WHAT ACTUALLY IS A GAP YEAR

A gap year is “a period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between school and university or college education.” People travel all over the world for their gap years, some volunteer, some work abroad, some travel – there are many options and the world really is your oyster. 

So why should you think about taking one, and why do it in Australia?

1. NEW FRIENDS, NEW ADVENTURES

Whether you want to travel the Aussie East Coast, road trip through Outback Australia, work at a resort on a remote island, experience city life, go diving in the Great Barrier Reef, cuddle a koala, do a skydive or come up close with a Quokka (the world’s happiest animal!), the possibilities in Oz are limitless. Australia has one of the most diverse landscapes in the world where you can find rainforests, beaches, deserts and coral reefs (& even snow in the winter!) – so there is something for everybody in this huge country. There are also heaps of young & adventurous travellers from all over the world exploring Oz, so you are bound to make new mates from your first week here and meet many people that are in the same boat as you. This country is made for adventure and making lifelong memories


2. WORK & EARN

An Australian working holiday visa allows you to work and travel for up to a year (and can be extended by another 12 months when you complete the necessary regional work) so you can gain valuable work experience and earn enough money to help fund your travel adventures!

There are lots of jobs available to working holiday makers in Australia in the cities and regionally in various industries including hospitality, retail, construction and farm work. Working in another country is also a great way to stand out on your CV when you return home to start a career. Plus, you’ll be earning some extra cash that can be spent on exploring this incredible country.


3. GAP YEAR PROGRAMS

Planning a gap year in Australia is easy, there are programs to help you find work, get set up in Oz, meet new people, and show you around for your first week here. UltimateOz is the perfect way to start your gap year Down Under, where we introduce you to Sydney’s best spots and help you get set up in Australia. You’ll get started by exploring the city & cruising the Sydney Harbour, before heading out of the city for a few days to the Australian countryside, where you’ll see kangaroos, dolphins, explore sand dunes & incredible lookouts with a bunch of new mates. All of this while our experts help you to write your CV, apply for jobs, and find somewhere to stay.  


4. CULTURE SHOCK

Despite being all the way across the world, Australia is a western country and has many of the comforts of home. This means that you don’t need to adapt to a very different way of life during your time here, and you can get settled easily. Equally, you’ll be able to experience a different culture and learn all of its quirks and benefits. One thing you’ll definitely notice is how relaxed Australia is! You’ll be calling it home in no time.


5. WILDLIFE

You can’t experience Oz without meeting some of its iconic wildlife. Australia has arguably the most diverse range of wildlife in the world from Kangaroos to Koalas, Wallabies to Dolphins, Turtles to Blue Whales. The possibilities to see different animals are endless, and you will meet many of these on your travels around the country. You’ll see koalas on Magnetic Island, dolphins in Port Stephens, Quokkas in WA, kangaroos at base camp and much, much more!


6. STOPOVERS

If you are flying from Europe you’ll almost definitely have a stop-over on the way here. This is a fantastic opportunity to see some of Southeast Asia’s incredible spots without paying for a separate flight there! Many of our travellers do this on the way home from Australia, stopping over in Bali, Vietnam or Thailand for a few weeks before flying home. It’s also a nice way to break up your journey so you don’t have to brave the 24 hour total flight in one go! This is a great way to further your travel experience and add new adventures into your gap year.


7. TIME TO RELAX

Most people taking a gap year have just finished their exams and are ready for a well deserved break from studying. After being at school since the age of 5, you can be pretty burnt out. Taking some time to travel, experience the world and relax can be great for your psyche & mindset. Plus, when you look back at your life, you aren’t going to say “ I wish I had started settling down sooner”, you’ll say “I’m so glad I spent a year in Australia!” When you return home after your time Down Under, you’ll have a more rounded perspective on the world, new mates from all over the world, and some unrivaled life experience.


8. NO RESPONSIBILITIES

Just after school is the perfect time of your life to travel. Most people have very few responsibilities at this time, meaning you can travel freely without worrying too much. Waiting for too long may mean that your life gets bogged down with the inevitable things (payments, cars, houses…), and you’ll regret not just going when you were free. Bite the bullet and just go!

There are many reasons why you should take a gap year in Australia – it really is an opportunity not to be missed! Are you thinking of travelling to Australia but don’t know how to get started? We are here to help, check out our Australia Working Holiday page for all the information you need on visas, work & Oz travel. Looking to have your first week in Australia sorted so you can just have fun with new mates with none of the stress? Our amazing UltimateOz Gap Year package is just the thing for you – check it out here.

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!

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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If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already booked your 7 day Sydney package with UltimateOz- great choice! 😉 This means that we will be organising all of the boring bits for you (bank account, tax file number, SIM card etc) so that you can enjoy the fun bits! Yay!

