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Why is 2017 the year to travel?

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

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

“But I can’t afford to travel!”

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

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

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

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

2017 is the year to travel!

Travel Now!

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

Come at us 2017!

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

Having just written a blog on why it’s better to travel single, I’ve done a full 360 and thought why not think about the pros for travelling as a couple too! Having experienced both, I know that there are definitely pros to travelling with a partner, not including the obvious reasons like having a shoulder to sleep on during long journeys and having someone to take photos of you! Here are some reasons (in my opinion), it’s better to travel as a couple rather than going it solo:

1. Give your brain a bit of time out

Travelling solo can take quite a bit of organising and self motivation. You have to be on the ball all of the time knowing that if you don’t plan something for yourself to do, it’s not going to happen! You have full responsibility for the places you visit and the things you do during your travels so travelling with a partner can take the pressure off you a bit! Being told what you’re doing for the day can be nice when you’re all planned out. You may also be talked in to doing something you would never have considered before. Too scared to do a skydive but know it’s at the top of your partners bucket list?! Chances are, you’ll be jumping out of that plane before you know it and loving it! Sometimes it’s good to go along with what other people want to do for a while and as long as you also make sure you’re doing what you want to do, you’ll probably end up experiencing more!

2. Your home away from home

Travelling by yourself can get lonely. It’s a strange feeling arriving in a country where nobody knows you and having that someone by your side can bring a lot of comfort, especially if it’s your first proper time away from home. However amazing travelling is, there are highs and lows, and there will probably come a time at some point when you just need a few reassuring words from a familiar face, someone to make you laugh and a shoulder to cry on. Just having someone there will bring you more comfort than you imagined.

If you’re travelling solo and want to meet people when you first get here, why not book onto an arrival package in Sydney, Thailand or Vietnam?

3. It will make you a better person!

Travelling with someone takes patience and compromise. You’ll both be faced with stressful situations at some point during your trip and chances are, you’ll take it out on the person closest to you: each other (we are human after all)! You’ll learn to bite your tongue and realise that most of the time, the petty arguments just aren’t worth it. It’s not like you can just hop in your car and drive to a mates house for a rant after all! You’ll be spending A LOT of time together so you’ll soon figure out how to handle your disagreements as adults (most of the time!)

4. Travelling = the ULTIMATE relationship test

If you can travel with your boyfriend or girlfriend and come out the other side smiling, with a stronger relationship, you’re onto a winner! Not only will you learn things about yourself and figure out how you deal with stressful situations but you’ll also see how your partner reacts and how well you work together to come to solutions. Do you communicate with each other when you’re faced with a sticky situation, do you shut down and ignore each other or do you have a massive shouting match? You’re bound to have a few disagreements along the way but it’s how you deal with them as a couple that will determine how strong your relationship is..and isn’t it better to find out whether you’re a good match sooner rather than later?

5. Two minds are better than one!

Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses so having that extra brain there will be a massive advantage when you’re travelling. At some point during your trip, decisions will have to be made (some not as important as others…beach or rainforest today!?) and 2 minds working together will take the pressure off you a bit. Having an off day? Your partner can take one for the team and take control of your plans for the day! Travelling together allows you to buzz off each other and help each other out when needed.

6. Save money

Having someone there to share some of your travel costs can save you heaps during your travels. You can share the cost of food, accommodation, taxis and other travel such as campervan or car rentals. Also if you’re haggling in SE Asia, you’re more likely to get a better deal if you’re buying two of everything!

Haggling with a partner could get you a great deal!

7. Safety in numbers

Nowadays travelling is generally safe, even for solo travellers. As long as you’re vigilant, have your wits about you and do your research beforehand, you’ll be able to travel around relatively safely wherever you go. Saying that, having someone there to look out for you is a big comfort and there’s no denying that you’ll be safer travelling with a partner that going travelling alone.

8. Some memories are better shared.

Some of the things you’ll experience travelling are better off shared with someone. Most of the time the photos just don’t do it justice and whilst you’ll always have the memory of that beautiful sunset or that amazing beach party , it’s great having someone there who has experienced it all with you. Once your trip is over you’ll be able to reminisce about your travel memories together.

So there it is…there are arguments for and against travelling solo & with a partner! So which way is better? In my opinion, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to travel. Think about what you want to experience from your travels, figure out what works for you and most importantly of all, go for what makes you happy!

