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Bali’s Volcanic Eruption: What You Need To Know

Everything you Need to Know About Bali’s Volcanic Eruption

Bali is one of our favourite travel destinations – a wonderful place with incredible scenery, a rich culture and friendly locals. Following recent volcanic activity in Mt Agung and the evacuation of the surrounding area, here’s everything you need to know about how Bali’s volcanic eruption may affect your trip.

UPDATES  01/12/17:

* As of 1st December, Denpasar airport has been reopened

* Certain airlines still have restrictions on flights, so we advise travellers to check with their airline

So What’s the Deal with Mt Agung?

Mt Agung, Bali’s highest volcano, has been rearing it’s ugly head over the last couple of months – with its eventual eruption occurring today. The local authorities have set up an exclusion zone of 8-10km around Mt Agung itself to ensure the safety of the Balinese residents. Denpasar airport has been closed since 8:00am on Monday 27 November, and will remain so until 28 November at 7:00am. We are expecting another statement from the airport late this afternoon.

What you need to know:

  • Denpasar airport has been closed and all flights in and out have been cancelled until 28th November
  • There has been a 8-10km exclusion zone set up around Mt Agung. Ultimate Bali locations aren’t  affected
  • There is only one potential change to Ultimate Bali’s itinerary (see below)
  • The safety of our groups is our top priority

How Does this Affect My Travel to Bali?

Bali’s volcanic eruption has led officials to close the airport for 24 hours, and this could be further extended depending on the volcano’s activity. Individual airlines may still suspend flights even after the airport reopens. If you’re travelling to Bali and your flight has been cancelled, we recommend contacting your airline directly to discuss your options. Further to that, we suggest checking your travel insurance details should you need to make a claim. The volcanic eruption is ongoing, though we are hopeful that it will be short lived – and the airlines will resume their flight schedules as normal.

Is Bali Still Safe?

It’s important to remember that Bali is a large island, and the majority of the island is not affected by the volcano and its exclusion zone. The areas that we visit on our Ultimate Bali tour aren’t affected by Mt Agung’s activity – so our 10 day trip will be going ahead as planned.

The only potential change to our itinerary, is on day 6 where we climb Mt Batur. Whilst Mt Batur isn’t close to the exclusion zone, our team on the ground will make an informed decision on the day, as to whether the climb will go ahead. Our alternative activity is a relaxing yoga and massage session which will take place in Ubud, one of our fave stops on the tour – not a bad alternative hey?! 😉



There is no reason to panic or worry – our team on the ground is keeping a close eye on all the activity surrounding Mt Agung and will ensure that everything in running safely. You’re in good hands!

If you’re planning a trip to Bali, we recommend that you don’t to let this affect your decision to travel. There are plenty of beautiful locations in Bali that are extremely unlikely to be affected by these events.

Check out our 10-day Ultimate Bali tour – we hope to see you in Bali soon! 

 

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Is Southeast Asia Safe To Travel To?

Backpackers Ask: Is It Safe To Travel To Southeast Asia?

From the hustle and bustle of the legendary Koh Phangan Full Moon Party, to canyoning in Da Lat and cliff jumping in Bali, it’s no surprise Southeast Asia is a popular backpacker destination – attracting millions of visitors every year. But with horror stories posted online of injuries and scams, you may be asking yourself: Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia? Read our handy guide of do’s and dont’s so you can make the most of exploring this amazing corner of the world!

DON’T try to cut costs

When you’re having the time of your life travelling, it can be tempting to prolong your trip as long as possible by stretching your dollar and spending as little as possible. But sometimes it’s worth shelling out a little extra dough. A lot of people who end up injured in Southeast Asia go on tours whose focus is less on safety and more on profit. Some providers aren’t as safe as your home country would be, so when you’re planning adventurous excursions, go by the company’s reputation and not on the price! Read reviews, ask friends and other travellers about their experiences. Better safe than sorry!

DO study up on culture

If you want to fully immerse yourself in a new culture, Southeast Asia is the place to go – it’s a cultural hub with incredible food, people, and traditions! It’s also known for its laid-back party environment, but its still important to be aware that you’re in a different country and it’s important to stay safe. Do some research on the area – common scams, areas to avoid, etc. – and you’ll seem like a local!

DO book a tour

It can be daunting to travel alone, especially in a foreign country. Planning your own solo travel around Southeast Asia is possible, but not as safe – or as fun – as going with a group! Booking a tour gives you access to regional knowledge and added safety. Not to mention, tour companies take care of everything so you can enjoy stress-free planning and focus on the fun!

At Ultimate, we handpick each adventure and accommodation, with your safety as priority! All of our Ultimate guides are fully licensed and first aid certified. And, as an added bonus: our guides are locals! They have loads of knowledge on the area, and know all the fun places to visit, swim, eat, etc! You’re in good hands! Our Ultimate Bali, Ultimate Thailand, and Ultimate Vietnam tours are a perfect way to kickstart your adventure around Southeast Asia in the safest way possible! 

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO go easy on the booze

You’re on holiday – obviously you want to celebrate! But don’t forget you’re in a different part of the world. Have fun, but don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home. You’re here for a good time, but you want to remember it so go easy on the drinking! Some friendly advice: sharing is caring! Yes those buckets full of booze you’ll pick up at the Full Moon Party in Thailand are delicious, but they’re pretty strong! And if the alcohol doesn’t kick you over the edge, then the “Thai Red Bull” (with 3 x the potency of red bull as we know it!) will! Be a good sport and split one with a mate.

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO stay with your group

A helpful hint: there’s power in numbers! Accidents happen when people decide to wander off on their own, hop fences, and go to restricted areas. Our advice: don’t wander off the beaten path and stay with your travel mates.  If you booked on Ultimate Thailand, our tour guide will take you to the Full Moon Party and tell you all the best places to go! You’ll also be with all your new travel mates, so you’ll want to party with them anyway. Want to prep for your Full Moon experience? Check out our blog on with the ultimate Full Moon Party survival guide

It's safe to travel in Southeast Asia if you stay with your group!

DON’T eat that

We’re all about trying new food, and Southeast Asia you’ll eat some of the best food of your life. But no one wants to get sick on a trip! Avoid “Bali belly” by sticking to bottled water and avoiding food from outdoor markets. Or, listen to your guide’s advice on what market food is okay to try – like scorpions! Would you dare?

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO trust your gut

The same gut that avoided “Bali belly”! Travelling is the best thing you can do so we hope you’re never in a situation when you feel uneasy while travelling. But just remember, you’re smarter than you think! If something seems sketchy, or makes you uneasy – go with your gut and don’t do it. (The reverse works too – trust your gut on trying crazy new adventures for the best experience!!)

DO have a great time

You’re on the adventure of a lifetime – make the most of it! Try new food, go on crazy adventures, party until the sun comes up! At Ultimate – it’s our mission to make sure you’re having an amazing time! Our guides will ensure you’re safe, and take any precautions necessary so you can focus on the fun!

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

So, the answer is…YES!

Southeast Asia is safe to travel to – just travel smart! Ultimate’s here to ensure your safety and an unforgettable experience! Just follow our guide and get ready for the time of your life!

Want to travel to Southeast Asia? Check out our incredible Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam tours! If you have any more questions about travelling in SE Asia, register your interest and someone from our lovely crew will get in touch!

We love to keep you updated on all things travel! Check out our Facebook page & Instagram feed for trip inspiration!

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17 Instagram Pics That Make Us Want To Travel To Bali NOW

Pack Your Bags For Bali!

No wonder Bali is on everyone’s bucket list – it is STUNNING! Need some travel inspiration or motivation to get your mates to join you in paradise? Here are 17 pictures and 17 reasons why you need to pack your bags and travel to Bali…ASAP!!

1. Scenic swings

Feeling adventurous? Try a one-of-a-kind experience and swing out over palm tree paradise!

2. Amazing snorkelling

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on

The Gili Islands have some beautiful spots to swim and snorkel. Throw on your swimmers and jump in!

3. Gili sunsets

Nothing says paradise more than a waterfront sunset! Head out to one of Gili’s famous swings at high tide for an epic picture!

4. Rice terraces

One of Bali’s highlights are the Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud. You can walk around this beautiful area and see how the friendly locals collect the rice!

5. Colorful beaches

With crystal clear waters and plenty of sunshine, Bali’s beaches are unbeatable! You can grab a spot under one of the brightly-colored umbrellas, kick back, and relax!

6. Insta-worthy locations

Bali is a treasure trove of beaches, waterfalls, and unique spots like this artsy sign. You’re sure to find the perfect backdrop for your own Insta!

7. Epic hikes

Imagine standing here and looking out at Mt. Batur. It’s true what they say – the view from the top is worth it!

8. Perfect pools

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on

When you have free time in paradise, what better way to spend it than lounging poolside? (Side note: all of the accommodation on our Ultimate Bali tour have outdoor swimming pools!)

9. Breathtaking views

If one thing’s for sure, Bali has beautiful scenery! You can look at waves crashing, watch the sun set behind palm trees, or literally stand above the clouds.

10. Beautiful temples

Bali has some incredible temples, and it’s a must to explore them and admire the architecture.

11. Crazy waterfalls

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on

Take a hike around some of the country’s most stunning waterfalls, and you’ll wonder why you don’t do this every day!

12. Every hour is happy hour

When you’re spending your days in paradise with oceanfront views and drinks, every hour is fun!

13. Ideal lounge spots

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on

With those famous colorful umbrellas and lounge chairs, trendy beaches like La Plancha are the perfect spot to chill with mates and some good tunes!

14. Stunning strolls

Not into intense hikes? Not a problem! In Bali, you can find some pretty stellar walks with equally impressive views – like the Campuhan Ridge Walk.

15. Beach parties

Grab your mates, head to the beach, and enjoy life! Top tip: try the Bintang Radler. It’s delicious lemony goodness!

16. Incredible wildlife

Bali is home to some amazing wildlife – monkeys, elephants, etc! Wildlife wellbeing is really important to us here at Ultimate. Luckily, Bali has great places where you can get up close to some incredible animals without disrupting the local habitat, like the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.

17. Great memories

Travel is always better with others! Go on an adventure with your best mates, or meet new ones along the way. Either way, you’ll have some great stories to tell after!

Dreaming of Bali? We’re here to help you make it a reality! Check out Ultimate Bali, our epic 10-day adventure to paradise. Register your interest and we’ll be in touch with all the info you need!

Don’t forget to follow our Instagram feed & Facebook page for more travel inspiration!

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How To Prepare For Your Gap Year In Australia

Prepare For Your Gap Year In Australia!

Travelling to the land Down Under? An absolute must. Getting to work and travel here for a whole year? Sign me up! Here are some tips to help you prepare for your gap year in Australia, AKA the best year of your life!

Apply for your visa

This is step one! To live and work in Australia as a foreigner, you’ll need to apply for a visa before you arrive. More specifically, a Working Holiday Visa. Leave enough time to apply, but once you’re approved, it’ll be hard not to hop on a plane straight away!

Applying for a visa for the first time can be a big task. Not to worry though! We’re here to offer you pre-departure support. Check out our Working Holiday Visa page full of all the info you need so you can spend less time applying and more time bragging about your gap year to your friends and fam. When you’re ready to apply, get in touch with the Ultimate crew to find out how to take this first step!

Work hard, travel hard – the perfect combo

Want to do something you’re truly passionate about? Want a job with amazing pay? Want more flexible hours so you have more freedom to explore the country? Australia is a backpacker’s dream with plenty of jobs for visitors – be it short-term/casual or long-term/full-time positions. No matter your preference, our in-house backpacker employment agency is a great source for finding what kind of job works for you (pun intended)!

Don’t sweat the basics

This includes everything beyond visa – flights, housing, medical/travel insurance, Australian bank account, tax file number, Australian phone number, etc. Luckily, Ultimate makes taking care of these travel logistics as easy as possible!

Discounted flights? Fill out this form to find out about great quotes.

Great, comfortable housing? Not only do we set you up with housing during your first week, but we’ll help you find a place to call home while you’re here.

Insurance? Check out some great provider options for backpackers here.

The other necessities? We’ll help you sort out the rest when you arrive so you can focus on the fun!

Prepare for your gap year in Australia. You won't regret the adventures!

Pack smart

Packing for your gap year in Australia varies depending on the time of year you’ll be here, but the key is to pack lightly! You’ll be surprised to find that most of Australia is quite warm, even in the winter, so don’t go too crazy with winter coats and boots and add unnecessary weight to your bag. For those warmer months, which are opposite of the Northern Hemisphere, don’t forget to bring a bathing suit! Australia has plenty of beautiful beaches – some of the most beautiful in the world! And remember, anything you don’t need or have forgotten is very easy to find in Australia. While you’ll want to bring your can’t-live-without belongings, you can leave most of your toiletries at home and buy them here.

Sleep, eat, travel, repeat!

Australia is a huge country with loads to see and do. The key is to be flexible! You’ll find out about so much more to do once you’re here that your plans might change. Here at Ultimate we are experts in travel, and are more than happy to help you plan your adventures. Our UltimateOz and Ultimate East Coast trips show you all the amazing sites around Sydney and eastern Australia. As an added bonus, we offer Ultimate Family tour discounts to anyone who has travelled with us before!

Prepare for your gap year in Australia, you'll have adventures you never thought possible!

Brush up on the local culture

Even if you’re coming from the U.S., England, or another English-speaking country, culture shock is a very real thing everywhere you go. As you prepare for your gap year in Australia, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the Australian ways of life so you’re more comfortable when you arrive. Of course, the best way to enjoy any culture is to embrace it, so start practicing your Aussie accent and slang (step one: AVOID “put another shrimp on the barbie”)!

Get ready to meet loads of amazing people

Worried about making new friends in Australia? We don’t blame you! It can be hard to adjust to a new environment. But the great thing about this country is there are so many others here for the same reasons you are: adventure, exploration, a change of scenery, a fresh start – the list goes on! Even though you’re in a new and unfamiliar place, jump right into activities you love and you’re bound to meet loads of people. Ultimate tours in Australia are a great way to meet like-minded travellers, form life-long bonds, and make unforgettable memories when you first arrive!

Prepare for your gap year in Australia. You'll meet loads of like-minded people and see all the amazing sites!

Most importantly, get excited!

You WILL have the time of your life in the land of Oz! It is an experience like no other, and there is so much to do and see! Ultimate is here to help you prepare for your gap year in Australia, welcome you to Oz and help you every step of the way!

Prepare for your gap year in Australia. You'll meet friends for life!

Ultimate is happy to help you plan your dream Aussie experience before and after you arrive! Get in touch with our travel crew to talk about your options.

Are you a backpacking socialite? Meet others travelling to Australia at the same time as you, and don’t forget to check out our Facebook page & Instagram feed for travel inspiration!

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7 Reasons You NEED To Do Surf Camp Australia

Why You Should Go To Surf Camp Australia

Is it just me or is “surfing” one of the first things that pops into your head when you think about Australia? Not that Australia is the only country where you can surf, not even close! But it just has that vibe, you know? Warm weather, tropical beaches, blue water, blonde-haired surf dudes and chicks, Rip Curl and Billabong… Surfing is just Australian culture. If you don’t go surfing once when you’re traveling in Australia, you’re definitely missing out!

1. The best way to learn how to surf

This wasn’t my first time trying to stand up on a surfboard, but I was probably one of the few people that had tried surfing before Surf Camp. I was super stoked that I was surrounded by people that all came to try surfing for the first time. You don’t feel like you’re better or worse than anyone. Everyone is on the same level, a.k.a. the beginner’s level and the only reason why you’re together at Surf Camp Australia is to learn how to surf, have a great time and make memories.

Since I only have weekends off, I did the Weekender / 2-day Surf Camp. Over the whole weekend, there were 3 full surf lessons, which is very intense..but amazing!

2. The itinerary: Sleep, eat, surf, eat, surf, eat, party, sleep and…Repeat!

Saturday you wake up early, have a big breakfast and head straight to the beach. After a super fun introductory surf lesson, you head back to camp and lunch is served. There is another surf lesson that same afternoon and then another one Sunday morning. In less than 2 days, everyone in my group was able to stand up on their surfboard and catch some kick ass waves. Surf Camp managed to turn us all into actual surf dudes and surf chicks in only 2 days! “Gnarly, dude!”

Learning to surf at Surf Camp Australia

3. Amazing instructors

Every experienced surfer can make it look so easy, but it’s actually a very difficult sport. It can be quite exhausting and everything depends on what mother nature decides to do with the weather that day. There are 3 factors that determine whether you’ll have an easy or hard time surfing: waves, wind and tide. Luckily, there are plenty of professional surf instructors at Surf Camp to teach you how to surf in different weather conditions.

4. Group and individual help

That’s what I liked the most about Surf Camp! You’re at camp with a big group, but you still get individual help during the surf lessons. When I was at Surf Camp, my group consisted of 50 people! It was great to be able to meet so many people and I felt like I became part of a big family of beginner surfers. But 50 people is quite a big group to learn how to surf. So to make the surf lessons more productive, they put us into much smaller groups, of about 10 to 15 people.

For each small group, there were 2 surf instructors, which is why everyone at surf camp had the chance to receive some individual help each surf lesson. The surf instructors go into the water with the group without surfboards and help you pick the best wave and get onto your surfboard. Too bad I wasn’t able to do the 5-day Ultimate Surf Camp, because I definitely would have become a professional surf chick if I would have had more time to practice!

The instructors at Surf Camp Australia are awesome!

5. The real Aussie experience

When you arrive at Surf Camp Australia, it looks like you’re stranded in actual surfer’s paradise. Everything is colourful. There’s sand everywhere, palm trees, fun surf quotes in the cabins – an instant feeling of holiday and summer! But it’s mostly the instructors and people that work at Surf Camp that make you feel like you’re in paradise. They live and work at Surf Camp every day and the only thing they want is for you to have a good time. The atmosphere is great, peaceful and super laid-back. All of them use Aussie slang, make Aussie jokes and they make you do the shaka sign probably every 5 minutes! In other words, it’s the actual Aussie experience and it’s awesome!

Learn to surf Aussie style at Surf Camp Australia

6. The best food you’ll ever have

You know that feeling of terrible hunger you get after you go swimming? Well… imagine that feeling, but 10 times worse. Surfing takes up so much energy and you’re literally starving when you’re done with a surf session and you get out of the water. Luckily, the kitchen team at Surf Camp Australia are life savers (aka incredible chefs) and every time they manage to make the best food ever.

When I was at Surf Camp, they prepared the yummiest meals for us. Hamburgers, ham rolls, pasta bakes with delicious barbecue meats,… It was heavenly! Not only is it the best food you’ll ever have, it’s also the most food you’ll ever eat in a couple of days. The last thing they want is for you to starve, so they will make so much food, your plate will be overflowing and you won’t be able to carry it back to your seat!

The food at Surf Camp Australia is awesome

7. Surfing in Spring, Summer and Autumn

It’s autumn in Australia right now and when I was at Surf Camp, which is 2 hours south of Sydney, the temperatures were quite low, around 20C degrees. You couldn’t really walk around in shorts and we had to turn on a heater in our cabin at night. Now you’re probably asking yourself, why would you go to Surf Camp in 20C degree weather? That’s way too cold!

But I can honestly tell you, the weather conditions were perfect. The sun was out and there wasn’t any wind. They actually made everyone put on sunscreen because even though it’s not the middle of summer, we would definitely get sunburned. Also don’t forget that if you go surfing, you have to wear a wetsuit. It protects your skin from scratches and rashes from your surfboard, and it also makes you stay super warm when you’re surfing in the Pacific.

In other words, if you’re thinking about doing Surf Camp Australia, I only have 2 tips for you:

  1. Don’t think about it, just do it! It has definitely been my best and most fun weekend in Australia so far. I loved it so much, I might actually go back next month.
  2. Two days is just way too short. If you have the time, do the 5-day Surf Camp. You’ll be able to have the full experience, make a lot more friends and for sure be a better surfer after 5 days than in only 2 days.

And just so you know, Surf Camp doesn’t only include return transfers from Sydney, your accommodation, all meals and surf gear. You’ll also get free photos and videos of you surfing & extra freebies such as an awesome Surf Camp t-Shirt, cap and a $20 Rip Curl voucher!

Want to learn how to surf? Check start dates and book your Surf Camp adventure here!

‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram for travel pics!

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What NOT To Do On Your Gap Year In Australia

Learn What NOT To Do On Your Gap Year In Australia!

Want to fit in in the Land Down Under? Here’s some helpful hints on what NOT to do during your gap year in Australia, so people will think you’re a legitimate Aussie!

Don’t say “Put another shrimp on the barbie”

Whilst we foreigners think saying ‘put a shrimp on the barbie’ in Oz is extremely witty/funny/best thing we’ve ever said, Aussie locals not so much. Aussies actually call them ‘prawns’ so best just to avoid all together if you want to make Australian friends. Too easy mate!

Don’t be scared of Aussie sarcasm & swearing

Aussies are well known for their sarcasm, self-deprecating sense of humour and swearing. Aussies like to take the piss out of each other, so don’t be alarmed if a bit of banter comes your way or someone drops the C-bomb around you – most of the time it’s nothing personal and is actually used as a term of endearment in some cases! You’ll soon pick up the the local slang on your gap year in Australia so you can give as good as you get. Before you know it, you’ll be a “real” Aussie, with the sarcastic sense of humour to match – just remember to keep the profanities at bay when you’re back home in Grandma’s house!

via GIPHY

Don’t say NO

Australia has so much to offer and now is the time to enjoy it all. The outdoor activities are endless, with everything from skydiving to bungy jumping and swimming with whale sharks on offer. At the time you might put these things off ’cause you’ll ‘do them later’ or because you don’t want to spend your cash but I promise you won’t regret it. Luckily in Australia, there are so many activities and things you can do for free as well so you can balance out the spends. You’ll be leaving Oz with a lifetime of memories and stories to tell. Just. Say. Yes.

Don’t surf without knowing the etiquette

Australia has a big surfing culture and it’s the ULTIMATE place to give it a try. Those catching waves for the first time must be respectful of other surfers by following ‘The Surf Code’. For example; the person closest to the peak of the break has the right to ride the wave. You shouldn’t hang out on your board as a rough board can be very dangerous for other surfers. DO NOT drop into someone else’s wave and paddle outside of the zone where the lineup of surfers might be coming. Amongst many other things, give other people your turn – there’s nothing worse than a wave hog! 

Why not join our UltimateOz Surf Camp when you first get to Oz, where you’ll be taught all this as well as how to ride the waves like a pro and be saved the embarrassment of being ‘THAT surfer’ in front of your new Aussie mates? 😉

Learn to surf in Australia on the UltimateOz Surf camp

Don’t take beach safety signs lightly

I’m sure you will have heard that there are things in Australia that want to kill you….well whist that’s not technically true (don’t swim in the croc’s home and I promise it won’t eat you!) it’s actually beach safety that’s one of the most important things to learn when you get here. Australia has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, all with safety signs, so you can swim safely. Read them! Swim between the flags where the currents aren’t too strong, pay attention to beach signs and if it says don’t swim…don’t swim!

Don’t go to Fraser Island without knowing driving rules

One of the most famous travel destinations for backpackers in Australia is Fraser Island. It is PARADISE! There are plenty of tours you can go on that help coordinate you where to go. Fraser island is an amazing place you definitely don’t wanna miss out on during your gap year in Australia, but just make sure you’re on a good quality tour with an experienced 4WD driver who can handle any challenging conditions on the island. Get in touch with the Ultimate crew for information on recommended Fraser Island tours.

Drive around Fraser Island safely on a guided group tour

Don’t use the word “root”

As with many other words, the word ‘root’ has a different meaning down under than it does elsewhere. Be careful…just saying!   

Don’t just ask for “a beer”

There are ‘heaps’ of slang words you need to learn before you leave your home country for the land of the koalas and kangaroos. Some of the slang will just confuse you, but try to get familiar with some of the words and you’ll be speaking like an Aussie in no time.

Let’s start at the bar… A Brownie is a bottle, a Tallie is a long-necked bottle, a Stubby is a small-necked bottle, a Tinnie is a can and a slab is a case of 24 cans. When it’s your turn to buy a round, just say “my shout” and when it comes to the size of the glass choose to get your tipple in a pint, a schooner, a middy or pot!

Don’t underestimate distances

Australia is a huge country. When you compare countries like England with Australia for size and realise that you can fit England into Australia almost 60 times, you realise it may be time to re-think that ‘short drive’ through outback Australia.

When you’re planning a road trip, I recommend looking at the map and figuring out how long it will take you to drive. Give yourself lots of time to travel on the road from place to place, so you can take it all in and not rush your trip. For example, we recommend travelling the East Coast of Australia in 4 weeks to give you enough time to stop off at all the amazing places along the way! Driving through the Outback? You’ll need plenty of water, supplies and petrol! Got lots to fit in to a short amount of time – no wozzas – you can always save some time with a couple of flights in between! Want some advice on where to travel with the time you have? Just get in touch with the Ultimate crew for information and advice!

Don’t be afraid of change your plans

Life happens and plans change so be flexible! You will meet some amazing people during your gap year in Australia, so it would be a shame to have to leave them just because you have a schedule to follow. Whilst it’s good to have a plan just remember..the more flexible you are, the more you will enjoying your backpacking adventure around this lovely country.

Get in touch with the travel crew to talk about your options. With open dated and flexible options available, you’ll be able to plan your travels with a bit of flexibility.

Not sure where to start? Meet others travelling to Australia at the same time as you and check out our Facebook page & Instagram feed for travel inspiration!

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Why Skydiving Is A MUST DO On Your Gap Year

Those Who Don’t Skydive Will Never Fly!

There are only so many times I can hear stories of other backpackers going skydiving before booking another one myself! I was lucky enough to do a skydive in Taupo, New Zealand a few years ago but couldn’t resist doing another one in Sydney. That amazing adrenaline rush is truly addictive and I’d heard about how good the Sydney skydive is, with amazing views of the coastline. Here’s why skydiving is one of the best things you’ll do on your gap year…

Getting ready

Skydiving over beautiful Wollongong is a memory that will last a lifetime. The views of the coastline were as breathtaking as I knew they would be, reaching as far south as Manly, and the feeling of jumping out of a plane at 4,000 meters was incredible. It all took my breath away!

It was Friday morning and time for me and my best friend to go skydiving. It was her first time skydiving and she was surprisingly calm. Maybe she’d heard from me how the feeling of flying takes over from being scared. We just couldn’t wait to jump! The bus picked us up from WakeUp hostel in Sydney and drove us to the site of the skydive, Wollongong, only one hour away from Sydney.

Once we arrived, we got assigned to one of the crew at Skydive Australia who gave us a safety briefing, and gave us our skydive overalls to wear…sexy! I was jumping with a Swedish skydive instructor who had been jumping for almost 23 years – what a job! He was great and made me even more excited to jump.

The crew at Skydive Australia were awesome!

Up, up, and away

It doesn’t really hit you that you’ll be jumping out of a plane at 4,000 meters until you’re actually up in the air and the plane just keeps going higher and higher! After 15 minutes we looked out from the window and realised how high it was! It was time to open the door and start jumping! The door on the plane lifted and there was a light that turned from red…to amber….to green – AND JUMP!

Skydiving in Australia is the best experience

Now I’m freeeee, free fallin’!

Since they’re such different feelings, it’s hard to tell people if the free fall or parachute part was best. When I first jumped I had that ‘OMG’ experience – I had no control and no time to think anything apart from ‘WOW..this is amazing!’ It is an absolutely breathtaking experience and one unlike any other! Most people think it feels like falling, but I would describe it more as flying. It really a unique and incredible moment.

Jumping out of the plane for my skydive was amazing

Cruising back down

After around 45 seconds of free fall that literally flies by, the parachute opened and we started drifting through the sky. This part is more relaxing and I had more time to enjoy the beautiful views over the coastline. After taking a minute to relax from the free fall adrenaline rush, my instructor asked me if I wanted to take over the control, to which I of course said yes! He taught me how to pull left to spin left, right to spin right, and push hard down to slow down (which I did just once to try as the rest of the time I wanted to go as fast as possible)! I asked my instructor to take over the control again a couple of times – it’s intoxicating and just so good! Straight after landing, I just wanted to do the whole thing again!

An unforgettable experience

Knowing we were in good hands made the whole experience even more enjoyable. We both had really great instructors who had so much experience, not only in skydiving, but also in helping people prepare for what’s going to happen, what to expect when jumping and also what to avoid. In my case, I told him to make this jump as crazy as possible, which I never will regret!

The good news is that whilst it’s hard to remember a thing about the free fall, as it all happens so quickly, they film the whole thing. I bought the video and photo package so I can go back through the pictures and re-live my jump!

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing…Keep calm and go skydiving!

There’s only so much I can do to explain to you how amazing skydiving feels. So I guess the only way to truly understand the feeling is to do one!

Amazing views during my skydive

Thinking of doing a skydive? You won’t regret it!  Speak to the Ultimate Travel crew for recommendations and travel discounts.

Planning a gap year to Australia or New Zealand and not sure where to start? Check out our UltimateOz gap year arrival package! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for travel inspo and pics!

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How To Spend 14 Days In New Zealand

Get Ready To Spend 14 Epic Days In New Zealand!

New Zealand is incredible. Not much more needs to be said. It has everything and more to offer to a traveller. Many people ask us here at Ultimate long do I need to see New Zealand? Well honestly, I’d say 4 weeks – about 28 days. However not everyone has this much time, so let’s go with 2 weeks. If you only have 2 weeks then a good suggestion would be to choose between the North or South Islands. Both are incredible and both offer so much…I’m just glad I don’t have to choose! So here’s how I’d suggest you spend 14 days in New Zealand…

North Island: Auckland and surrounding area

Auckland is the main city on the North Island and definitely worth a visit! It is surrounded by volcanoes, most of which you can climb, and has parks where you can play frisbee golf! Although Auckland has loads to offer and a great night life, I would recommend leaving the city after a short while! North of the City of Sails is the Bay of Islands. Locals call it the Land of Eternal Summer. The weather there is fairly constant and a lovely warm temperature. Here you can go swimming with dolphins, hiking or visit Cape Reinga, the northern most point of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet.

South East of Auckland you’ll find the Coromandel Peninsula and a little bit of paradise! Here you can dig your own hot tub at Hot Water Beach (original name, I know!) and go to Narnia. Yes Narnia! Ok well actually where they filmed Narnia but still, all childhood dreams matched! In the Bay of Plenty further south there is White Island where you can visit an active volcano and walk among the sulphur and steam.

Visit the Coromandel Peninsula if you can only spend 14 days in New Zealand

North Island: the middle

In the middle of the North Island there is Rotorua, the cultural capital of NZ, also named ‘Sulphur City!…and also the smelliest place in the world. You’ll know what I mean when you go there! 😉 Once you have gotten over the smell of the bubbling mud pools you can learn all about New Zealand’s natives, The Maori. There is Waitomo Caves where you can go tubing through caves lit up by glowworms, nothing more to be said! Taupo is right in the middle of the island. Sporting the largest lake in New Zealand it is also the home to Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. You can actually climb the volcano just like Frodo and Sam while doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (a must do while you are here). Taupo is also an awesome spot to do a skydive if you dare!

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, aka Mount Doom, New Zealand

North Island: Wellington and more

In the south of the North Island you’ve got some amazing places to do a spot of crazy white water rafting in the mountains. Then right in the south is the country’s capital, Wellington. While here in this sleepy chilled out city definitely check out the Museum of New Zealand, it has everything from history to props from the Lord of the Rings films. There are lots of other museums and art galleries here along with some amazing botanical gardens and a gorgeous view from the top of Mount Victoria.

Side note: If you are doing the North and South Islands then the ferry journey between the two across the Cook Strait will be one of the highlights of the whole trip, so grab your jumper and enjoy the view!

South Island New Zealand

The South Island is about twice the size of the North and certainly packs a punch! The top of the South Island starts with Nelson where you can take a calf burning (but well worth it) steep stroll up to the most central point of New Zealand. West of Nelson is the Abel Tasman National Park. Here you can get a boat to take you round to one of the incredible beaches, drop you off and then you make your own way back on foot. With hardly anyone around you’ll have beaches and forest to yourself, not to mention stunning views and incredible wildlife.

