When you think of Morocco as a backpacker destination many people instantly think of bustling souks, Marrakech, camel rides and desert Berberes.

And to a large extent that’s what Morocco is about! It’s a country rich in culture, local markets and has a large history of nomadic people of the desert.

But Morocco alos has and amazingly rugged and empty coastline too – which means one thing to a person like me…SURF!

 

moroccan souks
The Souks – Great For a Haggle and Some Bargains!

Drawing Me Back

I first headed to Morocco back in 2008 with my little bro – with the aim of scoring a heap of warm water waves. And it was an epic success – despite the roughness around the edges we both loved the place!

The surf was perfect, the local cuisine was nothing short of mouth watering, the living was cheap and the weather was a solid 25 degrees+ our entire stay! What more could a travelling surfer ask for?!

In fact I liked it so much I went back a second time after my trip to Oz – and if you’ve seen my travel blog (Backpacker Banter) you’ll know that I just spent 4months working there as a surf coach – what more of a personal recommendation do you need?!

 

Perfect Winter Escape

Even though the cost of living in Morocco has risen slightly (especially in the surf towns) – it’s still heaps cheaper than it’s European counterparts. Not only that but flights to Morocco can still be had for under £100 return, and Easyjet will even take your surfboard (up to 9foot) for £40 all in…now that’s an epic deal!

For me Morocco is the perfect winter escape for any surfer – as the UK water temps start to plummet (and I wont even get started on the air temperature!) Morocco is considerably warmer, you’ll still need a 3/2 suit over the main part of their winter (Dec-Apr) but you’ll spend your time out of the water basking in glorious sunshine and boardies!

The one things I’d suggest if you do a large surf trip to this part of the world though is to take all the kit you need and a heap of spares too. Things like ding repair kits, wetsuits wax, FCS thruster fins and hire boards can be ridiculously expensive in places like Taghazout, and outside of that area they can be near on impossible to locate…so come stocked up!

The upside of being so prepared also means you can sell some stuff if your cash runs short!

 

Waves Waves Waves

surf travel morocco
Warm Water And Pumping Waves!

Wave wise Morocco main surf region is around the sleepy town of Taghazout – about an hour north of Agadir and a 3-4hour bus journey down from Marrrakech.

In all my surf travels I’ve never found a place so concentrated with a variety of surf spots that draws in so much swell!

If you base yourself in Taghazout you’ll have a solid amount of spots (I’m talking in the 20’s here!) within a 10min drive of the village, although to be honest you can walk to most of them! They range from easy beginner beach breaks like Croc Beach and Panoramas right through to pumping world class point breaks like Anchor Point and Killers.

You can check out my Moroccan Mini Surf Guide over on my main blog – and this post including some shots of the surf PUMPING will be sure to get your stoke on!

Even if you don’t surf already and want to learn it’s a great place to start – with a whole load of surf camps to choose from – so whether you want simple surf guiding or full on tuition you’re fully covered.

So if you’re looking for some waves, don’t have a crazy big budget to blow on somewhere like Indo then Morocco is the perfect place to bounce – and at only 4 hours flight from Gatwick it’s perfect for a quick week long escape too!

Just make sure you relax with a mint tea post surf for me please – I bloody miss that stuff!

The stunning setting of New Zealand is the perfect place for thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies to get their fix. There are a range of amazing activities for all types of tourists, and the natural ruggedness of the landscape lends itself to some of the most awe-inspiring acts. Here are the 5 most extreme tourist attractions in New Zealand.

 

Heli-Biking

If speed and heights are what get your adrenaline pumping, you simply have to try heli-biking. Imagine watching the valley fall away underneath you as you take a helicopter ride over the magnificent scenery of Queenstown. Once at the top, you and your fully-set up downhill mountain bike are offloaded, and you begin the heart racing dash to the bottom down some of the most thrilling downhill tracks in the country.

ice climbing new zealand
Cold, But Beautiful! (I’m talking about the ice not me!)

If this appeals to you, consider checking out heli-skiing as yet another way to combine the thrill of flying with the adrenaline rush of some seriously challenging ski slopes.

 

Ice Climbing

The famous Fox glacier offers adventurous travellers the opportunity to undertake the trip of a lifetime. Fox Guides will harness you up, teach you the basics of climbing, then allow you to scale the massive vertical sheets of ice. This is an awe-inspiring experience, and the sheer enormity of the glacier is truly a humbling sight.

 

Caving

Exploring the deep, dark underground of New Zealand’s natural caves is the premise for this fascinating tourist attraction. Caving offers a serious adrenaline rush with activities such as ‘black-water’ rafting, abseiling down waterfalls, and climbing through some seriously narrow and twisting tunnels. If you’re even slightly claustrophobic you should probably give caving a miss. However if crawling through small spaces isn’t an issue, you will see some of the most magnificent caves in the world during this unique and exciting experience.

 

Zorbing

This bizarre trend originated in New Zealand and quickly took the world by storm. Basically thrill seekers climb into a giant inflatable ball, and are pushed down various hills. Naturally, the ball bounces around and picks up considerable speed as it plunges down the hillside. It’s an unusual sensation which isn’t for the faint hearted, or the weak of stomach for that matter!

 

Bungee Jumping

Last but not least, there is the extreme tourist attraction that New Zealand is the most famous for. Thousands of people queue up every year to jump off bridges and plummet into ravines, dunk themselves into rivers and swing through stunning gorges all in the name of fun. Bungee Jumping and Canyon Swinging are the ultimate adrenaline rush for adventurous tourists.

 

On The Flip Side…
Everyone needs some down time, so why not consider exploring New Zealand via cruise. You can get your adrenaline pumping by day, then take the evening to relax and socialise in the luxurious surrounds of your cruise liner. Carnival Cruise Lines are famous for their beautifully appointed liners and plenty of opportunities for an action packed itinerary when in port. This is truly the greatest way to experience the best of both worlds and see the natural beauty and magnificence of New Zealand.
Written by Emma Jane

Over in the UK, the Brits love their caravan holidays. Well it turns out that backpacking and caravanning have more in common than you think!

 

  • We both love extended travel
  • We share a love for the great outdoors
  • We love the freedom to hop from one place to another
  • We both like a bargain when it comes to accommodation
  • I’m pretty sure we all love falling asleep in a bed, some more than we care to admit
  • Not sure we understand the concept of packing lightly!

 

With so many caravan sites to choose from in the UK, it is sometimes a struggle to pick out your destination to pitch up. I’ve selected some of the best sites in the UK, offering you a range of events to keep you busy on your travels, or if it’s a quiet weekend away is what you fancy, you just need to know where to look! I’ve narrowed it down by featuring a range of different places around the country, so why not get a taste for them all and join the club!

If this will be your first caravan trip and you need help planning it there is a lot caravanning discussion over at Caravantalk.co.uk! Don’t forget, whether you’re new to caravanning or a seasoned caravanner, you need some kind of caravan insurance, definitely check out the Caravan Club website for this.

 

Low Wray – Cumbria 

Perfect for gentle-walkers, pop on your hiking boots as you stroll by Wray Castle, with views of the forestry to accompany you. No need to take the car out, off-road biking, walking and water-sports are all on offer in short distance to keep you busy. Good value for money at £8-10 per night.

 

Bay View Farm – Cornwall

No problem here if the sea is your thing, listen out as you hear the waves crash together. Literally, a five-minute walk separates you from the Cornish coastal path overlooking Looe Bay. Looking at about £10-20 a night.

 

Cedar Gables – Kent

Very small, yet very quiet – this site sits next to the nearby Bewl Water, perfect for your cycling, walking and in particular a unique fishing experience. Cedar Gables is also a partner with the National Trust, with many properties available to look further into.  £8-20 a night but do budget for electric hook-ups etc.

 

Vale of Pickering – North Yorkshire 

This site is situated closely to the North Yorkshire Moors, allowing you the chance to see some of the glorious highlands. A superb sight for families, with plenty to do in the town to keep the children entertained. Travel in low season to avoid the rush of people; if you do then you’re looking at £15.50 a night.

 

Lonely Farm – Suffolk 

A perfect get-away from anyone who is consistently disturbed by the hustle and bustle of work and traffic. This adult-only site highlights the iconic parts of East Anglia. The seaside town of Aldeburgh is very close and boasts the ‘finest fish and chips’ in Britain. £14 a night leaves you with a reasonable budget to go out and treat yourself.

 

So if you’re looking to explore the UK a little more (something that I highly recommend as it’s dead easy to underestimate the amount of amazing activities and sites on your doorstep!) caravanning is a great way to avoid the crowds, be completely flexible in you plans and explore some of the most beautiful spots the UK has to offer.

And the fact you have your accommodation with you just makes everything that much easier!

It’s not the most famous holiday destination; this island sits next to the Caribbean, and my god, what a way to discover this hidden gem. It’s not known by everyone, which is what makes this place so good. No crowds, no loud tourists, just you, the sea and a handful of new experiences to indevere. This island boasts a glorious turquoise sea, and wherever you are on the island, you’re never too far away from it.

Although this island is in itself, a unique little vacation, there is still so much to do and – even if you’re staying in an all inclusive it’s easy to tempted you out of the hotel!  Head over to Long Bay Beach to experience Kite boarding, something that has really taken off over in the Caribbean – whether your watching or just getting to grips with it, this water sports spectacle is an enthralling adventure. Everywhere you look, people are enjoying it, it doesn’t matter, no one is there to judge.

