How to get free booze for a backpacker is the equivalent of converting lead into gold in the ancient dream of alchemy. The ultimate chimera. Now I’m going to play Rumpelstiltskin for a day and show you how to get wasted without spending a dime, but before I do so, I’ll warn you that there are always strings attached – or even straws. If you don’t believe me, ask the poor miller’s daughter.
Carry an empty cup around
I don’t mean walk around the streets with an empty cup. You might get something more than booze if you do – until you are taken to an asylum, that is. I mean you should do that when you are in a social gathering where other backpackers are in possession of alcohol.
I learnt this trick from my friends – Dido and Laura – on our Melbourne weekend getaway. While Dido is Dutch and Laura is German, what they have in common is that they are both extremely attractive, sociable and funny girls. Despite the fact that they are good at saving money, they are backpackers through and through and thus they have mastered all the hacks to maximise their budget.
Each of us had a third of vodka down our systems when we decided to leave our dorms and join the party right outside the entrance of the hostel. There were a bunch of backpackers divided into small groups and spread out along the sidewalk. Right beside each of them, we spotted all sorts of booze – goon, beer, wine, cider, spirits – you name it, they had it.
Dido and Laura started explaining to me how we needed empty cups in order to get free drinks. Honestly, their plan made no sense to me then. They said that if we start making conversation with the backpackers with our empty cups, they would instinctively offer us free drinks.
Dido suddenly tuns to me and says: “Claudia, channel your inner sexy Latina and get us free plastic cups from the grocery store.”
Now for those who know me and just read that line, I bet you spit at the screen after the biggest chuckle known to men. I get it. That’s what I did when Dido told me. After wiping the saliva off her eyes, she encouraged me to take one for the team. I thought to myself that this whole backpacking experience was about pushing my boundaries and I didn’t want to look like a chicken in front of my friends.
I walked in that grocery store, which happened to be quite deserted, made my way to the cash register with all the confidence in the world and said “hi”. He said hi back and asked me how he could he help me. I glanced over the counter and saw Dido and Laura staring at me through the glass wall with naughty smiles.
I looked back at the cash register and said: “So… how much for those plastic cups? Any chance I can pay on the side of the counter so my friends don’t see it? I’m on a dare.”
He said “sure” with a warm smile but his eyes betrayed his thoughts: These backpackers act even more retarded each year.
I came back holding those plastic cups like I was the biggest thug you’ve ever seen. They congratulated me and then Dido said: “Now we have to divide and conquer. Let’s spread out and meet up again in half an hour.”
Needless to say, I didn’t use the trick that much. While I was too embarrassed to accept free drinks, my friends were taking the party by storm. A while later, Laura gathered us and said she had met two Chilean guys who could get us into a Latin Club for free. I guess I should mention that although Laura is German, she can shake it like a polaroid and sometimes she even pretends she is Colombian. While we were living together, she wouldn’t stop playing Reggaeton songs, so I decided to translate one song to show her how misogynist they are. To that she replied, “Lucky I don’t understand Spanish” and carried on playing that music. Unlucky for me, I did understand Spanish and those songs were getting on my nerves.
My ability to speak Spanish, however, became particularly useful that night when I heard the Chilean guys talking about the obscenities they wanted to do to my friends. The idiots didn’t realise I understood what they were saying. I told my friends about it, we left them and ended up in a street party. The rave was great. They even had a karaoke. Everyone was having a blast until a police car pulled over. After inspecting some revellers, they arrested a man, possibly because he had packs of beer on the floor. Dido and I glanced at each other with a worried look and told Laura we should leave.
If it had been a contest to see who got more free drinks, Laura would have won hands down – she was absolutely wasted. While Dido and I were trying to cross the street in front of the patrol in the straightest line known to men, Laura startled us when she screamed at the top of her lungs: “I SEE UNICORNS!”
Great! This drunk is going to get us arrested!
We both hushed Laura and hurried down to the hostel.
So if you are a guy, you are probably thinking that the tip above only applies to girls. Well it does to a certain extent.
