Backpacker’s Paradise: 2023’s Best Cities For Backpackers

Considering the cost of accommodation and flights, local attractions, cost of groceries and other factors, Cotswold Outdoor reveal 2023’s best destinations for backpacking.

Something of a rite of passage, backpacking is a travelling experience unlike any other. The cost-effective method of exploring the world not only offers physical benefits, but allows travellers to develop more self-reliance, healthier mindsets and detox from their hectic lifestyles and devices.


With approximately 44 million backpacking trips being taken each year, research estimates the average spend per trip is £3,350 (2017). Analysing over 80 capital cities, our latest study reveals the ‘best capitals for backpackers’ based on overall costs (one-way flights, public transport, basic groceries, hostel stay), mobile internet speeds and the number of couch surf hosts and free attractions available. Furthermore, our new ‘destination picker’, allows you to find the perfect destination for you, based on your needs, budget and preferences.

Budapest Is The Top City For Backpackers!

Flights to the Hungarian capital can be found for as low as £10 (yes, really!) and paired with its wealth of couch surf hosts (64) and affordable hostels (397 at average £20.50 p/ night), it’s no wonder Budapest places top. In addition, the city is home to 275 free tourist attractions and the average public transport trip in the city comes reasonably priced at £0.71. Budapest’s mobile internet speeds place mid-range, while average mobile internet speeds hover around the 60mbps mark. Where Budapest ranks poorest is for its basic grocery shop, costing an average of £18 for essentials like fruit and vegetables, rice, eggs, bread and milk.


As for the remaining top five destinations, European destinations monopolise the list. Following behind Budapest are the cities of Warsaw (Poland), Prague (Czech Republic), Lisbon (Portugal) and Bucharest (Romania), respectively.

Backpacking - top destinations for backpackers
Backpacking - top destinations for backpackers

Something For Backpackers And ‘Glampackers’

If you’re looking to get the most “bang for your buck”, based on an “example package” (inc. one-way flight three-night hostel stay + 10 public transport trips), the lower costs destination are Montenegro’s Podgorica, Rabat, Morocco and Tirana, Albania. Whereas, if you’re more of a ‘glampacker’ with a more generous budget to spend, then the most expensive locations include Wellington, Canberra and Buenos Aires.

Catch Flights, Create Freedom

Nothing quite beats the feeling of getting on a flight to go explore somewhere new and exciting. Analysing prices for the year for London outbound one-way flights (inc. non-direct), European cities Riga, Sofia, Tallin, Zagreb, Vilnius, Bucharest and Bratislava all offer flights as cheap as £10, as well as top contender Budapest. On the other end of the spectrum, the cheapest flight to Wellington, New Zealand will cost you north of £800, followed by Canberra Australia (£678) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (£551).

Backpacking - top destinations for backpackers

Are You A Hostels Person Or A Couch Surfer?

When travelling, where you choose to stay is arguably where you can save yourself the most money, as we all know hotels can be a real spend! If you’re looking to stay somewhere with the bonus of meeting other travellers, then hostels are the favourite alternative to hotels. Head to Bangkok, Thailand for the most choice of hostels (992), Seoul offers 578 and Budapest has 397. Whilst the most affordable hostels are found in Kathmandu, Nepal and Islamabad, Pakistan, where the average one-night stay costs just under £6. If you’re looking to stay in a more premium rate hostel, then Reykjavik, Bern and Dublin have the top priced.


If you prefer couch surfing, where you’re likely to get the perk of locals as your tour guides and a more homely stay, then Berlin is the best city to head to as it is home to 335 couch surf hosts. Paris and Brussels follow as second and third best for the couch surfers out there, with 292 and 121 couch surf hosts available respectively.

Getting Around And Seeing The Sights

When it comes to visiting a new city, one of the best and most inexpensive methods of exploring is by making use of public transport, especially considering some of Europe’s compelling transport incentives. As for the countries that offer the cheapest average public transport trips, Colombo, Sri Lanka (10p) and Tashkent, Uzbekistan (11p) will get you going for less. And what is there to go see, you ask? Well, our research into free attractions, reveal that is in fact Rome, Paris and Tokyo whom offer the most tourist attractions for no fee, with each of the destinations housing over 500 free attractions.

Backpacking - top destinations for backpackers

If You Prefer To Stay Connected…

Seoul, Oslo and Doha have the fastest mobile internet speeds available. With mobile networks in all three cities providing an average Mbps above 170, this enables visitors to check-in with loved ones or document and share their amazing travel finds via their social feeds, minus the buffering. As for the cities where you might struggle most to keep your Instagram and TikTok accounts up to date; Accra, Dhaka and Kathmandu rank as having the slowest mobile internet speeds (below 15mbps on average).

Backpacking - top destinations for backpackers

Gotta Eat, Right?!

Although eating at a new restaurant every day sounds like a dream to most, if you want to make your money stretch further whilst backpacking, generally the cheaper alternative is to buy your basic groceries from local markets and supermarkets. Based on an essentials list of groceries, our research reveals that Islamabad offers the most affordable prices, with the average basic grocery shop setting you back £4.72. Following the Pakistani capital, Cairo is second cheapest (£5.46) and New Delhi follows in third (£7).


Whether you’re a rookie backpacker or a well-seasoned one, in some cases not all destinations will fit and other cases, all destinations is just the right recipe for fulfilment. If choosing your destination for your first or your next backpacking trip is proving trickier than you hoped, then we hope our research and “destination picker” will help make the best decision you’ve made yet.


Concluding in a point-score based ranking, our study analyses a list of factors for 83 of the world’s capital cities. These include 2023 London outbound one-way flights inc. non-direct (Google Flights), hostel and attractions listings ( and TripAdvisor), couch surf hosts (Be Welcome), average mobile internet speeds (World Population Review) and public transport and groceries data (Numbeo).

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