Take yourself down to Long Bay; it really is hard to imagine the silent shores gently wave in the sand only a few hundred metres away from the surf-goers and dog-walkers, a friendly little place where anyone is welcome.

If the beach lifestyle isn’t your thing, then Turks and Caicos is also home to some unique arts and crafts. Pop over to the Middle Caicos Co-op at Conch Bar, you’ll find over 60 stalls and little shops selling the most precious model sailboats, to the large drift wood furniture, a brilliant experience to check out some of the behind the scenes stuff that goes on all year round. This isn’t like your normal market either, most stallholders will make to order, so your vacation souvenir can be all that more personal when you get home.

A way of seeing just how much this place has to offer is to head down to the waters of Grace Bay. There, if your lucky, you might get a glimpse of Jo Jo the Dolphin – the island’s pride and joy. Spend the day sipping an ice-cold beverage down by the Bay, as young and old share the same experience as you. And don’t worry, if you don’t manage to see Jo Jo during your stay, you’ll be sure to see him on much of the local art, as Jo Jo is seen as an iconic memory of the island.

Grace Bay is also home to a lot of the attractions out on the sea, the bay is crawling with excursions and activities that you turn up and usually book on the day due to it being so quiet. Kite Sailing, ATV Tours, Bone fishing and even a chance to see the natural display on offer by the underwater glowworms. What makes this bay different is there is no stressful booking, it doesn’t take up any of your time, just pop down when you fancy it and they are very helpful.

As well as the mid-twenty temperatures and gentle breeze, Turks and Caicos has more than just the perfect weather conditions. During the night, the bay is lit up with restaurants offering a wide selection of local cuisine. The island will tempt you to try something new, as there are very little English restaurants. However, take it as a good thing and spend the night doing something you wouldn’t normally do. The Lraye cinema has been newly built this year and offers a selection of up and coming films, so if you are a fan of your home comforts, use the night to get back to basics and spend some time with the family or your loved one.

 

Where do you really start when you get into this huge city? Well, I’ve made it a little bit easier for you, here are some of my top places to visit once you’re touched down in Barcelona. Just two years ago I visited the city for a couple of weeks – I’ve visited all of these places myself – each of them being a unique experience I don’t think you can get anywhere else. Barcelona are famed for their architecture and there is so much more to explore than what I’ve listed, so take your time to check out the other Gaudí building located in Barcelona, but this lot will be sure to get your started…

 

  1. Casa Battlo: My favourite place to visit, Casa Battlo is home to some of Gaudí’s finest creations. These whacky colours and peculiar shaped buildings are all outside and provide a good shade as you gently walk around the grounds. Very different to any art exhibition you’ve ever been to!
  2. The Magic Fountain: A brilliant spectacle! Stand and stare as water is propelled out of the floor at random points throughout the day. Complete free to come and see and a truly romantic place to visit during the evening, with lights illuminating the venue and music to lighten the mood.
  3. Nou Camp: The Nou Camp is home to Barcelona F.C, possibly the biggest footballing side in the world, famed for their sexy football and world renowned players. The likes of Messi, Henry and Ronaldinho have all graced this hallow turf.
  4. Little Barcelona: A very pretty little place to visit, the sandy beaches and turquoise seas make you forget you’re right next to the hustle and bustle of the city. Many unique jewellery shops and a host of different choices for food in the evening, you will simply have to visit twice! The perfect way to finish the week, with some beautiful food and a view of the seaside as you walk down the lit up promenade.
  5. Las Ramblas: Las Ramblas is a great place to visit for the day to keep you busy. From street dancers to freestyle footballers, this 1.3km street holds hundreds of market stalls and variety performers to keep you entertained. I like to call it Barcelona’s ‘Covent Garden’ with a great number of shops also lining the stretch of road.

 

With it’s close proximity to the UK, numerous low cost flight options and vacation apartments in Barcelona to suit every budget there’s no reason to escape the cold and get exploring. Next time I’m back in Europe it’s definitely on my hit list…

 

 

Bali is a beautiful place with gorgeous beaches, great nightlife and it’s bursting with a rich, vibrant culture with bucket loads of history.

You could easily stay a few weeks and book any of the ocean front Bali hotels and lounge around on the beaches indulging in the delicious cuisine. You can enjoy much more than the scenery, since the country has so much more to offer. Here are just a few of our favorite things to do in Bali:

 

Hit the surf

The surf in Bali is out of this world and it’s a paradise for anyone who loves the waves. It’s a great place if you’re an experienced surfer but it’s also brilliant for beginners. There are plenty of surf schools, particularly in the touristy destinations like Kuta, where they will take you to areas with gentle waves. You’ll get a great price for a full-day lesson and you’ll be up on your feet before you know it.

 

Dive a shipwreck

If you want a diving experience like no other then head to the east coast to Tulamben to dive the USAT Liberty Shipwreck. The water here is calm and warm so it’s perfect for beginners and you can dive right into the old boat to explore.

 

Take a cookery class

After just a few hours in Bali you will realise that the food is to die for and you won’t find tasty treats like these anywhere else in the world. So the best solution is to learn how to cook it for yourself.

If you have the chance, take a full day cookery course so you can go to the market in the morning to pick your produce. You will stay with the class right until the end of the day when you will finally get to dig into your chosen menu. Then when you head home you can take a little of your travels with you and cook up a storm for your friends and family.

 

Stretch it out with a yoga course

If you head to Ubud in Bali you’ll be surrounded by hippies, meditation, art and yoga so you might as well embrace it and give it a go. There are plenty of yoga courses to choose from which are suitable for all levels. You’ll find some of the best yoga schools tucked away in the rice paddies for the ultimate in relaxation and peaceful solitude.

 

Monkey around in Monkey Forest

While you’re in Ubud you have to check out Monkey Forest which is in the centre of the town. The monkeys have been living here for hundreds and hundreds of years in the ruins of the three Holy Monkey Temples which were built during the mid-14th century.

 

Barter at the markets

The Balinese are a create bunch of people and the markets are packed with artistic creations, clothes, jewellery and unique souvenirs. It would be a crime to leave without a few goodies so get to the market and haggle for a bargain.

Bartering can be intimidating at first but it can be great fun when you get the hang of it. The general rule is to try and knock about 20-30% off the asking price.

 

Spot some dolphins

Head up to the northern coast of Bali to Lovina to see dolphins cruising through the surf. Your best chance to see them is around sunrise so take an early boat trip and there’s a high chance these gorgeous creatures will join you to watch the sun rise and playfully chase your boat back to shore.

This is an experience like no other and not to be missed!

Have you got anything else to add to the list of top things to see and do in Bali?

 

Yeah I know what you’re thinking;  Australian people speak English, I speak English, you speak English, what more could there be to learn, really?!

Spend just a few days in Australia and it becomes clear that language barriers do exist….you just have to know how to get round them!

It all starts with a visit to the pub, of course., or  hotels as they’re sometimes called in Australia.  You’re ready to order a pint of whatever it is you’re drinking and suddenly notice something rather alarming;

Wait, those aren’t pint glasses!

Pubs in Sydney
Pubs in Sydney - Courtesy of Creative Commons

No, they’re schooner glasses and it’s basically the norm in Australia for a lager or ale to be served in one.  A schooner is 425ml, about 3/4 of a pint.  A friend told me a few weeks ago that beers are served this way as, if you were to sit in the Australian sun with a pint you’d probably get halfway through and find yourself drinking warm beer (never good) but I also sense it’s something to do with the stricter alcohol rules which Australia also has in place.

There are some pubs where you can buy a pint but you can also ask for something called a pot which holds 285ml  – you’ll often find that you’ll get a free pot of beer with a meal in some pubs as a meal deal.

The above applies to Queensland and Victoria but in New South Wales for some reason a pot is called a middie.

In South Australia and pot is a schooner.

In Western Australia a pot measures 575ml which, being slightly more than a pint, is usually just called a pint by all the English people living there.

Confused yet?

Maybe it’s time for a lie down……but not on the duvet.  Nope, in Australia a duvet is called a doona.

Maybe you wanted to drink at your hostel though instead of at the pub?  For this you’d need to go to the Bottle-O or bottle shop, generally an off license where you can buy 24 bottles or cans in a carton called a slab, a few stubbies (small, 375ml bottle of beer) or a tallie (a long-necked bottle of beer.)

Ooooh and don’t forget the goon; yes, it’s a gross cheap wine in a bag but it’s cheaper this way to get blotto, loose or magotted!

At some point you’re going to have to eat though right?

In Australia a pepper is a capsicum and an aubergine is an eggplant.

A courgette is a zucchini and if you want a toasted sandwich you need to ask for a jaffle.

Thai Dish - chicken with capsicum
Chicken with pepper....I mean capsicum....no, pepper!

A chicken is a chook and a lolly is what we’d probably refer to as sweets or candy.

tasty cheese is cheddar cheese and cheddar cheese is that plastic cheese normally reserved for barbeques and kids lunch boxes.

Want a sausage from the barbeque?  Ask for a snag and if you’re having it in between two pieces of bread it’s a sanger.

Many of the food names though are just shortened versions of the original.  If a word can be shortened you can guarantee that it will be in Australia:

Avocados are avos

Brecky is breakfast

Throw another shrimp (read prawn) on the barbie and get a stubbie from the Esky – an esky is an insulated container for food and drinks, usually taken to the beach to keep your beers cold!

