I get asked a lot of the same questions from the media, but I liked one particular question in this interview that went up last week on a budget travel site:
Does the average backpacker slumming it in the hostel have a more authentic experience than the elderly couple staying in hotels as they visit Europe for the first time?
If you’ve been a backpacker already and kept your eyes open, you probably already know the answer to this is “no way.” Backpackers have a tendency to look down their nose at tourists dressed in nicer clothes, staying in nicer hotels, and taking the best transportation from place to place. Going slowly is great, but there is a very real danger of missing a whole lot by being too cheap. Here are 8 signs you’re probably getting a less authentic experience than those short-term vacationers.
1. You haggle with a shopkeeper or taxi/tuk-tuk driver for 10 minutes over what would be the cost of a pack of gum at home.
2. You take the hellish basement room with dirty sheets and leaky plumbing over the sunny clean one with a balcony because that will save you one dollar.
3. You don’t know what well-made local food with the best ingredients tastes like because you’ve only eaten at cheap market stalls and backpacker cafes.
4. You went to Jordan and skipped Petra because the entrance fee was too expensive. (Substitute Cambodia/Ankor Wat, Peru/Machu Picchu, India/Taj Mahal, France/Louvre, Mexico City/Teotihuacan, etc. etc.)
5. You passed up the souvenir you really loved and would have cherished forever because that $10 would have put you over your budget. (Meanwhile, what’s your bar-hopping budget?)
6. You’ve had the runs for three weeks straight because you don’t want to spend the money to go see a doctor.
7. You spend more daylight hours in your hostel/guesthouse than you do visiting museums or attractions that cost money.
8. You’ve never hired a guide, visited a local history museum, or bought a book about the country you’re visiting.
* Feel free to insert your own numbers 9 and on below in the comments…
[Bangkok Flickr photo by Allie_Caulfield]