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What Actually is Australia Day?

If you are a new Aussie backpacker like me, it may come to a surprise to you that there is an ‘Australia Day’. We don’t have an England Day, or a Germany Day… that I know of. So what is Australia Day? I’d never heard of it before in my life.

Well, low and behold, Google came to save the day;

Australia Day is the official National Day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales

Sounds simple enough.

In present-day Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history

To find out a little more, I decided to ask my very Australian colleague Jaymie:

“So, what do you actually do on Australia day Jaymie?”

“We usually have a big barbee with lamb, thats the main part – lots of food! Then we have some beers while watching the cricket, there is a test match on Australia day. Even if you aren’t into cricket everybody watches it. People listen to Triple J’s top 100 – but this year it’s on the Saturday after Australia day. Mostly it’s just relaxing with the family, eating lots, drinking lots and going down to the beach!”

So there you go. If you want to celebrate Australia day like a true Aussie – here’s what you have to do:

  • Have a massive Barbee
  • Eat lamb
  • Drink some tinnies
  • Watch the cricket (even if you don’t like it)
  • Listen to Triple J’s top 100
  • Chill with the mates/family
  • Go to the beach

Enjoy your day off people! Whether you’re with some mates, or you’re lucky enough to have family in Australia, have an amazing time – and celebrate like a true Aussie!

Here’s a picture of me trying to embrace the full Australian culture…

Pssst – lucky you, now you know all about Australia day, and you get exclusive access to our awesome Australia day weekend sale before anyone else – woohoo!

Get $100 off all Ultimate Australia Tours this weekend only, in celebration of Australia Day. It’s easy – just use promo code “STRAYADAY” when you book any of our Australia tours online between now and Monday. Enjoy – and see you in the land Down Under.

*$100 off valid from 25-29 January 2018, for the following Ultimate Australia Tours: 

Code only valid for one use. Must travel in 2018. 


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!

New Zealand: A Backpackers Paradise

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

Seriously Friendly Kiwis!

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

Adrenaline Activities

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

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

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

Travel

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

Maori Culture

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

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

North and South Islands

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

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

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

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

Confessions of a Backpacker in Southeast Asia

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

The Bum Gun!

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

The Sniff Test!

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

Missing Luggage!

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

Weeing in the wild!

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

Get Low!

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

Money, money, money

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

#DrunkenTats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life experience

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

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

It’s easy! 

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

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

Travel around New Zealand on your gap year

New Zealand is stunning bro!

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

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

New Zealand has everything! 

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

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

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

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

Jobs, jobs, jobs

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

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

Make friends for life..

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

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

It’s just bloody beautiful…’Nuff said!

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

Photo credits: Ultimate crew Instagram pics

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!

The Great Barrier Reef: Australia

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

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

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

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

Fitzroy Island

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

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

Fitzroy island is paradise on earth!

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

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

Raging-Thunder Beach shack

Snorkel day trip

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

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

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

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Whitsunday Islands

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

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

Whitsunday Islands

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

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

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

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

Thailand's Songkran Festival

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

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

Invest in a good water gun

My personal favourite…the turtle backpack!

Invest in a good water gun backpack during Songkran

Don’t wear white

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

Don't wear white to Songkran

Waterproof pouch

Keep your valuables safe in a waterproof pouch!

Thailand's Songkran Festival

Goggles

Protect your peepers…plus they look cool.

Wear goggles to protect your eyes during Songkran

Make friends with the locals

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

Chill with the locals during Songkran

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

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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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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! 

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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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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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 Apr 26, 2015 at 5:08pm PDT

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 Oct 18, 2015 at 5:46pm PDT

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 Oct 29, 2015 at 9:26pm PDT

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 Nov 3, 2015 at 3:47pm PST

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 May 31, 2015 at 4:58pm PDT

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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)”

via GIPHY

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

via GIPHY

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

via GIPHY

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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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.

 

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

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

What was the highlight of your trip?

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

 

Swimming with a turtle in Cape tribulation

What do you think of Cairns as a city?

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

 

The beautiful lagoon in Cairns

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


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

 

Chilling at Nomads Serpent

Did you go anywhere else?

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

 

The beach at Cape Tribulation

Did you do any activities in the Rainforest?

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

 

Zip lining through the rainforest

Did you see any wildlife?

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

 

Crocodile spotting in Cape tribulation

What else did you get up to in Cairns?

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

 

White water rafting in Cairns

Your diving pics looks amazing. What was it like?

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

 

Meeting the locals in the Great Barrier Reef

What is the nightlife like in Cairns for backpackers?

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

 

The beach in Cape Tribulation

Is Cairns good for backpackers on budget?

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

 

Cairns is a beautiful city

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

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

Where is next on your bucket list?

