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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 4-months, from 1st June to 1st 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!

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You’ll be missing out if you go to Thailand and don’t experience the best things Thailand has to offer…

The Street food

Street food in Thailand is uhhh-mazinnggg! Not only can you pick up some delicious Thai curries, Thailand’s traditional Pad Thai and meat skewers but you can also get your hands on some great sweet dishes – Southeast Asian crepes with nutella and bananas will always be a winner!

Fancy trying something a bit different? Get your gnashers around a scorpion, cricket or deep fried tarantula. Give it a try…after a few pints of Chang you won’t even taste it and whilst you might be dying inside, just think of all those Instagram likes you’ll get!

Eating a scorpion in Bangkok

A massage Thai style

One of the best things about Thailand? Thai massages! Thai massages are amazing and so cheap. Yes you might be shocked at how a tiny Thai lady can bend your body in half with so much force but you’ll also get one of the best massages you’ve ever had! When in Thailand make sure you get a couple…or twenty and don’t forget to get involved in a fish foot massage – one of the weirdest ‘sensations’ ever!

A bit of history

You can’t go Thailand and not take in a little culture and history. The temples in Bangkok give a great insight into Thailand’s main religion, Buddhism, and are not to be missed! My fave is Wat Pho, temple of the reclining buddha!

Beach parties

When it comes to beach parties, Thailand is THE place to go! There’s nothing like walking (or weaving your way through the crowds) onto Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan to see thousands of people dressed in fluro, dancing on the sand with music pumping for miles. Fire shows are also popular on a lot of the islands including Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi. Want to jump through a ‘ring of fire?’ Now’s your chance!

The infamous bucket!

Speaking of island fun..no beach party is complete without Thailand’s infamous bucket! You can get your hands on one of these bad boys for about 200Baht (about a fiver!) When you buy a bucket you’ll usually get a concoction of M-150 (concentrated redbull), a local spirit and a can of mixer. Just a word of warning – these buckets are STRONG. They give you 4 straws for a reason..sharing is caring! 😉

Local transport

In my opinion, the best way to see a country is by experiencing the local transport. Use local transport such as TukTuk’s in Bangkok, hop on an overnight train with Thai locals and cruise around in Thailand’s iconic longtail boats whenever you have the option!

Wildlife

If you’ve ever dreamed of feeding baby monkeys, volunteering in an elephant sanctuary or getting up close with exotic birds and wildlife such as monitor lizards, Thailand is for you!

Feed monkeys in Thailand

All things Bangkok

Bangkok is an overload for the senses and one of the most exciting cities I have ever been to. Head to the famous Khao San Rd to party with other travellers and to Patpong, Bangkok’s red light district to party with lady boys! Also, Bangkok’s famous floating markets aren’t to be missed! You could even catch a Muay Thai boxing match – no better place to experience it and anyway – Bangkok has you now..

Maya Bay

If you watched ‘The Beach’ you’ve probably dreamed of visiting this stunning bay since you saw Leo swim around with millions of glowing plankton surrounding him! You can’t beat the crystal clear waters of Maya Bay, the beautiful white sand and great snorkelling in the area – just remember your camera!

Hair flick in Maya Bay

Stay in the Jungle

Thailand isn’t all about island life and partying on the beach! Your visit to Thailand won’t be complete without a little ‘off the beaten track’ action. Say hello to Khao Sok National Park! Stay in floating bungalows on the lake, explore caves, go tubing, feed baby monkeys and chill in paradise. This place is heaven on earth!

Khao-Sok

Is Thailand on your travel bucket list? Check out our 10 day tour of Thailand and get in touch for help planning!

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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!

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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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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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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! 😉

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

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

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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)”

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

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

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21. “What’s a dropbear?”

22. “I can’t wait to go home”

Maya-bay-Thailand

Can you think of any more? Comment below!!

