Europe is much overlooked by a lot of backpackers – especially those from the UK. It’s true what they say – you always neglect what’s on your doorstep.

But the compact size of the continent, it’s transport network and sheer diversity of language, cultures and terrain make it an amazing place to explore – whether you’re new to the backpacking circuit or a travel veteran

 

The Land Of Pasta and Pizza!

If you’re looking for a holiday with a difference, you can’t go far wrong with a trip to Italy.

This glorious country is home to enormous diversity, ranging from sandy beaches and dramatic rocky coves to glorious rolling countryside and stunning snow-capped mountains.

It really does have something to suit every vice and budget. Whether you want to carve up the power on a skiing trip, kick back and soak up the sun on the beach or a  immerse yourself in the latte culture with a chic city escape, this beautiful, effervescent place is happy to oblige.

Take to the slopes in the Italian Alps and enjoy the chance to whizz down snow-packed pistes, or carve up fresh powder on a snowboard as the icy spray that follows in your wake glistens in the sun. Or, visit in summer to enjoy long rambling trails, pine-clad hillsides and beautiful wildflower meadows.

Whilst not as famous as it’s Swiss and French cousins the snow of Italy can produce some amazing powder days.

 

Town And Country

For a different scene altogether, live the postcard dream and hire a villa in Tuscany to experience wide-open spaces and rural country living in this stunning Italian region, which is also home to the fabulous cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa.

Following days spent exploring meadnering back lanes and cooking up a storm on the barbeque, you can head to lovely Florence and marvel at its stunning architecture and statues, or head to Pisa to snap that cliche but bucket list photo holding up the leaning tower!

Many travellers choose to go their own way on a holiday to Italy. Thanks to its efficient rail network and numerous airports, it’s easy to get here and to get around – especially if you hire a car.

Although package holidays aren’t the usual attire of many young travellers it can prove a pretty cost affective way to get a great overview of the country and is perfect for a quick last minute trip away – and with everything included it’s means you can simply kick back and enjoy your time away without the stress!

There are some great options in the the beautiful Neapolitan Riviera, but you can also book skiing holidays to the Italian Alps, or use your hotel as a base and hire a car to get out and explore the region. If that’s up your street head over to the Thomas Cook website and get started…

 

So, when will you discover Italy?

You may be tempted into believing that a stay in one of the tourist spots in the Dalaman region of Turkey is enough to keep you occupied for your week or fortnight in the area and for most people, you’d be absolutely right. It all depends on what you want to achieve from your visit to Turkey and while Direct Holidays can guarantee an unforgettable stay at one of the excellent quality accommodation options, there’s something rather special about taking time out to explore the rest of Dalaman and, in particular, the impressive and majestic city of Fethiye.

The Dalaman region is home to some incredible sights, notably the mesmerising coastlines and picturesque vistas, but that’s not all that it has to offer its visitors. If you’re staying in one of the tourist hotspots and you want to explore a little further afield, there’s a wealth of options available to you in and around Fethiye.

dalyan2

 

Shop till you Drop 

Head to Fethiye on a Tuesday during your stay and enjoy the huge open market that can be found there. From crafts and leather to spices and produce, the stalls cover a broad range of wares and are well worth a perusal – be prepared to haggle if you want to grab a bargain!

The streets of Fethiye are home to some absolutely incredible shops if the market doesn’t have anything to tempt you – jewellery is a particular speciality with the price of gold being much more favourable than the UK.

fethiye

 

Explore the History 

Fethiye and its surroundings are home to a huge range of historical sites that would make perfect additions to your itinerary, including the ghost town of Kayakoy and the Tomb of Amyntas – perfect day trip options.

 

Seek some Adventure 

From paragliding in the hills of Olu Deniz to white water rafting along the Dalaman Stream, if you’re hoping for a thrill injection, you’ve come to the right place!

Add a little variety to your Dalaman stay and incorporate a day trip to Fethiye or a book yourself onto an excursion – the beaches may be inviting but you could add to your Turkish experience with ease.

TeideTenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and is much-visited for its beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. But by putting the beach lifestyle aside, you can discover an island offering incredible national parks, such as Teide National Park which boasts the highest mountain in Spain.

So swap your swimming gear for hiking boots and discover some of Tenerife’s lush forest, exotic fauna and spectacular landscape. Here’s the low down on some of Tenerife’s best national parks.

 

Teide National Park

The national park encircles 3718 metre Mount Teide, which is the largest mountain in Spain. From its base, Mount Teide is the third largest volcano in the world. The national park in itself is the largest in Spain and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The nutrient rich soil in the park supports a diverse number of plant species with dozens endemic to Tenerife.

The park is all about hiking and enjoying its breathtaking views. You can reach the highest point of the volcano by cable car where you can walk around and admire the scenery. If you gain special permission from the park’s office you can even reach the volcano’s mouth, or alternatively you can take a guided tour up the volcano.

There is an expansive network of trails that stretch across the park, allowing you to experience the national park’s diversity on foot. There is even a challenging path to the peak of Teide that begins at the base of Montana Blanca and climbs from 2100 metres to 3270 metres to the Altavista Refuge. Make sure you’ve had your morning Weetabix before attempting this one!

 

Garajonay National   Park

Located on the island of La Gomera, Garajonay National Park is a key example of humid subtropical forest. The most humid and protected valleys of the park are located in the North and have the richest and most complex forests. Valley Laurisilva is a true subtropical rainforest where large laurel trees can be found. The park is also famous for the massive rocks found along the island which are former volcanoes.

The park is crossed by a large network of footpaths that makes trekking one of the islands main tourist activities. You can also visit the park by taking a day trip from Tenerife’s Los Cristianos area.

 

Caldera de Taburiente

 

Caldera de Taburiente National Park

Caldera de Taburiente National park is situated on the island of La Palma and is home to the enormous expanse of the Caldera de Taburiente. The caldera was once thought to be a giant crater but it has since been established that it is in fact the remains of a mountain that collapsed in on itself.

The caldera is about 10km across and in certain places the caldera walls reach as high as 2000 metres above the caldera floor.

Most visitors come for the extraordinary scenery formed by the crater and to absorb the quiet and peaceful environment in the park. There are a number of hiking trails of varying difficulty and length, with walking boots an absolute must. For more extreme and serious mountain hikes it is recommended that you hire a guide.

 

airport

Airports are a dangerous and powerful nemesis to your wallet. Even after forking out cash for your flight tickets, the subsequent spell spent inside the airport as you wait for your plane can rack up monumental costs. When you get slightly peckish you’re breaking £20 notes for a single mouthful, and when you get bored you go and blow your holiday allowance on arcade games and slot machines.

Remember, airport expenditure is not a cost-effective habit to slip into, so here are our top tips for saving pennies at the airport.

Bring your own entertainment

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and there’s definitely no scenario where time needs to fly faster than a dragging wait in the airport. An airport knows this, and it’ll try and lure you into all the fun it can offer, but at a heavy price. Stay away from the arcade games and put that crime novel back on the shelf. You should instead prepare for this duration of boredom during your packing session. Stick a book from home in your hand luggage or bring your iPad along and just play Angry Birds.

Steer clear of WiFi fees

Surely you’re in the airport to catch a subsequent flight that will take you away from your emails and Facebook account? Well let’s start this new habit early and avoid tempting WiFi fees. Often you’ll find WiFi in airport cafes or bars, naturally you’ll buy a couple of drinks and next thing you know ‘Bam!’, mortgage required.

Don’t pack overweight

A true holidaying classic – the overweight suitcase. Not only will you spend the next ten minutes deciding whether your large pot of mousse or your sixth pair of shoes will spend the next chapter of its life in an airport bin, if you can’t get below the required weight you’ll be hit with a fine. So get culling before you leave for the airport. Back light!

Stay away from potential souvenirs

This is another textbook airport scenario. You’ve forgotten to get your neighbour a present to say thanks for watering the geraniums whilst you were away. Thankfully the airport houses 54 souvenir shops all selling the same tack you could have got for a third of the price from the shop next door to your hotel. Think about your neighbours and geraniums early and get those souvenirs sorted pre-airport.

