“Begpacking” — The Latest Shameful Travel Pandemic

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

INSIDER SECRET: You can book a solid 4+ weeks at several hotels for free simply by earning the welcome bonus of a single credit card. I’ll show you.

Have you ever watched a movie or heard a song and immediately felt compelled to drop everything and go travel the world? Don’t do it.

The travel bug ambushes — its syrupy venom courses through your veins at the most unexpected moments. Harnessing that fever and emotion can motivate you to fulfill unforgettable bucket-list adventures. But there is a WRONG way to travel, and it stems from the same impassioned spontaneity of incurable wanderlust.

For the past couple of years, a new style of sightseeing has appeared on the travel scene: “begpacking.” It’s exactly what it sounds like — freeloader travel.

I’ll show you why this is a vile practice. You don’t need to be rich to travel the world, and you don’t need to begpack!

Begpacking: The Latest Travel Pandemic

I always feel awful when I’m at a red light and spot a tattered cardboard sign of the less fortunate begging on the corner. I can’t imagine coming to the realization that the only way to survive is by asking strangers for money. It must be the most difficult thing in the world to choose between pride and food.

As it turns out, many engage in this practice recreationally on a regular basis and they call it begpacking. Some even bring their kids with them!

Begpacking is a disgraceful travel practice of begging locals for money. In whichever far-flung country you happen to run low on funds, just plop down on the sidewalk, unfold the paper sign you’ve been keeping in your backpack, and stay there until you’ve extorted enough money from kindhearted locals to continue your journey another day.

To the credit of many begpackers, the signs they carry are 100% shamelessly honest. One traveler holds a sign that says:

I am traveling around Asia without money. Please support my trip.

Another states:

I’m traveling across Asia for 5 months. Hong Kong is amazing, but very expensive so I have no money to continue my journey. PLEASE HELP!

Traveling Without Money the Responsible Way — With Travel Rewards!

When I see these pictures of broke millennial first-world travelers in a meditative Buddha pose on the sidewalk with a money jar in front of them, I suspect that Eat. Pray. Love. might be responsible for their life choices. Begpackers are found primarily in Southeast Asia in “find yourself” locations like Bali and Angkor.

I get it, some don’t think they can travel any other way. It’s neat to see people with such resolution to achieve their travel goals! But don’t set out on a journey with the intent to TAKE.

The below tweet roughly translates to: “Saw this foreigner begpacking to travel to Thailand next to an older woman collecting junk bottles for resale in order to survive.”

Traveling for cheap is why most of us got into the miles and points hobby in the first place. We wanted to quell our itchy feet without breaking the bank.

As it happens, you can travel for LESS than a begpacker! Since I began the miles and points craze, I’ve done things like:

  • Fly to the Philippines for $5.60
  • Fly to South Africa for $5.60
  • Fly to Switzerland for $34.20
  • Free hotel in Barbados for four days
  • Free hotel in Mexico for seven days
  • Free hotel in Hawaii for seven days
  • Free hotel in Dubai for three days
  • Free hotel in Cusco for two days

That only scratches the surface.

Many of these experiences were in amazing hotels. If you’re a potential begpacker, you should seriously take a look at the miles and points hobby first. You’ll upgrade your standard of travel in a dramatic way. There’s a card for everyone’s travel style.

How to Travel on a Begpacker Budget Without Begging

There are an abundance of methods for traveling on the cheap. Putting myself in a begpacker mindset, here’s what I’d do.

Option 1

If you enjoy living like the locals, you can open a cash-back credit card like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card and earn the bonus before you go. It should be enough for a few weeks in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, etc. You’ll be booking low-rent accommodations and eating a lot of street food, but it’s totally possible!

You could also book free airfare by using bonus miles from the best airline credit cards and use the money you WOULD HAVE spent on a ticket to fund your food and lodging for a LONG time.

