Backpackers Not Spending As Much As Other Travelers Is A Myth And Why That’s Important To Local Economies

May 3, 2016 by Anil Polat  

istanbul cafe laptop

One of the biggest travel myths is that backpackers are cheap tourists who don’t provide economic incentives for tourism boards to focus on catering to them. At first glance, it’s easy to see why many make this assumption, most backpackers take great efforts to spend as little as possible, trying to stretch every cent efficiently at the cost of numerous comforts. The opposite perception is that luxury travelers pay top-dollar for resorts, dumping loads of cash into local economies over packed weekends at seaside resorts.

For a long time, backpackers weren’t really studied in terms of their spending habits but growing evidence shows budget travelers spend as much as luxury ones. Additionally, figures indicate a larger percentage of backpacker money spent goes to benefiting local economies. Tourism boards around the world: take note.

Time Versus Money

Many people in sectors of the travel industry often harbor a slight disdain for backpackers, complaining they are practically useless for their overall bottom lines since they “don’t spend.” According to researchers from MIT, people around the world tend to spend the same percentage of their overall time, and budget, traveling. Called the “Time Travel Budget” Theory, anthropologists have determined that the more free time we have – the more we travel; independent of our economic class.

kosovo clock tower pristina

Spending The Same Over A Longer Period Of Time

Even in the most liberal of European nations, vacation times around the world for full-time workers tends to top out at around a month. The average backpacker travels for nearly twice that time – about 58 days. Although these figures vary from country to country, it’s estimated the average American spends about $3,251 for a 12-day vacation.

bogota journalist park

According to budget travel expert Nomadic Matt, $50 a day for a backpacker is a reasonable goal. (Keep in mind all of these numbers include transportation, meals, lodging, etc.)

Adding it all up, backpackers and regular travelers spend about the same amount on traveling annually; just over different periods of time.

Spreading The Wealth

There’s also growing evidence that larger percentages of money spent by backpackers goes to local economies. Most resorts and international hotel chains in third-world countries are owned by foreign companies. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates that only 20-60% of first world income makes it back to local economies from traditional travel expenditures. Studies like these on the tourism leakage effect are why nations like Malaysia and South Africa are focusing more on enticing backpackers.

bogota fruit vendor

Getting off the beaten path is also a backpacker trait and when they do, they also spread the money they’re spending outside of large cities and traditional tourism hubs according to this study of Australia. (Backpackers add 3.2 billion U.S. dollars annual to the tourism industry there.)

Why It’s Important

Backpackers are often under the perception of being economic leeches. Such misconceptions have lead tourism boards globally to dismiss catering to this growing portion of travelers; plus all the money they spend locally. Like the myth that Americans travel less than other people around the world, backpackers not having a positive economic impact has lead many poor countries to focus on luxury travelers – a group of visitors who might spend a bit more in less time but whose cash goes a little further out of local range.

Immediately Take A Photo Of Boarding Passes Before Flying To Ensure Proper Mileage Credit

April 28, 2016 by Anil Polat  

turkish airlines boarding pass

Airlines are making it increasingly difficult to earn frequent flyer miles and one particularly nasty way is by creating a cumbersome system to claim miles you weren’t rightfully credited. You’re often required to provide details from your boarding pass – with long waiting times before you’re allowed to do so.

It’s very important, if you want to ensure you get frequent flyer miles you’re due, to immediately take a photo of your boarding pass after it’s printed, here’s why.

You Fly But Don’t Get Miles

In my experience, this happens about 20% of the time, particularly when flying on partner airlines of these three major alliances. Some airlines (*cough Turkish Airlines*) also seem to habitually neglect crediting miles. All of the airline programs have some system where flyers can request miles not credited. The difficulties come in the long waiting periods to actually realize, then claim, then follow up on missing miles.

copenhagen kastrup airport

Airlines Keep You Waiting In Hopes You’ll Forget

Perhaps I’m being a bit cynical but in order to get miles you weren’t credited, the airlines impose long waiting periods, all the more chance you’ll forget about the missing miles in the first place.

  1. Time Airlines Have To Post Miles: Varies between around 2-15 days after a flight, meaning you can’t notice or claim missing miles until this period is over.
  2. First Claim Waiting Period: The airlines give themselves around 2-3 weeks after a claim to post (or not) miles.

cat playing with clock

So the total amount of time you have to potentially get miles back is 1 month – and that’s for the first claim. Personally, I’ve had to go back and claim miles twice for about 40% of my un-credited miles; essentially adding another two weeks to the month it already takes. Keep in mind the airlines never follow up with you – the burden of checking, claiming, and verifying is all on you.

Get In To The Habit

It used to be that many airlines would require you to physically mail in boarding pass stubs, why I recommended keeping them for at least a month after flying. Although that’s still not a bad idea, snapping a photo of the complete boarding pass with your phone as soon as it’s in your hands works just as well.

space grey iphone 6s

I even go a step further a create a special ‘boarding passes’ folder on my phone, not deleting any of them until I see miles for those flights credited to my account. Much like keeping a digital travel budget, you can even use some of these travel reminder tools to ensure lost frequent flyer miles don’t slip your mind.

