Over the years, one question we have been asked numerous times is “What exactly is luxury backpacking?’
Below are excerpts from an interview we did some time back on the same topic.

So, what exactly is luxury backpacking?
Raj – As the term entails, it is backpacking mixed with luxury.
It’s a form of travel that incorporates the best of all types of travel. Specifically saying, it’s taking the best from backpacking, group tours, and individual travel.
Backpacking has its own charm and is the most famous type of travel among youngsters. As one grows older, backpacking seizes to be an option due to a number of reasons. This is where luxury backpacking comes in.

Ok, can you go in the details of luxury backpacking
Nilima – First, as the name suggests, a backpack is very important for this type of travel, though not a necessity.
Believe me, a backpack is very comfortable to carry, keeps both your hands free and does make you look cool.
Raj – Luxury backpacking involves overall planning of your travel, but, not the minute details. Don’t plan on what you will do in the noon of your 5th day and on the morning of Sunday, the 7th. This is what the group tours do and they even give you the itinerary before-hand. Where does that leave you with the excitement of exploring? Finding and doing new things, we feel, is the core of traveling and you are missing out on that if you plan to the second.
Nilima – Then there is local public transportation, which if it’s good in a city, should be used extensively. It adds a new dimension to your travel. And finally food. You have to taste the local cuisine. Imagine going to Italy and not tasting the pasta and pizzas?
All this and of course, visiting the famous tourist places.

Do backpackers visit tourist places?
Raj – I have heard that they visit the places only when it’s on their way from one pub to another. 🙂 Jokes apart, they do, but, not all tourist places and I feel one should not see all just to get it marked off your checklist.
What’s the point in visiting 3 museums in a day if you have no interest in art at all. I mean, visit the most important one and spend more time at other stuff that you genuinely like.
Nilima – I would like to add another point here. At the important places, don’t just visit. Take a guided tour wherever available. You will miss on the finer details if you do not, and frankly, you will not be able to appreciate the place without knowing the intricacies.

Can you summarize luxury backpacking for our viewers?
Raj – Let me try to get in the important points

  • Plan, but, not to the minute.
  • Stay in hotels and B&B’s.
  • Use public transportation, wherever its good.
  • You have to try local food. Remember restaurants near the tourist spots are costly. Walk 3-4 lanes away from the place to find a good restaurant that is reasonable and serves food in local flavors. Use social media sites and Google maps to find a good place nearby
  • Shop where the locals do. In Paris, we bought some amazing cakes and bread from the by-lane bakeries.

Sounds like a lot of fun. But, is it for my age?
Raj – Why not? See, we all had this urge to backpack when we were in college. At least, I did. Some could. Others could not, for whatever reason.
Now, if you want to complete that wish or want to re-live it, I suggest you do it once. Promise, you will be hooked to it forever.
As I said, we are not telling you to stay with college kids in bunkers and hostels. Stay in proper hotels and B&B’s and have the freedom and flexibility of doing what you want to.
Nilima – Speaking of fun, do visit pubs for a glass of beer whenever you feel tired due to walking or due to the heat or just want to take an hour of rest. What a better place to do this than a pub? Especially in Europe, where you will find pubs everywhere.
And once your day is done, spend some time at restaurants having dinner sipping over a glass of wine and discussing the day done. Do this at a place where the locals spend time, like at Clarke Quay in Singapore or the lanes opposite to Florence train station or on the riverfront in Malaka, just to give you examples. Each city has one.

Any pre-requisites for luxury backpacking?
Raj – Just a few. You need to be reasonably healthy as you will be using local transportation. Be a bit net-savvy to get around. And be flexible with your food habits, timings and what you eat We have discussed more details on this on our blog. (You can check it out here. )

Why don’t people travel on their own? Why do they prefer group tours?
Raj – Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not getting food to their liking. Fear of not able to speak the local language. Fear of getting lost in the city. Fear of booking travels and stays online

Is this fear for real? I mean, now that you have mentioned it, even I feel I might not be comfortable with some of the things mentioned by you.
Raj – There is nothing to fear. You get all types of good food everywhere and especially at tourist places. Help on transportation is available everywhere at train stations and bus stops. People are always very helpful. For all countries, tourism is a major source of income now and locals understand it. I have generally found them to be over-zealous in helping tourists, even if you do not know the local language.
Nilima – Booking tickets and hotels online takes time, initially. But, once you get the hang of things. it becomes much faster.

Any incidents that were fun or scary?
Raj – So many. Mostly fun. Traveling is so exciting. and luxury backpacking is much much more exciting.
Once when we both had our backpacks on and were walking in the by-lanes of Coloba, a couple of guys approached us. It was getting a bit dark, and I decided to be a extra careful. One of them lent forward and asked me ‘Want currency?’ I thanked him and said no. Then the other one came near us. We were prepared to run if the need arises. He then said, ‘Interested in cheap room, cheap food?’ I was relieved that these guys were not crooks. We turned and came back to the main road. They thought us to be regular backpackers looking for a cheap hotel.
We have so many such memories, all fun-filled.

Any special care you have to take while traveling in this fashion?
Nilima – Nothing different from what you do in regular travel or for that matter what you you would do in your own city. No late night walks and don’t go to secluded spots, especially at night. Keep your money and documents safe. Keep money in different pockets and for men, don’t keep purse in your back pocket. That is the easiest place to get pick pocketed.
Raj – Most important, trust your gut feeling. If you feel something is not right of the place, leave the place. Don’t be foolish and over-adventurous.

Any final words before we wrap this up?
Raj – Luxury backpacking is best way to travel. I don’t like the feeling of being at home when I am abroad. Then better stay at home.
How will you learn if you don’t explore?
Nilima – It’s a wonderful world out there. Go see!

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