Heading south you’ll get to Westport, a super laid back surf town. Time to don the wetsuit and catch some waves here! On the opposite east coast you have Kaikoura, this is a marine wildlife paradise. You can swim with dolphins and catch the passing humpbacks during their migration. A bit further down you have Christchurch, although recently devastated with numerous earthquakes its still a beautiful city, earning its name of The Garden City. Its not all beautiful parks though, you can learn all about Antarctic expeditions or go shopping at a mall made out of shipping containers!

Franz Josef, New Zealand

Heading over to the west coast (through Arthur’s Pass, google it and you’ll just want to go!) you get to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Here you can hike on some of the fasting moving glaciers in the world meaning you’ll have to carve your own path through, or splash the cash and get a helicopter ride to the top and land on the ice!

Whilst heading south from here you’ll spot the highest mountain in NZ, Mount Cook, where Edmund Hillary practiced for his famous Everest summit.

Visit Mount Cook if you can only spend 14 days in New Zealand

You will soon hit Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world! You could spend weeks here with so many activities that change with the seasons. You could go skiing, skydiving, jet boating, hiking, bungy jumping, zip-wiring, white water rafting, rock climbing, the possibilities are almost endless. If extreme sports aren’t your thing then its ok, Queenstown boasts some amazing bars and also maybe the best burger joint in the world, Fergburger. Speak to anyone who has been to Queenstown and I guarantee they will have eaten one if not seven.

If you’re not satisfied there then the must see place to see on the South Island is Milford Sound. Words can’t describe the beauty of this place, you have to see it.

So there it is plenty to fill two weeks of your time in New Zealand and this has only scratched the surface there is more then enough to fill lifetime. Which would you chose? The North or the South? I’m glad I don’t have to choose, perhaps a piece of advice – Go for longer and see all of it!

Thinking of travelling to New Zealand? Check out Ultimate NZ to get you started and get in touch to chat about your plans!

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Top 5 reasons why you NEED to visit Fraser Island on your Aussie gap year!

Why you should visit Fraser Island

When I first left Sweden to travel to Australia, I was told Fraser Island was the place to go so I had pretty high expectations to begin with…and it definitely didn’t disappoint!

I loved everywhere I travelled in Australia but my time spent on Fraser is definitely one of the main highlights! Here’s why I think EVERYONE needs to visit Fraser on their Aussie gap year…

Drive a 4WD on the world largest sand Island!

There aren’t many islands in the world you can road trip around, especially the largest sand islands in the world! 4WDing on Fraser Island lets you explore the island with the fun and freedom of seeing the best spots! Fraser Island is known for its long white beaches (basically its motorway!), rainforests and some amazing crystal clear freshwater lakes. 

I visited Fraser Island on a group tour which for me was the perfect way to explore it! You can take it in turns driving along the sandy beaches, crank up the music and meet other backpackers – the dream roadie! I will never forget the feeling I had driving around in the sand with my group of 6 in the back of the car. I’ve never laughed so much and all the beautiful places we visited were just amazing. 

There were only 4 people including me in my group who had a drivers license, which meant more driving time for us, LUCKY ME! Although saying that those without their drivers license got to chill in the back, drinking beer and goon and taking in the views which doesn’t seem like a bad alternative! 😉

We spent the 2 days following our tour leader, who led the 4WD’s around the island, stopping off at Fraser Islands most picturesque spots along the way – absolute paradise!

4WD around Fraser Island

Champagne Pools – Fraser Islands natural ocean Jacuzzi

If you’re a water lover, Fraser Island is the place to go! This beautiful island has more than 100 different freshwater lakes that are safe to take a swim in. When I booked my trip to Fraser, I knew there were some different freshwater spots, but not that there was one place where I could swim, named after my favourite drink, Champagne!

It’s easy to understand why the Champagne Pools is a favourite spot in Fraser. You can sit in the rock pools, relaxing and watching the waves crashing over the side of the rocks, settling into a fizzing foam – hence the name! Once you’ve been here it’s safe to say you’ll be saying a toast to Fraser Island’s very own, Champagne Jacuzzi!

Champagne Pools, Fraser Island

Three Words: Crystal Clear Lakes

When you think of swimming in lakes, some of you may be imagining wading through a brown bit of water with no idea what’s lurking underneath – well not at Lake Mckenzie!

Frazer’s freshwater lakes are set, in the top of the sand dunes, through rainforest, high above sea level. Of all of the lakes on Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie is most peoples and my personal favourite, and when you see the pics you’ll understand why!

If you can tell me a lake more unique and beautiful than this I’ll be surprised as Lake Mckenzie is just amazing. Our tour guide told us to brush our teeth and scrub our bodies with the white sand, and so we did. The sand is made of 100% pure white silica so is ideal for a bit of exfoliation and natural teeth whitening! It was definitely a spa experience on another level and one I didn’t think I’d be getting on an island! 

Eli Creek, another fave is the largest freshwater creek on the Eastern coast of the island –  It’s an area of exceptional and pristine beauty.  The blues and greens of the lake are so spectacular, me and my friends thought we were in a tropical jungle! Eli Creek is an ideal place for swimming or even better for the lazy swimmers amongst us! The water flow helps you float down the lake so you can just lie back and enjoy the blue waters, the white sands and the amazing nature.

Chilling with mates at Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Camping – “what’s happens when you camp on Fraser Island, stays on Fraser Island”

Fraser island an awesome place to camp, especially if you’re on a trip with heaps of other backpackers like I was. We slept in a big camping area in tents for both nights of the tour. The best thing about being in a big group is that there are so many nice people to meet and hang out with. I’ll never forget the fun we had in the evenings during our Fraser trip – actually, I’ll tell you the truth that some parts are a little bit cloudy…too much fun and too much goon! 😉 We spent the evenings enjoying dinner together around the camp fire, chatting, playing drinking games, listening to a guy play the guitar, dancing and singing… yes it was exactly as crazy as you imagine!

If you prefer a little comfort, there are some awesome tours you can do that include resort accommodation for the evening where you still get to hang out with new mates and have fun on the island, just with a little extra comfort!

Meet the locals 

Have u heard about Australia’s native ‘dog’, the dingo? Dingoes are the infamous local residents of Fraser Island and they need to be treated with respect but also with caution – no rolling around in the sand play fighting with these pooches! Dingoes are wild and as any wild animal can be, they can be dangerous. Fraser Island is one of the opportunities you’ll get in Oz to see these animals in their natural habitat so keep your distance when you encounter them in the wild.

Fraser has got some amazing wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, emus, turtles and native birds. Indian heads, a lookout at the Northern end of the famous 75 mile long Eastern surf beach has an amazing vantage point over the island offering panoramic views of Fraser’s awesome beach and is also a pretty good wildlife spotting area! We were lucky as the weather up here when I visited was so clear and I saw so many things. The wonderful view over Manta Rays, Sharks, Dolphins and Turtles swimming in the water below was one of those unforgettable travel moments – amazing!

Having fun with friends in Eli Creek, Fraser Island

Top secret…

The worst question you could ask me when I’m travelling? “What was the best thing during your travels in Australia?”

It’s the most difficult question to answer as every place/experience and moment has been unique but this time I hold my hands up and say: My best memory from travelling the East coast of Australia was definitely Fraser Island!

My last tip – Don’t forget to bring your waterproof/sand proof camera! You’ll need a sand proof cam for fairly obvious reasons and even though you’re not likely to forget Fraser Island any time soon, I promise that the pics will come in handy when you try to explain to your friends and family how amazing it was! Anyway it’s time to set a new ‘like’ record on your Insta feed isn’t it?! 😉

Thinking of travelling to Fraser Island during your gap year in Oz? Check out the Ultimate East Coast package or get in touch with our travel crew to organise your Fraser Island Adventure.

Check out our Instagram & FB page for travel inspo and get in touch to start planning your trip today! 

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5 things nobody tells you about travelling

When people go travelling it is so easy to boast about it nowadays. Social media has given all of us a platform to post that ‘perfect philosophical” sunset pic, that “just woken up” selfie and the “I’m having the time of my life” jumping photo. Not to mention that you can just click to check-in and tell people you are in this awesome pool bar in paradise or got a free upgrade at your swanky hotel. Boasting is easy and so many of us do it. Don’t we all crave that stamp in our passport just for the bragging rights that come with it?

When I speak to people who have just been travelling (and yes I am guilty of this myself) they never ever tell you about the bad bits, the uncomfortable nights with no sleep, the dodgy tums, the strange mozzie bites. You’ll only hear about the things you’ll be jealous of. But here it is Ladies and Gents…Travelling isn’t all sunshine and rainbows! There are 5 things that I say are big points that people just don’t tell you about.


Travel is stressful!

When you go on a 2 week cruise round the Greek Islands or an all inclusive trip to Bora Bora I expect that the main desire of this holiday is to relax. Travelling isn’t very relaxing. In fact I am a firm believer of taking a holiday within your holiday. On my first Backpacking stint I spent 2 weeks in Hawaii as my holiday in my holiday and when I went to South America I went to the Galapagos Islands! The thing is with travelling you have to organise where to stay next, ask yourself ‘can I afford that ice cream in my budget?’, how do I get back from this bar, how am I going to get from A to B… Travelling is not relaxing. However it is the most rewarding thing you can do and part of the fun of travelling is learning how to look after yourself and travel independently. You learn an excessive amount about yourself and grow massively as a person. Before I went travelling I could hardly even walk into a bar on my own now I’ve done four major backpacking trips by myself!

Take a holiday within a holiday as you travel


You will get Homesick

I often think I don’t get homesick and being on the road for 7 years on and off (yes I have been home lots of times in the 7 years) I have to finally admit that I do. You might not see it coming, it’ll creep up on you in the dead of night or on your birthday or perhaps Christmas but trust me it’s going come if it hasn’t already! Most people think that homesickness means you’re crying in bed, curled up in the foetal position on the phone to your mum. It isn’t always this. Mine gets me when I’m craving gravy on my chips, or my friends organising a night out on whats app, I even get homesick when I can’t find the mascara I like over here. I don’t go and eat a whole tub of ice cream and start Googling flights home, I just get on with it. I keep myself busy and then I don’t have a chance to think of home or what I’m missing. When you first land and you want to go home in the first few days, promise me this – You will power through! Trust me when I say it’s worth it and you’ll forget about how you felt as fast as it started when you begin to experience everything!


You have to be an adult…sort of.

This is quite a abstract point. I am potentially one of the worst “adults” out there. What I mean is you have to be mature sometimes. So don’t get that drunken tattoo of your hostel’s logo or think you can cliff dive where no locals are. Perhaps I should call this one: You have to use common sense. If you have to catch a bus that you paid $230 for which leaves at 4:30am, don’t party all night…Mum isn’t there to wake you up anymore. I first went travelling when I was 18 and this whole using your common sense thing was hard because I wanted to go crazy. I partied so hard and did all these crazy things and sometimes wonder how the hell I survived or at least returned with all my arms and legs. I’m not saying have a shit time and stay in and wrap yourself in bubble wrap, I’m saying that one of the best things about travelling is fending for yourself in the big wide world and for some it’s like the first time they have really left their mothers womb. But please be cautious and do things within reason then you won’t fuck up and end up in hospital or worse…have to go home!

Stay safe when travelling and look after yourself


Travel is exhausting

People don’t tell how exhausting travelling is! Because travel is stressful (see point 1!) it makes it tiring. Again this goes back to have a holiday within your holiday! But seriously don’t forget to sit back and stop a little while. Not only does it give you a chance to catch up and rest but also to appreciate what you are doing. It’s easy to want to cram everything in with so much to see and do and so much fun to be had but you don’t have to be doing an activity all day everyday! Sometimes you need a day chilling on the beach, reading a book in the park or pigging out in front of Netflix. Reward yourself with sleep as there is not much better in life than a damn good nights sleep. If someone does come back from traveling without taking some days off here and there they will, no joke, sleep for a week.


Travel is addictive.

Plain and simple. Honestly it’s a much healthier addiction than smoking or drugs but it still catches. You go to one place and experience a crazy amount of culture, stunning landscapes and eat incredible food and that’s it, you want to go to the next place. When I was a kid I had all these dreams of things I wanted to do and zero of them have been accomplished (mainly because my plans have changed now, for the better). Once you go and make all these amazing friends and unforgettable experiences its hard not to plan the next trip and the next and the next…before you know it you’re 45 living out of a suitcase with only $3 to your name but it’s ok because you’ve got a passport full of stamps! Thinking of going travelling? Do it! Just be prepared to never be able to settle in one place after!


So there it is, the harsh truth about travelling. It’s only 5 small points and there’s no denying the negatives are well and truly worth it for that perfect sunset moment. I would do it all again just to swim with penguins once more! I mean come on…its just all about boasting and bragging isn’t it and I have plenty to brag about!


Ready for your own adventure? Check out our tours and get in touch for travel advice! Looking for inspiration? Check our our Instagram feed & Facebook page!

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Why is 2017 the year to travel?

Why is 2017 the year to travel?

Well the simple answer to this is “because you should travel now, no questions asked”, but that wouldn’t make very good reading now would it!

With it being the new year, yes it is still the beginning of the year, I’d like to think that many peoples resolutions were to travel more. If not to travel more then to be more spontaneous (aka to travel) or maybe to save money (aka to travel with) or perhaps to get out of your comfort zone (aka to travel). Incase you can’t tell I am no.1 supporter of travelling! So there is no time like the present to be thinking about leaving the grey colours of home, get off that sofa and see the world in technicolour.

“But I can’t afford to travel!”

Travel isn’t expensive and the myth that it is needs to piss off now, please. I could be super cringey here and say something like ‘the memories you will make will be priceless’ but I don’t want to take this down that philosophical route. But flights are super cheap at the moment, especially when you think about what you get, I mean those tasty meals and tiny drinks right! 😉 But seriously I read an article recently that said it takes longer to fly anywhere now than 30-40 years ago as airlines have worked out that if they fly a little slower it’ll save them on fuel and therefore be able to keep their costs down making, good news for you and me, the flights cheaper! Yea!

Countries have realised that tourism is an amazing way to get money in and budget travel, especially, is thriving as people want to travel for longer and for as little as possible. Some places we choose to travel to are a long way away from home and to make it worth your time of sitting in that cramped plane for 14 hours you will want to spend a decent amount of time there. Hence why long term budget travel is so popular. Travel has always been a competitive industry so a price can come lower if you’re prepared to do the research and put in the time and effort to find the best price. I cannot stress more though that this should be the best price for what you want. Don’t pay $10 for a hostel room expecting a lovely 6 bed dorm with an ensuite because the reality is that you’ll get a 20 bed dorm full of smelly backpackers who can’t afford to clean their clothes and steal your three-minute noodles as they can’t buy their own.

What can become expensive about travel is when you put it off for too long, because life just kind of passes you by. If you’re saving for that new car or want to get your hair done every week then the idea of travelling is going to be pretty distant and before you know it you’re married with a mortgage, 16 kids on the way and a stubborn house cat in tow. So that idea of travelling you had once ten years ago is gone and isn’t going to be an option till you become one of those super cool 70 year olds reliving their youth!

“Avoid adult life and travel like tomorrow may never come!”

2017 is the year to travel!

Travel Now!

2017 is right now, so I guess what I’m saying is TRAVEL NOW. 2016 has been and gone, it’s in the past and whether it was a good one or a bad one surely everyone wants their next year to be better! If that means swinging in to the pools of the Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi, Thailand or watching the sun set in Halong Bay, Vietnam it could even be sipping on a cold beer while you sail past the Opera House in Sydney then do it! There’s no time like the present and the world is constantly changing and shaping so while you can see all that you can and do all that you can do, please just, do it! That so called “adult” life is going to hit you like a tonne of bricks when it comes, so in my true mantra: “Avoid adult life and travel like tomorrow may never come!”

Come at us 2017!

Ready for an adventure? Get involved in one of our epic tours in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam & more – perfect for backpackers aged 18-35!

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Responsible Travel: Don’t Be A Tool!

WHAT IS RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL?

Responsible travel is all about leaving a positive impact on both the environment as well as the people who live in the gorgeous places that we choose to visit.  These days, the term ‘eco-toursim’ is a buzzword often thrown into any travel brochure to reel in the new generation.  It often is linked to the thought that the adventures advertised are respectful towards any animals involved, less harmful for the environment, and that the company is generally more aware of their impact.  Here’s how you can practice good habits on your next adventure…

Don’t be an Asshole

We’ve all seen the photos.  Trendy looking girls or top-knot haired guys riding on elephants in an exotic location with a gorgeous backdrop of Southeast Asian jungle behind them.  Despite the number of likes you may get, these trips and tours are to be avoided at all costs.

Responsible travel is about encountering wildlife in the most authentic way possible – in their natural environment.  Do your research before to determine whether the animals are treated with care and respect!  Unsure? Get in touch! We don’t ride elephants on any of our tours and we’re more than happy to recommend responsible elephant sanctuaries in Thailand where elephants are cared for.

This also goes with respecting religions, festivals, and mourning periods in certain cultures. In Southeast Asia, some temples require certain respectful attire so leave the booty shorts at home that day!  For example, with the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand last month, the locals appreciated that tourists keep partying noise to minimum during the mourning period.  When in doubt, just ask a local for the 411.

Explore Bangkok's temples

Just Eat It

Any Americans will know of the Freshman 15 (where the majority of 1st year college students gain some poundage from the lack of exercise and excessive liquid consumption!), but nothing compares to the French Forty.  Ok it wasn’t ACTUALLY 40 pounds, but you get the picture.  Even after spending a year studying there, I still don’t know how the French survive without turning into chain-smoking whales.  Almost every gathering included sweets, baguettes, cheese, and of course, wine.  BUT the point is that without those 3 hour lunch dates and food market excursions, I would have missed out on a crucial part of the French culture.

Not only does eating the local food in the country you travel give you an insight into that countries culture, but you’ll also be supporting local businesses and eating some of the best food you’ve ever tasted! You can’t go to Vietnam and not sit on a stool in the street eating Pho and drinking Bia Hơi (Vietnamese local beer!)

In some cultures, people don’t go out for drinks to bond, they invite each other over for family meals.  So buck up, eat with your hands, and try some local food.  A few local delicacies (Scorpion anyone!?) never hurt anyone…

Food in Ho Chi Minh city

Make the Trek

Get off the beaten track – carpool, walk, rent bicycles, anything! Be safe about hitchhiking, but take advantage of all the other ways to explore the country you’re in.

The best part about my nights are usually the walks to and from the bars, so save the cash and add to the experience! At Ultimate, we’re passionate about showing you places off the beaten track, eating where the locals recommend and showing you another side to that country.

Even with upcoming festivals such as Songkran (the Thai New Year’s festival), make the most of it and party with the locals!  They’ll know the best places to party and you’ll get to be part of an authentic version of an amazing celebration!

Explore Bangkok in a TukTuk

Do your Research

I’m all about being spontaneous! I once purposely missed my flight because someone invited me a 2,000 person ‘secret’ warehouse party where the outfit of choice were one-piece pyjama sets.  But for some countries it’s essential to do some background research beforehand.  Some countries are more friendly towards solo women travellers, some not.  Some encourage going off the beaten track, whereas some recommend staying amongst the tourists and travelling on tours.  Your safety is the most important thing so do you research before. Need travel advice for Southeast Asia, Oz and NZ? Get in touch! Luckily here at Ultimate, our guides are either locals, or have lived and travelled in the country for months before leading a group so you’re always in educated hands.

Ready for your travel adventure?

Tell us how you’ve travelled responsibly in the comments below!

Check out our tours in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand & Vietnam! Download your free brochure here and don’t forget to check us on on Facebook & Insta!

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The 9 Types of Backpackers You’ll Meet Traveling


Backpackers you’ll meet traveling


While we often pick a place to travel based on the destinations, the iconic attractions, and the Insta-worthy monuments, our experiences are ultimately determined by the quirky and unforgettable people we meet along the way.  Although I spent majority of my time in Budapest arguing with a Hungarian doctor to stitch up my friends head, we both credit the trip as one for the books just because of the hilarious people we suffered with.  Or the time in Ireland when we stayed in an absolute dump of a hostel, but met a 44 person Gaelic football team that dragged us to a bar where the average age was a ripe 80 years old.  

So after my fair share of backpacking, I’ve noticed there tends to be a few consistent types of travellers we all meet.  Whether they’re absolute legends or just plain awkward bunkmates, you can bet you’ll meet some if not all of the following travelers:


‘The 40 year old that thinks he’s 18’ Backpacker

He’s means well, he really does.  They’ve probably just left a boring corporate job and are trying to fulfill their backpacking dreams while they still can, but when your grandpa’s look-alike is trying to tag along as your partner for the hostel’s beer pong tourny, it starts to get awkward.  


‘The Buzz Kill’

The Wet Blanket, the Debbie Downer, the Negative Nancy, whatever his/her name, they’re a mega buzzkill.  Either the city is too dirty, the sun too sunny, or the food truck only has 2 Michelin stars, but everything just subpar.  Avoid these travelers at all costs or else you’ll start seeing the once sparkling Eiffel Tower as a couple of chopsticks with some old Christmas lights thrown on.


The One Who You Have Literally No Idea How They’re Still Alive

How are they standing in front of you right now?!?  They’ve lost their passport, they have no money in their account, and haven’t slept in days but have made it from point A to point B in some sort of fashion.  I recommend to keep these kids around for a short but insane time as you’ll probably end up in the most memorable situations, but you also may end up on the side of the road 30 km from Melbourne with no cell phone signal or money… but hey, you win some you lose some.  They’re either really goddamn smooth and can charm their way into the VIP area of the most exclusive club, or they’ve made a deal with the devil for just one more night in Ibiza. God help them wherever they land.


Backpacker living life on the edge!

The Planner

The complete opposite of above.  They’ve researched the museums, they’ve booked the tours, they’ve meal prepped, and they’re ready to just go with the flow. Ha! Just kidding.  Any group needs a mama bear like this, but if you’re traveling with one (or are one), make sure to get a couple drinks in every now to take some stress off of the itinerary.


The ‘Blogger’

These travelers have a few pros and cons.  You’ll have endless amount of photos of yourself looking at sunsets and maybe even a 30 second video of the trip that took zero effort on your part.  The cons are that you’ll spend half your time watching him/her get the perfect foodie shot and the other half determining the best quote as a caption.  Hint: ‘I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list’ definitely hasn’t been overused.


The Americans/Canadians/Australians

You’ll hear them before you see them.  The only difference between the three is that one apologizes for how rowdy the other two are getting at morning mimosas (eh?). I can say it cause I am one, but travelers from one these three lovely, raucous countries will surely let you know that they’re from one of these three lovely, raucous countries.  They’re fun loving and heavy drinkers so put your party pants on for a nice long round of Cheers Governor.


The Hippie

While I always encourage people to pack light, these guys tend to take the advice to the extreme.  You can spot them with the faded jeans, heavily worn backpack, and their homemade squirrel nut grub, always up for a spiritual chat that you may or may not want to continue after the first 45 minutes.  They may be the one that has lived at the same hostel since they’ve arrived, or they may be bopping from couch to beach depending on the weather.  


The One that High-Fives the Front Desk

They know everyone at the hostel and can tell you the latest drama at between Abby and Sarah (like seriously, you didn’t hear?!).  They’re either extremely outgoing and quirky or have just been there for god knows how long.  Either way, they are, or think they are, really popular.


And the One Who’s Shaking the Top Bunk

If you know, you know.   


Can you think of any more? Let us know in the comments below!

Planning your gap year adventure? Check out our ULTIMATE backpacker tours & get in touch for more info!

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Why Millennials are Proving to be the Best Travellers


Millennials are the best travellers!


Although I hate the word, I am a ‘millennial’.  Born in the early 90’s, I grew up with a Tamagotchi in one hand and an NSYNC album in the other. Along with some questionable style trends, I also grew up in the culture that encouraged travelling and experiencing as much as we can while we’re young. Adults told me I could be whoever I wanted, and I ate that up, wanting to have my own experiences as well as make my own mistakes.  Yes this generation may be tech obsessed, but we’re also not satisfied with getting a job to just pay the bills.  We want to sacrifice some comfort, stay on a randommer’s couch, and end up at a secret beach.  We want to immerse ourselves in it all, and because of this, we’re proving to be some of the best travellers.

Topdeck Travel did a survey of 31,000 people from 134 different countries between the ages of 18-30 years old and found some interesting results.  88% of them traveled overseas 1-3 times a year, 30% of them traveled solo, and 76% said that a friends’ recommendations was a main factor, even rating social media as a larger influence than travel agent advice.  We’re not afraid to be independent, and because our friends are likely to have ‘been there, done that’ word of mouth is a trustworthy source of advice.


Travel > the party

Along with wanting to taste the amazing grub, the survey also showed that this generation is not focused on the party atmosphere of travelling as much as expected (I told you Mom!).  Instead, seeking out new cultures and tasting the local food comes first.  Experiencing a new culture came in at 86% when deciding to travel, eating local cuisine at 69% and partying and shopping at a respective 44% and 28%.  

UltimateOz resident kangaroo, Josie
Travellers look for culture and experience

(Not) Doing it for the Insta!

While researching this survey, I had to laugh at the opening line to the social media section saying that “despite the notion that millennials are selfie and social-media obsessed…over half of young travellers only update their social media accounts a few times per week”.  And I completely agree! While I’m traveling, I 1. Rarely have wifi and 2. Want to spend my time in the gorgeous place I’ve spent so much time researching and thinking about.  Yes, I’m guilty of bragging a little on Snapchat with a sweet snap of me sandboarding in a national park just outside of Sydney, but in general, I’m often having too much fun to share it with the world!

Sandboarding at UltimateOz basecamp
Travellers in Montana

Making the most out of the paycheck

In a separate survey, 72% of Millennials are choosing to spend more money on experiences than material items.  We’re curious, we take risks, but educated risks.  I can’t tell you how long I’ve spent researching and asking around about different areas to stay, places to visit, and things to see before I actually buy that $29 sketchy RyanAir flight to Budapest and book a room in a stranger’s home.

Luckily I’ve had the opportunity to travel to around Europe, to study abroad in France, and now to work and live in Australia with the full support of everyone around me.  Although that may not be the case for everyone, I consistently encounter young people doing the exact same thing.  We’re redefining the meaning of a ‘successful future’ and if that doesn’t include a 9-5 stable-income job, we’re not too worried about it and instead just looking for the next big adventure!

Ready for your travel adventure?

Do you think millennials make the best travellers? Tell us in the comments below…

Check out our tours in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia! Download your free brochure here and don’t forget to check us out on Facebook & Insta!

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5 Reasons Why New Zealand Is a Backpackers Paradise

New Zealand: A Backpackers Paradise

The land of the Kiwis is often hyped as one of the most well travelled and photogenic places in the world, and for all the right reasons.  Not only will the New Zealand photos rack up your Instagram likes, but it boasts some epic adventures to cross off your bucket list.  The laid-back, high-quality lifestyle has attracted more and more backpackers looking for one hell of a place to travel to, and New Zealand does not disappoint!

Seriously Friendly Kiwis!

This lovely bunch of people are friendly, welcoming and always up for a chat! When you’re travelling the locals you come across can really make a difference to how you much your enjoy your time so it helps to have locals who are excited for you to be travelling their country! They usually have a few local recommendations up their sleeves too! 😉 After briefly chatting with a local on the street while looking for some late afternoon grub in Queenstown, I was given some insider tips and told to head to the famous Fergberger burger joint. This place is AMAZING and as my new Kiwi friend had suggested I phone ahead to order, I didn’t even have to wait in line! #MakeKiwiFriends!

Adrenaline Activities

From bungy jumping, white water rafting and kayaking to glacier hiking and snowboarding, New Zealand is THE place to be if you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie!

Not only does New Zealand offer some amazing activities, but you’ll also be doing them in some of the most stunning spots in the world. Try Skydiving over mountains, jet boating through crystal clear rivers and zorbing down ‘Hobbiton’ hills. Ask our travel team for recommendations!

New Zealand is a backpackers paradise
New Zealand is a backpackers paradise

Travel

One of the best things about travelling around NZ is how many different travelling options there are. You can join guided group tours (recommended for when you first arrive – check out Ultimate NZ), buy a hop-on, hop-off bus pass or road trip it in a camper or car. Whatever you decide, the adventures are endless!

Maori Culture

One of the most unique things about New Zealand is how true many of them have held onto the traditional Maori culture.  You must be on a tour to visit a Marae, which is a tribal meeting ground, but it is fascinating and truly special to be a part of.  The local people will hold speeches, sing traditional songs, and eat a hangi feast.  If you’ve ever seen a New Zealand’s All Blacks haka warrior dance, you know that the Maori ceremonies are something to behold!

New Zealand is a backpackers paradise
New Zealand is a backpackers paradise

North and South Islands

New Zealand is small yet mighty!  The North and South Islands are both stunning in different ways!  The North Island is rich in Maori culture, has tons of hot springs (and even a beach where you can dig your own jacuzzi!), scuba diving, and swimmable beaches.  In comparison, the South Island has more dramatic scenery, stunning lakes and mountains. You’ll find amazing beaches and breathtaking National parks in both the North and South Island of New Zealand!

New Zealand is a backpackers paradise
New Zealand is a backpackers paradise

New Zealand is crazy beautiful and packs a punch, full of spectacular mountains and beaches for your adventurous side while still being able to enjoy the backpacker life and have an epic night out on the town.  Pack your bags, buy your ticket, and check one more amazing country off your list!

Planning your gap year in New Zealand? Why not start your year with our awesome 8 day tour of the North Island. Check out Ultimate NZ and download your FREE brochure today! 

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Changes to Backpacker Tax in Australia

Backpacker Tax: What you need to know

Okay so backpacker tax isn’t the most exciting thing to read about on the internet, especially when there are so many other ways to spend your time…like planning your next adventure and watching compilation videos of cute kittens, but if you’re a backpacker planning a gap year in Australia there have been some recent and important changes that should be aware of. These changes will affect how much you’ll be taxed on your earnings and most importantly, how much money you’ll have to play with when you get here!


You may or may not have heard about the recent proposals by the Aussie government to up the backpacker tax to 32.5% on every dollar by the end of the year. After months of government reviews, petitions and concerns from those working in the tourism industry and the agricultural sector, Scott Morrison, Australian treasurer has announced some important updates. Here’s what went down..

  • From January 2017, Working holiday visas will now be available to those aged 18-35 which gives people over 30 another 5 years to take advantage of the working holiday visa program and start living the Aussie dream!
  • Working holiday visa applications will also be $50 cheaper.
  • Backpackers on working holiday visas will be taxed at a rate of 19% on their earnings up to $37,000/tax year (as opposed to the 32.5% tax rate that was proposed earlier in the year).
  • As compensation for the reduced working holiday visa fee and lower than proposed tax rate, the Aussie tax office will be implementing a $5 exit fee along with a 95% tax rate on Superannuation.

The changes have been put in place to encourage backpackers to travel to Australia as they are an ‘important source of labour for the agricultural sector’ and Tourism Australia have been given $10 million to promote Working holiday visas in Australia.

Luckily, with an above average minimum wage of $17.70, Australia is still a great choice and affordable destination for backpackers planning their gap years!


What do you think about the changes to backpacker tax? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! Planning your gap year? Check out UltimateOz, our 7 day gap year arrival package. Download your FREE brochure and get in touch if you have any questions!

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Confessions of a backpacker in Southeast Asia

Confessions of a Backpacker in Southeast Asia

So while backpacking many different countries, you’ll find yourself in some potentially sticky situations or making decisions that perhaps under normal circumstances at home you wouldn’t consider. Some of these decisions may be questionable to others but nevertheless end up being a funny story! So here a just a few “confessions of a backpacker” that I have come across while travelling, some of which may be personal experiences and some are stories that I have been told or have seen happen:

The Bum Gun!