Don’t buy the food

If possible try and consume any food before or after your spell in the airport. Food in airports is accompanied by astronomical prices and let’s be fair, usually it is pretty unsatisfactory. I recall one incident I had in Buenos Aires airport – I had to resort to my Visa Debit to purchase a solitary Pain au chocolat, once seated and ready to enjoy my snack I found there wasn’t a single trace of chocolate within the innards of the pastry. As far as I was concerned this had ruined my entire trip and I’ve had a derogatory view of French pastries ever since.

Exchange your money before

Exchange rates are always going to work against you in airports. Get down your local post office before you head away and you’ll find you get a better exchange rate there. Use the same tactic for your return. Oh, and make sure you have a little bit of your own country’s currency for your return airport visit, just in case of emergency. Don’t leave yourself open to a panic currency exchange.

Get your essentials elsewhere

There is always something you’ll forget to pack. Whether it is the toothbrush, your swimming shorts or earplugs, there will always be something you need to get. But don’t give in to the convenience of the airport shop network; wait until you’ve made it to your destination. Most countries in the world sell toothbrushes, swimming shorts and earplugs.

So there’s some of our advice for chasing away those airport fees, if you need a little more inspiration check out these airport money saving tips.

 Do you have any other tips to save money at the airport?

I love Australia – it started my backpacking adventures back in 2009 and it’s still one of my favourite places on the planet.

Backpackers visit the land down under for many reasons – some for work, some for wildlife and some simply for the epic east coast backpacking scene. But despite being a relatively young country Oz has some heaps good culinary treats up its sleeve…so here’s a little guide to Aussie Cuisine…

 

Progression

Originally of course, traditional Australian fare was whatever indigenous foods were available to the Aborigines out in the bush. Then with the arrival of the British it  lapsed into the traditional meat and two veg meals that are the staple of the Brit table!

australian food backpacker
The Humble Bacon Sarnie – But A Bit More Posh!

After the Second World War however, with the influx of people from all over the world, first from northern Europe and later from the Mediterranean and Afacesia, the Aussie table once again changed as these immigrants brought with them diversity and tastes that up until then had been relatively unknown in Australia.

Over the years with the mixing of cultures and the blending of dishes, Australia can not be said to have only one traditional meal and has even re-vitalized old Aborigine favorites such as kangaroo and crocodile – which is always a different experience from the backpacker staple of 2 minute noodles!

Like most western countries Australia hasn’t  got a single traditional dish – in fact Australians have perhaps separated into two groups when it comes to their dietary preferences; there are the city dwellers and those that live in the country. In the cities and towns, especially the bigger ones, the diversity of the food matches the diversity of the cultures whilst in the countryside they are more restricted to ‘home grown’ fare.

 

Urban Eating

Although eating out in the cities of Australia may not be as inexpensive as perhaps the UK or the States, Australians love dinning out, which means that there has to be a large number of cafes and restaurants to cater to this need. This of course means that with a large number of restaurants, there is also a wide diversity in choices. It’s Asian neighbours have become a firm favourite with Vietnamese, Thai, Malay and Chinese restaurants becoming among the most popular.

So whether you’re staying in a backpacker hostel or using sites like au.hotelscan.com to grab a hotel deal you’ll be well placed to sample some great eateries.

 

australian food backpacker pie
And Who Could Forget The Pie?!

Country Eating

Although Chinese restaurants are starting to make an appearance throughout the country, there certainly is not an abundance of them at this time and so those Australians living in the isolated countryside do not have much chance to eat out and certainly do not have many choices if they do.

The Aussie pie is definitely a staple of the working Aussie though and there’s more choices than you could ever imgaine!

Traditionally in Australia, local hotels will sell meals at lunch time and the evenings but they do so between limited times and offer limited choice if any, often all hotels selling the one thing; steak, salad and chips (another lapse over from the British culture!). With such a limited choice to eat out, most Australians outside of the bigger towns cook for themselves but that hasn’t stopped them from seeking diversity and they have returned to some of the traditional foods of the Aborigine.

 

Aboriginal Food

Although there is now an abundance of better known meats available in Australia, the Aboriginal foods would consist of meat from Kangaroo, Wallaby, Emu and Crocodiles and in many backpacker towns you can tuck into an Aussie BBQ night serving up all of them. Other Aboriginal foods include Flathead fish, which although found all around the country have to be dealt with carefully as they have two poisonous spines on their backs, so be careful if you decide to go catch your own meal!

One of the most famous though it the Witchetty grubs –  larvae from Ghost Moths and were once collected for either eating raw or barbecued…although personally I couldn’t bring myself to try them.

australian food backpacker bbq
Get Your BBQ On!

BBQ

When anybody thinks of Australia, they probably think of BBQ – it’s the backbone of the Aussie household and beaches.

BBQs can be found throughout the country at beaches, parks and even some car parks, often free but sometimes coin operated. Although all Australians use BBQs, what they put on it can once again depend on where they live. If they live near the beach or coast they may BBQ shrimp or crab whilst those in the country may BBQ kangaroo or Emu.

 

Fruit and Vegetables

With it’s amazing tropical climate fruits are readily available in Australia both with perhaps traditional, well known ones like bananas, papaya, mangoes, pears and avocados and more local ones like Tasmanian Cherries and Quandong fruit.

A good variety of veggies are available too whether they are from America, Europe or Asia, they are all there. Vegetarian restaurants seem to have surprisingly become popular in this meat loving country so if you’re diet is swaying that way you’re all covered.

Although it may not be as cheap to eat out in Australia – especially if you’ve just bounced over from Asia, at least in the cities you will have as big a diversity of choices as you would at home and perhaps an even wider one.

Outside of the cities the choices may not be so vast but could certainly be different with many options being unique to Australia, such as crocodile eggs or grubs.

One of the great things about backpacking is the freedom this style of travel permits, and in this sense, Finland is the ideal destination. Its big, open skies and vast wilderness provide the setting for truly unique and thoroughly enjoyable vacations. Parts of the nation, particularly in the north and east, remain fantastically remote. For example, the Lemmenjoki National Park and Oulanka National Park offer quiet treks under pines and by lakes. In contrast, the capital Helsinki is a modern and bustling metropolis.

 

Summer Fun

During the warm but brief summer, the country comes to life in a burst of sunshine and travellers can experience festivals along with many other events throughout the year. Meanwhile, in winter visitors can enjoy dramatic snowy vistas while skiing, sledge riding and trekking. After a day in the elements, they can warm up in wood-fired saunas.

Backpackers keen to get away from it all while in Finland should make their way to Lapland, this beautiful northern outpost encapsulates much about this rugged yet welcoming nation. Extending hundreds of kilometres above the Arctic Circle, it offers continuous daylight in the summer and long nights in the winter. Holidaymakers in the area have a great chance to see the magnificent aurora borealis between late September and early April.

 

Get Cultured

At the other end of the spectrum, the coastal city of Helsinki offers style and culture in abundance, with plenty of museums, restaurants, cafes, Art Nouveau buildings and more. It also boasts great nightlife, particularly in summer. However, backpackers should note that there is a lack of cheap accommodation in the city and from mid-May to mid-August, it’s a good idea for holidaymakers to book in advance. In general, Finland offers lots of good quality hotels, but they are notoriously pricey. Those looking for budget options should set their sights on youth hostels as they are more affordable.

During the warmer months, the Lakeland region in the east of the country is well worth checking out. Here, lakes, rivers, locks and canals abound and visitors can take to the water in canoes and ferries. Meanwhile, the south coast also has plenty to offer. Its various coastal settlements include the city of Turku and tourists can check out a series of historic ironworks that have been turned into rural retreats.

Backpackers looking for budget for breaks in Finland should bear in mind that, as well as pricey accommodation, they will have to cover relatively high transport costs. Also, alcohol doesn’t come cheap, so nights out can leave wallets feeling distinctly lighter. That said booze from stores is more affordable.

So we’ve been a bit slack on the blogging front lately – the whole team is pretty busy bouncing around juggling travel and work (oh it’s a tough life hey) so we’ve decided to recruit a new face to the RTW Backpackers Team to help provide some entertainment and lighten the hard, arduous work load of blogging!

