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What’s not to love about Thailand? Beautiful beaches, amazing nightlife, friendly locals… but the more popular Thailand becomes, the more important it is for us to ensure that its natural beauty isn’t affected.

Thai Authorities Announce Temporary Maya Bay Closure

You may have heard rumours recently about the possible closure of Maya Bay, in Koh Phi Phi Leh, Thailand.

The bay, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, The Beach, is due to close for 4-months as of June 1st 2018 in order to conserve the surrounding National Park. Though this may be disappointing news for those travelling to Thailand, this closure is for the greater good of Maya Bay and is a very important step towards sustainable tourism in Thailand.

What you Need to Know

  • Maya Bay’s closure is to allow regrowth and regeneration of the surrounding National Park
  • The Beach is expected to be closed for 5-months, from June to October 2018
  • Our 11 day Ultimate Thailand tour will have a slight change of itinerary during this time, offering more amazing snorkel spots and island hopping

Why is Maya Bay Closing?

Seeing over 4000 visitors every single day, the marine life and surrounding nature has suffered, and needs revitalisation to remain as beautiful as it once was.

This is not unusual.

Many marine parks in Thailand are closed between May and October every year for revitalisation, however, Maya Bay has remained open due to popular tourist demand. Supporting sustainable tourism, we are happy to see the Thai government is taking steps to ensure these popular areas do not suffer due to tourism.


How Will This Affect My Trip?

If you are travelling with Ultimate Thailand between June & October 2018, you may be disappointed to hear of Maya Bay’s closure, however, rest assured that Maya Bay is only one of the fantastic locations that we visit and your overall Thailand experience will not be affected by this closure!

You’ll still get to experience stunning Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding area, as we will be replacing our time in Maya Bay with a visit to spectacular islands in the Anderman sea, snorkelling and relaxing on a traditional longtail boat!



Have Any More Questions? 

If you have any questions about the Maya Bay closure, feel free to leave a comment down below and we will get back to you as soon as possible! Otherwise, drop us a private message on our Facebook page!

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

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

DON’T try to cut costs

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

DO study up on culture

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

DO book a tour

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

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

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO go easy on the booze

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

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO stay with your group

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

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

DON’T eat that

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

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO trust your gut

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

DO have a great time

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

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

So, the answer is…YES!

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

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

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

Pack Your Bags For Bali!

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

1. Scenic swings

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

2. Amazing snorkelling

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on Aug 29, 2017 at 7:12pm PDT

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

3. Gili sunsets

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

4. Rice terraces

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

5. Colorful beaches

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

6. Insta-worthy locations

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

7. Epic hikes

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

8. Perfect pools

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on Aug 21, 2017 at 5:45am PDT

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

9. Breathtaking views

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

10. Beautiful temples

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

11. Crazy waterfalls

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on Aug 27, 2017 at 5:46am PDT

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

12. Every hour is happy hour

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

13. Ideal lounge spots

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on Aug 20, 2017 at 5:19pm PDT

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

14. Stunning strolls

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

15. Beach parties

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

16. Incredible wildlife

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

17. Great memories

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

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

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

Why is 2017 the year to travel?

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

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

“But I can’t afford to travel!”

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

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

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

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

2017 is the year to travel!

Travel Now!

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

Come at us 2017!

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

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!

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

1. In My Own Skin

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

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

2. When Sh*t Goes Down

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

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3. In Social Situations

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

4. In My Beliefs & Opinions

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

5. In Knowing What I Want

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

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

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

Travel Towel

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

Sleeping bag liner

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

Mozzie Repellent

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

Packing Cubes

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

Head torch

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

Head-torch

Bags on bags on bags

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

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

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

Combination lock

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

Tissues

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

Power Adapters

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

Emergency Kit

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

And lastly, YOUR BACKPACK – duh!

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

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

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

Things you can leave at home:

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

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

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

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

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

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Lights, Lanterns and Lotus Flowers

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

What is the Festival of the lights?

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

When does it take place?

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

Where is it celebrated?

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

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

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

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

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

The Road Less Travelled!

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

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

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

Halong bay sunsets are beautiful


Photo taken by ULTIMATE traveller Karin in Halong Bay

Because any time of year is a good time!

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


Photo taken by ULTIMATE traveller Dirk in Hoi An

The locals

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

Locals

Safe with a side of adventure!

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

Travelling around Vietnam is easy for backpackers


Leaving the Ultimate Vietnam private island stay in Halong Bay

Food is Fresh & Authentic

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

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

Food in Vietnam is a big part of the culture


Eating lẩu (hot pot) in Da Lat

Because it’s still cheap

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

Beer in Vietnam is normally locally brewed


Mingling with the locals in the streets of Hanoi.

Because the reef is still beautiful

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

See the rest of Southeast Asia!

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

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

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

The ULTIMATE Vietnam Infographic

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘Trusty’ Suitcase:

Perfect for:

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Tip:

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

The ‘Modern’ Backpack (front loader)

Perfect for:

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Tip:

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

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

The ‘Old School’ Backpack (top loader)

Perfect for:

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Tip:

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

The Wheely ‘Wheely Uncool’ Backpack

Perfect for:

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Tip:

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

What else do I need to think about?

Quality

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

Extra bags

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

The most important packing tip you’ll ever get!

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

via GIPHY

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

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

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

 1. Don’t be scared to haggle!

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

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

Haggling the price of goods and travel in Thailand is normal

2. Try the local food

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

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

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

3. Drink beer

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

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

4. Do your research

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

 5. Travel like a local

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

 6. Give yourself a daily budget

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

 7. Accommodation

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

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

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

8. Buy before you go!

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

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

 9. Get off the beaten track!

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

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

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

Get off the beaten track in Vietnam

10. Know what your money is worth!

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

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

Know what your money is worth

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

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

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