It’s a hot take of a topic: drugs and travel. The War on Drugs continues to rage strong in many places, while in others its petered off to a soft scrap in the schoolyard. Meanwhile, the whole time politicians have been squabbling and pointing fingers, the recreational drug tourism industry has BOOMED.
If you’re going backpacking, then you’re going to encounter drugs on the road. You don’t have to take them, but they’ll be there!
Asia, the Americas, raves in Europe, and nose-beers in Oz; drugs ARE a worldwide phenomenon. You’ll be offered them, you may be sold them, and instead of clambering on a high horse or shutting my mouth to avoid rocking the boat, I’d rather just do the adult thing…
Educate you from the not-insignificant wealth of my own experiences.
This is your ULTIMATE Drug Tourism Guide – newbie and veteran-friendly alike. And it is ultimate: you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single other article on the internet this comprehensive and, crucially, honest.
We’ll be covering a wide range of topics here – how to find and buy drugs on the road, destinations where you can expect them, and how to take them safely.
Because that’s the real topic here: drug safety. Because you are going to encounter them in your travels, and you can engage with them wisely.
And ultimately, preaching abstinence is nothing short of moronic.
A Disclaimer on Recreational Drug Use on the Road
The Broke Backpacker is a site by backpackers for backpackers. If this topic rustles your jimmies, it’s not for you.
Backpacking is a tool to live a life, far from home, of experimentation and gleeful abandonment. Through it, we learn about ourselves, our passions, strengths, and weaknesses; making mistakes is part of that journey.
In a rather succinct parallel, drugs can also be used as a tool and a journey. You experiment, you learn about how to wield the tool, and, when done right, you learn powerful lessons about yourself, others, and the world at large. The difference is that making a mistake with drugs on the road can fuck a whole lot more up than just your trip (pun legitimately not intended).
Backpackers have always experimented with drugs; it’s just part of the scene. Drugs can be fun. Sometimes, they’re goddamn titty-spanking-excellent fun! And that’s why it’s easy to lose yourself in them and lose sight of what they DO offer.
This guide serves to educate people – from the perspective of an admitted veteran on the how to do it safely. But when it comes to crunch time, you do you.
You’re responsible for you, your safety on the road, and your choices.
I can stand here and say drugs are fun and can be useful tools (because that has been my personal experience) however, neither I nor The Broke Backpacker would EVER condone the reckless and irresponsible consumption of them. Above all else, be safe and be smart.
Drugs are a communal thing; when we partake, we’re responsible for the safety of those around us as well as the safety of ourselves. And those two things are also inexorably linked.
DO NOT go past your limits. Be extremely wary even testing your limits with recreational drug usage. It stops being fun for everyone once someone in the group has gone down a bad road.
Take the wisdom in this guide and apply it on all your most hedonistic journeys but remember that your experience with drugs while travelling or whenever else will be your own. Drugs are complicated and everyone’s response to them is unique.
Remember that there is zero shame in taking a smaller dose than someone else. There is also zero shame in just saying no.
And if anyone ever peer pressures you into doing something you’re not comfortable with, kick them in the genitals and tell them The Broke Backpacker says hi. That’s something we do condone!
Do You Want to Travel FOREVER??
Pop your email in below to get a FREE copy of ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day!’.
Drug Tourism: What’s the Score?
The score is that drugs are everywhere. From the undisputed drug capitals of the world to the underground party scenes of Japan and Dubai, seek and ye shall always find.
Should you always seek? Probably not! At least, not if you enjoy the feeling of sunlight on your face and keeping all ten of your fingers.
But for those travelling by way of drug tourism, or simply the peeps looking for a bit of spice sprinkled on their nights of bass-induced debauchery, some destinations are simply better (and safer) than others.
Top Drug Tourism Destinations From Around the World
Honestly, this list could be pretty exhaustive, so I’m just gonna stick to the heavy hitters:
- Amsterdam – Duh. Amsterdam is the undisputed drug capital of the world! Maybe it’s a touch overrated, but that’s just the price you pay for being top dog!
Soft drugs (weed, hashish, and mushrooms) are legal/tolerated, and anything that‘s not is still extremely available. Honestly, given how accepting the drug culture is in Amsterdam, if you’re looking to experiment with drug tourism and recreational usage, it might be the perfect backpacking destination for a newbie.
- Canada and some US States – For aficionados of the doobie-life, look no further than Canada and some areas in the USA (looking at you, Colorado). The ever-increasing legality of the plant that should never have been illegal to begin with is becoming a very lucrative industry for the powers that tax it. (Who’da thunk?)
- Goa – Yes, the Goa of old may be dead and buried and in its place we have an overtouristed mess of cranky locals and Ruskis fleeing the Motherland, but some things never change… The drugs continue to flow like wine in Goa.
Anything you want, you can find in India, and every drug you want, you’ll find in Goa. The best tab of acid I’ve ever eaten was bequeathed to me by a wizened psy-wizard boogieing with a trinket-adorned staff. Twelve hours later, I was still tripping and somehow cooking breakfast for all my mates.
