Whether traveling alone or with friends or a partner, setting out on your first backpacking adventure can be a nerve-wracking experience. The good news is, there are plenty of destinations which are ideal for first time travelers. To make it easy for you, here's a rundown of the top 15.
Australia is an ideal first time backpacking location for numerous reasons. First of all, it's full of backpackers from around the world taking advantage of the Working Holiday Visa. This means there are heaps of cool hostels to stay at, a booming, well-developed tourism industry in operation all year round, and plenty of fellow travelers to make friends with. It might be far from home, but Aus is one of the easiest places to backpack around. As a bonus, the Aussie's aren't only friendly, but English-speaking too, removing the potential complications of a language barrier.
2) New Zealand
Like Australia, English-speaking New Zealand offers the convenient option of a working holiday visa. You can easily fund your travels around the two islands of this beautiful country, taking in everything it has to offer from snow-capped mountains to sandy beaches. It's the ideal destination for adrenaline junkies or first time travellers looking to really test their comfort zones; with bungee jumps and skydives abound, it's often considered the adventure capital of the world.
If you're heading to Aus or New Zealand or looking for a stop-off between the two, Fiji is the perfect tropical interlude to any trip. These tropical islands are a huge hit with gap year backpackers and anyone on a round the world tour, so you'll find plenty of like-minded travellers to mix with. You can make the most of your visit by getting an island-hopping pass, and if you choose to try a spot of snorkeling you'll get to appreciate some seriously beautiful wildlife (friendly sharks included!).
A slightly bigger jump in terms of leaving your comfort zone, but still a great option for your first backpacking trip. Whilst obviously not an English-speaking country, the high volume of tourists and backpackers flowing through each year means a lot of people speak English and getting around is relatively easy. Thailand is a relatively cheap place to travel, and has everything from delicious street food to ancient temples and the wildest beach parties imaginable. Not a bad way to kick off a life of travel!
Italy is an excellent option if you're looking to backpack around a European country. Travel between its many famous, beautiful and culturally rich cities is super cheap if you're happy to go by bus (costing as little as 10 euro to travel from North to South). The food and wine are second to none, the locals are friendly, and even a stay in a top-rated hostel is competitively priced. Italy won't just be your first backpacking destination, but also your first love.
If you want to get exotic straight away, Peru is an impressive yet relatively easy first backpacking destination. Spanish is the main language spoken here, so if you studied Spanish at school, you've got one leg over the language barrier already. Hostel chains like Flying Dog and Loki are always packed with fellow international travelers and have properties all over Peru, which is super handy. Being able to trust your accommodation for each part of your trip is a comfort for a first time traveller, and the staff are always happy to help you arrange your onward travel too.
Bali, Indonesia, is a long-standing tourist destination and a hotspot for young backpackers. It's particularly popular with the Aussies, so English-speaking friends are never far away. The range of accommodation on offer is huge, from budget hostels to luxurious beach huts, so it's the perfect place to mix things up a bit (you don't have to live like a backpacker all the time!) With surf schools in abundance and a monkey forest to explore, Bali offers the experience of a lifetime.
It might not be the cheapest of backpacking destinations, but Scandinavia certainly has a lot to offer. From breathtaking fjords to wow the hikers to fascinating cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki, there's something for everyone. If you venture far enough north, you might even catch a glimpse of the legendary Northern Lights. Plus, Scandinavian people are famous for their friendliness, which makes a huge difference when you're traveling for the first time.
9) The UK
London is expensive but beyond that, the UK boasts a number of cheaper, equally vibrant and totally fascinating cities perfect for a first-time backpacker. City hop between Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool for impressive nightlife and modern culture; visit the historical cities of Chester, Edinburgh and York to unwind. See the birthplace of Shakespeare, pay a visit to Stonehenge, and experience the world's largest captive rainforest at The Eden Project. There are hostels all over the UK, and bus connections between cities start from as little as £5. What are you waiting for?
Whether you're most at home on party islands like Kos and Mikonos or hoping to soak up some myth, legend and ancient culture under the Mediterranean sun, Greece is ideal for first timer backpackers. It's been a popular tourist destination for decades so its tourism industry is well-developed, the food is to die for, and the numerous islands means there's lots to do and see.
Vietnam is rapidly gaining popularity as a backpacking destination. Start with the bustling yet friendly capital city of Hanoi to get your bearings before venturing out into the wonders of this beautiful country. Vietnam as a whole oozes culture and tradition, and its natural regions are some of the most stunning in the world. Try a home stay with a Vietnamese family to get an authentic taste of this culture-rich country (and enjoy some amazing home-cooked Vietnamese cuisine!)
12) Eastern Europe
Traveling across Europe by bus is cheap and easy if not the fastest way to get around, and city-hopping between the big Eastern European cities is a great experience. Hit up Budapest's legendary network of party hostels and relax in its thermal baths before moving on to Bucharest and Sofia. You'll find no shortages of youth hostels in these popular capital cities, and the region as a whole is pretty affordable. If you're a keen hiker, be sure to make time for the beautiful countryside of Transylvania.
13) The USA
It's a huge place and unless you have bags of time and money, you probably won't get around all of it. But the USA is a great place for backpackers and an ideal start or end point for a backpacking trip. Choose a state like California or Utah with plenty of hostels and campsites, and enjoy. I personally recommend backpacking arches national park. There's also no language barrier and it's exciting to see the big landmarks you've seen in the movies.
Croatia's rise to popularity as a tourist destination might be a recent development, but the country has adapted quickly. The big cities like Split and Dubrovnik are full of cool hostels and English-speaking people, and the atmosphere is always welcoming. Croatia boasts beautiful national parks such as Plitvice Lakes (accessible by bus excursion from the big cities for a reasonable price) and there's a huge choice of stunning beaches. Best of all, everything is pretty cheap, so it's ideal if you're on a tight budget.
15) Costa Rica
Unlike the other destinations on this list, Costa Rica isn't cheap. But if you've got some money to toy with and Central America is on your mind, it's one of the safest options. Costa Rica has become well known for its ecotourism, so if you're a wildlife lover, you can expect to get up close with animals like sloths, toucans, and sea turtles.