That famous Australian dessert, the pavlova?  Call it a pav.

Need to pop to the corner shop?  Here it’s a milk bar.

And there’s no need to waste your breath asking for a cappuccino, that’s far too much effort, just call it a cap!

And these are just a few of the many ‘Australianisms’ I’ve come across!  Can you think of any more?

This week’s #frifotos theme is…..Paradise! 

If you’re not familiar with #frifotos, it’s a weekly theme on twitter where anyone and everyone can tweet or blog about the week’s theme by using the twitter hashtag #frifotos.

We’ve been digging through our travel photos all week so here are our #frifotos of Paradise!

Koh Tao Paradise
My photo of Paradise comes from Koh Tao in Thailand. I just love sunsets on exotic islands - Dan

 

My idea of paradise is a sunset surf in Australia Byron Bay - Chris

 

Tulum, Mexico -Gemma
Where I though 'yes, this is paradise'... Tulum, Mexico -Gemma

 

Blue seas, check. White beach, check. Sunny skies, check. Infinity pool, check- Monica
lookout at Byron Bay
The walk up to Cape Byron Lighthouse in 30 degree heat wasn't anything like paradise, luckily this view of the beach, the ocean and the hills in the background made it all worth it! - Beverley
Diving in Malapascua
This place was paradise, not overly built up and the super clear water made for some great diving - Malapascua Island, Philippines- Poi

The East Coast of Australia, from Melbourne to Sydney (oh and Canberra…..) and finally up to Cape Tribulation in the far North of Queensland, is probably the most popular and most visited part of Australia and with a huge amount of exciting cities and beautiful beaches to explore we can see why.

But how can you travel Australia’s East Coast and see everything it has to offer?

Brisbane at night
Brisbane at night

1. Take a flight

There are two main budget airlines for domestic flights in australia are Jetstar and Virgin Australia (formerly Virgin Blue), both will get you pretty much anywhere on the East Coast, providing you’re not fussy about having to get a bus or taxi from the airport.

How about flying from Sydney or Melbourne to Ballina where, after a 30 minute bus journey you could be exploring Byron Bay or fly from Brisbane to Prosperine where you can sail, dive and snorkel your way around The Whitsunday Islands?

You can easily plan your trip to Gold Coast with Expedia and try your hand (or feet!) at surfing in Surfers Paradise, touch down at Cairns airport to explore the Great Barrier Reef, stick around Sydney to find the perfect balance between beach and city-living and while away your time in Melbourne with coffee and cake in one of its many cafes.

Flying isn’t always the cheapest option but if you’re looking to get somewhere quickly and conveniently then it’s definitely the way to go.

2. Book a bus journey

Greyhound Australia and Oz Experience both have different packages you can use to travel Australia’s entire East Coast in one go or, if you’re planning on working in Australia or just staying longer in places you like, you can opt for a 12 month pass – just use the calculator on their website to work out how many kilometres you’ll need over the year and you’re away!

The great thing about travelling by bus is that it actually stops at the most popular destinations – you can see the entire East Coast by bus easily without the hassle of airport transfers and departure lounges and you’ll easily make friends along the way.  Prepare for a bumpy ride though!

Byron Bay Beach
Byron Bay Beach

3. Hire a Campervan

Ah the traveller’s dream!  Riding around the country in a campervan, getting back to nature, cooking on a camping stove, beers on the beach – perfect.  Thankfully there are a huge amount of companies in Australia who want to make this dream come true, for a price of course.

The most popular choices are Jucy, Wicked Campers and Spaceships but there are smaller companies as well.  This is when your negotiation skills come in handy as your try and play one of against the other in a bid to get the best deal: to be honest, it works!

You can also check to see if there are any relocation deals available too – this means that, usually for something ridiculous like $1/day, you can ‘relocate’ a campervan to a specific depot in a certain amount of time.

Campervanning is the ultimate adventure and ensures that you get to see, stay and do whatever you want in your own time frame.

campervanning in Australia
campervanning in Australia

4. Hitch a Ride Part 1

This one takes a bit of courage but once you’ve stuck your thumb out a few times you’ll get used to it.  Obviously hitchhiking your way up the East Coast isn’t the most conventional way to travel and so you’re going to have to get used to being flexible.  There won’t always be someone driving where you want to go and you’ll have to change plans – it could be the best thing you ever did though; meeting new people and living one day to the next without any plans can be exciting!

Obviously if you’re going to hitchhike it goes without saying that you need to be careful and stay safe especially if you’re travelling alone.  Stay in contact with friends or family via text, keep your wits about you and don’t try and hitch a ride in the dark.

5. Hitch a ride Part 2

Wait, didn’t we already cover this?  Well, no.  Scour the noticeboards in any Australian hostel or even just pop onto Gumtree and you’ll find heaps of people already driving somewhere who want a road trip buddy or are willing to take a passenger, usually just for the cost of petrol money.

Again, this requires a lot more planning and a flexible approach but it’s definitely a fun way to meet people, have an adventure and catch a cheap ride!

How did you travel Australia’s East Coast?

Heaps of backpackers travel through Vietnam each year but where are they all going? Here are the main stops on Vietnams backpacker trail: Beginning in the north.

Sapa – Right up in the North West of Vietnam, Sapa is most famous for it’s trekking and home-stays, most visitors spend at least a few days exploring here before heading to Hanoi for some home comforts after some hard work.

Hanoi – It would be wrong to visit Vietnam without checking out their capital city. It’s a busy and noisy city because there’s always something going on just like any good major city. Why not book a Hanoi hotel for a few days to enjoy some of the best tourist attractions in Vietnam. There is plenty to do during the day and a thriving nightlife you really can’t go wrong.

Ha Long Bay – Chances are if you’ve spent more than a minute looking into South East Asia you’ve come across the spectacle that is Ha Long Bay, a must visit for anyone in the area.  This amazing seascape made up of thousands of limestone pillars is often visited via arranged 2/3 day trips from Hanoi but can be done independently. There are both sightseeing orientated trips as well as options for those looking for a bit of a party at the same time.

Hue – A small town located just above Hoi Ann does not receive nearly as many visitors as it’s close neighbor but if  it’s you’re sort of thing its well worth a day or two to explore the Imperial city.

Hoi Ann, Vietnam
Hoi Ann

Hoi Ann – One of the more popular stops in Vietnam famous for it’s tailors. Hundreds of shops offering to make just about any item of clothing you could want, out of any material you want.  Very well made and at ridiculously cheap prices it’s no wonder  so many people chose to get suits and dresses for all occasions made here and sent home.  Hoi Ann has far more to offer than shopping and is arguable one of the nicest towns in Vietnam to explore on foot.

Nha Trang – The must have beach stop along the route, Nha Trang is a typical tourist town.  Sit by the beach all day, take advantage of drink offers at night and maybe squeeze in a day at the waterpark.  What more could you want?

Waterfall in Vietnam
Dalat

Dalat – Your gateway to the mountains, Dalat is the most visited city in the Central Highlands and offers great adventure activities in the stunning surrounding areas. Easy rider tours are also a popular way to explore the often overlooked mountains of Vietnam.

Mui Ne – Another tropical beach stop, this town is often visited for the main attraction of sand boarding on the nearby dunes.

Ho Chi Minh City – Despite not being the capital HCMC is possibly the most known city in Vietnam.  It truly never sleeps and usually mesmerises its visitors instantly with the constant cramped flow of traffic that fills the roads. HCMC is huge and has tonnes to offer both during the day and at night, you’ll need at least a few days to even scratch the surface.

Mekong Delta – Where the famous river of the SE Asia, The Mekong, meets the sea at the southernmost point of Vietnam, this watery world is easiest seen via a guided tour and if it’s your cup of tea well worth the money.

We loved our time in Vietnam, and with great, regular, cheap transport available from The Sinh Tourist throughout the country it really is easy to cater your trip to exactly what you want.

Last week we were nominated for Hostelbooker’s 7 Super Shots by our very own rtwbackpacker Chris and we were thrilled!  Not only because it’s the first time rtwbackpackers has been nominated to take part in anything like this but also because it gives us a chance to share some of our favourite photos with you.

So without further ado, here are our 7 Super Shots;

The picture that…..takes my breath away

Twelve Apostles - Great Ocean Road
I drove down the Great Ocean Road in Australia in May 2011 and I knew the highlight was going to be visiting the Twelve Apostles. I even stopped myself from looking at any photos of them, terrified that I'd ruin my experience by seeing other's people's pictures! Needless to say when we arrived at the Twelve Apostles, with the sun low in the sky and the rocks standing like silhouettes against waves, it was as spectacular as I had imagined and the picture still takes my breath away - Beverley

The picture that….makes me laugh or smile

Backpacking Thailand
With my friends from home who visited us in Thailand for two weeks on Koh Phi Phi - Poi

The picture that….makes me dream

Diving in Malapascua, Philippines
Our diving boat on Malapascua Island, Philippines. I dream of swimming in this clear water everyday - Kirsty

The picture that….makes me think

Hamburg Zoo, Dan Collins
What's he dreaming of? Hamburg Zoo - Dan

The picture that….makes my mouth water

Fish Fillet Philippines
Fresh fish fillet in the Philippines - I was tired and starving and this did the trick. Poi.