- Peru – Many a prospective explorer of the cosmic realms have travelled to South America (and particularly Peru) seeking the ways of the shamanic psychedelics. Mixing spirituality and drugs can get a bit pseudo-bullshit at times, however, there is great wisdom in hallucinogenics. Most people don’t come back out of the rabbit hole the exact same that they went in.
- Colombia – Cocaine and unreasonably attractive women… Look, it’s not my vibe, but some of the best cocaine in the world is found in Colombia! The coke is cheap, abundant, and incredibly pure.
10 Common Types of Recreational Drugs You’ll Encounter When Travelling
No two drugs are created equal. In this humble opinion’s author, there are good drugs and there are dirty drugs.
Some people disagree with that, and those people usually quite like their dirty drugs. That’s ok.
Drugs are fun, and as long as you’re doing it respectfully and not hurting anyone else, then it’s your body and your rules.
But as you venture into the world of recreational usage, remember that drugs and travel are very parallel concepts. Wherever you travel, the rules change, the culture changes, and the effects a place has on you changes. The same is true of drugs.
Drugs need to be respected above all else because they can and DO mess people’s lives up. They’re a tool to access amazing experiences, connections, and inward self-learning. But each has its use.
You wouldn’t use a hammer to try and screw in a screw, and you would use a lawnmower to cut your hair.
Know your drugs.
Merciful Mary Jane! If there’s one drug you’ll encounter anywhere and everywhere in the world, it’s goddamn bloody beautiful weed. Bud, pot, herb, cannabis (if you’re lame), reefers (if you’re a 50s greaser), ganja is the gift from Shiva that keeps the world sane.
Even in places like Japan, Mauritius, South Korea and numerous countries around the Middle East where it’s ultra-illegal, I guarantee you it’s available.
Generally, it comes in plant-form (I’m gonna assume you know what weed looks like) Often, it can also come in the form of hash (a brown chocolatey substance). It can be edibles, it can be smoked, it can be vaped; bongs, spots, dabs, bottle tokes. Stoner Tips 101 really deserves its own post: stoner culture is BIG.
It’s also a blast! You’ll make many friends and travel buddies over a well-rolled doobie. And remember: sharing is caring!
For the uninitiated, it’s a pretty chill experience. It’s one of the safest illegal drugs you can experiment with. People can have bad experiences, but an actual pre-conditioning to marijuana-induced psychosis is incredibly rare.
Generally, the people who do freak out either overdid it (overdosing on weed is akin to a long-ass sleep-in) or just overreacted to normal physiological responses. Even as a tried-and-true stoner, a good strain of marijuana can still give me elevated heart rate and racing thoughts. The best thing to do in that situation is to just take yourself aside and pump some exercise; push-ups, crunches, squats, and some yoga. You’ll feel grade-A.
And make sure you drink some water after you smoke too! Nobody wants the Dry Mouth Horrors.
2. MDMA (and Ecstasy/Party Drugs)
DRINK WATER. That’s a drug tourism tip no matter what substance you’re indulging in, but in the case of party drugs, ALWAYS DRINK WATER (and pass the bottle around to your mates too).
We get high, happy, start dancing like a mothertrucker, and before you know, you’ve sweated yourself to severe dehydration.
Ecstasy, MDMA, and other party drugs all tend to have roughly the same effect: a massive surge of energy, motormouth (both in the chewing/teeth-grinding and in the verbal diarrhoea sense), and an overwhelming desire to dance and hug everything with a pulse within a 70-kilometre radius. Speed is a bit different; it has more of the energetic component without so much of the oxytocin (love drug). But it’s all roughly the same game.
Start small if you’re green. Pills and capsules can be split (just take the capsule apart and eat half of what’s in there – prepare for a dreadful flavour though). You can also snort crushed up pills and crystals, but I’d advise against snorting anything unless you have to.
Expect a racing heart, and if it’s all becoming a bit too much, just dance. Or go find another beaming human and together you can D&M your life’s woes away!
Oh, and people love to bang on party drugs! But the eternal cosmic joke is that most guys can’t! The Gods have a wicked sense of humour.
3. Mushrooms and Shroom Shakes
Psychedelics are a hard drug to dissect because they affect everyone differently. I, for example, don’t really get visuals. But plenty of people do.
Shrooms 101 is just knowing what you’re taking and how much of it, and a lot of that comes from experience:
- Anything less than 0.5 grams is more of a mini/micro-dose.
- Around the 1-1.5 gram range is a light trip.
- And 2-3 grams is a trip, though you can take it much further.
There are many types of mushrooms – my personal fave is Blue Meanies – and they do vary in nuanced effects, however, a trip is a trip. The method of ingestion can also vary.
While you can eat them (personally, I like the flavour, but some people prefer to smother them in peanut butter), you can also brew them in a tea or even have them as a mushroom shake. Shroom shakes are particularly popular in Southeast Asia – particularly, with backpackers in Thailand and Laos – where a lot of the party hubs will serve them up alongside your regular ol’ boring beers.
I don’t have a lot of tips for doing shrooms purely due to how much the personal experience can change. Overall:
- Eat beforehand, but not directly beforehand. Let your stomach settle and steer clear of sugary foods.
