50 Scariest Backpacker Experiences

Shark cage diving

Enough of the bungee jumping, white water rafting and skydiving in secure conditions. I want some real adventure I can really show off to my friends sat at home about. Here are the scariest backpacker experiences in the world – don’t just read about them, do them!

1. Hiking in Death Valley

Scary Backpacker Experiences

Let’s start with the most joyous sounding of them all. Death Valley in Nevada, USA, is the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America which means July temperatures of around 115F (46C). The second-highest temperature in the world ever was recorded here at 57C. Make sure to bring plenty of water if you visit and remember; large parts of the valley have no cell phone coverage, so you may not be able to call for help. Death Valley is only for the bravest, most resourceful and adventurous of backpackers.

Katie Lambert braved the naysayers and went Off-Trail in Death Valley for Matador.com

2. Camping in the Australian Outback

Australia outback

Venture out here alone and you’ll probably never return. Remember Wolf Creek? Well, it’s not the crazy locals you need to fear – it’s the brown snakes and tiger snakes that can kill humans with a single strike or the saltwater crocodile that one or two people every year fall victim to. Don’t go near the deadly box jellyfish, the blue ring octopus or the spiders either. Yikes.

Check out how Jayne Gorman did it in luxury in Camping in the Red Centre on her blog 40before30.com.

3. Visiting Komodo Island

Komodo dragons in Malaysia

Home to the Komodo dragons – the largest lizards in the world – Komodo Island in Indonesia can be a pretty daunting place to visit. The island is overrun with the deadly creatures: they can smell you from miles away with their tongues, can grow up to 10.3 feet (3.13 m) long and 366 pounds (166 kg) and will devour every part of you. They’ll knock you clean off your feet and sink their serrated teeth into your flesh where the venom and deadly bacteria in their saliva will kill you even if you do manage to escape. And they’re not picky, Komodo dragons are well known for their cannibalistic tendencies.

Take a look at what happened to Kate McCulley from adventurouskate.com when she visited the island – Shipwrecked in Indonesia.

4. Ride Fahrenheit in Pennsylvania

Fahrenheit Ride in Hershey

Get ready to feel your stomach in your brain and vice versa on Fahrenheit at Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The vertical loop reaches 121 feet before plunging into a stomach-turning 97-degree negative drop, before a freefall. Next up is a 107 foot inverted loop, a spine twisting inverted corkscrew roll, cobra and an S-roll: all this is just 85 seconds. Bleugh.

Has anyone been on this? 

5. Walking the Borneo Rainforest Canopy

Rainforest walk

Eugh, this makes me feel sick. Unsafe heights are definitely my weakness. I literally don’t think I could walk the Borneo Rainforest Canopy Walkway, could you?

Anyone done this? 

6. Going in Gomantong Cave

Scary backpacker experiences

If you want a scary backpacker experience try the Gomantong Cave in Malaysia. The ceilings are covered in bats, the floor is seething with millions of cockroaches and cockroach-eating centipedes scuttle along the walls. If you’re completely insane and decide you do want to investigate the Gomantong Caves make sure you wear high boots as you’ll be minimum ankle high in bat guano (poo).

Matt Gibson’s a braver man than me in A Mountain of Bat Guano.

7. Landing at Paro Airport in Bhutan

If you’re busy fast forward to 5 minutes, but this video goes some way to explaining how terrifying it is to land at Paro Airport in Bhutan. This landlocked South Asian town at the end of the Himalaya Mountains is right in the middle of a deep valley and thanks to the tight turns only a few pilots are qualified to land here. Check yours is!

Check out PassportChop.com’s post on Magnificent Views of Himalayan Ranges on Flight to Paro Airport Bhutan with DrukAir for more info.

8. Going yak skiing

Adventurous backpackers Skiing just isn’t exciting enough if you’re an adventurous backpacker, it’s much more fun if you hold onto a yak. In Manali, India, yak skiing is a popular sport. You and your skis start at the bottom of a large slope with a rope attached from you to a yak at the summit. The rope is also passed through a pulley system connected to a tree. A quick shake of some pony nuts at the bottom of the hill attracts the yak’s attention and you’ll be catapulted up the hill at breakneck speed. Sounds a little dangerous, but fun all the same.

If you’ve been crazy enough to do this let me know, or I’ll just have to go and try. 

9. Teaching a class

Life as a teacher abroad

It’s not just extreme sports and crazy activities that get the serotonin buzzing and your heart racing. For many backpackers standing up in front of a class for the first time in a foreign country can be the scariest thing they’ve done while travelling. Whether you’ve got experience, a TEFL qualification, or none of the above having those faces stare back at you expectantly is enough to turn anyone into a bumbling mess of nerves and insecurity.