The picture that….tells a story

These children followed me along the beach by Lake Malawi for hours. While her friends were all jumping around and trying to use my camera, she waited patiently until I told her she could have a go - Gemma

The picture that….I’m most proud of

Sunset on Stradbrooke Island
Drying off after a day of scuba diving on Stradbroke Island - Dan

We hope you enjoyed looking at our pictures and now it’s your turn…….

Our nominees

We nominate…….no-one!

If you want to show off your 7 Super Shots with Hostelbookers on your own blog, go ahead and say we nominated you then hit us up on Facebook or Twitter so we can see your pictures!

 

Whether it’s the delicate splash of water on your forehead from a stranger or a full bucket of ice water down your back, you’re going to get wet.

For those of you who aren’t in Thailand, quite simply, you should be!

What is Songkran?

Songkran is the celebration of the Thai new year; a three day festival that takes place between the 13-15th April each year and also just so happens to be around the hottest time of the year as well.

It’s mainly known now to tourists for the water fights that take place almost nationwide however the biggest celebrations are still found in the north of Thailand.  Chiang Mai is known as the place to be with Bangkok being a close second.

Last year I experienced my first Songkran and had so much fun that I made sure to still be here this year to get in on the action again. So once again I’ll be filling up my supersoaker and heading out onto the streets en route to Khao San Road.  Although every night is a party on Khao San Road, nothing comes close to the buzz it has during Songkran.

The festival is like nothing I have experienced before, everyone gets involved and everything is fair game. Thai’s and tourists enjoy a good old fashioned water fight. What are you waiting for?

A few pictures from Songkran in Bangkok last year.

Songkran Thailand
Khao San Road - Before the mayhem
Songkran on Khao San Road
The streets are full all day, water flying everywhere
Songkran in Bangkok
I love it 🙂
Thailand water festival
You can barely move but it's so much fun.
Songkran Khao San Road
No idea? but you see lots of interesting sights during Songkran
Khao San Road Songkran
It's not just water, the Thai's loved covering tourists in clay paste as well.

If those pictures aren’t enough to convince you that Songkran should be on your must do list for next year then you’re beyond help.

Happy Songkran Festival!

Well it definitely beats an office
Well it sure beats an office...

 

This week’s questions to the backpackers come from Simon Petersen at Man vs World, a new travel blog featuring weird and wonderful travel adventures backpacking primarily through Europe and South East Asia as well as useful travel advice – more often than not – learned the hard way.

His questions are all centered on travel blogging, so read on for some top tips and advice from the experts.

Web: www.manversusworld.com

Twitter: @Themanvsworld

Facebook: Man vs. World

 

Let’s start with an easy one. What’s the secret to creating a successful travel blog?

Beverley: I don’t think there’s any big secret but one absolute must is to be yourself; be who you are online who you are offline and vice versa.  People follow people!

Poi: Having a good back story would help, as much as people want to follow travel adventures they also want an interesting lead character. Someone asked a while ago what would you do differently if you could start over? Being a recovered heroin addict turned travel addict would be a pretty interesting back story haha (if you ignore the years of hell before of course but you get the idea)

Dan: I agree with Beverley, don’t be somebody else, just be yourself…. and try not to annoy people.

Chris: There is no secret – apart from hard work, heaps of time and a lot of networking… along with a good dose of luck too I guess!

 

What’s the best single piece of advice you would give a fledgling travel blogger?

Beverley : Jusy keep going, it gets better!

 

Poi: Don’t start something you don’t enjoy, if you hate writing informational posts don’t promise them, if you don’t enjoy writing them then I guarantee no one will enjoy reading them

Dan: Keep it simple. Doing too much too soon will probably wear you out and you’ll get fed up of blogging before you know it.

 Chris: Be prepared to lose A LOT of free time!

 

There’s a lot of great travel blogs out there. How do I get mine noticed?

Beverley: Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing with their travel blog, concentrate on yours and be unique.

 

Poi: Write a post slagging one of the big boys off, be prepared for a fight though (this is terrible advice).

Dan: If you’re writing genuine stories and enjoying it then people will like your blog and start sharing it naturally. Failing that, create another blog with 6 other people and hope for the best.

Gemma: I don’t have my own travel blog but because of my work I regularly read other blogs. I’d say the best ones out there are those that incorporate an element of humour- mention both the good and the bad experiences and really show the person behind the blog. Also, reading itineraries (then we did this, then we did that) is pretty boring for a reader- make sure you bring the palce alive.

 Chris: Network, network, network – guest post, tweet, go to meet ups…pretty much do everything I’m too lazy to sort out for myself! hahaha!

 

The word on the street is that most bloggers give up in the first six months. Did you ever feel like giving up? 

Beverley: I’ve never wanted to give up, the reason I blog is because I love writing & I’d never want to not have a platform where I can get my writing out there and show people that you can travel the world if you really want to.

Poi: Did I? Don’t you mean do I? I always feel like giving up haha. I just like sharing things from our travels and unlike many bloggers I have no desire to be a writer or make blogging a full time job so while I’m enjoying it that’s great and I’ll probably always do it but it frustrates me often.

Dan: So many times I thought “yeah, I’m getting nowhere, I’m going to close this mother fcuker down tomorrow” but then a few minutes later I’ll find some reason to start enjoying it again. I just remind myself I’m not in it for the money, page rank or any of that crap people stress so much over – I enjoy it.

 Chris: Nah – to start off I blogged because I wanted to keep my friends and family in touch with my travels. Don’t expect to start living off it straight away so simply make sure you’re enjoying it – else you might as well work in an office!

 

What do you get from blogging – besides fame and fortune? Have you ever gotten any free perks?

Beverley: If your aim is to get fame, fortune and free perks from travel blogging then you might be a little disappointed!  It takes a long time and hard work to get to where the top travel bloggers are now.  I’ve gotten a few free perks in the past (and some coming up in the future hopefully!) but it’s not the main reason I got into blogging 🙂

Poi: we’ve had a few things 😉 you’re gonna have to be patient though or have a very good pitch.

Dan: You mean we can get free stuff?! Ah man I’m missing out!

 

 Chris: I’ve managed to blag quite a few things – festival passes, accommodation, free tours, discounts, travel kit… and even a pimping new travel hammock… sometimes you’ve just gotta be cheeky enough to ask.

 

How do you guys find the time to blog while travelling? It mustn’t be easy!

Beverley: It can be hard when you’re constantly moving about!  I’ve been travelling really slowly, working a little bit along the way, and that definitely makes it easier 🙂

Poi: Not really an easy answer to this one but if you enjoy it and want it to work then you will make time.

Dan: I agree with Poi here. It’s a lot easier if you have your own laptop or something similar with you while travelling.

 Chris: You have to make the time. Plane journeys, train rides and hangovers are my most productive periods though!

 

Any other advice you’d give? or any questions you’d like to ask?

Sure beats Leicester Square
Sure beats Leicester Square

 

Incomprehensible station names, crazy interchanges and around 7 million passengers a day; taking the Moscow metro can prove pretty daunting for a first-time visitor to the Russian capital. But let’s be frank, this underground system is the mother of all metros. Its beautiful chandeliers, mosaics, sculptures and statues make it an attraction in itself. And it’s not all about its looks. The metro is also cheap (60 Rubles will buy you a ticket valid for 5 trips city-wide) impeccably clean and trains surprisingly run on time. Spanning almost the entire Russian capital it’s by far the best way to get around so here’s how to do it…

Get through the door

It may seem a little obvious but making it through the incredibly heavy doors without getting a broken nose is the first challenge. The constant piston action of trains pushing air through the tunnels creates some sort of vacuum meaning the doors swing shut so you’ll need to use all your force to push them open.

Learn the lingo

If you’re not familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet, its crazy shapes and symbols make reading the station stops pretty impossible, as they don’t tally with the English names on your map. Learning the language is obviously the best way around this but getting your hostel/hotel to write down the name of your destination in Russian should help you to identify where you need to go.

Erm?
Erm, which way was it again?

Use your hands

If you haven’t succeeded to learn the language (see above point) then you’ll need to revert to age-old sign language to buy a ticket from the kiosk. Tickets are either sold individually or in groups of 5, 10, 20 or 60 so use your fingers to signal how many you want. The price is usually shown on the kiosk window (thank god numbers are universal) so you’ll know how much to hand to the woman. Smile is not included.

Ignore the sleeping woman

At the bottom of each escalator there is a glass cabin and inside sits a woman. Her job is to sit there all day looking up at the escalator, monitor the comings and goings of commuters and make loud speaker announcements to anyone who does not obey the escalator rules.  She is usually fast asleep but even so, don’t look her in the eye.

Ask younger people for advice

Do not expect Muscovites to speak anything other than Russian so swatting up on a few key phrases  (such as “how do I get to Red Square?”) is invaluable for getting around. As in most European countries, the younger generation is more likely to have studied English at school so if you need help, try approaching someone who looks fairly youthful.

Keep your passport on you

Don’t be surprised if you’re stopped by the police and asked to show your identification. It is standard practice so don’t start blubbing as soon as they appear but you will need to produce your documents. If you don’t feel comfortable carrying your passport with you, a photocopy should suffice.

And finally… Take your time

With stained glass windows, Swarovski-dripping chandeliers and mosaics expounding the benefits of a healthy communist life, the metro stations are architectural marvels in themselves. Make sure you book in some time to simply go from stop to stop and gawp at the grand designs. You wouldn’t do that in London and New York now would you?

 

Have you been to Moscow? How did you find using the metro? Any tips you’d add to the above?