When travelling through Southeast Asia, you’ll probably get ‘Bali belly’ at least once. It only takes one dodgy bit of street food mixed with non stop drinking and non-potable water to get you rushing to use the toilet! In this rush, you may forget to check if there is (or remember to take your own!) toilet paper in the cubicle. Upon finishing you may also realise there is none, and your only option is to use the bum gun, an amazing invention which as it’s name suggests allows you to spray yourself with a toilet hose after going. With no paper left to dry yourself, you may have to resort to using the t-shirt you’re wearing to dry yourself.

The Sniff Test!

One that every backpacker will come across! Adopting the ‘sniff test’ while travelling, ie smelling your clothes before putting them on to check if you can get another day’s wear out of them or if you will insult everyone you meet that day. The similar ‘turn your underwear inside out to get another days wear out of them’ trick is also something most backpackers will confess to! Oh the joys of backpacking! 😉

Missing Luggage!

When your airline misplaces your bag and you wear the same clothes for 3 days (see above!) instead of buying a new top or borrowing from a new travel buddy. C’mon, we’re on a backpacking budget afterall!

Weeing in the wild!

When your overnight bus breaks down and you’re in the middle of nowhere desperate for the loo so you end up having to wee behind a bush on the roadside. You’ll never see those locals driving past on their mopeds again right? 

Get Low!

When you take part in a topless limbo in order to get a free bucket on Koh Phi Phi. Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! 

Money, money, money

It can be hard to get your head around the different currencies in Southeast Asia! With £1 converting to approximately 17,000 Indonesian Rupiah, the exchange could leave even the best mathematician a little confused. You may learn the hard way and end up paying the toilet attendant the equivalent of £10 to use the toilet, instead of the £0.10 they’d asked for!

#DrunkenTats

When your friend says they want to draw you a travel tattoo and you naturally think it’s a fantastic idea and go along with it.. because you always wanted a stickman on a scooter tattoo!

Confessions of a backpacker in Southeast Asia
Confessions of a backpacker in Southeast Asia
Confessions of a backpacker in Southeast Asia - Getting a drunk tattoo in Thailand

Have you got any travel confessions? Share them with us!!

Thinking of heading to Southeast Asia on your travels? Check out our tours in Thailand and Vietnam!

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Why You Should Take a New Zealand Gap Year

There’s much more to New Zealand than rugby, hobbits, funny accents and 30 million sheep (that’s more than actual people btw!) – In fact, New Zealand’s backpacker tourism industry is booming with thousands of 18-30’s heading to NZ to start their gap year!

So what makes New Zealand so special? And why is now the time to pack your bags and hop on a flight to the land of the Kiwis?

Life experience

There’s nothing like taking a gap year in a different country to broaden your horizons and open your eyes! A gap year in New Zealand will allow you to experience working in a foreign country, learn about Maori culture and give you the opportunity to travel around one of the most awesome, picture perfect countries in the world. You’ll go home with new mates, work experience, a fresh outlook on life and an Instagram feed your mates at home will be jealous of! 

Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year

It’s easy! 

If you’re thinking of taking a gap year, New Zealand is the perfect place to start! Not only are Kiwis a lovely, welcoming bunch of people, the government has also make it pretty easy for backpackers to obtain a working holiday visa. Backpackers from most countries can apply for a working holiday visa which allows you to live and work in New Zealand for a specified amount of time (get in touch for info!) giving you the opportunity to travel around whilst funding your trip with short term, casual work.

On top of that, New Zealand is also generally a very safe place to travel, with a low crime rate and a great healthcare system. If you’re an English speaker, you’ve also hit the jackpot as finding a job will be easy! 

Travel around New Zealand on your gap year

New Zealand is stunning bro!

You only have to type New Zealand into Google (or watch’ The Lord of the Rings!’) to get an idea of just how stunning this country is. New Zealand is truly one of those places that’s beauty takes your breath away – from stunning lakes, to breathtaking mountains and golden, pristine beaches, it’s hard not to fall in love with the beautiful landscapes and scenery Kiwiland has to offer! 

Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year

New Zealand has everything! 

Whatever you’re looking to experience during your gap year, you’ll find it in New Zealand. Whether you’re looking to party hard with other backpackers, always dreamed of living in a city like Auckland or want to experience life on a farm in the middle of nowhere, you can do it here! 

Bit of an adrenaline junkie? New Zealand is home to the world’s most exciting adventure activities such as skydiving, bungy jumping, white water rafting, jet boating and pretty much anything else you can think of that would scare the pants off you!

With so many amazing places to see and things to experience in New Zealand, you’ll be glad of a year long working holiday visa! 

Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year

Jobs, jobs, jobs

In your home country, you may be well aware of a lack of jobs in recent times. Struggling to find a job out of uni? A gap year in NZ could be your answer. Not only are there lots of jobs available for backpackers in New Zealand, with a pretty decent minimum wage of approx $15, but work experience abroad will look great on your CV. Also, with New Zealand’s affordable cost of living, you’ll be able to save some moollah for some well-deserved travelling between jobs. Employers love travellers so get yourself to NZ for a year of work experience and fun!

Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year
Travel around New Zealand on your gap year

Make friends for life..

The friends you’ll meet travelling will be some of the best friends you’ll ever make. From the first moment you meet, you’ll already have so much in common: a passion for travel, the motivation to escape the daily grind and come travelling in the first place and a thirst for adventure! Your travel friends will become your family sharing your travel adventures as partners in crime and offering a shoulder to cry on if you get homesick. 

“Life was meant for good friends and great adventure..”

It’s just bloody beautiful…’Nuff said!

Why not kick start your New Zealand gap year by joining us on our 8 day gap year package, Ultimate NZ! We’ll set you up for your time in New Zealand with help finding work, travel discounts and more along with a week of fully guided group activities activities in and around Auckland to get you started! Download your FREE brochure now and get in touch with our lovely crew for more info!

Photo credits: Ultimate crew Instagram pics

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My New Zealand Road Trip!

With some of the world’s most picture perfect, stunning scenery and so much to see and experience, it’s no wonder New Zealand has become a favourite for backpackers planning a gap year abroad.

So what’s the best way to explore it? There are heaps of ways to travel around NZ including guided group tours, hop-on, hop off bus passes and renting your own car or camper. How you travel around will depend on how much time you have to travel, your budget and what you want to get out of the experience. Our travel experts have been there, done that so get in touch for help and advice deciding which option is right for you and some inside tips on travelling around this beautiful country!

Ultimate Travel guru Evi tells us about her New Zealand Adventure…

My Arrival in New Zealand

Our New Zealand adventure started in Auckland. Here, we visited the famous Skytower, offering panoramic views of the city and of course we headed straight to try out the Belgian beer pub! To work off some of the beer, we went mountain biking in Woodhill Forest and got an awesome vantage point of the city from one tree hill.
Then it was time to collect our camper and head to the Coromandel Peninsula. It was such a beautiful ride with different landscapes, sea and mountains. Arriving at Hahei beach, we immediately set up our BBQ and cooked up some scampi. We hiked and explored some of the bays, including Gemstone Bay, Stringray bay and Cathedral cove is where the movie Narnia was filmed. Such a stunning spot!

I’d been excited to head to Hot water beach where I’d heard you can dig your own jacuzzi in the sand using the hot springs beneath the beach! Next we drove to Rotorua where we checked out Waiotapu, an active volcanic area which was really impressive, although it did smell like rotten eggs! 😉 Tamakei village was a great place to find lots of Kiwi souvenirs and learn about the very interesting Maori culture.

Next it was time to drive to Taupo, stopping on the way to check our Hukka falls with incredible blue water. It’s a pity we didn’t have more time, as I would have liked to see more of the river. Next stop: Tongariro National Park where we found amazingly beautiful snowy mountains and some impressive waterfalls.

Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip
Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip

South Island

We hopped on the ferry in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington and started our short ferry journey over to New Zealand’s South Island.

When we arrived, we immediately noticed a big difference between the North and South Island. Here, we came across lots of mountainous, beautiful greenery and lots of sheep! Okiwi bay in the Abel Tasman National Park was one of my favourite memories of my time in the South Island. We took a lovely walk along the coast which was literally just us…and some sea lions chilling on the beach! It was so quiet and some of the (massive!) sea lions came right up to us to say hello – definitely a memorable experience! Afterwards, we climbed up to the summit to take in the breathtaking views of the national park. All in all, a TOP DAY!

We said goodbye to the beautiful Abel Tasman and continued our journey on to Christchurch. This place had been on my bucket list for a while!  I’d heard a lot about the beautiful town and was intrigued to visit somewhere that had been hit by an earthquake. It was so interesting and of course sad to see how it affected the city. We visited some museums and explored some of Christchurch’s gardens before driving back to the coast to start our journey down the Peninsula banks. Another beautiful ride with incredibly beautiful views!

As soon as we arrived at Lake Tekapo, I immediately fell in love with the area: a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. We parked up our camper by the lake and spent the day chilling and admiring the views. The next day we climbed up Mount John and spent a few hours taking in the amazing views before enjoying our last day of sunshine and hot pools in Tekapo. A much needed few days of chilling in a stunning area before travelling on.

Time for Mount Cook, but before we got there we made an stop at Lake Pukaki. It was quite overcast so we decided to make a hike to Mount Cook and drive to Oamaru in time to catch the sunset and to see a colony of blue penguins waddling ashore to settle on the beach for the night – so cute!

The next day it was time to drive to Dunedin, check out Kaka Lighthouse on the Otago Peninsula before spending the night at Cannibal Bay. On the way we also stopped at several hidden and extremely beautiful waterfalls. We also walked to the southernmost tip of the South Island. It was funny though, you had to walk through some land privately owned by a farmer, carefully avoiding all the cow pat! It was worth it though! 😉

Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip
Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip
Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip

Milford Sound & Queenstown

Now time for the Milford Sound which also turned out to be one of my favourite places here in New Zealand. The sound, surrounded by majestic mountains is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen – some of the stops will leave you speechless! We hadn’t planned on doing a boat cruise but were so happy we did in the end – it’s really beautiful! On the way back we stopped off at a waterfall to re-fill our water bottles – yep, the water was the purest I’ve ever tasted! Milford sound – you were incredible!

From there we drove straight to Queenstown where we spent a few days in a hostel living in backpacker luxury – a welcome short break from our campervan! We spent most of our time exploring the town and the beautiful lake surrounding the town. We went to an ice bar, checked out some of Queenstown’s pubs and of course, tried the famous Q’town Fergburger!

Next I did something I never thought I’d experience…a bungee jump! Of course, I had to book myself onto the biggest bungee jump in Australasia, the Nevis bungee jump at 136 metres! I stood on a small platform between two mountains with the river below. Of course I was super nervous, but I really didn’t have time to think! Before I knew it…3…2…1…JUMP! WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!

Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip
Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip

Awesome Glaciers & Beautiful Lakes

The next day I continued to conquer my fears with a Franz Joseph Glacier helicopter tour! We hiked through the Glaciers which was an experience I’ll never forget – I still can not believe we did knowing that this beautiful place won’t be here in years to come! Crawling between icebergs, and hiking in the glacier was just fantastic. Photos don’t do it justice or show just how big it really is!

We also got to check out Lake Matheson, New Zealand’s mirror lake – a small lake where you could see the reflections of the mountains in the water. Another amazingly beautiful lake!

We’re almost at the end of our time in New Zealand: last stop is Lake Nelson! The lake is beautiful and you can drive all the way to the top to enjoy the stunning views. From there we then drove to Abel Tasman and back to Auckland where it all began for a few more days of fun in the beautiful North Island.

Overall I loved my time in New Zealand and fell in love with the country and the people we met along the way. I can’t wait to go back and experience more!

 My Travel Moto: Don’t let your dreams be dreams!

Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip
Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip
Guide to your New Zealand Road Trip

Time for your New Zealand adventure? Why not kick start your gap year with Ultimate NZ, giving you everything you need to get set up in NZ along with travel discounts and a week of fun activities and exploring the stunning Coromandel Peninsula! Download your free Ultimate New Zealand brochure today!

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Science says: Travelling can make you sexy

Science says: Travelling can make you sexy!

After years of extensive research, social experiments and examining case studies scientists have recently had an exciting breakthrough in determining whether or not travelling can actually make you sexier. Turns out – it can! REYYYYY! **books flight to other side of the world and travels happily ever after**

Okay..so the science part isn’t exactly true – It hasn’t actually been proven by science…yet..but here’s how I think travelling can make you (even) sexier! Hint: It has nothing to do with your bronzed face, toned surfer arms & beach hair!

Travel Keeps You Young!

Ever wondered what the secret to eternal youth is? Happiness! (and lots & lots of suncream! 😉 ) And what makes most of us happy? Travelling! Not only will having a break from the stress of day to day life keep those frown lines at bay but you’ll also have that happy glow that only comes from true freedom, and loving life – sexy as bro!

Experience paradise in Fiji

Experience = Sexy

Chances are that as a traveller you’ll be dealing with situations you’re not used to from missing your connecting flight and overcoming language barriers to negotiating a price for that pair of knock-off RayBans at the market. Travelling for a year made me feel like I could handle anything that came my way. I’d learnt so much in that time that things I’d once worried about (or called mum for help!) seemed so trivial. Having experienced and tackled so much by yourself, you’ll become independent, fearless, confident and overall a sexy human being! Note: Yes, I still call my mum if there is a spider in the house – there are some things travelling will never prepare you for! 😉

Become more experienced with travel

You’ll Be Interesting

Have you ever met a traveller who doesn’t have an interesting or funny story to tell? Nope – me neither! Travelling broadens your horizons, allows you to meet people from all walks of life, experience different cultures and throws you into all sorts of situations you wouldn’t normally deal with in day to day life. Being able to share your own unique and personal travel experiences automatically turns you into a worldie!

You'll have lots of travel stories to tell!

The Chilled Traveller

Whilst it’s important when you’re travelling to make sure you experience everything you want to, you’ll also find you spend a lot of your time going where your travel mates want to go. You’ll become happy to go with the flow, knowing that wherever you end up, you’ll have the time of your life and that you might even discover somewhere you never even knew existed! Being flexible with your plans and spontaneous is a really attractive quality to have. Not sweating the small stuff = happy, chilled, sexy person!

Travelling flexibly is sexy

You’ll Gain Confidence

Travelling for the first time is a daunting prospect for anyone and it would be impossible to travel and not feel like you’ve accomplished something amazing! You’ll gain confidence through meeting heaps of different people, travelling solo and experiencing situations out of your comfort zone! Whether you’re a shy introvert or a social butterfly, travelling will give you the confidence to be comfortable in your own skin – and there’s nothing sexier than that!

Travelling makes you confident

So there you have it…Just another excuse to pack your bags and travel the world!

Want to travel but not sure where to start? Get in touch for help and travel inspiration!

ULTIMATE run group tours and gap year packages in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam & more! Get in touch to start the adventure of a lifetime!

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The Great Barrier Reef: What’s the best way to experience it?

The Great Barrier Reef: Australia

The iconic Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s greatest natural wonders. It’s the largest coral reef in the world with over 3000 individual reef systems, an abundance of fish, turtles, sharks, jellyfish and dolphins – basically, if you want to find Nemo (or Dory!), you’ve come to the right place!

It’s also home to hundred’s of tropical islands stretching over 2300km along the East coast of Australia including Fitzroy Island, Green Island and Daydream island…dreamy!

Fun fact: The Great Barrier Reef is so big (in true Aussie style!) that it’s the only living thing on Earth you can see from space!

As a backpacker on your gap year, travelling around Oz you’re probably wondering what’s the best way to experience the beautiful Great Barrier reef to get the most out of it (and your hard earned cash!) Having been lucky enough to visit the Great Barrier Reef a few times, here’s what I’d recommend…

Fitzroy Island

This place is PARADISE! About an hour away from Cairns marina by boat, Fitzroy is the perfect option for people who are limited on time and want to experience the reef AND a paradise island in one day.

Here, you can snorkel right off the beach (I’d recommend Nudey beach-nope not a nudist beach! 😉 ), and as the water is so clear you can see so much of the amazing coral, fish and turtles. If you fancy exploring the island there are lots of walking tracks you can follow (approx 20 min-2 hours) including an awesome walk up to the lighthouse and summit of Fitzroy Island – the views are well worth the walk! The glass bottom boat is also a great way of seeing and learning about the Great Barrier Reefs coral and fish species.

Fitzroy island is paradise on earth!

I booked a day trip with Raging Thunder which included my snorkel gear for the day, a glass bottom boat tour, return transfers from Cairns and beach hire equipment including kayaks, paddleboards & their ocean trampoline! I’d highly recommend this tour to any backpackers looking to visit Fitzroy Island. Not only did all the inclusions make for a stress-free and fun day on Fitzroy but the staff were amazing, knowledgeable and so friendly! I even had the option of returning to Cairns on the 30 minute ‘Thunderbolt’ (jet boat) which was great fun!

Overall, an awesome day on a beautiful island and a must-do for anyone visiting the reef from Cairns!

Raging-Thunder Beach shack

Snorkel day trip

Snorkel or dive trips from Cairns are great for anyone wanting to experience the reef from the water. Most day trips depart from Cairns marina and take about 90 minutes. This is the way to go if you’d like to experience diving in the world’s largest reef! These day trips offer snorkel, introductory and certified dive options so even if you’ve never dived before, you’ll get the chance to try it out with a small group and a trained dive instructor before committing to (and spending your money on!) doing a dive course. Exploring the reef from the bottom of the ocean is such an amazing, exhilarating, (nervewracking!) experience – but one I’d recommend to everyone!

On the way out to the reef, you’ll be given a safety talk (if you’re diving) and told all about the reef, the coral and all of the marine species you’ll likely come across during the day. Fancy a lazy day? Book onto a snorkel day trip for a relaxing day of snorkelling, learning about the reef and sunbaking on deck!

Done a dive and loved it? Or already a certified diver? Get involved in an overnight Great Barrier reef tour!

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Whitsunday Islands

Airlie beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, located right in the centre of the Great Barrier Reef stretching down the coast. Trust me when I say, The Whitsundays are NOT to be missed! I had the best 3 days of my entire East coast trip (which is a big shout!) cruising around the Whitsunday Islands on a sailing yacht, partying with other backpackers and snorkelling in crystal clear waters. Sleeping on the deck of a boat, star gazing in the middle of the the Great Barrier Reef at night and spending my days on some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen (seriously, Google Whitehaven beach!)

There are so many different options to choose from whether you’re looking to spend a couple of nights on an adventure sailing boat, a relaxing time on a luxury catamaran (at backpacker prices), adventure on a big traditional tallship or if you just want a bit of a piss up in paradise!

Whitsunday Islands

Sadly our beautiful reef won’t be around forever due to climate change (among other things) and whilst preservation efforts have been put in place to protect the Great Barrier Reef, my advice to you is to make the most of it’s beauty now, experience it as many different ways as you can (responsibly!) and enjoy it while you still can. We only work with operators who are eco-certified and who encourage sustainable diving and snorkelling and support marine conservation initiatives.

Still not sure how you should experience the Great Barrier Reef? Get in touch for tour recommendations from the Ultimate crew and help planning your trip!

Ready to start your trip to Australia? Check out our Ultimate East Coast package which includes your Whitsunday Islands & snorkel trip from Cairns! Fitzroy Island with Raging Thunder upgrades are available.

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Backpacker Tax Refund Made Easy

Backpacker Tax Refund Ultimate Travel

The top 7 tips to claim your tax back

All of you working holiday’rs probably experienced the biggest culture shock coming to Australia…Some of you might have travelled through SE Asia before coming here,- shock free -, but then you received your first payslip in Australia … The amount of tax Australia’s government charges you! Aww lawdy. I needed an entire bag of goon and some comfort food to recover from that one!

But you’re done with sleepless nights, because we’re close to the best day EVER! TAX BACK DAY (Hallleelujah!). I can imagine you’re confused about how and when to claim your Tax back. I mean, I was! So to make it an easy struggle for you guys, I wrote down a few facts that will help you with this confusing, serious business…

Tax Year in Australia

Australia has its own unique financial year. It doesn’t start on 1st January and ends on 31st December. The land down under has its own special financial year, from 1st July to 30th June to be precise.

When can I claim my Backpacker Tax Refund?

The concern I had was… When do I claim my Tax back? Do I have to do it before the end of the year or after? Here’s what I found out…

You can claim your Tax back from 1st July until 31st October. So now, July 2016 you can start claiming back your Tax for financial year 1st July 2015 to 30th June 2016. But, there is an exception to the rule. For us, backpackers that are leaving Australia permanently, we can claim our tax back before the end of Australia’s financial year. An important aspect to take into consideration, you have to be in Australia for at least six months before you can apply for that tax back. It doesn’t matter how many months you’ve worked but the period of time being in Australia does matter… At least six months, that’s the only thing you need to remember!

Do I have to declare my tax or lodge a tax refund?

If you’re in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, you are eligible to claim your Tax back. Actually, you are legally obliged to file your tax application at the end of the financial year. I know, it might seem like a big burden but if you know that the average Australian refund is AU$2600, do you still think it’s not worth your time?

Claim your Aussie tax refund!

What do I need to claim back my tax?

You’ll need your PAYG (Pay As You Go) or final payslip in order to apply to get your Tax back. The final payslip is a summary of all the payslips you’ve received during your period of working. Don’t worry; it’s normal that you don’t have it yet. Your employer will be able to provide this to you at the end of the tax year.

What else do I get?

You might not know about this one but you can claim back more money… YOUR SUPERANNUATION!  It’s a type of long- term saving plan designed to help Australian people in retirement. You might think… “I’m a backpacker in my 20’s, why would I pay for my retirement in Australia?” Well, here comes the good part… it doesn’t come out of your wages, it’s an additional cost paid by your employer,  and you’re the lucky one that can claim it back when you leave Australia!

HELP!

If you are still confused and need help with claiming your Tax back, feel free to contact us! We here to give you help and advice on anything ‘Working Holiday’! Want to know how much tax back you’ll get? It’s easy! Calculate your possible tax refund here.

Seeing that money go into your bank account is the best feeling and what better way to spend it than on your next adventure! Check out what other travellers get up to for some inspiration!

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My Top 10 Tips for a Backpacker Travelling Australia

My Top 10 Tips for a Backpacker Travelling Australia!

As a backpacker travelling Australia,  I am always looking for tips to make my time out here easier, cheaper and more fun – so here are some of my tips to save you money and help you get the best of your time out here in Oz.

Keep your travel dates flexible!

I know this can sound scary, but personally I think it’s the one of the best options when you come out here is to be flexible. It is a great idea to have a general idea of what you want to do and even book your trip so you can budget properly, but don’t set dates. You never know, you may come out here with the intention to start travelling the East Coast at the end of your first month in Australia, but end up meeting people in your first week and want to head off earlier with them.

Keep your travel plans flexible

Go it alone!

So, if like myself, all your friends back home would rather start working and being proper grown-ups, go travelling alone! I did a group tour when I first got here and I can honestly say it’s the best decision I ever made. I’ve made some of the best and closest friends whilst travelling. In fact, I still speak to the people I met on my very first day in Australia in my hostel in Sydney!

Cure your hangover the backpacker way!

The ONLY way to cure a hangover (no it doesn’t include a bloody Mary although that does help!) is to get up and do something adventurous. Let’s face it, there will be lots of drinking opportunities as you travel so you might spend the majority of your days feeling a bit worse for wear but get up and go explore! Also, I find being in water the perfect hangover cure- so refreshing!

Do the 'hair flick' at Millaa Millaa falls in the Atherton Tablelands

If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

As a backpacker, I love a good freebie. Who can say no to free wifi or a cheap meal? Most hostels have great cheap meals  and drink deals. Happy hour is my favourite time of day – I recommend downloading ‘The Happiest Hour’ for all the happy hours and cheap deals near you.

Be a patient backpacker!

Yes, your bus might be late, or has decided to take a detour, or you might have taken a wrong tour in your campervan but it isn’t the end of the world. Use it as an opportunity to explore something off the beaten track that you wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise. Don’t sweat the small stuff and you’ll enjoy your trip even more! 

Ear plugs are your friend!

Believe it or not, you may actually fancy a decent night of sleep during your travels, especially if you are getting up early the next morning for your skydive or scuba dive. These bad boys are handy when you have a snorer in your dorm.

Write your travels down

I found that I had to write down what I’d done during my trip or I knew I’d forget with time, whether it be in a book or on my phone. It also helps if you’re trying to remember that awesome bar you want to recommend to your new friend.

Travel off the beaten path

As much as I love doing the popular tourist things (there’s a reason they’re so popular!), I love finding new places to explore and things to do. Grab a map (by map, I mean Google maps – obv!) and find somewhere you haven’t heard of. Hike through national parks and watch the sunset from a secluded beach. Australia has some amazingly beautiful areas that you wouldn’t see unless you’re prepared to go off the beaten path a little! 

Switch off

Turn your phone off and step away from Facebook. Sometimes I feel like people are too busy trying to get that perfect photo for Instagram that they aren’t experiencing where they are fully.

Say YES!

This is my own personal travel mantra. I say yes to as much as possible! I’m all for trying anything once (tell that to the deep fried crickets I ate in Cambodia!). So far the only thing I’ve not said yes to yet is Skydiving and Bungy, but unfortunately my fear of heights wins there! Say yes to as much as possible and have no regrets, this way you get to experience so much and make the most out of your time travelling.

Want to travel Australia but not sure where to start? The crew here at ULTIMATE love talking about our travels and experiences so get in touch for help planning!

Ready to start your trip to Australia? Check out our UltimateOz package & Ultimate East Coast package!

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My Mini Guide To Travelling The East Coast

The East Coast of Australia; 4000km of goon-filled fun and frolics. I’ve compiled a guide for the Ultimate East Coast Experience to help you navigate your way through the coast!

How much time will I need?

There’s no right or wrong amount of time to travel the East Coast in. The most common amount of time is 4-6 weeks, as this gives you plenty of time to see all the main highlights without feeling rushed.  I decided to slow mine down even more and spent about 2 and a half months doing the East Coast, as I thought this is probably a once in a lifetime trip, and probably isn’t something I’d get the chance to do again in full. (1.5 years down the line and I’ve revisited my favourite parts of the East Coast and still have more plans to see more of it!) 

Ways to travel

There are many different ways to travel up the East Coast. The main three ways are Campervan, Guided Tour and Hop on Hop off Bus. I decided that hop on hop off bus was the way for me, as it meant I didn’t have to worry about the stress of driving, paying for petrol and finding places to park – parallel parking definitely isn’t my forte.  I chose to travel by Greyhound, which meant I could just sit back and relax, and hop off whenever I wanted. 

Byron Bay

This has to be one of my favourite spots along the East Coast. This beach side town is the perfect spot for surfing, and if you time it right, you could be surfing with the dolphins if you head out early morning or early evening. It’s definitely a surreal experience. If surfing isn’t your thing, try kayaking with dolphins for chilled experience.

Another activity (which just so happens to be free!) to do in Byron Bay is the Cape Byron Walk to the lighthouse. I highly recommend doing this at sunrise or sunset (I chose sunset as I’m not an early riser) as its hell in the heat of the midday sun! You will also see possibly one of the best sunsets ever – definitely one of the best I’ve ever seen, the colours were incredible!  You also get to the most Easterly Point of Australia which is pretty cool (and possibly another to tick off the bucket list if that’s your thing?).

Most Easterly point of Australia

Noosa & Fraser Island

Fraser Island (also known as K’gaari) is the largest sand island in the world, with the beach on the island being 90 miles long! There are some awesome trips that go out to Fraser Island. I myself did a camping trip – which I must admit I wasn’t so keen on the idea of camping at first (the princess in me did not like the sound of sleeping on the ground with the spiders…), however, it was so much fun! If I were to do it again, I’d like to try a tour with cabin accommodation instead of tents such as the Nomads Fraser tour – however fun camping is, a run in with a rogue Huntsman spider has put me off for the time being! Keep an eye out for Dingos whilst your there too as they are Fraser’s local inhabitants!

Noosa itself is a great little town too. Australia Zoo AKA home of the Crocodile Hunter (how Aussie!?) is roughly an hour away from Nossa so make sure to check it out – even if you just want to hold a Koala as they are ridiculously cute! I am not ashamed to say I have done this 3 times! You can also stand up paddle board here too which is super fun and you might even spot some cool wildlife whilst paddling around.

Cuddling a koala

Airlie Beach & the Whitsundays

When you’re visiting the East Coast- this is a must see! The Whitsunday Islands is definitely my #1 favourite place and top experience along the East Coast. What could be better than sailing around a selection of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays on a boat whilst drinking a cold beer? I can honestly say I saw more fish here than I think I’ve ever seen and the colours are unbelievable, so definitely snorkel if you have a chance to here! Whitehaven beach is also out of this world!

Fun on Whitehaven beach

Magnetic Island

Again, another one of my favourite places along the coast – I have a feeling I’ll be saying that about a lot of places!  This island has such a chilled out vibe. I would definitely recommend heading out on the Forts Walk across the island, the view from the top is unreal, and you literally have a 360 degree view of the whole island! There are also loads of wild koalas that line the trees along the walk, so definitely keep your eye out for those. Also..where else can you drive around in a barbie car!? My life is complete.

Magnetic Island barbie car

Cairns

Home to the thickest part of the Great Barrier Reef; a touristic hotspot for snorkelling and scuba diving, Cairns is also the party central and adventure activity capital of the East Coast. With backpacker bars aplenty, you’re definitely in for a cheap night out! If there’s just two things you do during your time in Cairns, make it snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and chasing waterfalls (sorry, couldn’t resist!) My personal favourite had to be Millaa Millaa falls in the Atherton Tablelands. Anyone remember Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl video? Well that was filmed right there during the Waterfall scenes, along with the herbal essences adverts. Make sure to get that perfect hair flick photo!  

Millaa Millaa falls

Last but by no means is least – the Grand Finale of most people’s East Coast Adventure, snorkelling or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Having snorkelled my way up most of the Coast, I decided to give scuba diving a try whilst in Cairns, and I can honestly say although terrifying, (picture me clinging onto the side of the boat trying to force myself to dive down) is amazing! From sharks and turtles to rays and rainbow fish, it’s definitely an experience I would recommend to everyone!

 Fitzroy Island

 

Want to travel the East Coast of Australia but not sure where to start? Get in touch for help and advice or check out the UltimateOz 28 day East coast package!

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10 Things Every Backpacker Should Experience in Thailand

You’ll be missing out if you go to Thailand and don’t experience the best things Thailand has to offer…

The Street food

Street food in Thailand is uhhh-mazinnggg! Not only can you pick up some delicious Thai curries, Thailand’s traditional Pad Thai and meat skewers but you can also get your hands on some great sweet dishes – Southeast Asian crepes with nutella and bananas will always be a winner!

Fancy trying something a bit different? Get your gnashers around a scorpion, cricket or deep fried tarantula. Give it a try…after a few pints of Chang you won’t even taste it and whilst you might be dying inside, just think of all those Instagram likes you’ll get!

Eating a scorpion in Bangkok

A massage Thai style

One of the best things about Thailand? Thai massages! Thai massages are amazing and so cheap. Yes you might be shocked at how a tiny Thai lady can bend your body in half with so much force but you’ll also get one of the best massages you’ve ever had! When in Thailand make sure you get a couple…or twenty and don’t forget to get involved in a fish foot massage – one of the weirdest ‘sensations’ ever!

A bit of history

You can’t go Thailand and not take in a little culture and history. The temples in Bangkok give a great insight into Thailand’s main religion, Buddhism, and are not to be missed! My fave is Wat Pho, temple of the reclining buddha!

Beach parties

When it comes to beach parties, Thailand is THE place to go! There’s nothing like walking (or weaving your way through the crowds) onto Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan to see thousands of people dressed in fluro, dancing on the sand with music pumping for miles. Fire shows are also popular on a lot of the islands including Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi. Want to jump through a ‘ring of fire?’ Now’s your chance!

The infamous bucket!