What do you think? Comment below!

Travelling solo? check out our blog to read about the pros to travelling as a single agent!

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

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

What was the highlight of your trip?

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

 

Swimming with a turtle in Cape tribulation

What do you think of Cairns as a city?

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

 

The beautiful lagoon in Cairns

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


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

 

Chilling at Nomads Serpent

Did you go anywhere else?

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

 

The beach at Cape Tribulation

Did you do any activities in the Rainforest?

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

 

Zip lining through the rainforest

Did you see any wildlife?

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

 

Crocodile spotting in Cape tribulation

What else did you get up to in Cairns?

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

 

White water rafting in Cairns

Your diving pics looks amazing. What was it like?

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

 

Meeting the locals in the Great Barrier Reef

What is the nightlife like in Cairns for backpackers?

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

 

The beach in Cape Tribulation

Is Cairns good for backpackers on budget?

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

 

Cairns is a beautiful city

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

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

Where is next on your bucket list?

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

 

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

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

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

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Whether you’re a first time backpacker or a seasoned traveller, there’s always some handy travel hacks you can learn. We asked our awesome customers for their ultimate travel tips and put together a list of our faves..

1. Say Yes!

Now is the time to experience everything. Do things that you wouldn’t usually do and be a ‘Yes Man’ (within reason of course!) to make the most of your trip! 

2.Try the local food

There are some amazing local dishes out there – try them! Scorpion in Bangkok anyone?

Trying the local delicacies is all part of the fun

3. Travel first

If you’re planning on staying somewhere for a while, don’t settle in the first place you visit. Travel, figure out where you love & go back when you’ve travelled!

4. Try not to overthink things too much

Go with the flow, bro!

5. Pack light

Remember, what you pack you have to carry. Avoid the back (& ball) ache of carrying your shiz everywhere & pack a maximum of 2/3 of your backpack!

Pack light when you're backpacking

6. Do what YOU want to do

Even if it means travelling solo for a while. You’ll regret it if you miss something out just because noone else wanted to go with you!

7. Multi purpose clothes

Take clothes that can be used for different purposes. A pashmina for example can be used as a pillow, an eye mask, to cover up in temples and a sarong!

8. Wake up early

Seize the day! Make the most of your time travelling! You can sleep when you’re dead… Unless of course, you have a horrendous hangover.. Then and only then are you allowed to sleep in!

9. Email yourself a copy of your passport and drivers license

If you lose your ID you’ll need to be able to find a copy quickly.

10. Wear dark clothes

Light & white clothes won’t last very long as a backpacker! Also, you can get away with wearing darker clothes for longer if you can’t get to a washer!

11. Pre book a package..

It’s the best way to meet people when you first arrive! Check out our packages for deets!

Booking onto a package can help you find friends.

12. ..But try not to plan too much

It’s good to have a rough plan but planning too much leaves no room for spontaneity which is all part of the fun!

13. Stash extra emergency cash

..or bring a credit card with you. Try not to eat your cash though – however hungry you are!

14. Chat to the locals

They know their shit. You’ll learn more about a country from the locals than from any guidebook.

15. Roll your clothes

To save space in your backpack and to avoid creases in your clothes!

16. Take an extra SD card

Back up your photos in case you lose your memory card!

17. Splurge a bit

Sometimes it’s okay to treat yourself. Make the most of being where you are, especially if it’s likely to be a once in a lifetime experience!

18. Buy a pack of cards

Playing cards are a great way to pass the time on long journeys, to use in drinking games or even for the odd magic trick! You never know when you’ll need a pack of cards on your travels!

19. Get off the beaten track

Explore more of the country you’re in by avoiding the overly ‘touristy’ places as much as possible!

20. Write a travel journal

Even if you don’t want to write in it all the time. It’s a great way to look back and remember your travels!

21. Take an underwater camera

For all those epic underwater selfies you’ll be taking!

22. Get the right backpack

It needs to fit you properly and be the right size to avoid back ache. Front loaders with compartments also make it way easier to find stuff!

23. Brush up on your sewing skills

You’ll be surprised how often you use a sewing kit during your travels!

24. Baby wipes will be your best friend

Enough said!

25. In foreign speaking countries, learn some useful phrases in their language

Even if it’s just how to say ‘Hello’, ‘Thank you’ and how to order a beer!

