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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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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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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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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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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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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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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!

Check out our other blogs for travel tips & advice!

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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.

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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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.

‘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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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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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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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”

Maya-bay-Thailand

Can you think of any more? Comment below!!

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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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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!

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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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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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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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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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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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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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8 Reasons You Should Travel … NOW!

There are many many MANY reasons we love to travel. We wish we could do it more often but sometimes life just gets in the way…right? Maybe we should just put off the next trip for a few years? Wrong! Read through why I think there has never been a better time to pack your bags, hop on a flight and travel.

1. Go before you change your mind

Chances are if you’re reading this you’ve thought about going travelling at some point… Maybe you’ve already travelled (How amazing is it!?) or maybe you’re travelling right now (Can I come and meet you!?) If you’ve thought about it but it’s just never been an option, why not?
I honestly think that one of the hardest part of any travel adventure is deciding to do it and sticking to it, especially the first time you’re planning a big trip! Once you’ve decided you’d like to travel, just book it and the rest will fall into place. Whether you don’t think you can afford it , you’ve just started seeing someone, you’ve just started a new job or someone who’s important to you has a big birthday coming up, there will always be an excuse for you not to travel. I find that a lot of the time these ‘obstacles’ come from the fear of the unknown and the idea of change that comes with travelling. Don’t worry, it’s completely natural and anyone who has been travelling knows how you feel but if you don’t pluck up the courage to do it now, you might be wasting valuable travel time! The truth is if you don’t travel now you may keep putting it off until you actually have big responsibilities like children and a mortgage on a house and travelling just won’t be that easy anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I know for some it’s not that simple and this will only apply to people who do genuinely want to travel but I do believe that if it’s something you truly want, you just have to throw yourself in at the deep end and trust me you’ll reap the rewards! Remember: ‘If not now then when?”

2. Lots of people are doing it

Now is a great time to travel because lots of people are doing it! Not that ‘Everyone is doing it…I should do it!’ should be a reason to do anything but the way tourism has developed over the past few years means that travelling to most parts of the world is a perfectly ‘normal’ and safe thing to do. It’s easy to get around, there’s lots of help and support available to backpackers and because others are doing it you’re more likely to bump into like-minded people to travel with! If the thought of visiting the same places ‘as most people’ makes you shudder, don’t worry! You can still get off the beaten track in any country (our travel agents can help you plan this) but it’s nice to know you’ve got yourself a safety net when you first arrive! Travelling now is easier than ever and whilst you’ll still come across some challenging and exciting travel road bumps along the way, on the whole travel help and support is a lot more accessible. Get ready for some smooth sailing people!!

3. Australia has never been so cheap

You may have heard that Australia can be pretty expensive – you’ve heard right!  It can be pricey to live in cities such as Sydney and Perth however with the Aussie $ currently weak, it’s the perfect time to come and spend money in Australia. Your hard earned cash will go a lot further if you visit now! If you’re planning a trip to Oz remember that, despite city living being expensive, the wages are also high and if you’re living and working in a city you’ll have more than enough money to cover your living costs with money left over for fun stuff!

4. Tourism in Vietnam

One of the reasons we love Vietnam so much is that you can travel there and really feel like you’re experiencing an Asian community that is true to it’s roots and hasn’t been overly affected by tourism. You’ll see how the locals live, eat Vietnamese food in small town alley ways and explore untouched nature- ahhhhh! At Ultimate we want to give you an authentic experience so we take you off the beaten track as much as we can on our tours!
 Vietnam
Halong-Bay
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5. Travelling makes you more employable

Sure, the person hiring you needs to know that you’ve got the skills needed to do the job and the qualifications you have are a way of proving them however more and more employers will also take your personal experiences into account when gaging if you’re suitable for the job or not. Your life experiences gained through travel show your employer that you are motivated, interested in learning about other cultures, mature, responsible (we can leave out that time you slept on a goon pillow in Australia!) and many other things employers will look for in a potential employee.
Lets face it, our generation will be working for a good few years to come so why not grasp the opportunity of travel now and think about your career after, knowing that you’ll have more to offer after a year or two in the sun? Before I came travelling I was sure that I wanted to study business and land a well paid job. After travelling I had completely changed my mind and am now working in my dream job and with no degree I know that my life experiences gained through travelling helped me get to where I am now. I understand that for some jobs you do need a uni degree and to study for years to specialise so this won’t be true for all but if you’re a little unsure that you’re on the right path, travelling will open your eyes and may help you decide on a future career you love rather than falling into one you’re not particularly interested in!

6. Technology

Development in technology means keeping in touch with people from home is easy and relatively cheap. Most places you’ll visit will have WIFI so you can Facetime and Skype your friends and family at home to let them know what an amazing time you’re having! Some phone plans in Australia also give you heaps of extra credit so you can call home whenever you like. As part of our UltimateOz Sydney package we will set you up with a SIM card and tell you all about the phone plans available so you can keep in touch with people from home.

7. Save money buying in bulk

Buying in bulk will save you lots of money on your travels. We’ve created packages (such as our East coast package in Australia) that include heaps of travel and as you’ll be buying trips in a package, it means we can discount it a lot more than usual! You can keep your travel plans flexible but travel safe in the knowledge that you’ve saved yourself some money (so that you can travel even more- yay!) Package prices are competitive which makes travelling even more affordable when you get here. Get in touch for current packages and deals!