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

 1. Don’t be scared to haggle!

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

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

Haggling the price of goods and travel in Thailand is normal

2. Try the local food

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

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

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

3. Drink beer

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

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

4. Do your research

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

 5. Travel like a local

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

 6. Give yourself a daily budget

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

 7. Accommodation

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

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

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

8. Buy before you go!

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

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

 9. Get off the beaten track!

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

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

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

Get off the beaten track in Vietnam

10. Know what your money is worth!

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

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

Know what your money is worth

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

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

‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

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

If you’re anything like us here at ULTIMATE, you love a bit of thrill seeking during your travels. There’s no better way to get your heart pumping than rafting through river rapids or jumping out of a plane at 14,000ft. If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie here are some activities to cross off your list this year!

Here are some of our experiences with some amazing (pretty terrifying) adrenaline activities:

Skydive – (Ultimate recommends Mission beach, Australia)

“What a feeling! Falling through the sky at 14,000ft with someone and a parachute strapped to your back doesn’t happen (to most of us!) every day! It’s without a doubt one of the most amazing feelings in the world and I’d recommend it to anyone! For me the scariest part was waiting to jump in the plane beforehand. Luckily I was the first out and as soon as that door was opened, I was ready to jump! The free fall was such an incredible feeling! It almost feels like you’re floating rather than falling. Once the parachute has opened (aaannnd relax!) you get to enjoy 5 minutes of floating down, checking out the beautiful scenery and thinking about what you’ve just done! Like most things great in life the whole experience goes way too quickly so get the photos and videos to watch back!” – Holly

Australia

Canyoning & Abseiling (Ultimate recommends Da Lat, Vietnam)

Da Lat in Vietnam has some of the worlds most beautiful waterfalls. You can hike through the jungle to see the waterfalls from a far or if you prefer you can abseil straight down them!

“You hear stories from people on the way and you might even see some of their pictures, yet you can’t quite figure out what to expect from ‘abseiling a waterfall’. The truth is: it’s freakin scary, but I loved it so much, I have done it 3 times now and would do it again anytime. The worst part is standing right on the edge of the cliff, waiting until it’s your turn and seeing the horrified look in everyone’s face in front of you while you are trying to build up the courage to just do it. You’re basically volunteering to face death several times on that one day – kinda a dumb thing to do if you think about it. Though, once you’ve taken the first steps down the cliff, the water is pounding against your legs to a point where you are about to slip any moment now, the adrenaline is rushing through your body and you start to feel invincible. You finally let go of the ropes, take the plunge into the river beneath you and already think: I need to do that again!” – Dirk

Vietnam

Bungy Jump (Ultimate recommends Cairns, Australia & Queenstown, New Zealand)

Could you jump off a ledge with a Bungy cord strapped to your ankles? Bungying is one of those things that you don’t just do the once! Once you jump you can’t stop!

“I was shitting myself for weeks leading up to the jump. We arrived at the site on the day and it was beautiful and scary at the same time.  It is set in a valley so you jump from a cable-car which is connected by cables to the mountains on either side, it is 134 metres from the ground.  Inside the cable-car the floor is perspex so you can see right down to the bottom of the valley that you are jumping in to!  They get people to jump in weight order so there were a few bigger guys before me – this calmed my nerves a bit because they all came back up saying how amazing it was (and none of them died!).  It came to my turn and I sat in the chair to have all of the safety stuff put on me.  As this was happening the guy who had jumped before me was being pulled back up after his jump, he looked terrible.  His legs had turned to jelly and he was crying – this didn’t help me!  I shuffled over to the ledge and prepared to jump, I kept telling myself not to make any noise because I was afraid I would squeal or sound really stupid.  It turns out it’s impossible to not make any noise and I think I made a kind of mooing sound like a cow!  The freefall is around 9 seconds and this was one of the most amazing feelings of my life – like nothing else I have ever experienced.  When I bounced back up and started to head down for the second time it felt for a couple of seconds like I was hanging in mid air – I actually instinctively swang my arms around and tried to fly!  I bounced a few more times and then pulled the chord so I was in a sitting position and enjoyed the relatively leisurely ride being pulled back up to the top.  As soon as I got back up there I turned to my mate and said “we have to do this again – higher!” – Danny