I did this; check out my post Zanzibits: My First Travel Blogging Presentation.

10. Needing a doctor abroad

Needing a doctor abroad Anything could happen while you’re travelling and you definitely need good travel insurance before you board any sort of transport out of your home country. If you have an accident or fall ill when you’re backpacking there’s no mum, dad or grandma to hold your hand, it’s down to you to cope with the foreign speaking staff and their hospitals. Good luck.

Take advice from Johnny from onestep4ward.com who broke his leg in Thailand

11. Braving the Walk of Faith

Scary backpacker experiences

OMG, look at the drop! The Walk Of Faith is on Tianmen Mountain in China’s Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park. It’s built into the side of a cliff 1,430m high. Do you reckon you could complete the 60m long walk?

Done it? 

12. Gambling in Las Vegas

Scariest backpacker experiences

Not one for anyone with any kind of addiction, but a little flutter on the casinos in Las Vegas is a great way to get your heart pumping and palms sweating. If you really want an adrenaline buzz just stick everything you’ve got on red, and stand back and see. Just make sure you don’t gamble away all your money, and whatever you do don’t bet your backpack or your plane ticket home…

Mary from LostGirlsWorld has got some top tips on Dos and Don’ts of a Girls Holiday to Las Vegas.

13. Selling everything you own and travelling

Selling everything and going travelling

Selling everything you own and travelling with only what you can fit in a suitcase for a few months or a few years can be the most terrifying thing about travelling. It might be easiest to do this when you’re younger and have less responsibility (boys above are probably a little too young), but don’t let this stop you when you’re that little bit older. It’s incredibly liberating to not be tied down by “stuff” and to move and go where you please, when you please.

Lauren from NeverEndingFootsteps did this a few years ago: How to Start Selling Everything You Own

14. Trekking through Madidi National Park

National park in Bolivia

If you’re strong enough to spend the night in here alone, you’re a braver backpacker than me. This tropical rainforest in Bolivia is filled with creatures who literally want your blood at every turn. Stay here and you’ll be exposed to botfly maggots that burrow into the flesh; wild pigs with the ability to tear a man to pieces; stingrays that can leave you bedridden, parasitic worms that burrow into your stomach, stinging ants and fungus that will attack your skin. Even the leaves in this park have venom in them.

I can’t find any bloggers who’ve been here, let me know if you know of anyone!  

15. Exploring the Stratosphere

The Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas is 100 floors above ground level, that’s 1,149 feet into the Vegas skyline. You can enjoy the US’s tallest freestanding observation tower and a magnificent panoramic view of the shimmering Las Vegas Strip. You can also ‘enjoy’ the world’s highest thrill rides like the Insanity ride above, and the tallest controlled free fall in the world too, SkyJump Las Vegas.

Gary Bembridge from travelwithamate.com has been on them, check this out: Stratosphere Las Vegas: Thrill rides 100 stories up!

16. Learning Muay Thai Kickboxing

Amazing kickboxing in Thailand

Watching a Muay Thai kickboxing match in Thailand is a must for any travellers visiting. The atmosphere in the arenas is insane and the effort and dedication of the fighters is inspiring, if not a little scary. There’s plenty of opportunity for you to take centre stage yourself too in the training and day camps. Give it a go, you might find your hidden talent.

Check out what happened to Kieron from Don’t Ever Look Back when he wanted to Get Fit Fast at Rawai Muay Thai.

17. Running with the bulls

Running with the bulls in Pamplona

Every year Pamplona in Spain plays host to the Running of the Bulls. In my opinion a cruel race where a few bulls are baited to run down sections of the city while tourists race them, but some people seem to like it. You can find out more here.

Check out what PlanetD thought of their experience in San Fermin Here We Come.

18. Shark cage diving

50 scariest backpacker experiences

The Great White Shark is the ocean’s most feared predator – so why not lock yourself in a cage and go and menace them? That’s what some people call entertainment around the world. Hey, not judging, just saying life as I see it.

 Gerard and Kieu from GQTrippin did this, check out Our Shark Encounter in Hawaii.

19. Fighting at La Tomatina

50 Scariest Backpacker Experiences

This annual tomato fight on the last Wednesday of every August is absolute carnage. Festival goers get covered in tomato juice and can easily bathe in the stuff afterwards. If you’re that way inclined.

Heather Bond from vagabondish.com reviewed this in Bracing for an Attack at Spain’s La Tomatina Festival.

