15 Types of Backpackers You Meet in Hostels


By Andrew Tipp

We’re all different. That much is true. But if you’ve spent any time on the backpacker trail, you’ll start to notice certain ‘types’ of traveller in hostels. And if you’ve spent a lot of time backpacking, you might have sorted hostel-ites into your own bespoke categories. I know I have. And here they are.

1. The gap year newbie

Newbie backpackers

I love rookie gappers. They’ve just started out, and they’re so full of enthusiasm they look like they might literally explode with excitement. Sometimes their raw exuberance can annoy the hell out of you. But that’s only because you’ve become a jaded traveller whose mind has been blown so often it’s resistant to the awesomeness of new stuff. Newbie gappers can actually be reinvigorating; feed off their energy!

2. The romantic bunker

To paraphrase Daft Punk, everyone likes being up all night to get lucky. But the romantic bunker shares the love by bringing it into the dorm. Sometimes they hang a towel up to give themselves some privacy, but just hearing the sounds almost make it worse. It’s awkward, for sure. Especially if you’re on the top bunk and can feel the good vibrations. Open plea to all romantic bunkers: get a room! A private room.

3. The backpacker who totally brought way too much stuff

The guy who brought too much stuff backapcker

Some travellers turn up at hostels loaded down with everything except the proverbial kitchen sink. Overpacking is definitely a thing, and it’s pretty common. I know I’ve done it. Twice. Why? Well, it can be reassuring to travel with everything you could ever want. But this is usually a mistake. Be sure to check out a good packing list guide before you head off.

4. The guy who basically lives in the hostel

Every so often there’ll be a traveller who rocks up at hostel and never leaves. I met a guy like this once. He’d been at the hostel so long the staff were taking bets on when he was actually going to go. I think they’d stopped charging him months ago. He’d basically spent the whole time becoming the world’s greatest pool player. Seriously, the guy was unbeatable.

5. The martial arts instructor who trained Dolph Lundgren

The martial arts instructor backapacker

I met this guy in Chile. He was an Asian-American martial arts instructor from Hollywood. He’d worked with some big names, like Dolph ‘Death from Above’ Lundgren. Not during Lundgren’s 80s career peak, obviously. I’m not sure which martial arts this guy knew. Maybe all of them. I tried to defeat him using the The Crane from Karate Kid. It didn’t work.

6. The traveller who’s always been somewhere better

These are the competitive and self-styled travel pros. The one-upping champions. They’ve always been somewhere that trumps you. Been to a hostel in the clouds? They’ve stayed at one on the moon. They make you feel like you aren’t travelling properly if you don’t visit temples 500 miles from the nearest tourist or aren’t getting invited into a local family’s home for authentic food every night. And if you do find something traditional and amazing, forget it – it’s not as good as it was 10 years ago.

7. The Gap Yah cliché

The Gap Year cliche backpacker

WTF? Am I really including a horrendous stereotype from a video that went viral three years ago?! I am indeed. Why? Because these people really do exist; idiotic, disrespectful and selfish, most travellers have met an Orlando Charmon. True story: I once interviewed Matt Lacey, who created the character. I was hoping to lay into him for promoting this negative image of gappers, but he was actually pretty cool and likeable.

8. The fatigued end-of-journey backpacker

The fatigued backpacker has seen and done so much they’re almost literally weighed down by the sheer immensity of it all. They simply haven’t got the energy or motivation to see one more thing. They’re so used to seeing awesome stuff they’ve become physically weary from it. They may have also smoked a lot of weed, which admittedly doesn’t help.

9. The hippy vegan eco travel warrior type traveller

The hippie backpacker

These guys can go either way. They might be friendly, interesting and share their alternative lifestyle views in a way that causes you to genuinely rethink the way you live. Or they might be an annoyingly smug and superior right-on bore prone to childishly naive rants against corporations, establishments and systems. Or they might just sit on the floor in long socks, a red dress and sing folk songs with a guitar. Approach with caution, but an open mind.

10. The passport stamp collector

These guys are also known as ‘country crammers’ or ‘destination tickers’. Fair enough, most of us love backpacking as much for the experience of travelling as the places we encounter. The journey is as important as the destination, and all that. But these types take it to the extreme, trying to fit in a new country every other day. If that’s the experience they want, then good luck to them. But you haven’t ‘done’ a country just because the you’ve been to the airport or spent a day in the capital.

11. The hardcore volunteer

The Volunteer backpacker

Volunteering abroad can be an awesome experience. The travellers I find really inspiring are the hardcore gappers who choose the hardest placements; the ones that venture deep into a jungle to work off the grid. Sometimes these guys can be I’m-saving-the-world types, but usually they’re cool. You can find out more about overseas projects at Original Volunteers.

12. The travel biography bores

Talking to these guys always starts out as a simple, innocent request for recommendations. What follows is their life story: everywhere they’ve been and everything they’ve done. Suddenly you realise, ‘Hey, this guy isn’t trying to recommend cool stuff to see, they’ve just reliving their own adventure and subconsciously reaffirming how amazing their trip has been.’ Some people don’t seem to realise you might want to, you know, discover a place for yourself.