8. Life is too short not to

It’s cliche but it’s true. Life goes by too quickly to put off something that’s going to make you happy, broaden your horizons and allow you to grow as a person. Your life at home will wait for you and you never know where your travels will take you. Whether you’re thinking of travelling for a few months, one year or a few years, now is the time…get a job, save some money and book that flight!!
For help and advice booking any trips and tours in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and Fiji just get in touch!
Follow us on Instagram for ULTIMATE travel photos from our tours and ‘like’ our Facebook page for more blogs and travel inspiration!
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6 ways travel changes you forever

Travel changes you: fact. Wherever you travel, however long you travel for, be prepared to learn a few things about yourself along the way!

Here are a few ways I’ve found travelling has changed me:

It’s hard to settle in one place.

Once you’ve caught the travel bug, it’s pretty hard to shake! Settling back into a ‘normal’ routine at home after spending a few months or a year experiencing everything travelling has to offer is really hard! Travelling is fun and there are always new experiences just waiting to be had. Sure if you’ve travelled for longer than a few months, chances are you’ve had to snap back to reality for a little while to find a job and maybe rent a flat but with that next exciting adventure just around the corner, there isn’t enough time to settle in one place for long enough to get into a routine. Going from the buzz and excitement of travelling to getting a job at home, living and spending your time waiting for the weekend can be tough. Travelling made me realize how small the world is and how easy it is to travel to new countries which makes it so tempting to pack your bags and set off on the next adventure!

My advice to beat the bug? Plan the next trip if you can- having something to work towards and look forward to will make life more exciting! If you can’t do that, try to meet up with fellow travellers- sharing your memories and travel stories will make you feel like you still are and you’re not alone!

Believe in yourself

Working in the travel industry and having travelled myself it’s safe to say I love to travel! Saying that, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Sometimes travelling gives you lemons and (when there’s no tequila and salt around) you have to learn to deal with situations that you wouldn’t normally have to. The best thing I’ve taken from travelling is the ability to believe in my own strength and trust my instincts. I’ve learnt that I can deal with anything that comes my way and if I’m stuck in a sticky situation, I’ll find a way out. My mantra after travelling? “I’ll handle it!”

Adopt a ‘no worries’ attitude

This is one thing I definitely noticed after spending a year travelling around SE Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Life really is too short to sweat the small stuff! Yes you may have missed the last night bus to the islands and be stranded in a tiny Thai town but who cares?! You get an extra day to explore the area, eat Thai food, chill in the sun and chat to the locals! Don’t get me wrong- at the time, it seems like the worst thing in the world when you’re carrying a heavy backpack in the 30 degree heat however once you’ve accepted that these things happen (and in the grand scheme of things really aren’t that big a deal) you can say ‘no worries!’ and enjoy the ride! The little bumps you’ll encounter along the way are some of the most memorable travel experiences anyway!

Making new friends

One of the best things about travelling is how easy (and normal) it is to chat strangers and make new friends, especially if you’re travelling alone. Most people are in the same boat and will welcome a chat with a stranger! After a few months I noticed I was more confident chatting to people and more sociable. Be prepared to have a long list of new friends you can crash with in countries all over the world!

Be more open minded

When travelling, not only will you meet people who have different values and opinions to you but you’ll also be stuck in situations where you’ll be forced to keep an open mind and try out things you wouldn’t usually do. You never know where the day will take you when you’re travelling! I remember my first week in Asia, travelling to a remote island in Malaysia. We hadn’t booked accommodation on the island and when we arrived we found out that everywhere was fully booked! We ended up buying a couple of hammocks and setting up camp on the beach to sleep for the night. As a travelling virgin and being terrified of insects it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind but looking back it’s those experiences that stick with you!

Become less materialistic

I love my comforts and always will but after a year of travelling I realised that there is so much more to life and happiness than buying new things… at least not when there’s travelling to be done, new places to experience and people to meet! The experience of chilling on the beach with new friends means so much more than what you’re wearing at the time or which latest bit of technology you have! Of course, you need to buy the basics but as long as you have enough money to buy some street food, a couple of beers, a roof over your head for the night and a way to actually travel, that’s all you’ll need!

If you’re thinking of travelling, my advice is to just go for it! You never know where it will take you or what you’ll experience along the way. Whilst it’s good to have a rough plan, you can’t plan for everything in travel so just throw yourself in at the deep end and book a flight! If you need help planning any of your trip or want any advice at all, just contact us! We’re happy to help!

Share your travelling stories and pics with us! Like our Facebook page for blogs, travel inspiration and travel pics and follow us on Instagram. Tag your #myultimatemoment pics – we will repost our faves!

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Why You Should Do Your Farm Work

If you’ve come to Australia on a working holiday visa, we’ve every confidence that you are going to fall in love and not want to leave … so, you’ll probably be wanting to do some farm work so that you qualify for a second year.

I know what you might be thinking (if you’re anything like I was)! Ugh … farm work! But it’s actually not as bad as it sounds, I promise!

Even though three months/88 days on a farm might sound like it is your worst nightmare, there are a lot of good reasons to get it done, the second year being only one of them!

A new experience!

A lot of people who I met doing my farm work had never even stepped on to a farm before they arrived! It’s something new and different that you’ll probably only get to do this once … you didn’t come all the way to Australia to only do what you would normally do at home! You came to try new things, go to new places, meet new people from different walks of life to yourself. Working on a farm is a great way to tick all those boxes!

Farm Work in Australia

Money, money, money!

Farming is a GREAT way to save for whatever new adventures you have planned. Most of the time, you are in a small town, or sometimes, the middle of nowhere, working most of the day and most of the week and you don’t really get the chance to spend what you are earning! When I did my farm work, all I had to pay was my rent and buy food/drink … I didn’t have much time for anything else. The money that I saved during my farm work funded the whole of my East Coast trip, including all my activities and meant that when I got to Sydney, I didn’t have to stress about finding work immediately, because I was still ok for a couple of weeks!