White Water Rafting (Ultimate recommends Tully River, Australia)

“Rafting was an incredible experience! I did the ‘Xtreme rafting’ on the Tully River in Northern Queensland. I had no idea how much fun it would be but I can safely say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done! I felt like I was on the best roller coaster in the world, blasting down the rapids,  twisting and turning all the time – it’s definitely not for the faint hearted! The staff and instructors were brilliant providing making us feel as safe as possible with non stop laughs along the way. They really do try and make it the best experience possible for you. The trip I did was a day trip which I’d definitely recommend as you get lots more rafting in and when you’ve started you won’t want it to end! The best part of the day for me was blasting down a rapid with the instructor shouting “Back Paddle, back paddle” then bumping into rocks and dropping down the rock face below you. It was a crazy amount of fun and I’d recommend it to anyone!”  – Max

Shark Cage Diving (Ultimate recommends Port Lincoln, Australia)

Port Lincoln in Australia is one of the only places in the world you can experience cage diving with Great White sharks! You’ll be lowered into the ocean with only a metal cage between you and great whites. Put it this way…it’s the closest you’ll ever come to a Great White Shark without being eaten! Game?

“Duunnnn Dunn… Duuunnn Dunn… I’ll never forget the day I encountered the real life Jaws! Diving with sharks was an item on my lifetime bucket list, and although I was super excited, I couldn’t have been more terrified. Being in Australia, you always fear that you may see a shark in the water, and here I was choosing to be with one! This being said I flew down to Port Lincoln for the weekend, one of the few places in the world that you can cage dive with Great Whites. Although I was quite nervous, the staff couldn’t have been better and made me feel really comfortable. We set off early in the morning and the next thing I knew, they were gearing me up to hop in the cage. A fun fact, rather than using bloody “chump” as they call it to attract the sharks, they used the sound vibrations of playing ACDC  – how cool is that! Peering over the side, I could already see the shadow of what appeared to be a 5m Great White. Feeling rather nervous, I took a deep swallow and hopped into the cage and there he was, Bruce smiling right back at me. Once in the water, the fear left and I was amazed to be that close to such a large creature. It was absolutely insane and definitely an experience I won’t forget!” – Becca

Diving (Ultimate recommends The Great Barrier Reef, Australia & Koh Tao, Thailand)

Thailand has got some amazing snorkeling and diving spots, especially along the West coast. Kao Tao is popular for diving due to it’s shallow waters and lots of coral.

“Absolutely the BEST part of my time spent in Thailand. If you’re considering scuba diving, better yet getting your open-water certification, Koh Tao is THE place to do it. Not only is it one of the cheapest and most popular places to do it, the island provides some of the best dive sites in the world. Plus, it’s absolute paradise. Palm trees, sunsets, beach parties – not much to complain about. And trust me when I say, there is no cooler feeling than being able to breathe underwater. My dream of becoming a mermaid was finally complete. After completing the 4-day open-water course, I could officially call myself a certified diver. I loved diving so much, I even went on to get my advanced certification with heaps of friends I met from my original dive group. Exploring a shipwreck 30m below surface, diving in complete dark with nothing but a torch, finding Nemo – doesn’t get much better. Eat. Sleep. Dive. that should be the island’s motto.” – Becca

Thailand

Cage of Death, Darwin, Australia

“The cage of death was such a weird yet amazing experience! Me and my travel buddy were lowered into a massive tank inside a glass cage with two of the largest saltwater crocs in Australia, William and Kate! One of the ‘friendlier’ crocodiles swam straight over to us and at one point it’s teeth were literally 10cm away from me with just the glass between us! To make the crocodile jump up, chicken was dangled into the tank by the crocodile handler and fed to the crocs in front of us. I couldn’t believe how high the crocs can actually jump out of the water and seeing how powerful their jaws are as they snapped down on the chicken was unbelievable. Being so close to such big crocodiles was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity! If you’re travelling to Darwin, the Cage of Death is not to be missed!” – Holly

Australia

Done a Skydive? Been tubing in Thailand? Share your experiences with us in the comments below! If you’re interested in any of the above just get in touch – we will give you the details!