I’ve been following a few amazing travellers who I can tell will be having some heaps good adventures over the coming few months but it was a tough decision decided who would add some chaos to the mixing pot!

So let me introduce our newest wandering nomad – Stephen…

 

stephen a backpacker tale rtw backpackers blog
Meet Stephen!

So Stephen, introduce yourself…who are you and where are you from?!

Right! I’m an aspiring travel writer, adventure junkie, and world-wide vagabond from Ohio. In 2006, I took a trip to Ireland that rocked my world. After that trip, I went back home and nothing was the same. I had my first taste of a bigger world and backpacking culture; I fell in love with both.

Every year I would eagerly wait for summer, when I could take off for 3 months. At the end of each trip it was harder to come home. Two years ago I couldn’t take switching back and forth anymore and I started my path towards becoming a full-time vagabond. I worked, I saved, and I started a blog. Finally, a couple months ago, I set off to travel full-time; focusing and working two years to create the life I wanted was the best choice in my life.

I’m a backpacker to my core. I’m never more at home than when I’m showing up at a train station in a foreign country with my backpack and no set plans.

 

– You’ve just set out on your RTW adventure, any stand out highlights so far?

Can an entire country be a highlight? If so, Croatia holds that title.

However, by the time you read this I’ll have just  ran with the bulls. It is the main item on my bucket list, and if I survive I’m sure that it will be my greatest highlight.

 

stephen a backpacker tale rtw backpackers blog– ….anything you’ve had to learn or adapt to quickly that you didn’t envision?

Ha, it is funny you say envision. Two days ago on the beach in Barcelona sand got into my contact lens and scratched my eye. Yesterday, I had to wear an eye patch, plus, take my contacts out.

Imagine navigating the trains and subways in Spain, while you are trying to keep your valuables safe with almost zero visibility. Luckily, I had some friends to help me out or I would have never made it.

Today I can see a little better, but everything is still blurry. I’m going to use my lack of vision as an excuse for any spelling errors in this post, just kidding.

 

– Tell us some more about your blog, what can readers expect from your musings?

Alright, time for a little self-promotion! A Backpackers Tale is an adventure/misadventures travel blog. I focus on all the adrenaline pumping activates around the world. I want to encourage others to travel, to have adventures and to explore the world. However, I also offer practical travel tips and personal stories from the road.

It’s weird because I thought my audience would eat up the adventure posts but my personal stories, and thoughts are by far the most popular post on my site.

 

– What inspired you to start writing about your adventures

After traveling I developed a reputation in my town as being the go to guy for travel advice. I would receive emails from friends of friends, people I didn’t even know asking me for advice. Then, I discovered travel blogs and saw a passionate group of people living my dream, and writing about it. There really wasn’t an option from that point. Travel writing is a perfect outlet to share experiences while helping others to travel.

stephen a backpacker tale rtw backpackers blog

– Shameless plug time, what’s your favourite post so far?!

I like my post What Two Years of Saving To Travel Taught Me. It captures the moment in life when my dream was shifting into reality, and when all the hard work started to pay off.

 

– What’s the plan for the rest of the year then, where are you heading and any epic adventures in there?

I’m packing in the adventures in 2013! The Mongol Rally starts July 13th where I’ll be driving over 10,000 miles through two continents and nineteen countries in five weeks. After that, I have La Tomatina, Morocco and Oktoberfest. In October, I fly to India and from there; your guess is as good as mine until I fly to Australia in January.

 

– On your adventures what 5 things are you really stoked about doing?

I’m super pumped to be crossing some of the top things off my bucket list. My top five are the running of the bulls, camping in the Sahara, The Mongol Rally, Oktoberfest and Ye Ping Lantern Festival.

 

– Any awesome travel bloggers you’d recommend we all follow, who’s been inspiring you?

Well, Nomadic Matt taught me how to blog, so I always follow him closely. I also love reading Backpacker Banter; you’ve inspired me to pick surfing back up.

 

A few other blogs I follow closely are:

 

  • Further Bond
  • One Giant Step
  • Expert Vagabond
  • Active Backpacker
  • Pause the Moment

 

stephen a backpacker tale rtw backpackers blog– Any advice you’d give those thinking about long term travel?

Stick with it, traveling is awesome but like anything else you have days when all goes to hell. Use those days as a chance to learn. People are always surprised how strong and capable they are when they have to figure something out on the road.

 

Stephen will be blogging occasionally on RTW Backpackers – but you can also follow his adventures over at A Backpackers Tale and his tweets via @XXXXXXX

The US Open is one of the 4 Grand Slam tennis tournaments that take place every year. The importance of the event means that it attracts top players, with significant amounts of prize money on offer.
That prize money is regarded by most tennis players as being considerably less important than the prestige that can be earned by winning this famous tournament. A place in the history of the sport is guaranteed, joining the likes of Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf.

For those wishing to see the players in action, the good news is that it’s possible to get tickets for the event, which takes place at Flushing Meadows, in New York City.

 

Book Early

Although tickets can certainly be expensive, they are made available to the general public in the months prior to the tournament. A variety of ticket options are available and you’ll generally pay more to witness the action on the show courts. Fortunately, the quality of the entry list means that you’ll also get to see some fantastic options on the other courts.

Unlike some other tournaments, the US Open also sees some matches being hosted after dark. Locals suggest that these night matches often have a particularly vibrant atmosphere.

If you are looking to see competitive matches, then you may wish to aim for dates towards the latter end of the tournament. The best players tend to make serene progress through the earlier rounds, meaning that matches can sometimes be a little shorter in length during the first week of action.

 

Getting There

If you’ve been examining your options for car hire in USA with Avis, then you’ll be pleased to hear that a considerable amount of parking is provided in the area surrounding Flushing Meadows. You do need to take into account the parking charges, however, since these are usually separate from the cost of entering the venue.

You may be tempted to bring a large bag of belongings on the day, but it’s worth noting that security is particularly tight and that all bags are searched. This means that your entry to Flushing Meadows will be delayed. You may wish to avoid taking a bag, if possible, in order to ensure that you can avoid the queues.

There’s also a distinct lack of shade available in the grandstands, so it makes sense to bring your own hat and sunglasses. Although it’s possible to buy such accessories within the grounds, prices do tend to be inflated.

You’ll also discover that it can be expensive to buy food and drink within the venue, but a number of stalls offer cheaper options outside the main gates. It’s possible for you to exit Flushing Meadows and to get your hand stamped, ensuring that you will have no problems with re-entry. That means that you can step outside at lunchtime and save yourself a bit of money.

As an alternative, you might prefer to pack your own sandwiches. The regulations at the venue do permit you to bring a reasonable amount of food and drink.

If you’d like to take the opportunity to get even closer to the stars of the tennis world, then look out for the autograph signing sessions, which take place on most days of the tournament.

Even if you can’t afford the prices that are associated with the very best seats, you shouldn’t despair. Action continues into the night on many of the outside courts. Even on the main courts, there’s a chance for you to get closer to the action than you may imagine.

Many wealthy visitors to the US Open tend to leave early and ushers will often hand out passes, as they attempt to fill seats. This means that it may be possible for you to get an upgrade, although this doesn’t happen every day.

In order to reach the US Open from the Grand Central Parkway, you should leave at the Tennis Center exit. You’ll then find that the venue is located on your right.

The US Open has a profile that is only matched by the Australian Open, the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships. Your visit to the US Open will be a memorable experience, allowing you to witness Grand Slam tennis live. It’s an opportunity that’s not to be missed.

People head to Thailand for a number of reasons – its cheap to get to, it’s easy to travel around and there’s a lot of culture to be had if you travel to the right places.

With its boom in backpacking unfortunately the land of a thousand of smiles has been slightly tarnished (I won’t go off on a rant about this – I’ll leave this to other bloggers who seem to get in a slight rage about things they can’t change and would rather sit in the past when “things were better”!).

The gorgeous white sand beaches can still be enjoyed though, you just have to look a little bit further afield for the slice of paradise you seek so much. That’s one of the joys of travel – if you want to find that idyllic place you have to discover somewhere new.

A well worn path will never look as good as it did the first trip around. 

Whatever your reasons for venturing in the hub of Asia there’s a variety of events year round, you simply have to pick your poison.