Speaking of island fun..no beach party is complete without Thailand’s infamous bucket! You can get your hands on one of these bad boys for about 200Baht (about a fiver!) When you buy a bucket you’ll usually get a concoction of M-150 (concentrated redbull), a local spirit and a can of mixer. Just a word of warning – these buckets are STRONG. They give you 4 straws for a reason..sharing is caring! 😉

Local transport

In my opinion, the best way to see a country is by experiencing the local transport. Use local transport such as TukTuk’s in Bangkok, hop on an overnight train with Thai locals and cruise around in Thailand’s iconic longtail boats whenever you have the option!

Wildlife

If you’ve ever dreamed of feeding baby monkeys, volunteering in an elephant sanctuary or getting up close with exotic birds and wildlife such as monitor lizards, Thailand is for you!

Feed monkeys in Thailand

All things Bangkok

Bangkok is an overload for the senses and one of the most exciting cities I have ever been to. Head to the famous Khao San Rd to party with other travellers and to Patpong, Bangkok’s red light district to party with lady boys! Also, Bangkok’s famous floating markets aren’t to be missed! You could even catch a Muay Thai boxing match – no better place to experience it and anyway – Bangkok has you now..

Maya Bay

If you watched ‘The Beach’ you’ve probably dreamed of visiting this stunning bay since you saw Leo swim around with millions of glowing plankton surrounding him! You can’t beat the crystal clear waters of Maya Bay, the beautiful white sand and great snorkelling in the area – just remember your camera!

Hair flick in Maya Bay

Stay in the Jungle

Thailand isn’t all about island life and partying on the beach! Your visit to Thailand won’t be complete without a little ‘off the beaten track’ action. Say hello to Khao Sok National Park! Stay in floating bungalows on the lake, explore caves, go tubing, feed baby monkeys and chill in paradise. This place is heaven on earth!

Khao-Sok

Is Thailand on your travel bucket list? Check out our 10 day tour of Thailand and get in touch for help planning!

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Thailand’s Songkran Festival: A Survival Guide

Thailand’s Songkran festival, also known as the largest water fight on Earth is well under way in the streets of Thailand this week! The festival runs from the 13th-15th April to celebrate Thailand’s New Year (following the Buddist/Hindu solar calendar.) The 3 day festival is also celebrated in other South East Asian countries such as Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The water fight stems from traditional water pouring, used to ‘wash away sins’ and to start a fresh in the New Year which has turned into a 3 day non stop water fight- Amazing!

Thailand's Songkran Festival

Ultimate travel ledge, Becca went to Chiang Mai (Thailand’s wildest water fight!) in northern Thailand to celebrate Songkran festival. She tells us a bit about her experience and shares her top tips on how to survive Songkran!

“Songkran was literally the best weekend of my whole trip! I celebrated in Chiang Mai and stayed at Soho Hostel which is right in the middle of it all. I arrived in Chiang Mai the day before and the festivities had already begun early. I remember having to get trashbags and cover our backpacks to avoid the water. We also had to take side streets to the hostel just to avoid the mayhem – it was so busy! The festival begins at around 8am every morning and lasts pretty much as long as the people can! There’s lots of music and Changs (Thai beers) being passed around. There are also buckets set up around town as “refilling” stations where you can refill your weapon of choice! 😉 The best part about it is that everyone is celebrating – locals and tourists of all ages! The atmosphere is amazing! It’s as if everyone is reliving their childhood and having the best time- not one frown around! Luckily it’s the hottest time of the year too so its nice to cool off a bit getting shot at with ice cold water! If you’re in Thailand, don’t miss out on Songkran and make sure to check out my top tips (below!)”

Invest in a good water gun

My personal favourite…the turtle backpack!

Invest in a good water gun backpack during Songkran

Don’t wear white

Because there’s a time and a place for wet t-shirt competitions…and Songkran isn’t it!

Don't wear white to Songkran

Waterproof pouch

Keep your valuables safe in a waterproof pouch!

Thailand's Songkran Festival

Goggles

Protect your peepers…plus they look cool.

Wear goggles to protect your eyes during Songkran

Make friends with the locals

There’s no better way to celebrate a national festival than with the locals – you never know who you’ll meet!

Chill with the locals during Songkran

Thinking of travelling to Thailand? Check out our 11 day Ultimate Thailand tour and get in touch for help planning your trip!

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The Ultimate Guide to Safety & Preventing Scams in SE Asia

Southeast Asia is a place like no other; an amazingly beautiful part of the world made up of stunning white beaches, paradise islands, bustling cities, fascinating culture & a crazy night life! It’s without a doubt my favourite place to travel to in the world and in my opinion, you’d be crazy not to travel here (at least on a stopover!) on your gap year! As much as I love Southeast Asia, I understand that travelling to SE Asia can be a bit of a culture shock, especially for first time travellers! Tales of scams, theft and lack of healthcare in some areas can make travelling to SE Asia seem a bit daunting but as with most places, knowing what to expect before you start your travels can really help put your mind at ease. Have a read through our tips on being safe and prevent being scammed in SE Asia and enjoy your time in this amazing place! 

1. Be a Good Egg!

Like anywhere you travel to,  it’s a good idea to do some research before you start your trip.  Culture and customs can vary from country to country so finding out about etiquette and rules before you get there, is really important. For example, in Cambodia you shouldn’t touch anyone on the head and in Thailand it is considered rude to point. Better to find these things out now, before unintentionally offending any locals!

Most of the countries in Southeast Asia have very strict rules on carrying and taking drugs, some even resulting in lifelong prison sentences and death penalty – scary stuff! If you’re offered drugs by anyone in Southeast Asia, just say no. Sorry to be a party pooper but it’s just not worth it! Some locals will be working with undercover police earning a commission on any people they can entice to buy drugs from them. You’ll end up paying a hefty fine and in some cases face prison – not quite the gap year you had in mind right!?

2. Do Your Research

Travel guides like ‘The Lonely Planet’ are a great way of reading up on the area you’re travelling to. Get recommendations on hostels, local attractions, travel and watch out for things places to avoid. Also, why not join a travel forum online to chat to other backpackers before you travel – people who have recently ‘been there, done that’  may have some useful hints & tips for you!

Things like knowing where your countries embassy is, and what help you would get should you run into trouble along the way can really put your mind at ease too. Register your travel plans online (websites will vary depending on where you’re from but will be easy to find online!) to keep you updated with safety info: ie if there are protests in Bangkok and you’re registered in Thailand, you’ll get an email to let you know so you can plan your travel around it. Above all, let your friends and family know where you are. If you’ll be off the grid for a couple of days without access to your phone or wifi, let someone at home know!

Here at Ultimate Travel we’re happy to offer advice and answer any travel related questions you may have. We love to travel (surprise!) and love talking about our travel adventures so feel free get in touch for help and advice!

Friendly locals in Vietnam

3. Money & Belongings

Travelling makes you richer in more ways than one! Some countries in Southeast Asia will make you to feel like a millionaire…I’m talking to you, Indonesia with your 1 million Rupiah for 50 quid!..Trust me, it can get confusing! One time in Indonesia, I paid the equivalent of $10 to use the toilet instead of 10cents they’d asked for! Figure out what your money is worth before flashing the cash to avoid spending all your money in one go!

Theft can be common in Southeast Asia but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire trip worrying. Have your wits about you, be aware of any common scams in the area and keep these tips in mind when you’re travelling around!

  • If you have cash, never carry all of it on you at one time. Keep an emergency stash somewhere safe just in case! Some backpacks have hidden zips in – perfect for hiding some extra cash in. If not, use socks, a playing card box, sunglasses cases, rolled up clothes.. you get the idea – be creative!  If you’re out partying the night away at the Full Moon Party keep enough money to get you home stashed in a separate pocket  –  you can give yourself a hungover pat on the back in the morning! 
  • Girls, if you can, wear your bag across your shoulders rather than on one arm to avoid theft.
  • Wherever possible, use the safe at your hostel to store your passport whilst you’re out and always use a combination lock on your backpack – even when it’s left in your room!
  • Be wary of pickpockets in busy places (food markets, at beach parties and in busy bars.) Check out our Full Moon Party survival tips!

4. Health

Getting ill abroad, in the heat, without your mum to sympathise and mop your brow is a low point in anyone’s trip to Southeast Asia so get clued up before you travel and take any medication you may need with you. Whilst tummy bugs from tap watered ice and dodgy food are inevitable if you’re travelling for long enough, there are some illnesses you can easily prevent before you even leave home. Lots of countries in SEAsia will require you to get jabs before you travel. Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria are all common jabs you may need to get before leaving home, depending on which countries you’re planning on travelling to. Book an appointment with your doctor at least 8 weeks before you travel to discuss which jabs you’ll need. Your doctor will also be able to tell you whether you’ll need any rabies injections or antimalarial tablets for your trip.

If you need to, you’ll be able to buy most of the medicine you need in Southeast Asia so if you’ve forgotten your anti histamines or imodium, don’t worry! Just keep an eye out for expired medicine – check the sell by date before you buy!

Health in Southeast Asia

4. Scams

Southeast Asia is well known for it’s scams but don’t worry – not everyone is out to rip you off! Most of the locals you’ll come across will be friendly and happy to help but to be safe, find out about any common scams in the area by talking to other backpackers and by doing some research beforehand.

Don’t believe everything you’re told by locals. Once in Bali, I was travelling over to Gilli Trawangan in Bali and was told by a local at the port that there were no ATM’s or places to change up money on the island. He led me to his friend’s shop (obviously working on a commission) to change up some money. Once on the island, I realised I’d been scammed with a rubbish exchange rate and there were in fact a couple of places I could have changed my money up on the islands.

Here are some tips & some of the more common scams to look out for:

  • Always agree on a price with your TukTuk driver before you hop on and don’t be afraid to barter or shop around. If you’re new to an area ask a few different people what they charge so you know what the general price is. Remember whilst you don’t want to get ripped off, there’s no point in spending hours arguing over a couple of Thai baht!
  • Be wary of strangers distracting you in busy places. If someone asks you to take a photo of them/give them directions, hold on to your bag as their mate might be delving into your pockets whilst you help!
  • If you’re visiting temples or main tourist attractions and want a guide, find an official guide – not someone on the street offering to guide you around.
  • Keep in mind that if you let someone help you with your bags, they will expect you to pay them (unless of course you’re in a hotel and they’re paid by the hotel to do so.)
  • If you decide to rent a moped look out for scratches or any problems with the moped before you leave. Take a photo if you need to. When the moped is returned you can prove that you didn’t cause any of the damage. Also, never leave your passport as a deposit for renting a moped.

Riding a tuktuk in Bangkok

Southeast Asia is a wonderful place with beautiful people so don’t be put off by scams! Like everywhere, just be alert, look out for the tell tale scam signs, look after yourself and anyone else you meet along the way and I promise you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with Southeast Asia!

If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, why not book onto a tour? Our Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam tours are a great way to meet people and explore beautiful Southeast Asia with the added safety and peace of mind that comes with travelling with our awesome tour guides!

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15 Instagram Pics That Will Make You Want to Travel Australia

Australia: The land of stunning beaches, amazing wildlife, breathtaking national parks, cool cities and BBQ’s on the beach! All the things you must see in Australia.

Having lived in Australia for 5 years now, I can safely say that life is just better in the land down under! I’m lucky enough to have had the chance to travel Australia and see some of the amazing places this beautiful country has to offer. These Instagram pics have inspired me to pack my bags and head off on another Aussie adventure!

Whitehaven beach, Whitsunday Islands, QLD

The whitest sand in the world and clear blue waters = absolute paradise!

Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Swimming with whale sharks is next on the bucket list for me! You can find them on the Ningaloo Reef along with turtles, dolphins, manta rays and heaps of other marine life.

Gunlom Falls, Kakadu National Park, NT

Gunlom Falls is one of my fave spots in Australia. Looking out at Kakadu National Park (which is the same size as Belgium!) from the plunge pool is incredible!

Byron Bay, NSW

Surf, sun, dolphins, and a chilled out hippie vibe..Byron is just amazing.

Double Shakas! #GoPro #LiveUnbound #Freedive #ByronBay #Shaka

A photo posted by KYLE TAYLOR (@kylextaylor) on

Sydney Harbour, NSW

I’ll never get enough of this view!

Lucky Bay, Esperance, NSW

Because there is nothing more Aussie than an amazing beach and the chance to get up close with kangaroos..all that’s missing is a good old Aussie BBQ!

Uluru, Red Centre, NT

Because where else can you sleep in a swag (tent like sleeping bag) in one of the oldest sacred aboriginal sites in the world and star gaze all night?!

Night of day…it’s a stunning photo opp!

A photo posted by Uluru Adventures (@uluru_adventures) on

Glasshouse Mountain, Sunshine Coast, QLD

Just look!

Litchfield National Park, NT

Home to some amazing plunge pools, waterfalls, historic sights and termite mounds, Litchfield National Park, Kakadu’s smaller next door neighbour is not to be missed!

What a lifeee! 🎥 @becnef

A photo posted by KYLE TAYLOR (@kylextaylor) on

Lake Hillier, WA

A pink lake? Say whaaaaat!? Whilst noone really knows for sure why Lake Hillier is pink, scientists believe that the colour comes from dye caused by bacteria in the salt crusts. Either way, how many people can say they’ve visited a beautiful pink lake?

Lake Hillier / Pink Lake –Western Australia, Australia

A photo posted by @weareplanetearth on

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, VIC

The beautiful coastline between Melbourne and Adelaide AND the beautiful sunsets over the twelve apostles make for a popular tourist destination and an awesome road trip opportunity!

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

A photo posted by Sarah Girsang (@sar_gir) on

Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef, QLD

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Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island, QLD

In the middle of the world’s largest sand island lies Lake Mckenzie with the clearest waters and some of the world’s whitest sand – swim, sunbake and explore the area before hopping back in your 4WD to cruise around the island. Fraser Island, one of my fave East coast Oz spots is a MUST VISIT backpacking friends!

Great Barrrier Reef, QLD

In Northern Queensland you’ll find the Great Barrier Reef, the only reef in the world visible from space! Go snorkelling, diving or take a helicopter ride to see some of the world’s most beautiful coral and diverse marine life!

Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu National Park, NT

Visiting Kakadu’s waterfalls make’s you realise just how big this National park really is!

Have we missed any? What is your favourite place in Australia? Let us know in the comments below!

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20 Travel Experiences You Should Have In Your Twenties!

If you’re anything like me, your travel wish list is full of amazing travel destinations, some of which might have to wait a few years (they don’t do commercial flights to the moon yet do they?!) but there are some things I believe every 20-something person should experience. Here are some (very achievable!) travel experiences to add to your bucket list!

1. Road Trip Baby!

Hire a car or camper, fill up the tank and hit the open road! There’s a reason so many people choose to road trip on their gap year, especially in Australia and New Zealand. Experience complete freedom to go exploring on your own time, off the beaten track with new mates. The East Coast of Australia, the journey from Sydney to Cairns which can be driven in 3-6 weeks, is a favourite for backpackers travelling to Oz & having done it myself, I can safely say it’s not to be missed!

2. Party Hard

No party girl/boy’s gap year will be complete without a visit to the famous full moon party on Thailand’s Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan. Find your best 90’s fluro gear, wack on some face paint, drink your body weight in alcohol & red bull from buckets & party the night away on the beach – tick this off in your 20’s whilst your body will still forgive you..kind of!

Party at the Full Moon Party in Thailand

3. Do Some Good

Volunteering, whether it’s animal rehabiliation, teaching children abroad, working on conservation projects or in villages and small communities, is one of the best things you can do in your twenties. Not only will helping others out make you feel amazing (Phoebe in ‘Friends’ is right – there are no selfless good deeds!) but you’ll experience so much, have more stories to tell and be able to give a little back! Also any volunteer work you do will look great on your CV.

Volunteer travel experience with elephants in Thailand

4. Dive Down Under

Head to the Great Barrier Reef to dive in the world’s largest coral reef with some amazing marine life including 1500 species of fish, turtles, sea snakes and of course, amazing coral reef. Diving isn’t for everyone but give it a go! There’s really no feeling like being able to breath under the sea and getting up close to some amazing marine life – chances are you’ll love it!

Dive in Australia to make the most of your twenties!

5. Travel in a Group

In my opinion, travelling with a group of people is the funnest way to travel and should be done at least once in your twenties. Experiencing things with a group of new mates all in the same boat as you is awesome and you’ll make lifelong friends. You could hire a couple of campers and road trip with your group or join an organised group tour. 

Group travel is a great way to meet people

6. Go It Alone

Travelling in a group is great but at least once during your travels, you should go it alone. I know this is a bit of a cliché but travelling alone really teaches you about yourself. It’s not often you’ll be in a place by yourself, with no friends and family around you, and whilst it can be daunting to begin with, the confidence you’ll gain travelling solo will be worth it. Check out our blog ‘5 Ways travelling made me more confident.’

7. Live and Work Abroad

If you want to experience living and working abroad, your twenties is by far the best time to do it. Before you have major responsibilities like kids to look after, partners to keep happy and a mortgage to pay off, there’s no reason you can’t live abroad during your gap year. If you love to travel, working in a different country is a great way to fund your travels whilst experiencing the country you’re in before heading off on the next adventure. You could apply for a working holiday visa in Australia or New Zealand or head to Southeast Asia to find some casual work. Just be prepared to never want to go home!

Our Thailand and Vietnam tour leaders are loving life in Southeast Asia. Read our blog ‘Paid to travel: The life of a tour leader’ to see what it’s like working as a tour leader.

Ultimate Thailand tour leaders

8. Learn a Language

If you’re planning a gap year abroad and have always wanted to learn a new language, why not combine the two? Living in a foreign speaking country is the best way to learn the language and if that’s not a possibility, with the amount of different nationalities you’ll meet travelling, it’d be hard not to pick up a few phrases along the way! Do it in your twenties before you brain is fried from drinking too much goon during your Aussie gap year!

9. Try Something Different

Travelling in your twenties is the perfect time to try something new. If you can’t cook beans on toast without burning something, why not try a cooking class in Vietnam? If walking to the local shops feels like walking a marathon, hike up a mountain! Try out Muay Thai kickboxing, head to a yoga retreat, abseil down waterfalls in Da Lat, go fishing, learn how to sail…there are so many things you can do during your gap year and trying new things will make your time away – trust me!

Take a Vietnamese cooking class

10. Sleep on a Boat

There’s something really special about waking up on a boat in the middle of the ocean. One of my favourite travel memories is spending all night stargazing on deck on a sailing boat in the Whitsunday Islands. Spend a night on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat in Halong Bay with us on Ultimate Vietnam.

Junk Boat in Halong Bay

11. Stay in Paradise

I’m talking hammocks on the beach, the clearest water you’ve ever seen and swimming with glowing plankton at night. There are lots of amazingly beautiful paradise islands in the world that are affordable on a backpacker budget so there’s really no reason you can’t experience that ‘Castaway’ feeling! Head to Fiji, the Whitsunday islands in Oz or pretty much any island in Southeast Asia!

12. Push Yourself

Do something in your twenties that scares the sh*t out of you! If you’re scared of heights, try cliff jumping. Scared of the water? Try some snorkelling with a guide. Do a skydive (Uhh-mazing!!), go bungy jumping, jet boating, white water rafting, caving…anything that gets your heart racing and adrenaline pumping! It might sound mental to do something that at the time will make you feel uncomfortable and scared but by pushing yourself, you’ll feel like you can conquer anything that comes your way!

Cliff jumping in Halong Bay

13. Make Memories

Take lots of photos & videos on your travels. Once your travels are over, you’ll be happy you have a way of remembering all of the places you visited and people you met. Also if/when you settle down you’ll have something to remember your crazy 20’s by…just maybe keep that pic of you skinny dipping locked away! 😉

14. Local Festivals

Get involved in Songkran, the world’s biggest water festival in Thailand, party with Aussies as they celebrate Australia day (‘Straya day mate!) and mingle with the locals as they celebrate Vietnamese New Year, ‘Tet’ in Feb! There are heaps of awesome local (usually free) festivals you can go to all over the world! Get in touch for info on events in Oz & Southeast Asia!

Thailand's water festival, Songkran

15. Take Some Time Out

Imagine a day without checking your Instagram feed or Snapchats. Scary thought? At some point during your travels head to a place where you can’t access wifi or charge your phone. Whilst you’re there appreciate where you are without feeling the need to post about it on Facebook and talk to actual people instead – cray cray!

16. Food Glorious Food

For me, trying different food is one of the best things about travelling. If you’re in a non-Western country try as many different local dishes as you can! Countries in SE Asia usually have a famous local dish such as Pho in Vietnam or Pad Thai in Thailand and I promise, you won’t eat it better anywhere else! If you’re feeling brave try a scorpion or cricket on Koh San Road in Thailand!

Eat the local food in Vietnam

17. Get some Culture

In your twenties, travel to countries that interest you and make the most of your time there by learning about that countries history, religions and beliefs.  In Asia, visit temples and sacred sights such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Wat Pho, temple of the reclining buddha in Bangkok!

18. Live like a local!

Get back to basics…there’s really no better way to gain an insight into the country you’re travelling in than to get recommendations from the people who already live there. Shop where the locals shop, eat where the locals eat, drink what the locals drink and really experience that countries culture.

19. Go Island hopping

Just because! If you’ve been studying or working for the past few years you deserve to do a bit of partying and chilling in paradise!

Island hopping in Thailand

20. Travel as much as you possibly can!

I really believe there’s no better way you can spend your twenties (and many many years after your twenties!) than travelling…So what are you waiting for?

Halong bay is such an amazing place

If you’re thinking of taking a gap year or doing some travelling check out our tours in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam and get in touch to start planning! 

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6 Things I Learnt Travelling

I love travelling! I travel to meet people and experience new things in interesting and beautiful places I’ve never been to before. Every time I pack my bags and head off for an adventure, I also end up learning a few things along the way. Here’s a list of things travelling taught me this last year..

 

A year can make all the difference!

One of the things I love most about travelling is how much you can experience in such a short space of time. One day you could be checking out a temple in Bangkok and the next you could be lying on a paradise beach eating Pad Thai, ordering your next Chang beer and planning where you’ll go next.  This is one of the things travelling taught me yes, life is short but if you make the most of it, you can fit A LOT into your time! If you’re at home now and planning your trip, just think where you could be in a year’s time! Get in touch for travel advice & help planning!

There are so many things travelling taught me

Plans change

You might leave home with an idea of how your year is going to pan out but more likely than not, your plans will change during your travels and you won’t end up doing exactly what you’d imagined. You can’t plan every tiny bit of your trip by researching beforehand. Some of the most amazing things you’ll see will be in the places recommended to you by locals and other backpackers. Who knows who you’ll meet, what opportunities you’ll come across and how you’ll feel in certain places. For me, being spontaneous with my plans is one of the most exciting things about travelling. If your plans change mid travel, as long as you’re enjoying yourself, just go with it!

Experience off the beaten track

Do Something Different

Your gap year is the time in your life where nothing is out of bounds. There are no limits to where you can go and what you can do. Fancy volunteering with kids in Cambodia or at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand? Always wanted to experience living with a Vietnamese family in Sapa’s rice paddies? Been dreaming of getting your PADI diving license? There’s nothing stopping you! Doing something you wouldn’t normally do or something you’re passionate about during your time away will make your year.

Here at Ultimate Travel we don’t ride elephants on any of our tours (read why here) however we do work with certain elephant sanctuaries in Thailand who are dedicated to elephant rehabilitation and caring for these beautiful creatures. If you’d like advice on recommended elephant sanctuaries, get in touch!

Volunteer with elephants in Thailand

No Worries Mate!

It’s completely normal to be nervous travelling somewhere new for the first time, especially if you’re travelling solo. The unknown is scary but trust me, there are thousands of friendly people out there for you to meet – who will probably be just as nervous as you! I know it’s easier said than done but worrying about your travels before you even leave home won’t allow you to enjoy the anticipation! To put your mind at ease why not join our group arrival packages in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam for when you first arrive?

Travelling to places like Southeast Asia is safer than your the news and your FB newsfeed might have you believe! Not everyone is out to rip you off and steal your belongings – in fact, the majority of locals you’ll come across are some of the most beautiful, friendly people you’ll meet.

Note: There won’t be any dangerous spiders, snakes or drop bears waiting for you at the airport when you first get to Australia as you may have been told – promise! 😉

Having an amazing time with a group of lovely people

Now is The Time!!

If you’re dreaming of paradise beaches, sandy toes and tanned skin but haven’t booked any of your travels yet, why not? This past year has taught me that there’s no better time than now to do what you want so if travelling is your dream, now is the time to turn it into reality. If you’re unsure of where to start, get in touch for advice and check out our Facebook page for travel inspiration. No one is going to make it happen for you -it’s up to you to make the most out of your life so start planning, get saving, book that flight and just go for it – you won’t regret it!

Adventure at Halong Bay, Vietnam

Travelling is addictive!

This one, I knew already! Once you’ve got the travel bug it’s hard to get rid of it so it’s okay if all you want to do in 2016 is travel – I won’t judge if you don’t! 😉

Got any travel advice from personal experience for first time travellers? Let us know in the comments below!

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6 Common Mistakes Of First-Time Backpackers in Southeast Asia

Thousands of backpackers head to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and other countries in Southeast Asia, every year.

In my opinion, Southeast Asia is one of the most exciting, interesting and beautiful places in the world and if it isn’t on your bucket list, it should be! I’ll never get bored of island hopping my way around Thailand, eating amazing street food in Vietnam and partying on the beaches in Cambodia! But how can you make sure you make the most of your time when you’re there?

Here are a few common mistakes made by backpackers (including myself) travelling to Southeast Asia and tips on how to avoid making the same ones!

1. Packing Too Much!

Every time I travel to Southeast Asia I commit the ultimate backpacking sin: packing too much. I overload my backpack and end up spending weeks carting around a massive heavy backpack full of things I don’t need. For some reason I always seem to forget that I’ll be spending the majority of my time in a bikini and shorts, occasionally throwing on a T-shirt and some flip-flops if I feel like it! One of the many beauties of travelling to Southeast Asia is that you can pick up almost anything you want in markets, and it’s usually a lot cheaper! Leave room in your bag for all the bits you’ll pick up along the way and leave your shoe collection at home! There’s something so refreshing about not taking much with you when you’re travelling. Less belongings = less to worry about. You’ll be less concerned about your belongings being stolen and you won’t break your back carrying things around. So girls, leave your hairdryer & makeup at home and embrace salty sea hair and a bare (bronzed) face instead!

2. Going It Alone!

When it comes to travelling to Southeast Asia, especially if it’s your first time, tours are the way to go. You’ll meet other likeminded backpackers, have the ‘safety net’ of an experienced tour leader with you and you’ll be taken to places you might have missed travelling solo, not to mention it’s a much safer way to travel around whilst you’re getting used to being in a new place. A mistake some backpackers make is landing in Southeast Asia for the first time, experiencing a bit of culture shock, not knowing where to go or what to do and not being able to relax and fully enjoy the experience. Having a plan and people to meet when you first arrive is a great way to get started! If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, get involved in Ultimate Thailand or Ultimate Vietnam!

Group tours in Southeast Asia

3. Overplanning

Whilst tours are an amazing way to have fun and explore in the safety of a group, once you’ve got your bearings and if you want to travel on by yourself it’s important to plan just the right amount of travelling. One of the best parts of travelling for me is the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Speak to locals and other backpackers for recommendations but don’t get too bogged down in the planning side of things. If you stay smart (carry just enough cash with you if you know there are no ATM’s in the area and keep your passport safe) the rest will fall into place – it’s all part of the experience! Hop on a boat, head over to that paradise island and see what you find there! Whilst it’s good knowing what you can do in the area so you don’t miss out, planning where you’ll stay and exactly what you want to do at your next destination can take the adventure out of your trip. Be spontaneous and go with the flow – you never know where it might take you!

Island hopping in Southeast Asia

4. Taking It For Granted

One of the biggest mistakes you can make travelling through Southeast Asia is forgetting that you’re in Southeast Asia! It can be tempting to book into a nice air conditioned room for the night, making sure you have constant access to wifi, ordering pizza for dinner and spending your time with other westerners but you’ll miss out on the most important part: actually experiencing the country you’re in. Turn off your phone, eat the local food, try the local delicacies, drink beer on a stool in the street, sleep on a hammock on the beach, use the local transport, chat to and visit the places recommended to you by the locals and embrace the culture. Looking back, you’ll regret that time you spent scrolling through Facebook in the comfort of your air conditioned room when you could have been exploring – make your time count!

Scorpion is a delicacy in Thailand

5. Spending Time Worrying

Horror stories of theft, scams and tummy bugs in Southeast Asia are all too common but with a big tourism industry and friendly locals SE Asia isn’t actually as scary as you might have heard! One of the worst things you can do is ruin your trip by worrying too much! Yes, you might get a tummy bug along the way after eating some dodgy street food, yes your bag might get stolen and yes, you’ll probably be ripped off a few $ along the way but spending your time expecting something bad to happen won’t change that. Instead of worrying read up on some travel tips before you go, ask other backpackers for food recommendations and keep an emergency stash of cash hidden somewhere safe.

Tuk-Tuk- in SE Asia

6. Trying To Do Too Much!

With so much to explore in Southeast Asia, it’s easy to try and fit too much in to your time but in doing so, you won’t be making the most of your trip. Travelling isn’t about ticking a thousand things off your bucket list and fitting in all of the ‘top tourist attractions’ just to get a good photo for Instagram. It’s about experiencing the country you’re in and taking your time to appreciate where you are and who you’re with. Some of the best travel memories I have are from the times I decided to spend longer in one place, getting to know the area and the people I was with, even if that meant missing out on my next stop. Create a list with the places you’ve always dreamed of going to and make a realistic plan so that you can take your time and experience those places properly. Where can you visit with the time and money you have? And if you don’t get to do everything you wanted in one go, you’ll have another excuse to go travelling again..as if you needed one! 😉

Want to travel but not really sure where to start? Get in touch! The Ultimate team have all been there and we’re happy to help! Check out our tours in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

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6 Reasons Travelling Is The Best Thing You Can Spend Your Money On!

Money, money, money! Some people have lots of the stuff, others, including most of us in our early-mid 20’s, not so much! So what should we do with the money we do have? It’s easy – travel! You don’t have to be rich to travel, in fact anyone can do it – a bit of preparation, time and hard work is all you’ll need to save up enough to start your trip, so if you have the opportunity to travel, take it! Here are 6 reasons why I believe travel is priceless and the best thing you can spend your pennies on!

1. Experiences vs Things

When you’re older, you’ll look back on experiences not things. You’ll remember sitting and watching that beautiful sunset, how skydiving over the Great Barrier Reef was the most exhilarating thing you’ve ever done and those friendly locals you met trekking through the rice terraces of Sapa. You’ll have stories to tell and experiences to share. In the future, noone will remember what car you had or how big your TV was but they will remember those stories you told.

2. You’ll Make Lifelong Friends

Some of the friends you’ll meet travelling will end up being friends for life. You will have shared some of the best moments of your life with these friends during your travels and when your friends at home can’t stand hearing another word about how amazing your life is, your travel friends will be there to reminisce on the good times! Let’s face it- you can’t put a price on lifelong buds!

3. Your Career

Some people put off travelling because they’re scared a gap or break in their careers will make it hard to find another job when they return but in most cases, it’ll actually help in your career. Not only can travelling help you figure out what you enjoy doing (you might discover you love to dive and want to train to be an instructor or you just NEED to work with animals) but the skills you’ll gain during your travels make you attractive to employers too – promise! Read our blog ‘How travel can help in your career’ to read why. Another bonus…travelling could help you figure out what you DON’T want to do with your life – better to find out early on right!?

4. You’ll Be A Better Person!

Need another excuse to pack up your bags and go travelling? How about the fact that you can spend a year exploring the world, chilling at the beach, meeting new people and you’ll most likely go home a better person?! Travelling requires patience, tolerance, decision making, organisational and social skills. You’ll become a more confident, interesting, stronger and well rounded person. No amount of money in the world can give you the experiences and life skills that travelling gives you.