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

 

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

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

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

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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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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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Travelling isn’t about getting from A to B using the quickest route possible, it’s about (as corny as it sounds) the journey. It’s about experiencing that countries culture, eating their food and trying out local specialities (scorpion in Thailand anyone!?!), chatting to the locals, meeting fellow backpackers, using public transport, learning their language (at least enough to ask for a beer!) and checking out local events/festivals.

Travel is..

Here in Ultimate HQ, we’ve been chatting about what travel means to us. Here’s what we came up with:

#travelis using a goon bag as a pillow – Becca

#travelis like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get – Danny

#travelis being out of your comfort zone – Ollie

#travelis always saying yes to new experiences (within reason 😉 ) – Gayle

#travelis never missing out on a new experience- Craig

#travelis getting lost and being okay with it- Holly

#travelis knowing every happy hour in town- Max

#travelis getting excited for the bottom bunk- Charly

#travelis feeling free as a bird! – Karin

What is travel to you? Comment below with your #travelis ideas! 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!

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!

Are you planning a trip to Asia? Have you thought about booking on to Ultimate Thailand but not sure you want to commit? Want to get an insider’s point of view? Having never travelled to Asia, we sent our Ultimate travel guru Max on the 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour. Here’s what he thought..

So Max, you’ve just got back from 2 weeks in Thailand… Nice tan! What was your favourite part?

The best bit of the tour for me was chilling out on the floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park. After a few days partying hard in Bangkok it was the perfect chilling spot! I spent my days kayaking in the lake, searching for wild monkeys and eating fresh fish from the lake! It was awesome to wake up in the morning to the sound of silence and a still lake- I actually felt like we were in paradise!

Khao Sok NP

What was it like travelling with a group of people on a guided tour? How would it have been different to travel alone?

Before I met the group I had travelled for 4 days by myself through Northern Thailand. It was a completely different experience compared to travelling with the group: it was my first time travelling through Asia and by myself, I found it a bit daunting and hard to meet people. I don’t normally have any problems with this but I just didn’t meet that many solo travellers where I was! As soon as I’d met the rest of my group, I had 15 other people I could instantly talk to and spend time with. It was great to meet other people on the same wavelength as me and to share travel experiences with people that I probably wouldn’t have met unless I’d done a guided tour.

Ultimate Thailand group

Would you recommend it?

I’d 100% recommend it to anyone looking to meet people instantly and experience Thailand stress free- the tour guides are experienced and have the knowledge needed for us to feel safe on the tour and just be able to focus on having fun!

Ultimate Thailand group

Was Thailand as you had imagined it? In what way?

​No. To be honest I thought Bangkok would be similar to Sydney and other Western cities. It was a bit of a surprise to be surrounded by lady boys in Bangkok! It was much more of a party place than I thought- so much fun- just not what I had expected. The hostel in Koh Phangan where we stayed was one of the best I’ve ever stayed in! The National parks we went to (Khao Sok) and Thai countryside was so much better than I expected! The photos you see just don’t do it justice!

Ultimate Thailand group

Did you encounter any animals along the trip?

​I went to visit an elephant nature park which I’d highly recommend to anyone! They focus on rehabilitation for elephants instead of using elephants as a tourist attraction (as unfortunately so many do in Thailand!) so it’s great to see those charities first hand helping injured elephants​ recover. We also saw LOTS of wild monkeys! I was actually surprised how close up to you they’re happy to get! You can feed them bananas and they’ll come and sit on your shoulder – way more interactive than I thought. Just a word of advice.. If you buy bananas to feed them, don’t let them out of your sight- they’ll be gone within seconds!

IMG_0769

What is your best/funniest memory from the Ultimate Thailand tour?

Total Wipeout! Have you seen the TV show? It’s basically an obstacle course on the water with loads of inflatables, rolling barrels and rope swings. It’s in Koh Phangan and you get the option to go there for about 400TBH (Appox £8) Had such a fun day- it’s definitely my most memorable moment in Thailand!

20141202_134536

Would you recommend others to go to Thailand? Why? 

Definitely! It’s amazing to experience travelling around an Asian country, experience Asian culture and customs and gain new experiences. If you’re planning a trip and Thailand isn’t on your list, you’ll be missing out!

 What experience did you have with Thai people?

Before getting to Thailand, I had heard that Thai people were really friendly and I definitely noticed it, especially outside of tourist areas. Everyone I met was really helpful, very friendly, polite and always smiling!​ At one point I had actually left my wallet near the street food stalls by accident and the Thai guy who owned the stall came running after me to give it back to me!

Would you go back? If so, where? Or another Asian country?

​Yes! I’ll definitely be going back to Thailand at some point. I’d love to go back to Koh Phangan for the full moon party and I’ll definitely make sure I go back to the floating bungalows in Khao Sok National park. Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam are also still on my bucket list!