So here’s two of my favourite, sitting at very opposite sides of the travel scale…

 

Full Moon

full moon thailand
Full Moon – Bucket Fuelled Chaos!

If you’re coming to Thailand to let off steam, get messed up and make some bad decisions then the now iconic Full Moon Party is surely on your to do list.

Situated on the island of Koh Phangan (the east coast of Thailand) on the once tranquil beach of Haad Rin it has now become the poster event for how bac

kpacking can completely transform a place for all the wrong reasons.

Each full moon around 30,000 backpackers swarm to the beaches which are now littered with fire dancers, bucket sellers, illicit substances and more genres of music than you can shake your UV glow sticks at.

It’s the epitome of beach party madness!

…and no matter what your view on these type of events it’s something that has to be ticked off the travel bucket list.

It’s glorious, unadulterated chaos!

Make sure you pre book your accommodation (it sells out heaps fast, especially the summer months and the Haad Rin based hostels), prepare yourself (I put together this handy guide to surviving full moon), be safe and enjoy!

Lets face it – every backpacker needs to let off some steam every now and then!

 

Loi Kratong

On the very far and opposite side of the scale of Thai events is the traditional calendar filler of Loi Kratong.

It’s pretty much as far away from the backpacker created mayhem of Full Moon as you could wish to be and is perfect for the culture vulture traveller.

The event lies in mid November and celebrates the Thai goddess of water – locals and traveller alike fill the water ways of the country with floating lanterns.

Flickering flames, reflections in water, starry skies, people from all over the world coming together?! What could sum up the true spirit of travel more than something as picture perfect and romanticized as that?!

Personally I’d head up north to Chang Mai for the event – where thousands of people send flying lanterns into the air simultaneously, which is said to rid you of your troubles.

And seeing those flames float into distant skies certainly does have that affect.

…just make sure you take the time out to photograph the whole thing too as it’s a spectacle you’ll want to capture for your desktop wallpaper for sure!

 

Full moon and Loi Kratong – very same same but different. The perfect examples of good travel vs bad travel, the old and the new, the educated and the inebriated. 

..but both heaps good fun to slot into your Thailand travel itinerary!

 

What’s your favourite Thai event of the year? Any unusual things you’ve stumbled upon or recommend to backpackers heading that way?

Certain parts of Egypt are complete tourist traps but this is a vast country and there’s plenty to discover elsewhere if you’re looking for a more authentic Egyptian cultural experience. Here are some of our top tips.

 

Getting There

Isolated desert border points, tedious customs, and regional tensions mean your best bet really is flying in to Egypt. All major European countries run cheap flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, the country’s glittering coastal tourist resort. EasyJet runs flights from London, Geneva, Manchester and Milan for £50-100, saving £250 on a flight to Cairo. As soon as you set down, high-tail it out of Sharm. If you are set on the beach life, Dahab is more backpacker-friendly although no more Egyptian and Nuweiba is the spot for beach-hut seclusion. However, Egyptians don’t go to these resorts and you will hear more Russian spoken than Arabic. In Egypt all roads lead to El-Qahira, Cairo.

 

Getting Around

In Cairo, the transport system seems impenetrable. 20 million people swarm around almost as many identical white microbuses, that speedily criss-cross the city, spilling people as they go. Many bus  drivers take off their doors so they can cram more people in, hanging over the road on the flyovers. The experience cannot be missed. The adrenaline and the terror is part of daily life. Thankfully, Cairo also has a fantastic metro system, the lines are incredibly easy to navigate and each journey costs just 1EGP. Just don’t get into the wrong carriage, it is segregated between women and men.

 

Between cities there are plenty of air-conditioned buses that are a blessing – Superjet is the best company. Bus journeys are in fact usually far faster than the antiquated train system, a relic of the British occupation. Shared taxis are also a very viable way to travel between towns but always remember to haggle.

 

Eating

Street food in Egypt is incredibly cheap. Falafal wraps (‘tamiya’) are great value at about 1EGP while chicken or meat ‘shawarma’ is almost a full meal at 5EGP. The best deal is Cairene favourite ‘koshari’ – this spicy mix of rice, lentils, garlic, tomato, chickpeas and macaroni, topped with crispy onions starts at about 3EGP.

Be sure to try breakfast classics such as pitta bread with ‘foul’ (beanpaste) or fresh hummus.

 

Escape The Tourists

Although there are several big sights that it would be a travesty to miss – The Pyramids, Abu Simbel, Luxor, Aswan – the charge that Egypt has become just a package holiday destination is completely unfounded. As soon as you get off the main tourist route, which runs Sharm-Cairo-Luxor-Aswan, you can experience the real Egypt. Here are a few recommendations:

 

1) The Western Desert Oases

Four isolated oases mark the route of a prehistoric branch of the Nile through the Western Desert. El-Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga all have their distinct atmospheres but they share the same desert wilderness. Opulent date-palm plantations jostle with crumbling medieval fortresses, sand-swept ancient temples and Bedouin camps.

 

2) Alexandria

Cairo’s second city has a Mediterranean feel. French colonial architecture towers over cafes and book-markets on the way to the vast bay. The new Library of Alexandria is a fitting monument to the ancient wonder that fell in to the ocean. Divers can explore the ruins of Cleopatra’s Palace offshore. Siwa Oasis, where another language is spoken, is not far from here.

 

3) Assyut

This city will lead you well off the tourist trail. In Mubarak’s time Middle Egypt was out of bounds but now there is now nothing to stop you. Assyut is the industrial heart of modern Egypt and is interesting not for its architecture but for its culture. This is real, day-to-day Egyptian life and its markets are every bit as exciting as those in Islamic Cairo. Plenty of ancient temples and early Christian fortresses are in the local area as well.

 

 

Georgina Young tells us about an adventure exploring Monkey Beach in Penang National Park, Malaysia.

It is completely out of character, I don’t know what was going through my mind as I was packing my backpack at 7:30am. Six litres of water? Check. Snacks for the day? Check. Change of clothes? Check. Copious amounts of suntan lotion? Check.

I’ve got everything ready to go, and I pull on my hike bag, the same one that just the night before was housing all my worldly belongings, and walk out of my hostel into the bright morning light. I immediately put on my sunglasses and make my way to the bus stop, water bottles weighing me down.

The bus winds pleasantly for more than an hour through northern Penang, stopping off at the all places a tourist could ever want to see. Lush mountains blend into white sandy beaches, wildlife parks litter the highway. There is nothing quite like the nature and beauty of this island UNESCO heritage site.

Both a young Spanish girl and I disembark at the last stop, the national park. After ignoring all the scouts trying to sell me things on the path up to the park, registering my intentions with the park staff, I begin my trek into the reserve.

I’m immediately struck by the wide, smooth, paved pathway. Maybe this trek is going to be a lot easier than imagined, was it oversold? But after around half a kilometre things get decidedly more rocky and by the kilometre mark the pathway has all but disappeared. The further and further into the forest I go, the more treacherous the route becomes until I am hoping from post to post over a sheer drop and literally crawling in, out, under and over sprawling tree roots.

The trees own this forest I am just a guest here.

I stop frequently and gulp down huge amounts of water. The tiny black and white map I’ve been given says that it will take 1 ½ hours to make it to my destination, to Monkey Beach, but I know it will take me much longer as thoroughly unaccustomed to hiking as I am, particularly in these conditions.

In my short shorts and tank top, carving my way through vines and tree branches, I feel like the real life Lara Croft only of course much more pink and sweaty. I pass several small quaint beaches on the way and consider just stopping here away from the tourist traps.

But then I see it over the horizon. The pure sand cuts around the forest and the mountain side for what seems like miles. The little boat moored up to shore gives the stereotypical impression of any island paradise. But this view is all mine.

Monkey Beach
AgfaPhoto
AgfaPhoto

As I descend onto the beach from my mountain pass I see the critter for which the beach is named. Monkey’s fighting for position on several of the trees that surround this idyllic beach setting. I scramble up onto a rock in order to change into my clothes and take a dip in the clear, turquoise bay, but just as I get out my clothes for changing, a monkey has seized them.

“Hit it with a stick!” I hear a woman’s voice echoing from a nearby rock.