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

1. Go before you change your mind

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

2. Lots of people are doing it

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

3. Australia has never been so cheap

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

4. Tourism in Vietnam

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

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

6. Technology

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

7. Save money buying in bulk

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

8. Life is too short not to

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

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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!

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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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If you close your eyes and think of Thailand – what are the first things you see?

Try and keep it clean please people, we don’t want ping pong balls cluttering up an otherwise simple exercise.

Thailand is exotic. It is hustle and bustle. Colour and light. Mysterious sights and sounds, sumptuous smells that waft through the air.

Basically, you are thinking of a Thai floating market – one of the most amazing experiences Thailand has to offer!

Thanks to the increase in tourists visiting Thailand, floating markets may not be as authentic as they once were but a trip to the canals of Thailand is one of the most amazing experiences to be had in the country. It gives you an idea of the history of the region and just how culturally different the area is to anywhere you’ve ever been.

In the 19th Century, Bangkok was known as the ‘Venice of the East’ thanks to sheer number of canals, or khlongs, in the city. The khlongs were, and to some extent still are, the lifeblood of the city.

When you are in Bangkok as part of our Ultimate Thailand adventure, you will be taken on a river and canal cruise through Bangkok where you will be able to see historic temples and houses that skirt the edge of the water.

The canals and rivers of Bangkok may not be filled as they once were but a long-boat ride lets your imagination run wild!

The floating markets aren’t too far from Bangkok with some of best located less than three hours from the city centre. Day trips can be organised from the Khao San Road and our handy guides can help you book them. Here are some floating market names to remember!

Damnoen Sanduak – the most popular.

Only about an hour and a half from Bangkok city centre, Damnoen Sanduak is the go-to floating market for tourists and tour companies in Bangkok.

If that floats your boat (yes, I went there) then check it out! If you’ve already had your fill of those weird frog-noise things and ‘Same Same but Different’ t-shirts, maybe give it a miss.

If this is the market you select, it isn’t all Americans with bum-bags. You can still find some secluded areas where you get a feel for the local culture of a floating market. You can buy fresh produce and Thai craft and take some of those awesome photos of baskets filled with colourful vegetables.

Amphawa – the local version.

Amphawa floating market is where the locals head to the water for their shopping. It is a Thai experience like no other as the long-boats crowd around the popular stall-boats for their favourite produce or freshly cooked food.

It is an impressive site, hundreds of long-boats crowding the small canals of Amphawa. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen really. The sights, sounds and smells will entice and amaze you as you bob along in a long-boat of your own, past countless stalls!

Taling Chan – the food-lovers paradise!

In all honesty, the food and produce at each Thai floating market is amazing but Taling Chan just tips the scales with its amazing seafood selection.

From fish heads to crab legs, and everything in between, Taling Chan is foodie heaven and is filled with locals looking for something tasty for their weekend lunch!

If you aren’t brave enough to plump for some seafood, there are plenty of other options to impress your palate at Taling Chan.

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These are just some of the floating markets on offer in the Bangkok area but there are hundreds more across the entire region.

You might not be a markets person or have seen your fair share of crowded stalls throughout your travels – a floating market with its mystery and wonder is definitely not to be missed!

Remember to take a look at our Ultimate Thailand trip for more information on an amazing adventure in Thailand!!

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

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

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

What Type of Bus?

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

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

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

Pay For More

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

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

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

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

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

Spread The Valuables

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

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

1) Tickets

2) Money

3) Passport

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

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

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

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

Two’s Company

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

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

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

Choose Your Seat Wisely

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

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

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

Travel Sickness…

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

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

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

Prepare For Cold

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

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

Ear Plugs and A Sleep Mask

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

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

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

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

Neck Pillow

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

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

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

Bite the bullet and buy one!

