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What Actually is Australia Day?

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

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

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

Sounds simple enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I  wanted to travel to Australia for such a long time, but never took the step to book a flight and come here. When I started studying Tourism Management in Belgium, I had the opportunity to apply for an internship at Ultimate Travel in Sydney.

I got excited immediately, because that was the incentive that I needed to start my travel experience ‘down under’! It took me a while to realize that I was going away for a year, but when I booked my flight and my visa got approved, it all sunk in. I kept thinking “What if the internship is not as fun as it sounds?” or “What if I don’t make friends?” But once I got over it, I couldn’t wait to leave!

Jana-1

“I started researching the travel side of my trip and changed my mind on where to go with every picture that I saw. All the beautiful beaches or the stars in the outback, I just added them to my bucket list. I bought a giant plastic map of Australia and hung it in my room. I started to draw circles around the places I wanted to see and soon, the map was almost black!”


“They’ve become my family here and I made friends for life!”


After a very long but comfortable flight, I arrived in Sydney. Everything was taken care of by Ultimate so I didn’t need to worry about accommodation or transport. When I finally met everyone from the company, they made me feel welcome immediately. Now, after almost 3 months, they have become my family here and I made friends for life! I never had a boring moment or felt alone since I arrived. I never experience the same day twice! That is one of the best feelings for a solo traveller. I enjoy working with everyone at Ultimate every day. I’m not just an intern here, I’m respected as a co-worker what makes it so enjoyable working here! I’m going to be really sad when I have to leave and I am terrible at saying goodbye but I know that they will support me with everything I do.

Tour-guide-2

Tour-guide

The only bad experience I have had since I arrived was my jetlag in the first few days. I was always tired and wanted to sleep, but I also wanted to explore the city! After overcoming that, I did some awesome trips.

During my internship, I also worked as a tour guide and went all over Sydney with the Ultimate groups. Doing the Sydney Harbour cruise and going to Port Stephens on a trip were some of the highlights during the week. I loved going to Basecamp there and petting a kangaroo, going sand boarding, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the beach when there was some free time! Finishing Basecamp on a dolphin cruise was just amazing as well.


“These are all memories I’ll keep forever.”


I still remember the first time I did the beach walk from Coogee to Bondi. The weather was really nice and the views were incredible. I was amazed by the entire scene. Just like the Blue Mountains trip that I did … from what I’ve seen so far, it’s such a beautiful and diverse country. There is something to do for everyone!

One of my favourite activities that I did during my time here was Surf Camp. When you are in Australia, you just have to learn how to surf! You feel like a local when surfing. It is a part of their lifestyle because they live so close to the beach.

But what are the travel options when you want to visit so many places on your own? My original plan was to look for a travel buddy and buy a van, but Ultimate Travel offers so many cool trips to the places I want to go. And the trips are in groups, so that would make it even easier to meet people! I didn’t book any travel plans in advance because I knew that I would have time to figure it all out when I arrived – it’s a good thing because I still change my mind about my travel plans every day … but that is what I love about travelling!

Jana-4

The places I really want to visit the most in Australia are the Whitsunday Islands, Fraser Island and Ayer’s rock. I can’t wait to see the Outback and drive the Great Ocean Road! I would love to learn more about the Aboriginal community and about the Australian wildlife. Kayaking with dolphins, hugging a koala, doing a sky dive at mission beach and scuba diving in the barrier reef are also on my bucket list! Hopefully I will experience all of this, with awesome people that I know I will meet on the way!

The time that I have to leave Sydney is coming soon so I have to have some kind of a plan. Luckily, my awesome colleagues have travelled Australia so they can give me some great tips!

Cheers, Jana 🙂

Interested in travelling to Australia? Get in touch for help, advice and arrival packages!
Check out our blogs for tips on travelling to Australia!

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

Halong Bay

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

Explore Sapa

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

Same Same But Different

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

Same same but different!

Hoi An

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

Hoi An lanterns

The Food

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

The food in Vietnam - Another reason why I love Vietnam

Ride Like A Local

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

Riding mopeds in Vietnam is the norm!

Cheap Beer

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

Grab a stool and drink in the street!

Never a Dull Moment

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

Meet the locals in Vietnam!

Beach Bum in Nha Trang

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

Nha Trang has got some great snorkel spots.