Australia is a backpacker’s paradise in many ways – adrenaline-pumping attractions, beaches, dramatic natural settings, fantastic people and weather – but cheap alcohol is not one of its many wonderful features. While you can buy a pint of beer for 2 euros in Europe, in Australia you might pay up to $10 at a bar in Sydney. Even the beer at the liquor shop is expensive, and don’t get me started on the prices of the spirits – that’s just a cruel joke of the Government. These ridiculous rates are possibly the reason why you might find some Aussies dancing naked in the middle of a fountain right in the heart of a European city. Ehem, maybe.
If you are too poor to afford decent drinks in Australia, buy goon. It’s only AU$5 for a whole box and it tastes like sweetened white vinegar. Not great! So you walk around being your popular self and offering people free goon. I know it doesn’t make sense you giving out free alcohol when you are skint, but here’s the trick: you’ll only offer those who posses decent booze. As you can imagine, they are going to politely reject that disgusting sweetened vinegar yet they will think of you as a nice chap or generous old fella and will feel obliged to offer you some of their beer in return. You will feel embarrassed and trashy, though beer is worth it, right? You’ll snatch that bottle out of their hands and go to the next group. You’ll offer them goon again and say you wish you could give them beer instead but that bottle was your very last one. Same procedure. TAH-DAH! Hope you’ve got some paracetamol on you.
Grab freebies from hostels and agencies
Some hostels will offer their guests a free welcome drink. These drinks are usually watery and tasteless, but at least it will get you going if you are looking to being more sociable. I mean, you are probably drinking goon so your standards can’t be that high anyway. Who are you trying to fool here?
Same goes with travel agencies. They usually host a bunch of events that include drinking games or freebies at bars. If you are playing a drinking game, play dumb so you can load up as much as possible.
When we were in Noosa, the manager of Peterpans was from California and he hosted an event called 5 de Mayo which is a Mexican holiday. There we played drinking games with some pre-mixed margaritas. Even though these cocktails tasted better than goon, they brought you one step closer to Diabetis. Not even floss is that sweet. Then we played games and Janneke won a bus ticket to travel the northern island of New Zealand. Neat, huh?
Sometimes these agencies host events where you can win prizes like skydiving or free accommodation. All you have to do is attend. They let you bring your own alcohol and have pre-drinks before hitting a bar. This is great since most hostels are not BYO. In that case, have some pre-drinks with you and act sober till you get to the bar. Actually, if you are in Aus, just hold your drink the whole time. You don’t want to end up getting kicked out. Been there, done that!
In Cairns, Peterpans travel agency also invited us to this other event where you can win prizes. It was BYO at the agency. Then they gave us a wristband and took us to a bar. Now this is where a poor backpacker’s dream comes true. They invited us to a pint of either beer or cider at the bar, treated us to free pizza and buffalo wings, plus they gave us a voucher for 5 free drinks. There were also prizes you could win but who cares about the prizes at this stage?
Recycle leftover drinks
This is not as disgusting as it sounds. What I mean is that sometimes people leave drinks behind when they check out of a hostel; hopefully they’ll offer it to you. Sometimes they leave bottles and goon behind at places where they drink as well.
That is where you come in with a big old black bin bag like the Grinch and collect them all.
Once, as we walked across Abel Tasman, three beautiful children stopped us to offer us beer and marshmallows. Shocked as we were to see kids carrying beer, we gratefully took it after looking up the hill and seeing the parents giving us the thumbs up. The adults told us they were leaving that day and they didn’t want to carry all of the stubbies back home.
In Cairns, some backpackers in our dorm were leaving for Bali and gave us their goon for free.
Since there are so many hostels that are not BYO and youngsters tend to be rule breakers, think about this for a second. The security guys confiscate those alcoholic beverages and can you guess where they end up? In some dusty storage just to be chucked in the bin at some point. That is why you are meant to make friends with the staff so the drinks will end up in a better place – you.
To be honest, I am the last person to accept free drinks from anyone, but when you are travelling, you need to bend the rules a little. Who knows? You might even return the favour one day.
If you are shaking your head at the screen, all I have to say is:
AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A BACKPACKER!