We are here to support you with anything you may need, not only during the UltimateOz week, but throughout your time in Australia! Saying that, it’s good to be prepared so we’ve put together 6 things to think about before starting your working holiday visa in Australia:

Plan your year

It’s great to leave your options open when travelling- you never know who you’ll meet during your travels and what awesome opportunities may come up along the way! This being said, having a rough plan can help you make sure you’re spending your time down under in the best way possible whilst saving some of your hard earned pennies! When booking trips and tours, you’ll get the best deals if you book a travel package before you get to Australia. For example if you’ve always dreamed of doing a skydive and the famous East coast of Australia is high up on your bucket list, you’ll be better off booking an East coast package that includes your travel, accommodation and your tours in advance rather than booking and paying for them separately as you travel.With these pre-paid packages you can still travel flexibly- tickets are valid for a year so you can just book as you go- sweet! Check out the 30 day Ultimate East Coast package online.

A little word of advice..Roughly planning your trip before you start will also help you avoid this common scenario: Spending all of your money within the first 2 weeks of your trip, boozing your way around Sydney backpacker bars leaving you with no money to travel after- Fail! It’s happened before..let’s not let it happen again! 😉

The UltimateOz travel and work info session, during your first week with us, will also give you travel ideas and our lovely travel team will be here to answer any questions you have! Get in touch if you need help planning or want to chat!

Finding work in Oz 

Luckily, there are lots of great backpacker jobs available in Australia including fruit picking/farm work, bar/restaurant and cafe work, office/admin roles and construction. With a good resume, a well written cover letter and a good attitude; your chances of finding work quickly are good- phew!

If you’re looking to start work as soon as you get here, start writing your CV before you arrive. This way when you get here, you can focus on having fun, chilling at the beach, meeting people and settling into Sydney life instead of writing your CV! Keep it on a USB or send yourself an email with the document attached so that you can find and edit it when you get to Sydney. As part of the UltimateOz package, you’ll get a 12 month membership to our online jobs database, Travellers at work and of course the legendary Travellers at Work team will be here to give you all of the help and support you may need to search for a job in Australia. It’s a good idea to check that your last employer is happy to provide you with a (good 😉 ) reference whilst you’re in Australia and that they’re happy to receive emails/phone calls from your potential Aussie employers. If not, maybe they will be happy to write a letter of recommendation for you instead. Check out the Travellers at Work website for hints & tips on writing your CV.

Suitcase or Backpack?

Not sure whether to bring a backpack or a suitcase on your gap year? You’re not alone! A lot of the time the answer just comes down to personal preference but there are some factors worth thinking about before you choose! Think about what type of travelling you’ll be doing when you get here. Are you planning on living in one place for a while? Or will you mostly be travelling around? Remember that what you bring with you is yours to carry (or drag) around for the duration of your trip so ladies leave as much of your wardrobe as possible at home! 😉 Whichever type of luggage you decide on, above all try to travel light! Travelling through Asia before you get to Oz? Read our packing tips for Asia blog.

Keep in touch

Do you want the good or the bad news first? The bad news.. It’ll cost you around $3 per hour to use the internet at an internet cafe in Sydney. The good news? Wifi with UltimateOz is FREEEEE! Included in your package, you’ll get free wifi access at the UltimateOz HQ for the duration of your trip so just bring your tablet or laptop in to the shop during office hours and we’ll hook you up! If you haven’t already, set up a Skype account to keep in touch with friends and family at home for free! It’s also worth getting your phone unlocked (to accept an Australian phone SIM card) before you arrive in Sydney. It’s generally cheaper to unlock your phone in your home country (It costs approximately $100-$150 to get it done in Sydney.) Lots of phone top up options include internet access so if you haven’t already, download Viber, Whatsapp and Facetime (for iPhone users) to stay connected with people at home!

Money, money, money

We will have your bank account set up and ready to use when you get here so you don’t need to worry about a thing! We do recommend transferring your money into your Aussie bank account before you arrive so that you can use it straight away and to avoid international bank charges when using your card abroad. If you can, transfer your money over to your Aussie account in one go to avoid being charged by your bank for multiple transactions and remember that International transfers usually take between 3-5 days to complete so if you leave it until the last minute just bring enough cash with you to last you until the money has been transferred. It’s also worth letting your bank know where you’ll be travelling- If you do need to use your card from home, the bank won’t flag it as a suspicious transaction and block the payment leaving you borrowing money off your new friends!

Which documents will I need for my year down under?

Not many! Aside from the obvious (Passport and drivers license),  and thanks to the beauty of modern technology, you won’t need to bring all of your documents to Australia with you! Bring a copy of your passport and drivers license along with your flight details, tickets and travel insurance and scan any other important documents (such as health card) to your computer. Email the documents to yourself so that they can be found easily if needed!

You won’t need your counterpart driver’s license or your birth certificate so they can be left with someone from home. Bear in mind that to apply for Medicare (Aussie health service) you’ll need a copy of your passport and a printout of your visa so if you want to be extra prepared, bring extra copies!

Looking forward to seeing you all in then near future!

Remember that we are here (and happy) to help you and if you have any questions just get in touch!