20. Mount Everest Base Camp

50 scariest backpacker experiences

It takes eight days+ of hiking to reach the pinnacle viewpoint of the peak at 18,200-foot. Your ears will pop, your legs will ache and those blisters will make you want to cry, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Hopefully.

Read more about the Everest Base Camp experience on Everest Encounter Possible A Number Of Ways on Gadling. 

21. Ice climbing

Climbing the ice is one of the scariest backpacker experiences

This looks terrifying and is definitely not one for those who fear unsteady heights (me). You pick axe your way up the mountain side until you reach the top, simple. Read Touching the Void before you go to really get your heart racing.

Check out how Dave from gobackpacking.com got on with his Ice Climbing in Patagonia

22. Making friends in hostels

Group Portugal How to Make Friends in Hostels

Talking to your fellow travellers in your hostel can be quite scary if you’re not the most confident and chatty person. It can be quite overwhelming to arrive at a hostel and be presented with a group of travellers who you know you should talk to, but you’re just not sure how.

We’ve got some tips for you over on How to Make Friends in Hostels

23. Tombstoning

Jumping off cliffs

Well known as actually being fatally dangerous, as long as you’re sure your in a safe environment tombstoning can be a lot of fun. I’ve done it off the cliffs in Ibiza and it was a brilliantly freeing moment in my life. Just make sure you’ve seen lots of other people do it and survive and go to a well-known place for it.

As We Travel recommend a scary sport for it in 5 Dangerous (But Awesome) Sport Locations.

24. Learning to ski

Skiing lessons

Learning to ski in Slovenia was definitely one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but also the most fun. Standing on top of a mountain with some super slidy plastic on your feet and launching yourself off the edge had my knees shaking and teeth chattering. It’s a brilliant buzz when you make it down alive though.

Read about the time I learnt to ski in Learning to ski in Slovenia on my blog vickyflipfloptravels.com.

25. Going travelling by yourself

50 scariest backpacker experiences

Aww, she looks so sad and forlorn. Going travelling by yourself is definitely scary, but it’s such an incredible opportunity to get to know yourself and your capabilities that I believe everyone should do it at least once.

Check out Borders of Adventure – Becki is going around the world for 2 years, solo. 

27. Making love on a beach

make love on the beach

Not a great suggestion if you’re visiting the Middle East, in fact a terrible one. But with a little pre risk assessment to find a perfect spot, a bit of hanky panky on the beach can add even more excitement to the err, situation.

Hmmm, can’t find any travel blogger who’s admitted to this in their blog, but I can guarantee more than a few have done it…

26. Signing up to hostel events

Signing up to hostel events

A great way to make friends in hostels (see above) is to sign up to the nightly hostel events. You can get up to all sorts of mischief with your new hostel buds including dancing, karaoke, pub crawls, pub quizzes and cook offs.

OurOyster.com were well impressed with Base Backpackers’ range of evening activities in Australia – 24 Hours in Sydney.

28. Eating new things

Eating insects in Bangkok

All those stories of Delhi belly and Shanghai sh*ts are enough to put anyone off trying new foods abroad, but eating new things is a massive part of travelling. It’s something that really puts you in the same position as the locals and is a huge part of anyone’s culture. You might want to avoid the live things though; even I wouldn’t go so far as insects in Bangkok.

I know someone who would though, check out Street Food Junkies on the Hunt in Thailand by globetrottergirls.com.

29. Driving the Mongol Rally

Scary backpacker experience

The Mongol Rally is a crazy driving adventure through 10000 miles of adventuring bliss of deserts, mountains and steppe. You do it in the maddest vehicle you can find – ice cream trucks and ex-ambulances are the norm and challenge yourself to finish the course in one piece.

Read how Pamela got ready for it on spunkygirlmonologues.com at Gearing up for the Mongol Rally.

30. Volcano boarding a la Idiot Abroad

50 scariest backpacker experiences

Did you see Karl Pilkington do this on An Idiot Abroad? You can have just as much fun as him and give it a go yourself.

Ryan went Volcano Boarding Down Cerro Negro and reported back for his blog pausethemoment.com.

31. Heli skiing

50 scariest backpacker experiences

This is where you get dropped off on some random mountain off piste and ski the untapped ground. Heaven for keen skiers, but don’t attempt unless you class yourself as a hero at the sport.

Brooke Schoeman recommends a cool place to try this on gobackpacking.com: Adventure Activities in Kyrgyzstan.

32. Waterfall kayaking

Woah, this is definitely on my never would I ever list. I wouldn’t describe this as one of the scariest backpacker experiences, but more like the most terrifying. Rocks, water and plastic boats don’t mix in my world.

Read and watch more about kayaking down waterfalls on the Gadling blog. 

