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.


Border Run

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.
What It's Like To Get High On Khat

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.

Gap Year

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.

reading on a trainRTW

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.

Travel Blog

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).

What's The Best Country In The World? The India vs. Pakistan Debate

Other Basic Acronyms and Terms

  • Backpacking – A term with a loose definition, not everyone agreed with my definition of what is backpacking.
  • HostelWhat 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]