26. Separate your clothes

Organise your clothes into separate bags inside your backpack so you can find stuff easily!

27. Carry tissues

Some countries you visit won’t have toilet roll in the toilets so tissues will be your saviour!

28. Pack a good hoodie

Even if the country you’re in is hot, air con will make indoor shopping centres and planes freezing! Get yourself an UltimateOz Hoodie!

You'll need a hoodie on your travels!

29. Tiger balm

Tiger balm is great for sore muscles. It can also be used as an insect repellent and on itchy mozzie bites!

30. Chill

Keep things in perspective, enjoy the journey and don’t sweat the small stuff! You’ll probably experience a few bumps in the road at some point so relax, try not to worry and remember it’s all part of the adventure!

Have you got any travel tips you can share with us? Comment below and tell us what you think!

Want some help and advice on booking your travels? Get in touch!

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Great News For Travellers To Vietnam!

Vietnam is one of the new favourite hot spots amongst backpackers travelling to, or through, Southeast Asia … and with good reason! Now, there’s one more reason to add travelling to Vietnam to your 2015 bucket list … depending on where you’re from, you may not need a visa to enter the country.

If you are from the UK, France, Spain, Italy or Germany and travelling to Vietnam for less than 15 days (perfect if you’re only doing the Ultimate Vietnam tour), you will no longer need to apply for a visa from the Vietnamese government. These changes apply to travel between 1st July 2015 and 30th June 2016.

Well, it was never too difficult to get a visa for Vietnam but now, it’s one less thing to have to worry about, leaving you with more time to get excited about your trip! It also means that you will save at least £54. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but at the time we are writing this, that’s about 1,850,000 VND (Vietnamese Dong) which is enough for you to live like a Rockstar for a month!

This is great for Vietnam as it will encourage more people to go and see the amazing things this beautiful country has to offer! And a boost in tourism leads to a boost in economy – happy days all round!

Already know that you’ll want to spend more than 15 days in Vietnam? (We don’t blame you at all!)

No worries at all – check out our Visa Information page and find out about the other visa options that are available …

Got any other Visa queries? Get in touch with the ULTIMATE crew and we’ll come back to you as soon as we can!

Winter is coming. In fact as of 3 days ago, winter is officially here! It’s that time of year again where we dig out our coats, gloves and scarfs from the bottom of our cupboards. BBQ’s by the beach become a distant memory and we start swapping cold beer for mulled wine and hot chocolate. Luckily for us, Sydney has got heaps of activities to offer to keep us busy in the colder months.

1. Christmas in July

If you’re from the northern hemisphere and you’ve spent Christmas in Sydney you’ll know that Christmas just isn’t the same here. Spending the day on the beach in the heat enjoying an Aussie BBQ just doesn’t feel like Christmas should: spending the day at home with family, in the cold, drinking too much wine and lying on the sofa in a food coma. This is where Christmas in July comes in to it! Sydney will turn into a real winter wonderland during the coldest months this year so we can enjoy the festivities, in the cold, the way it should be! Wrap up, hire some ice skates and workout on one of the ice rinks at Bondi Beach or Sydney’s winter garden in Darling Harbour. Can’t get enough of that Christmas feeling? Market stalls will be set up around the ice rinks to guarantee the ultimate cosy Christmas atmosphere. Nothing better than celebrating Christmas twice in one year with a hot cup of mulled wine! You could also take the train to the Blue Mountains where the famous Yulefest was born twenty years ago. Join one of the many fundraising events or organise a roast dinner with your friends!

2. Eat & Drink

It’s the perfect time of the year to indulge in hot, comforting meals. Eat your way through Saturday night’s hangover with one of Sydney’s amazing Sunday roast dinners. My personal favourites include the Anchor in Bondi and The Riverview hotel in Balmain – great meat, veg, yorkshire puds and gravy- yum! The Taphouse in Darlinghurst is also running Smokin’ Sundays winter warmer, the last Sunday of every month. Head down to enjoy spiced cider, mulled wine and beer by an open log fire!