- Stomach pain is not entirely uncommon. If your gut hurts, don’t fixate on it – it’s normal. Chill out, fart a bunch, and try some Buscopan. I gave it to a chick with mushie gut once and it fixed her right up!
- PERSONALLY, I find shroomies to be the most emotional trips of all psychedelics; a lot of stuff can simmer to the surface. Having a creative outlet like art, a journal, or musical instruments can really help in that scenario.
My missus travels with all her clothes in ziplock bags: don’t be like my missus. UP YOUR PACKING GAME!
Packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise its volume too so you can pack MORE.
Or, y’know… you can stick to ziplock bags.View Our Fave Cubes Or Check Out the Sacks!
4. LSD (Acid)
Acid is my homeboy. There are a lot of reasons I rarely drink alcohol, but discovering LSD is one of the big ones.
It’s hard to describe what to expect from Lucy to someone taking acid for the first time. Usually, I don’t. Acid is a drug you need to have faith with, both in the drug and in yourself.
It will take you to where you need to go. It will show you what you need to be shown. Have faith in yourself to be strong enough to work through those things and, more than likely, you’ll have a grand fucking time.
If it does get too much, remember that it’s only a trip: trips are temporary. The drug will pass, and you’ll work through what happened when it’s over. Adopt the mentality that there are no bad trips – only trips that have something to teach.
One tip for LSD that is very pertinent is DO NOT EXPECT TO SLEEP. In most cases, six to eight hours is a fair average for the time you can expect to be tripping, and sleep won’t come until the end of that. While I usually advise against mixing drugs unless you’re experienced, having ONE Valium or Xanax to knock you out if the trip is becoming too much (or you just want to sleep) is worth considering.
That’s not to scare you though. Nine-times-outta-ten, all you’ll have is an amazing trip, some beautiful connections with other exquisite souls, and just a damn good boogie. There is something very cathartic and healing about an acid trip. Sometimes, splitting your head apart like a coconut and draining all the juices out is exactly what you needed.
Truthfully, I took a long break from acid and psychedelics at the onset of the pandemic and the subsequent death of one of my closest friends. When I finally returned to the other-realm nine months later (when I felt ready), it consolidated me, led me to healing, and recalibrated my brain.
Acid is why I believe there are good drugs and dirty drugs. And acid is a good drug.
One last tip for taking LSD: definitely monitor your dosage. Half a tab is a perfect introduction, or even less if you’re particularly apprehensive.
However, what a lot of people don’t know, is that you can dissolve liquid acid in water. Put a drop of acid in a bottle of water and drink it slowly. It’s a perfect way to monitor your dosage AND it’s a very clean method of ingestion.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, is ketamine – a pure party drug through and through. But damn bejeezus if it ain’t fun!
Someone once described ketamine to me as “being drunk on the moon”. That’s it in a nutshell.
It’s a mentally dissociative drug (remembering that it did start as a horse tranquillizer), it’s nearly always snorted, and it acts fast and wears off relatively quickly compared to other drugs. The onset, peak, and comedown can often all be over in an hour.
The fun part is what it does to your motor control. If not drunk on the moon, then it’s kinda like being one of those big inflatable balloon-humans they put outside of car dealerships flapping wildly in the wind. Spinning, walking, jumping, rolling down hills, and, especially, dancing, are all sooo much fun.
Given that it’s now used as a pharmaceutical painkiller (and is available, with the gift of the gab, over-the-counter in a lot of Asia), it’s also one of the safer illegal drugs to experiment with. BUT be very careful with your dosage; a K-Hole is not something to take lightly.
If you overdose, you’re going straight in the K-Hole, and while I quite enjoyed that experience, it’s not something I would want anyone unexperienced having. It’s incredibly dissociative. More or less an ego-death.
If you want to experiment with ketamine, just start with tiny little bumps – not even lines. And give your nose a good pick first. Clean out dem boogers, yo!
6. Shamanic Psychedelics (eg. Ayahuasca)
A lot of substances fall under this particular branch of drug tourism. Backpacker-favourites include:
- San Pedro
- And, of course, DMT
DMT stands as the notable exception to the others as being both more accessible to recreational users and a FUCKING POWERFUL but short-lived trip. Notice the bold-caps-combo? Consider yourself warned.
These shamanic psychedelics is also where recreational drug tourism gets interesting (more so). They present an intriguing collision of worlds.
A lot of high-fliers and entrepreneurial types who probably wouldn’t indulge in the odd nose-beer over a pint at the pub (because their body is a temple hurhurhur) will actually profess the power of psychedelics. And, in particular, shamanic and ceremonial psychedelics.
Similarly, travellers make pilgrimages to certain regions of the world – backpacking in Peru and Bolivia jumps to mind – to find a shaman and embark on that intergalactic journey into the outer realms.
Now, I’ve done plenty of DMT (in a moving car once too – that was fun!), however, I haven’t experienced any proper shamanic drugs nor in a ceremonial format. These days, you can find the experience most places on the planet provided that you’re willing to cough up the dough.
