This is the fifth part of 5 in a series of backpacking basics. You can catch up with Part 1 (What Is Backpacking?), Part 2 (Picking The Right Backpack), Part 3 (What Is A Hostel?), and Part 4 (Where To Start Backpacking) if you missed them.
All subgroups have their own lingo, terms that help them bond. Small insiders that evolve, live, and die within a community much like backpackers. These are just a small number of the backpacking terms and acronyms you may come across. There are plenty of local and regional words these are just some of the basics.
Backpackers almost always travel on tourist visas. Typically if you’re a citizen of the United States, Canada, or a Western European nation you can enter most places for 3-6 months and get a visa stamp as you enter most countries. You may decide to stay longer, so one way to ‘reset’ the tourist visa is to go to the closest border for a day or even a few hours. Technically you’ve left and when you reenter you get a new visa for 3 months (for example).
- Keep in mind that border runs don’t always work and if you do too many in the same place you lessen your odds of getting back in.
Full Moon Party
On every full moon in Ko Pha Ngan in Thailand there is a massive party where thousands of backpackers gather to drink the night away. Below is a video that will give you a better idea about what it’s like and if a full moon party is your sort of backpacking experience.
There are “full moon” parties in other parts of the world but this one is where the term came from.
A common term especially in the UK and Australia, a “gap year” is often what’s referred to as the time between high school and university, high school and a “real job”, or university and the “real world”. It’s in this gap year that many Europeans take an extended period of time to travel extensively around the world.
- In the US the term career break is used many times in place of gap year.
I’ve written more about what is an RTW but basically it’s a trip around the world in one shot. If you want to follow some RTWers getting ready for their trip, search for them on Twitter using the #RTWsoon hash tag.
It’s not really a backpacking term but it seems like every backpacker now has a travel blog. I’ve got 4 myself and here’s a list of many others. If you’re looking for some advice on travel blogging you can read my other site Travel Blog Advice or David Lee’s Travel Blog Success (coming soon).
Other Basic Acronyms and Terms
- Backpacking – A term with a loose definition, not everyone agreed with my definition of what is backpacking.
- Hostel – What is a hostel has the basic information you need.
- Ready-To-Go Gap – One I made up about the period of time between finalizing plans and actually traveling.
- UL – Ultralight. You’ll typically see this when looking for backpacks.
There are so many more I haven’t touched upon or simply don’t know. @sneha_april suggested ‘daily metro pass’ (if you’re heading to Paris check out the Passe Navigo Decouverte) and Hobo Traveler has more backpacker jargon for you to brush up on.
I hope you enjoyed this series of posts new and old backpackers alike. I’ve got a few more ideas for a follow up in the months to come. Until then, I’m looking forward to your backpacker terms and definitions.
[photos by: MrPhilDog, Akbar Simonse]
Too funny. As you know, I love to backpack. But I never heard of a backpacker’s dictionary and never gave much thought to a special backpacker’s lingo, but I was intimately familiar with all the terms, especially the dreaded border run. Thailand to Burma and back in a day – 30 more days in Thailand!
haha, I was explaining the ‘border run’ to someone the other day and they asked, “so you can do that?!?!?” Gave me a chuckle I must say 🙂
While I enjoy night life where I live (in NYC), I would rather keep my foreign travels focused on what a country offers, not on what foreigners have brought forth – like the so-called full moon parties.
I can see them as not suiting everyone’s tastes. I’m trying to think of a phenomena that’s similar in other parts of the world. Something brought to a tourism industry by foreigners. I’m sure there are countless ones but none come to mind. It would be interesting to compare and see how they share and are shaped by the local culture.
Gotta say, I’m looking forward to my first border run. 😉 This post is definitely going on the #RTWsoon hashtag. It’s a another great intro for those curious about travel in general.
Ah, the border run. Brings to mind visions of backpackers running toward a border crossing being chased by barking dogs. Or just to me perhaps. I’ve never been chased by dogs at the border.
I can’t stop chuckling at the term ‘border run’! I guess it’s something difficult to do in Australia unless you want to take a boat… As for ‘full moon parties’, I better not say what images that term evokes! 😉
Fun post, Anil! And thank you for including my Passe Navigo Decouverte 🙂
LOL – now I’ve got the image of ‘full moon’ in my head…!
Ah border runs… The only border run I did was to Egyptian border when I was in Israel… I stayed there for hours hoping (and begging) that someone would know how to deal with Indian passports (for entry to Sinai peninsula) but alas. Otherwise, I have to plan my visas months in advance. 🙂
US and EU passports have got to be the easiest to carry in terms of visas. I’m sure Indian passports get much more scrutiny.
Anyone have more information about Border Runs? I’m supposed to stay in Ireland for 6 months as a US citizen but the tourist visa is up at 90 days. Do I need to leave Ireland, EU? I know that it doesn’t always work but just wondering if anyone has any experience with it.
This is the article you need to read:
A border run won’t be possible unless you run for 3 months.