Personal reasons to do farm work!

Remember what you’re doing your farm work for!

The second year visa!

It goes without saying that if you do fall in love with Australia and decide you want to stay longer or come back for another year at a later date, then you pretty much have no choice … regional/farm work is one of the only ways that can happen! Not all good things come for free eh!

The friends you make!

When I did my farm work, I lived in a working hostel with about 50 other people. We were a family! We worked, lived, ate together, we got each other through when farming got hard and we were exhausted, or when we were missing home, and we shared some very fun times! The friends I made while doing my farm work made the experience what it was and I’ll always remember them, whether we have kept in touch since or not! I now actually live with my best mate who is one of the girls I did my farm work with … we’ve known each other for nearly two years! But we never would have met if it wasn’t for our farm work!

Farm Work in Australia

Great friends and great memories!

 

I’m not going to lie, farm work was hard, a lot of the time. It was long hours and sometimes we went days without a day off (I think the most days we did in a row was 19! (And there were other farms that beat that!) But what I got from farming was well worth absolutely all of it! I got to stay in Australia (and went on to get sponsored,) I met some awesome people, and most importantly (or not) I now know just about everything there is to know about melons! Like, literally everything! Haha. At the end of the day, it is what you make it, so you may as well embrace it!

If you’re thinking of doing your farm work, it can be a bit daunting when you start to look for somewhere. I have a few tips for you:
• Try and get a job that offers an hourly rate rather than a piece rate – you’re more likely to earn more!
• Be wary of bogus job ads – If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!
• Be open minded about what you do – you may not like cows but cattle mustering might turn out to be something really fun!
• Don’t give up! The first couple of weeks were really hard for me, and they probably will be for you too – stick with it, it gets easier!

Embrace it - you'll have more fun!

It can be fun if you let it!Farm work in Australia

If you are looking for farm work, contact the team in the office and they may be able to point you in the right direction of a few places! There’s also this really handy guide we made, about what is happening in each state depending on the seasons:

Ultimate Guide to Farm Work in Australia

Any questions – give us a shout! We’re here to help!

Good luck!

Gayle xx

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New Year Bucket List – 2015

Welcome to 2015. It’s a brand new year and whilst the whole ‘new year, new me’ seems a bit cliché, there is something amazing about the clean slate that the 1st January brings and the chance to start a fresh!

Here at Ultimate Travel, we have been thinking about what we would like to get out of the next year. Working in the travel industry, it’s not surprising that most of our resolutions and wishes for the new year revolve around travel. We are EXCITED for the new year and the world of new experiences it brings with it: new places to visit, strangers to meet, foods to try and skills to learn.

We’ve created the Ultimate bucket list for 2015. Download it, print it, stick it on your fridge, in your bedroom or pack it in your backpack and make it your personal ‘bucket list’ check list for the new year. A few of the Ultimate staff share their Ultimate bucket lists with you…

Gayles-bucketlist

Dan's-bucket-list

Max's-bucket-list

Are you dreaming about travelling the world? Trying new things and experiencing the unknown? Now is the time to do it! No excuses … just do it! And we promise you won’t regret it. 2015 is going to be another awesome year for us – make sure yours is too!

Download your New year’s bucket list here. Why not share your bucket list with us on Facebook and keep updated with what we get up to on our Instagram!

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6 things to keep in mind before starting your Ultimate trip in Oz

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!

Check out our Instagram for pics, blogs and travel inspiration and remember to ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Should I Travel Alone or In A Group?

It seems to be an age old argument with Australian working holiday travel – should I travel alone or in a group?

Well, I’m glad I asked.

There are positives and negatives for both options and, ultimately, it is a personal decision whether you travel alone or with a more organised group.

When making this decision, that could completely shape the adventure you are about to embark on, you have to consider many things.

This isn’t a post trying to change your mind. If you are dead set on coming to Australia alone, I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast! If you are thinking of coming to Australia as part of a group, here is why we offer a service that you won’t soon forget.

Relax!

The beauty of an UltimateOz tour is that it’s hassle free. Especially when moving to Australia long term, there’s a lot of niggly paperwork and processes to go through. If it’s your first long-term trip abroad, it is much more reassuring to have an experienced guide.

You will have nothing to worry about, we do this stuff for a living. You’ll arrive in Australia and we already have the information we need to get the paperwork you need sorted.

Booking your arrival week in Australia with us allows you to take a load off. If you are planning on staying in Australia for a prolonged period, we can help with all the boring bits that everyone would rather not have to go through. We apply for tax file numbers (which let you work in Australia), bank accounts and mobile phone numbers so as soon as you arrive in Australia you are ready to hit the ground running.

It is a strange thing moving to a country thousands of miles from home on your own. Some people thrive in the uncertainty, the not knowing what comes next. Others like a little more structure and that is what we offer.

We provide the tour, we aren’t an agency so you know what you are getting with us and you know where to look for any other help and advice that you need. There is no need for the middle man and you can contact us directly.

We are here for however long you’ll be here. If you finish your UltimateOz week and want to move to Melbourne, we are a phone call or email away. Want to head north, look for farm work or find a place in Sydney? Give us a shout. Even if you just want to come in for a chat and some wifi head to our shop and relax.

Speaking of WIFI….

It’s a tough mother to find in Australia. Aside from the fried goodness of McDonalds, free wifi is difficult to come by but UltimateOz travellers are given access to free wifi in our shop.

Of course, no-one books a life-altering trip just to spend time checking your Tweets, but it is nice to know you’ve got somewhere to fall back on wifi if you need to email your mum every once in a while so she’s knows you are still alive.

Did We Just Become Best Friends?!

