11 Types of People You'll Meet Backpacking in Thailand

Alex Mellon / © Culture Trip
Alex Mellon / © Culture Trip
Photo of Kyle Hulme
8 June 2018

With Bangkok being the most visited city in the world, any trip to the Land of Smiles is bound to result in you meeting more than a few peculiar characters along the way. Yet the more time you spend here, the more you realise that people can be classified into certain groups. Here they are – 11 types of people you’ll meet whilst backpacking in Thailand.

The Spiritualists

Whilst some may spend weeks planning every last detail of their trip down to a tee, the spiritualists simply amble their way through it, making sure to check into a yoga retreat here, or a wellness camp there. Impossibly laid-back, usually vegan and with a strange, alluring glow despite not showering for a while, spiritualists can be found wandering around the local temples, tending to their chakras or doing yoga on the beach as the sun comes up.

Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

The Party Animals

Why wander round temples when you could be necking buckets? That’s the usual train of thought form the party animals, and fair play to them – they haven’t come all this way and spent all this money just to wander round some dusty old ruins. Nope, it’s strictly Khao San Road, Pattaya, Pattong and Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party for these lads, and more Chang than you thought was possible. Harmless enough, friendly, and great fun on bar crawls – just don’t expect them to show up for early morning plans you made over a bucket together the night before.

Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

The Eternal Optimists

What will it take to ruin your trip? A lost phone? A lost passport? A bout of food poisoning? The eternal optimists take it all in stride. What would leave us mere mortals down in the dumps simply spurs these kinds of people on, as they search for great high points on their trip to combat the lows. Infectiously exciting and optimistic, they’re great to be around, and not least because they’re sucking all of the bad luck away from you.

Social Media Socialites

If a person goes on holiday and doesn’t constantly update their Instagram feed, did they really go at all? That’s the mantra these people follow, and follow it they do. Mastering the art of subterfuge to make it look as though Maya Bay wasn’t crawling with people and knowing exactly what hashtags and filters to use to make it lit, it sometimes feels like they’re worried more about their own brand than having a good time. That said, there’s no right or wrong way to travel, and befriending them does have its benefits; they’ll take the perfect “candid” snap of you every time – just know you’ll have to repay the favour 10 times over.

Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

Digital Nomads

Life seems great for the nomads. They’re living in paradise, doing a job they’re skilled at and getting the opportunity to travel without worrying about getting back to the office. But the more time you spend with them, the more you start to see through the cracks; you’ve been using the Wi-Fi here for six hours and only ordered one coffee? You need to do a visa run but your invoice is late? The border agency are getting suspicious of the numerous entry stamps? Being a digital nomad in Thailand can be great, but it’s not always a bed of roses. Usually good for local tips, just don’t mention Bitcoin or you’ll be dragged into a long conversation you don’t care for or understand.

The Much-Delayed Gap Year Travellers

Last kid’s gone to college? Goodbye middle-management job in Nowhereville, hello Thailand! These people have embraced the mai pen rai spirit more than you thought was possible. Despite considerably bringing the average age of the hostel up, they’re having the time of their lives. They’ve even got bamboo tattoos – just wait until the folks at the country club get a load of that! From counting cheques to counter-culture, they might be late to the traveling party but they fling themselves in at the deep end and just swim on through. Always good for sage advice, secretly we all hope to be like them one day – and not just because of their low mortgages and financial stability.

Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

The Super-Organised Ones

With their Excel spreadsheets full of ferry times, hotel bookings and places they want to see, these people look like they have travelling down to a tee. However, it never really goes to plan. They never expected to bump into an old friend, so their one designated beer turned into several and now there’s no way they’re making that ferry tomorrow, which means they can’t check into their hotel, and one by one their plans start to fall like dominoes. Perfect travel companions when it comes to having an idea about what to see and do, but be aware you’ll have to pick them up when their plans inevitably collapse.

The Cliche Backpacker

Elephant pants? Check. Dreadlocks or top knot hairstyle? Check. A slogan vest warn semi-ironically? Check. A culturally-appropriated sak yant tattoo? Double check. That’s right; it’s the cliche backpacker! Clutching their dog-eared copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Thailand, they’ll clumsily mispronounce Thai words and will “wai” everybody they meet but hey, at least they’re trying. Nobody wants to be this person, but the more people fight against it, the more they tend to gravitate towards this stereotype. Usually spotted in groups, talking loudly in a hostel or swapping stories in a reggae bar, they’re usually good fun to be around and make good travel buddies.

Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

The Travel Aficionados

Effortlessly cool, composed and attractive, these people have seen and done it all. Usually a little older and armed with a well-weathered Macbook, the travel aficionados have been to the furthest-flung corners of the world and back – twice. They’re fountains of knowledge, with awesome stories and experiences that will leave you with a serious bout of wanderlust and inspire you to ditch the well-trodden paths in favour of the lesser known gems. You’ll love being around them, but they’ll leave without warning, so try not to get too attached.

The Musical Ones

Few sites in the world are quite as polarising as someone checking into the hostel armed with a guitar, or spotting a guitar on the wall just waiting to be played by someone. On the one hand, it’s decent entertainment and a bit of an icebreaker; on the other, it’s having to pretend to enjoy those Spanish lads playing Wonderwall again and again (they just never can get that Mancunian accent right). That said, beach sing-a-longs are often the soundtrack to many people’s travels in Thailand, and are moments you’re bound to remember.

Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

The Locals

Whether it’s the Thai nationals enjoying a night in the bar next to you, or the English teachers who’ve become local experts, encounters with the locals in Thailand are usually overwhelmingly positive. Sure, you might get a surly taxi driver who wants to overcharge you, or a retiree from England who’ll complain non-stop about Thailand or their new wife, but they’re small prices to pay for traveling through paradise. The Thais are a warm, friendly people who’ll do their utmost to turn your trip from good to great, just don’t be offended if they decline your invitation for a drink – after all, they need to work the next day.