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Working Holiday or Tourist Visa In Australia?

I’ll apologise right away for the following obvious statement…if you are planning your trip to Australia with UltimateOz, you’re going to need a visa to get in the country.

Visa = entry to Australia.

Now, which visa should you get, a working holiday visa or a tourist visa? Both visas are a great way to get into Australia and explore the country. The most important thing to stress here is visas aren’t set in stone.

You are probably able to get either a tourist visa or working holiday visa,  however this does depend on the country your passport was issued by, so we recommend running that by the Department of Immigration before you book anything!

Now we’ve got the legal bit out the way, we can get on with the comparison: should you go for a working holiday or tourist visa in Australia?


Catamaran Cruise - UltimateOz

Who Can Get Each Visa?

A tourist visa is pretty much open to anyone who wants to come to Australia but there are different classes of tourist visa for different nations. Pretty much every country in Europe can get an eVisitor visa (subclass 651) when they come to Australia – you apply online (or with us) and it is all taken care of.

Other visitors – take note those from the America’s – have to get a slightly different visa (Don’t worry, it is still pretty stress free). The Electronic Travel Authority visa (subclass 601) is an online form, costs $20 and takes about a day to be processed. This is the one for Canada/United States – so take a look if you’re coming from there.

With working holiday visas, it’s a little different. Again, there are two visa options: The subclass 417 for the majority of Europeans (Canadians and Japanese too), and the subclass 462 for the United States and a few others. Check the full list of countries here and keep update with any changes via the Immigration website.

The 417 visa is an online form that you can complete at home or in Australia (but you must have an eVisitor if you want to apply from inside Australia).


Do I have to Send My Passport Away or Have an Interview?

If you’ve been through the rigmarole of getting a visa for another country (I’m looking at you America) then you might be worried that it’ll take ages to get your Australia visa. Worry not, as the system is pretty much all online and can be sorted in a matter of days.

If you want to head to your nearest Australian embassy or immigration office then that is an option (as is a postal application) but online is much easier and quicker.

Each visa has certain requirements that need to be met before you apply and a list of documents for each visa can be found on the Department of Immigration website. Once you’re application is lodged the visa should be confirmed in a matter of days although the Department of Immigration ask you to allow up to four weeks for the application process just in case.

After your application has been lodged, you’ll get an email decision and your visa is automatically updated to your passport electronically and you’re good to go! You can print your visa decision if you want, just to make sure you have a physical copy, but you won’t get a visa stuck in your passport like other countries.


How Long Are They?

Well, a tourist visa gives you three months in Australia and a working holiday visa gives you (at least) a year but that depends on the visa you get.

A 417 visa lasts a year but you can complete three months of regional work to get a second year visa, the 462 visa offers the same option. Your second year visa can be taken immediately after your first year or anytime before you turn 31, it’s up to you!


What Do They Let Me Do?

The biggest difference (aside from how long you get in Australia) is that on a tourist visa you can’t work and on a working holiday visa…well, the clue is in the name!

You can only work for six months for one employer and you can study for up to four months too (if you want to), they are the main rules around your working holiday visa no matter what country you’re from.

Your working holiday visa also allows you to enter and exit the country as many times as you like during the period of your visa whereas a tourist visa has to be renewed every time you want to leave and re-enter.


How Much Are They?

Good question! The visa prices change all the time so it’s tough to pinpoint an exact price.

The eVisitor visa for a tourist from the European Union is free of charge if you do it yourself and an ETA Visa is $20.

Working holiday visas are more expensive. If you do the visa yourself on the Department of Immigration website, it’ll set you back $420. You can ask us to take care of it for you when you book your UltimateOz trip by selecting the visa addon for your UltimateOz tour – this takes the hassle and paper-work out of your hands and leaves it with the experts!


How Many Times Can I Get Them?

You can get as many tourist visas as you want, there is no limit but it will look a bit dodgy if you keep dipping out of the country every three months and heading straight back in.

With your working holiday visa you get only one, unless you do the regional work, in which case you’ll get a second year.

With each visa option, you get a year to enter the country and as soon as you enter, your visa begins.


Which Visa Is Right For Me?

At the end of it all, it depends what you want to do in Australia. If you want all the benefits of living and working in Australia for a prolonged period of time, then you’re all about the working holiday visa.

If you are stopping in Australia for a couple of months on a round the world trip then the tourist visa will be just fine for what you need and if you love Australia, you can always come back for a year or two on your working holiday visa!

The important thing with a working holiday visa is not to waste it. If you’re only coming to Australia for a month then what’s the point in wasting a year long visa? You may think you’ll find work right away (and you might) but imagine someone turning up in your home country for a month, expecting to work before they move somewhere else. Seems a bit far fetched! You only get one shot at your working holiday so weigh up all of your options before deciding what to do!

If you’ve got any other questions about your visa for Australia or about living and working in Australia in general, let us know by email, in the comments below or on Facebook!


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