3. Beach Walks

It might be a bit colder, but it will never be too cold for a beach walk! The Coogee to Bondi walk is one of Sydney’s most famous coastal walks and is well worth doing. A six kilometre long stroll along five picturesque beaches with the possibility to spot whales, what more could you want? On a sunny day you could even have an Aussie barbie using one of the public barbecues at Tamarama, Bronte or Coogee beach! Just catch a bus to Bondi or Coogee and walk all the way back, it’s as easy as that!

4. Vivid Sydney

Head down to circular quay to check out Sydney’s annual light festival. See the opera house, Museum of contemporary art and Circular Quay office blocks lit up with light installations and don’t miss BBC Earth’s light installation narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Hurry though- Vivid ends on the 8th June!

5. Imax Cinema

One thing you definitely have to do during winter is pay a visit to the IMAX! It’s the biggest screen in the whole world; you won’t know where to look! They show the world’s best movies here and even though it is quite expensive (approx $33) it’s well worth the visit!  There are places like the information centre around the corner and Grill’d (a hamburger restaurant in Darling Harbour) which offer some good discounts. Don’t forget to check out Groupon too – they offer cheap tickets every now and then!

6. Sydney Attractions

If you haven’t already been to Sydney’s main inside attractions, winter is the perfect time to do it! Check out the attractions in Darling Harbour: admire some beautiful sea creatures at Sydney Sea Life, meet one of your favourite celebs at Madame Tussauds or check out some Aussie animals in Wild Life Sydney Zoo. You could also hop on the ferry over to Manly to check out the Sea Life centre over there or head up to Sydney’s tower eye at Westfield for panoramic views of the city (perfect on a clear winter’s day!) Our travel team can help you book Sydney’s best attractions at discounted rates so get in touch for info! If you’re feeling lucky, go and put some money in one of the slot machines at The Star, Sydney’s casino! It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and serves you all entertainment you could ever wish for. When all bars have closed, this is the place to be! You don’t necessarily have to gamble all your travel money; just enjoy a drink watching a sports game on one of the TVs. Want to do some shopping? Try out Westfield in the middle of the city or in Bondi Junction, World Square or Broadway Shopping Centre.

7. Sydney Day Trips

Winter is the perfect time to head a bit further afield and go on day trips. You could spend the day in NSW’s wine region, The Hunter Valley, tasting the local wines, chocolates & cheeses and explore the Hunter Valley village. You could even head to the wildlife park to see some of Australia’s wildlife including koalas, kangaroos & emus. Another day, wrap up warm and visit the famous Blue Mountains. Take a bush walk through the national park to keep warm and explore the local village, Katoomba. Get in touch with the ULTIMATE travel team for day trips this winter!

8.Australian Culture

Did you come to Oz to get to know this beautiful country better? Expand your background in one of the numerous museums all around the city. History buffs should wander around in the Australia Museum or Nicholson Museum. If you’re an art lover don’t miss out on the Museum of Contemporary Art. More into small and cosy museums? Give Sydney Jewish Museum or Hyde Park Barracks Museum a try! Oh and don’t forget the Museum of Sydney itself of course!

Hope this gives you some inspiration & ideas on what to do in Sydney this winter. If you’ve got any other suggestions for fun winter activities in Sydney, we’d love to hear from you! Check out our Ultimate Travel Facebook for blogs, travel inspiration and photos and follow us on Instagram for travel pics! Tag #myultimatemoment to your Instagram pics – we will repost our faves.

– Freya, ULTIMATE intern 🙂

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!

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

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

It’s hard to settle in one place.

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

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

Believe in yourself

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

Adopt a ‘no worries’ attitude

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

Making new friends

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

Be more open minded

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

Become less materialistic

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new experience!

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

Farm Work in Australia

Money, money, money!

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

Personal reasons to do farm work!

Remember what you’re doing your farm work for!

The second year visa!

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

The friends you make!

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

Farm Work in Australia

Great friends and great memories!

 

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

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

Embrace it - you'll have more fun!

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

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

Ultimate Guide to Farm Work in Australia

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

Good luck!

Gayle xx

Here at Ultimate Travel, we’re thinking about the New Year and what new things we want to experience and new places we want to visit in 2015. We’re all super excited for our new Ultimate Vietnam tour that launches in just a couple of weeks!! (You can check out what’s involved here!) We also have a few new exciting things in the pipeline for later this year (watch this space!)

There’s no doubt about it … it’s all about travel for us here and between us, we have some big trips planned! Which got us thinking … what destinations are on your bucket list for the year? Where do you want to go and what do you really want to do while you’re there?

