5 Destinations for First-Time Backpackers
Taking public transport and sleeping in hostels makes backpacking one of the most economic forms of travel, allowing travelers to experience more with their dollar. First timers will feel like they're taking a giant leap into the unknown, but selecting a destination plays a significant role in setting yourself up for success on your first trip abroad. Though warm hospitality and welcoming locals populate the globe, some destinations are more backpacker friendly than others, offering all the elements that encourage first-timers to be self sustainable on the road.
The ideal base for venturing to idyllic Sapa for emerald rice fields atop the mountains and to Halong Bay to marvel at endless limestone islets, Hanoi has long been a destination for adventure travelers. Strategically positioned on any backpacker trail throughout Southeast Asia, Hanoi offers first-time visitors plentiful opportunities for urban and nature based exploration. The city's hostels are concentrated around Hoan Kiem Lake, where early morning risers unite to practice tai chi and enthusiastic dancers congregate to perfect their footwork to 90s pop tunes after dinner. For first-time travelers who are apprehensive about getting around Hanoi, it's easy and efficient to reach the far corners of the city without a lick of Vietnamese with the ride-sharing app, Grab, which also offers the option of hiring a mototaxi.
With slurpable bowls of ramen, buttery sashimi and flavorful savory okonomiyaki pancakes, the mouthwatering food of Japan serves as a delectable introduction to the land of the Rising Sun. First-time backpackers will dive into culture shock by participating in a set of bizarre and only-in-Tokyo experiences, beginning with purchasing nearly everything from the city's vending machines. Travelers will discover that the city boasts an extremely smooth and sophisticated transport system, but Tokyo allows avid video gamers to live out their dream of experiencing a virtual world in reality by zipping around the city in life-sized Mario Karts. Stop in Shinjuku or Harajuku on a Sunday evening and witness dedicated cosplayers wander the area donning decorative costumes inspired by their favorite manga and anime characters. Then sink into a cushy seat and observe bikini clad girls battle robots to techno beats and pulsing laser beams at the zany Tokyo Robot Show.
Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean and majestic peaks of Mounts Seymour and Cypress, Vancouver is famed for its blend of nature and urban core. Though the hostel culture in North America isn't quite as rampant as that of Europe or Asia, hostels centered along the central Granville Strip still offer first-time backpackers plenty of action. Organized in a grid pattern, the streets of Vancouver are easy to navigate, and the buses, SkyTrain and sea buses readily ferry backpackers from one neighborhood to the next. Hop from hipster East Vancouver for craft brewery crawls to upscale Olympic Village to indulge in a session of patio side happy hour along the glittering shores of False Creek. Foodies will delight in one of North America's most culturally-diverse culinary landscapes, where internationally-acclaimed Chinese cuisine competes for attention alongside fresh sushi and indulgent Indian fare.
With the streets laid out like an onion and a center that's compact and walkable, Amsterdam is easy to grasp with the glimpse of a map. The city welcomes a steady stream of visitors, and its vibrant hostel culture and raucous nightlife provide abundant opportunities for first-time backpackers to meet fellow travelers and locals. Walk the city's bridges and cruise down the canals on a boat tour, then join the locals in the most popular way to get around by renting a bicycle and pedaling across the city. Stop at an outdoor market to indulge in a warm and gooey stroopwafel and then pack a picnic basket for an afternoon on the manicured lawns of Vondelpark. History buffs will be keen to recount the story of Anne Frank at the Anne Frank House, and passionate art lovers will dedicate a few hours to perusing the world's most comprehensive collection of Van Gogh's work at the Van Gogh Museum.
Prague, Czech Republic
Wander the delicate web of cobblestone lanes in Prague, and you'll be surrounded by a whimsical collage of architectural styles — soaring Gothic vaults, golden baroque spires and ornamental art nouveau facades. Some of the finest beers in the world belong to the Czechs, and since the invention of the famous Pilsner Urquell, a number of microbreweries have popped up around the city, making Prague a hotspot for beer lovers. First-time backpackers needn't worry that English signage and menus aren’t widely available outside of city center, as locals’ genuine curiosity towards tourists will allow you to navigate with ease. Rent a pedal boat with friends from your hostel and cruise down the lazy Vltava River that flows through the center of Prague, and then head to the hilltop castle of Prague Castle for a sweeping view over the medieval city.
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