However, I do really believe this is one of those situations where “If you’re going to do something, do it right”. In my travels, I’ve met a lot of shamans, and over time, I came to realise that for the most part, there are no shamans. Only bullshit artists.
If they’re preaching you wisdom while selling you a shamanic experience for $300 a pop, then they’re not a sage. They’re a salesperson.
If, as the prospective psychonaut you are, you are looking for the soul-quaking experience and mind-altering teachings that only a shamanic psychedelic can provide, then be patient. Network, talk to other travellers, be sincere in your intentions, and in time, the experience will find you.
And then you won’t need a drug tourism guide. Because you’ll have a real shaman.
From here on in, we’re getting into ‘dirty drug’ territory. These are drugs I’ve dabbled in less (or not at all) and have had to dip into my network of wackjob kindred spirits to collect info on. And at the top of that list is none other than Snow White herself!
To get the ball rolling:
- It’s highly addictive.
- Expensive outside of South America – arguably the best place in the world to buy cocaine – and thus only super relevant to budget backpackers in South America or, to a lesser degree, travelling Central America.
- One of the few recreational drugs that can lead to genuinely violent behaviour in people.
- A lot of fun! (Apparently.)
Methods of ingestion include snorting and rubbing it on your gums. Both will ruin your health in the long term.
And again, I need to emphasise how addictive it is. Please, try to minimise the frequency of your usage if you’re going to partake. And be prepared for a helluva comedown when you kick the habit; I’m talking cold sweats, nightmares, nausea, paranoia/irrational thinking. The whole shebang.
As for staying safe on the drug? As usual, chug water, go slow, dose carefully, and don’t go starting any fights. Or even just being that coked-up dude at the party trapping all the chill stoners in conversations about biblical theories and anti-semitic conspiracies about the Jews in Hollywood.
We just wanna get high and eat cookies, mon.
Get your cash stashed with this awesome Pacsafe money belt. It will keep your valuables safe no matter where you go.
It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash or a passport copy. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to.)Hide Yo’ Money!
8. Pharmaceutical Drugs
I’ve dabbled but nothing extensive. Benzos on a 14-hour bus ride in Nepal that left me a doped-up Oscar the Grouch on the side of a dusty road in Nepal… Ritalin in Sri Lanka to experiment with working under the effects… (It had little of the desired effect which has led me to suspect I might actually have ADD.)
Obviously, ‘pharmaceutical drugs’ is a wide net that includes a lot of various drugs with varying effects and recommended safety guidelines. But they’re still worth the mention for just how damn accessible they are outside of the West. Generally, if you’re wondering how to find drugs in a new city, a trip to the nearest pharmacy (or hippy den) will sort you right out!
A lot of prescription medication in the West can be bought over-the-counter in South/Southeast Asia and elsewhere. What can’t be bought over-the-counter, generally can with a sizable ‘tip’.
These drugs include (amongst many others):
- Other benzodiazepines
- Heavy-duty painkillers (eg. high-potency Codeine)
Chances are you’ll get offered a pill or two by other backpackers; they’re so cheap and accessible that travellers tend to pass them around as much as joints. Being legal (sort of), travelling with pharmaceutical drugs is also a sinch – just pack them with your toiletries!
Personally, I try to abstain. Pharmaceuticals aren’t something that you want to get too stuck into in the long term; they do wreak havoc on the body. Plus, weed is au naturale.
Just know the effects of what you’re taking, and don’t overdo it. The upside to pharmaceuticals is that they’re pharmaceuticals! That means top-quality, totally pure, and NOT mixed with the chef’s ‘secret sauce’ (i.e. cut with rat poison and some crackhead’s pubes).
9. Opium and Heroin
Opium I’ve done; heroin… not in this lifetime and not in any others. There’s only one drug I consider dirtier, and regardless, the only needles I use are reserved for sewing my pants.
Since we’re getting into needles territory, here’s the golden safety tip that I would hope we don’t need to cover in 2021: DO NOT SHARE THEM.
Personally, I’ve never encountered heroin on the road. (I guess I hang out with the right people?)
I also feel the big H is well and truly leaving the scope of a drug tourism guide for backpackers. Just read Trainspotting and then see how keen you are.
Opium, on the other hand, kinda started the OG drug tourism trade! My experience with it is minimal, though you can smoke it or cook it and inhale the fumes.
The times I did try it, I felt… sleepy? And then when I woke up, another of the indulgent crew had graffitied the walls with scribbles saying “Opium makes me see around corners”. So… there might be something I’m missing with it.
Generally, it’s hard to acquire and rare. You probably won’t encounter it in any dangerous quantities nor have enough opportunity to take it to develop an addiction. With the right people, it’s a relatively safe experimentation.
Just, stay away from heroin, yeah? I know I said you do you, but there is some you that you shouldn’t do.
10. Crystal Meth
And on that note, we’ve landed at Walter White’s wheelhouse itself: crystal meth (or ‘ice’ as we call it Down Under). Here’s how I engage with meth…
Crystal meth, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t a drug: it’s a noxious poison chemically engineered to be as addictive and destructive as humanly possible.