UltimateOz is a great way to meet people. Whether you’re the most confident person that walks into a room or a little on the shy side, our groups are a great way to get together with like-minded people.

Having moved to Australia from England a year and a half ago, it was more difficult meeting people than I had expected. You have hostel buddies, people you make idle chit-chat with over breakfast or go out for a few too many beers with, but friendship is harder to find.

With UltimateOz, you can meet your group before you leave for Australia using our Facebook Groups. Everyone is in the same situation before they leave for Australia and by meeting the group first, you can see where people are coming from and where they have been before.

The group size of UltimateOz is kind of a perfect middle ground. The groups aren’t too big or small, you can get to know everyone during the week and spend enough time together to get to know one another well.

No two groups are the same so don’t think you are too young or old to come and enjoy an Ultimate week in Australia. As long as you are fun, open-minded and willing to meet other people then you are good to go!

When the week is over, many of our group members either travel together or move in together in Sydney. Whether you want to travel by campervan or Greyhound, we can help you and there is probably someone in your group that wants to do something similar.

UltimateOz Basecamp!

The best thing about the UltimateOz experience is that you are able to see more than just Sydney. While Sydney is an incredible city, one that has a habit of drawing you in, it is good to get a feel for somewhere else in your first week in the country.

After each group draws to a close, 9 times out of 10 the highlight has been UltimateOz Basecamp – our secret hideaway where you spend 2-nights during your first week. It’s paradise! Golden sands and crystal clear waters, dolphins playing in the water and koalas sleeping in the trees – its awesome!

While Basecamp only lasts a couple of days, it gives you a taste of what is to come on the East Coast of Australia, and it is close enough to Sydney that you won’t spend a day on the coach to get there and back.

Us Vs Them

In case you haven’t already Googled this – we aren’t the only people offering a welcome week in Australia. Let’s get down to brass tacks, why should you choose UltimateOz over competitors?

It all boils down to what we offer and how we provide the service. When in Sydney, you stay in the best hostel in the city (WakeUp!) and then head off on the amazing Basecamp in Port Stephens.

We focus on group activity. Many providers of similar tours have a heavy focus on the paperwork side of things – they help you get settled and then leave you to it. While we are fine with this if it is your choice, we want to give you a first week in Sydney that you’ll never forget and the reviews speak for themselves!

The job service we provide (more on that later) is an award winner and helps thousands of travellers a year find work right the way across Australia. We also have staff dedicated to help finding you work – they will help with your CV and applications making you the strongest possible candidate for any work you go for.

If you are just here for the fun times and travelling, we are more than capable of helping with that too – discounts anyone?!

Experience

UltimateOz has been around for 22 years and has seen the changing tourism industry in Australia. The company is not just a flash in the pan, make money quick deal, we really know our stuff.

One of the best things about UltimateOz is that we have been there, and done it all. I’m a backpacker myself and have been in Australia for just over 12-months. The rest of our work and travel gurus are a mixture of working holiday visas and sponsored workers from across the globe with a couple of Aussies thrown in for good measure!

We’ve all had to make those tough decisions – To farm or not to farm? Where to go and when to go? Where to live and how to find an apartment? How much tax should you be paying and how do you claim it back?

Our experience is here, so use it!

Whether you want to work first and then travel or vice-versa is completely fine. There is no right or wrong way to travel, Fraser Island will still be there in 3 weeks or 3 months. Do what is right for you and let other’s do the same.

A word of warning, you will get those massive pangs of Facebook jealousy. If your fellow UltimateOzers head straight up the Coast and you decide to work in Sydney for a few months, they’ll be exploring tropical paradise and you’ll be working a normal job.

Don’t let this put you off Sydney, Melbourne or any other Australian city though. Each has their own character and are filled with things to do and see – it just probably won’t sound as impressive as scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef!

Working

We help to prepare you for your time in Australia with our work and travel information talk. This gives you all the different options at your disposal, whether you want to hit the road or stay a little while, we have all the information you need.

If you’re heading to Australia looking for work, we’ll help you with your CV and job applications, and you’ll have access to our extensive backpacker job database. Many people arrive in Australia expecting work easily, and we don’t want to sugarcoat this: it is more difficult than people expect to find work in Australia, so a little help is always handy.

Don’t let this put you off, hundreds of thousands of travellers find work in Australia each year (myself included), just remember that it isn’t easy finding work. With our TAW service, we can help you along the way wherever you want to settle in Australia.

My Story

In the interests of full disclosure, I came to Australia without a tour group. I have family in Sydney and my interest in Australia was from a ‘living somewhere else’ mindset than an ‘let’s put the backpack on and see where I end up’ way of thinking.

I’d been to Sydney before and I absolutely love it, so I wanted to spend as much time as possible in the city. I’ve traveled the East Coast, done my farm work and am on my second year visa. I’ve been to Melbourne a few times too and I loved it there as well and a trip to Tasmania is on the horizon.

For me, with my mindset and family connections, it was a no-brainer to come alone. I wouldn’t change my decision but having worked at Ultimate Travel for over 6 months, I have seen how awesome the UltimateOz experience is. You might think that this is only a week long experience but it totally isn’t.

People stay in touch with us right the way through their time in Australia, whether they need help with travel plans or finding work or they just want to chat through their options with someone who has been in a similar position.

If you do decide to embark on your adventure alone, we’re still here to help! Come in to our shop and say hi, ask us questions on Facebook and Twitter, follow us on Instagram. We are here to help and we actually mean that!

If you arrive in Australia and all isn’t going well, don’t hesitate to contact us! We can help you with the paperwork, the tough decisions and the fun stuff too!