For two of our Ultimate Alumni, Josh Everitt and Henning Fredriksen, Thailand was on last year’s travel bucket list and when they joined us on our Ultimate Thailand tour, they filmed some great memories which they put together for all to see:

Maybe after seeing that, Thailand will be on your 2015 Travel Bucket List?? Why not get in touch and make that dream a reality!

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

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

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

Gayles-bucketlist

Dan's-bucket-list

Max's-bucket-list

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

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

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

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

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

Khao Sok NP

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

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

Ultimate Thailand group

Would you recommend it?

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

Ultimate Thailand group

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

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

Ultimate Thailand group

Did you encounter any animals along the trip?

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

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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!

Like us on Facebook for travel inspiration and follow us on Instagram for travel pics!

Here at Ultimate Travel, we love seeing our customers’ awesome travel pics and we love giving away travel prizes so, last month, we decided to run an awesome competition!

The competition involved asking our lovely customers to send us photos of their ‘Ultimate moment’ during their travels in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and South East Asia. All our customers had to do was post their fave travel pic to Instagram with the hashtag #myultimatemoment. After a month of getting some great #myultimatemoment travel photos, we had the tough job of picking our favourite. We finally came to a decision and the lovely @sar_rawrrr won a FREE skydive to do in any Australia Skydive location along the East coast of Australia – AWESOME!

All this got us thinking about our own ultimate moments. Here are just a few of the Ultimate staff’s favourite #myultimatemoment pics from this year so far!

Karin-PNG

Ultimate Travel crew, Karin’s Ultimate moment was spent in Hanoi, Vietnam. A bustling city with friendly locals, awesome street food, great coffee and millions of motorbikes! Visit Hanoi as part of the 13 day Ultimate Vietnam Adventure. Find out more about Ultimate Vietnam today!

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Ultimate Travel crew, Becca caught this beautiful sunset in Magnetic Island whilst taking an East coast  Australia road trip with a group of friends! She travelled for 30 days from Sydney to Cairns stopping at all of the amazing East Coast locations along the way! Check out our 30 day UltimateOz East Coast package and talk to us about how we can help you customize it!

Dan Sydney Harbour

Ultimate Travel crew, Dan’s Ultimate moment was cruising the beautiful Sydney Harbour on a Catamaran and swimming in the harbour with fellow backpackers. The UltimateOz  7 day Sydney package includes a day out on the stunning harbour- jump aboard for a day of swimming, aussie BBQ lunch, music and fun in the sun!

Max Uluru

Ultimate Travel crew, Max travelled to the Red Centre of Australia and got this awesome shot of Uluru at sunrise. His 3 day trip of the Red Centre involved visiting Kings Canyon, the Olgas and the famous Ayers Rock (Uluru.) In true Aussie outback tradition he slept under the stars in a swag – his Ultimate moment! Find out more about Max’s trip  … You can have the Ultimate Uluru experience too – just get in touch for more information!

Big-Dan

Ultimate Travel crew Dan spent a few nights chilling  in a floating bungalow in Khao Sok National park in Thailand. His Ultimate moment was waking up to the sound of monkeys in the trees and spending his days swimming in the crystal clear waters! Find out more about our 10 day Ultimate Thailand Adventure, which includes an overnight stay in the stunning Khao Sok National park.

Dirk

Check out Dirk, one of our Ultimate Travel crew, jumping through a ‘ring of fire’ in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Numerous bars on the island offer fire shows as part of their entertainment which includes locals juggling flamed torches and the legendary ‘ring of fire’ and encourage travellers to get involved! Do all this and more on the Ultimate Thailand tour!

Holly

Holly, another of our Ultimate Travel lovelies, travelled to the Northern Territory for a 3 day tour of Kakadu and Litchfield National park. Her Ultimate moment was climbing to the top of  Gunlom Falls and looking out at the breathtaking view over Kakadu National Park and you can find out how the rest of her trip went here! Is Kakadu on your bucket list? We’ll help you tick it off your list!

Charly

Charly, Ultimate travel crew travelled to the UltimateOz basecamp and met the resident Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Josie! Her Ultimate moment chilling out in the sun with Josie! You can meet Josie the kangaroo too!! Basecamp is a favourite amongst everyone who does the UltimateOz package – will it be your favourite too?