My advice is simply to do the same, but I still feel the need to mention it here because of its accessibility, particularly in numerous backpacker enclaves throughout Southeast Asia. There are parts of the world where it’s extremely common and cheap. Due to its incredibly addictive nature (unrivalled by any other substance except, maybe, the most extreme of opiates) and the behaviour, it can elicit (violent, erratic, self-destructive, and even psychotic), the advice is simple: don’t touch the shit.
Now, I have friends who have dabbled in ice AND they’ve had good experiences. They’re also incredibly experienced with recreational drug usage and even they’ve admitted that it’s the mother of all slippery slopes.
I do believe that it’s possible to have a good experience on meth. However, I can’t in good conscience recommend its usage. The cons outweigh the pros like a supermassive black hole to a gentle fart in the wind.
Ice, however, CAN and IS sold as other drugs. It’s a classic scumbag trick with the bikie gangs in Oz: sell a curious kid a ‘joint’ that’s actually meth, and you’ve got a customer for life. Never ever buy a pre-rolled doobie from a dealer, and be warned that the true lowlifes of this planet do sell ice disguised as a drug.
If you do ultimately partake (or fall victim to the aforementioned scumbag scheme), then I can only give the advice passed to me from a more experienced friend:
- Don’t expect to sleep anytime soon.
- Remember the increased heart rate, palpitations, and sweating are all normal physiological reactions.
- Be with the right people.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Put some rad music on.
- Enjoy the ride.
There is a definite euphoria attached to the process – that’s why it’s so addictive. But truly consider the weight that comes with this drug.
We have a serious problem with it in Australia and New Zealand. Believe me when I say I’ve seen it destroy individuals and spread like a plague through communities and even entire towns. Meth isn’t a drug. It’s a disease.
Why stay in a naff hotel when you can stay in a cosy, stylish local house instead? And for half the money too!
Stay somewhere EPIC and save your hard-earned dollars — from houses to barns to castles and caves, there is an Airbnb for every occasion!Book an EPIC Stay
Drug Tourism Guide: Tips, Safety, and Buying
If this was a travel guide, then this’d be the section where I give you lots of nuanced tips on the destination. Travel costs, cultural idiosyncrasies, the on-the-ground experience, etcetera…
But instead, it’s a guide to recreational drug tourism! The Broke Backpacker: making mums proud one highly controversial post at a time.
On Buying: How to Find Drugs in a New Town
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for this. Generally, as a tourist in a new town (particularly in a country where tourists stick out like a sore thumb), a walk through town scoping out the surroundings nets me a few offers. However, I look like this:
If nobody is offering (although it’s rarely difficult to find something in the world’s notorious drug tourism destinations), then that means you have to ask. In these circumstances, there’s a hierarchy of who I go to first.
Where possible, always buy off other travellers – not locals. It may sound harsh, but I’ve made local mates who deal in some countries (eg. Sri Lanka) and even they had a ‘no selling to locals’ policy.
Undercover cops are always a possibility in all countries as is simply being ratted out. Hell, sometimes there are elaborate scams. You buy drugs off a local, local tells the cops, cops come to you for a bribe PLUS confiscates the drugs off of you, they return the drugs, the dealer and the cops split the pot, and the cycle repeats.
At the very least, asking other travellers first will get you info on where they bought drugs in town or at least the kinda prices and setup you’re looking at to buy them.
This is only really relevant if you’re staying in a hostel where everyone’s smoking up or a guesthouse where the owner just has ‘that vibe’. But IF that’s the case, go for broke! (Subtly). It’s really not that uncommon for the staff to be selling something low-key on the side or have a mate they can call.
If you’re not getting too hardcore and are just looking for some quick smoke, choosing to stay at the right place is one of the quickest ways to find weed on vacation. Shiva bless the hostel life!
Again, it might be due to my ‘perpetually high’ vibe, but sometimes when I sit down for lunch in a new town, I get a little offer of drugs on the side of my fries. Offering a conversation and ciggie to the owner/worker can grease the wheels too.
Of course, this means choosing the RIGHT place to eat. One time, I rolled into a little tourist town and saw a juice bar called Rastarant with a slackline out of the front. Two hours later, I left high as the moon with 10 grams of kush in my pocket.
I pretty much NEVER resort to this. I’d rather just not have drugs than take the risk of getting done, ripped off, or sold something that’s 70% shoe polish. However, if you’re desperate, generally a lot of tuk-tuk/taxi/transport drivers sell some on the side (or know a guy).
Hell, you’d probably be surprised just how many of your tuk-tuk drivers are always stoned regardless! Why do you think they always get lost?
Drugs and Travel – All My Best Tips
These are the more generalised tips; safety comes next:
- I have a rule of thumb for anywhere in the world: unless you cooked it yourself, you don’t know what’s in it.
That applies to both purity and potency. If the dealer is telling you they’re 300 microgram tabs or Manali hash, ignore them. It is what it is and you’ll find out when you eat it.
- Similarly, do remember that A LOT of drugs are tampered with. Ecstasy is cut with speed, crack, and cleaning chemicals. Hash can be mixed with shoe polish. Hell, even tobacco contains 40 billion other chemicals and poisons.
