse to believe that someone doesn't do this.
  • Greg Rodgers said at 2011-10-31T13:31:38+0000: Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!
  • Jennifer Avventura said at 2011-11-18T11:01:17+0000: Great list. I've been guilty of # 2 and # 4.
  • On A Junket said at 2011-11-08T01:59:58+0000: I confess. Take me to jail.
  • Jo Silver said at 2011-09-13T18:08:26+0000: nicking toilet roll isn't just for backpackers!
  • Mary Rose said at 2011-10-11T21:50:47+0000: I am guilty of 8 of these. #1 and 3 I have not done.
  • Eager Existence said at 2011-07-27T13:25:53+0000: I've done all of these things! :-o
  • Swarnabhumi Nusantara said at 2011-09-15T01:27:55+0000: Great writing. And looks like we are all admitting it finally..
  • Christine Cantera said at 2011-09-13T18:01:31+0000: Wow. I never wanted to backpack before... and now I REALLY don't. Yikes.
  • Curt Hill said at 2011-07-01T02:55:18+0000: no one was supposed to know about all of that lol I thought I was the only one doing that kind of stuff hahaha.
  • Active Planet Travels said at 2011-07-28T23:39:23+0000: Hahaha....this is so true.
  • Mike Couch said at 2011-08-24T10:34:56+0000: I laughed when I inserted "hobo" where backpacker is. Isn't this just a modern day hobo? Not saying that in a negative connotation, just pointing out the similarities.
  • Budget Travel Adventures said at 2011-08-06T23:42:32+0000: I've done two of these - western food and dirty underwear. However, I've never done the rest!
  • Tour Egypt said at 2011-08-07T09:59:26+0000: ahahah this is a very nice list! Really enjoyed reading it!

Older comments on 10 Things Backpackers Do But Don’t Often Talk About

Canuck Girl
04 December 2009

Fantastic, and pretty true. Thanks for the laughs.

04 December 2009

NO 11 – Help yourself to other travellers food stored in communal fridges.

This used to make me soooo mad!!! When we traveled across Australia, there always some skanky lowlife helping themselves to our milk/orange juice/beer/bread etc.

07 December 2009

This is hilarious – and I am guilty of at least three of these (and probably all though I wont admit that! ;-)

07 December 2009

Haha, well done. I have done nearly all of these. I have not eaten other’s leftovers, but I have come close. If my wife hadn’t been around, I most likely would have succombed to temptation.

08 December 2009

1a – Don’t wear any underwear except for special occasions (helps deal with humidity and staying ventilated:)

08 December 2009

haha, so true. Thanks for this.

12 December 2009

now for the really inadmissable: stolen credit card/money/passports/cameras/phones, etc. not much fun, but worth recognizing. especially if you like to party.

15 December 2009

So true, number 11 too! How about 12- inevitably come home with less socks than you started with, usually an odd number. Can’t tell you how many lone socks we’ve found in the corners and underneath the beds!

03 January 2010

lol – brilliant article. A few of those caught me a treat. It’s fair to say i had tea coming out of my nose on number 3!

07 January 2010

Haha – so true! Thanks for calling us out. :)

07 January 2010

yep! I too have done some of those :( wicked woman that I am

07 January 2010

Love it! Great choice of topic, kudos to the author! I’m Facebooking it (yes, we gotta get FB share up here)

13 January 2010

The author is indeed spot on, backpackers are some of the most selfish, inconsiderate people on earth. Yes, where else could you possibly have sex other than in the common room? How about spending some alcohol money on a private room.

19 January 2010

This is so true. I have to admit to 5 of those but I could not imagine eating a stranger’s leftovers

Jenny Booth
19 January 2010

This is so true. I have to admit to 5 of them but I could not imagine myself eating a stranger’s leftovers.

Megan Eaves
21 January 2010

that’s fantastic! and @Beachcomber – so true! stealing out of the fridge is probably more common than eating other people’s leftovers. backpackers can be so gross sometimes (self included)!

OzxminO' Malley
22 January 2010

:( No, I never use dirty underwear, I prefer not use anything instead hehehe.

Christie Britten
30 April 2011

ahh 100% true.Right there.

06 May 2011

Love this article, it’s 100% true and I’ve probably done (almost…) all of these! haha. It’s a good laugh and at least people can admit that they do it too!