5. You’ll Have More To Talk About

We’ve all met them..those people that have been travelling for a month and have a million stories to tell (‘That time, on my gap yaaar..”) and as much as we would like to hate them, there’s no denying that these people and their stories are actually really interesting! Why? Because when you’re travelling, you experience so much in such a short period of time. You can do more in one week travelling than you’d do in one year at home. One day you’ll be swinging through the jungle on a zip wire, swimming in waterfalls, partying on the beach at night and the next day you’ll be hopping on the overnight bus to your next destination, socialising with interesting people along the way. Your experiences and travel stories will mount up and before you know it you’ll be the one telling tales of your amazing ‘gap yaaar’.

6. See The Real World

Travelling opens your eyes to the real world, beyond the comforts of home and the things we take for granted every day without meaning to. Travelling through poor countries will remind you how lucky you are to even have a roof over your head for the night. When you see locals who have no food, clean water and some who are even missing limbs from war still smiling with their families it really helps set your priorities straight. You might not even realise at the time how important the comforts from home were to you until you don’t have them anymore: a family meal, a bubble bath, somewhere to unpack your belongings, a room to yourself…When you go home, you’ll appreciate what you have so much more.

Want to travel but not really sure where to start? Get in touch! The Ultimate team have all been there and we’re happy to help! Check out our tours in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

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5 Ways Travelling Made Me More Confident

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with travelling. I travelled from the UK to Australia through Southeast Asia. Little did I know that 4 years later, I’d be living in Sydney, working in my dream job and travelling at any opportunity: next stop, Cambodia! Travelling for me is the most exciting way I can spend my time, especially when it’s to new countries and although it may sound cliché, travelling has changed me. One of the biggest advantages I will take from my experiences travelling is how it has made me more confident in my day to day life. Here’s how..

1. In My Own Skin

One of the best things I’ve taken from my gap year is learning to be comfortable in my own skin. I learnt that everyone is different and to not care so much what people think of me. I think that confidence comes from a mix of meeting so many people, all with different personalities and from learning more about who you are as a person. Travel allows you to figure out how you enjoy spending your time, who you get on with, who you don’t and what’s important to you. As soon as you know and like yourself, it’s hard not to be yourself around others!

At home, we have family and friends that know and love us…warts and all. Your friends at home have probably held your hair up whilst you were being sick on the school field after downing a bottle of Cherry Lambrini and your parents have most definitely seen you at your worst! When you travel solo, away from the people who know you, and you’re surrounded by new people who don’t, it can be hard to fully let go and be yourself at first…what if these new people don’t get you? One of the beauties of travelling for me is that you can meet people one day and feel like you’ve known them for years a few days later. Noone is there to judge you – just to enjoy their time travelling for what it is: an opportunity to meet amazing people, see amazing things and experience amazing cultures in amazing countries, AKA the best time of your life!

2. When Sh*t Goes Down

Between the new friends, freedom and unforgettable memories the real travelling happens. You’ll miss your flight after a drunken night, lose your travel documents, forget to book a hostel for the night, run out of money, come across people you don’t like and you might even feel unsafe at times, but you’ll deal with the bad parts and move on. Travelling made me trust in my ability to make decisions. The more decisions I made by myself, the more I trusted my instincts and the more I became confident in my ability to handle anything thrown my way. At the time, you just get on with it but for me, it was when I’d finished my gap year and I looked back at how much I’d accomplished by myself that I realised how much more confident I’ve become.

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3. In Social Situations

As someone who can’t stand small talk and awkward social gatherings I was a bit dubious about travelling, solo. Would I spend my gap year sitting in the corner pretending to be on my phone and avoiding eye contact with others? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sociable person and I love meeting people but unless you’re being introduced through a friend, that first ‘Hi, my name is…’ moment can be a bit awkward for me. If you’re anything like me, walking into a hostel seeing big groups of backpackers chatting and playing drinking games together can be a bit intimidating when you’re all on your tod but it doesn’t take long to realise that everyone is in the same boat! These people might seem like they’ve known each their whole lives but chances are they met the very same way a few days before and are just friends waiting to happen! The good news is when you’re travelling you’ll always have something in common with other backpackers: travel! Go over and ask where they’re heading to next. Next thing you know you’ll be telling them your life story after a few rounds of Kings cup!

4. In My Beliefs & Opinions

Growing up, our opinions and beliefs are usually based on what we’ve been told and what our parents and friends think. Travelling gave me the confidence to question those beliefs and think for myself. However much freedom you’re given growing up to form your own opinions your environment will always have an effect on what you believe so travelling enabled me to open my eyes and to create opinions based on my own experiences rather than what I’d been taught. I became more sure of myself, had more to talk about and probably most importantly, I became more tolerant of other people’s beliefs too. Meeting people from all walks of life when you’re travelling makes you realise that your little world at home isn’t the be all and end all and there are so many interesting people out there to meet!

5. In Knowing What I Want

One of the biggest advantages of my gap year abroad was having the time and the means to figure out what I want to gain out of life. Travelling changed my perspective, set my priorities straight and gave me the confidence to think about what I really wanted, without any external pressures, away from the ‘real world.’  I realised I didn’t have to plan my future based on ‘the norm’ or what I’d expected of myself – I had absolute freedom to create the life I wanted. Before I went travelling, I had a plan and my future mapped out: Go to uni, get a well paid job, save up for a house and drive around in a nice car. Without the experiences travelling gave me and without spending time with the amazing people I met along the way, I’m not sure I would have been able to take a step back and really question what’s important to me. Knowing what you want and having a goal to work towards is so important, and travelling made that happen for me.

Want to travel but not really sure where to start? Get in touch! The Ultimate team have all been in the same situation and we’re happy to help! Check out our tours in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam.

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The Ultimate Southeast Asia Packing List!

So you’ve booked your trip to Southeast Asia, yay you’ve done it! Get ready for the time of your life. As the countdown shortens and your anticipation grows, you’ll begin to ask yourself some pretty big questions such as: Who will I meet? What will we see? Will I miss home? Nah! But what about the biggest question: What do I pack?! This question haunts us all. Anyone preparing for their next journey knows how stressful this question can become – but don’t worry, we’re here to help. Aside from obvious items such as clothing, traveller’s insurance, and passport, here are 10 must-have items specifically for any Southeast Asia adventure.

Travel Towel

These microfiber, multi-purpose towels are the perfect item to pack. They’ll save you plenty of space compared to your normal bath towel, and they dry quickly in the heat – even better! Personal tip, check the size of your towel before purchase. Nothing worse than a too short of a towel in between hostel shower runs. And don’t worry about packing a beach towel, invest in a cheap sarong instead. Not only is a sarong multi-functional ladies, but it makes for a great souvenir!

Sleeping bag liner

While all hostels should provide you with linens, a sleeping bag liner can be nice to have on those long bus journeys. Also known as a sleeping cacoon, it’s compact so easy to carry, and light enough to keep you cool. It’ll also help with hygiene and preventing any small creatures getting to you. Lastly, silk vs. cotton? Test them both out, and see which you like best.

Mozzie Repellent

Speaking of small creatures, nothing is worse than letting mozzie bites hinder your fun. Prevent these bites by a frequent and thorough application of repellent containing a medium percentage of DEET. Not only will this help prevent the itch, but it’s a great way to make new friends as everyone appreciates the one who remembered the DEET on a night out!

Packing Cubes

A nifty set of items to keep your belongings organized. Good for separating your toiletries, undergarments, electronics, etc. Avoid the frustration of trying to find that adapter hidden between your clothes at the bottom of your rucksack. Use packing cubes to make living out of a bag easier.

Head torch

Whether you’re exploring a cave, hiking a volcano pre-sunrise, or simply looking for your shirt under the bed, a head torch can be your best friend. Better than a flashlight as you can keep your hands free and have I mentioned, super fashionable.

Head-torch

Bags on bags on bags

Ziploc Bags/Plastic Bags: Something you may not think of, but that always comes in handy. Good for those muddy shoes, wet swimmers, and dirty clothes. The uses are endless and it’s always good to have a spare just in case. Note: when using plastic bags, always be courteous of your sleeping bunkmates. Similar to crisps in a cinema, nothing is more frustrating than someone rummaging through their bag when you’re trying to catch some ZZzz’s.

Dry Bag: Thinking of canyoning in Vietnam, tubing in Laos or joining the largest water fight in the world when visiting Thailand? May be worth investing in one of these bad boys. Don’t stress about your clothes or electronics when you’re getting wet as you’re items will stay perfectly dry.

Day bag: Aside from your large bag, a day pack is a vital item. Good for those day trips and also for holding the valuables you may not feel comfortable placing under the bus. Rock the backpacker look: day pack on the front, backpack on the back!

Combination lock

Avoid theft by keeping your valuables safe during your travels. While hostels should provide lockers for their guests, you will need to supply your own lock. I recommend a combo lock vs. a key lock, as it’s once less item to keep track of. 😉

Tissues

Not the most glamorous of items – but a must! You do not want to step into a public bathroom without these. Be extra prepared and always have tissues on you just in case.

Power Adapters

Before you board the plane, best to pack a worldwide power adapter set. Outlets vary between countries, so be sure to have the correct adapter. Personal tip, remember that these do not convert voltage. Not that any female should be bringing a hair straightener with them to SE Asia to begin with, but should you feel the need and want to avoid a blow-out, invest in a voltage converter as well.

Emergency Kit

Hopefully you won’t have to use this item, but better to be safe than sorry. Pack a travel-sized emergency kit to keep you and your mates prepared. Containing plasters, tweezers, antibacterial wipes, scissors, and sometimes even sewing kits – these packs can really make the difference when needed.

And lastly, YOUR BACKPACK – duh!

Yes, this is the most crucial item on the list so be sure to check out our backpack vs. suitcase blog for additional help, but here are some key tips to remember:

Choose a backpack that’s right for you. Be sure that it’s easy to carry and see if you can even get it properly fitted before you leave. Based on personal experience, I recommend a backpack vs. a suitcase when travelling Southeast Asia. Being that I knew I’d be travelling to Australia after my time spent in Asia, I went for a hybrid of the two and look how cool I ended up looking….not.

Most roads in Southeast Asia aren’t meant for suitcases, and the more off the beaten path you get the more you will find this true. Invest in a good backpack and you can’t go wrong.

Things you can leave at home:

Water bottle and filter: Being that most tap water is unsafe to drink in Southeast Asia, you’ll always be able to find inexpensive bottled water available for purchase.

Expensive accessories: Leave the jewels at home! It will attract unwanted attention and rather than bringing your valuables with you, invest in some knock offs instead. Your friends will be jealous when you return home with a new Rayban collection.

Heavy clothing: Aside from the north, you’ll find the majority of Southeast Asia to be extremely warm and humid. Ditch the heavy coat and stiff jeans for a light down jacket and some comfy elephant print pants instead.

Lastly, pack light! Rule of thumb, pack everything once, then take out 50% and repack. Worst case scenario, you forget something and you’ll need to buy it overseas. But don’t fret, everything from clothing to toiletries to electronics can be found easily and often at an even cheaper price. Although it’s best to be prepared, embrace the spontaneity of travelling. Don’t let your wardrobe get you down. You never know, you may come out looking like a true local by the end.

Planning a trip to Southeast Asia? Get in touch! Our 10 day Ultimate Thailand & 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tours are perfect for backpackers looking for a fun, hassle free, safe way to travel whilst having the time of your life with new mates! Check out our videos for Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam here.

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My Ultimate Travel Experience ‘Down Under’!

I  wanted to travel to Australia for such a long time, but never took the step to book a flight and come here. When I started studying Tourism Management in Belgium, I had the opportunity to apply for an internship at Ultimate Travel in Sydney.

I got excited immediately, because that was the incentive that I needed to start my travel experience ‘down under’! It took me a while to realize that I was going away for a year, but when I booked my flight and my visa got approved, it all sunk in. I kept thinking “What if the internship is not as fun as it sounds?” or “What if I don’t make friends?” But once I got over it, I couldn’t wait to leave!

Jana-1

“I started researching the travel side of my trip and changed my mind on where to go with every picture that I saw. All the beautiful beaches or the stars in the outback, I just added them to my bucket list. I bought a giant plastic map of Australia and hung it in my room. I started to draw circles around the places I wanted to see and soon, the map was almost black!”


“They’ve become my family here and I made friends for life!”


After a very long but comfortable flight, I arrived in Sydney. Everything was taken care of by Ultimate so I didn’t need to worry about accommodation or transport. When I finally met everyone from the company, they made me feel welcome immediately. Now, after almost 3 months, they have become my family here and I made friends for life! I never had a boring moment or felt alone since I arrived. I never experience the same day twice! That is one of the best feelings for a solo traveller. I enjoy working with everyone at Ultimate every day. I’m not just an intern here, I’m respected as a co-worker what makes it so enjoyable working here! I’m going to be really sad when I have to leave and I am terrible at saying goodbye but I know that they will support me with everything I do.

Tour-guide-2

Tour-guide

The only bad experience I have had since I arrived was my jetlag in the first few days. I was always tired and wanted to sleep, but I also wanted to explore the city! After overcoming that, I did some awesome trips.

During my internship, I also worked as a tour guide and went all over Sydney with the Ultimate groups. Doing the Sydney Harbour cruise and going to Port Stephens on a trip were some of the highlights during the week. I loved going to Basecamp there and petting a kangaroo, going sand boarding, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the beach when there was some free time! Finishing Basecamp on a dolphin cruise was just amazing as well.


“These are all memories I’ll keep forever.”


I still remember the first time I did the beach walk from Coogee to Bondi. The weather was really nice and the views were incredible. I was amazed by the entire scene. Just like the Blue Mountains trip that I did … from what I’ve seen so far, it’s such a beautiful and diverse country. There is something to do for everyone!

One of my favourite activities that I did during my time here was Surf Camp. When you are in Australia, you just have to learn how to surf! You feel like a local when surfing. It is a part of their lifestyle because they live so close to the beach.

But what are the travel options when you want to visit so many places on your own? My original plan was to look for a travel buddy and buy a van, but Ultimate Travel offers so many cool trips to the places I want to go. And the trips are in groups, so that would make it even easier to meet people! I didn’t book any travel plans in advance because I knew that I would have time to figure it all out when I arrived – it’s a good thing because I still change my mind about my travel plans every day … but that is what I love about travelling!

Jana-4

The places I really want to visit the most in Australia are the Whitsunday Islands, Fraser Island and Ayer’s rock. I can’t wait to see the Outback and drive the Great Ocean Road! I would love to learn more about the Aboriginal community and about the Australian wildlife. Kayaking with dolphins, hugging a koala, doing a sky dive at mission beach and scuba diving in the barrier reef are also on my bucket list! Hopefully I will experience all of this, with awesome people that I know I will meet on the way!

The time that I have to leave Sydney is coming soon so I have to have some kind of a plan. Luckily, my awesome colleagues have travelled Australia so they can give me some great tips!

Cheers, Jana 🙂

Interested in travelling to Australia? Get in touch for help, advice and arrival packages!
Check out our blogs for tips on travelling to Australia!

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The Ultimate guide to Thailand’s Festival of Lights

Lights, Lanterns and Lotus Flowers

Thailand is well known for it’s epic Full Moon Parties, drinking buckets and fireshows on the beach but what about Thailand’s festivals? You may have heard of Songkran (AKA the biggest water fight in the world), a 4 day street party that involves throwing buckets of water and shooting water pistols at everyone you see. Then there’s Phi Ta Khon, ‘The Ghost festival’, the religious Ubon Ratchatani Candle festival and Thailand’s very own monkey buffet (It’s actually a thing – Google it!), however arguably Thailand’s most spectacular festival is Loi Krathong, Festival of Lights.

What is the Festival of the lights?

Loi Krathong (literally translated to Floating basket or Floating crown) is a festival believed to date back 8 centuries in Thailand. It involves placing lotus shaped rafts (Krathong) decorated with candles, incense and flowers onto water with the intention of bringing luck and fulfilling wishes. Traditionally the decorations are placed into rivers and canals but nowadays any water including lakes and ponds will do! A popular belief in Thailand is that if the candle on your Krathong stays lit until it disappears out of sight, you’re in for a year of good luck!

When does it take place?

Loi Krathong normally takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, normally in November, at the end of the rainy season. This year, it’ll take place on Wednesday 25th November. In Chiang Mai an extra ‘show’ is put on for tourists a week after the official free festival for the locals.

Where is it celebrated?

The festival of lights is celebrated all over Thailand. In Chiang Mai in Thailand’s North it’s celebrated slightly differently with a religious festival, Yi Peng. Here lanterns are released into the sky rather than water to pay homage to Buddha. At night, the sky is lit up with thousands of lanterns creating a beautiful light display!

If you’re lucky enough to be in Thailand now, make sure to take part in the festival! Planning a trip to Thailand? You don’t have to wait until next November! Lanterns are sold year round in Thailand.

Check out our 11 day Ultimate Thailand tour and get in touch for help organising your trip! Check out our videos for Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam to see for yourself how amazing SE Asia is!

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Travel to Vietnam before it’s too late!

Vietnam is still Southeast Asia’s hidden gem; A beautiful country with heaps of culture, welcoming locals and so much to explore. Vietnam’s ancient traditions are still such an important part of the culture so when you travel to Vietnam means seeing ‘the real Vietnam’.

I know the title of this blog is a tad dramatic but there is reasoning behind the madness! Here are some reasons I think you should travel to Vietnam sooner rather than later:

The Road Less Travelled!

Vietnam is one of the only Southeast Asian countries that hasn’t been overly changed by tourism; It’s a country true to it’s roots and ancient traditions so despite welcoming backpackers and holidaymakers, tourism hasn’t affected Vietnam the same way it has other countries in Asia.

Vietnam is becoming more and more popular as a holiday destination and it’s inevitable that some of it’s culture (from a visitor’s perspective) could get lost alongside the travel agencies, western food restaurants and pubs over the years. I believe now is the time to go if you want to experience Vietnam in all of it’s traditional glory!

Visiting a hill tribe in Sapa to explore the rice fields for example will allow you to experience Vietnamese family traditions without hoards of other tourists. You might have heard of Halong Bay. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and was featured in James Bond’s “Tomorrow Never Dies”. Halong is a magical place! Cruise around the limestone casts on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat, sipping on a cold one whilst watching one of the most amazing sunsets you’ll ever see! Most people only stay for one night, but if you have the time spend another night on one of the islands hidden in the maze of Halong. How often do you get a chance to wake up on a private island?

Halong bay sunsets are beautiful


Photo taken by ULTIMATE traveller Karin in Halong Bay

Because any time of year is a good time!

You can visit Vietnam any time of the year because the weather is mostly good throughout. This place is so big, there are 3 different weather zones and temperatures change throughout the country. Whilst the south is always hot and humid, the north can get a bit cooler (still approx 15-22 degrees around Hanoi, a little colder in the mountains) between November and February. Whichever month you choose to travel, you know you’ll be getting sunshine in some part of the country!


Photo taken by ULTIMATE traveller Dirk in Hoi An

The locals

Vietnamese tradition focuses on harmony and humanity and as the locals live their lives through these traditions it’s not surprising that they’re so welcoming and friendly. Vietnam hasn’t been spoilt by rowdy, pissed up tourists shouting at locals trying to be understood so locals are patient and are happy to have us there! You’ll be smiled at and left alone most of the time, unlike some other countries where you’ll be hassled into buying souvenirs, food, puppies..

Locals

Safe with a side of adventure!

Travelling in Vietnam is generally safe and backpacker friendly. You’ll be welcomed and helped by locals and you’ll bump into lots of other travellers along the way. Despite Vietnam becoming a more popular country for backpackers, when you’re there, you’ll still feel like you’re on an adventure in an exciting exotic place. Vietnamese is the main language here however lots of people speak English so making yourself understood is easy too (no more ordering random things of a menu you can’t read hoping you’ve just ordered something you can digest)!

Travelling around Vietnam is easy for backpackers


Leaving the Ultimate Vietnam private island stay in Halong Bay

Food is Fresh & Authentic

Wherever you travel in Vietnam, you’ll be able to try local beer and eat authentic and traditional Vietnamese food. Most families cook outside their house, so sometimes you might even find yourself crashing a family dinner! Ingredients are fresh off the fields and dishes are cooked in front of you. Grab a small plastic stool in the street and mingle with the locals – you know you’re onto a winner when the locals are eating the same dish as you!

Food is a big part of the culture here (and it should be – it’s amazing!) so get involved before they start building McDonalds on every corner!

Food in Vietnam is a big part of the culture


Eating lẩu (hot pot) in Da Lat

Because it’s still cheap

You can live like a King on next to nothing in Vietnam. A beer will set you back around $1 (their ‘fresh beer’ is about 30 cents!) and if you want to travel on the cheap you could easily budget $10 a day for all of your food. Accommodation is also mega cheap so you’ll be able to afford to travel for longer – result!

Beer in Vietnam is normally locally brewed


Mingling with the locals in the streets of Hanoi.

Because the reef is still beautiful

Unless you’ve been there, Vietnam isn’t normally the first place that springs to mind when you think about snorkelling however Hon Mun Marine Park, just off the East coast of Vietnam is home to some of the world’s most beautiful coral and varied marine life. Heaps of diving and snorkel day trips head out to the marine park daily from Nha Trang, Vietnam’s most popular beach town. The coral in this area hasn’t taken a beating quite like other reefs in Southeast Asia so you can still enjoy snorkelling in beautiful surroundings. Learning to dive is also cheap as chips in Vietnam!

See the rest of Southeast Asia!

Vietnam’s got some pretty cool neighbours including China in the North and Laos and Cambodia to the West so if you’re planning a Southeast Asia trip, Vietnam is a great starting point! You could travel overland to countries such as Thailand and Malaysia or hop on a flight over to Indonesia..Once you’re in Southeast Asia the choices are endless!

So will an increase in tourism change Vietnam for the worse? Vietnam is a beautiful country with ancient traditions and customs that are valued by the Vietnamese people. In my opinion, Vietnam will adapt to an increase in tourism but the important traditions that set Vietnam apart from other Southeast Asian countries will live on for a long time yet! Still, if you’ve got the choice to visit Vietnam and see this amazing country now, at it’s best, then why not?

Want to know more about Vietnam? Check out our Infographic!

The ULTIMATE Vietnam Infographic

Planning a trip? Check out our 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour and get in touch for help organising your trip! Check out our videos for Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam to see for yourself how amazing SE Asia is!

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20 Signs you’ve got the Travel Bug

Once you start to travel it can be difficult to stop! If you’re one of those people that is always dreaming of the next adventure, read this to find out if you have the travel bug!

1. Whenever anyone starts a story, it reminds you of that time you were travelling

Travel 💛 #travelstories #memories #myultimatemoment

A photo posted by Ultimate Travel (@ultimate.travel) on

2. You can say ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you’ in 5 different languages

6. You’ve got long journeys nailed..a neck pillow, a good book, music and you’re good to go!

7. You can drink everyone under the table.. drinking every day for 6 months has increased your tolerance level quite a bit!

8. You’ve set yourself a goal of places you want to visit in the next year and you’re determined to tick them all off your list!

What’s next on your bucketlist? #regram @mariagalsgaard #travel #NewZealand #adventure #tour #gapyear #kiwi #NZ A photo posted by Ultimate Travel (@ultimate.travel) on

9. You’ve had a million casual jobs all over the world – You don’t care what you’re doing as long as you can save some $$ to travel!

12. You’ve stopped caring if anyone will travel with you – you know you’ll meet people along the way

13. Being late no longer bothers you..you’re still on Fiji time baby!

Amazing pic of @xxxbettyxxx horse riding on the beach in Bali! #travel #MyUltimateMoment #GapYear #UltimateAdventure #Bali #Indonesia #SEAsia #TravelSoutheastAsia #SoutheastAsia #adventure A photo posted by Ultimate Travel (@ultimate.travel) on

14. You don’t enjoy buying material things anymore – you know nothing can bring you more happiness than travel!

16. When you go home, you don’t bother buying a car or getting a steady job because you already know you’ll be on the next adventure soon!

18. Your passport is filling up with stamps & you can’t wait to fill the rest of the pages up!

19. Every time you look back on your travels you feel happy

Khao Sok National Park 😍 #regram #MyUltimateMoment #UltimateThailand #Thailand #travel #GapYear #adventure A photo posted by Ultimate Travel (@ultimate.travel) on

20. and you’re already planning the next trip!

Who agrees? #myultimatemoment #ultimate #adventure #gapyear #travel   A photo posted by Ultimate Travel (@ultimate.travel) on

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Kakadu, Crocs & Australia’s Northern Territory!

From the vast areas of bushland, swimming holes, amazing waterfalls and Aboriginal history in the National parks to the beaches and tropical city of Darwin, NT’s capital city, it’s safe to say that travelling to Australia’s Northern Territory will give you an insight into the ‘real’ Australia!

ULTIMATE travel legend, Max flew up to Darwin last week with Topdeck to discover the Northern Territory. We caught up with him to see what he thought of the trip!

Tell me about your trip up to Australia’s Northern Territory…

I flew into Darwin then started a 5 day tour around Katherine, Litchfield and Kakadu National park. I got to see some incredible sights and it was overall an awesome trip! Our first stop was Katherine Gorge and later that day, Edith falls. We canoed through Katherine gorge which was amazing! There are high cliffs either side of you and the scenery is beautiful. The weather was amazing too – about 36 degrees most days! We also did a bit of cliff jumping into the gorge – crazy fun! It was a great start to my trip at Australia’s Northern Territory and a great way to get to know everyone on the tour too!

Katherine Gorge is a beautiful part of the NT
Litchfield National Park

What do you recommend about Darwin? Would you recommend it to other backpackers?

Before I got to Darwin I didn’t think it would be as good as it was!  I’d heard it was quite small so I just assumed there wasn’t much to do and that it would just be ‘the gateway’ to the National Parks in the NT. It was small but what was there was really cool and I loved it! Darwin is a proper little backpacker town! There’s a long strip with a load of bars and backpacker hostels where we spent most of our time. I liked that everything was in one location so it was so easy to get to everything and get out to the bars in the evening! I stayed at Melaleuca backpackers which was right in the centre of Mitchell Street (the strip.) It’s such a cool hostel with a rooftop pool and bar – the perfect place to chill in the heat!

Luckily, I was in Darwin on a Thursday evening so I got to check out Mindil beach sunset markets. There are hundreds of stalls selling clothes, jewellery and other bits set up right on the beach but the best part for me was all the food! Paella, Chinese, Thai, Pizza, Seafood..you name it, the markets have got it! We sat on the beach eating our food and watching the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen! If you haven’t been to Darwin, just go!

Mindil beach sunset markets in Darwin is a popular place to watch the sunset
Mindil markets in Darwin is a popular place to watch the sunset

You mentioned seeing crocodiles in the wild…What was that like?

I was lucky enough to take part of a tour at Crocosaurus cove in Darwin where we got to feed crocs and hold pythons, both of which were pretty scary but a cool experience! Seeing the crocs in the wild was something different all together though! We did a crocodile cruise where I saw a croc feeding on a barramundi. It was insane to watch! The crocs jumped up so quickly, the barramundi had no chance! It was pretty scary seeing them in their own environment. It’s coming to the end of the dry season so all the crocs live in the East Alligator river (named by a confused Englishman who thought they were alligators!) in Kakadu waiting for the wet season to arrive where they will migrate to other watering holes. Definitely an experience I won’t forget!

Croc at Australia's Northern Territory

Do you think it’s a good time of year to travel to the Northern Territory?

100%. The weather was warm and humid but it never felt uncomfortable and with all the swimming we were doing, it was perfect! Also, because it’s coming to the end of the dry season, we got to see the crocodiles! During the wet season some water holes are closed off so the tour itineraries change but with so much to see in the area, I’d say it’s actually good to go any time of the year! Experiencing the Northern territory mid wet season would actually be quite an experience I think!

Wet-season at Australia's Northern Territory

What kind of tour would you recommend to backpackers planning a trip?

I’d definitely recommend Topdeck to other backpackers. If you want to travel with like-minded people of the same age with an awesome tour guide thats really experienced at what he does, it’s the perfect tour. Also, the perks of staying in amazing accommodation whilst still getting to see all of the unique sights was a big plus for me.

I think the tour guide really made the experience too. He encouraged us to go to different and more secluded places so we really got the feel for the area, off the beaten track! Some of the places were harder to get to but were well worth it. I really noticed our guide went the extra mile to make it a unique and special experience for everyone there.
Learning about Aboriginal culture in Kakadu
Termite mounds and waterfalls in Kakadu National park
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26 Reasons you should take a year off and travel to Australia!

Australia: The land of kangaroos, the outback and ‘G’day mate’! Whilst some of the clichés are true, (yes, people do actually say ‘G’day’ here!) there is so much more to this amazing country than stereotypes and funny accents. If you’re on your gap year and Australia isn’t on your list, you’re missing out big time! Here are some of the many, many reasons we love Australia! (We could have gone on forever!)

1. Australia is home to some of the best beaches in the world!

Australia has some of the world's best beaches

2. Australia has some pretty beautiful neighbours like New Zealand, Fiji and Southeast Asia.

3. Because where else can you kiss a kangaroo?!

Kiss our kangaroo at UltimateOz basecamp

4. In Australia, Christmas day is usually spent on the beach!

Spend christmas on the beach in Australia

5. You’ll meet loads of other backpackers..

Backpackers doing the Coogee to Bondi beach walk

6. And some of the world’s cutest wildlife!

Australia has some cute wildlife | Ultimate Travel

7. including the happiest animal in the world: The Quokka..

The Quokka is the happiest animal in the world!

8. You’ll get to witness the best firework display in the world on New year’s eve!

9. As a backpacker, the wages are high and the job opportunities plentiful..

10. and you might even get to work somewhere with a view like this!

11. The sunsets you’ll find here are stunning.

East Coast Australia sunset - Ultimate Travel

12. The cities are beautiful..

13. and the national parks aren’t bad either!

14. Travelling to Oz is the perfect excuse for a roadtrip..

15. and if you want to, you can get away from it all….for days!

16. You can experience the oldest known culture on Earth.

17. and one of the world’s oldest rainforests.

18. You’ll also find some of the most beautiful reef in the world..

19. And you’ll get to swim with some friendly marine life including turtles and maori wrasse. You might even find Nemo!

20. Because drinking and socialising in the sun is a big part of Aussie life..

21. and who doesn’t love a BBQ on the beach?! Put another shrimp on the barbie!

22. There’s no better place to learn how to surf..

Learning to surf at Surf Camp Australia

23. And if you fancy a change from the beach you’ll find man made swimming lagoons everywhere!

24. Because Aussies take their food seriously. If you like breakfast, good coffee & seafood, you’re in the right place!

25. Aussies don’t sweat the small stuff!

26. Because life is just better down under!

What is it about Australia that you love? What are you most looking forward to seeing in Oz? Tell us in the comments below!

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Planning a trip to Oz and not sure where to start? Download our brochure for info on our gap year adventure package and to chat to others travelling to sunny Australia.

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Suitcase VS Backpack

The Ultimate question every backpacker asks themselves before they go travelling… “Should I take a suitcase or a backpack?”

It used to be a given that backpackers would take a backpack travelling with them but, as Bob Dylan said, the times they are a-changin’ and backpacking no longer means packing all of your stuff into a backpack. Lots of backpackers are now opting for a suitcase instead.
So which option is right for you? There are a few things to take into account when deciding:

    • Will you be travelling around a lot?
    • Are you planning on settling in one place for the majority of your time to live and work?
    • Are you heading to Southeast Asia or other not so developped destinations?

It can be a tricky decision to make, as the majority of people don’t know exactly what they’ll be doing during their gap year: that’s the whole idea right!? So to help you make your decision, here’s a list of options and pros & cons so you can decide for yourself:

The ‘Trusty’ Suitcase:

Perfect for:

The ‘I’m going to Australia/New Zealand to live & work for a year’ backpacker; The ‘I’ll be travelling around but to mainly tourist destinations’ backpacker and ‘The flashpacker’.

Pros:

Wheels – Who would have thought such a simple invention could bring you so much happiness!? As you’ll be rolling your things around, you won’t suffer from the dreaded backpacker back aches or back sweats. You can access your clothes and belongings easily and quickly and relax happy in the knowledge that your padlock is keeping your stuff safe and secure! If that’s not enough to sell it.. your suitcase will double up as a handy seat!