33. Going to space

50 scariest backpacker experiences

This will be the next big craze with Richard Branson offering a spot on a rocket to space on the Virgin Galactic for just £200k. Might be a little bit out of your backpacker range, but it’s something to aim for right?

No bloggers as yet. 

34. Riding the world’s steepest roller coaster

Biggest rollercoaster in the world

You’ll find Takabisha at Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Tamanash, Japan. The free fall is 121 degrees, and you’ll fight the G-forces through seven twists and a drop of 43 meters. The near-vertical free fall is the 14th Guinness World Record set by Fuji-Q, one of the leading amusement parks in the world for thrill seekers. Sounds horrendous to me, but you go ahead.

Can’t find a blogger – have you been on it? 

35. Walking a wing

Walking the wing

Why sit in a plane when you can walk on the wing I always wonder. In GB you can strap yourself to the top wing and stand as the plane sweeps through the skies at 220 kph. Just don’t open your mouth…

No travel blogger has braved this yet either – not that I can find anyway…

36. Cycle the Death Road in Bolivia

Cycling the Death Road in Bolivia

No cars travel the Death Road in Bolivia any more, not since a more ‘sturdy’ road was built to take the traffic. This means cyclists can now take the helm and soak up the incredible scenery. Be careful though – it’s been reported to claim up to 300 lives per year.

Make sure you read this before you go: How to Survive Bolivia’s Death Road on Gadling. 

37. Rally driving

50 scariest backpacker experiences

Yes, you can be like Lewis Hamilton and co while you travel, by signing up to get behind the wheel of a competition-prepared, V8-charged Impreza WRX. You’ll spin round a custom-designed course and get a taste of life in the fast lane…

Can’t find anyone who’s done this either, apart from the Mongol Rally (see above).

38. Join the Rickshaw Run in India

Doing the Rickshaw Run in India

Now, this is my number one on the list. I’d love to do this. Get your two nearest and dearest and most adventurist together and go cross country on a three-wheeled, half-horsepower contraption with dozens of other like-minded (crazy) folk.

It’s “the most stupid and probably the best thing you could possibly do with two weeks” according to The Adventurists website. I want.

We’re sponsoring Hannah, Sarah and Kim from rickshawrundiaries.com to do this next year in support of FRANK Water

 39. Go sea kayaking, in Antarctica

Cool stuff for backpackers to do

If you’ve managed to backpack your way to Antarctica my hat is off to you already. To really say you’ve experienced Antarctica though you need to get in the water. Sea kayak between the ice and you’ll really get a feel for the area!

No travel bloggers have done it in Antarctica, but Cole and Adela from fourjandals.com have sea kayaked in Napoli (bit different).

40. Get naked to run the Spoelana Naturist Race

Naturist Beach

The only requirement to enter this race in Spain is that you’re only allowed a cap or a hat (on your head), sunnies, socks and some sort of footwear. All other clothing is banned.

Any naturist travel bloggers out there?

41. Water buffalo racing in Indonesia

Racing water buffalos

Tourists come to watch, or even join in, Makepung, the Indonesian tradition of water buffalo racing. Anyone can join in so long as they BYOB – the second B means buffalo though. It takes place over two weeks when the farmers can’t plough their fields and is a crazy, fun time in the calendar to be in Bali…

GoBackpcking talks about the buffalo in Bali, although not about racing them… 

42. Taking a taxi in South East Asia

Transport in thailand

When you step in that tuk tuk or knackered old car you really are putting your life in someone else’s hands. 99% of the time you’ll be fine, but if you ever feel uncomfortable or really untrusting of your driver just get out and stop the car, immediately.

Greg Goodman loves a taxi in South East Asia, find out more in his guest post on donteverlookback.com.

43. Climb Harbour Bridge in Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge

It’s a bit of a chestnut backpacker experience, but for good reason. It takes 3 1/2 hours to reach the top and through to the other side and there are a few different experiences to choose from… take your pick.

Matt Long from Landlopers says it’s one of the coolest things he’s ever done in Five Favourite Travel Experiences.  

44. Facing your unique fears

Whether you fear heights, water, closed spaces or even flying, chances are you’ll have to face your fears at some point during your backpacking days. Take the opportunity to conquer them in such a fun and open environment and prepare yourself to tackle them head on.

If this sounds like you soultravelers3.com have got some handy hints for you in Can You Travel With Fear of Flying, Vertigo, Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia?

45. Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder UK

This is one of the most hardcore races in the world. You’ll work your way round a 12-mile course in a team complete with walls, pits and whatever assaults the course can throw at you. Definitely only one for the hardcore backpackers among us.