The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Option 2

You can earn a hotel credit card welcome bonus and stretch the points you earn by researching the best places to spend them. For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with 130,000 bonus points + a free weekend night after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening (that offer ends August 28, 2019). Here’s an example of what you could do with that bonus:

  • The Hilton Garden Inn Bali Ngurah Rai Airport costs only 5,000 points per night
  • If you have a Hilton credit card, you’ll get every 5th consecutive award night for free. That means you could stay at this resort for free for 31 days

That’s right, opening one single card can give you a full month at a five-star hotel for zero dollars. If you and your travel buddy both opened a card, you could stay together for TWO MONTHS.

Note: There are even five-star resorts around Egypt that cost 5,000 Hilton points, like the Hilton Hurghada Resort and Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort. Imagine staying for two months in a five-star hotel…

Bottom Line

If you’re going to be a freeloader, do it with points, not the hard-earned money of impoverished locals. You can actually travel for less money than a begpacker by reading blogs that help you learn the key to free travel.

You can subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets newsletter to learn free tips for free trips! We’ll always let you know when a good deal pops up, honest.

Lead Image by @TonsTweetings

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Join the Discussion!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

I surely cannot see a connection to Eat. Pray. Love. No begging there.
I recall the summer Friday afternoon lineup of mostly disabled folks, in downtown San Francisco, 1967, hats & bowls out, ready for handouts from the horde of office workers flowing by from work to play. I asked one young man what his disability was, and he said None, he worked in the Detroit auto industry during the winter, and took off to travel in the summer. Ugh!
By contrast, I’ve been taken in by folks eager to introduce me to their home town or farm – and there’s Couchsurfing – both of which spring from a traveler’s genuine willingness to interact with the locals – perhaps that’s what’s missing from the begpackers.

1 year ago

Now it makes sense, when I was in Pokhara, Nepal in 2017/2018, I saw folks like this and thought it was strange. Like really strange. I only give locals donations. I would never give one of these freeloaders a penny.

1 year ago

I live in a tourism destination on coastal Hwy 101 in Oregon. Years ago a European couple who were touring the world on their bicycles chatted with me when I met them while walking in my neighborhood. I let them camp in my back yard and gave them access to the house. That evening they showed me photos of their travels and brazenly asked me to “sponsor them” by directing me to their website. Really? I fled from the house the next morning leaving them to their own devices with access to my home. They graciously swept and cleaned after themselves before departing, but overall my impression was of a couple of freeloaders who’d dressed it up a bit. I felt very badly for the young woman, 1/2 his age, wasting the best years of her life for establishing a career for herself, after hearing the horror stories of their illnesses in India. They’d been doing this for over a decade. How appaling to see this “sponsorship” idea has turned into out and out begging. Revolting.

1 year ago

Disgusting. These entitled snowflakes are taking handouts that should be going to people who actually need it.

1 year ago

I really wonder if the people who are likely to begpack have the credit history necessary to apply for the cards you are suggesting.

Andrew Wan
Reply to  Ed
1 year ago

I would venture a guess and say that at least some of them do. I’ve seen YouTube videos of “homeless” people being caught red handed driving away in a luxury car.

Reply to  Ed
1 year ago

Then they should stay home. No one is ‘entitled’ to anything in this world, particularly a foreign vacation!

Ryan James
1 year ago

If you have to beg to travel and cannot get a credit card to assist with travel, stay home, get a job and earn the right to have a credit card and money to help you travel.

What are you seeing of a country when much of the time is spent begging?

I would venture that these people have the same classless values in their home country/city as they do when traveling.

Andrew Wan
Reply to  Ryan James
1 year ago

The tough thing is that not everyone knows how to prioritize needs over wants. I’ve certainly been guilty of this too, although not to that extent.

1 year ago

Hey there guys, chill out a bit. I have been all over the world and never needed to resort to begpacking. When I have run out of money, I have rented my body out the way girls do. I always travel with a supply of good quality condoms for when the time comes ……

1 year ago

If they have enough credit to apply for credit cards to ear points, they wouldn’t be begpacking, no?

Andrew Wan
Reply to  King
1 year ago

In theory, perhaps. But after seeing YouTube videos of “homeless” people driving away in a luxury car, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these begpackers are trying to have their cake and eat it too.