Backpacker Tattoo

With tattoo’s becoming more and more popular it was inevitable that tattoo shops would start appearing in major tourist hot spots and reaping the rewards from over excited travellers.

But will you regret a spur of the moment tattoo from your rtw adventure?

From what I’ve seen it all comes down to one question. Have you been drinking?

That’s right, impulse decisions often lead to regrets and when do we all make those epic mistakes? When we’re hammered.

I have nothing against tattoo’s, much the opposite I have plenty and want more but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be rushing into the nearest shop and getting whatever jumps out at me. Each tattoo I have has been on my mind and often the wall of my bedroom for at least six months before making the transfer to my skin.

Perhaps I spend longer than most debating my tattoo’s but a night on Khao San Road with a group of English lads is enough to convince me I’m doing the right thing. Throughout the evening one or two would disappear for half an hour or so before returning and showing off a new tattoo. You know the usual type of thing, a dodgy girlfriend’s name from home, random phrase’s all thought up under the influence of 5 or 6 beers.

It’s not so bad for the guys already sporting a few tattoo’s, although there will undoubtedly be some regrets in the morning at least they knew what they were getting themselves in for. What’s worrying is when their pissed up mate jumps up and declares he’s going to get his first.

One of the RTW Backpackers team getting a cheeky Tattoo

As each guy returned the tattoo’s were becoming ever more disappointing but there was no stopping them, your name on the side of your neck? Or Boys on Tour on your forehead? Really?

This is not the way to go about it, even if you do have some great idea pop into your head, take at least a few days to think about it, remember, this is on you for life.

Some tips for getting tattoo’s while travelling:

Know what you want – Don’t rush into getting something because you want a tattoo there and then. Take time and consider what design you want

Research – If you can try and read some reviews online, practically everywhere has an online presence these days. Someone is bound to have mentioned their experience in the shop your considering.

See some work – Many shops have many artists, be sure to find out who will be working on you and ask to see some of their previous work.

Hygiene and procedures – This isn’t someone colouring in your skin, we’re talking needles and bleeding. Do they use new needles for every customer? Is everything disposed of in a suitable manner and have they got a license for what they are offering?

It seems a common practice to get a tattoo and why not, like I said before it’s a great way to remember your trip but if you’re not careful it can also be something to spend a lifetime regretting. Take some time to come up with the perfect tattoo and find the perfect artist for you.

Have any of you had any tattoos done while travelling? And more importantly…Had you been drinking?

This week’s questions to the backpackers come from Renata Wiles, an Australian politics graduate looking to come to the UK to work and travel. Her questions are all work related so if you’re thinking of working abroad, read on for some top tips and advice. You can find more from Renata on Twitter: @roamingrenata

What kind of jobs have you guys/girls been able to get while travelling, and were you able to get short term work (i.e. just 3 or 4 months)?

Monica – I’ve had a few. I started off working for a hospitality company in Sydney where I was basically a waitress for posh parties. I then worked for a company that did magazine subscriptions over the phone. I then worked in a coffee shop in Melbourne. I then worked on an island off the west coast of Australia. My title was ‘general island hand’ which meant I did everything from taking people fishing or scuba diving, driving people on tours around the island, cleaning, bar work or even making sandwiches. After that I worked for a courier company as an assistant manager. I organised the drivers and made sure everything was delivered on time. After that I worked as a copywriter writing content for newspapers and websites that included Compare the Market or even Fosters.com. I did this while I was travelling through Asia  and as you can see, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you can literally do anything!

Beverley – I’ve worked in Event Sales in Sydney, as a Barista/Sandwich hand at a cafe in Melbourne and as a Grape Picker when I did my farm work to get my 2nd Year Visa in Australia.  I’ve found that generally companies will hire you on a short term basis and then extend that if they like you and you’re doing a good job!

Dan – I managed to get a job as the SEO manager for some pretty big firms on the Gold Coast in Australia. They were cool enough with me to let me leave as and when I liked but I got to work at home when I needed too. Also tried my hand at working on a farm before I had to come home. I’d say be up front with the people if they are taking you on and tell them you only need something short term… most of the time this is a benefit to the company as it means they don’t have to pay you a full years worth of wages etc.

Gemma – Mine have all involved teaching or tutoring from two weeks up to two years. My year in France was organised by the British Council but other jobs were a result of applying to language schools or adverts in each country.

Chris – I’ve been going with the fun options! I Oz I turned down  job as a photographer on the Whitsundays in favour for working for Aquarius Hostel in Byron Bay and as the party bus driver for the infamous Cheeky Monkeys Club! Working for accommodation was the best decision I’ve ever made – you don’t necessarily have to make money, it’s more about saving it, and if you pick your hostel wisely you can get some great kick backs like cheap booze and free meals! Lately though I’ve opted to live the dream and work as a surf instructor in Ecuador!

 

Do any of you have degrees and do you think it helped you get jobs? (/if you don’t have a degree do you think it made it harder?)

Monica – I have a degree in English Language and Literature and this probably did help. Obviously I didn’t need it to serve cocktails but people are a bit more likely to spend a few extra seconds reading your CV when they see you have a degree.

Beverley – I have a degree in Media and Marketing and, although I don’t think it’s essential to have a degree to find a job, I agree with Monica; it definitely makes your C.V stand out against a bunch of others applying for the same job.

That being said, I wouldn’t worry if you don’t have a degree and it’s not essential!

Dan – No degree… no problem! I say that because the type of work I do you can’t really get a degree in. Most of my friends here in the UK have degrees and are now working in Supermarkets. I personally don’t feel degrees are necessary in this day for mid-level jobs. I don’t have one and I’m doing just fine.

Gemma – My degree is in French. Pretty obviously it helped me get a job in France but doesn’t help for much else… for the kind of jobs you might go for while away I doubt a degree is that useful; it’s probably more about your personality.

Chris – Unless you have a specific career path in mind whilst travelling I’d say you don’t have to worry…you’re a backpacker and you can’t really be too choosey about what work you take!

 

How do you find a job while your traveling? Do you ever try and get a job arranged before you arrive or do you just rock up and try find one once you are there? And if you are only planning on staying a few months are you up front about that when you get the job?

Monica – I found my jobs through websites like seek.com. Some of them were specifically backpacker jobs so they were aware I’d only be there for a few months. If it seems like a full time position I’d say that I planned to stay for 6 months and if I really enjoyed it there is a chance I’d stay longer. I did try to get jobs arranged before I arrived in Australia but it didn’t work. People would phone me and ask me to go for interviews or ask for my address and without this kind of information it’s unlikely your application will go any further. I’d definitely wait until you’re settled in a country before applying.

Beverley – I also tried to arrange jobs before I arrived in Australia but it was just impossible but I managed to find something within two weeks of being there.  I’d always advise giving the companies you apply for jobs with a follow-up call so that you stand out and they remember you.

Dan – I found my job in Oz after I arrived. I googled for companies in the area, sent them an email asking if they had work for me and then had a few interviews. I was upfront about being a traveller and they were fine about it.

Gemma – I always found asking staff in hostels a good way to find jobs – they recommended local recruitment agencies or companies that were employing at that time.

Chris – I agree with the others, you can try and prepare but you’ll probably end up winging it. Although on this trip I managed to sort my job, accommodation and such like before flying out which took a lot of stress off my shoulders! Never hurst to try and be as

 

If you are on a working holiday visa and decide you want to stay longer is it hard to get it extended?

Monica – I’m not sure about when you’re working in the UK but I know a lot of people who have done it. Australia has a different system where you have to work somewhere rural for 3 months. Lots of people think you have to work on a farm but I got my 2nd year visa through working on the island.

Dan – I’m with Monica on this one… not too sure about the UK but I did live with a girl who said she got her visa extended very easily while working here.

 

Have you worked in a country where you don’t speak the language?

 Monica – No. Only as a copywriter and the company I worked for was based in the UK.

Beverley – No not yet, but I’m definitely hoping to!  If you’re looking at doing this you can always look at doing a TEFL course to break you into the language.

Gemma – When I first went to France I could speak it a bit but realised I was nowhere near the level I should be. I soon picked it up & was pretty much fluent by the time I left. If you do want  to learn a language, throw yourself in at the deep end, get a job (i.e. one that doesn’t require you to speak it that well) and you’ll pick it up in next to no time!

Chris – Yup! But I’ve stuck to a place where its very much a backpacker hotspot so I can get along ok. The Spanish School I’m working for gives me free lessons too…but I’m picking more up by just mingling with the locals – which basically translates as I can ask for beer, flirt and talk about surf!

Kirsty – Yes! We’re living in Thailand at the moment. I’ve learnt a little bit of Thai but I really really struggle with the tones! It’s really easy to live here though, most people speak a little bit of English and sign language is a great help!

 

I’ve heard that with a degree you can often get jobs teaching English, even if you have no teaching experience. Have any of you done this and if so, how did you find it? Would you recommend doing some kind of TEFL course to do this?

Gemma – For most countries (particularly those in Asia) you’ll need a TEFL and if you’ve the time it’s definitely advisable to get it. There are however some places e.g. in China and South Korea where the demand for learning English is so great you can teach without one- as a native English speak they’ll snap you up!

Chris – I’m currently working through an online TEFL course. I don’t really have any plans to teach but I figured it would be a good string to my bow so to speak and it might come in handy down the line. I know in the UK though you can do a one year bolt on course to any degree and use it to teach.