Finally, it’s important to take a photo of the entire boarding pass – not just the stub. Airlines require the complete ticket number which sometimes overflows from the boarding stub on to the ticket itself; or sometimes it’s not on the stub at all. Even though claiming frequently flyer miles online is tedious, don’t let the airlines discourage you out of getting them. Uploading boarding pass stubs to claim miles (when they’re not properly credited) only take a few minutes and even the occasional flight can get you free upgrades.

A Map Of Wireless Passwords From Airports And Lounges Around The World (Updated Regularly)

April 26, 2016 by Anil Polat  

turkish airlines lounge istanbul

Finding an open wireless connection in many airports isn’t always easy, or possible, without a password (or local phone number which is stupid). The difficulty of getting online is why I asked you for and created an always-up-to-date list of airport wireless passwords around the world. You’ve been sending me your tips regularly and I post on the foXnoMad Facebook page when there’s a new password or airport added.

Recently, reader Zach made a great suggestion that will make it easier for you to search, add, and keep up with this airport wireless password list.

The Map Of Airport Wireless Passwords

Below is a regularly updated map of all the airport wireless and lounge passwords you send and I come across on my travels. I’ll still be updating the original how to get wireless passwords from airports page with this information as well but now you can search around on the map directly.

  • Last update: May 3, 2016

You can also bookmark the map or this page to keep up with any future updates.

Please Send Me Any Passwords You Come Across

This list becomes more useful the more of you who send me passwords you find at airports. If you get any lounge passwords or for other access points, please leave a comment on this post or email me directly. (Even if the airport is already listed; since they tend to change frequently, the newer the update the better.) I’ll update the map to help your fellow travelers stay connected when they’re hopping from airport to airport.

macbook pro keyboard

Upgrade Your Wireless Superpowers

When you are snagging some wifi from a lounge, extending your laptop’s wireless range lets you sit further away from the source, which might mean the difference between a cold floor or a cushy cafe seat. The biggest boost to your wifi range is getting one of these USB wireless antenna. Once you do get connected, prevent network time restrictions from cutting you off and be sure to share with any friends you may traveling with.

Please don’t forget to send me any airport or lounge wireless passwords you come across from anywhere in the world! It will help me keep this list, plus the map, updated and help a lot of other travelers.

All Of The Bizarrely Large And Controversial Monuments Around Skopje, Macedonia

April 21, 2016 by Anil Polat  

stone bridge skopje

You may not think of Macedonia’s capital city Skopje often, but once you’ve been there one thing nearly impossible to forget are the Mario-super-mushroom sized statues everywhere. Massive bronze statues sitting high up on stone pillars with the central Macedonian Square lit brighter than the near side of the sun, you can’t initially help but be impressed.

As unusual as the sight is from afar, things get even strangers the closer you look.

Rapid Rise And Transformation

All of the gigantic monument construction in Skopje began in 2011, as part of a government project to rebuild landmarks lost in a large 1963 earthquake. Within 2 years, more than 20 new buildings and 40 statues had been constructed, including a 22-meter (72 feet) tall Alexander The Great in the middle of Macedonia Square. Oh sorry, it’s called “Warrior On A Horse” wink wink, so as not to completely piss off Greece, who among many things has a problem with Macedonia calling itself Macedonia.

skopje macedonia construction

Locals also have a strong disdain for the gross displays of manufactured nationalism with money that might be better spent elsewhere. Estimated costs for the Skopje 2014 project range from 90-565 million US dollars; nearly 6% of the Macedonian GDP in a country with 25% unemployment. Such large ranges for costs estimates usually indicate unaccounted money – in other words, corruption – in a nation that doesn’t score well in that particular category internationally.

There is something to be said however for the potential tourism effect; since Skopje 2014 began, the country has seen an increase of 500,000 annual tourists, up three times the 2011 average.

skopje big statue skopje man on horse statue

Arch Of Abortion

Macedonia is clearly spending all of this money, upwards of 168 million dollars a year, to bolster an infant tourism industry. That makes one particular inscription, a quote by Mother Teresa who was born here, on its iconic Porta Macedonia Arch odd indeed:

porta macedonia arch

“I think that abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace today.”

Not the kind of message you expect to see on a tourist monument. Maybe, “welcome to Skopje” instead? Or perhaps another quote by Mother Teresa, “Never travel faster than your guardian angel can fly,” seems a little more travel-related?

Look Down On What Goes Up

The more you ask about Skopje’s newest landmarks with a dopey traveler’s naivete, it becomes increasingly clear Macedonians are very skeptical. You know there’s a big doubt when people look up at the 66-meter tall Millennium Cross (worth visiting I must say) and curse the government for building it while trying not to get struck by lightening.

skopje millennium cross

Though as a traveler passing through, you are drawn to the spectacle that illuminates memorable experiences like watching the universe from Macedonia Square. Skopje in particular becomes much easier to recommend because of the artificial ambiance that is contagious for everyone who visits these sights. A lot like Austin, Texas, Macedonia has chosen to keep Skopje weird, though I’m not sure how intentionally.