Cons:

Stairs will be your enemy.  Those ‘backpack’ w*nkers you were laughing at earlier won’t seem so silly after you’ve dragged your suitcase up to the 5th floor of your hostel. Suitcases aren’t ideal for travelling to places such as the Red Centre, Northern Territory or Western Australia either. Also, as suitcases are normally heavier, you may find yourself having to monitor your flight allowances more!

Tip:

Opt for 4 wheels if you can – that way you can push your suitcase along instead of dragging it. Also, go for a good quality hard case as it will probably take a bit of a beating during your gap year!

The ‘Modern’ Backpack (front loader)

Perfect for:

The ‘I’m travelling around Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Southeast Asia and everywhere in between’ backpacker.

Pros:

The front opening backpack gives you easy to access to your clothes and belongings. Backpacks are normally durable and can be thrown around a bit – perfect for boat trips through Southeast Asian islands and other ‘off the beaten track’ tours. Backpacks fit a lot in, can be squashed into small spaces and lets not forget..backpacks make a great pillow for those nights you’ll spend sleeping at the airport!

Cons:

If you pack too much, backpacks can be really heavy. I struggled to carry my oversized, heavy backpack for a year which meant carrying it for longer than 5 minutes at a time gave me back ache. These front opening backpacks are also generally more bulky than the top loader packs.

Tip:

Get your backpack fitted properly to your body. 80% off the weight should be carried by your hips, not your shoulders to avoid back pain. Lots of these backpacks also come with a mini backpack zipped onto the front – useful for day trips when you want to take a smaller bag.

If your backpack is too heavy you'll get back ache

The ‘Old School’ Backpack (top loader)

Perfect for:

The ‘I’m travelling everywhere and I’m not that fussed about getting to my belongings very often’ backpacker.

Pros:

These backpacks are generally less bulky than other backpackers and are easier to carry around. Most have sections you can open at the top and the bottom and smaller pockets on the back to find things easily.

Cons:

Be prepared to pack & unpack, pack & unpack and pack & unpack your bag. Safety can also be an issue with these backpack. As there two different sections to open along with separate pockets, you’ll have to padlock each section to keep your valuables safe.

Tip:

Get your backpack fitted and try on a few different sizes before you buy!

The Wheely ‘Wheely Uncool’ Backpack

Perfect for:

The ‘I’m doing a bit of everything and I want convenience over style’ backpacker.

Pros:

Wheels? Tick. Problems with stairs? Nope. A backpack with wheels = genius! This backpack has it all..You can roll it around, wear it on your back, open it from the front, throw it around, lock it up…the list of backpack benefits goes on.

Cons:

This backpack doesn’t look as sexy as other backpacks. It’s normally quite bulky and can be heavier than other backpacks too, so it’s best used for rolling rather than carrying a lot.

Tip:

If you’re travelling to Southeast Asia, this is a great option!

What else do I need to think about?

Quality

Getting a good quality, durable case or backpack is essential for your gapyear. It will most likely take quite a beating throughout your travels and you don’t want it breaking half way through your trip!

Extra bags

Along with your suitcase or backpack you’ll probably want to bring a smaller, day pack with you. Small holdalls are great for hand luggage on flights but can be tricky to carry around with you after if you’re doing a lot of travelling. If you decide to go for the front opening backpack, choose one with a small day pack zipped to the front. Some days when you’re feeling extra cool, you may even find yourself wearing the extra backpack on your front!  Girls, a side bag can be used as a small handbag for the day and for nights out!

The most important packing tip you’ll ever get!

Don’t pack too much! If you can’t walk around comfortably for 5-10 minutes at home with all of your luggage, you won’t be able carry it all whilst you’re travelling. Remember, what you bring with you is yours to carry for the duration of your trip so don’t overpack. Not being able to pick up your backpack without someone else’s help is not a good look! 😉

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So are you team backpack or team suitcase? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!

Planning your gap year? Check out our arrival packages in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam and get in touch for help planning your trip!

Check out our other blogs for more travel tips, advice and inspiration!

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22 things you’ll never hear a backpacker say!

1. “Don’t worry, I’ll get the drinks in tonight! Who likes champagne?”

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2. “I can’t come out tonight. I’m catching up on sleep.”

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3. “Free food? No thanks, I’m not hungry.”

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4. “This bed is the comfiest”

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5. “That sunset last night was rubbish”

Sunsets will never get boring!

6. “I think I’ve travelled everywhere I want to..maybe I’ll just go home!”

7. “No goon for me thanks, I’m on the cocktails tonight.”

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8. “This wifi connection is better than at home!”

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9. “I’ll take the top bunk..it’s my fave!”

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10. “I’m so bored of going to the beach”

11. “Here, I have a spare power socket for your phone if you like?!”

12. “I’ve never been so pale in my life!”

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13. “That bucket at the full moon party didn’t even touch the sides!”

Drinking alcohol from buckets at the full moon party

14. “I wish this bus journey was longer!”

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15. “Have you got anything more expensive?”

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16. “I’ve decided to go alcohol free for 3 months.”

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17. “Here, take my camera..I don’t take any photos anyway!”

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18. “This beach party is pretty tame compared to a night out in (insert your hometown)”

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19. “I should have packed more..my backpack is pretty light”

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20. “I’m just going to unpack first, then I’ll meet you at the bar”

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21. “What’s a dropbear?”

22. “I can’t wait to go home”

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Can you think of any more? Comment below!!

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Southeast Asia: What’s all the fuss about?

Southeast Asia is becoming one of the most popular destinations for backpackers on their gap year. So what is it about this part of the world that has us all flocking and going back for more? l’ll do my best to sum up why Southeast Asia is, for me, an absolutely unmissable stop on any backpacker’s gap year!

Cheap as Pad Thai!

Southeast Asia is really cheap – perfect for backpackers travelling on a bit of a budget. You can live like a king for next to nothing as accommodation, travel, spa treatments, food & booze is all really cheap. In Vietnam it costs aprox 30 US cents to buy a beer and a one hour massage on the beach will probably set you back 3 quid. Nuff said!

You can find a bit of everything…

Bustling cities, stunning beaches, exotic wildlife, jungle, mountains, temples, islands…Whether you’re looking for a busy action packed and adrenaline filled trip, a complete chill out, a cultural experience or a bit of everything, you’ll find it in Southeast Asia.

Fun, fun, fun!

One day you’ll be asleep in a hammock on the beach, the next you’ll be ringside at a Muay Thai boxing match in Bangkok. There’s no end to the beach parties, local festivals, backpacker bars and fun!

Popular with other backpackers

One of the best things about being a backpacker in SE Asia? Meeting other backpackers! You’re guaranteed to bump into like minded people along the way and with parties around every corner you’ll make unforgettable memories with a group of new mates.

Thailand and Vietnam are very popular for backpackers

Well travelled..

SE Asia on the whole is a ‘well travelled’ part of the world and most locals you’ll meet are friendly, helpful and welcoming. They’re used to Westerners walking around with heavy backpacks, beer in hand, and are normally very happy to help out if needed! You’ll find English speaking locals in most countries in SE Asia which makes it a lot easier to book day trips, find out about local events and to know where you’re going!

The locals are kind and friendly

..Yet still exotic

The different noises, the smells, the humidity..Southeast Asia just feels different to anywhere else in the world so whilst it’s a well travelled, it’s still an exciting and exotic place to go. You can still get off the beaten track quite easily if that’s your style too. Sapa treks in Vietnam or National park and jungle visits in Thailand for example will take you away from anything Western for a few days.

Be yourself…

Because where else is it acceptable to drink vodka from a bucket on the beach with a straw, get a sh*t drunken tat, party with ladyboys and go skinny dipping?!

In Southeast Asia just be yourself!

Show off your adventurous side!

Things you wouldn’t dream of trying at home become perfectly normal in SE Asia. You’ll start to jump off boats, cliffs, lighthouses..and basically anything with deep water beneath you! You won’t hesitate to try out that rope swing, swim under that waterfall, jump in a rubber ring and go tubing through the jungle and skip over fire ropes on the beach! In Koh Phangan you can even take part in Thailand’s very own version of total wipeout…amazing!

Asia is full of adventure

The food

The food in SE Asia is amazing and the best part is, as it’s so ridiculously cheap you can eat as much as you want! Wherever you go, try that countries local dish- you’ll never eat it better elsewhere!

Travel at your own pace

One of the beauties of travelling in SE Asia is that you can go at your speed. You could spend months hopping island to island, spending your days on the beach, drinking beer and eating street food or you could plan an action packed trip to see everything in a short amount of time.

Planning a trip to Southeast Asia? Get in touch! Our 10 day Ultimate Thailand & 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tours are perfect for backpackers looking for a fun, hassle free, safe way to travel whilst having the time of your life with new mates!

Still not convinced Southeast Asia is worth a visit? Check out our videos for Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam to see for yourself how amazing SE Asia is!

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Important Update: 2nd Year Visa Changes!

On 1st May 2015 it was announced by the Assistant minister for immigration and border protection that volunteer work will no longer count towards 2nd year visa working holiday extensions.

We can now confirm that the visa changes will be effective from the 31st August 2015. From this date, any unpaid regional work completed will not count towards your 2nd year visa extension.

What do I need to know?

  • From 31st August all specified regional work you do will need to be paid to count towards your 88 days of regional work. You will need to prove this with payslips from your employer when you apply for your 2nd year visa.
  • During your working holiday visa, you can still do volunteer/WWOOF work but you will not be able to count those days towards your application for a 2nd working holiday visa.
  • Any volunteer/WWOOF work completed before the 31st August will still count towards your 2nd year visa application.”For example, a participant applying for a second Working Holiday visa on 30 September 2015 will only need to provide pay slips covering any specified work performed between 31 August and 30 September. The participant can include specified work they have undertaken before 31 August 2015 in their application without needing to provide pay slips for this work.”

How does this affect people doing volunteer work now?

The department has acknowledged that some people will be in the middle of doing their WWOOF work and will be unable to provide payslips. In this case your WWOOF host can write you an explanatory letter which can be added to your application however the department will assess these on a case by case basis so it is in no way guaranteed that you will be able to use these days for your application!

The department of immigration and border protection issued this statement: 

“All Australian employers must provide their employees with pay, conditions and workplace entitlements in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 or relevant state legislation. This includes Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) agricultural work.

From 31 August 2015, all applicants for a second Working Holiday visa must provide pay slips as evidence of appropriate remuneration with their application. This will help us ensure that work undertaken by Working Holiday visa holders is performed in accordance with workplace law. All Australian employers are legally required to provide their employees with pay slips.

Work performed before the commencement date will not require pay slip evidence.”

Moving forward..

Our advice if you’re currently doing volunteer work is to bear in mind that any work carried out from the 31st August won’t count towards your 2nd year visa so if you only have a certain amount of days left to complete your farm work, don’t leave it too late!

** UPDATE – May 2016**

“Note: These temporary transitional arrangements will conclude on 30 November 2015. All specified work performed from 1 December 2015 onwards will need to be paid work with pay slips provided as evidence, regardless of whether a participant commenced working for their employer before 31 August 2015.”

If you have any questions regarding your 2nd year visa, get in touch! If you wish to apply for a second working holiday visa and you’re looking for your farm work, take a look at our Guide to Farm Work in Australia. It has everything you need to know about the when, where and why!

For more information regarding 2nd year visas check out our website, Travellers at Work.

 

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Surf Camp: Learning to Surf, the aussie way!

It’s that time of year again! Here in Sydney we’re putting our scarfs and coats away and getting the bikinis and swimmers out ready for another beaut summer by the beach! With the temperatures rising there’s no better time to learn how to surf ready for the warmer months! If you’re looking for a week of fun, meeting new people and beers on the beach, all whilst learning to surf, the aussie way (& making your mates at home jealous with your surfing pics!) Surf Camp is the place to go! ULTIMATE ledge Craig went to Surf Camp for the weekend. Here’s what he thought of the 2 day weekend Surf Camp:

So why Surf Camp?

I’d always wanted to learn how to surf and thought what better place to do it than Australia! A few of my mates had done the 5 day Surf Camp and recommended it so I thought why not!? I work during the week so I decided to book onto the weekend Surf Camp and get out of Sydney for a couple of days!

Surfcamp is back for the summer!

How did the weekend kick off?

So we all got picked up outside of Wake Up on Friday night.. it couldn’t have been easier. We popped into Side Bar for a quick beer then hopped on the bus down to Surf Camp. Great way to start the weekend. Met so many people from all over the world including some local Aussies who are a bunch of legends!

You'll meet lots of people at Surfcamp

What was the highlight of the weekend?

Being my first ever surfing experience, standing up on the second attempt was definitely a highlight! Such a great feeling!  From there it was plain sailing and eventually turned pro by the end of the weekend. 😉 Without the lessons I don’t think this would have been possible. Top marks to our instructors – they were so helpful, always there if you needed them and a right laugh!

learning to surf, the aussie way

What advice would you give to others going to Surfcamp?

Make sure you visit the local pub and join in on some limbo! You might be tired after a day of surfing but it’s well worth it – it’s a great place to get to know other backpackers!

The camp was awesome!

Was it long enough?

Personally I don’t think it was long enough. I did the weekend Surfcamp as I had work commitments but if I was to recommend it to friends, I’d say go on the 5 day trip for sure! The weekend was plenty of time to learn how to surf however it was such a great time I wanted to stay longer. Also, I think if I’d stayed a bit longer, I would have had time to learn some more tricks!

The beginners beach at Surfcamp

What was the camp like?

Such an amazing place! The camp is just a short walk away from the beach (7 mile beach.) It’s a beginners beach so the waves aren’t too big which was perfect for me as a first timer! You can still ride the waves without getting taken out! Some of the instructors mentioned that in the summer, they often see dolphins just off the beach and some people get to surf with them! The food was amazing too. They always kept us fed and full with meals 3 times a day and there was never a shortage which is great!  All of the staff we’re very friendly, helpful and a little crazy (in a good way!) The staff make the trip even better. Even if you’re travelling there alone, the staff will make sure you’re involved and have a great time!

Learning to surf, the aussie way

What did you do in the evening?

 After dinner on the Saturday we had such a funny night playing drinking games with new faces and the instructors! Luckily we woke up on Sunday with no hangover to catch some serious waves -we went further out to catch the big guns…awesome!!

Did you think it was value for money?

Yes, I really did. All of the accommodation, surf lessons, equipment and travel is covered so the only thing I spent money on was a couple of beers! We also got a Free T Shirt, Trucker hat,  & a $20 Rip Curl Voucher. Also, throughout the weekend there were photographers taking shots of us surfing which were then played on a TV during dinner and uploaded to Facebook. It was a laugh seeing the best ‘wipeouts’ from the day!  I’ll definitely be recommending Surfcamp to my mates!

Surfcamp freebies!

Surf Camp includes return transfers from Sydney, your accommodation, food, surf gear, photos, videos & extra freebies!
Want to learn how to surf? Get in touch to for discounts! ‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

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Why I Love Vietnam!

First stop in Southeast Asia: Hanoi, Vietnam. Population: 7 million. Motorbikes: 1.5 million. Girl from Albuquerque, New Mexico: 1. My first time to Southeast Asia, I couldn’t have chosen a better country to begin my journey. Vietnam is beautiful, historic and eye-opening. Tropical paradise, mountainous terrain, eat and drink like a king, buzzing night life, the list goes on and on! Here’s why I love Vietnam..

Halong Bay

Vietnam’s hidden wonder and absolute paradise. This World Heritage site is a must-see on every backpackers’ list. It’s a personal fave! Begin your trip on an authentic Vietnamese “junk boat” (nothing junk about it!) exploring the turquiose waters and viewing the never ending rock formations. Here you can kayak, rock climb, cliff jump, perfect for the adventure seeker. After one night spent on the boat, you arrive to your very own private island. Yes. That’s right, a private island for just you and your friends! Where else can you say you did that?! Play beach volleyball, drink cheap beer, watch the sun go down and karaoke the night away.

Explore Sapa

Want to see the real Vietnam? Venture to Sapa and hike through the endless rice fields. Meet our guide, Vu and her daughter Sho Sho, the giggliest child of them all. We spent two days exploring Sapa by foot and it wouldn’t have been the same without these two. Sapa is truly majestic. The people are colourful in both their attire and spirit, the views are breathtaking and it’s off the beaten path!

Same Same But Different

Anyone who has travelled Southeast Asia knows this common saying. If so – you probably still use the saying today. You may even own a vest with the same writing! Often used when purchasing, this phrase with no doubt will bring you confusion, understanding and most often laughter.
Example: “Are these real Ray Bans? Is this chicken? Is this the correct bus?”… “Same same but different.” All different questions, very same answer. Sometimes a good response, other times not so much.
Regardless, hearing this phrase post your travels will always remind you of your times spent in SE Asia and will most likely bring a smile to your face.

Same same but different!

Hoi An

My favourite place in all of Vietnam! Beach. Culture. Shopping. Food. You name it, this place has it! Ride a bicycle to the beach to watch the sunrise, get tailor-made clothing, see the beautiful lanterns at dark, join a cooking class and party the night away.

Hoi An lanterns

The Food

Some people take photos of the scenery. Others take photos of people or their adventures. My best friend/ co-traveller takes photos of me eating… So the secret is out, I like to eat. In fact “like” is a large understatement. If you’re a foodie like me, you will love Vietnam! A must-eat, the BBQ in Hanoi – we ate here not once, not twice but three times in one day. Also on the list: pho (noodle soup), banh mi (baguette) and fresh spring rolls!

The food in Vietnam - Another reason why I love Vietnam

Ride Like A Local

As the highest motorbike per capita country in the world, what better way to explore a new city than on your own set of wheels? But fair warning: if you’re brave enough to get on the back of a motorbike, let alone drive one yourself – I suggest you invest in some good travellers insurance. Nothing’s worse than letting a small accident spoil your trip. So if you have the guts, hop on board. Otherwise, master the art of crossing street traffic, a challenge in itself!

Riding mopeds in Vietnam is the norm!

Cheap Beer

A true necessity when travelling. Everyone enjoys a good party, but often the cost of drinking can add up. But when a large beer only costs you 50 cents, the round’s on me! Saigon, Tiger, 333 – all common labels. Try them each and see what tickles your fancy. Personal tip: Pull up a baby stool outside a restaurant, purchase a beverage, pair with sunflower seeds and mingle with new friends.

Grab a stool and drink in the street!

Never a Dull Moment

Just an average Wednesday morning. Meet Susie – my new best friend. Deathly afraid of snakes, this is not my ideal moment, but travelling pushes you to step outside your comfort zone. Hold a python, eat a scorpion, feed a crazy monkey – all part of the Southeast Asia fun!

Meet the locals in Vietnam!

Beach Bum in Nha Trang

Want to enjoy the sun and get your tan on? Visit the seaside town of Nha Trang. Known for its blue waters and Russian influence – this town has everything to offer. Partake in one of its numerous water sports such as kite surfing or snorkelling followed by a wild night out on the town. Personal recommendation: Why Not Bar, because why not?!

Nha Trang has got some great snorkel spots.

History

You can’t travel to Vietnam and not learn about the country’s history – it’s inevitable. But that’s what travelling is all about, learning about other cultures and what has happened in the past to shape a country. Travel to Ho Chi Minh and visit the Cu Chi tunnels to learn more about the war. I promise you’ll learn more here than you ever did from a textbook!

Learning about Vietnam's history is great!

Travel the Long Way

Travelling onward? How about to Laos or Cambodia? Don’t take the boring route! We did a 3 day journey from Ho Chi Minh to Cambodia via the Mekong Delta and it couldn’t have been better. Explore the canals, shop the floating markets and see more of Southeast Asia along the way.

Travelling along the Mekong delta was incredible.

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Check out our 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour and get in touch for info and advice!

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How to travel Australia on a budget

Australia has it all! Sunshine, amazing beaches, bustling cities, wildlife, beautiful national parks…the list goes on! So how can you make sure you’ve got enough money to see it all? If you hadn’t already heard, Oz can be pretty pricey for backpackers but don’t let that stop you! If you’re travelling on a budget, there are ways to save money along the way..

1. Two words: Happy hour!

Even if you’re not a big drinker the price of alcohol in Australia can be a bit of a shocker when you first get here! Finding out which of your local pubs and bars do happy hour prices on drinks will save you lots! Look out for hostel bar meal deals where you’ll get a drink free along with your meal!  On a night out? Keep it cheap by pre drinking before you go out (take it easy, you do want to make it out!) or if you’re in a city, book onto a bar crawl with drink specials. Party nights such as Ultimate Party organise your entry into 3 bars, 1 nightclub and give you 3 free drinks..all for $15 – bargain! Get in touch for info!

Top tip: Ask for a local tap beer in a bar instead of buying bottled or imported beers to keep the price down!

2. Food

Eating out in another sure-fire way to dissolve your daily budget. Instead of eating out, pop to supermarkets such as Woolworths, Coles or Aldi to pick up dinner with your new mates. Make use of your hostel kitchen and group up to share dinner (& the costs!) with others to keep it cheap. As a backpacker you’ll soon discover there are hundreds of great different pasta combos you can eat if you get bored of beans on toast & pot noodles! Australia also has heaps of food courts that offer half price meals after a certain time to avoid waste so get in there early evening for a cheap bite to eat!

Top tip: Get to know your local specials on food! Most pubs have discounts on meals certain days of the week…anyone fancy a $10 steak?

3. Booking your travel

To get the best deal, it’s best to book in bulk! If you know for example that you’re going to be travelling the East coast, it’s worth sitting down and talking through the tours & trips available to you at your budget with a travel agent. Booking your trips as a package, allows the travel agents to give you the biggest discounts possible. There are heaps of different options to suit every budget so choosing the best quality trips for the cheapest price can be tricky without help. It’s important to talk to a travel agent you trust, who will focus on what you want rather than just trying to sell you everything and anything! Need help organising your travel? Get in touch for help and support!

Top tip: Make sure there are no sneaky local fees added to your trip that you don’t know about! The package you see advertised in the window may seem like a great deal but with lots of local fees to pay and poor quality trips with no food inclusions, you could end up out of pocket!

4. Work

If you’re in Australia on a working holiday visa, you can legally work for your entire stay in Oz…but where’s the fun in that!? Picking up casual work between travelling is great for those on a budget as it means you can fund your travels as you go. Just finished your East coast road trip? Go and work on a farm near Darwin for a couple of months then move on to the next bit! The wages in Oz are pretty good so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to save quite a bit whilst you work. If you’re doing regional or au pair work you may even be offered free accommodation & food in exchange for your work- great if you’re on your last pennies!

5. Accommodation

The bigger the dorm, the cheaper it will cost you. Save yourself a couple of dollars per night and book into a bigger dorm. Try a 16 bed dorm in Noosa or a teepee in Byron Bay to get more for your money! If you’re staying anywhere for longer than a couple of months, it’s worth looking for an apartment to rent. If you share a room with others, you’ll pay much less than booking into a hostel and you’ll get the added bonus of being able to unpack your backpack for a while – the ULTIMATE backpacker comfort!

6. Make the most of Oz!

Not everything in Australia costs money. There are thousands of beaches, awesome national parks and walks you can do (The Bondi to Coogee walk in Sydney is one of my faves!) and best of all…they’re FREE! If you’re low on money, make the most of this beautiful country and do some exploring! Chat to locals for ideas and directions to make the most of the free activities on offer!

Top tip: Keep an eye out for transport specials. In Sydney for example you can travel anywhere on a Sunday for $2.50! Take the ferry over to Manly or hop on the train to the Blue Mountains!

Interested in travelling to Australia? Get in touch for help, advice and arrival packages!

Check out our blogs for tips on travelling to Australia and share your budgeting tips with us in the comments below!

‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

Planning a trip to SE Asia? Check out our ‘How to Travel SE Asia on a budget’ blog!

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8 Reasons it’s better to travel with a partner

Having just written a blog on why it’s better to travel single, I’ve done a full 360 and thought why not think about the pros for travelling as a couple too! Having experienced both, I know that there are definitely pros to travelling with a partner, not including the obvious reasons like having a shoulder to sleep on during long journeys and having someone to take photos of you! Here are some reasons (in my opinion), it’s better to travel as a couple rather than going it solo:

1. Give your brain a bit of time out

Travelling solo can take quite a bit of organising and self motivation. You have to be on the ball all of the time knowing that if you don’t plan something for yourself to do, it’s not going to happen! You have full responsibility for the places you visit and the things you do during your travels so travelling with a partner can take the pressure off you a bit! Being told what you’re doing for the day can be nice when you’re all planned out. You may also be talked in to doing something you would never have considered before. Too scared to do a skydive but know it’s at the top of your partners bucket list?! Chances are, you’ll be jumping out of that plane before you know it and loving it! Sometimes it’s good to go along with what other people want to do for a while and as long as you also make sure you’re doing what you want to do, you’ll probably end up experiencing more!

2. Your home away from home

Travelling by yourself can get lonely. It’s a strange feeling arriving in a country where nobody knows you and having that someone by your side can bring a lot of comfort, especially if it’s your first proper time away from home. However amazing travelling is, there are highs and lows, and there will probably come a time at some point when you just need a few reassuring words from a familiar face, someone to make you laugh and a shoulder to cry on. Just having someone there will bring you more comfort than you imagined.

If you’re travelling solo and want to meet people when you first get here, why not book onto an arrival package in Sydney, Thailand or Vietnam?

3. It will make you a better person!

Travelling with someone takes patience and compromise. You’ll both be faced with stressful situations at some point during your trip and chances are, you’ll take it out on the person closest to you: each other (we are human after all)! You’ll learn to bite your tongue and realise that most of the time, the petty arguments just aren’t worth it. It’s not like you can just hop in your car and drive to a mates house for a rant after all! You’ll be spending A LOT of time together so you’ll soon figure out how to handle your disagreements as adults (most of the time!)

4. Travelling = the ULTIMATE relationship test

If you can travel with your boyfriend or girlfriend and come out the other side smiling, with a stronger relationship, you’re onto a winner! Not only will you learn things about yourself and figure out how you deal with stressful situations but you’ll also see how your partner reacts and how well you work together to come to solutions. Do you communicate with each other when you’re faced with a sticky situation, do you shut down and ignore each other or do you have a massive shouting match? You’re bound to have a few disagreements along the way but it’s how you deal with them as a couple that will determine how strong your relationship is..and isn’t it better to find out whether you’re a good match sooner rather than later?

5. Two minds are better than one!

Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses so having that extra brain there will be a massive advantage when you’re travelling. At some point during your trip, decisions will have to be made (some not as important as others…beach or rainforest today!?) and 2 minds working together will take the pressure off you a bit. Having an off day? Your partner can take one for the team and take control of your plans for the day! Travelling together allows you to buzz off each other and help each other out when needed.

6. Save money

Having someone there to share some of your travel costs can save you heaps during your travels. You can share the cost of food, accommodation, taxis and other travel such as campervan or car rentals. Also if you’re haggling in SE Asia, you’re more likely to get a better deal if you’re buying two of everything!

Haggling with a partner could get you a great deal!

7. Safety in numbers

Nowadays travelling is generally safe, even for solo travellers. As long as you’re vigilant, have your wits about you and do your research beforehand, you’ll be able to travel around relatively safely wherever you go. Saying that, having someone there to look out for you is a big comfort and there’s no denying that you’ll be safer travelling with a partner that going travelling alone.

8. Some memories are better shared.

Some of the things you’ll experience travelling are better off shared with someone. Most of the time the photos just don’t do it justice and whilst you’ll always have the memory of that beautiful sunset or that amazing beach party , it’s great having someone there who has experienced it all with you. Once your trip is over you’ll be able to reminisce about your travel memories together.

So there it is…there are arguments for and against travelling solo & with a partner! So which way is better? In my opinion, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to travel. Think about what you want to experience from your travels, figure out what works for you and most importantly of all, go for what makes you happy!

What do you think? Comment below!

Travelling solo? check out our blog to read about the pros to travelling as a single agent!

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Cairns: The ULTIMATE backpacker destination in Oz?

There’s no doubt that Cairns is one of the most popular destinations for backpackers in Australia and I can see why! Cairns has got a bit of everything: The world’s oldest rainforest, great nightlife, stunning beaches, heaps of adventure activities (it’s the adventure capital of Oz!) and a tropical climate to enjoy it all in! Cairns is also the gateway to the world’s largest reef (so large it’s visible from space!), the Great Barrier Reef!

Ultimate Travel legend Max has spent the last 10 days visiting Cairns to find out more about this cool little city up in Northern Queensland. Here’s what he has to say:

What was the highlight of your trip?

I would say the highlight of my trip was swimming with turtles on the Mackay & Udine reefs. I’d never seen turtles up close like that before and being able to swim with them was amazing! The reef I went to on the snorkel trip had so much marine life – it was awesome!

 

Swimming with a turtle in Cape tribulation

What do you think of Cairns as a city?

I love that cairns isn’t too big or too small. Everything is in walking distance and you have all the main shops, restaurants, bars and clubs right in the centre so you don’t miss out on anything. It’s got a real tropical feel to it too. The weather was amazing when I went which was such a nice change from the winter temps in Sydney! Also, at night hundreds of fruit bats fly over the city which was amazing to see. I’ve never seen anything like it so it was definitely memorable!

 

The beautiful lagoon in Cairns

How long did you spend in Cairns? Where did you stay?


In total I spent 7 days in Cairns. I stayed at Nomads Serpents which was great. It has a proper chilled out but sociable vibe to it. I spent my time at the hostel relaxing by the pool getting a tan and playing volley ball and table tennis. They have a bar right near the pool with amazing food so you can grab a beer and chat to the other backpackers too which was great.

 

Chilling at Nomads Serpent

Did you go anywhere else?

Yeah..I went on a 2 night trip to Cape tribulation which is about 2 hours drive from Cairns in the Daintree Rainforest. I love Cairns but it was great to get out of the city and see another part of Northern QLD. In Cape Trib, I stayed at Cape Trib Beach house which was incredible. It’s right on the beach (literally a 30 second walk!) and you have the option to stay in dorm rooms or private rooms. I was lucky enough to stay in their St Crispin accommodation – well worth the upgrade! The bar/restaurant at Beach House does amazing food too. It’s safe to say I ate well during my stay!!

 

The beach at Cape Tribulation

Did you do any activities in the Rainforest?

During the days I did Jungle Surfing (zip lining through the jungle!), horse riding on the beach and kayaking. I also went on a snorkel trip with Ocean Safaris which is when I got to swim with the turtle – that was such a great tour! I spent the evening in the Beach house restaurant eating calamari, steak and having a few drinks! After dinner the staff at Cape Trib beach house got a small fire going on the beach so I sat round chatting to other people on the tour. The view of the stars from the beach was incredible cause the sky was so clear!

 

Zip lining through the rainforest

Did you see any wildlife?

I spotted a few crocs on the Active Tropics Cape Trib tour! One of the biggest crocs, Scar face is around 85 years old!

 

Crocodile spotting in Cape tribulation

What else did you get up to in Cairns?

I did white water rafting, did a day trip to the Atherton Tablelands, went diving, chilled by the lagoon, went fishing and explored Cairns – it was an action packed, fun holiday!

 

White water rafting in Cairns

Your diving pics looks amazing. What was it like?

I did a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef with Deep Sea Divers. I booked on to do an Introductory dive as I had never dived before and I’d heard how amazing it is! All of the staff were really great and made everyone feel so comfortable. They ran through all of the safety aspects with us then showed us what to do before putting our gear on. We went down in groups of 3 or 4 with an instructor so I felt safe the whole time. Being underwater with all that wildlife was amazing. I met Wally, a massive Maori Wrasse, found Nemo and saw a reef shark! It was amazing – I can’t wait to go diving again!

 

Meeting the locals in the Great Barrier Reef

What is the nightlife like in Cairns for backpackers?

The nightlife in Cairns is as crazy as Sydney! The main bars I went to were Woolshed and Gilligans. I think Woolshed is a great bar to start out at then head to Gilligans which is more of a club. They had loads of drink specials too (between $5-$8) so it was a great night!

