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Key Difference – Backpacker vs Tourist

Although both backpackers and tourists travel to different countries, there is a big difference between backpacker and tourist. The key difference between backpacker and tourist lies in the purpose of their tour or travel; backpackers travel to new places to experience the local culture and way of life that is different from their own whereas tourists go to new places for pleasure and relaxation.

Who is a Backpacker?

Backpacking is a form of independent, and low-cost travel. A backpacker is a traveller on a long trip, who stays at cheap hotels and live like locals. Backpackers travel to places to experience different cultures and way of life that is completely different from his or her own. So, backpackers take local transport and try to hang out with the locals. They would sleep in cheap hotels, motels or homestays and even cook their own meals; they are not concerned about luxury and comfort.

In short, backpackers live cheap and try to experience many new things and places with the small amount of money they have.  They are interested in learning about the local culture and seeing ‘real’ attractions of a country, instead of going on packaged tours offered by tourists. Backpacking is often seen as a being more than a holiday but means of education.

Although backpackers are often perceived as young people – those in their twenties – the average age of backpackers seem to increase over the years. Nowadays even some retirees enjoy backpacking.

Difference Between Backpacker and Tourist

Who is a Tourist?

A tourist is a person who travels for pleasure and relaxation. Tourists often take packaged tours offered by mass tourism programs. They stay in nice hotels, eat in expensive restaurants, which often don’t serve authentic local food, and travel in luxury vehicles. Tourists may be interested in learning something about the local culture, but they may not be willing to interact with local and taste local food at local shops. Tourists will often stick to their plans and schedule since they are on packaged tours. Families with little children and elderly people often prefer to travel as tourists.

Since tourists prefer to stay in comfortable hotels and travel in luxury vehicles, they will have to spend a lot of money. If a backpacker and a tourist are given the same amount of money, the tourist may spend it in one day whereas the backpacker will live on it for days.

Key Difference - Backpacker vs Tourist

What is the difference between Backpacker and Tourist?


Backpacker: Backpackers travel to experience local culture and way of life.

Tourist: Tourists travel for pleasure and relaxation.


Backpacker: Young people prefer to travel as backpackers.

Tourist: Families with children, elderly people, etc. prefer to travel as tourists.

Money Spent:

Backpacker: Backpacking is a form of low-cost travel.

Tourist: Tourists may spend a lot of money since they want to spend their holiday comfortably.

Comfort and Luxury:

Backpacker: Backpackers will stay at cheap hotels, eat local food, take local transport and hang out with local people.

Tourists: Tourists will stay in comfortable hotels, eat in restaurants that don’t really serve local food, and travel in luxury vehicles.


Backpacker: Backpacker carries everything in a backpack.

Tourist: Tourists can take numerous bags, suitcases, and boxes since they can hire people to carry them.


Backpacker: Backpackers can go on long trips. They can spend several days in one place.

Tourist: Tourists often spend a very short time in one place.


Backpacker: Backpackers can change their plans since they are not on package tours.

Tourist: Tourists are often on a tight schedule.

Image Courtesy:

“Tourists photographing Al-Khazneh, Petra, Jordan” By Daniel Case – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

“Lonely Planet.” By Filip Lachowski– ( CC BY-SA 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia