Backpacking making a comeback?

Backpacking South AfricaBackpacking South Africa
Backpacking South AfricaBackpacking South Africa

Backpacking making a comeback?

Backpacking is having a resurgence, not only due to its appeal for budget-conscious consumers, but also as new product innovations are added to the backpacking scene, both locally and internationally. 

Millennials are reportedly leading today’s charge in embracing backpacking culture. And, whereas international visitors used to be the ones backpacking their way around our country, South Africans are now swelling the ranks of explorers shouldering backpacks and striking out for adventure, says Head of Marketing and Communication at online booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou.

According to experienced backpackers, backpacking offers travellers a sense of freedom and a unique, authentic way of experiencing an area. Certainly, for those who love an active lifestyle and like challenging themselves with the unconventional, backpacking holds a growing allure.

According to the international backpacking review blog,, “South Africa has a great ‘backpackers’ culture that caters for budget travellers. In South Africa, hostels are called backpackers. Most of these backpacker hostels have campsites as well as dorm rooms and private rooms to cater for every budget.”

To meet the needs of modern travellers who look for activities and pay for them online, South Africa’s backpacking offering has been reinvigorated and repackaged. A booking platform like Jurni, for example, has lots of accommodation options to choose from, such as Curiocity Packagers, which merges the concepts of backpacking and boutique hotels to ensure safety and comfort through ‘design-led’ accommodation. 

This means it offers white linens with four- to five-star graded bedding, as opposed to hostel quality accommodation – a far cry from the old hostel-dwelling type of backpacking prevalent years ago.

Bheki Dube, who owns Curiosity Packagers, describes the current backpacking scene in South Africa as both innovative and affordable.

“We’ve seen that Millennials are more about the experience than just booking accommodation. They are active and connected, and share their activities online when we host them. It’s a fun lifestyle and we’ve seen demand pick up. When we started in 2013, we had a split of 80% international customers and 20% locals. Now, it’s an even split, with local Millennials really embracing the backpacking experience,” notes Dube. 

“We offer design-led accommodations, with an option to backpack for R200 (€11) a night at the dormitory, or hire a private room for R1 000 (€58) a night at the same facility. We are also heavily focused on experiences and travel, with a programme ready for our guests every morning to evening. 

“For example, people can take part in a Maboneng city tour, a Soweto tour, or they can join in on a city cycle run and related activities. These activities are hugely successful among Millennials,” he adds.

Activities at backpacking facilities typically include a braai, live performances by local artists, campfire storytelling sessions and related experiences. Some hostel settings, where guests pay overnight, also have areas where they can pitch a tent for the full experience.

For anyone who owns or runs a backpacking facility, Matlou says they should leverage activities and experiences around their area. “Collaborating with local travel activity businesses creates a sustainable ecosystem for all involved. The more you can tell your guests about what they can do in the area, the more value they’ll feel you are offering them.”

He also recommends that accommodation owners carry as much information about safety – both of the traveller and their personal property, including cars – in their online listing description. “Backpackers want an assurance of safety, and by highlighting what you offer, such as lockers to store valuables in, could mean the difference in whether a traveller books or not.”

Article Courtesy of

Backpacking South Africa