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The curious case of "begpacking"
Posted on 10/07/2019

CultureIndonesia

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A strange travel trend has been going on for years, and it's called begpacking. From Malaysia to Thailand, white Western tourists nicknamed "begpackers" (a blend of backpackers and beggars) solicit locals and other tourists for food or money in order to fund their holidays.

It's becoming more and more common for Westerners to follow their lifelong dreams and try to travel the world. But this takes careful planning, time, and of course money. Some end up running out of funds when they're halfway around the world and start begging, selling non-precious personal items, postcards or handmade trinkets on the street. The phenomenon typically occurs in Southeast Asia, and occasionally South America, in countries where the average income is considerably lower than what tourists would earn at home.

Begpackers often face backlash

Begpackers often face backlash
© twinsterphoto / 123RF

Begpackers have not only sparked outrage among residents in their home countries, but also among locals who can't help but notice more and more tourists engaging in these practices. Many have complained about this controversial trend on social media, posting pictures of foreign tourists begging for strangers to fund their travel, and highlighting the unethical and inappropriate nature of the fad. A number of social media users have also pointed out the fact that begpackers often take advantage of their white Western privilege in poorer countries to garner sympathy from both locals and other tourists.

The begpacking case has even concerned some politicians in Southeast Asian countries that are most affected by the trend. A few months after considering a tourist tax, officials in Bali's immigration department are now considering reporting all begpackers to their respective countries' embassies. This measure would aim to create a divide between genuine tourists looking to put money into Bali's coffers and those who might drain an economy already overburdened by poverty and income inequality.

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