Snacks and Drinks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use The Bathroom Breaks

This one goes without saying.

Plan For Your Arrival

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travelling around Thailand and South East Asia is guaranteed to be an amazing and memorable experience. But we don’t want it to be memorable for all the wrong reasons…. like contracting a nasty but preventable disease! Make sure you take all the possible precautions to keep yourself safe, happy and healthy. We recommended that you contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip, telling them where you are going and for how long and they can give you the best possible advice, tailored to your individual needs. The most commonly recommended vaccinations for Thailand are Hepatitis A and Typhoid, but you can read more information about these and others here.

With Ultimate Thailand, you don’t travel into any high risk malaria zones, and high strength insect repellent and common sense should be sufficient in keeping those pesky insects at bay. If you do plan on doing onward travel in the north of Thailand or its bordering countries, Laos or Cambodia, for example, you may need to take preventative anti-malarial medication. Your GP will be able to advise if this is necessary.

It is very important to get the necessary vaccinations before you travel, but it is equally important to be aware of other health issues that cannot be vaccinated against. In fact, the most common health problems encountered by travellers come from food and water borne diseases, and a staggering 60% of travellers can be affected. Adhering to simple food and water safety advice should be enough to avoid the Thai Trots, Delhi Belly or whatever else you want to call it! Have a look at this site for advice.

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, things can go wrong and you may need the help of a doctor while you are away. Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance for your trip, it is mandatory for the tour. Have a look at quotes here

… Happy travelling!

Hey guys! It’s very nearly Christmas and we’re all excited at Ultimate Thailand!

If you’re lucky enough to be spending Christmas in Thailand this year, you may expect to find the celebrations a little different to that which you are used to! 25th December is not a that is recognized as a holiday in Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country. So even though it’s Christmas day, all the schools, offices and shops will remain open.

In Bangkok, although it is not a traditional holiday, it is becoming more and more popular, most likely due to the huge tourist industry that exists here. Although the weather is warm and you’re very unlikely to see snow, you won’t feel too far removed from the usual Christmas atmosphere in a big city like Bangkok. All the major shopping malls will be decorated and there are even walking tours you can join if you wish to seek out the best decoration displays in town!

Head to Central World, a huge shopping mall with an equally huge Christmas tree found in the front plaza and many other decorations to be seen inside. Equally impressive, are the decorations in neighbouring malls, the Paragon Mall, MBK Mall and Amarin Plaza … all worth checking out if Christmas decorations are your things.

Chitralada Palace is surrounded by fairy lights … they are not intended for Christmas but they have been described in the past as ‘enchanting and beautiful’. If you decide to go down and check them out, the evening is the best time. Don’t get too close to the building however, or you may find yourself face to face with less than impressed armed guards. (Not recommended!)

If the idea of missing out on a traditional Christmas dinner makes you want to weep in to your eggnog, don’t despair! There are plenty of places you can go for a decent dinner with all the trimmings … we recommend the Londoner on Sukhumvit Road, where you can get turkey and stuffing and a Christmas pud for about 1400 baht per person (roughly AUD$48 or £27) or got to the Dubliner for roast turkey and mince pies for about 1000 baht per person (roughly AUD$34 or £19).

Don’t forget to Skype your friends and family to wish them a Merry Christmas and tell them what you’re up to! (Your mum will never forgive you!!) Most hostels have Wi-Fi available but if yours doesn’t , or you’re out and about and need the internet, there are heaps of free Wi-Fi spots in Bangkok. Find the spot closest to you here. Now you have no excuse!!

So, if you’re worried that you won’t be able to get in to the Christmas spirit, being so far from home, don’t! There isn’t too much different to how you would celebrate at home. The thing you’ll struggle with the most, is getting used to it being warm on Christmas Day … and let’s face it, that’s not the worst struggle to come up against is it!

Let Ultimate Thailand know how your Thai Christmas was! Where were you? What did you get up to? What ever you do, make your Christmas in Thailand one to remember! Tell us all about it on our Facebook page … until then – Suksun Wan Christmas!