Did you eat anything weird? Did you enjoy the food in Asia? Street food?

​I tried a scorpion in Koh San Rd in Bangkok which kind of tastes like crispy chicken. I definitely didn’t enjoy it but it was an experience! I loved trying all of the Thai food, especially the street dishes like Pad Thai and chicken satay with rice. It’s all so much cheaper than the western food you can get and tastes awesome! Some restaurants do better food than others- the trick is to see how many locals are eating in the restaurant – if it’s good enough for the locals…!

Any other moments/events you want to talk about?

​ We had so much fun tubing near the jungle village in Khao Sok! We spent 2 hours tubing down the river, drinking beer and chilling! Also the temples in Bangkok were another highlight- it was great to experience some of Thailand’s history.

Got any tips for travelling to Thailand?

Learn to haggle! Haggling is expected in Thailand and haggling when buying things in markets will make sure you’re not getting ripped off! Ask the vendor what their price is and if it seems too much, tell them. Be polite, keep it light hearted and never get angry. You can usually get down to about half of what was originally offered and pick up some bargains!

Check out the 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour online and get in touch with us for more info!

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10 Places We Love in Vietnam

We love Vietnam and with the launch of our 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour in January we thought it’d be a good idea to tell you all about what Vietnam has to offer and what we think makes this beautiful South East Asian country so amazing! Here’s just 10 places we love in Vietnam …

1. Food in Hanoi

If you like food, Hanoi in Northern Vietnam is a city not to be missed! Walk through narrow alley ways in Hanoi’s Old Quarter to find some of Vietnam’s most amazing traditional dishes. In Hanoi the street is where the food is at! Try meat skewers, fresh fruit, broths, noodles and traditional Vietnamese pork rolls. Wash it down with a cold Bia Hoi (Vietnams local beer) or Hanoi’s famous coffee- food and drink heaven! Check out our website to visit Hanoi.

2. Halong Bay

Translated literally to descending Dragon Bay, Halong bay in Northern Vietnam is made up of 1000 or more stunning islands. Cruise around the bay on a traditional Vietnamese Junk Boat, check out the coves and beaches and kayak through the crystal clear waters. Stay overnight on a Vietnamese junk boat as part of the 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour.

3. Hoi An

Hoi An is a beautiful old town in the south central coast of Vietnam once used as a trading port. Go shopping, try a Vietnamese cooking class or chill out at Hoi An’s beautiful beach only a short bike ride away. At night, the streets are lit up with red and white lanterns, hanging from trees, buildings and shops giving Hoi An it’s nickname: “City of Lanterns.” Come with us!

4. Nha Trang

Nha Trang on the South central coast is the beach capital of Vietnam. Explore the area by boat on a snorkelling trip in warm waters and discover the bay’s beautiful coral. Check it out on the Ultimate Vietnam tour.

5. Dalat waterfalls

Vietnam’s central highlands area is known for it’s stunning Waterfalls. Explore the Dalat area by hiking through rainforest. If you’re with Ultimate Vietnam, abseil and canyon down the waterfalls!

6. Ho Chi Minh city

Formally named Saigon, this bustling city has an exciting atmosphere and a vibrant nightlife. Ever wanted to try deep fried snake? Try both traditional and daring Vietnamese food here with us!

7. Cu Chi Tunnels

Explore the underground network of tunnels used during the Vietnam war and learn all about Vietnam’s interesting history. We will take you here on the Ultimate Vietnam tour!

8. Sapa

Located in the North West of Vietnam, Sapa is famous for it’s amazing views over the rice terraces, hill tribes and picturesque towns. Hike through the hills, valleys and rice fields and go shopping at the market. Sapa is available as an add on to the 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour. Check out the add on details here and if you have any questions, just get in touch!

9. Mekong river

The Mekong river is the 12th longest river in the world, not only running through Vietnam but also Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and China! The river meets the sea through a number of smaller distributaries which make up the Mekong Delta. Take a river cruise, check out the floating markets or take a bike ride around the area! Contact us to plan your trip.

10. Phu Quoc island, Vietnam

With gorgeous white beaches, friendly locals, fun water activities and a chilled out atmosphere, Phu Quoc island located near the South coast of Cambodia is not to be missed! Phu Quoc is pretty much untouched at the moment and has only recently been discovered as a tourist destination so get in there quickly!

Want to discover Vietnam for yourself? This beautiful country has so much to offer and is not to be missed! Get in touch for Vietnam info, trips and tours- we’re more than happy to help!

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

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

Plan your year

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

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

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

Finding work in Oz 

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

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

Suitcase or Backpack?

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

Keep in touch

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

Money, money, money

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

Which documents will I need for my year down under?

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

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

Looking forward to seeing you all in then near future!

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

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