There’s no real answer to this problem. It’s just something you have to keep in mind when taking drugs, and it’s why you dose carefully until you know the drug is at least mostly what it says on the tin.
- And even weed isn’t safe! The type of weed everyone buys in Sri Lanka – KG or Kerala Gold (but yeah right, mate, it’s Kerala Gold) – is toxic for you in the long term. Finding cool locals who aren’t selling with ulterior motives but just like their substances is the best way to have an honest conversation about the drug scene in a new country.
- When it comes to travelling with drugs, that situation changes depending on where you are, how you’re travelling, and what the drugs are. If you’re taking this route, you either bury it deep in your backpack or leave it somewhere so easily accessible that you can simply drop it at a moment’s notice. Security money/travel belts can also be a nifty way to hide drugs on your person.
However, I generally err on the side of caution and just don’t travel with drugs; there will always be more drugs to buy. As for how to sneak drugs on a plane? Well, don’t be stupid, stupid!
- Lastly, accept that you’re probably getting ripped off when buying drugs on the road. Carry a set of scales if you’re that fussed.
I’ve seen the dealer side of these transactions on numerous occasions. It’s not even questioned. Ripping off tourists by underweighing them or having them overpay is about as standard as overcharging them on their taxi fare; that’s why you know how to haggle!
Recreational Drug Safety – Crucial Advice
I feel like I’ve already mentioned this numerous times, however, the biggest two tips once more:
- Stay hella hydrated.
- Dose yourself carefully – half or even quarter doses are totally fine.
And for the best of the rest (but no less crucial):
- Don’t mix alcohol with drugs. Look, mostly everyone does, but I don’t, and I think it’s stupid to. Why masturbate when there’s some chiselled Adonis on standby that wants to ravage your body senseless?
- If sober you would tell you not to do it, then don’t do it. I’m referring to driving, swimming, going walkabout in the jungle. Most drug-related deaths aren’t caused by ODing or bad cooks; they’re caused by bad decisions.
- Choose the right place. Good tunes, good lighting, good chillout areas, and just the feeling of being somewhere safe and secure. I once K-Holed in a hostel in Sri Lanka; as mind-warping as that experience was, at no point did I feel unsafe because I knew the place and knew that it was a safe and accepting space.
- Choose the right people. This can be a tough one when doing drugs when travelling, however, most travellers doing drugs just want the same thing – connection and good vibes. If you’re a newbie, find a veteran psychonaut or two that helps you feel comfortable and like you’re in good hands. Taking care of each other is so vital, it’s part of The Broke Backpacker Manifesto.
I once had an apprehensive Saudi Arabian girl approach me before a party and pick my brain rather substantially on acid (which she’d never done). Flash forward a few hours later and I approached her on the D-floor only to be met with a cheeky grin and the words “I had a tab.”. All she needed was a bit of honest conversation and the feeling that she was with good people to have a good time; she didn’t need hand-holding at all.
And Cover Yo’ Ass With Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is something you really ought to consider when travelling in ALL scenarios. Yeah, sure, you might neck a mushroom shake and then quizzically wonder what it would feel like to stab yourself in the leg with a fork (yes, I do have a mate that did this). However, you may also just get mowed down by a tuk-tuk driver who’s hotboxing as he drives!
Things can and DO go wrong on the road: that’s why we invest in good travel insurance. Will they cover you for drug-related incidents? I dunno! But I won’t tell them you if you won’t. 😉
Either way, please do consider covering yourself with insurance before you go shuttling around the cosmic realms.
World Nomads’ mission is to support and encourage travellers to explore their boundaries. They offer simple & flexible travel insurance, and safety advice to help you travel confidently.
They’ve been doing it since 2002 – protecting, connecting, and inspiring independent travellers just like you.
Get a quote below or read our in-depth review!
World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
And Now You Ready to Get High!
I mean, I hope so anyway. There’s not much more I can tell you on the topic… at least, not without further incriminating myself!
Drug tourism is 100% a thing, and there’s absolutely zero value in being puritanic on the topic. You don’t have to engage with drugs if you don’t want to. In fact, you shouldn’t; don’t be consuming ANY substances unless you’re 100% ready for the ride it’s going to take you on.
However, we shouldn’t be puritanic, but we should be realistic. Drugs and travel are part and parcel of the backpack-osphere. And in the honoured nation of Backpackistan, there is no War on Drugs – only acceptance and open dialogue.
The War on Drugs has done more damage to peoples’ mindsets and personal safety than the drugs themselves ever could.
So go out there and have a spectacular bloody time! Meet other travellers and experienced psychonauts, experiment SAFELY, and do it with the right humans. We do not outright condone drug usage at the Broke Backpacker (for legal reasons), but we do condone travellers living their best life, following their heart’s wildest desires, and expressing their personal autonomy in a safe and respectful way.
So don’t be a dick; just be a chiller. Get high with the right peeps and I guarantee you’ll make some amazing friends.
Because that’s the very last point I want to hit on about taking drugs and taking drugs on the road: you will share some fucking class-A experiences with some other rad humans. And those shared experiences, while they may not be the stories you tell your parents…
Well… they may just be the stories you tell your grandkids. With a cheeky grin and the soft light of times-well-lived reflected in your eyes.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!