13. The older dude who’s still roughing it

The older backpacker

I have total respect for these guys, because I don’t know if I’ll be slumming it in 12-bed dorms in 20 or 30 years. These guys are usually 50-plus and have the money to stay in more comfortable hotels, but instead they’ve shunned the easy life to live on the backpacking front line; they’ve opted for the travelling trenches.

14. The backpacker who looks like a bear but isn’t a bear

The hairy backpacker

Seriously, how hairy is this guy? He was lovely, though. Obviously, he gave great bear hugs.

15. The know-it-all travel writer

We all know the type: the kind of traveller who’s done a bit of backpacking and now thinks they’re an ‘expert’. They’ve got contrarian opinions about all the places you should visit, and when they get home they spend their time writing inane travel blog posts that wind people up. You should probably steer clear of douchebags like this…

Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He spent his gap year volunteering in South Africa with Gap Activity Projects, and he’s worked as a travel editor for advice and community site gapyear.com. He’s spent more than a year backpacking and volunteering around the world, and his favourite countries are Bolivia and Sri Lanka. InterRailing Europe, Central America and the Malay Archipelago are currently top of his to-do list.

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Thanks to garryknight, Harold Groven, Sr. Nacho, and Original Volunteers for the images off Flickr. Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.

14 Responses to “15 Types of Backpackers You Meet in Hostels”

  1. I have been so lucky so far not to be in a dorm where a couple are “up all night to get lucky”!

    Argh, I think I am going to be that backpacker who takes too much stuff when I go to Eastern Europe in a weeks(!) time. The weather is all over the place- I have no idea how to pack for that?!

    And the fatigued backpacker, yeah, so many! I totally understand that when you’re 5 months and 3 weeks through a trip that is only gonna last another week that you’re gonna be tired- but another seven days ain’t gonna make it any worse- party; enjoy the place you’re in! You never know if you’re gonna get back there again.

  2. Tanya Satill Reply

    I’m the “older dude (or dudette, in my case) who’s still roughing it”, mainly because I actually can’t afford to stay in hotels and am quite happy to slum it in hostels – and I enjoy it!

  3. Sammi, Eastern Europe won’t drop below 20C even at night during July and August. I’d reccomend to get mostly summer-wear and have an emergency sweatshirt/jeans and shoes that don’t leak in case it decides to get rainy.

  4. I’ve certainly met enough posh gap-yah types particularly in Thailand. They were usually having a ‘bit of a fling before starting an internship at Goldman Sachs, after finishing a degree in economics’. Not impressed. People who want to work for such evil companies should only be allowed to visit UAE and USA and that’s it.

  5. Missed the couples. Always a couple who’ve sold everything and gone travelling for a year or two!

  6. Yep, I will be one half of ‘that couple’. Not actually sold up but will be travelling for as long as my money let me. Cant wait to meet these different types 🙂

  7. 6yearsandcounting Reply

    all my days. fatigued traveller, currently in cambodia teaching. 6 years and counting

  8. I am a stamp collector, and believe me, you CAN do a country by visiting the capital city for a day. You get a feel for the people and culture and THAT is what travelling is all about….

  9. You forgot the type – “actually-lives-in-said-country-and-meets-backpackers-every-weekend”.

    This is the person who lives and works somewhere (i.e. Nicaragua for over 2 years in my case) and has to meet backpackers every time they go somewhere to relax for the weekend.

    Pros – everyone think you’re awesome cos you own a car and like “really live” in the place. Plus you can dip in and out of hostels.

    Cons – you have to deal with backpackers who each seem to think they’re unique but each did the exact same itinerary through Central America and can’t speak any Spanish (so had the exact same experiences as each other). Another con – being asked if living in the capital is dangerous. It’s really fine.

  10. I run backpackers boat between Panama and Cartagena, would like to add on more type.
    The chaepest backpacker.
    – Will get every possible discount on the world
    -Will complain about the service more than the people who paid full price
    -Will buy more alcohol than anybody else ( because he saved money on something else)

  11. Yeah – I met the know-it-all traveller, the who goes around like they own the place. Her and her boyfriend knew it all and owned the place so much that they walked a dangerous hiking trail in Peru and go themselves help up at gunpoint and robbed.

  12. Max neumegen Reply

    I only end up in a hostel about twice a year.
    And I have been around this little world twice and much of that overland, walked half the length of africa, cycled across countries, hitch hiked into different country that I was aiming for, crossed the pacific as a working passage, slept on top of the great pyramid of Giza…
    So what does this make me and millions of others like me.
    Just because we are all different.

  13. Im working at a hostel and lucky I have met every kind of backpackers there. But love the most the couples. Or even they weren’t. Just up all night and eveeybody heard them.
    It is fun. Some backpackers they even did the haircut each other after drunk a bottle of vodka. And in the morning they were shouting and run around the hostel just because they looked like a monk.

  14. Un Cubano por el Mundo Reply

    I laughed so much with this article! Hilarious!!!
    I’ve seen almost all kind of travelers during these years, and it’s funny, but that’s true, they are all unique.
    I’m kind of a stamp collector, but I agree you can’t do a country in a day. I love stamps but also a couple of weeks on ech country.

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