 

The beach in Cape Tribulation

Is Cairns good for backpackers on budget?

Yes, definitely! It’s a lot cheaper than Sydney. You can book a week in a dorm room at Nomads Cairns for $120! Food prices are about the same as other cities but everywhere had drink specials on so it all balanced out in the end.

 

Cairns is a beautiful city

Would you recommend other people to visit Cairns? How long do you think you would need?

I personally love Cairns and with there being so much you can do in the town it’s hard to get bored. Saying that, for me the highlights are on the trips outside of Cairns like the rainforest and the Atherton Tablelands. I’d say you’d need at least a week if you want to do Cairns properly and see other parts of Northern Queensland whilst you’re up there.If you can stay for longer than a week, you’ll definitely still find things to do..even if that just means chilling by the lagoon on the esplanade!

Where is next on your bucket list?

I’ve got a trip to the Northern territory with Topdeck booked later this year. I’m doing a trip to Kakadu and Litchfield national park and will get to spend some time in Darwin too. I went to Uluru last year and had a wicked time so I’m looking forward to seeing another part of the Northern Territory. I’ve heard amazing things about Kakadu NP and doing the tour with Topdeck will be awesome!

 

Darwin, Litchfield and Kakadu are amazing to visit in Australia!

A massive thank you to Deep Sea Divers Den, Foaming Fury, Active Tropics, Waterfall Wanderers, Ocean Safari and Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours for having me on your tours (I had an awesome time!) & to Nomads Cairns and Cape Trib Beach House for giving me a place to rest my head after a fun day of activities!

Fancy a trip to Cairns? Get in touch with Max for suggestions and to book your trip/accommodation!

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30 ULTIMATE Backpacker Travel Tips!

Whether you’re a first time backpacker or a seasoned traveller, there’s always some handy travel hacks you can learn. We asked our awesome customers for their ultimate travel tips and put together a list of our faves..

1. Say Yes!

Now is the time to experience everything. Do things that you wouldn’t usually do and be a ‘Yes Man’ (within reason of course!) to make the most of your trip! 

2.Try the local food

There are some amazing local dishes out there – try them! Scorpion in Bangkok anyone?

Trying the local delicacies is all part of the fun

3. Travel first

If you’re planning on staying somewhere for a while, don’t settle in the first place you visit. Travel, figure out where you love & go back when you’ve travelled!

4. Try not to overthink things too much

Go with the flow, bro!

5. Pack light

Remember, what you pack you have to carry. Avoid the back (& ball) ache of carrying your shiz everywhere & pack a maximum of 2/3 of your backpack!

Pack light when you're backpacking

6. Do what YOU want to do

Even if it means travelling solo for a while. You’ll regret it if you miss something out just because noone else wanted to go with you!

7. Multi purpose clothes

Take clothes that can be used for different purposes. A pashmina for example can be used as a pillow, an eye mask, to cover up in temples and a sarong!

8. Wake up early

Seize the day! Make the most of your time travelling! You can sleep when you’re dead… Unless of course, you have a horrendous hangover.. Then and only then are you allowed to sleep in!

9. Email yourself a copy of your passport and drivers license

If you lose your ID you’ll need to be able to find a copy quickly.

10. Wear dark clothes

Light & white clothes won’t last very long as a backpacker! Also, you can get away with wearing darker clothes for longer if you can’t get to a washer!

11. Pre book a package..

It’s the best way to meet people when you first arrive! Check out our packages for deets!

Booking onto a package can help you find friends.

12. ..But try not to plan too much

It’s good to have a rough plan but planning too much leaves no room for spontaneity which is all part of the fun!

13. Stash extra emergency cash

..or bring a credit card with you. Try not to eat your cash though – however hungry you are!

14. Chat to the locals

They know their shit. You’ll learn more about a country from the locals than from any guidebook.

15. Roll your clothes

To save space in your backpack and to avoid creases in your clothes!

16. Take an extra SD card

Back up your photos in case you lose your memory card!

17. Splurge a bit

Sometimes it’s okay to treat yourself. Make the most of being where you are, especially if it’s likely to be a once in a lifetime experience!

18. Buy a pack of cards

Playing cards are a great way to pass the time on long journeys, to use in drinking games or even for the odd magic trick! You never know when you’ll need a pack of cards on your travels!

19. Get off the beaten track

Explore more of the country you’re in by avoiding the overly ‘touristy’ places as much as possible!

20. Write a travel journal

Even if you don’t want to write in it all the time. It’s a great way to look back and remember your travels!

21. Take an underwater camera

For all those epic underwater selfies you’ll be taking!

22. Get the right backpack

It needs to fit you properly and be the right size to avoid back ache. Front loaders with compartments also make it way easier to find stuff!

23. Brush up on your sewing skills

You’ll be surprised how often you use a sewing kit during your travels!

24. Baby wipes will be your best friend

Enough said!

25. In foreign speaking countries, learn some useful phrases in their language

Even if it’s just how to say ‘Hello’, ‘Thank you’ and how to order a beer!

26. Separate your clothes

Organise your clothes into separate bags inside your backpack so you can find stuff easily!

27. Carry tissues

Some countries you visit won’t have toilet roll in the toilets so tissues will be your saviour!

28. Pack a good hoodie

Even if the country you’re in is hot, air con will make indoor shopping centres and planes freezing! Get yourself an UltimateOz Hoodie!

You'll need a hoodie on your travels!

29. Tiger balm

Tiger balm is great for sore muscles. It can also be used as an insect repellent and on itchy mozzie bites!

30. Chill

Keep things in perspective, enjoy the journey and don’t sweat the small stuff! You’ll probably experience a few bumps in the road at some point so relax, try not to worry and remember it’s all part of the adventure!

Have you got any travel tips you can share with us? Comment below and tell us what you think!

Want some help and advice on booking your travels? Get in touch!

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How to travel Southeast Asia on a budget

Southeast Asia is awesome! With friendly locals, great food, beautiful beaches, bustling cities, an exciting culture and so much to see any do, no wonder it’s high on the bucket list for so many of us! Luckily for us, Southeast Asian countries are generally cheap to travel in so your travel budget will stretch a lot further than most other gap year destinations! Despite Southeast Asia already being cheap, it’s always nice to nab a bargain so read on for tips on how to save your hard earned cash and travel through Southeast Asia on a budget..

 1. Don’t be scared to haggle!

In most countries in Southeast Asia, bartering is not just expected, it’s all part of the fun! Don’t be scared to haggle for your goods to get a cheaper price. Most of the time, the good sold at markets in Thailand and Malaysia have such a high margin to begin with, you can usually start off by offering less than half price for what you want! You can haggle pretty much anything in countries such as Thailand and Vietnam including travel on Tuk Tuks, boats and taxis! Be firm yet respectful and friendly and remember to have the price you’re happy to pay in your head!

Top tip: Be careful not to go overboard. The most important thing to remember is that both parties should be able to come to a mutually happy agreement. There’s no point arguing over a couple of quid just to come out on top. That money will probably mean a lot more to your seller than to you!

Haggling the price of goods and travel in Thailand is normal

2. Try the local food

Eating street food and local dishes & delicacies is all part of travelling and is a great way to cut down on your spends! If you want to eat ‘western food’ like pizza, burgers and chips, be prepared to pay ‘western prices’ (around 5 times more than local dishes found on street stalls and food courts!)

It’s not all about the price though. Local dishes are usually amazing, and prepared with natural homegrown ingredients. Vietnam has some of the best dishes in the world including Pho (a popular rice noodle dish) and once you’ve tried a Thai green curry or pad Thai in Thailand, there’s no going back! Just take it easy eating fresh fruit and meats from the street stalls that have been left out when you first arrive – give your stomach time to adjust to the new food to avoid getting ill and wherever possible eat from the stalls where it can be cooked in front of you.

Top tip: If it’s good enough for the locals, it’ll be good enough for you! Follow the crowd as the locals know where will be good to eat and where isn’t!

3. Drink beer

Drinking local beer such as ‘Singha’ or ‘Chang’ in Thailand and ‘ Bia Hoi’ in Vietnam will cost you a lot less than drinking imported beers, alcopops and wine in South East Asia. If you’re a fan of spirits, go for the local spirits as much as possible if you want to save money but go easy…local spirits usually have a much higher alcohol % so have one and see how you go!

Top tip: Be prepared. Booze prices on small islands in SE Asia are a lot higher than other parts of the country as they’re ‘imported’ from the mainland. If you’re a fan of spirits, take a bottle or two with you to avoid paying lots for alcohol!

4. Do your research

Most locals you’ll encounter in SE Asia are friendly, helpful and kind however do be prepared to be ripped off every now and then! If you don’t know how much things cost in advance, you could end up paying heaps more than you need to! I’ve been told before that ‘there are no ATM’s on that Island’, ‘you must withdraw/change up your money here with me’ only to find out that there are heaps of ATM’s on the island and that person just wanted the extra commission!
Top tip: Don’t believe everything you hear from the locals and do your research beforehand to be in the know!

 5. Travel like a local

SE Asia is pretty big so it can be tempting to hop on a plane over to the next country on your bucket list but if you want to save money, wherever possible travel with the locals. In Bali, I decided to take the cheapest boat possible over the Gilli islands and ended up in a tiny boat with 30 other people, about 20 chickens flapping around and what seemed like the islands entire food supply for the next 6 months! I always find it’s those experiences you remember the most anyway! Most SE Asian countries have some great bus and train options too such as the overnight sleeper train in Thailand and overnight buses. You can even bus it over the borders with a mini passport control break in the middle!
Top tip: Travelling overnight means you won’t have to fork out for accommodation that night – score!

 6. Give yourself a daily budget

This might seem like an obvious one but it’s easy to spend in Asia. Yes, everything is mega cheap but if you’re anything like me, that’ll just make you spend more because you don’t feel like you have to budget! Having a strict budget will ensure you’ve got enough to last your whole trip without worrying. Spend a bit more on drinks one day? Check into a cheaper hostel the next night!
Top tip: Budget between AUD$20-$40 per day to travel comfortably.

 7. Accommodation

Accommodation in Asia is cheap! On a budget, you could find somewhere to stay for less than $5 per night! Okay your toilet might be a hole in the floor and you may be sharing with a few lizards and insects but it’s a bargain all the same! If you’re prepared to stay in basic accommodation you’ll save yourself a lot of money. If you’re not, you could stay in a beautiful little private poolside villa with free breakfast for around $20-$30!
Top tip: Planning ahead with accommodation is another way to save money. Accommodation prices in Koh Phangan go up for the Full Moon Party so get in there early for the best prices and before all the accommodation is fully booked!

Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park where we stay during our 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour!

Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park during the 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour!

8. Buy before you go!

Pretty much everything is cheaper in South East Asia and most things can be bought when you get there however there are a few things that are worth taking with you. Imported cosmetics, suncream & makeup can be more expensive so to avoid paying out for your favourite makeup brands abroad, bring them with you!

Top tip: In most SE Asian countries, anti malaria tablets A LOT cheaper when you get there.

 9. Get off the beaten track!

If you want to save money, avoid ‘touristy’ destinations as much as you can. Anywhere packed with tourists will be more expensive than other parts of the country as you’ll be paying tourist prices rather than backpacker prices.

Instead, chat to locals and get recommendations on where to go (take a mate with you!) or get a map and do some exploring! I remember hiring a moped on Koh Phangan and going to visit some of the waterfalls in the middle of the island. It was great to see another part of the island away from the crowds and saved me the money I would have spent in Koh Phangan that day!

Top tip: Having a local guide show you around is a great way to experience ‘off the beaten track’ safely. Our 3 day Sapa tour in Vietnam gives you the chance to stay in a remote village and experience how the hill tribes live! Check it out here.

Get off the beaten track in Vietnam

10. Know what your money is worth!

Checking the current exchange rate is well worth doing before you start your travels. Knowing what your money is worth will avoid you getting ripped off at the airport when you get there! Click here to check current currency rates.

Top tip: Change up some money before you fly so you have some local money to use when you first land. It’ll give you a little time to shop around for the best rate so you won’t be forced into changing up your money in the first place you come across!

Know what your money is worth

Interested in travelling to Thailand or Vietnam? Get in touch for help and advice!

Check out our blogs for tips on travelling in South East Asia and share your budgeting tips with us in the comments below!

‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

Travelling onwards after your trip to Asia? Keep an eye out for top tips on budgeting in Australia and New Zealand.

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Jess joins the UltimateOz crew!

Welcome Jess, the newest addition to our Ultimate family!

Jess has joined the UltimateOz crew as a tour leader over the summer months! She’s friendly, always has a smile on her face and let’s face it…she’s a bit of a ledge! Say ‘Hiiiii Jess!’..

Getting into the Aussie spirit!   Working as a tour leader for UltimateOz

Jess & her Aussie adventure so far..

“I arrived in Australia in November 2014 and had an amazing first week with Ultimate Oz! I made some friends for life, and actually still live with a girl I met that week! I had already travelled around and worked in America so Australia seemed like the logical next place as I was too nervous to go travelling in a non-english speaking country alone.

Since being here, I have lived in Sydney and Melbourne. In Melbourne I lived right next to the beach near St Kilda and worked as a waitress in the evenings. Mornings off were spent at the beach sunbathing or kayaking (living the dream hey!?) and I even got free dinner when I finished work –  awesome!

I also did my regional work in NSW on a horse breeding farm near Tamworth for 3 months to gain my second year visa, which I loved!! It was so much fun and working with animals was amazing. I’d definitely recommend everyone to do some regional work in Australia. Not only is it a great experience (how many people can say they worked on an aussie farm in the outback!?) but it also allows you to apply for your second year visa to spend some more time in Oz! Check out this blog for info on second year visas and how to get yours!

Working on a horse farm is a great way to get your second year visa   The countryside in regional NSW is beautiful   Working with animals is great!   Regional NSW has some great sunsets

After doing my regional work, I did a road trip on the Great Ocean Road in a campervan (absolutely stunning beaches!) and spent 6 weeks travelling up the East Coast on the Loka bus to Cairns. I loved doing the East Coast with Loka as it made it so easy to make friends at every place I stopped. My favourite moment of the East Coast was doing my open water dive course on Magnetic Island. Maggie is absolutely beautiful and I definitely learnt a new skill that I want to turn into a hobby! You can also hire little pink and white ‘barbie like’ 4×4’s to drive around the island. There is so much to see on the East coast so if you’re planning a trip make sure you give yourself enough time!!

Cuddle a koala on the East coast of Australia!   Hire a 'barbie' car in Maggie Island!    The East coast of Oz is a great place to surf!   The Whitsunday Islands are a East coast highlight!

I came back to Sydney to work for UltimateOz, hoping to make Sydney feel like home for the newbies arriving now in the same way my group leaders did for me when I first arrived. Meeting new people every week is so awesome! So what’s next for me? Who knows?! My bucket list of places to visit has doubled since being in Australia. Thailand, Bali, Fiji and Western Australia are top of my list right now and once my second year visa is up I may travel over the pond and work my way around New Zealand! I also really want to cage dive with sharks so I’ll have to fit that in somewhere!”

Want some help planning your trip? Just get in touch with our travel team for help, advice & discounts on travel!

Meet the rest of the ULTIMATE crew here and keep an eye out for crew updates & stories!

Like us on FB for travel inspiration & follow us on Instagram for travel pics & vids!

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Vietnam Goes Visa Free For European Travellers

Great News For Travellers To Vietnam!

Vietnam is one of the new favourite hot spots amongst backpackers travelling to, or through, Southeast Asia … and with good reason! Now, there’s one more reason to add travelling to Vietnam to your 2015 bucket list … depending on where you’re from, you may not need a visa to enter the country.

If you are from the UK, France, Spain, Italy or Germany and travelling to Vietnam for less than 15 days (perfect if you’re only doing the Ultimate Vietnam tour), you will no longer need to apply for a visa from the Vietnamese government. These changes apply to travel between 1st July 2015 and 30th June 2016.

Well, it was never too difficult to get a visa for Vietnam but now, it’s one less thing to have to worry about, leaving you with more time to get excited about your trip! It also means that you will save at least £54. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but at the time we are writing this, that’s about 1,850,000 VND (Vietnamese Dong) which is enough for you to live like a Rockstar for a month!

This is great for Vietnam as it will encourage more people to go and see the amazing things this beautiful country has to offer! And a boost in tourism leads to a boost in economy – happy days all round!

Already know that you’ll want to spend more than 15 days in Vietnam? (We don’t blame you at all!)

No worries at all – check out our Visa Information page and find out about the other visa options that are available …

Got any other Visa queries? Get in touch with the ULTIMATE crew and we’ll come back to you as soon as we can!

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Study VS Gap Year

Study or Gap Year…

The Ultimate question, those finishing the study year have been asking themselves recently..

It’s that time of the year when you’re coming to the end of your study year and you may be wondering..what’s next? Will you start full time work? Will you carry on studying and apply for uni? Or do you need some time out to think about what you really want? You may be pretty sure of your long term goals and be well on your way to the career of your dreams (lucky you!) or like most people, you may be confused about which direction to head in and wondering what to do with your life!

We’ve been there and it’s a tough decision to make. Most of the time you’re expected to decide what you want to do in a matter of months and without having worked in a full time job it can be difficult to know what will make you happy in your career and how you can use your skills to your advantage. If you’re indecisive like I am, you’ve probably sat there with a big pros and cons list trying to figure out what’s right! You may also be feeling pressured by parents, teachers or by your toughest critic (yourself!) to choose the career path that’s right for you. My advice? Keep calm and take some time to figure out what works for you! A gap year abroad between studies or starting your working career is the perfect way to spend your time out.

Why take a Gap Year?

There are so many advantages to taking a gap year: you’ll have some more time to reflect, find out what makes you happy, gain confidence, experience different cultures and discover skills you never knew you had (who knew you could make a bracelet from a coconut shell in Fiji!?) You’ll figure out how you enjoy spending your time and just as importantly how you don’t! Are you an outdoorsy nature lover? Do you enjoy having a set routine? Are you always the one getting the party going or are you maybe a little more reserved? People say travelling changes you, and it may sound cliché but it’s true! Be prepared to go home a different person, with different values, opinions and ideas. You’ll figure a lot out about yourself during your gap year which could help you decide which kind of industry you want to work in.

Working Abroad

Unless you’ve been saving for a few years, chances are you’ll end up working at some point during the year to fund your travels. Taking a Gap Year is a massive turn-on to prospective employers because not only will you gain work experience, you’ll also be gaining valuable life experiences. You’ll be opening up doors for the future without even knowing it, ready for when you start looking for a job. Check out our blog ‘How travel can help you land your dream career.

University

More and more people are taking a gap year so it’s easier than ever to take some well deserved time off from studying to travel the world. If you choose to go to uni, Universities are usually happy to defer your entry for a year so if you have an idea of what you’d like to study after your year out you can apply and get everything sorted before you even get on that flight! You’ll be able to enjoy a year of no applications and chill outs knowing you’ve got your spot to study after! If you’re a little less set on what you want to do (like I was!) you can still apply for uni during your travels too and with all your travel experiences to talk about in your uni applications and personal statement you’ll be a more attractive candidate too..win win!

Wondering whether to finish your studies, then travel? If you have the option to travel now, do it – you never know what the next few years may bring! I know lots of people who travelled after uni who wish they had done it before starting their degree. Your circumstances may change after uni – you might have added, unexpected responsibilities and travelling might not be an option straight away. You’re young, have probably spent most of your life studying and now is the time to be free, experience the world & have some fun, safe in the knowledge that it’s actually going to improve your future career rather than hinder it! You have nothing to lose! 😉

Get in touch with us to discuss your Gap Year options!

Share your experiences and stories with us in the comments below!

Check out our Ultimate Travel FB and follow us on Instagram for travel pics & inspiration!

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40 Signs you’ve been backpacking for too long

1. You can’t remember the last time you shared a room with less than 4 other people.

2. You’ve tried all of the different Goon bags and have decided on your fave (Fruity Lexia -obvs!)

3. Eating Subway (footlong) for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the norm.

4. Finding half a bottle of shampoo in the hostel shower excites you way more than it should!

5. Long journeys no longer faze you.

6. You know all of the best drinking games..

7. ..and have become and absolute pro at the limbo.

8. You don’t know how you ever lived without your sunnies permanently attached to your face.

9. You know the happy hour of all the local pubs and wouldn’t dream of spending your booze money on a fully priced meal.

10. You’ve got used to dressing in the dark and tip toeing into your dorm room at 4am to avoid waking your dorm buddies up!

11. You’ve mended your flip flops more than once.

12. You never thought you would become a ‘roller’ but you’ve started rolling all of your clothes to avoid creases..or..

13. ..you’ve completely given up on worrying about creases in your clothes and have started shoving your stuff back into your backpack.

14. You’ve been wearing the same anklet for the last 11 months & you can’t count how many bracelets you’re wearing.

15. You’ve accumulated so much stuff along the way, you have to have a ‘backpack spring clean’ at least once during your travels!

16. You get excited about small things. Having a clean towel brings you so much comfort & happiness.

17. You’ve got a million new friends on FB..

18. ..and added a million new travel photos to your account.

19. You’ve lived off Pot Noodles, beans on toast and some simple yet effective pasta combos (tuna & pasta, tomato & pasta..the list goes on)..

20. ..so walking past someone handing out free food/drink samples without stopping becomes an epic fail. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

21. You’ve learnt to get changed anywhere & in front of people whilst maintaining your modesty…most of the time!

22. You’ve sat inside McDonalds or outside the Apple store for hours using their WIFI.

23. You can sleep anywhere. Your mates floor, the airport, in a bar..backpacking can be tiring, people!

24. You’ve tried sneaking into clubs by rubbing your mates stamp on your wrist. Do people actually pay $30 entry to get into clubs these days?!

25. You started a blog/journal but have forgotten to post/write for a few weeks now- you’re just having too much fun!

26. Clean toilets & hot showers become a luxury and you can’t even remember what a hot bath feels like!

Dog really enjoys bath time - Imgur

27. You’ve been carrying around the same water bottle for 3 months and refilling it at any opportunity.

28. It’s strange to you when people don’t wait for their change at the bar. That could buy you half a schooner of beer!

29. You’ve got used to the heat and now anywhere with air con feels like the Antarctic.

30. You’ve heard someone having sex no more than 3 feet away from you. Oh the joys of hostel living!

31. You’re constantly battling your room mates for the free plug to charge up your phone.

32. You have constant tan lines even though you haven’t been sunbathing in a while.

33. You’ve got $9.70 in your account but still go out on the piss – where there’s a will there’s a way!

34. Your backpack is so heavy, you’ve started dragging it as much as you can and are seriously contemplating fashioning some backpack wheels.

35. When you aren’t going bare foot your, flip flops are your best friend.

36. Luxuries such as perfume & aftershave are a distant memory.

37. You memorised your passport number a long time ago but..

38. ..You still feel guilty walking through customs at the airport  no matter how many times you’ve done it. Did someone plant something in my bag!?

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39. Sleep is no longer a necessity. You’ve learnt to survive on 4 hours a night. You can sleep when you’re dead right?

40. You agree with most of these!!

Can you think of any more? We want to hear from you. Comment below!

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The ULTIMATE Internship in Sydney

Being an Ultimate Intern described in one word: AMAZING!

When I came to Australia on my own I was a bit nervous and worried that I might not be able to handle everything, including the foreign language, the new people and the new city in general. There was no need to at all! Already after the first week I knew I was having the time of my life! And I still do!

How to describe the internship at UltimateOz? Well, first of all, get rid of the boring image of interning in an office, where everyone is wearing a suit and is sitting next to each other in a small room focused on his computer. As an intern at UltimateOz you’ve got your own desk right behind the travel agents and get in contact with the customers every day!

The UltimateOz office is fun!

Usual tasks are for example applying for Tax File Numbers and bank accounts, managing all the mail of our customers and working on our facebook page. Furthermore we have to do various bookings for the UltimateOz programme in Sydney, the Outback Range, Surfcamp or other tours and trips for our customers all over Australia. What I was afraid of the most in the beginning was answering phone calls. 😮 Especially when talking to other companies, where the people had a hard (Australian) accent or when it was pretty noisy in the office, I struggled to understand them. However, so far I feel at least much more confident than in the first weeks and I even did bookings via the phone or Skype! (proud of myself!)

Furthermore you can try yourself out in group leading! Going along with our customers having the time of their lives is just awesome! We start with a city walk checking out the best places in Sydney, followed by a pretty cool harbour cruise with a real Aussie barbie.  Then we’re heading off to basecamp, including fun activities like sandboarding and a dolphin cruise. There’s just one rule: What happens at basecamp stays at basecamp! 😉 Saturday means party time, but before the great pub crawl, we do the Coogee to Bondi beach walk to catch some breathtaking views!

The UltimateOz staff are always playing pranks on others.

 

You really take part in the daily business work with everyone else of the awesome crew and help them out with special tasks – instead of making coffee (we’ve got the coffee run for that!). From time to time you might end up tethered at your chair with cling wrap and a cardboard box over your head, but it could definitely be worse!

Every couple of weeks you get the chance to check out new trips and tours like OzSnow, Surf Camp or a part of an East Coast Trip! Can you think of better team building session spots?

Due to the location of our office right at Central and Railway Square, there’s a lot happening every day. Last week there was a film set in front of our door; Hollywood is calling! Moreover we often see people promoting new stuff, which usually means free food! Now we’ve got breakfast cookies for the rest of the year!

Overall my experience as an intern for UltimateOz was definitely the best way to spend my semester abroad, which is part of my tourism management studies back home in Germany. It has been 4 month full of fun, new experiences, new things to learn and loads of awesome people and friends for life!

After my internship, first I will travel to Cairns; do the skydive and go snorkelling. (already so excited! :)). Then I’ll fly to Alice Springs to start a tour through the outback via e.g. the Ayers Rock, Coober Pedy, Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne!

Then it’s time to say goodbye to Australia, but one thing is for sure: I’ll come back! 🙂

Nadine – ULTIMATE intern

 

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8 Things to do during Sydney’s winter months

Winter is coming. In fact as of 3 days ago, winter is officially here! It’s that time of year again where we dig out our coats, gloves and scarfs from the bottom of our cupboards. BBQ’s by the beach become a distant memory and we start swapping cold beer for mulled wine and hot chocolate. Luckily for us, Sydney has got heaps of activities to offer to keep us busy in the colder months.

1. Christmas in July

If you’re from the northern hemisphere and you’ve spent Christmas in Sydney you’ll know that Christmas just isn’t the same here. Spending the day on the beach in the heat enjoying an Aussie BBQ just doesn’t feel like Christmas should: spending the day at home with family, in the cold, drinking too much wine and lying on the sofa in a food coma. This is where Christmas in July comes in to it! Sydney will turn into a real winter wonderland during the coldest months this year so we can enjoy the festivities, in the cold, the way it should be! Wrap up, hire some ice skates and workout on one of the ice rinks at Bondi Beach or Sydney’s winter garden in Darling Harbour. Can’t get enough of that Christmas feeling? Market stalls will be set up around the ice rinks to guarantee the ultimate cosy Christmas atmosphere. Nothing better than celebrating Christmas twice in one year with a hot cup of mulled wine! You could also take the train to the Blue Mountains where the famous Yulefest was born twenty years ago. Join one of the many fundraising events or organise a roast dinner with your friends!

2. Eat & Drink

It’s the perfect time of the year to indulge in hot, comforting meals. Eat your way through Saturday night’s hangover with one of Sydney’s amazing Sunday roast dinners. My personal favourites include the Anchor in Bondi and The Riverview hotel in Balmain – great meat, veg, yorkshire puds and gravy- yum! The Taphouse in Darlinghurst is also running Smokin’ Sundays winter warmer, the last Sunday of every month. Head down to enjoy spiced cider, mulled wine and beer by an open log fire!

3. Beach Walks

It might be a bit colder, but it will never be too cold for a beach walk! The Coogee to Bondi walk is one of Sydney’s most famous coastal walks and is well worth doing. A six kilometre long stroll along five picturesque beaches with the possibility to spot whales, what more could you want? On a sunny day you could even have an Aussie barbie using one of the public barbecues at Tamarama, Bronte or Coogee beach! Just catch a bus to Bondi or Coogee and walk all the way back, it’s as easy as that!

4. Vivid Sydney

Head down to circular quay to check out Sydney’s annual light festival. See the opera house, Museum of contemporary art and Circular Quay office blocks lit up with light installations and don’t miss BBC Earth’s light installation narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Hurry though- Vivid ends on the 8th June!

5. Imax Cinema

One thing you definitely have to do during winter is pay a visit to the IMAX! It’s the biggest screen in the whole world; you won’t know where to look! They show the world’s best movies here and even though it is quite expensive (approx $33) it’s well worth the visit!  There are places like the information centre around the corner and Grill’d (a hamburger restaurant in Darling Harbour) which offer some good discounts. Don’t forget to check out Groupon too – they offer cheap tickets every now and then!

6. Sydney Attractions

If you haven’t already been to Sydney’s main inside attractions, winter is the perfect time to do it! Check out the attractions in Darling Harbour: admire some beautiful sea creatures at Sydney Sea Life, meet one of your favourite celebs at Madame Tussauds or check out some Aussie animals in Wild Life Sydney Zoo. You could also hop on the ferry over to Manly to check out the Sea Life centre over there or head up to Sydney’s tower eye at Westfield for panoramic views of the city (perfect on a clear winter’s day!) Our travel team can help you book Sydney’s best attractions at discounted rates so get in touch for info! If you’re feeling lucky, go and put some money in one of the slot machines at The Star, Sydney’s casino! It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and serves you all entertainment you could ever wish for. When all bars have closed, this is the place to be! You don’t necessarily have to gamble all your travel money; just enjoy a drink watching a sports game on one of the TVs. Want to do some shopping? Try out Westfield in the middle of the city or in Bondi Junction, World Square or Broadway Shopping Centre.

7. Sydney Day Trips

Winter is the perfect time to head a bit further afield and go on day trips. You could spend the day in NSW’s wine region, The Hunter Valley, tasting the local wines, chocolates & cheeses and explore the Hunter Valley village. You could even head to the wildlife park to see some of Australia’s wildlife including koalas, kangaroos & emus. Another day, wrap up warm and visit the famous Blue Mountains. Take a bush walk through the national park to keep warm and explore the local village, Katoomba. Get in touch with the ULTIMATE travel team for day trips this winter!

8.Australian Culture

Did you come to Oz to get to know this beautiful country better? Expand your background in one of the numerous museums all around the city. History buffs should wander around in the Australia Museum or Nicholson Museum. If you’re an art lover don’t miss out on the Museum of Contemporary Art. More into small and cosy museums? Give Sydney Jewish Museum or Hyde Park Barracks Museum a try! Oh and don’t forget the Museum of Sydney itself of course!

Hope this gives you some inspiration & ideas on what to do in Sydney this winter. If you’ve got any other suggestions for fun winter activities in Sydney, we’d love to hear from you! Check out our Ultimate Travel Facebook for blogs, travel inspiration and photos and follow us on Instagram for travel pics! Tag #myultimatemoment to your Instagram pics – we will repost our faves.

– Freya, ULTIMATE intern 🙂

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Full Moon Party: Recipe for disaster or best night of your life?

The famous Full Moon Party takes place every month (normally the night before the actual full moon) on Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan, Thailand It’s safe to say that it’s one of the biggest beach raves in the world with between 10,000 and 30,000 people attending every month so it’s not surprising that it can get a little bit mental! The Full Moon Party could either be the best night of your life or one you’d rather forget! Have a read through our ‘what not to do’s’  to ensure your Full Moon Party is a night to remember…for all the right reasons!

Turn up with no plans

Dragging your backpack up & down the beach the day before the full moon party looking for accommodation will definitely be the highlight of your trip. If it’s a hot humid day, it’ll be even more memorable!