Blog was really amazing and i think amsterdam will be my top place to visit after reading your blog.
Great article Will. Buying from a trusted source is always good advice, hit up the bartender in the hostel and they can point you in the right direction
Yes pace yourself and yes Cocaine is highly addictive… And whatever you do don’t smoke it
Very interesting post. Thank you, Will, for sharing this awareness post. It’s a big help. It’s nice to be open-minded and talk about drugs and be aware of the possible outcomes.
Thank you for this wonderful article. Very informative and educational. I hope to read more materials like this in the future because it is really something that we can use in our travel adventures!
Nice article. I think it might be worth exploring the pitfalls of buying drugs a little further so people know what to be aware of regarding common scams. A couple of things that come to mind for me are…
1- sometimes corrupt police will work with dealers. The dealer sells to you and tells the cop what he just sold you . The cop busts you and takes the dealers drugs back and you have to pay a bribe. The cop gives the dealer the drugs back and the whole process repeats.
2- Dealers are often sketchy and will tell you that selling to you is not safe out in public. They will tell you to meet them in some out of sight location (an alley or bathroom). Once out of sight you are a prime target for being robbed.
3 – Buying from random unknown locals almost guarantees you will be overcharged and possibly sold something that is not drugs at all. If you are going to experiment try and make a local friend. When I was in Mexico I asked a street dealer about cocaine. He told me $80 US. I wasn’t really interested in cocaine but was interested on the going price. I saw a local buy from him in a public square so I sparked up a conversation. I asked him “how much does that guy charge?” He told me $20 US. If you can’t make a local friend try aligning yourself with a group of fellow backpackers who have already established some kind of local connection.
4 – Rave type situations…. People taking ecstasy are easy to rob because they can’t fight back (or don’t really want to). Sometimes drug dealers will watch who they sell drugs to see how wasted they get and tip off their friends who will corner you. Some times the dealers aren’t involved and bad people will look for easy targets and raves tend to be full of them. Always try and be aware of your surroundings. That is not always possible on drugs so if you find yourself losing touch or maybe not being as aware as you should it might be best to consider how to move to a safer place for a while. Find a medic tent or a group of security people to hang around for a bit.
Be safe and have great travels people!!!
All valid points amigo 🙂
Your informative page on drug use while travelling is an excellent initiative that is lacking on all other sites out there, cudos! Must agree with you on all points and if people want to be fully informed they can follow the presented link to Erowid which is the bible for drugs. Also like your disclaimer «Please also note that all references to drugs on my travels are entirely fictional and definitely did not happen…« ?
Love one, love all, and travel safely!
This is such an interesting post!It is often those that are reckless that get themselves in to difficult situations or bad experiences, and then that gives a bad name to the rest of us and makes it easy for others who have already a negative view of drugs and their users to point and say ‘look! told you so’. So yer, nice one!
Thanks Charlie! 🙂
This is a different but refreshing take on traveling. I am into health physically and mentally an do believe some drugs play a part in one’s journey. Tim Ferris has also got me curious about psychedelics.
A word to the wise – the crystal and smack in tourist spots in SEA are NOT as strong as people might want you to believe. Still, start with tiny amounts to be sure. The concept of tourists asking for ‘yayo’ in countries where it costs $300 a gram and being served #4 white smack instead is really stupidity 101… Ask for H by name if that is your poison. Always practice harm reduction. Never mix pills with alcohol. Build up a tolerance with weaker pills before you think about smack. NEVER use a needle in a 3rd world country, and most importantly – set a quit date (usually about 3 weeks after you start), purchase transportation out of the country for that date ahead of time, make damn sure you don’t have anything on you, and get ready for fairly minor withdrawals. Always keep $100 in cash just in case you need to purchase police ‘services’. Avoid repressive theocracies and totalitarian city-states in the region and stick to the friendly countries 🙂
H isn’t my thing but that’s all solid advise.
Wow, I never thought I’d read a blogpost like this. It’s some interesting tips and things to look out for. Although I don’t ever plan on using drugs, it’s good to know what to expect from them!
I have been following your social media for a while now, but honestly never took time out to deeply read your writing,
But this post and the one on books really caught my attention.
I am glad you speak about the use of drugs safely while on your travels. In India, i can presumably say that we are bursting from our intestines about travelling and travel blogging. And in the process, we get caught up with what just appears and social media attractive.
I wish more and more Indian travellers, specially the Indian women can understand the dos and don’ts about the drug use. We have abundant marijuana in our hills of North and it can be used wonderfully if one is aware of the right sources. But the question remains, how right or how trustworthy your source can be? How do you even know if you are travelling to a place the first time around?? Often these questions crop up in mind as I take some women up North for their first experience in the Himalayas! And they want to experience everything!!!
This is such an interesting post! My interest was piqued when I saw something about a mushroom shake. Oh my LORD that sounds horrible hahaha. I have ZERO desire to ever take shrooms or hallucinate but to each his own.
