The Phenomenon of Begpackers: Backpackers, do not beg

As I turned the corner toward Ben Thanh Market, the Central Market in Saigon, Vietnam last Friday, I was stunned to see two European backpackers sitting by the side of the road with a sign written on cardboard. One was singing a song while the other was playing a small set of drums. The sign invited people to give them money to finance their further travel.

They call these people beg packers and I have now seen them in Auckland, New Zealand; Berlin, Germany; Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia; Bangkok, Thailand; Pnom Penh and Siam Reap in Cambodia. Have you seen them  in real life?

a man holding a sign

Begpacker” is a contraction of the English words “beggar” and “backpacker”. They are Western travellers who when they get to their destination they beg, busk, sell hugs or small items such as postcards or souvenir items to fund further travel.

a man and woman sitting on the ground next to each other

Source: twitter

I do not know their success rates but I think it is galling to ask people in the place you are visiting to fund your luxury. Travel is still a luxury item for most of the planet. This week in Vietnam is Tet (the New Year) and people are planning travel back to their home villages and families. For many Vietnamese, they have worked for weeks in order to fund thus trip home. And along comes a Western asking for money for their holiday! I was appalled to see the practice in Cambodia where the per capita income is about the same as an airfare from Europe to the country and where 25pc of the country live below the poverty line.



I understand that not all Westerners are wealthy and they still want to travel and explore other cultures but expecting locals to fund your trip is offensive.

a screenshot of a text

Letter in The Telegraph.

Begpackers also need to be aware that they are probably in breach of their tourist visa by trying to beg or sell to make money. In many countries there are often strict rules or traditions for busking and/or selling on the streets. They may be in fact taking a local seller’s pre assigned spot!

two men sitting on a bench

Sign reads: We need money to return to the RF, therefore we ask with all our heart – buy our photos. Source: Unknown

If you want to travel, have a garage sale -ask your parents – work two jobs but do not expect your host country to pay for your experiences.

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  1. that’s not the worst. last year someone had the gall to open a GoFundMe and ask for donations so he could treat his girlfriend to EDC Las Vegas.

  2. I completely agree with you, it’s a sad state of affairs. Travel is a privilege, not a right – work for it before you enjoy it! To beg as a relatively wealthy person in countries with abject poverty is shameful!
    Because of this, Thailand has increased it’s enforcement of entry rules, which includes outbound tickets and enough money to sustain yourself. I was aware of these rules, but never heard about visitors beings asked about it!

  3. I disdain begging, yet often will give tothose who don’t. Some people think living like a hobo creates a more authentic experience, and while there is some truth to this, I was never raised to take. Get a job like the rest of us, and be useful.

  4. There is a version of this among liveaboard sailors. They sell what they have, usually including a house, then move their family aboard whatever sailboat they can afford. They choose to sail uninsured. Many know little about sailing and learn as they go. If they go up on a reef in the remote Pacific, they count on the resources of the nearest Coast Guard to rescue them. Then they blog or do a YouTube channel about their rescue and set up a GoFundMe or similar site to secure funding to continue their travels. On the remote island that takes them in, they take advantage of local fishermen’s willingness to help, for very little money, in sometimes dangerous recovery of their boat and/or belongings. Because they have no insurance for proper accident remediation, their diesel or other fuel pollutes a pristine reef.

  5. I feel it’s so ironic that in my case, as a person from Southeast Asian countries that does not have a powerful passport, we have to get a proper tourist visa when visiting many western countries and the visa application process requires us to demonstrate available funds in our bank account 6 months back. Now these begpackers exploits their privileges and doing this in our countries. That’s why I agree with you that it is offensive to do so.

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