The Backpacking Tourism Boom in Singapore

“Don’t be a tourist. Plan less. Go slowly. I travelled in the most inefficient way possible and it took me exactly where I wanted to go.”These were the exact words of Andrew Evan who undertook an overland adventure from Washington D.C. to Antarctic. As a seasoned National Geographic travel writer, Andrew has authored various guidebooks on several cities and travelling. This mantra is one that backpackers today swear by.Backpacking in its traditional form, is a low-cost and independent style of travel. The term itself is self-explanatory – travelling with a backpack. Backpackers often travel without packaged tours and rely on travel information from guidebooks and websites. More people today are travelling, and backpacking as a style of travel will not be unfamiliar to most.In “The Backpacking Phenomenon”, Philip Pearce suggests that backpacking is a state of mind. It is an approach to travelling, rather than a categorisation based on age or dollars spent.Backpackers are distinguished with the following traits:A preference for budget accommodation.
A social emphasis on meeting locals and other travellers.
An independently organised and flexible travel schedule.
Longer rather than brief holidays.The popularity of backpacking has risen in recent years. It is most evident in the increase in number of backpacker accommodation in Singapore. There are 29 registered backpackers’ hostels in Singapore according to Hotels Licensing Board. Majority of them are located in the various ethnic compounds such as Chinatown, Kampong Glam, and Little India.A record high of close to 13.2 million international visitors arrived in Singapore in 2011. More tourists are visiting Singapore, either as a stopover en-route to another country or as a destination itself. The Economy tier of the Hotel Industry (S$109.00 and below) registered an Average Occupancy Rate of 85% for 2011. Budget accommodation and backpackers’ hostels have become increasingly popular with tourists.There are many indicators to the rising popularity of backpackers’ hotels in Singapore, with the obvious one being affordability. Singapore is the most expensive Asian country for hotel rooms, with a night averaging S$239.00 in 2011. On the other hand, a night in a backpackers’ hostel cost between S$20.00 to S$50.00 for a dormitory bed and between S$60.00 to S$100.00 for a private double room.Footprints Hostel, located in Little India, offers a bed in the 10-bed dormitory for S$22.00 a night. Keeping prices affordable has been their competitive edge, as they remain as one of the largest and more popular backpackers’ hostels.Travellers are drawn to backpackers’ hostels for the affordable accommodation.”We keep our room rates competitive. We also value-add to their stay by offering discounted attraction tickets and deals at some restaurants and cafes near us,” says Christina Phang. As the General Manager of Footprints Hostel, Christina regularly sources out deals and discounts for her guests.Prices are however not the only determining factor with the emergence of new boutique hostels clearly catered for the backpacker with the budget. Luxury and comfort is the rule for these boutique hostels as they bring services and amenities normally found in hotels. Such enhanced features can include amenities like a spacious lobby lounge, individual reading lights, bedside screens, and iPhone docks.Mervin Kwa, 28, Operations Manager at Bunc Hostel explains that the flashpacker is a modified term for the backpacker who has a slightly more disposable budget in terms of accommodation, and yet wants to experience the interactivity and atmosphere of a hostel.”We (Bunc Hostel) offer top hotel quality standard bedding and amenities at backpackers’ rates. The dormitory beds are designed as individual capsules to provide guests with more privacy as compared to a open-style dormitory,” Mervin explains. “We also organize events frequently to encourage mingling among our guests”Bunc Hostel’s custom-designed capsule bed promises comfort and privacy.Most backpackers’ hostels are also located strategically close to the city centre or are within reach of a few MRT stations. This brings forth convenience through affordability and ease of travel within Singapore. Being located in the various ethic compounds allows backpackers to experience the local flavour with the unique ethnic cultures.For example, Little India, which is a strong Indian cultural enclave, is undisputedly the unofficial backpacker district in Singapore. It has the highest concentration of backpackers’ hostels and it is not difficult to see why backpackers are drawn to Little India.There is a steady growing relationship between the local businesses catered for the tourists and the upsurge of the tourism industry. The cafes, bars, convenience stores, Internet shops, and travel agencies have been given a boost by the influx of backpackers coming to the area. These businesses are also outlet providers of entertainment, information and recreation for them.Singaporeans are also not unfamiliar with the backpacking fervour. “For me, it (backpacking) means to travel cheaply and independently in a foreign country,” says Desmond Lui, a freelance photojournalist. Desmond is a seasoned traveller whose backpack destinations have included the exotic likes of Cambodia, India and Mongolia.Backpacking equates to an extended and more insightful learning holiday for some. “I enjoy the greater freedom that comes with independent backpacking as compared to travelling with conventional tour packages,” Desmond adds on. “I also find that by travelling for longer periods of time, spending more time in one location and visiting more places, I can get a better understanding and feel for the country or region I visit.”Desmond has travelled particularly extensively in India and China, spending three months and seven months respectively. An 18-hour jeep ride in India that took him across mountainous passes along some of the highest motor roads in the world remains as one of his fondest backpacking memories.It appears backpacking will remain as an upward trend with more backpackers travelling to Singapore and more Singaporeans backpacking overseas. So what are you waiting for? Buy a ticket, fetch your backpack and go globetrotting today.

