在香港街上的乞討遊客 – begpacking in Hong Kong

We are back from our trip to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. We had an amazing time, resulting in plenty of content and even more beautiful memories we would like to share with you.

However, one phenomenon caught our attention. We read about it before, but never really experienced it or seen it. Until our latest trip – it’s called BEGPACKING. 

What is begpacking?

It’s basically situation when foreign tourist, mostly Western (to be fair none of the people ‘caught in act’ were ABCs, Black or Latino) traveling around the world, often to poorer areas and begging to fund their travels.
Some aren’t begging, per se – some are playing musical instruments and hoping to get paid, some are selling artwork or photos.

How do we feel about begpackers?

I know not every ‘White tourist’ is by definition a rich second generation spoiled brat who just decided to change their life and give up 9-5 job to ‘discover him-/herself’, however one of the conditions of their staying in any foreign country is to be able to support their own staying and living.
If something unfortunate happened – life a bitch, things happen all the time – there are embassies to help out.

I will sound very bitter, and some of you may say I’m jealous, but how can I work like a dog spending over 50 hours per week in the office, and then spend my hard earned money on someone who didn’t plan their trip, went through 15 countries and now doesn’t have enough money. Is that my problem you’re not a good planner?
I would rather spend that money to buy something for an old lady pushing a cart with cardboard than fund your spiritual journey.

Not to mention that one guy who loves to begpack in Wan Chai that beards trimming costs probably more than my whole haircut. Hongkongers, I bet you know which one I mean. 

Even worse: there are some PROUD begpackers. Proud of how they traveled so far with nearly no money. I know they are people travelling from country to country, helping out locals in exchange for food and money but at least they do something to help out.

I see so many young, healthy people just waiting there for money to be given to them. That only adds more oil to the stereotype of ‘bohemian, privileged white tourist’. It makes other tourists looks bad, it makes other backpackers/budget-travelers look bad, even local expats seem to be upset by the behavior of begpackers.

How Hong Kong/Taiwanese/Singaporean/other Asian people feel about begpackers (taken from forums and articles)?

  • Why would they want to risk their life when they don’t enough money to travel? Make them parents so worried. If their parents agree to do something like that, if anything happens they will be responsible for that.
  • I have better places to spend my money at.
  • Those people take away money from those who may really need it – you will give your change for someone who travels without money, and later you notice old poor lady and you have no money left to give her because you already spent it on some tourist.
  • Aren’t they breaking the law? To perform and earn from your performance you need working visa.
  • They only do it in Asia, why won’t they do it in their country? What gives them the right to do it here?
  • They are meaninglessly blocking the streets. Don’t they see how crowded it is?
  • If you don’t know what to do in your life you either go to Asia teach English, start a blog (ooo, that hurts but can’t deny this is how this blog started) or go begpack.
  • Begging for money to fund your gap year is no different to having mummy and daddy pay for it.  You’re getting money for nothing.
  • Don’t see ‘shamelessness’ as a new fashion trend.
  • I never thought about being a parasite when I did the ‘begpacking’ bit around Asia 50 years ago. It took me to Japan in 1964
  • I find a greater sense of pride and achievement to know that I paid my own way
  • Did you notice their speakers and music instruments they use to get funds are always the high-end models?
  • Some backpackers taking advantage of the services offered for the homeless, like food, laundry and showers – that’s sad.
  • The Thais do not respect westerners who behave in a degraded manner – even less than they do with Thais who do the same thing. Thais have no respect whatsoever for westerners who beg or busk.

I could find only one article that is actually ‘positive’ on topic of begpacking, so I personally hope this trend soon ends. I just can’t find any way to justify this behavior, in my mind or for the purpose of this post.

What is your opinion on begpacking? Would you give your spare change to them? Would love to read your opinions and maybe engage in some discussion! 

32 thoughts on “在香港街上的乞討遊客 – begpacking in Hong Kong

  1. in the past westerners think asian countries are poor, and most people in s.e.asian countries are poor. in the past it is true, but now things have changed. asian countries have become richer. and we here in the west have read so much about how rich china is getting, and seen how many of the rich business men have come over to europe and buy up western businesses..( lee kum kee have bought the walkie talkie building for £1.3billion. so rich wah!!or buy expensive houses here in london, how so many come to europe and show off their wealth, buying all the designer goods. for eg, buying 10 ,20 designer bags and shoes at one go… so it makes everyone think there are lots of rich chinese and by extension tons of rich people in asia now….and that makes them change their way of thinking of asia as being only poor. so it is logical to go begging in asia if u think they are now rich people. these backpackers can try begging , but if no one gives them money they will soon give it up. but if u consider that there are a lot of rich people in asia now… it is the westerners that are the poor ones now. so that now u can see many homeless beggars in the streets of western cities.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s definitely true that homelessness is a rising problem in the UK – unsurprising with high house prices. Often linked to mental health – whether cause, effect or something of both – who knows. And of course the US, the richest country in the world, has a high level of poverty