I try in vain to look for a stick, but failing to see anything scary enough to fend off this fearsome beast I make myself large and hiss. More so to do with the fact that the stolen bag contains only clothes and not food, rather than my less than scary attempt to fend him off, the monkey drops my bag and scarpers. I retrieve my bathers and finish changing, thanking the American on the rocks for her advice.

Placing my hike bag as close to the sea as possible without it getting wet I dive into the sea and feel the refreshingly cool liquid flow over me, relieving me from the scorching heat. Up on the beach I see a French couple, abandon their bags near the trees and hasten towards the sea. But shouting I warn them.

“Careful Monkeys!” and they too tie their bags somewhere near the coast. After around 20 minutes in the sea I hear the French girl scream as she scares two carefully approaching monkeys from my luggage. You give a little you get a little. I spend the whole day, talking with tourists who have made the tiring trek themselves, locals who make their living selling jet ski rides and lying in the sun.

A tanned, fit Malaysian beach bum enquires whether I would like a jet ski back to shore and I honestly tell him that I only have 4 Ringits on me and that’s for the bus home. He then suggests that next time I come I should bring my boyfriend.

“Yea I should” I say aimlessly back.  I of course need to find myself a boyfriend first.

Believing me to be poor and unavailable he gives up on his quest to talk to me and I spend the day reading in the beating sun.

AgfaPhoto

AgfaPhoto

AgfaPhoto

By 4pm as the sun is no longer at it’s highest and feeling well rested I begin my return journey, this time starting at the hardest point making my way back to the easiest. The pathway is just as deserted as before and I passing people is rare. On one of my frequent stops I am passed by a group of Malaysians hiking the trail barefoot thinking that the only reason I could be sitting there in the mud was because I had fallen and was injured. They rush to my aid.

“Oh no I’m fine. Just taking a rest”

The concept is alien to them, and they take off on their hardened, hobbit heels.

As I reach the entrance again, having ripped my leggings in half and exhausted, I refused to take the advice I have read to change into dry clothes believing that the refreshing breeze of the bus air con will be more than welcome after the heat blast I feel like I have just walked through. And it is for around 30 minutes, before I realise how wrong I was, shivering on the bus, my clothes completely soaked through with what I have to remind myself is not in fact sea water as my brain reasons it must be, but sweat.

While thinking to myself “this is why I don’t go hiking” I have to console myself with the memory of the beach paradise I discovered, and how few people are able to see it as I have.

About the Author: George is a 20-something hitchhiker, solo female traveller and cunning linguist, currently teaching in Kyushu, Japan. She circumnavigates the globe and teaches languages to all those in her wake. She has travelled Europe and Oz extensively, and has taught languages in 7 different countries and counting. Her blog is a mix of language learning, TEFL tips and general travel tales. Follow her journey at George on the Go or on Facebook or Twitter.

Over the past 5 years I have travelled A LOT! I spent 2 years travelling through Asia and Australia and now I travel somewhere new at least once a month. I’m incredibly lucky and I love the travel lifestyle/career that I’ve chosen but I have a travel secret to share with you: I’m terrible at travelling.

Yes, even after years of travelling, I’m still not very good at it. I enjoy every minute of travelling and I love writing about my travels and sharing my travel photos but I’m pretty useless at the actual travel part.

Here are a few examples.

I always blow my budget

Most of the time I don’t actually have a budget in mind but when I do, I always end up blowing it too quickly. My designated travel money seems to disappear from my pockets before I’m even half way through my holiday. I try to cut back on expenses, alcohol and expensive trips but there is always a little voice in the back of my head that says, ‘You only live once and you may never come back here ever again! Go on girl, have fun!’ And before I know it, I’ve not got a penny to my name.

I always get lost

It’s a running joke between my family and friends about how I was born without a sense of direction. They say it as though a ‘sense of direction’ is an organ or some kind of internal compass that ensures you always know which way to go and, unfortunately, it’s something I don’t have. To put it into perspective, I can walk into a shop on the high street and when I walk back out I forget which direction I’m meant to be walking in. If I can get lost on a long, straight high street, imagine what I’m like in a new city!

I always over-pack

luggage stuffing

Every time I go away I promise myself that this time I will pack light. This time I will have a backpack that I can lift over my head. This time I won’t lug around 15 outfits that I will never wear.  OK, maybe next time…

I always take too many clothes, accessories and toiletries ‘just-in-case’ because you really don’t know who you’re going to meet when you travel!

I always wing-it

I really admire the kind of travellers who buy a guidebook months before they visit a new destination. They thoroughly research all the things there are to do, the amazing places to stay, the local delicacies they should try and the best places to get stunning photography. Despite my best intentions, I never quite get round to doing all this research and usually arrive in a destination knowing very little about it.

So there you have it, I’m a terrible traveller but somehow, all these faults usually lead to me having an amazing trip. Yes, I spend too much money but I spend it on unforgettable experiences. I might get lost but I usually end up finding something amazing in an unexpected place. I do overpack but I’ve always got a spare pair of shoes/jeans/earrings/gloves for anyone that forgets! And maybe I don’t plan but it means I end up chatting to the locals to find out the best things to do and I usually end up avoiding the tourist traps that guidebooks recommend.

Now it’s your turn, what are your travel confessions? 

Most people struggle to pin-point the single best moment on their RTW journey. Many people travel for a few months or even a year or more so there will undoubtedly be hundreds of amazing moments but, for me, my single best moment is clear. It was one night spent camping on a beach in Tasmania. Myself and four friends had spent the day hiking, fishing and exploring. We’d caught a massive fish so made a fire on the beach to cook it up for dinner. We were having so much fun on the beach that it was 10pm before we knew it so we decided to stay for the night and camp under the stars. Drinking warm beer, eating toasted marshmallows and sharing travel stories until the early hours of the morning, I can honestly say that was the best night of my life.

I’ve been speaking to lots of backpackers in Australia and I’m always surprised how few go to Tasmania and do anything like this. They all think it sounds impossibly difficult to get over there and hire a car but it honestly isn’t. All you need to do is book car hire in Tasmania with DriveNow grab a map and you’re good to go. You can find maps that are especially designed for camping so they have campsites, toilets and great places to stop marked on the map already. If you can pick up a map from a backpacker then it’s even better because you can find their notes and dog-eared pages already marked.

Despite the scary stories that come from films like Wolfe Creek, Australia is an amazingly safe country so it’s really safe to camp. Tasmania is a small island so you don’t need to worry about getting lost out in the outback or breaking down and no one finding you. I would recommend packing plenty of water and food and a warm sleeping bag because it can get chilly at night and whatever happens, as long as you have food you’ll always be fine.

The more people you have in your car the better because it means you can share the costs of petrol which can be pricey. If you plan to sleep in your car, make sure you have an estate so you can get an airbed in the boot. If there are 4 or 5 of you, pack a tent for extra space.

The campsites in Australia cost about $25 a night and have excellent facilities. There are always loads of BBQs, fridges and nice, clean bathrooms with hot showers. Make sure you pack a torch in case you need to head to the bathrooms at night!

If you don’t plan to camp then there are plenty of budget hostels or cheap hotels for you to stay in. Hostels are a great place to meet other backpackers and chat to people to get their tips and advice for things to see and do. Guidebooks are brilliant but you’ll always get the best advice from your fellow travellers.

And my final piece of advice for anyone travelling around Australia in a car is to pack light. You have so little space and it’s virtually impossible to travel with a lot of luggage. Try to restrict yourself to a 40L backpack so you don’t have any space to overpack.

Have you every travelled around Australia by car? If so, do you have any tips to share?

 

 

We all know how it goes. You’ve spent months, maybe even years (or a few hours in transit, no judgement) thinking about all those precious dollars you have for your travels. You want them to last as long as possible, to be stretched to their very limit over the course of your trip. Fast forward a month or two and suddenly you’re re-assessing. Where’s all your money gone? You swear your bank account was looking a whole lot fatter than it is now. Where did this lean, mean bank account come from??

Even the best-laid budgets can fall by the wayside, but you don’t have to suffer through that. Here’s my top budget ruin-ers, based on way too many mistakes on my part. Learn away!