Check out all of the #myultimatemoment entries on Instagram and remember to follow us on Facebook for more Ultimate giveaways and competitions.

Travelling SE Asia is a rite of passage for any backpacker and rightly so! It’s an incredible place, with so many amazing things to do and see! But … you wouldn’t go to London and say you’ve seen England would you? Well, you can’t say you’ve truly seen SE Asia until you been to Vietnam!

Although growing in popularity, backpacking in Vietnam is still not very high on a lot of young travellers’ agenda. Which is a shame, because it is an amazing country! It may not be rich in wealth, but it is rich with culture, has lots of history and is home to potentially some of the nicest people you will meet on your Ultimate quest to tick off as many countries as possible!

This is exactly why we made Vietnam our next Ultimate adventure! If you don’t know by now, our Ultimate Vietnam tour kicks off in January 2015 and we are SO excited for it to start!!

When it comes to launching new tours, we’re very thorough with our research … a lot of hard work goes in to finding the best spots to take you, the best things to see and do etc. After all, it has to be the ULTIMATE tour of Vietnam right?!

So earlier this year, two of our lovely Travel crew were shipped off to SE Asia to check it all out and put something together that will be an awesome experience for everyone that joins us.

The stories they came back with were amazing! Here’s a little snippet of what they thought about their time in Vietnam …

What was your favourite part of Vietnam and why?

Ultimate Hanoi

Dirk: The island stay in Lan Ha Bay, which is part of Halong Bay, was stunning! We cruised through a maze of little islands, stayed on a stunning beach, ate amazing food and saw some incredible sunsets!

Karin:  I loved the authenticity of Hanoi … it feels like a step back in time. The food is amazing and the atmosphere is so different to any place that I’ve ever been before! Life is out on the streets all day and all night. People cook on the streets, people eat on the streets. We sat at little plastic tables, on tiny plastic chairs and drank beer from kegs with the locals.

Was there anything about Vietnam that surprised you?

Dirk: The coffee was crazy good! Also, despite tourism being such a big part of their economy, Vietnamese people live their own lives and culture. Ho Chi Minh is becoming more westernised but the north of Vietnam is still authentically Vietnamese.

Karin: I had no idea that the Vietnamese beaches and underwater world were so stunning! Pristine white beaches and Nha Trang is awesome for snorkelling!

What’s your favourite part of the tour and why?

Da Lat – Where else can you abseil down a waterfall in the middle of a rainforest?!

Dirk: Lan Ha Bay is a definite highlight! But I think the awesome buzz of Hanoi and the chilled out vibes you find in Hoi An will be popular with a lot of people who join us!

Karin: I think everything we do on the tour is amazing but Halong Bay and Da Lat are definite highlights for me! Halong Bay is incredibly beautiful and serene (and has the best food!!) I loved Da Lat because it was the first time I have ever abseiled down waterfalls in the middle of a rain forest – there’s not many places you can do that and I’ll never forget it!

Is there anything that isn’t on the tour that you would recommend people do?

Dirk: Trekking in Sapa will blow your mind! It’s not just about picturesque mountain scenery and rice fields, but also seeing how local Vietnamese people make a living, which makes you appreciate just how privileged your own life actually is.

Karin: Sapa for sure! It has the most amazing scenery and you get an awesome cultural experience! Comfortable shoes are a must as the trip involves a lot of hiking and climbing – it’s so worth it for the views!!

What’s your top tip for travelling Vietnam?

Dirk: Learn a few Vietnamese phrases, be curious and don’t be shy to mingle with the locals.

Karin: Do it with Ultimate Vietnam, we’ll show you the best places and make sure you have the most fun! :0)

Join us on Ultimate Vietnam!

Australia is one of the premier destinations in the world for whale and dolphin spotting as over 45 species call Australian waters home and they can be viewed year-round. May marks the start of the busiest season in the whale watching calendar as migrating humpback whales head along the East Coast to and from the tropical waters of Queensland.

Along the West Coast, a similar migration takes place. Humpback and Southern Right Whales spend the summer months in Antarctica feeding and then head up to Australian waters to escape the cold.

Every state in Australia is visited by whales of some description. The migrations along the East and West Coast, paired with the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in South Australia which has one of the largest Southern Right Whale breeding populations in the world and is home to Blue Whales – the biggest animal in history. Australia is home to nearly 60% of the world’s whales.

