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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!


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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!

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.

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

Halong Bay

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

Explore Sapa

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

Same Same But Different

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

Same same but different!

Hoi An

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

Hoi An lanterns

The Food

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

The food in Vietnam - Another reason why I love Vietnam

Ride Like A Local

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

Riding mopeds in Vietnam is the norm!

Cheap Beer

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

Grab a stool and drink in the street!

Never a Dull Moment

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

Meet the locals in Vietnam!

Beach Bum in Nha Trang

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

Nha Trang has got some great snorkel spots.

History

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

Learning about Vietnam's history is great!

Travel the Long Way

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

Travelling along the Mekong delta was incredible.

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

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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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Exploring Sydney While you’re exploring Sydney, the guidebook will give you a great map and show you the way to the icons of the city but it will not share the secrets. For that, you need to get a local to whisper in your ear. We know, we know, easier said than done. How do…

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…

So you’ve booked your Ultimate Thailand trip and are now eagerly awaiting your arrival! It can be daunting travelling to a new place, especially if you’re going alone, and it’s sometimes impossible to decide what essentials to pack. I’ve put together an Ultimate Thailand checklist of top priorities:

Ensure your passport has 6 months validity from date of travel: You won’t be able to travel if your passport is due to expire within 6 months. Check whether you are eligible for a free visa on arrival, read more information here.

Travel Insurance: No matter how prepared you are, things can always go wrong. Travel insurance is essential for our tour. Check these guys out for quotes.

Take two photocopies of your passport/ticket/insurance details and other important documents, leave one set with someone at home and take a copy with you.

Insect Repellent/medicines: We don’t travel to any areas of a high risk of Malaria with Ultimate Thailand, but as with most hot climates there can be lots of pesky mosquitoes to contend with. Pack a high strength mosquito repellent to keep them at bay. The most common illnesses backpackers face when travelling to South East Asia are those from contaminated food and water. Be smart with what you are eating and drinking, and pack some medicine just in case.

Unlocked mobile phone & charger: Thai sim cards are available all over Thailand, and they are super cheap. If you are staying for a little while I’d suggest getting a sim card, they have a great data allowance so you can chat to your friends back home and avoid those huge data roaming charges.

Essential clothes/toiletries: Pack lightly, Thailand is hot and it’s easier to get around with a small backpack. Take lightweight t-shirts, shorts & swimsuits. Ladies, if you are planning to visit the temples in Bangkok you will need to cover your shoulders and knees. Anything you will need is easy to buy and super cheap in the markets in Bangkok. There are also laundry facilities pretty much everywhere and like all things in Thailand, it’s cheap!

A smile: After all Thailand is the land of smiles with friendly and helpful locals.

If you have any questions, please get in contact. But in the meantime, put your feet up and dream of beach parties and paradise on the trip of a lifetime!