History

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

Learning about Vietnam's history is great!

Travel the Long Way

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

Travelling along the Mekong delta was incredible.

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

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Welcome Jess, the newest addition to our Ultimate family!

Jess has joined the UltimateOz crew as a tour leader over the summer months! She’s friendly, always has a smile on her face and let’s face it…she’s a bit of a ledge! Say ‘Hiiiii Jess!’..

Getting into the Aussie spirit!   Working as a tour leader for UltimateOz

Jess & her Aussie adventure so far..

“I arrived in Australia in November 2014 and had an amazing first week with Ultimate Oz! I made some friends for life, and actually still live with a girl I met that week! I had already travelled around and worked in America so Australia seemed like the logical next place as I was too nervous to go travelling in a non-english speaking country alone.

Since being here, I have lived in Sydney and Melbourne. In Melbourne I lived right next to the beach near St Kilda and worked as a waitress in the evenings. Mornings off were spent at the beach sunbathing or kayaking (living the dream hey!?) and I even got free dinner when I finished work –  awesome!

I also did my regional work in NSW on a horse breeding farm near Tamworth for 3 months to gain my second year visa, which I loved!! It was so much fun and working with animals was amazing. I’d definitely recommend everyone to do some regional work in Australia. Not only is it a great experience (how many people can say they worked on an aussie farm in the outback!?) but it also allows you to apply for your second year visa to spend some more time in Oz! Check out this blog for info on second year visas and how to get yours!

Working on a horse farm is a great way to get your second year visa   The countryside in regional NSW is beautiful   Working with animals is great!   Regional NSW has some great sunsets

After doing my regional work, I did a road trip on the Great Ocean Road in a campervan (absolutely stunning beaches!) and spent 6 weeks travelling up the East Coast on the Loka bus to Cairns. I loved doing the East Coast with Loka as it made it so easy to make friends at every place I stopped. My favourite moment of the East Coast was doing my open water dive course on Magnetic Island. Maggie is absolutely beautiful and I definitely learnt a new skill that I want to turn into a hobby! You can also hire little pink and white ‘barbie like’ 4×4’s to drive around the island. There is so much to see on the East coast so if you’re planning a trip make sure you give yourself enough time!!

Cuddle a koala on the East coast of Australia!   Hire a 'barbie' car in Maggie Island!    The East coast of Oz is a great place to surf!   The Whitsunday Islands are a East coast highlight!

I came back to Sydney to work for UltimateOz, hoping to make Sydney feel like home for the newbies arriving now in the same way my group leaders did for me when I first arrived. Meeting new people every week is so awesome! So what’s next for me? Who knows?! My bucket list of places to visit has doubled since being in Australia. Thailand, Bali, Fiji and Western Australia are top of my list right now and once my second year visa is up I may travel over the pond and work my way around New Zealand! I also really want to cage dive with sharks so I’ll have to fit that in somewhere!”

Want some help planning your trip? Just get in touch with our travel team for help, advice & discounts on travel!

Meet the rest of the ULTIMATE crew here and keep an eye out for crew updates & stories!

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

Travel is..

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

#travelis using a goon bag as a pillow – Becca

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

#travelis being out of your comfort zone – Ollie

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

#travelis never missing out on a new experience- Craig

#travelis getting lost and being okay with it- Holly

#travelis knowing every happy hour in town- Max

#travelis getting excited for the bottom bunk- Charly

#travelis feeling free as a bird! – Karin

What is travel to you? Comment below with your #travelis ideas! Share your travelling stories and pics with us! Like our Facebook page for blogs, travel inspiration and travel pics and follow us on Instagram. Tag your #myultimatemoment pics – we will repost our faves!

10 Places We Love in Vietnam

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

1. Food in Hanoi

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

2. Halong Bay

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

3. Hoi An

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

4. Nha Trang

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

5. Dalat waterfalls

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

6. Ho Chi Minh city

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

7. Cu Chi Tunnels

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

8. Sapa

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

9. Mekong river

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

10. Phu Quoc island, Vietnam

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

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

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

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

Plan your year

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

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

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

Finding work in Oz 

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

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

Suitcase or Backpack?

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

Keep in touch

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

Money, money, money

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

Which documents will I need for my year down under?

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

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

Looking forward to seeing you all in then near future!

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

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