Kirsty – you don’t need either a TEFL or a degree but you it will definitely help. Without a degree in Thailand you cannot get a work permit which means you will have to work here illegally and do visa runs every 3/6 months. Without a TEFL means that anyone with a TEFL would be picked over you. Plus a TEFL really does help to prepare you to teach, especially ones with a few classroom hours!

 

If you’re just staying/working in a country for a short time (i.e. 3 or 4 months) what do you do for accommodation?

Monica – Usually houseshares or the type of hostels where people stay for a long time. You’ll find these on Gumtree or HouseShare.com.

Beverley – Houseshares are definitely cheaper than hostels or renting an entire apartment by yourself and you’ll also get to meet new people at the same time!

Dan – I agree with the others; houseshares are the best choice. There was a company in New Zealand I was in talks with who tried to arrange something for me before I got out there.

Gemma – Definitely agree with the above- a houseshare is the only way to go.
Chris – Nah get yourself into a hostel – it will cost more but it’s heaps more fun and you’ll meet tons of backpackers! If you can’t afford to pay for it you can always ask around and work for your bed – couple hours a day cleaning in exchange for a place to kip….the perfect trade off!

 

If you can answer any of Renata’s questions or you have any you’d like to ask us, just let us know in the comments below.

This week’s #FriFoto theme is ‘wild’ so we’ve put together some of our favourite wild photos from around the world.

A Komodo Dragon on Rinca Island in Indonesia - Monica
Monkeys Thailand
The Monkey that stole my water in Thailand - Dan
New York in 'wild' weather - Gemma
New York in 'wild' weather - Gemma
Wild Joey
Wild Joey resting in its Mums pouch, Australia - Dan
Wild Lioness
Getting close to a Lioness - Dan
Wild gallah
Wild Galah in Australia - Dan
Storm Australia
Wild weather I caught on camera in Australia - Dan
Wild weather Vietnam
Wild weather in Vietnam - Monica
The lust capital
Amsterdam's red light district

 

Lust – Amsterdam, Holland

Amsterdam is as notorious for its red light district as it is for its for its quirky, artistic and ultra laid-back attitude. Hordes of scantily clad women (and men) line the streets of the Wallen acting as a huge draw for punters and window shoppers across the globe to ogle or indulge their fantasies.

 

Pride – Los Angeles, USA

The city of angels; where fake boobs, big hair and compact noses are more commonplace than hot meals. From the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to the uber-chic boutiques of Beverley Hills, LA is the place where people spare no expense to look their very best.

 

Greed – Las Vegas, USA

The ultimate sin city
The ultimate sin city

From all-you-can-eat buffets to never-ending drink re-fills and all-night gambling, the Nevada desert town is the ultimate Sin City. With everything in abundance and no check on time it’s hard to stop.

 

Envy – Dubai, UAE

A city of superlatives, Dubai boasts the most expensive, the biggest, the grandest, the tallest… of just about everything. From its super-sleek mall boutiques to its decadent hotels, be prepared for the green-eyed monster to rear its ugly head.

 

Gluttony – Paris, France

Where else can you indulge your food fetish than in the capital of haute cuisine: Paris. With secret street markets, bistros, cafes and restaurants aplenty, eating and drinking in Paris takes on a very new dimension.

 

London
You don't want to be caught in the middle of this in rush hour...

Wrath – London, UK

Stand on the wrong side of the escalator during rush hour or walk slowly down the street and you’ll see a cloud of red mist rise above commuters’ heads. What’s more during the north London derby be prepared for friendly football rivalry to turn somewhat sour.

 

 

 

Sloth – Barbados, Caribbean

The locals pride themselves on their relaxed and laid-back lifestyle so you’d be excused for taking things a little slower here. From catching some rays on the beach to wiling away the afternoon in a hammock the most you’ll have to move is to flag down the waiter for another rum cocktail.

If like me you can’t help but take football a little more serious than you should then you might be worried about how you’re going to keep up with the beautiful game while travelling.

Before we continue I have to be clear. This is aimed at the English folk out there. Not that weird in no way similar but similarly named game they play in the US or OZ.

So here is the thing, you need not worry – At least if you’re backpacking SE Asia.

It turns out despite the game being played in our own country, we have some of the worst TV coverage of the sport you could ask for.

It’s true living in Bangkok I don’t have the luxury of Soccer AM to soothe my hangover on a Saturday morning but that I can (just about) live with.  What I do get is every single premier league game, live on my television.  Not just the lunch time and late games like in the UK but every single game played across a number of channels.

It gets better still.  Despite meaning getting up in the middle of the night I also get all of the Europa and Champions league games as well.

Meaning since March this year I have not missed a single game of my beloved Tottenham Hotspur (Apart from a few friendly games, most of which were also shown live.)

But how was it when I was travelling?

SE Asia has been brilliant for the backpacking football fan. Often the first thing I’m asked after “Where are you from?” is “What team do you support?”. Football is huge over here it’s just a shame they all support Man U, Chelsea or Liverpool.

The big games are always easy to find, bars are always advertising the next games to try and draw the crowds in and many games are shown on channels available in hostels or hotels.

I remember once in a Cambodian hotel, after talking about football to the night staff he instructed me to wake him up at 3am to let me in the lounge for a game, can you imagine that back home?

The people in SE Asia have a real love of the game and makes keeping up to date with your team very easy.  Unfortunately it’s not going to be quite this easy all around the world. I found games a lot harder to come by in China despite the presence of shops selling merchandise of that horrible other team in north London. Luckily Internet access was often good enough to stream the games from the Internet.

That horrible moment is always inevitable with the internet though, your team is about to kick off and you can’t get a stream or find anywhere showing the game.  My best tip for this scenario? Throw stuff at the wall and blame your girlfriend while praying when you check the scored in the morning your team won.

 

Have you been able to keep up with your favourite sports teams while travelling? 

 

Mopeds are a lot of fun and SE Asia is a great place to take one for a spin, especially because they are so cheap to rent.

So no matter what your experience level, even a first timer, follow these rules and hopefully you won’t be battling  broken leg for the rest of your trip.

Always wear a helmet.
I’ll admit to not always following this rule especially on quiet island roads but I’m no role model and in towns it’s a definite must.  Not only because of the sometimes crazy accident rates around this part of the world but also because it’s the law.

Go with the flow.
Most traffic has a sort of flow to it. Judge how fast you should be travelling and how best to overtake from those around you. I don’t mean the guy going the fastest on the hard shoulder either, go with the majority.

Practice makes perfect.
Don’t get your new girlfriend from the dorm room last night on the back straight away.  Take the bike for a spin first and get used to the controls. Become one with the bike? Or something like that…

You’re on a moped.
Not in a scene from The Fast and the Furious.  Remember mopeds aren’t always the easiest to spot for car drivers so think first before flying round that blind downhill corner at top speed, it won’t be the car that comes out worse…

Check, check & check again.
Before you head off onto those wild jungle roads, make sure everything with the bike is working beforehand.  You don’t want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere and ending up as the modern day Tarzan.

Don’t play Evil Kenevil.
No matter what anyone tells you no one has ever cleared a canyon or valley, or anything worth note in fact, on a moped.  Don’t try to be the first…  You will fail.

…And now you’re safe. Safe from major injuries, safe from hefty repair bills and annoying insurance claims.

Do you have any more tips for riding a moped in other parts of the world? Or maybe a concern about your first time?

 

The courtyard of San Pedro
The courtyard of San Pedro

Ever since the plane landed on South American soil, I’d heard nothing but talk of the notorious San Pedro prison in the heart of La Paz, Bolivia. The backpacker circuit was buzzing with tales of the jail, largely due to Rusty Young’s 2003 book, Marching Powder, the must-read it seemed for every traveller in Latin America.

The book, a gripping exposé of life inside the prison, tells the story of a young British drug smuggler who, banged up for four years, came up with the idea of giving tours, thus creating one of the world’s strangest tourist attractions.

And after finding out the film version of the book is due to be released by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, I was desperate to see the prison for myself but looking through guidebooks it seemed that the tours had stopped. A crackdown by the Bolivian government after the release of the book I assumed.

On arrival in La Paz, however, I found a different situation. The tours were still happening.

I was given Kenny’s number by a pair of Australians, who assured me I’d have no trouble getting into the prison. And they were right. After speaking briefly over the phone, and mentioning their names, a friend and I arranged to meet Kenny the next day in the square outside San Pedro’s main entrance.

When he finally turned up, I was surprised to see how smartly dressed he was- donning an expensive looking suit and shining loafers, utterly out of place with the usual Bolivian attire. After handing over 200 bolivianos (roughly £20), we joined an apprehensive looking group of tourists and a further £5 later (a bribe to the guard on the gates) we were introduced to our guide Miguel.

Like most of the residents in San Pedro, Miguel was in on drug charges but had recently taken over the running of the tours. He explained he ran them to “raise a little extra for my children”.

And this is where San Pedro differs from every other prison in the world; whole families live inside (although wives and children are free to leave the prison during daylight hours) and the jail resembles a small town. Flanked by cells, there are restaurants, hairdressers and even a hotel.

“Many people live a better life here than out on the streets,” pointed out Miguel.

“We all have a roof over our heads and many of us have small jobs.”

Easy then to see why prison poses a better option for some in Bolivia where, according to Unicef, 59% of the population live in conditions of extreme poverty.