  2. Lina, unfortunately, this trend is becoming popular in the last few years – whether this is begging on the street or putting on a Go Fund Me page claiming that they have lost all their money or passport so they can’t return home.But it turns out only to be a scam so they get money to continue their travel. To me, it is disgusting for them to take advantages of other people’s charity to fund their trips. I never understand why can’t they work hard like other people would and save up to travel?? I don’t want to sound militant about it, but frankly these people give backpackers bad names. I would rather see these people being deported on their expenses and have entry bans impose on them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh how I hate such people. Saw it few times even in Mainland China…hello are they totally stupid to do that in China? Within no time they are in prison for at least few days before being “deported”.
    Anyhow I really do wonder what is wrong with such people begging others to fund their holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you and don’t support this at all. I suppose for those who entertain they feel like they are performing and in a way ‘working’ for cash in hand…then again, some countries have rules about this. Nothing against those who do work and help out for a wage. But to rely on people’s goodwill just for nothing to fund your personal gain…I will always think twice and walk away.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The first time I saw this was actually, of all places, in Tuen Mun. There was one that frequented the area by the Yan Oi Market, Tsing Shan square, where we used to live. It was really disgusting seeing him beg for money with his guitar and pictures, while some emaciated homeless man picked food out of the trash rather than beg. It made me really angry to see him, and it makes me very sad to see that this is becoming more and more popular. =(


  6. I am an obsessive planner so there’s no way I would travel if I didn’t have the money for it. I think I saw one of these people in Shanghai once. Wouldn’t support them either… unless I knew for sure that they really had some mishap and need help to go back home. But to fund their dream of going around the world? Sorry mate, work for it, like everybody else.

    BTW “begpacking” is a great word haha.


  7. If they can’t afford the trip, stay home. I suppose they think it’s brave, that they’re opening themselves up to new experiences. But I can’t see choosing to make yourself a burden on other people. It’s selfish. Get a job. Contribute.


  8. I love to travel without a plan myself and see where things take me. BUT I would never travel without at least enough money to go home. Beg-packing seems like exactly what an entitled adult brat would do. While I love donating to charities and actual people in need, I’d have no problem walking by these free loaders.


  9. This has been on Coconuts and talked about a lot but in 5 years in Hong Kong, I’ve never seen it. Maybe I’m not going to where they hang out? I avoid most touristy places if possible. But I tend to think it’s a bit more overblown than it is. Of course, I could be wrong and just not seeing them. But why get mad? Just don’t give. Yes, it’s annoying and entitled of them to expect a handout, but regardless of race or location in my opinion, i.e. a Chinese guy doing this on the streets of NYC wouldn’t be any better really? (Although NYCers would probably appreciate the spirit and give him a little change.)


    1. Meghan — I’ve seen them in Central (on the elevated walkway between IFC and the Central Piers, on Theatre Lane, etc.), Wan Chai (on the overhead bridge near Immigration Tower), Tin Hau (near the MTR exits), Fortress Hill (ditto), North Point (ditto), etc. Haven’t seen them in recent months though. Maybe it’s too hot for them to travel to Hong Kong at the moment (and wet back in June or July)?

      Lina — great blog post, and blog in general! Also, I’ve seen a Japanese man (or man who identified himself as such) begpacking but the vast majority are indeed Caucasians…


  10. I’ve heard of this but didn’t realize it was such a growing trend. I can’t say I don’t believe it though. Comedians make jokes about millennials doing this very sort of thing.

    I have gone on backpacking trips where I exchanged work on a farm for cash that I used on my backpacking travels, but it wasn’t overseas and there was no begging involved. Honest work exchanged for earned pay.

    Anyways, I’m done rambling. Love the post! Keep it up! Love & Light to you and yours.


  11. I noticed some begpacking in Mongkok when I went there just to buy some pet food. And I have seen bits of begpacking elsewhere in Hong Kong.
    I think what you are saying makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of issues here.
    I am glad you wrote something about this topic and sometimes I wish there could be more discussion about it.
    Different cultures in different spots of the world have very different attiudes towards begpacking and busking. I would be happy to give a begpacker in Hong Kong $20 – $30, which would not affect me. I waste far more money than that taking taxis in Hong Kong anyway.


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