One For The Road

beer_toast-912

So you’ve budgeted for food, congratulations! But have you budgeted for alcohol? Most of the party hard people will probably be nodding their heads thinking, “Hell yeah I have, budget thought numero uno!” If you haven’t, definitely do that RIGHT NOW! Even if you’re ‘not really thing party type’ it’s still worth getting that into the budget because believe me, people change on the travel circuit.

If you have budgeted for alcohol, well done. But what about water? I’m a big fan of travelling in Asia, and one thing I’m always blown away by (hey, I made this mistake too) is that people don’t budget for buying bottled water. In most Asian countries tap water is not drinkable, so you really have to beef up your daily budget to keep yourself hydrated. Annoying? Maybe. But for Asia, totally worth it!

 

Research, Research, Research!

So you’ve heard a whole lot from everyone who has travelled to this place you’re going about how damn cheap everything is. Awesome. You can totally stay everywhere for $5 including breakfast, and food? That’s basically free!

Hold up.

There’s nothing travellers love more than telling stories of the cheap destinations they go to, and then exaggerating that tiny little bit extra. Don’t just listen to your friends. Get a third, fourth or even fifth opinion from somewhere reputable, like the internet. Well, maybe not reputable, but at least you get a wide range of opinions, and there has to be somebody telling the truth in all that madness.

 

Laid-Back Travel

Maybe you do want to stay at places that are $5 a night including breakfast. If that’s the case, be ready to accept what $5 a night means. In most places (but not all) it doesn’t mean a villa on the rice fields or a bungalow with a front step straight to the beach. It probably means something a little bit more modest, and probably nothing luxurious at all. I know people who seek out these places and enjoy them (I’m one of them). But if that’s your budget don’t go on a rage about how your bathroom tap leaks or your floor tiles are uneven. Welcome to budget living.

 

Where To Now?

travel

At some point in your travels, you’re going to throw away one travel idea for another. If you’re a super organised traveller, this might mean losing money on an airfare/bus ticket/activity that you’d pre-booked. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this for the sake of your budget. As far as I’m concerned this is what travel is all about (probably why I rarely book in advance).

Even if you’re not super organised and you haven’t booked in advance, this new travel idea might end up costing more than you’d budgeted for. Does this mean you shouldn’t do it? Well, if you’re smart, no. And why is that? That is because smart people always OVER budget, so when the opportunity comes to do wild stuff (and possibly make some bad decisions) they have the coinage to accomplish that. Moral of the story, the shoestring is great, but have a little tucked away for a crazy day.

Have you had any travel experiences that have ruined your budget? Let us know in the comments below!

Travelling the world is a wonderful experience and for those with the means to do so it can be the trip-of-a-lifetime. To ensure that a long-term commitment to travelling does not have to be cut short it is important to keep a keen eye on the budget.

As well as this it is important to have some relaxing downtime, whether that be on the beach or a bit of pampering. This allows you to reflect on all of the amazing sights you have seen and recharge your batteries before setting out once again.

In order to achieve these two aims it is a good idea to do some research in advance and get a great deal so that you can truly relax and know your funds are not being eaten away. Here is a guide to some of the places to take that time out. So sit back and enjoy planning your holidays for 2013.

 

Croatia

Croatia is pretty much the ultimate beach destination with its 5,835 kilometres of coastline stretching along the Adriatic. It is an incredibly easy place to travel with good public transport and an overall pleasant disposition in the locals.

It also offers some fascinating places to explore when you have had enough of relaxing on the beach. The picturesque old towns and pretty fishing villages are perfect for wandering around and taking it all in.

By booking through an online deal you will also be able to make your money go further and indulge in the type of luxury you haven’t experienced elsewhere on your trip. Sooth aching bones with a massage and wile away the hours in a Jacuzzi – absolute bliss.

 

Portugal

Portugal is another great option for those of you who want to spend some time flaking out on the beach, with plenty of choices as to which piece of the coast to choose. Whether you prefer to be in a resort or tucked away in a quiet bay there will be somewhere that is just perfect for you.

As well as the sun worshipping, Portugal maintains much of its pre-tourist charm with little fishing villages to explore and small pine forests in which to take walks. And if all of that sounds like a lot of effort why not just chill out on your terrace or spend the day catching up on your reading by the pool?

 

Greece

When it comes to taking a break from the frenetic pace of a world trip then Greece is a good shout as it offers so many different possibilities. With hundreds of inhabited islands you are bound to find a spot that suits you, whether that be for accessing the beaches of Kos, nightlife of Zante or the historic sites of Crete.

Greek food is particularly tasty and an all inclusive deal is a great way to eat like King Minos while staying within your budget. Fresh salads packed with locally produced olives, feta cheese and the reddest tomatoes you have ever seen complement the climate totally.

Even if you intend to stay in one place for a while it is easy to hop between islands for a daytrip if you know that you get restless easily. Otherwise grab a cocktail and watch the sun go down behind the white-washed walls and blue sea.

 

We know this site is called Round the World Backpackers but when it comes to travelling you actually have a couple of luggage options.

Here are the options and what I recommend taking and when:

The classic backpack

backpacks

I’m not a huge fan of backpacks but they are useful for when you’re getting off the beaten track or travelling on a budget. You may ask why budget travel would make a difference but you’re more likely to be getting on boats and buses or walking from train stops with your luggage. If you’re hoping to find idyllic beach huts and bargain accommodation then be prepared to do some walking to find it. And, yes, that means lugging your backpack with you!

Top tip for backpacks: Don’t over-pack it. Backpacks usually come with extendable pockets which are easy to overfill but avoid the temptation and do you your best to keep it under 10kg. You really don’t need that extra pair of jeans so put them away! I stick to the rule that if I can’t life my backpack over my head (without the help of a man!) it’s too heavy so something has to go.

The backpack with wheels

backpack with wheels

This is my favourite option. I don’t care where you are in the world, 80% of the time you’ll be able to wheel your suitcase. I’ll admit that the 20% of the time that you need to carry it, it will be heavier and uncomfortable but I think it’s worth a little bit of discomfort in exchange of wheeling it most of the time.

Top tip for wheely backpack: Invest in a really good quality backpack to ensure it isn’t going to break on you. If a wheel breaks it means that you’ll be left with an uncomfortable and heavy backpack.

 

The suitcase

suitcase

Suitcases are perfect for short holidays, city breaks or when you’re travelling to countries where you know you’ll never be dragging your bag across fields or beaches such as if you’re city hopping in Europe. They’re easy to pack, easy to pull and easy to stack together on buses.

Top tip for suitcases: Again, I suggest buying a good quality suitcase. If you’re travelling for a few months it’s likely to be pretty heavy and if you lose wheel or the handle breaks it’s going to be very difficult to get around!

 

The satchel

satchel

Satchels are a good option for anyone who can travel super light. This is an art that I’ve never managed to master myself but I’m always envious of the people I see hopping on a plane with nothing more than a bag slung over their shoulder. They can be a bit awkward to carry but the softness makes them good for travelling because they can squish into small spaces.

You’re young, you’re free, and you’re looking to party. With these basic truths helping guide your travel itinerary, you should consider these tried-and-true destinations known for offering nightlife experiences like few other places on earth. So pack your bags, leave your inhibitions, and head out to some of the world’s best party locations.

 

New York

Along with being generally regarded as an incredible place to visit, New York has earned a reputation as a global contender for best place to party. The various boroughs of the city are packed with bars and clubs that are each trying to outdo the other on the dance and drink scale.

You can try Greenwood Park, a popular beer garden with 13,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space devoted to beer and revelry. This former mechanic shop has happy-hour deals inside and bocce courts out back.

For a true Manhattan skyline experience, head to La Piscine at the Hotel Americano, where the young, beautiful and restless indulge in margaritas and tapas next to a pool that becomes a big hot tub in the winter.

 

Ibiza

It would not be possible to round up party destinations without talking about Ibiza. The Balearic paradise is the global hedonistic capital. The year-round sun and never-ending clubbing season has made Ibiza the most famous European party destination of all.

The island is beautiful in its own right, so even if partying 24/7 isn’t your thing, there’s plenty to do to fill your time. However, if an Ibiza holiday 2013 is your thing, then San Antonio is the place to be – the music and the dancing never end!