Positiveworldtravel have some tips for you in Travel and Tough Mudder Training.

46. Go on a wingsuit fly

Fly in a wingsuit

This is as close as you can get to natural flying as humanly possible. Although the United States Parachute Association need you to have done at least 200 freefall skydives already, before they’ll even let you near it.

Check out this article on Gadling Who Said Humans Couldn’t Fly? Wingsuit Diver Alexander Polli Defies Gravity for more on wingsuits.

47. Paraglide over Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

I’ve paraglided in Switzerland, it was nice, but paragliding over the very Neuschwanstein Castle that inspired Walt Disney looks incredibly epic. This takes the number 2 spot on my list of scary things I want to do (number 1 is the Rickshaw Run, see above).

Looks like Kit from seenewtravel.com had a great day there on Our Rainy, Hailing, Wonderful Day at Germany’s Fairytale Castle.

48. Shooting down the world’s longest zip line

Travel 2km in less than 10 seconds on the world’s longest zip line in South Africa, the Pronutro Zip 2000. It’s 280 metres high and 2km long and riders can reach speeds of 100km p/h.

TheWorldorBust have listed the 5 Longest Zip Lines in the World if you want to try them all? 

49. Coming home

Coming home from travelling

Without a doubt the scariest part of going backpacking is the coming home. But unless you win the lottery while you’re out there it’s most likely going to happen one day, so don’t fear it, embrace it.

JoAnna Haugen from Kaleidoscopic Wandering talks about this in Coming Home Again.

50. Following your dreams

Backpacker Experiences

Terrifying, exciting, nerve wracking or cool, however you feel about travelling the world making that initial step to get up and do something different can be the scariest part. Whether you’re leaving a job, a relationship, good friends, your loving parents or just a boring life you are brave and amazing for having the confidence to follow your travelling dreams. As Mark Twain said:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 

Check out our Pinterest board on Travel Adrenaline for a few more ideas.

Related posts

Thanks to   jimmyharrisgibffeMarco_Wagner,  DavidFlint4,  Adhi RachdianSky and Yak,  Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia,  Ashtyn Renee,  Hanumann,  MilitaryHealth,  Ktoinepictcorrect,   Mr ATMThe 621st Contingency Response WinggiopuUSDAgovJD |  roger_alcantara Photography,  hermanusbackpackerscjmartin,  LpstkLibrarian,   Pink Sherbet PhotographyJon EvansKyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It. World Tour,  Jean-Baptiste Bellet,  jrandallcdeparting(YYZ)wanderlasssNASA Goddard Photo and Video,  gsz,  calltheambulance,  Smudge 9000Angberg,  AntarcticBoyThe Adventurists  for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting. 

29 Responses to “50 Scariest Backpacker Experiences”

  1. I am amused you chose a post about selling everything you own for me when I’ve had about 400 very dramatic and near-death experiences while travelling 😉

  2. Great list, there are a lot of things I would love to try and hopefully will get the chance when I take off this December.

  3. Cole @ FourJandals.com Reply

    Thanks for the inclusion. If you want to send us kayaking in Antarctica too, then more than happy to write loads of articles about for you 😉

  4. teaching english? travelleing alone? selling everything you own? riding a rollercoaster? talking to traveller? i must be so hardcore.

  5. Vicky from acoupletravelers Reply

    Just last week we were at Tianmen Mountain in China and walked the glass plank road mentioned in #11. Post about it on the blog coming soon!

  6. Norbert (@globotreks) Reply

    Love the list! Have done a few of them and I can say they were scary (some). Now to tackle a few more!

  7. Kieu ~ GQ trippin Reply

    Lauren, Haha and so true..

    Thanks for including us. Of all that’s listed above, #22 – Talking to people in hostels is by far the scariest for me. LOL

  8. I really liked the list but I have to say that landing in Lukla, Nepal is a no-brainer to make it and it’s not even mentioned. Landing at Paro looked like pulling into Heathrow compared to that.

  9. I have accommodation for three backpackers and second year Visa jobs at Mildura, Victoria.Call me on 0418403586. $100 per week rent. Visa form signed during departure.

  10. Well, I’ve done the 7 safest ones… Although getting into various vehicles with various crazies was always interesting, and some I did while at home, like learning to ski.

    Step it up next time I get out there, methinks.

  11. tefl thailand Reply

    Greetings all! Don’t believe folks if they keep saying that the cash for teaching english in thai land is rubbish!! Just landed a position at an international school in Thailand 95,000 bath per month! Apologies just had to post it, I am so happy about it :) Ok so all those who spout that salaries are poor in LOS look & weep! Thank you, from a rich tefl teacher :)

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