On a serious note: Be prepared. Pre book your accommodation on the island in advance as everywhere WILL be fully booked by the time the Full Moon Party comes around. I’d recommend getting there at least 1 week before the party kicks off to make sure you’ve got somewhere to stay! If you’re doing Ultimate Thailand, your nights in Koh Phangan will be pre-booked and any extra nights can be booked through us in advance so you can kick back and enjoy the party!! Some people prefer to stay on Koh Samui and take a boat over to Haad Rin for the party. If you want to do this, just make sure you organise a good boat to take you over & back to Koh Samui after the party. Some illegal boats operate in the area & they’re not safe.

Who needs money anyway?

Take all of your most valuable belongings out with you. Stuff all of your money and your passport in your bra or pants & shove your phone, camera, keys & other valuables in your pockets. It’s not like you’ll be dancing all night so losing your stuff isn’t likely and there are lots of friendly locals who love spending their time reuniting people with their lost/stolen belongings.

On a serious note: Don’t take anything to the full moon party that you don’t mind losing. There will be thieves floating about just waiting for the right opportunity to nab your phone/camera/money and things left on you & in your pockets can easily get lost in the sand. I’d recommend taking enough cash to last you for the night and if you want to, your camera. Lanyards are a great way of carrying your camera around so you won’t lose it! Leave your belongings where you’re staying, preferably in a padlocked bag. If your hostel has a safe, use it or leave your passport & key behind reception. Just grab a receipt from reception so you’ve got proof you left it there. Having a copy of your passport saved on a USB is also a good idea.

Get f****d up!

Getting tricked by undercover Thai police selling you drugs is always fun. Spending 6 months in a Thai prison looks like a laugh too if Bridget Jones is anything to go by. Smash those Mushy shakes on Mushroom mountain..you could even start a competition with your mates ‘ Who gets the weirdest trip.’

On a serious note: Don’t take drugs in Thailand…just don’t. Drugs are illegal and if you’re caught you could be spending your gap year or longer in a prison cell. There are plenty of others ways to enjoy yourself at the Full Moon party than spending the whole night tripping out and running away from the moon- yes, I know someone this has happened to!

Wear black & grey

Who can be bothered to get dressed up for the biggest beach rave in the world? Wear black, a thick comfy jumper and blend in with the crowd.

On a serious note: It’s cheaper to buy your own face paints from a local shop than paying to get it painted at the Full Moon Party. You’ll also be able to pick up some Full Moon fluro gear from pretty much every shop in Koh Phangan!

Go skinny dipping at night

Swimming in the ocean at night is fun…you’re on holiday right!? Thinking of going for a dip…well why the devil not?! The water is clean, warm and will seem even more fun after a few drinks!

On a serious note: It’s not a good idea to go for a dip at the Full Moon Party. Not only do people use the ocean to ‘ahem’ relieve themselves instead of queuing for the loo and for a bit of late night hanky panky, but swimming in the dark when you’re pissed on buckets is dangerous and a little bit silly, especially if you’re alone. Save your skinny dips for another night.

Go with the flow

Backpacking is all about going with the flow and not preparing for anything. The best thing to do when planning your trip to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party is to not plan anything! Don’t worry about finding out where the nearest medical centres are – there will be someone there to help you if you need it at the time!

On a serious note: Be prepared. Find out where the nearest medical centres are before you start to party as you never know what could happen. Most likely, you’ll have a great night and nothing will go wrong but just in case, it’s good to know where you can find help if you or someone you know needs it. Bear in mind that not all of the police you see will have your best interests at heart but tourist police (wearing white bibs) are there to help and point you in the right direction so keep an eye out for them too! It’s also a good idea to keep some change handy for toilet breaks – approx. 15 baht in most bars. If you’re travelling with mates, try to stick together. When you’re walking through a crowd, keep a hand in the air and have a hand signal ready so your mates know where you are & can follow you. It might seem a bit intense but if you lose them you’ll struggle to find them again without your trusty signal! 😉

Get off your face on buckets!

The buckets of alcohol sold at the Full Moon Party are such a rip off. They’ve barely got any alcohol in so you’ll need to buy quite a few to get you in the mood!

On a serious note: Alcohol buckets are strong! They contain a bottle of liquor that has an alcohol content of between 60-95% so not your average Smirnoff vodka or JD! Also, Thailand has it’s very own version of Red Bull (M-150) which will keep you dancing for hours. Mixed together it can be a bit of a lethal concoction so enjoy the buckets but share them with your mates (you won’t need a lot!) and take it easy. I’d recommend starting on the beers and waiting until midnight to start drinking buckets. That way you might actually make the sunrise!

Hell no H2O!

Drinking water at the Full Moon Party? But, I’m a hardcore raver and it’s all about the buckets tonight! Also, aren’t hangovers great?!

On a serious note: Without sounding like a concerned mum, make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the night. You’ll be partying for 12 hours straight in the heat, and you’ll enjoy the night more if you can remember it…not to mention your hangover won’t be as bad the next day..win win!

Check out our Infographic for more info on the Full Moon Party:

What you need to know about the Full Moon Party in Thailand.

The next full moon party is on Sunday 27th September. If you’re going, have an amazing time and stay safe! Been to a Thailand full moon party? Share you story with us in the comments below. Got any cool FMP pics? Tag #myultimatemoment on Instagram to share them with us!

Interested in travelling to Thailand for the Full Moon Party? Check out the Full Moon dates for 2015 here and check out our 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour.

Like us on Ultimate Travel Facebook for more travel blogs, ULTIMATE events and travel inspiration and tag your #myultimatemoment pics on Instagram (ultimate.travel)!

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How Travel can help you land your dream career

Whether you’re planning a gap year between studying, a career break or just an extended holiday away, there’s no doubt that your travel experiences will boost your career opportunities. Travel broadens the mind, and gives you a whole load of good personality traits that employers look for when hiring. Read on to hear some of the many valuable lessons you can learn from travelling:

1. Social and Communication Skills

Travelling is a great way to become more social and improve your ‘people skills.’ If you’re usually the one avoiding social interactions, especially with strangers, travelling will probably change that! Most people you meet whilst travelling will have similar interests to you (or at least one common interest: travel) and will be happy to chat and get to know you. You may also bump into people along the way that you don’t really ‘click’ with. Hopefully you won’t have to spend that much time with these people (you’re travelling, be freeeeee!) but if you are stuck with someone you don’t really like, you’ll soon figure out ways to make it work and how to communicate your feelings with them. You can use these skills to your advantage at work when meeting new people, interacting with your work buddies and expressing your ideas and opinions to other colleagues.

2. Planning/Organisation

Travelling takes planning and unless you’re one of those ‘Into the wild’ type of travellers who plan for nothing, just goes with the flow and grows a crazy beard, chances are you’ll be working on your organisational skills every day when travelling! You’ll be booking flights, hostels, trips and tours and looking after important documents along the way! Travelling also helps you deal with and gain perspective on unplanned events such as flight delays and finding somewhere to sleep at the last minute so not only will you work on your organisational skills, you’ll also learn to deal with any  unplanned situations without panicking and stressing out!

3. Patience

Ever had to wait 10 hours in an airport because your flight was delayed? Or take the overnight train in Thailand? Travelling takes patience which you can then put into practise in your job. What you want in your career might not happen straight away. You may have to wait for that moment to prove yourself or get a promotion so sit tight, be patient and enjoy the journey!

4. Flexibility/Adapt to change

Plans change all the time when you’re travelling so you’ll be thrown into situations where you have to think on your feet and create a new solution. The ability to be flexible and easily adapt to change is important in any career. Your employer will want to know that you can handle being in sometimes difficult situations and ‘go’ with changes within the company. If you can not only adapt to all situations thrown at you at work but also thrive on the challenge,  you’ll be a winner in your employers eyes!

5. Teamwork

Working well in a team is, in most jobs, one of the most important qualities employers look for when hiring. You might fit the bill in all other aspects but if you can’t work with others, bounce off your colleagues ideas and share your opinions within a team there’s no room for creativity and to grow in your work position. Sure, some people work better solo but in every job there will still be an element of teamwork needed to do the job properly. When you’re travelling you’ll usually be surrounded by other people so working in a team will crop up every now and then. It might be something simple like working with your fellow travellers to dig your 4WD out of the sand on Fraser Island or deciding in a group where you’d like to travel next (ahh- it’s a tough life isn’t it!?) but teamwork it is all the same!

6. Self Belief

Believing in yourself can put you at the top of your game in the working world. If you believe in yourself, others will too, so at work if you’re confident in your ability to do the job in hand well, your boss will believe in you and will pass on new projects and challenges to help you learn more and grow within the company. Self belief usually goes hand in hand with gaining confidence in dealing with any challenges you’ve been faced with. The more challenges you overcome during your travels, the more you’ll believe in your ability to handle them and anything else thrown your way!

Has travel helped you in your career? Let us know in the comments! ‘Like’ us on Facebook for blogs & travel inspiration and follow us on Instagram for ULTIMATE travel photos!

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2nd Year Visa Changes

If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’ve arrived in Australia on your first working holiday visa, fallen in love with the place and wondering how you can spend more time in this amazing country. If the idea of heading home after a year in Oz scares you, luckily there is a way to stay for another year: the Second working holiday visa. To obtain your 2nd year visa, you’ll need to complete 3  calendar months (or 88 days on and off) working in a designated regional area doing what the department of immigration class as ‘Specified work.’

Most backpackers work on farms, fruit picking and packing, carrying out general farm work or mustering cattle. You can also carry out construction or mining work or volunteer with programs such as WWOOF (Willing workers on organic farms), where you work approximately 4-6 hours per day in exchange for food and accommodation. Volunteering has been a popular way for backpackers to gain their 2nd year visa: it’s a great way to learn the skills necessary to work on a farm and with lots of casual short term jobs with host families available, it’s a great way to travel around while you work.

Second Year Visa Changes

Despite the popularity in backpackers volunteering to gain their 2nd year visa, on the 1st May 2015 the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, announced that soon, volunteer work will no longer count towards 2nd working holiday visa extensions. This means that any work done through the WWOOFing association or any unpaid regional work will no longer be counted towards the 3 months or 88 days work needed to apply for your visa.

Minister Cash said the changes address a concern that some employers are exploiting the second Working Holiday visa initiative by encouraging Working Holiday visa holders to work for less than the minimum wage. He said, “The current arrangements can provide a perverse incentive for visa holders to agree to less than acceptable conditions in order to secure another visa.”

The department of immigration are now in the process of implementing the changes to the 2nd year visa that are said to be ‘phased in’ over the next few months however no official date has been set for the changes. To keep up to date with these changes, we would suggest keeping an eye on information posted on the WWOOF site.

How will the changes affect you?

Those seeking to apply for a second Working Holiday visa will be asked to produce an official payslip from their employer, demonstrating they have completed their regional work component. If you’re currently doing volunteer work to gain your visa extension, our advice is to bear in mind that you may need to complete paid regional work to make up the 88 days needed before applying for your 2nd year visa. These changes won’t impact on current visa applications.

If you wish to apply for a second working holiday visa and you’re looking for your farm work, take a look at our Guide to Farm Work in Australia. It has everything you need to know about the when, where and why!

For more information regarding 2nd year visas check out our website, Travellers at Work. Completed your regional work and need to claim your tax back? We recommend registering with Taxback.com now to avoid the rush at the end of the tax year in June!

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7 Ways to make the most of your Gap Year

If you’re planning a Gap Year chances are you’ve put a lot of thought into where you’d like to travel and what you’d like to experience. Here are a few pointers to think about before you start your trip to ensure you make the most of your time away!

Why are you travelling?

Think about your reasons for travelling and what you’d like to get out of your year abroad before you start your trip. Are you travelling to experience living in a foreign country? Do you want to learn a language? Have you got a bucket list of countries you’d like to tick off the list? You never know what will happen along the way, your reasons for travelling in the first place might even change, but if your travel has a purpose and you have a goal in mind before you leave home, you’re much more likely to make the most of your time away.

Get sociable

This might seem like a no brainer.. You want to travel to see the world, experience new things and meet people right?! Sometimes making friends when you’re travelling takes a little effort, especially if you’re bit shy and wouldn’t normally start chatting to strangers. It might be easier to sit by yourself listening to music but you could be missing out on great friendships, funny travel stories and other travellers advice! Spark up a conversation with a fellow backpacker: you never know where it will take you! Remember, if you’re already travelling with someone, don’t let them become your safety net. Keep making new friends – the more the merrier! 🙂

Be free

If you’re travelling with someone/a group of people don’t feel like you have to stick with them for the entire time. You might want different things out of your travel experience and have different ideas of what’s fun, exciting and what will make your trip memorable. Embrace travelling solo and go your separate ways for a while. Parting ways doesn’t have to the end of the friendship- you could always meet up later on or visit each other in your home countries. Being free to travel where you want to is so important. Be a little bit selfish and do what you want to do – it’s your Gap year and probably one of the only opportunities you’ll get in life to do EXACTLY as you want to and not have to take what others want to do into account.

Try not to miss home too much

As a big family person I know it’s easier said than done, but spending lots of your valuable travel time thinking about home is a waste. If you’re travelling for a year, thats a long time to be away from family and friends so of course you’ll miss them but just try not to let it get in the way of all the fun you could be having! More often than not, when we return home everything is exactly as it was when we left. Your good friends and family will be waiting for you when you get home so don’t miss out on making the most of your travel experiences because you miss them. When you’ve returned home and the dust has settled you’ll be itching to hop on the next plane abroad again so just make the most of it.

Be Spontaneous

Travelling is one of the only times in your life you’ll be able to be truly spontaneous. You’ve left your responsibilities at home and now you’re free to go wherever you want, whenever you want! When you’re travelling plans can change as quickly as they were made so when new friends ask you to join them on a road trip but you’ve already got plans.. change them. It’s your travel experience so do what makes you happy!

Plan & be prepared

As fun as it is to go with the flow and not worry about the ‘real’ world for a while, planning a little in advance can save you money, keep you safe and help you make the most of your travels. Try to get the balance right between planning and going with the flow. A good balance when booking travel is to leave your travel tickets open dated so you can save money booking your travel in a package but you don’t have to decide straight away when you’d like to do the trip. If you’re travelling in Australia and want to do your 2nd year visa it’s best to get in there early on to avoid not having enough time to complete your regional work later in the year! Prepare for bumps in the road with hidden cash or a credit card for emergencies and having credit on your phone at all times. You’ll feel better knowing you can look after yourself if needed so you can fully relax and enjoy the experience of travelling! Need help with planning travel or regional work? Get in touch for help.

Make the most of every minute

It’s cliche but it’s true. Your Gap year will undoubtably be one of the best times of your life and it will fly by! Make the most of each and every moment and experience because if you’re anything like us, when it’s over you’ll be wanting to do it all over again!

Travelling right now and got some advice of your own? We’d love to hear it! Comment below to share your experiences with us!

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ULTIMATE’s Top Adrenaline Activities!

If you’re anything like us here at ULTIMATE, you love a bit of thrill seeking during your travels. There’s no better way to get your heart pumping than rafting through river rapids or jumping out of a plane at 14,000ft. If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie here are some activities to cross off your list this year!

Here are some of our experiences with some amazing (pretty terrifying) adrenaline activities:

Skydive – (Ultimate recommends Mission beach, Australia)

“What a feeling! Falling through the sky at 14,000ft with someone and a parachute strapped to your back doesn’t happen (to most of us!) every day! It’s without a doubt one of the most amazing feelings in the world and I’d recommend it to anyone! For me the scariest part was waiting to jump in the plane beforehand. Luckily I was the first out and as soon as that door was opened, I was ready to jump! The free fall was such an incredible feeling! It almost feels like you’re floating rather than falling. Once the parachute has opened (aaannnd relax!) you get to enjoy 5 minutes of floating down, checking out the beautiful scenery and thinking about what you’ve just done! Like most things great in life the whole experience goes way too quickly so get the photos and videos to watch back!” – Holly

Australia

Canyoning & Abseiling (Ultimate recommends Da Lat, Vietnam)

Da Lat in Vietnam has some of the worlds most beautiful waterfalls. You can hike through the jungle to see the waterfalls from a far or if you prefer you can abseil straight down them!

“You hear stories from people on the way and you might even see some of their pictures, yet you can’t quite figure out what to expect from ‘abseiling a waterfall’. The truth is: it’s freakin scary, but I loved it so much, I have done it 3 times now and would do it again anytime. The worst part is standing right on the edge of the cliff, waiting until it’s your turn and seeing the horrified look in everyone’s face in front of you while you are trying to build up the courage to just do it. You’re basically volunteering to face death several times on that one day – kinda a dumb thing to do if you think about it. Though, once you’ve taken the first steps down the cliff, the water is pounding against your legs to a point where you are about to slip any moment now, the adrenaline is rushing through your body and you start to feel invincible. You finally let go of the ropes, take the plunge into the river beneath you and already think: I need to do that again!” – Dirk

Vietnam

Bungy Jump (Ultimate recommends Cairns, Australia & Queenstown, New Zealand)

Could you jump off a ledge with a Bungy cord strapped to your ankles? Bungying is one of those things that you don’t just do the once! Once you jump you can’t stop!

“I was shitting myself for weeks leading up to the jump. We arrived at the site on the day and it was beautiful and scary at the same time.  It is set in a valley so you jump from a cable-car which is connected by cables to the mountains on either side, it is 134 metres from the ground.  Inside the cable-car the floor is perspex so you can see right down to the bottom of the valley that you are jumping in to!  They get people to jump in weight order so there were a few bigger guys before me – this calmed my nerves a bit because they all came back up saying how amazing it was (and none of them died!).  It came to my turn and I sat in the chair to have all of the safety stuff put on me.  As this was happening the guy who had jumped before me was being pulled back up after his jump, he looked terrible.  His legs had turned to jelly and he was crying – this didn’t help me!  I shuffled over to the ledge and prepared to jump, I kept telling myself not to make any noise because I was afraid I would squeal or sound really stupid.  It turns out it’s impossible to not make any noise and I think I made a kind of mooing sound like a cow!  The freefall is around 9 seconds and this was one of the most amazing feelings of my life – like nothing else I have ever experienced.  When I bounced back up and started to head down for the second time it felt for a couple of seconds like I was hanging in mid air – I actually instinctively swang my arms around and tried to fly!  I bounced a few more times and then pulled the chord so I was in a sitting position and enjoyed the relatively leisurely ride being pulled back up to the top.  As soon as I got back up there I turned to my mate and said “we have to do this again – higher!” – Danny

White Water Rafting (Ultimate recommends Tully River, Australia)

“Rafting was an incredible experience! I did the ‘Xtreme rafting’ on the Tully River in Northern Queensland. I had no idea how much fun it would be but I can safely say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done! I felt like I was on the best roller coaster in the world, blasting down the rapids,  twisting and turning all the time – it’s definitely not for the faint hearted! The staff and instructors were brilliant providing making us feel as safe as possible with non stop laughs along the way. They really do try and make it the best experience possible for you. The trip I did was a day trip which I’d definitely recommend as you get lots more rafting in and when you’ve started you won’t want it to end! The best part of the day for me was blasting down a rapid with the instructor shouting “Back Paddle, back paddle” then bumping into rocks and dropping down the rock face below you. It was a crazy amount of fun and I’d recommend it to anyone!”  – Max

Shark Cage Diving (Ultimate recommends Port Lincoln, Australia)

Port Lincoln in Australia is one of the only places in the world you can experience cage diving with Great White sharks! You’ll be lowered into the ocean with only a metal cage between you and great whites. Put it this way…it’s the closest you’ll ever come to a Great White Shark without being eaten! Game?

“Duunnnn Dunn… Duuunnn Dunn… I’ll never forget the day I encountered the real life Jaws! Diving with sharks was an item on my lifetime bucket list, and although I was super excited, I couldn’t have been more terrified. Being in Australia, you always fear that you may see a shark in the water, and here I was choosing to be with one! This being said I flew down to Port Lincoln for the weekend, one of the few places in the world that you can cage dive with Great Whites. Although I was quite nervous, the staff couldn’t have been better and made me feel really comfortable. We set off early in the morning and the next thing I knew, they were gearing me up to hop in the cage. A fun fact, rather than using bloody “chump” as they call it to attract the sharks, they used the sound vibrations of playing ACDC  – how cool is that! Peering over the side, I could already see the shadow of what appeared to be a 5m Great White. Feeling rather nervous, I took a deep swallow and hopped into the cage and there he was, Bruce smiling right back at me. Once in the water, the fear left and I was amazed to be that close to such a large creature. It was absolutely insane and definitely an experience I won’t forget!” – Becca

Diving (Ultimate recommends The Great Barrier Reef, Australia & Koh Tao, Thailand)

Thailand has got some amazing snorkeling and diving spots, especially along the West coast. Kao Tao is popular for diving due to it’s shallow waters and lots of coral.

“Absolutely the BEST part of my time spent in Thailand. If you’re considering scuba diving, better yet getting your open-water certification, Koh Tao is THE place to do it. Not only is it one of the cheapest and most popular places to do it, the island provides some of the best dive sites in the world. Plus, it’s absolute paradise. Palm trees, sunsets, beach parties – not much to complain about. And trust me when I say, there is no cooler feeling than being able to breathe underwater. My dream of becoming a mermaid was finally complete. After completing the 4-day open-water course, I could officially call myself a certified diver. I loved diving so much, I even went on to get my advanced certification with heaps of friends I met from my original dive group. Exploring a shipwreck 30m below surface, diving in complete dark with nothing but a torch, finding Nemo – doesn’t get much better. Eat. Sleep. Dive. that should be the island’s motto.” – Becca

Thailand

Cage of Death, Darwin, Australia

“The cage of death was such a weird yet amazing experience! Me and my travel buddy were lowered into a massive tank inside a glass cage with two of the largest saltwater crocs in Australia, William and Kate! One of the ‘friendlier’ crocodiles swam straight over to us and at one point it’s teeth were literally 10cm away from me with just the glass between us! To make the crocodile jump up, chicken was dangled into the tank by the crocodile handler and fed to the crocs in front of us. I couldn’t believe how high the crocs can actually jump out of the water and seeing how powerful their jaws are as they snapped down on the chicken was unbelievable. Being so close to such big crocodiles was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity! If you’re travelling to Darwin, the Cage of Death is not to be missed!” – Holly

Australia

Done a Skydive? Been tubing in Thailand? Share your experiences with us in the comments below! If you’re interested in any of the above just get in touch – we will give you the details!

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East Coast VS West Coast Australia

If you’re planning a gap year and wondering how to fit in all the amazing places Australia has to offer, you’re not alone. It’s a big country! But with some careful travel planning, there’s a good chance you’ll have enough time between work to travel the East and the West coast of Australia.

The East Coast (between Sydney and Cairns) and the West Coast (Perth to Broome for the sake of this blog) offer two completely different travel experiences. If you have to decide between the two (sob), keep reading to decide for yourself which side of this massive country you’d like to explore more!

Weather

The weather in Australia was (amongst many things) a big draw for me when deciding where I wanted to travel and whilst Australia is known for non stop sun, there are seasons here like anywhere else! If you plan carefully you can ‘follow’ the sun and avoid the wet season here in Oz as much as you can. For me, the West coast wins hands down when it comes to weather. That’s not to say that you don’t get great weather on the East coast but WA is renowned for A-M-A-Z-I-N-G hot, sunny days. Perth boasts more sunny days per year than any other Australian capital and with all those beautiful beaches to enjoy it on, it’s a great place to head to if you’re a big beach lover! During the ‘wet season’ which runs from November to April, you can expect hot, humid days with heavy rainfall on the East coast of Australia in northern Queensland. This area is also prone to cyclones in the wet season so it’s best to avoid it if you can and travel smart. The best time to visit northern QLD is from April to November but don’t be completely put off from visiting northern Queensland during the wet season. It doesn’t rain every day and when it does you’ll get heavy showers for a few hours followed by sunshine. It’s an amazing place and if your trip does fall in the wet season you’ll get to experience the Daintree Rainforest in all it’s glory!

Timeframe

Australia is massive. You might have heard that you can actually fit the whole of Europe or North America inside it! Western Australia is the largest state in the world (1/2 the size of Europe!) and QLD comes in close second so it’s no surprise that you’ll need a good few weeks to travel either coast properly. If you’re travelling overground on a bus, train or driving yourself, I’d suggest between 4-6 weeks to travel the East or West coast. Giving yourself a month or more to travel means you’ll be able to see everything properly and not rush. There are so many amazing things to see and it really is the trip of a lifetime so it’s worth doing it properly! If you’re limited on time, organised group tours are a great way to go. You’ll be able to travel either coast in about 14 days where you’ll see the highlights and have an experienced guide with you along the way.  I know people who have spent months on both the West and the East coast, stopping to work along the way so if you’re planning a longer trip that’ll work too!

The Ultimate East coast package is a fully flexible 30 day package that can be extended if you’re planning to travel for a bit longer. Check it out here. We also have lots of amazing tours on offer and great deals on campers if you want to do a road trip instead so get in touch with our travel agents for help and advice!

Australia

What to do

Apart from spending your days chilling at the beach, visiting national parks and firing up Aussie BBQ’s on the beach (It’s a tough life!), there are so many other things you can do on both the East and West coast of Australia.

WA is perfect if you want to get off the beaten track a bit more. The Kimberley’s, a region in the north of WA, is the world’s largest wilderness area covering 423,000 square km and with a population of only 30,000 people so you’ll really be able to experience the Aussie outback! Along the coast you’ll find National parks to hike and camp in, lots of beaches to chill at and the amazing Ningaloo Reef. WA also has some of the best surfing in the world so if you’ve surfed before, get to Margaret River to try out some of the world famous waves. One of the most popular activities on the West Coast is swimming with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark! You can do this during Whale Shark season which runs from April to June – definitely one for the 2015 bucket list! There’s also skydiving, water skiing, swimming with mantarays, sandboarding, diving and feeding wild dolphins at Monkey Mia amongst many other things!

The East coast is jam packed with places to visit and activities to do from Surfcamps and Cattle station stays to Castaway Island and Hunter Valley (wine region) tours. It’s also home to the famous Whitsunday Islands and Fraser Island, both ‘must-sees’ on the East coast! If you’re into high adrenaline/extreme activities such as Skydiving, Bungy jumping and white water rafting, you’ll love Cairns, the adventure capital of Australia. Cairns is also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef so if you’re looking to try out some diving or just want to snorkel in the world’s largest coral reef, you’ll be coming to the right place! In the surrounding area of Cairns you’ll find the beautiful Daintree rainforest, the Atherton Tablelands and some lovely little towns such as Kuranda and Port Douglas.

It’s safe to say that whether you travel the East or West coast, you won’t run out of things to do!

Wildlife

Who came to Australia to see kangaroos in the wild and cuddle a koala? Whilst there is more to this beautiful country than cuddling cute little furry things, getting close to Aussie wildlife is an experience and an inevitable part of your trip down under. Did you know there are more Kangaroos than people in Australia?! You’ll come across heaps of Aussie wildlife all over Australia, some of them cute…others, not so much! Head to Queensland to cuddle a koala in a nature park (not a good idea in the wild!), head to Port Macquarie on the East coast to visit the koala hospital and to the West coast to spot big red kangaroos in the wild. Be prepared to spot the swarms of fruit bats flying over the town in Cairns in the evening and keep an eye out for wombats (cute!) on the road at night.

Beaches

Australia is home to over 10,000 beaches and both the East coast and the West coast have some of the best! WA has more beaches than any other state so if you’re a beach babe/dude head over to the West coast. Perth alone has 19 beaches close to the city so you can spend your days lazing in the sunniest city in Oz! The Coral coast, home to the Ningaloo Reef, is another great beachy location where you’ll find unspoilt, uncrowded and untouched stretches of white sand.

The East coast of Australia has some amazing beaches too! The famous Whitehaven beach in the Whitsunday Islands was voted one of the best beaches in the world. It has got the worlds whitest sand, sand so fine you can clean your teeth with it! Stretching along 57km of coastline, The Gold Coast (just south of Brisbane) is also well known for it’s stunning beaches, surfing and sun (along with one of the biggest party scenes on the coast.) As you travel up the East coast, you’ll find less and less beaches off the mainland and it’s not advisable to swim in some of the beaches that are there due to stingers and even the odd croc in far north Queensland! Cairns for example has no beach but does have a big man made lagoon you can swim in for free and cool off in the sun.

Party Scene

If you’re looking to party your way along one coastline look no further than the East coast to satisfy all of your partying needs! The East coast is home to the famous ‘Full Moon Party’ on Magnetic Island, the backpacker party capital Cairns and lets not forget the famous party cruises that take place in the Whitsunday Islands.

Perth on the West coast is a relatively small city compared to others in Australia and whilst you’ll get your choice of clubs and pubs to party in the city you can’t bank on having a crazy all nighter with heaps of other backpackers like you can along the East coast.

Overall the West coast is a bit less ‘travelled’ than the East coast so it’s great if you’re looking for a bit of an Aussie outback adventure. The East Coast accommodates for heaps of backpackers every year so you’re guaranteed to meet people and there will always be something going on somewhere!

So really, it’s actually difficult to choose between the two … they both offer different experiences in parts and have similar experiences available in others. It comes down to personal preference! If you don’t have time to travel both, and you still can’t decide, why not talk to our Travel Crew .. they can answer any questions you have as they’ve all travelled Australia (they may even give you some handy insider info on a few hot spots!)

If you’ve travelled Australia and have any help and advice for fellow backpackers, feel free to comment below!

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Alex does the East Coast!

Say Hello to the newest member of our Ultimate family…Ultimate legend, Alex (Swit-Swooo!!)

Australia

Alex is currently sunning himself in Cairns after doing what looks like an EPIC trip from Sydney all the way up the East Coast of Australia over 4 weeks! He’ll be joining us as of next week as an UltimateOz tour leader after doing the UltimateOz package himself 6 weeks ago.

We caught up with him to find out a little more about him and to hear what he thought of his East Coast trip…

Alex, the pics you’ve taken during your travels look amazing! I see you’ve just done your Mission beach Skydive. How was it?

WOW, is all I have to say about that skydive.. That feeling of sitting on the edge of the plane and then JUMPING! ….next level amazing! Haha, I’m still glowing from how sick that was! Won’t be the last time I jump, that’s 4 sure!!

Australia  Australia

What made you decide to come travelling in the first place?

I love to travel! Exploring beautiful places, seeing new things, meeting new people, discovering new energy – I’m inspired by that! Lately it feels my skin is the only thing keeping me from going everywhere at once! I love learning, and I believe travel is one of the best forms of education you can give yourself!

Tell us about your experience in Australia. What have been the highlights for you so far?

My Australian experience has been AMAZING! I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the east coast for months on the LOKA bus, which has so many sick stops! Hmm, highlights… Skydiving, Fraser Island, sailing Whitsundays, Surfing Byron Bay, SCUBA diving the Great Barrier Reef – I’d have to say the biggest highlight are the friends I’ve made IN all of those highlights!

Australia  Australia

What made you want to be part of the ULTIMATE team?

After I did the intro week at UltimateOZ, I found myself so impressed on how everything was handled within the week, and also behind the desk as I booked my east coast adventure. I’ve always loved being active outdoors, and helping people – being a group leader is a lot of that! The staff are energetic and positive – you could say it’s the ULTIMATE job!

Australia  Australia

Tell us something about yourself. What are your main interests? Tell us a secret!

I love dancing, my family, old school music, architecture, wakeboarding, any kind of sports in water! I dislike grape fruit, mineral water, and people who litter! I thought about being a politician once but there are WAY too many incriminating photos of me out there! I was in 4 Jello commercials with Bill Cosby when I was 6, haha just kidding! No party tricks really – I play guitar… Oh, and can crush anyone in a beer chugging comp.

Australia  Australia

Where is/are your favourite place/places on the East Coast so far? Is there anything you’d definitely recommend to people looking to do the east coast?

That’s a tough question, all the locations along the East Coast are so unique in their own way! The chilled out barefoot surf vibe of Byron Bay, or the hustle and bustle of Brisbane, they all offer something worth experiencing – I’m not sure if I have a favorite! But there are a few must do’s while on your east coast adventure. I HIGHLY recommend experiencing Fraser Island, and sailing the WhitSunday Islands! Skydive over the Great Barrier Reef too if you can, UNREAL!