 

Budapest

The river Danube cuts Budapest in two, between the historical cities of Buda and Pest. Although Budapest does not initially strike you as a great city for partying, there is a growing dance music scene in the city, and a night out at Buda beach (sometimes known as Buddha Beach) is definitely worth a look.

These ‘beaches’ lie right in the middle of the city and in the summer they open up onto the river, so you can party the night away on the banks of the Danube. The drinks are cheap, the music is loud, and the bars stay open late – it’s pretty much perfect.

full moon thailand
Full Moon – Bucket Fuelled Chaos!

 

Thailand

If your budget for flights is a little larger, then a trip to Thailand is definitely in the cards. The cost of living in Thailand is minimal, and so any expense on the travel there is reclaimed once you head out to the bars and restaurants.

One of the best parties in the world is the once-a-month Full Moon Party in Ko Phan Ngan. Here they serve drinks by the bucket, and the balmy weather means you can party on the beach until the sun comes up.

 

Berlin

Berlin has become the spiritual home of house and trance music in the last ten years. The number of abandoned warehouses, particularly in the eastern half of the city, means that there are a number of super clubs in the city that have become destinations in their own right.

Berghain is this kind of place-to-be club, and it has become one of the most famous techno locations in the world. Although you don’t have to be in to dance music to enjoy Berlin’s nightlife, it definitely helps. Plus, it’s difficult not to love a city that sells beer by the litre.

If you are looking for the best places to party in the world, then the only determining factor is your bank balance. Whatever your budget, you can definitely find somewhere to party until the break of dawn.

Holidays in Central America can take many forms. Cultural visits to ancient Mayan sites, lazy beach vacations set among the palms and activity adventures involving white-water rafting and zip lining.

And for those who enjoy strapping on their walking boots and hitting the trails, there’s a huge range of spectacular hikes to be enjoyed, featuring volcano walks and oceans views.

If you fit into the latter category, here’s a list of the best walks in Central America, which you can get stuck into with TrekAmerica.

 

Cerro Chato, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country blessed with incredible natural landscapes, many of which are dominated by towering volcanoes. Located in the centre of the country, the Arenal Volcano National Park is home to several spectacular cinder cones.

Although Volcan Arenal is the most prominent in the park, it is far too dangerous to climb. However, the slightly smaller, and dormant, Cerro Chato is perfectly safe for hikers.

Those who make the tough trek up through the humid forest to its 1,140m summit are rewarded by the sight of a beautiful turquoise lake, which they can scramble down to for a closer look.

You have to pay a small fee to climb the volcano, with the main route starting from the Arenal Observatory Lodge. The steep ascent and descent can be accomplished in four to five hours.

 

Volcan Maderas, Nicaragua

If you can’t get enough of climbing volcanoes and visiting crater lakes, you’ll love the ascent to the summit of Volcan Maderas on the island of Ometepe, situated in the centre of Lake Nicaragua in Nicaragua.

Slightly shorter and less dangerous than its cousin, Concepcion, Maderas makes for a challenging but doable day’s hiking. Although this is a popular hike, a guide is necessary to ensure your safety, and the climb to the 1,394m summit is a tough all-day one, often made more challenging by slippery and muddy conditions underfoot.

Upon reaching the top, you’ll be treated to the sight of Laguna de Maderas and fine views to Concepcion. As with Cerro Chato, a small fee is payable that allows you to trek through the coffee plantation on the slopes of the volcano.

 

Cusuco National Park, Honduras

If peak bagging is not your thing, but trekking through lush jungles in search of waterfalls and wildlife is, the Cusuco National Park offers endless opportunities for exploration.

Head underground into the Taulabe Caves, which extend for miles, sample the raw power of the Pulhapanzak Waterfall, where the water plunges 140ft. You may even get the chance to take a guided tour into the caves directly behind the waterfall or swim in one of the pools.

And as part of the Meso-American biodiversity hotspot, there are also plenty of exotic species lurking in the forest, such as Baird’s tapir and jewel scarab beetles.

 

Hiking tips

For all of these hikes you’ll need to come prepared. Sturdy walking shoes or boots, a waterproof jacket (jungles can get pretty wet at times) and a rucksack containing plenty of water and snacks are a must. Also remember, it gets colder and windier at altitude so while you might not need layers when you set off, by the time you reach the peak it could be chilly.

You’ll also want a camera to capture the sights, some sun cream for when you’re on more exposed sections and some bug spray with plenty of DEET in it.

Chiang Mai is a fabulous city, crammed with trips, sites and experiences.

elephant trainer chang mai thailand
Feeding ‘Nu’

You can stay for over two weeks and still manage to be busy every day. My favourite adventure during my time in Chiang Mai had to be the day where I learnt to be a Mahout.

Chang does mean Elephant after all, so it had to be done!

To be honest, I’m not a huge animal lover.
I literally feel sick when people kiss their dogs and think it’s utterly ridiculous when they dress pets up in silly outfits. Most animals smell bad and make me sneeze!
But, I do love Elephants.
They are such friendly giants, and so clever. I never knew how smart these creatures were until I spent the day with them. It breaks my heart when you see them being poorly treated (which is the case in most parts of Thailand) and it upsets me that some tourists can be so naive to it all, supporting it by visiting these types of places. (Elephant rides with baskets and attractions like Tiger Kingdom, but that’s another story!)
elephant trainer chang mai thailand
Just a Quick Shower!
We wanted to visit an Eco friendly Elephant home. After a tonne of research and recommendations we decided to go to the ‘Thai Elephant Home’. It claimed to rescue Elephants from cruel backgrounds, so I was certainly up for backing that.
The training day starts by learning the basic Mahout commands. You need to be able to get on and steer your Ellie! Then the fun begins, you get to choose you’re very own Elephant for the day.
I obviously ran to the smallest and most adorable. (Just like me, right?!)
Her name was ‘Nu’ and she was 5.
You ride your Ellie bare back, the feeling is pretty daunting at first, you feel so unstable, like you’re going to fall right off. Once you get used to balancing your body weight you are all set.
Now it’s your time to shine, trekking through the lush green jungle on your Elephant, steering her by talking your commands. You’re pretty much a pro now, listening to the relaxing sound of nature while you’re Ellie is taking you uphill to witness the beautiful views the jungle has to offer.
elephant trainer chang mai thailand
Here We Go…!

In between you’re walks you spend time with your Elephant, feeding her, getting messy in the mud bath and splashing around in the river. This is when her character really shows.

Getting to know you’re Elephant is great fun, you feel like you’re really bonding with them. ‘Nu’ was just like any other child, she loved to wonder off, eat everything in site and make a mess. She enjoyed getting us all soaked and completely submerging herself in the river! (She was not as worried as me about getting pink eye, that’s for sure!)
You can tell that the Elephants at this home are happy and treated well. They have a little sparkle in their eyes. If you have ever wanted to spend time with these majestic creatures then I would recommend this trip.
I don’t think a visit to Thailand would be complete without meeting the Ellie’s.
Plus, after this experience you’re pretty much Tarzan. Who knows what else you’re capable of!

Once considered a medium-sized Spanish City, Valencia has undergone a massive transformation in the last 10 years. The creation of the ‘City of Arts and Science’ is one statement that underlines the nature of the place, especially as it comes from that of renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. It is fair to say, that Valencia has now become iconic for its beautiful architecture and cultural importance, this is highlighted from its reputation lying with its inner city buildings rather than its beautiful beach sitting right next to it.

 

Thinking of going this summer? Well it’s heaps easy to find places to stay in Valencia – but be sure to take your sun cream – at this point of the year Valencia begins to knock up temperatures of 30-40 degrees, and with the vastly built up area, there is not much of a breeze to settle the heat. Bare this in mind when going out, think about trying to get things done in the morning – the weather can play with you at times.

 

In terms of travel, you’re best off just using public transport because there is so much of it in and around the city. Valencia offers both the Bonobus and Bonometro, an option that is best for value for money. Wherever you need to get to, there will be a bus for it, so you won’t be short in wasting time trying to get to places. In the hustle and bustle of the city, it can get very humid on buses with the crowds, so be sure to take plenty of rests at cafes around the city. Preferably, just walking can cover much of the city, but it can become tiring in the heat.