I bet you do get some flac for this post, but I think it’s something that needs to be covered….so I’m glad it exsits! And I’m sure drug use is extremely prevalent in the backpacking world and as that is mostly young people, it’s good to have resources from people who have “been there.” 🙂
Thanks Amy! Shroom shakes don’t taste as bad as one would think but hell, they aren’t exactly delicious! I do indeed get the occasional email about this post from the odd concerned mother! – Definitely though this is a topic that needs to be covered, knowledge is power and hopefully this will help the next generation of cosmonaughts go off into the stratosphere safely!
Your first smoking experience while backpacking sounds like a memorable one! You make some very good points about remaining safe and staying out of legal trouble while abroad. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading 🙂
Nice post Will, a topic that needs more open discussion and is something I am writing more and more about on my blog. I’m glad to see you have a section of practicing safe use, it is often those that are reckless that get themselves in to difficult situations or bad experiences, and then that gives a bad name to the rest of us and makes it easy for others who have already a negative view of drugs and their users to point and say ‘look! told you so’. So yer, nice one!
Cheers dude! 🙂
Wow, very well written. Your articles has helped me a lot while I am currently writing my thesis research on such subject relating to backpackers and drug friendly destinations.
Thanks Beverley, that’s really interesting project you’ve got going on there.
It would be great you read your findings at some point!
Haha, I’m glad to see someone actually writing about this. I was considering setting up another blog under a pseudonym to talk about all the things I don’t discus on my normal blog for fear of my parents! Not sure I agree with the advise of not trying psychedelics at music festivals… 😀
I’m not saying not to try psychedelics at festivals just advising against it being the best first setting for newbies! 😛 Don’t set up a pseudonym, post as yourself, just try to remain impartial 🙂 – would love to read about your thoughts on this!
wait, backpackers take drugs!? haha great post. I actually wish I could write something about this because I’m an expat in Goa, which is a such a hotspot for psychedelics and such- just some tips or warnings, but I am too afraid it will open a can of worms where people msg me inappropriately, or my name in Goa becomes something i’m not & I’ll have the police knocking at my door! So I don’t even mention their existence which doesn’t seem right either so good for you acknowledging real life.
You should write something about this; just don’t write it under your name 😛 To be fair, I have had some flack from people on FB over this but I think it’s important to provide information so people can experiment safely 🙂
Solid post Will, definitely something to think about for first time travellers as you will cross drugs at some point. Personally I stay away but am usually around someone taking something at sometime and have no issue with it.
Backpackers are a good bunch for the most part, never seems to be any peer pressure I have come across which is wicked
Thanks Jub! It’s an issue I have wanted to cover for some time, drugs are a part of backpacker culture and ignoring them is a bad idea; it can present unfair challenges to those wishing to experiment. Totally agree with your point on peer-pressure.. 🙂
Really great topic to cover, Will, and you did it really well. I’ve had mixed experiences experimenting with drugs while travelling, some good, some bad. I would definitely say the doctors advice is important. I think it’s also very important that people be careful buying drugs illegally in other countries. You never know when something might go wrong and you have to bribe a police officer or worse!
Some great points here Crystal and I commend your off-hand acknowledgment that drugs have been a part of your life, as they have for myself on occasion. Hopefully the policies will change one day and allow for safer drug use for those who are interested 🙂
This is such an important topic, and I don’t think it is covered enough. I know I’ve come across a fair number of drugs and casual drug users in my travels. I stay away from the drugs (not the people!) because I know I am really sensitive and the potential downsides don’t outweigh the possible good times. Definitely the most important thing is to be safe… and DEFINITELY be with trusted friends. If you trip balls and have no one to look out for you, you’re screwed.
Thanks Colleen! Great to hear you approve, I would love to read more articles on this topic… It’s great that you know yourself well enough to fully appreciate the potential dangers, that’s the safest way to go…. and yeah; tripping balls alone can be pretty damn intense.
Great post. I am more scared by the legal side of drugs while traveling. I think many backpackers try to be “showy” about the drugs they are taking. The last thing anyone wants is to end up in a foreign prison having to bribe their way out! If I take/smoke anything, I make sure to keep pretty quiet about it instead of shouting to the rooftops (and to the city police) that I have them.
I agree with you; I’m not keen on people showing off with their drug use, they tend to be, well, idiots.
I cannot tell you the last day we haven’t been offered drugs….oh the backpacking circuit! We have never taken up on any of the offers, we stick the beer!
Nothing wrong with sticking to the beer! Happy travels 🙂
Great article. I think sometimes people are too scared to talk about this. Truth being some nationalities see it as medicinal when used properly. I think in the western world (UK and US especially) we are told it is ‘bad’ so people go crazy when they do take something and it turns horribly wrong, thus increasing the stereotype.
Hey Sally! Thanks for your feedback! It is indeed a bit of a touchy topic which is kind of why I wanted to discuss it – I think if people are planning on experimenting with anything new, whether it’s drugs or white water rafting, the greatest danger is a lack of information! Thanks for reading 🙂
Nicely done, man! It’s good to read mindful, mature texts on the web about drugs. I can’t wait to smoke with people I’ve just met on the road! It’s definitely on my to-do list!