Whether you come alone or with us or anyone else, Australia is a great place to live, work and travel. The UltimateOz group gives you the best of all three (and wifi to boot), so what are you waiting for?!

Make a decision and get the hell over here!!

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How to Survive a Night Bus In SE Asia?

So, you’ve had the most awesome time on Ultimate Thailand and are ready for your next Asian adventure!

Whether you are off around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam or somewhere else, chances are you will encounter a night bus somewhere along the road and it is better to be prepared than to go in blind.

You may hear horror stories, you may think they are going to be the most painful nine hours of your young life but fear not! If you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll survive your night bus – hey, you might even enjoy it!

What Type of Bus?

Night buses in Asia are an awesome adventure. It could be a rickety old school bus or it could be a bus filled with mini beds, two or three bunks high – it really varies. It is best to at least try and check before you leave what type of bus you will be subjected too.

Ask fellow travellers, staff in hostels or check online. Companies may not have reviews but the journey might have. If you Google ‘Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang’ for example, someone will have written something about the journey.

A sleeper bus (the one with the beds) is more common in Asia so more than likely, you’ll be on one of these which is an adventure in itself!

Pay For More

Treat yourself and go for the more expensive option. If you’re going to spend the next nine hours on a bus, you’re going to want the most comfortable one you can get.

You’re on a budget, you don’t want to throw more money at an already expensive travel expense. Have one night off the beers, don’t buy that rubbish t-shirt that you think everyone is going to love because it has Ho Chi Minh’s face on it, eat more street food – there are other ways to save money and remember you’ve already saved a nights accommodation.

If you know what you are getting in to – make your own choice. Ask around in hostels, people will have travelled this route before so see what they think. How much did they pay, would they do it again? Scout out the bus company, just walk past it when the bus usually leaves in the afternoon or evening and check it out!

Know what you are paying for but given the option, go for the more expensive and you will not regret it.

On the other hand, you’ll get some awesome stories when you’re in cattle class!

Spread The Valuables

Firstly, don’t panic. A night bus isn’t a hub of criminal activity but you might meet an unsavory character so it is better to plan ahead.

Keep your valuables on you at all times. You’re going to put your big backpack under the bus but you can keep hold of a smaller one on-board if you have that many valuables. Remember, when it comes down to it, your valuables are three things:

1) Tickets

2) Money

3) Passport

You can buy another iPad (you won’t want to, but you can), but if your passport gets lifted you will be in a world of pain! You can get another one, but it’ll take time and you’ll be stuck wherever you are.

Keep them in your pockets, your shoe, or wherever you want. Spread your money around if you are carrying a lot of it. Hide a few notes in a few different places.

Keep the backpack you are taking on the bus with you at all times. Use it as a pillow or a foot rest, tie it to your seat or use one of those little locks if you are super paranoid (or carrying something super valuable).

Most importantly though, don’t worry! Everyone is not out to get you and your stuff – just be cautious.

Two’s Company

You are going to get bored and you are going to get lonely. Your seat buddy is a big call on a traditional night bus but if you are looking at a bunk option, then hopefully you’ll get a bunk to yourself.

Try and befriend a fellow traveller. It’s fun! It is a great way to meet someone, with a similar mindset – you are both on the same bus for a reason – ask where they are going and where they’ve been!

This is really simple advice but try and use it, you never know who you might meet!

Choose Your Seat Wisely

You know whether you prefer an aisle seat or a window seat. If the bus is a sleeper bus, your seat doesn’t matter too much.

If you are on the top bunk though, every corner you zip around might feel like you are going to fall out of bed. It gives you a couple of nervous moments during the journey but nothing too bad.

If you are travelling with friends, don’t go for top and bottom on the same bunk or you’ll never see each other. Both take a top or a bottom and then at least you can chat through the journey or pass the snacks easily!

Travel Sickness…

It might be your worst nightmare or you may never have experienced it before but beware travel sickness.

If you know this is something that will be a thorn in your side, plan accordingly. Find yourself some travel sickness pills and take them before you get going. It is really important to have them before you start moving, so don’t wait until you get on the bus.

If you don’t normally get travel sick, there is no reason to believe you will on this journey but it might be an idea to find some sleeping tablets if you want to rest while on the journey and struggle sleeping when on a journey.

Prepare For Cold

It might be balmy outside but the overnight bus is often like a frigid cargo hold. Plan for the cold as you can always take layers off, if you haven’t got layers to throw over yourself, you might regret it.

Even if you do have a couple of layers and want to take them off, they work great as a pillow for the rest of the journey.

Ear Plugs and A Sleep Mask

I cannot stress how vital these are. You will probably be given them on your flight over by your generous airline so keep hold of them and they will soon become your best friends for long distance travel.

When you are on the bus, look around and you’ll see the prepared and the struggling. People will have t-shirts wrapped around their heads, hoods pulled low, hats on – all to try and keep out the light. The light is fine, but what about the noise?

Those three Germans at the back of the bus just will not shut up. Or that Canadian up front has the most annoying laugh you’ve ever heard…good luck for the next nine hours.

Seriously, this is a two dollar fix for an hundred dollar problem. Buy some ear-plugs, find a sleep mask – you will not regret it.

Neck Pillow

Everyone with a neck pillow looks like an idiot. The sooner you come to this realisation, the better. I was never convinced of the values of the neck pillow. You really look like an idiot and they are a bit of a pain to carry around on each stop.

Once you go neck pillow, you never go back. Whether you wear it front, back or on the side a long journey can be saved with this ingenious pillow!

If you are on a sleeper bus they might not be as awesome. You are lying down after all, but they are still better than nothing. The sleeper bus technique of rolling a sweater up and using it as a pillow always goes down well but the neck pillow just adds to the comfort.

