Top 10 Countries for First Time Backpackers

Serbia, Subotica. The Green Fountain surrounded by Art Nouveau architecture.
Subotica, Serbia. Christian Kober / Getty Images

The first time that many people will go backpacking will be the greatest leap into the unknown that they will have taken, so making the right choice about the destination is very important. There are many countries that provide the right balance of adventure, attractions, and safety that will provide a great experience while also not putting those first-time explorers into situations that could be dangerous. Many of these countries will welcome plenty of backpackers to their destinations and will have some good infrastructure to help people be self-sufficient as they explore a new country.


There are so many iconic destinations that are to be found in Australia that almost any trip to visit the country will provide some memorable moments from scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef to watching the sunrise over Uluru and the magnificent colors reflected by this rock formation. Australia is also a great destination for sports fans, as it has great surfing, cycling, and hiking options while there are plenty of adrenaline sports available too, including skydiving and bungee jumping.

Australia is also a relatively safe option for the first time backpacker as the crime levels in the country are generally very low, and the fact that it is an English speaking country means that communication is not generally a problem. There is also a very good infrastructure in Australia, so hostels and bus routes serving tourists and backpackers are commonplace, particularly in the main tourist areas of the country.


Probably the most popular country in South East Asia for those backpacking in the region, Thailand is a beautiful country from its stunning pristine beaches with small beach bars and accommodation to stunning forests spread over majestic mountains. There are also some great historical sites to explore in the country, with the historic city of Chiang Mai home to a wealth of impressive temples, while the ruins of Ayutthaya, once the most important city in the country are equally impressive.

The country is one of the safest in South East Asia, and one of the biggest dangers to visitors is if they choose to rent one of the ubiquitous motorbikes to try and get around the country. When dealing with locals who are trying to sell something, be wary of scams and those trying to take advantage of visitors, although the vast majority of the population are friendly and welcoming to those exploring the country.


Japan is a beautiful nation that is spread across four main islands and is home to spectacular diversity from the huge urban centers of cities like Tokyo and Osaka to the beautiful natural areas such as Mount Fuji and the amazing mountains of Hokkaido with their superb skiing destinations. The culture in Japan is also truly wonderful, and there are so many different things to experience from the manga and anime culture through to the superb food to be found there.

The language will be a barrier for some people, but the people of the country are generally friendly and open to help visitors, and those who really want to immerse themselves in the culture will find the nuances of learning to get around and to communicate in Japanese to be a great challenge. Japan is one of the more expensive countries to visit in Asia, but there is a good range of accommodation and transport links to help visitors to get around.

New Zealand

Split over two main islands, New Zealand is one of the premier backpacking destinations in the world, and from the amazing attractions such as the Ninety Mile Beach and the lovely Bay of Islands on the North Island, down to the Milford Sound on the South Island, it is a natural gem. There are also some wonderful adventure sports to try, including bungee jumping, paragliding, skydiving, mountain biking, white water rafting, and a huge range of other activities, too.

Another English speaking country, language is not usually a problem for those who are exploring the country, while it is also a very safe country. There is a good range of hostels found throughout the country and there are also backpacker buses for those who prefer to travel with other backpackers rather than using the standard public transport.


One of the most popular destinations in South America, Peru is most famous for being home to the historic hilltop city of Machu Picchu, an impressive complex of temples and supporting infrastructure located on a remote and beautiful hill in the Andes. The country is actually quite varied from beautiful coastal towns on the Pacific to the cosmopolitan capital of Lima, while the Andes are a high mountain range with some great outdoor activities that you can enjoy.

Although Spanish is the main language that is spoken in Peru, those with a few words of Spanish will usually be able to get by, as the local population in popular tourist areas will usually be familiar with communicating with visitors. Transport links are a little more rustic than in many countries, with buses and minivans usually providing the most common way to travel between towns and cities in the country.


Another of the South East Asian countries, Laos is a small landlocked nation that is home to some beautiful locations, with Vientiane being one of the most relaxed capital cities found anywhere in the world. There are also plenty of historic areas such as the wealth of temples found in Luang Prabang, while there are also some stunning natural sites including the steep karst cliffs of Nong Khiaw and the lovely hiking on the Ban Nalan Trail.

It is important to be calm and relaxed when exploring Laos; the pace of life here is very languid, so do not expect high speed bus connections or just about anything that happens at pace. The friendly people are happy to help, although learning a few phrases in Laotian can help. Some people will also speak some French due to the historic colonial presence of French forces in the country. Laos is also one of the most affordable countries to explore, with food and accommodation relatively cheap.


This Scandinavian country is one of the most interesting countries in Europe to explore with a beautiful northern area that stretches north into the Arctic Circle and wonderfully organized cities that are cultural and historic hubs with Stockholm, in particular, having a real wealth of historic architecture. The island of Gotland lies off the east coast of the Swedish mainland and is a superbly preserved area with some amazing medieval buildings with excellent cycling to be enjoyed on the island, too.

One of the drawbacks here is that it is quite an expensive country to explore with the costs of hostel beds costing around the same as budget hotels in some of the more affordable European countries. However, it does benefit from a population which has many people speaking English and is a naturally welcoming destination to visitors. It is also a very safe country to explore.


If you are looking for a country that will offer you some amazing outdoor activities, then Canada is a great option to explore from the Atlantic provinces on the east coast with their beautiful coastline to the remote Northwest Territories. Canada also has some amazingly cosmopolitan and vibrant cities with Montreal famous for its art galleries and museums while Toronto has a great range of sports teams and a great night life scene.

Canada is a country that is famous for being very safe, and the friendly people are a good safety blanket if you are worried about traveling to new countries. The transport network is good in many of the more populated areas. It's important to be aware of any natural threats such as bears during your time in the country.


As the gateway between Central Europe and the Balkans, Serbia has recovered significantly from the break-up of Yugoslavia and is now a stable democratic European country while it is also among the most affordable of European countries to explore. The city of Novi Sad has an amazing music festival and amazing historic sites while Subotica is a charming city in the north with some lovely palaces and churches which also serves as the gateway to Palic, the popular lakeside resort just a short journey outside the city.

Much of the younger population in Serbia learned English in school and will enjoy the opportunity to practice as they help you, but you may want to avoid discussing the difficult subject of independence in Kosovo. Generally, the country is very safe, although it is a country which does suffer with homophobia in some areas.


A huge country that offers massive variety, from the bustling super cities with millions of residents, through to the amazing Himalayan scenery that can be seen in the Hindu Kush. Among the historic sites are the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the Taj Mahal in Agra and the historic forts, including the spectacular Amber Fort which is in Jaipur.

India is a country that has a reasonable number of people, particularly in tourist areas, that speak English, although elsewhere this is not quite so widespread. Unfortunately, along with begging, petty crime such as pick-pocketing and money exchange scams are quite common in the country, so it is important to have a backup plan if something goes wrong.