Different Types Of Backpacks and Its Advantages

Choosing a backpack is always more challenging that selecting other kinds of travel bags. With a plethora of options laid in front, you must be confused whether to select a lightweight backpack or heavy duty, whether you want a weekend pack or day pack. However, before you lay your hands on a backpack, try to get fitted first, walk around with it for sometime and then make it your bag of choice. Notably, a backpack is always a top-pick for the frugal travellers owing to its durability and convenience.There is a diverse gamut of backpacks that you can choose from:1. Hiking Backpacks: Backpacks, especially those used for camping and hiking, often have rigid aluminium metal frame in their design. These are usually heavy duty backpacks which are characterised by high quality material and maximum comfort. A modish appearance with unusual hint of styling adds to the popularity of these backpacks for men and makes them a delight to own. Be it a hydration pack or expedition backpack, these flaunt broader straps and belts that add optimum comfort to your shoulders and hips while its roomy compartments accommodate a horde of travel accessories that you need. Punctuated with super cool design and super strong fabric material, these backpacks for men allow you to overcome a journey on a rough terrain, yet remain unfazed.2. School Backpacks: For value and versatility, you can take a sneak peek at the assortment of school backpack categories which are exclusively punctuated with dedicated compartments to keep your device protected and safe. You simply can’t go wrong on these classic backpacks for school that continue to rule the charts year on year. Offering a hands-free way to carry your school accessories and gears, these backpacks for school have enough storage capacity and are perfect for those who want to haul heavy loads without back aches. Available in an array of styles, these backpacks for school boast of an unmatched standard of stitching that redefines durability altogether. Trendy, spacious and useful, you can stuff in all your school stationary inside these stylish backpacks for school which keep your essentials handy and make a great buy.3. Canvas Backpacks: If you do not want to be pulled down to oversaturated style, revel in the classic, clean, uncomplicated and university-smart canvas backpack that simply withstands any era. Usually flaunting a leather flap coupled with strap-and-notch closure, a canvas backpack is both functional and fun. Often punctuated with good exterior storage option, open pockets and extra-strong canvas coating, a canvas backpack can be often tagged as quintessential backpack for the city dwellers. Sometimes, a canvas backpack is punctuated with dual pouches coupled with buckle closures that are spacious enough to store beverages and even a shirt. Often made with special water-repellent material and poly lining, the weight of a canvas backpack is evenly distributed with the padded shoulder straps for you to carry it with ease. Some boast of a flap in front which opens to reveal main pockets for carrying all your important documents and folders. Few of them feature special zippered compartments for keeping your iPad and laptop safe and secure from all damage. Whether you are heading for books during the summer classes or heading the highway for an adventurous road trip, a canvas backpack suits all occasions. Trek though the jungles with a canvas backpack that often have a draw-string closure to keep your items secure and safe. Whether you are a weekend traveller or a busy student, stay on top of the game with a stylish, versatile and easy canvas backpack that embraces the glamour and fun of urban life like no other.Moreover, for making your business trips easier and less strenuous, hyper-durable ballistic nylon materials are used for special backpacks for men. Punctuated with dedicated laptop and tablet compartments, these backpacks are exclusively made with tricot lined media pockets, Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish, water-proof zippers and DuPont Teflon fabric which prevent the backpack against oil spills, water and stains. Side mesh pockets and ergonomic strap construction fuels extended trip where you can pack and stash your essentials with ease. These backpacks for men are perfect for those who want to enjoy a smooth travelling experience whether on an outdoor adventure or for some serious business trip.

Five Great Hanoi Backpacker Bars

Hanoi, Vietnam’s charming and culturally steeped capital, pulls in the travelling masses with a host of attractions. Where best to unwind in the city after a heavy days sightseeing? Try these picks:Finnegan’s Irish PubThe emergence of the Irish pub in Southeast Asia is growing ever stronger with good examples of the ilk alive and well in Vietnam. Finnegan’s, located just off Hoan Kiem lake, is one. A top spot for grabbing a Guinness and an Irish stew, Finnegan’s also plays host to local rock and roll covers bands in the early evenings. With a great atmosphere for recounting all those backpacker tales and with good value food and drink to boot, Finnegan’s is a great place to kick back and relax.Le PubWith another popular outlet back in Ho Chi Minh City, the Le Pub brand is well known across Vietnam. Its Hanoi venue, located in the heart of the Old Quarter, has the same laid back vibe of its other counterpart with the décor to match. Finding most of its fame with its beer however, Le Pub is widely renowned as serving the coldest in town. The perfect place to cool off and join in the conversation.Mao’s Red LoungeThe party at Mao’s always runs late into the night. A stalwart of the Old Quarter bar scene, this two-floored Bohemian hangout serves up super-cheap Halida beer and even cheaper mixers. Just a short walk North of Hoan Kiem lake on the narrow bar street just past the bia hoi corner, Mao’s is right at the heart of this vibrant city’s backpacker action.Hanoi Rock CityThe newly opened Hanoi Rock City, is the capital’s premier live music and arts venue responsible for bringing bands, DJs, performers and artists to the city. A wood-fire makes a comfortable addition in Hanoi’s chilly winter months, but if it’s the live experience you’re after head to the stage in the Red Room. A real gem of a bar in a city that’s music scene is still very much in development.SBB (Special Belgian Beer)Only for the serious beer drinkers, SBB, a block north of the looming VinCom Tower, provides a little piece of Europe with its beer-hall style décor. A little more expensive than other backpacker haunts, SBB is totally worth it. With its huge range of drinks, rowdy atmosphere and friendly staff, travellers will leave with fond memories, providing they don’t get too drunk.