Nick Ridley

Sep 19, 2023

Organising a backpacking trip can be a time-costly task when you are budgeting for accommodation, food, and sightseeing trips. It also requires research into a variety of other concerns such as safety, weather-averages, and the cost of public transport.

As experts in travel insurance, we were curious to find out what some of the best cities are for backpackers to visit. To do this, we have calculated a variety of different factors for 48 cities across the world and created an index, looking at food costs, number of tourist attractions and hostels, among other metrics.

Here is what we found.

The best cities for backpackers to visit

CityCountry Cost of food (USD)Cost of beer (USD)Transport cost per ticketSunshine hours per monthSafety score Things to do Number of hostels Index score
Chiang MaiThailand$9.26$1.79$0.86107.9976.261,6231317.39
Buenos AiresArgentina$9.18$1.10$0.15103.7036.892,720336.72
Rio de JaneiroBrazil$10.70$1.24$0.9295.9722.362,512456.02
Cape TownSouth Africa$8.79$1.14$1.04101.5726.352,367295.90
Luang PrabangLaos$15.12$1.00$1.9795.1861.03258154.89
New YorkUSA$34.50$3.10$2.7595.7150.585,726203.62
AucklandNew Zealand$22.89$3.74$2.4378.6450.681,642202.76
New OrleansUSA$29.20$3.44$1.62101.8331.601,48852.64

Best cities for backpackers to visit within Australia

As an Australian website, we were particularly interested to see what some of the best local destinations for backpackers were.

We found that the best local city for backpackers is Sydney. We gave the New South Wales capital a score of 4.31/10, which placed it 26th in our index overall. Sydney has around 102.40 hours of sunshine per month, and more than 2,400 tourist attractions to keep travellers busy. Despite being filled with things to do and having the best safety score of Australian cities, Sydney returned the most expensive Australian prices for food, beer and transportation, meaning it may not be the preferred location for those wanting to cut on costs.

Melbourne got a score of 3.31/10 on our index, placing it 32th overall. Despite there being nearly 2,000 tourist attractions in the city, it has the least amount of sunshine of the local cities we studied. Australia had the worst beer prices of all the countries in the index, however Melbourne is the cheapest within the nation, with a 0.5L bottle costing around US$4.55.

Brisbane got a score of 3.10/10, and placed 35th on the overall index, tying with the Belgian city Ghent. Brisbane has the cheapest grocery prices in the nation at US$20.51, but performed worse overall by having considerably less tourist attractions and hostels available.

Below are the best performers in each individual category across the index.

Making sure your travel insurance is suitable for your trip

Compare the Market’s General Manager of General Insurance, Adrian Taylor, said backpackers should always make sure their items were stored away safely while travelling.

“It’s always important to keep your belongings safe, so you’re not at risk of having a claim denied if the worst were to occur,” Mr Taylor explains.

“For example, if you have items go missing in your hostel and it’s found that they were not securely locked away, your insurer may refuse to pay out your claim.

“A great way to protect yourself and avoid this happening is by keeping your luggage items locked in a safe location, such as a safe or locker.”

Mr Taylor also explained how medical-only cover could be useful for those wanting to travel on a budget.

“Sometimes referred to as basic cover, medical-only cover is a policy designed almost exclusively for medical assistance overseas,” he said.

“This type of cover could help you cover the cost of hospital expenses if you need to be admitted for an injury or illness, or in severe cases, cover the costs of travelling back home if there has been a medical emergency.

“It’s important to note, however, that not all insurers offer this type of policy, so it’s important to check your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for an in-depth view of what you are covered for.”


This dataset ranks 48 cities around the world using seven different metrics. Once the data for the metrics was collected, the datasets were normalised to provide each city with a score between zero and 10. The normalised values were then averaged, to give each city a final index score out of 10. The cities were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on their total scores, where a higher score reflected a better position on the index. Cities where a certain data point was unable to be found were given an average score calculated from the other cities recorded.

The factors used are as follows:

  • Cost of food – the combined cost of 1L of Milk, Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g), Chicken Fillets (1kg), Apples (1kg), and Tomatoes (1kg).
  • Cost of beer – the price of a 0.5L of domestic beer.
  • Transportation – cost of a one-way public transportation ticket.
  • Sunshine hours – average number of hours of sunshine per month.
  • Safety index – a city’s safety score.
  • Things to do – number of attractions in a specific city.
  • Hostels – number of available hostels between 19/09/23 and 22/09/23 for one guest.

The factors were indexed as follows:

  • Cost of food – lower values get a higher score.
  • Cost of 0.5L of domestic beer – lower values get a higher score.
  • Transportation – lower values get a higher score.
  • Safety index – higher values get a higher score.
  • Sunshine hours – higher values get a higher score.
  • Things to do – higher values get a higher score.
  • Hostels – higher values get a higher score.

All data was collected between 08/06/2023 and 12/06/2023.