Bite the bullet and buy one!

Snacks and Drinks

This is a must. Big time. If you are going to be on a coach for a long time, you are going to need sustenance.

Whether you choose sweets, chips, or other sugary goodness or go for something a little more wholesome you are going to need to eat something.

A good little tip is to eat something just before you get on. For me, it was always a bowl of cereal before we left the hostel. Buying a little box of Frosties and a little carton of milk costs nothing and you can eat it out of the package to save on the washing up!

You don’t want a massive meal that you have to struggle with through the journey and I’d also hold off on trying something new on the day you leave – you want to be safe in the knowledge that the food is going to stay where it is. You’ll stop off at some dodgy looking restaurants on the journey – scout the food and see what you think before jumping in head first.

Drink is another issue altogether. The coach may have a toilet on but it almost certainly won’t be a pretty sight after a couple of hours.

You will have to drink something but don’t go chugging a couple of beers before you get on-board or your bladder won’t last.

Use The Bathroom Breaks

This one goes without saying.

Plan For Your Arrival

Eventually, this journey will come to an end! It may not feel like it when you are four hours in with five to go, but trust us, you’ll get there eventually!

When you do get there, what’s next? Have you got accommodation sorted or are you just going to wing it? When you get off the bus, there will probably be people waiting to take you to some hostel or hotel that happens to be having a special just for the arrival of the bus!

If you haven’t got accommodation sorted yet, ask around. These guys might be from a great hostel, ask them the name, where it is and how much. I’ve found great, cheap accommodation right off the bus in South East Asia but this strategy might not be for everyone.

Just bear in mind that when you get off the bus, you’ll have to take your bags somewhere…

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There is is! Your survival guide to a night bus. Oh, one more thing….don’t miss the bus!

If you are looking to start your Asian adventure with a bang, check out Ultimate Thailand here. Got any other tips? Had an absolutely nightmare on a night bus or always find them plain sailing? Let us know on Facebook and in the comments section below!

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Protect Yourself With Travel Insurance

Don’t Be a Drongo … Protect Yourself Down Under!

If you’re one of the many that have decided to leave both the UK and its rubbish weather far behind you, to hit the road and take a backpacking holiday to Oz – the country that gave us Ugg boots, Neighbours and Wolverine’s sideburns – it’s important to make sure you stay protected whilst trekking across the outback.

The words ‘travel insurance’ don’t always inspire enthusiasm in the best of us, especially when we’re buzzing to just get out there and soak up the atmosphere. Fingers crossed you never need it but it is one of the most important things you can pack in that essentials-laden bag.

Travel Insurance

You don’t have to know much about Australia to know about its weird and wonderful wildlife. The Outback alone is packed with enough varieties of deadly snakes, snap-happy saltwater crocodiles and really hairy spiders to scare anyone back into the big city, but it’s still worth a visit. Taking precautions and making sure the distinctively red sand under your feet is clear before you walk is all well and good, but what happens if you are bitten or stung by one of these Aussie beasts? If you fall ill abroad, there’s not always someone you know to be there, hold your hand and help you out. That’s where travel insurance comes in to help assist and advise you when you need it most, as well as covering some of the things you won’t always think of.

With so many options around, choosing a suitable insurance policy can be as tricky as learning to play the didgeridoo, so it’s vital to know what you need to look for. Check out our recommended insurance providers here and get in touch for a quote!

Why do I need travel insurance for Australia?

If you didn’t have holiday insurance, you could get in to a spot of bother whilst abroad. Australia comes with the same risks as the UK or any other country – with the chances of you falling ill, becoming injured, losing or having your things stolen or damaged still being as likely as taking to London with a backpack. Travel insurance makes sure you can replace or fix your possessions without having to delve into a huge portion of your budget, ensuring you can still afford that classic Australian barbeque food (the ‘barbequed snag’ is particularly good!)

People have made some incredible life-long memories over here! Surfing the world-class waves and embracing surfer culture at Bondi beach, or kayaking through Sydney Harbour – even seeing the Sydney Opera House lit up against a starry sky is a story to bring home in itself. The Great Barrier Reef in rainforest-covered Queensland is practically on your doorstep, full of incredibly vibrant wildlife and coral; and everyone has the breathtakingly iconic island mountain of Uluru on the top of their bucket lists, so your backpacking adventure or working holiday is bound to be a great experience. Make sure you remember it for the right reasons!

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What to pack for your trip to Australia

Australia has something for everyone, whether you want to relax on its idyllic sandy beaches, quad bike through the Outback or dive with Great White sharks…the options are endless.

So before you embark on your trip down under, you should ensure that you’ve packed all the essentials that you will need for your trip. As Australia is a modern and westernised country, you will have no issues finding items such as toiletries and even clothing, so don’t worry too much if you leave something behind!

We know that packing all your belongings into a backpack is daunting, stressful … not to mention difficult! (It just won’t fit!!) So, in case you’re wondering what to pack, we’ve put together a list of what we think will be important when you get here, to help you get started:

Sun Protection & Aftercare

This one is a no-brainer, Australia is well-known for its scorching hot temperatures and the sun can be unforgiving during the summer, especially in the Outback! Make sure you pack some sun cream to get you started and some after sun, preferably with Aloe Vera, to soothe your skin. If you run out, you should have no problems picking some more up in one of the stores over there.

A handy little tip … put your after sun in the fridge if you can, it feels so nice on your skin after a day in the sun!

Insect Repellent

Australia may not carry a Malaria risk, but mosquitoes are still a problem that plagues many travellers. And unfortunately, it is not just pesky mosquitoes that are looking to make life uncomfortable for you during your trip.