The tour lasted for a couple of hours and took us through the different sections of the prison. As prisoners are expected to pay for their own cells, sleeping quarters range from damp, rodent-infested holes to almost penthouse apartments equipped with en-suite facilities and televisions- usually frequented by rich businessmen in for fraud.

“Normally, people stick to their section, they don’t leave” said Miguel.

“If you go into another section especially late night you could get badly hurt or worse killed. The authorities always report this as death from natural causes.”

When asked why he could come and go as he pleased, Miguel said simply “respect”. His six-foot muscular frame was certainly an advantage and walking around the jail, his presence made me feel a little more at ease.

The tour ended at one of the restaurants. I ventured to buy a hamburger, more out of politeness than hunger, and it was quickly rustled up by one of the inmates’ wives.

Chatting while she made my meal, she told me: “I’m very happy here. I work, my family has a home and the children are happy. Outside there is nothing for us when my husband is in prison.”

As I tucked into my 50 pence hamburguesa, Miguel offered us all some cocaine, the ‘finest in the world’ he claimed and produced in San Pedro itself. Although ninety per cent of prisoners are locked up for drug-related crimes, a large percentage of the world’s white stuff is still produced from inside the wall’s of San Pedro, using makeshift ‘factories’ set up in prisoner’s cells.

I slipped Miguel an extra few notes and was genuinely relieved when the gates opened and the tour group was allowed to escape. After chatting to some of the other tourists, it seems you can simply turn up at the square at the beginning of the day and hop onto a prison tour.

At the moment, San Pedro welcomes through its iron gates around fifty to sixty travellers each day and the entry money paid is said to be used in the improvement of amenities for the inmates, however, the general corrupt nature of Bolivia makes me somewhat doubt this claim.

Anyone wanting to explore San Pedro should however act quickly. Once the film version of Marching Powder is released next year, exposing secrets of the La Paz jail, prison officials and government ministers will try harder than ever to stop the tours.

 

Have you managed to visit San Pedro? Was the ‘tour’ the same when you were there?

 

When it comes to visiting Ha Long Bay, a must-visit site for anyone travelling Vietnam, there are almost definitely too many options to choose from. One is to make the trip to Ha Long Town yourself and find a tour or private boat there willing to take you or, like most, arrange a trip from either a hostel or travel service in Hanoi.

Chances are if you’re part of the younger generation of backpackers you’re looking for more than just a good spot of sight seeing. If you are looking for a something more lively you should consider the Hanoi Backpackers Rock Long, Rock Hard, Ha Long Bay Tour.

As the name suggests the tour is arranged through the backpackers hostel in Hanoi and if you’ve stayed there for more than 30 minutes you’ll know exactly what it’s all about, having a damn good time.

At $120 per person this option is not cheap but you get what you pay for and you under no illusions what that is (a common problem with Ha Long Bay Tours). A three day, two night tour with everything but drinks included.

junk boat ha long bay tour vietnam
Poi jumping off the top deck

Day 1 starts with transport from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. After arrival the boat sets off and you’re immediately treated to a good-sized quality lunch before the boat anchors down and the brave among you can leap from the top of the boat for a swim. Whilst you’re splashing about, kayaks are being prepared for you to head over to a small island where a short hike gives you great views of the limestone cliffs you (may) have come to see. Back in the kayaks it’s onto a small cave for a quick look before heading back to the boat.

After some time to freshen up, its time for some more food before the real action begins. Your host for the trip will lead a number of drinking games and in many cases the boat turns into more of a nightclub with your own iPod providing the perfect music.

The parties can get pretty rowdy and go all night. The lucky staff selling drinks will keep the bar open until the last of you has stumbled into bed sometime during the early hours.

the jolly roger hanoi backpackers ha long bay tour
The Jolly Roger

Unfortunately after a heavy night the next day starts early with a 7am breakfast and many tired faces. A smaller boat transports you to ‘Castaway Island’ where you will enjoy the rest of the day and second night of the tour. A private beach complete with wooden shelters for bedrooms, a bar, table tennis, volleyball makes for an amazing day in the stunning surroundings with your new friends. Even if you do use some of the time to sleep off the night before….

A BBQ lunch is provided before heading off for an activity of your choice; at last look either wake boarding, banana boating or rock climbing. As each group goes off you’re left to enjoy your surroundings and by the time everyone has had their turn the day has passed.

The evening begins with another good BBQ meal before guess what, another round of drinking games for all to enjoy. Much like the night before your host will get the action underway before the night heads in whatever direction you take it and with a private beach, that means pretty much anything goes.

private beach ha long bay
All This beach to yourself

Day 3 starts early again with transport back to the main boat. It’s just a case of a final meal on the boat before a long tired journey back to Hanoi.

It’s clear this tour is not for families or those of you looking to spend time seeing Ha Long Bay in detail but if you want to have the best of both worlds with magnificent scenery and one hell of a party this is as good as it gets.

CC Thanks to David Mckelvey for the title picture.

Because we’re super cool, awesome and generally nice people we wanted to make sure this blog wasn’t just about us. Taking this in to consideration we’re starting a regular feature where we’re going to pass on our knowledge to you on any questions you may want answering. We didn’t want to limit this to just travel bloggers and so we’re welcoming everybody to get in touch and to take part.

So without further ado, I hand you over to our first guest:

RTW Backpacker
Meet Dom

“Hey, I’m Dom Lovallo (@dlovallo1) 22 years old and from Peterborough, England. I’ve just finished studying business at Hull University and I’m now just working hard and saving towards the dream.

During University I decided that I cannot just get a job and work till I retire and needed to see and experience the world. Already fed up of the mundane life of work and routine, I want to travel the world to have one big adventure, try things i would never do at home, meet some amazing new people and cultures. This is also the first time I would have been away from England for longer than a couple of weeks. I’m planning on setting off around October 2012… looking to get RTW flights booked around April time.

I’m going to start off in India (Goa) to ease into the travelling concept then travel up-north. Then jump on a flight to china, travel down the east coast then through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and ending up in Singapore. After that I’ll be flying to east coast Australia. I’m thinking about a bit of S.America but budget means might have to leave it to another time. I’ll hopefully be travelling for approx 8-10months… Hopefully longer.”

My questions to the backpackers are:

What size backpack have you used and what would you recommend?

Chris – I’d say smaller is better (I did Thailand on a 25litre for 3 weeks!) but in reality I’d say 70+20 …it gives you plenty of space so you don’t need to worry about creating a tetras tile packing technique and you can buy stuff on the road

Dan – I’ve got to agree with Chris. When I was leaving Australia (bearing in mind I had everything I own on me) I had an 80-Litre backpack which was far, far too big. Dragging it around was uncomfortable and just attracted attention. I felt the need to constantly keep checking it and having to move it out of people’s way. Having a backpack with a detachable day pack would be a bonus.

Beverley – I actually don’t have a backpack, I have suitcase instead!  If I was always moving from place to place then I’d definitely have a backpack instead but because I’m travelling slowly and therefore more long-term it’s more feasible for me to live out of a suitcase than a backpack.

Monica – I had a 65litre backpack and found that this was just about right. Any bigger and I wouldn’t have been able to lift it onto my back and any smaller makes it tough to find anything. I’d recommend buying one that zips all the way open rather than a toploader. I had one that only opened at the top so anything that slipped to the bottom pretty much stayed there.

 

What travel essentials would you recommend to pack for a 12month RTW Trip?

Chris – travel adaptor (much needed), a hardcore pair of flip flops, some good tunes to entertain you on buses/beaches/planes and an iPad – I don’t know how I’d travel without one now!

Poi: I’d invest in a kindle, reading is a must to pass the time on long journeys and settling for books you don’t really enjoy from a crappy book shop gets frustrating.

Dan – Definitely an iPod of some sort to keep you entertained if you don’t like reading. A small first aid kit, mosquito spray, a backup way of accessing money. (How boring am I?!)

Beverley – Dan you’ve gone all grown up and practical on us, what happened?!  I actually don’t think I could travel without my iPod, my iPhone, a large pair of sunglasses and industrial strength mozzy spray. But you also can’t go wrong with a small first aid kit and a travel washing line.

Monica – I agree with Poi – definitely a Kindle. You can buy virtually everything you could possibly need or want on the road so I wouldn’t worry too much about what you pack.

 

I’ve heard whilst travelling that plans can change quick, would you recommend investing in an RTW flight ticket or just winging it and buying just your first one-way flight?

Chris – it’s a difficult one! My experience from working at STA Travel says full RTW ticket – but make sure it’s a flexible one. You can plan a full RTW ticket to key destinations (i.e. into Bangkok and out of Singapore) and then bounce around as much as you like within that place depending on time and budget.

Poi: Don’t listen to Chris and just wing it, I planned on being in Asia for maybe half a year originally and I’m still here over a year and a half later. Who knows what you’ll decide to do once you’re underway!

Dan – Agree with Poi on this one – wing it! I know a lot of people who have decided to wing it as you may find you don’t like some places so want to leave early or you may like them too much and decide to stay longer.

Beverley – Definitely wing it because once you start travelling your plans with constantly be changing.  Opportunities will come up, you’ll meet people along the way and all of a sudden the plan you’ve got set in stone doesn’t look so great anymore.

Monica – I think it depends what kind of travel experience you’re after. If you know for definite that you want to be back home after a year and there are 4-5 countries you definitely want to visit then go for a RTW ticket. If you aren’t 100% sure where you want to go or how long you want to go for just wing it. It might work out slightly more expensive but you aren’t restricted by a schedule.