Since commercial whaling was outlawed in 1986, whale numbers have rapidly increased, particularly those of the Humpback, but many are still struggling as endangered species. For the next four months, Australia becomes a safe haven for all manner of whale species and here are the best places in the country to see these majestic creatures:

Sydney, NSW.

The Sydney coastline offers breath-taking views of Humpback whales as they move both North and South from May to November. The Bondi to Coogee walk is a spectacular place to watch these massive mammals breach as their huge splashes are visible for kilometres. Scan the horizon and more often than not, you’ll see a great puff of air, a tail or a spectacular leap.

The entire Sydney coast is perfect for whale watching, whether you head over the bridge to Manly or the Northern Beaches or south toward Wollongong, whales are never far from shore.

Many whale-watching cruises can be organised from Circular Quay and Darling Harbour and many will offer a money-back guarantee in the unlikely event that you do not spot whales. Whale watching season officially begins on May 17th and runs until November so you’ve got plenty of time to see this natural spectacle.

Port Stephens, NSW.

Ultimate Ozers will know the beauty of Port Stephens as it is included as part of the Sydney arrival package and is home to the legendary Basecamp! Made up of 26 glorious beaches and also home to a friendly pod of bottlenose dolphins, Port Stephens is prime whale-watching territory from June to November as Humpback’s make their way to and from Queensland.

Port Stephens offers a paradise that is easily accessible from Sydney. Just a few hours north of the city, Port Stephens is perfect for a winter weekend getaway and with the abundance of whales during the season, you’re almost certain to spot something!

Byron Bay, NSW

Australia’s most Easterly point, Cape Byron, is perfect for coastal whale watching. The rugged Eastern point of the continent offers tremendous views with or without whales but from June to November, you have about a 70% chance of spotting whales from the coastline.

Byron also offers year-round dolphin kayaking which is another once-in-a-lifetime experience. A winter weekend in Byron Bay is high on the list of the best things to do in Australia with its laid back lifestyle, lovely weather and awesome experiences.

Hervey Bay, QLD

The starting point for many a wild adventure on Fraser Island, Hervey Bay is also one of the most consistent whale watching spots in Australia. Hervey Bay is an important pit-stop for migrating whales and is the self-confessed whale watching capital of Australia.

A 14-year study was conducted into whale habits in Hervey Bay and revealed that 7 000 whales stop off in the area each year during the migration period. The best time to see whales is September as mothers with calves stop in the Bay to socialise with other whales. The whales are completely comfortable with the boats that frequent the waters as they travel this coast for decades and boats have to keep a safe distance from the animals.

So, if you are looking at a Fraser Island trip, why not spend an extra day in Hervey Bay and take a trip onto the water?

Exmouth, WA

On the other side of the country, Exmouth is the best place in WA to access Ningaloo Reef and the wonders that lie beneath. Ningaloo is world famous for its whale shark population but for a few months a year, it is also home to one of the largest groups of Humpback whales in the world.

If you time your trip perfectly, you could even spot both whale sharks and humpback whales, as there is a brief cross-over of seasons. Either way, if you sees whales or whale sharks, a trip to Ningaloo will not soon be forgotten.

Great Ocean Road, VIC

Different points of the Great Ocean Road offer different experiences. Warrnambool in Victoria is renowned the world over for its population of southern right whales. The calm waters of Warrnambool offer the whales a perfect nursery and hundreds descend upon the coastline from June to October.

Southern Right Whales come within 100 metres of the shore and specially constructed viewing platforms offer the perfect vantage point to spot mothers and calves, with males staying further out at sea.

Further along the coast in Portland, it is possible to spot the biggest animal in the history of the world – the Blue Whale! With an average length of 30 metres (a bit bigger than a basketball court) and weighing more than 170 tonnes (40 adult elephants), the opportunity to see these animals should not be missed.

To be honest, anywhere along the East or West Coast is a prime location for whale watching in Australia. Get in touch with us at Ultimate Oz and we will see what whale watching tours we can get you booked onto this season!

1. Get Prepared!

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

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

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

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

2. Get your phone unlocked!

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

3. Sell sell sell!

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

4. Soak it in!

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

5. Party!

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

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