Sand-flies are also prevalent in Australia and are often found at beaches, lakes and swamps; these little critters can also cause pain and discomfort if they manage to bite you. Packing an insect repellent with DEET can help to repel mosquitoes, sand-flies and other insects, helping you to avoid uncomfortable insect bites.

If you are unlucky enough to attract these creatures, we can absolutely sympathise! There is a really good relief cream called “Itch Eze”, found in most chemists … tried and tested by yours truly and it’s the best we’ve found so far!

Australia Travel Adapter

If you want to be able to use appliances and recharge your mobile phone, camera and other electrical items, an Australia travel adapter is an absolute must have item for your packing list! These adapters have two slanted flat pins, which form an upside down ‘V’ shape.

It is better to get these in your home country as they will not cost as much as if you were to buy them in Australia!

Dry Bags/Zip Lock Bags

This one is for the water sport enthusiasts and those who plan on spending a lot of time at the beach. Storing your belongings in a dry bag or zip lock bag will help keep water and sand off your stuff. (Honestly, it gets everywhere!!) Dry bags are great for storing wet swimsuits separately from the rest of your gear and zip lock bags can be used for items such as phones, documents and guide books that you want to protect from spillages and wet items in your bag.

Travel Towel

This is a popular item on many packing lists, the quick drying, compact and lightweight alternative to standard towels from home. Travel towels take up a fraction of the packing space of a normal towel and they dry much quicker. Some towels on the market also feature a special anti-bacterial coating, which helps to prevent odours from developing when the towel is damp.

Travel towels come in a range of sizes. For Australia, we would recommend packing a giant or body sized towel, so you can use it at the beach as well as back at your hostel.

Photocopies of Important Documents

You should always photocopy your passport and other important travel documents before you leave, as you’ll be in a bit of a mess if you somehow manage to lose them (it’s easily done!). The copies should be stored somewhere different to where you’re keeping the originals. The process of obtaining an Emergency Travel Document can take days and will also tap into your travel fund!

See our past blog for tips on other things to do before you go travelling here

Camera

Another obvious choice for your packing list. You should never travel without a camera, as they help to capture your experiences, so that you can look back on them once you’ve returned home. If you’re travelling with your laptop, you can also upload your pictures to Facebook and other social media platforms, so family and friends can see what you’ve been up to in Oz…and most likely be seething with jealousy!

We would always recommend that you store this in your hand luggage … you don’t want to miss a photo op!

Locks

As with any travel destination, locks for your backpack or luggage are a must. Many padlocks on the market are designed to fit through most luggage zips and are a great way to prevent zips from opening in transit and for keeping thieves out of your bag.

If you get one that has a code, rather than a lock, you won’t need to worry about losing your key – nightmare scenario avoided!

Hopefully, this will give you somewhere to start when packing for your new adventure! Got any questions, (packing related or otherwise)? Give our UltimateOz team a shout, you can email us or pop us a post on Facebook and we’ll be happy to help!

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Our Aussie East Coast Bus Trip Survival Guide!

There’s no denying the East Coast trip will be one of the most amazing things you do! Ever! But seeing all these incredible places comes at a (small) price … there are some mighty long journeys to conquer on the bus. They’re totally worth it of course, and the excitement of your next destination will […]

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Tips for Travelling Cheaply

Travelling Cheaply

So you’ve been travelling around for a while now and want to make your trip last as long as possible, but need to make your funds stretch a bit further? Thailand is a great destination if you want to live on the cheap. We have picked up some tips on our travels to help you get by on as little as possible. The average Thai lives on less than $250 AUD per month, that’s just under $9 per day! And how do they do it?

  1. Live like a local: Eat delicious local Thai food wherever you go. Save the overpriced western food for when you are back home and enjoy tasting some Thai delicacies on your travels. The street food is awesome in Thailand, and costs a fraction of the price of a meal in a restaurant. You can get an amazing Pad Thai on the streets of Bangkok for only 30 baht, which is less than $1.
  2. Travel like a local: Taxis and tuk tuks aren’t particularly expensive in Thailand, but to save a bit more cash and experience true Thai life, take the bus! There are 2 to chose from, the air conditioned or the non, otherwise called the ‘hot’ bus, and some of them are free! If you do decide to take a taxi, make sure you ask the driver to run the meter, rather than agree the price upfront. You’re bound to get a cheaper fare that way.
  3. Speak like a local: Speak as much Thai as you can. The Thais really appreciate when westerners make the effort and you will get a better price and a friendlier service if you can show you are willing to adopt local practices. Pick up a few handy phrases here.
  4. Haggle at the markets: Never settle for the first price you are given at the markets. With a little clever haggling you can save a huge amount on your purchases. Take a look at our haggling tips here.

 

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll have way more money for the fun stuff!

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5 Things To Do Before You Go Travelling

1. Get Prepared!

Sort out what you’re going to do with all your belongings! If you’re lucky, you may have wonderful parents, or friends, that can store your stuff for a while. If you do, that’s awesome! If not, you need to search for an alternative. You can find a good storage option for a reasonable price these days, you just need to look around!

Make sure your bank knows that you are off your travels! Set up payments for any bills that you still have, so that they come out automatically. That way, you won’t need to be worrying about is your card being blocked or being charged for late payments when you should be enjoying your adventure … not to mention that that money has far better uses!!

Get all your documents together before you go travelling. Is all your visa information, itineraries, flight details etc in an easy to find spot? Take a photocopy of these documents and any other important ones and leave them with someone at home too, in case you lose anything important along the way. It sounds boring but the last thing you want to be doing after a 26 hour flight to Sydney is having to unpack everything because you left all your documents at the bottom of your backpack!

