If you have been traveling, then you’d probably heard the terms Backpacker and Flashpacker. With all honesty, these two concepts used to be so foreign to me. For me when you travel, you’re a traveler, that’s it. Turns out there’s so much more than being a traveler and I’m so happy I am now exposed to it.

backpacking in cambodia
Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Okay, so backpacking, yes I’ve been hearing about it but I’ve never really fully grasp what it is and well, I wasn’t really that interested. I was working full time in an industry with a shifting schedule and traveling was just not in my priorities list back then. Should I be granted a vacation leave, I’d only fly for a week to Singapore to visit my brother or go to Boracay.

budget constrained
Shopping in one of the alley shops in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Then here comes another term, Flackpacking. Dailymail explains that Flashpacking is not just a travel trend, but more significantly it’s a travel lifestyle. It takes all the bits you loved about backpacking in your twenties and gives it a grown-up, luxurious edge. Those that assimilate themselves with this trend are the modern day backpackers with new priorities. In short, a flashpacker is not necessary budget constraint and most of the time doesn’t really have a solid travel route, more like a plan as you go type of person.

Happy hour in a rooftop bar in Vietnam

When I met Astrid in Boracay, that’s the first time I heard about flashpacking and it stuck to me. So when I started traveling this year, I couldn’t escape this part of the conversation:

“What do you do?”
“I’m flashpacking around Asia”
“You mean backpacking?”
“No, flashpacking.”

And most of the time, they’ll be like, “Huh?” and I’ll be explaining what it means. There was even one time the person I was speaking to thought I just made up the word.

backpacking in luang prabang
Night Market in Luang Prabang, Laos


Backpacker vs Flashpacker

You’re a backpacker if you travel with a backpack, but that’s the same with a flashpacker too.

So what exactly is the difference?

Age and Budget:

The age range of a typical flashpacker is in the late 20s to early 30s and has a bit more money to spend compared to backpackers who are mostly in their early 20s. But based on my experiences and the people I met, there is no age limit in becoming a flashpacker or a backpacker.


A backpacker opts for a dorm room while a flashpacker prefers to have a nice comfortable bed in a single room.


Flashpackers rather go out to eat instead of eating cup noodles at the hostel. Backpackers will still eat outside but will stick within their budget.


A backpacker essentially has a camera and cellphone while a flashpacker carries more electronics like laptop, kindle, cellphone and digital camera, underwater camera, gopro.


A flashpacker would opt for the easiest and fastest way aka flying to one destination to another. Taking a 14 hour bus ride is just not an option. While a backpacker wouldn’t mind the long bus or train rides, heck he/she would even hitchhike.

Duration of Travels:

A backpacker travels last months, while a flashpacker’s is usually less than a month because of a job that he/she needs to go back to. Backpackers pick up jobs along the way to help them with their expenses while traveling.

backpacking vs flashpacking
Bus stop in Danang going to Hoi An

Looking at how I’ve been traveling:

  • Mid 20s
  • Always in a single room, never tried a bed in a dorm room
  • Money spent on food, souvenirs and activities
  • Gadgets, yes
  • Never been on a long bus or train ride
  • But I’ve been traveling for months already

So am I really a flashpacker or a backpacker? The thing is, I realised that travelers nowadays have more money – even the young backpacker fresh out of high school. Now that we live in the age of technology where everything needs to be on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter only a few would be travelling without a camera or a cellphone. Maybe we are actually all flashpackers who can also choose affordable accommodation or take the bus instead of the plane.

I am not going to lie, I want to keep on traveling but I have to think like a backpacker. I mean properly map out my destination and plan a budget, my carefree attitude is not just cut for this. I love flashpacking but I feel like if I want to see more I have to be very practical.

How about you, are you a backpacker or a flashpacker? Or maybe both?