 

I’ve heard that the general rule for budgeting is approx $1000 USA dollars a month. Would you say this sounds about right taking into consideration that majority of the months will be travelling in cheaper countries such as India, Thailand etc and maybe only 2-3 months in Australia, New Zealand etc.?

Chris – Yes, although I’d say £1000! Australia is increasingly expensive to travel and that $1000 will balance out in the long run. It’s always best to be pessimistic with money – worse comes to worse you come home with some cash in your pocket. Best case scenario….you simply travel for longer!

Beverley – – I have no idea about budgeting, nor have I ever budgeted per month for my travels so I’m probably not the best person to ask! 🙂

 

How do you budget your money whilst travelling?

Chris – I stick to the $1000 rule and break it down daily. I tend to take a week or so’s worth of cash out and stick to it if I can – especially for daily buying stuff. Things like tours and that need to be approached in advance though and if I know I’m intent on doing something before I leave I’ll factor it in.

Dan – Considering I lost my bank card and had no other access to money on my trip I’d say the best way to budget is live off the bare minimum unless you really want to do something. Towards the end of your trip you can go crazy with the money you have left 🙂

Beverley – I don’t.  I earn shit loads of money working abroad, travel a bit more and then realise after a few months that I’m going to have to starve until I find work again because I’ve spent all my money.  I realise this is hugely irresponsible and would not recommend taking this approach to your travels.

Monica – I’m the same as Beverley. I don’t have a budget I just try my best not to waste any money. When my bank balance starts to get low I stop travelling for a while and knuckle down and do some work for a few months until I have enough to start travelling again.

 

What advice would you give somebody thinking about and wanting to fund a RTW trip?

Chris – start saving ASAP! That way if you decide to go (which you should!) the moneys good to go. If not then you have some good savings – it’s win win! Kill you’re social life and look at things as if they were parts of your travel – that £10 meal out might not seem much but would I rather have that or a hostel bed, 2 meals and a beer in Thailand?!

Poi: Basically what Chris said, look at everything in terms of what it could get you somewhere else in the world. You don’t wanna avoid going out with friends because you’ll start to hate saving but just skip the expensive bits, don’t eat out but meet them after for beers 🙂

Dan – What those two said ^

 

Beverley – Sell everything you don’t need on eBay, do your research, book at least one flight or get a visa secured for somewhere so you’ve got something to aim towards and don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing isn’t a good idea.

Monica – Don’t bother saving in your home country – work abroad! Working around Europe, Australia and NZ is so much more fun and you can earn some decent money to fund your travels. I found it easier to save in Oz because I was surrounded by like-minded backpackers who were on a budget and you have more motivation to save your pennies.

Any advice on the best company to get travel insurance from?

Chris – Without sounding like a broken record it’s STA Travel again! I’ve worked for them and for what they cover they’re the best. I’ve dealt with people needing to be flown home or get treatment and the under writer is really good – I have complete faith that they’d be there if I needed them.

Poi: Our travel insurance ran out a while ago…oopps.

 

Dan – I use the price comparison websites. I think mine ended up being £20 for 12 months from Virgin Money Travel Insurance which included winter sports, baggage lost etc. I even got a nifty little credit card thing with all of the details on so I didn’t have to carry around heaps of paperwork.

What would you say is the biggest highlight and best place that youve been whilst travelling that you would recommend to others to put on their itinerary?

Chris – Anyone reading my blog will know that Byron Bay, Australia is going to be my answer! Although Montanita in Ecuador – where I’m currently based – is fast catching up!

Poi: Since diving on Koh Tao I can’t stop thinking about it, I’m desperate to go diving again, although I’d do it anywhere really.

Dan – Australia. Hands down Australia is the best place I’ve been. There’s no specific spot I’d recommend I just love that country! If I really had to choose I’d say the Gold Coast hinterland.

Beverley – The Great Ocean Road in Australia.  Don’t let a tour guide take you down it though.  Hire a campervan and do it yourself, it’s so much more fun that way!

Monica – The Gili Islands in Lombok. They’re easy to reach from Bali and absolutely stunning. The nightlife on Gili Trewangen is awesome and the other two islands give you a real Robinson Crusoe feeling.

Is it worth bringing a laptop/netbook with me whilst on my travels or would this be just extra baggage when internet cafes can be used?

Chris – I always carry my laptop and my iPad. If you don’t need the full capability of a laptop though just go with the iPad –   it’s so portable you won’t even notice the extra weight.

Dan – I had my laptop with me on my travels but I did tend to get very protective over it where security was concerned and I needed it being a blogger. I’d say take it with you if you’re not mega worried about it and it’s not too heavy.

Beverley – I didn’t have a laptop for ages until I started taking my Blog seriously and knew the investment would be worth it so I bought one on sale in Australia.  Honestly though if you think you’ll only use it to go on Facebook and email then it’s probably not worth it – every hostel I’ve been to have internet access and you don’t have to worry about losing or breaking your laptop.

Odds of having travelling flings in every hostel you visit?

Chris – In EVERY hostel!? Depends how determined you are!hahaha! Flings will happen though…don’t fret young hormone fuelled traveller!

Poi: Jesus man, you’re gonna have to sleep sometime you know haha. I praise your enthusiasm though 😉

Dan – I’m agreeing with the others… every?! Haha. I wouldn’t say every hostel but I know for a fact every hostel I’ve stayed in there’s been somebody having a romp in one of the opposite beds.

Beverley – I would say that  odds are hugely increased if you concentrate on being friends with people and generally getting involved with a group and having fun rather than being that creepy person in the hostel who’s trying to get it on with everything that walks 😉

Monica – If you’re a hottie, the odds are high 😉

If you’ve got any questions you’d like the backpackers to answer, give us a shout!

 

Welcome to RTW Backpackers!

We’re 7 travel bloggers/backpackers from the UK, in fact you might know some of us already!

We’re all based in different countries right now but we’re coming together online to bring you our funniest, most scandelous, sexy, sometimes alcohol-fuelled, no-holds-barred stories from our travels so far as well as some fantastic guest posts from some other travellers who took up our offer of beer and internet-loving as bribery for writing for us!

Ok not really.

But at the same time we’ll also be sharing some helpful stuff too (because obviously we’re not just about beer and shagging) so that you can get all your backpacking questions answered by real travellers and get out there and see the world for yourself!

So if you like what you see, share this post on Facebook or Twitter and help us take over the world!!! Ahem…..we mean, keep writing this super amazing blog…..

“So who the hell are you then?!” I hear you cry.

Calm yourself.

We may have been a bit secretive lately but we’re now ready to come out of hiding (read: the pub) and reveal who we actually are!

So in no particular order…..

Monica from The Travel Hack

Chris from Backpacker Banter

Dan from Adventures With Dan

Beverley from Pack Your Passport

Kirsty and Poi from No Place To Be

Gemma from Gap Daemon

We’d love you all to become part of the RTW Backpackers community so if you’re not already, feel free to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks!

 

 

I decided to review this hostel as I’ve seen a lot of talk lately following the usual argument of ‘Hostels vs Hotels’ and ‘what makes a good hostel’. When people get into this discussion I always bring up the Guilin Flowers Hostel in China as my example of exactly what a hostel should be.

I’ve stayed in many different styles of accommodation over the last year and a half across China and SE Asia and this is still one of my favourites. Not because it has great views over a beach or I have fond memories of friends made there but simply because when it comes to making a hostel they got everything right.

So what makes this hostel stand out?

The best thing about YHA flowers is it’s homely charm. The large lounge full of comfy sofa’s is a great hangout and place to meet other travellers, it’s the first room you come to entering the hostel and chances are where you’ll spend most of your time. The lounge also has a quieter area for reading or a quick snooze as well as a pool table, computers and a separate TV room with stacks of movie’s available. There’s also cheap eats available all day ranging from good Chinese food to simple western dishes and of course a fridge full of soft drinks and cheap beer, which of course is a must for any good establishment.

Guilin Flowers Youth Hostel

One of my favourite aspects of the flowers hostel is how it was designed with the backpacker in mind, something so obvious but that seems to be missed in a lot of hostels. One of the largest walls in the lounge has been painted to show timetables for all transport out of Guilin to just about everywhere, making planning your next journey so very simple. There are shelves full of books and leaflets giving you a guide to everything going on in the area built up over time from backpackers passing through.

The hostel is also home to some of the most helpful staff I have met whilst away. Not only are they friendly with a ‘help yourself’ sort of attitude but they actually know what they are talking about and seem happy to help with any questions you take to them. If you want to go somewhere just ask and they’ll set you on the way.

When it comes to sleeping you can chose between a bed in a four person dorm for only a few dollars a night or splash out on a private room for between $11-15. The one thing you might not like about this place? All bathrooms are home to those dreaded squat toilets, but hey, you’re in China right?

It’s also one of the cleanest places I have stayed, everywhere was spotless and no bugs in sight, including in the bed which is more than I can say for one of the hotels I used in China…

The final point is it’s location, not only is it in Guilin, a wonderful place to begin a journey along the River Li, but it’s practically just across the road from the train station so you won’t be lugging your bags around town for an hour after a long journey.

Before you ask this isn’t a sponsored post, just a request to anybody looking to open a hostel to take note, this is the example to follow.