Don’t leave it until the last minute to pack – packing the only belongings you are going to have for a long period of time into a backpack can be stressful – it is almost guaranteed that you will need to pack and unpack a few times before everything fits, and you’re bound to forget something! Do a practice run … or five – you won’t regret it later on!

2. Get your phone unlocked!

Phones are so handy when you’re on your travels! If you have a smart phone, even better! It is your map, your camera, your translator, your local tour guide … not to mention that if you don’t keep in touch with your mum while you’re gallivanting around the world, you will never hear the end of it! All things considered, making sure you can use your phone when you’re away is important. If you get your phone unlocked, you will be able to get a PAYG sim card from the country you are travelling in … shop around for the best deal – if you find one that has a good rate for international calls, you could save you a lot of money!

3. Sell sell sell!

You need all the money you can get and while you’re clearing out all your stuff is a great time to see what you can make money on. As much as it’s a pain, start listing your things on Ebay, go to car boot sales and, as a last resort, because you don’t get as much money, bag your things up and take them to a Clothes For Cash joint where they pay you by the kilo. It may take up some of your time, but it’ll be worth it! Especially when you raise enough money to pay for one of your internal flights in Thailand, that awesome trek in Vietnam, or your skydive during your East Coast trip in Oz! Plus, the more stuff you sell, the less you have to store!

4. Soak it in!

We bet you can’t imagine that when you start your adventure, and you’re finally doing all the things that you have been daydreaming about for months, you’ll miss ‘the little things’ from back home … but it’s almost definitely going to happen. It could be something small like your favourite takeaway or bar, or it could be that you will wish you have gone somewhere more often before you left … make sure that you take the time to make the most of your surroundings. Don’t stop making memories at home because you’re so busy planning for the new memories you’re about to make elsewhere!

5. Party!

If you have lots of friends and family to get round and say goodbye to before you leave, it’s going to take you a while and you’re already short on time! A personal goodbye one on one with everyone you know is not really feasible, so get all your favourite people together at the same time. Meet everyone at your favourite bar, go for a meal or have a house party. Because you’re (obviously) their favourite person, they’ll probably shout you a few drinks on the night – awesome! Whatever you do, it’ll be a blast, a night that keeps you smiling long after you’ve said goodbye at the airport!

There’s plenty more to add to this list … what’s the best tip you’ve been given  while preparing for your trip? Let Ultimate Travel, and your fellow backpackers, in on the secret!

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Best time to book flights

Hey everyone!

Calling all those leaving Australia for vacation! Skyscanner have recently evaluated airfare data for flights that leave Australia to answer those age old questions of when the cheapest time to fly is and how soon you should be booking your flights to get the best prices.

What is their conclusion?

Well, it goes without saying that depending on where you want to go will impact how soon you should book your tickets. If you are heading across to Singapore, if you want to save around 15% on your airfare, you need to plan ahead … about 14 weeks in advance is the best time to book flights.

If you want to go to New Zealand or Indonesia and save the same amount, booking 6 weeks in advance should do the trick. The UK however, Skyscanner concluded that if you are prepared to take risks, it could pay off. Save up to 11% if you are willing to wait until about a week before. Just how much of a risk taker are you??

As far as when the best time to travel is for the cheaper fares, it comes as no surprise that December is at the bottom of that list! It is by far the most expensive month to travel. The cheapest time to go jet setting would be May. In particular, Skyscanner specify 28th April to 4th May as the cheapest week of the year to be flying off into the sunset. The average saving for this period is almost 20%!

There’s a lot to think about here and a lot of guess work involved! So how can you plan for price hikes and dives? Be smart about when you book. Pick the more uncommon hours of the day to travel and if you can, travel during the week rather than at weekends. Try and be as flexible as possible with your dates.

The good news is, here at Ultimate Thailand, we’ve made it even easier for you to get the very best deals on your flights. We’ve partnered up with a team of flight consultants, who are intent on doing just that. Just fill in the form here, and someone will be in touch shortly. Ultimate Thailand has start dates every 2 weeks, so once you’ve found yourself a great flight, we’ll have the perfect trip to get you started on your travels of South East Asia! Good luck!

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Learn to speak Thai

Hi Guys! It’s always nice, when going to a new country, to be able to communicate with the locals in their mother tongue. Though learning a foreign language is no easy task, it is a huge sign of respect and will be very well received if you can say at least a few simple phrases and be seen to be making an effort. With that in mind, Ultimate Thailand has come up with a list of phrases you may find helpful when on your travels. Learn to speak Thai and enhance your experience in this wonderful country!

SawatdeeHello
Sabai deer uHow are you?
Pood Thai mai daiI cannot speak Thai
Mai kow jaiI do not understand
Nee tao rai?How much?
Lot noi dai mai?Can you give a little discount?
Sanaam BinAirport
Khob KhunThankyou
Nit noiSmall/a little bit/not much
YaiLarge
RonHot
NaoCold
Naam KengIce
NaamWater

 

And the most important! …

BiaBeer

 

As with a lot of languages, it can change slightly depending on whether the speaker is male or female … to make what you are saying more polite, add krub/khrup to the end of your sentence if you are male, and kah/kaa if you are female.

So ladies, when saying ‘thank you’, to be polite, you would say ‘Khob khun kaa’ and guys, you would say, ‘Khob khun krup’.

Now you have the basics, be sure to practice your Thai with the people you come across on your travels in Thailand. Chok Dee!! (Good Luck!!)

Gayle x

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Visas for Thailand

Every country has their entry requirements and Thailand is no different! When you travel to Thailand, make sure you are fully clued up as to what you need regarding your passport and visa. There’s different kinds of visas for Thailand, so be sure you know which one you need! Depending on which country you are […]