 

The City of Arts and Sciences is somewhere you cannot ignore, the centre has 5 buildings, offering something for everyone from opera to the IMAX. Check out the Science museum, a completely 21st century experience that offers interactivity with almost all of its contributions to science and technology. Just a short walk and you’re at the Agora, a huge sporting complex that has been home to some worldwide events, including the Valencia Open Tennis tournament. This really is a place to visit throughout the day, its modern facilities provide you with an enjoyable day out to both learn and have a bit of fun! Once more, the centre is never overcrowded, so you are able to walk around and not feel pressured to move on.

 

If its photography and culture you’re after, then I highly recommend the North Station. Take your time, sit back and take in some of the breathtaking architecture from creator Demetrio Ribes. The building has it all, using a range of wood, glass, marble, metal and ceramics to produce a stunning view of old and new. Be sure to take your camera with you, the building offers some great photography with the glimmer of the sun bouncing off the colourful glass. A short trip, but one certainly worth taking!

 

If you’re fancying something a little bit different though, check out the Oceanografic, a stunning aquarium that holds a range of different buildings with so much to do. The building features underground tunnels, where you are able to quite literally walk with the whales! The crystal clear waters and state of the art facilities ensure you will never have a disappointing trip! So, instead of taking your chances with a dolphin boat trip, pop to the Oceanografic to get up close and personal with sharks! There are a few cafes on sight so there is food available, all you really need is your camera to get some snaps you won’t get anywhere else!

 

Valencia is a beautiful place to be, but don’t let the hot temperatures and stuffy city travelling stop you from enjoying the city.

 

It seems a bit of a shame to travel all the way to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro and then simply jet home again without seeing any more of the country. Don’t get me wrong, the experience of ascending the peak is amazing, but it’s also worth allowing a bit of time to explore what’s on offer elsewhere in Tanzania once you’ve finished the trek.

To give you some inspiration, I’ve come up with two suggestions of places to visit and things to do after the first part of your holiday to Kilimanjaro comes to an end.

 

Visit Zanzibar

The first option is to head to the stunning tropical islands of the Zanzibar archipelago – the perfect place to kick back and relax after climbing a mountain! There are two main islands here, with lots of small islets dotted around them. Their location in the Indian Ocean means you can expect to find pristine white-sand beaches, as well as amazing coral reefs just below the surface.

While you may be tempted to just sit back and relax on the coast after the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro, I think it’s better to include a few activities and excursions on your trip to Zanzibar. One place worth visiting for a dose of culture is Stone Town, a vibrant and eclectic city that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a host of outstanding buildings.

Large palaces and mansions can be found on its streets, as well as small houses nestled on its narrow alleys, a wide range of restaurants and shops and bustling markets. It’s got more than its fair share of historical sites, too, with the Anglican Cathedral, House of Wonders, Palace Museum and the Old Fort among the places you shouldn’t miss.

 

Go on a safari in Africa

Tanzania is a wonderful place to go on a safari and, although you may have spotted some of the country’s fascinating wildlife during your Kilimanjaro ascent, I think the chance to see a host of amazing animals in their natural habitat is too good to pass up – after all, you have travelled a long way to get here, so you may as well make the most of it!

You can travel to the famous Serengeti Game Reserve if you want, or head to one of Tanzania’s lesser known national parks, like Lake Manyara, Tarangire or the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. If you don’t have lots of time to spare on your safari adventure, I reckon Lake Manyara is the best choice.

This reserve is relatively small – 330 sq km – and, unsurprisingly, features a very large lake! Because it’s reasonably compact, it’s a great place to see a wide variety of creatures in a short space of time. For instance, in the forests you can look for the likes of baboons, blue monkeys, bushbucks and forest hornbills, while on the flood plains you’ll spot animals including wildebeest, zebras, buffaloes, klipspringers, lions and elephants. Around the lake itself there are hippos, in addition to a vast array of birds, such as pelicans, cormorants, flamingos and storks.

If you’re after spectacular scenery as well as astounding wildlife, the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the best options, with the stunning Olduvai Gorge and the vast volcanic crater among the landscapes you’ll encounter. The main crater is home to black rhinos, lions, grant’s gazelles, elands and zebras, to name just a few, while leopards are found on its forested upper slopes.

Okay, so we have all seen crazy YouTube videos of how super fun tubing was back in the day… Before most bars were shut down, zip lines were removed and all the slides and other fun (but slightly deathy) things we could jump off were banned.
But what is tubing like now?
Is it still worth going to Vang Vieng to ‘get in the tubing’?
Well I am currently right here in the tubing capital of Vang Vieng, and I have recently experience tubing as it stands in 2013.
Unfortunately I never got a chance to visit before now, so I guess I can’t compare it as accurately as some of you guys who got involved in the craziness of the past years, but I can tell you about my time in that small, slightly off coloured, rubber ring on the river.
tubing in vang vieng
A Much Quieter River Now…

My first thoughts once getting allocate my tube and walking down to the river was that it was quiet.

Almost ‘dead’.
It was just the four of us, with another small group of backpackers in their rings in the distance however it is low season here at the moment, so I wasn’t too surprised, but I couldn’t stop daydreaming about what the atmosphere would have been like in the peak of it all (you can check out Chris’s tubing experience from 2012 here).
We started floating down stream, looking onto the bank you see burnt out bars and knocked down walls, it’s quite sad really. The ride itself was relaxing though! The gentle sound of the water flowing and the beautiful mountainous scenery around us. That was until we started to float in to the bushes at the side of the river, when we finally emerged out of the greenery we were greeted by several, huge spiders sitting on our legs and stomach.
It was terrifying, it’s safe to say I ruined the peaceful ambiance by screaming and trying to flick them off my body!
Once this horrendous ordeal was over, we were met by our first bar. It was about time!
backpacker tubing vang vieng laos
Party Bars…With Much Less Party!

The bar itself was great fun, a great mix of people and activities going on. I headed straight for the sunbathing area, but there was also games of volleyball and basketball. Now this is what I expected tubing to be like, only it was still much calmer than what I’ve heard it was like before.

There was a small party vibe at this bar, with games of flip cup and beer pong, but still nothing to write home about. It was busy, probably because there are now only about three bars on the river. We didn’t stop again after this, the other bars we came across were empty , so we just finished the tubing route on the river.
The rapids were exciting, being thrown around made it that little bit more ‘crazy’ I suppose.
During our day tubing I only had a couple of drinks, just because I felt like the party atmosphere wasn’t very strong. The time we spent on the river, and even at the bar, had a very chilled out vibe to it. I would definitely say that tubing was different to how I imagined it, I wouldn’t say it was a let down, but I think if you go tubing now, you need to think of it as more a relaxing experience rather than a day to get wasted and jump off stuff.
People still need to visit Vang Vieng and experience the town and what it has to offer, but go tubing with an open mind, as it has changed.
For the better or worse? You decide.

As our inhouse Aussie Oceana is well placed for any advice you might need when heading down under (no innuendo intended!) and she’s done her fair share of travelling around her home country as well as abroad.

So we asked her to share he personal Top 5 Aussie Stop Offs to help you out with planning a trip to Australia..

 

1) Cairns

What’s not to love about Cairns? This tiny Australian town is a backpacker haven, and heaven! It’s packed to the brim with awesome hostels and backpacker bars with all the cheapest drink deals. Everything is super close making the vibe of Cairns is 100% backpacker friendly.  Cairns is not a town where the working holiday travelers come looking for work, so it’s full of people who have money and are looking for a party. This means that every night there’s something going on, a willing group of people looking for an adventure and a whole lot of madness just waiting to happen.

syndey backpacker top australia
Sydney – Totally Worth The Hype!

 

2) Sydney

Ah Sydney, the crown of Australia. Not the capital city but close enough as far as most backpackers are concerned. This is the place most people start, and it’s also often where they finish. Good news for Sydney’s vibe because the working holiday types are totally evened out by those looking to make a good start, and those heading out of Australia with a bang. The city has a whole lot of great hostels, some wicked backpacker bars and enough entertainment to keep anyone going. As big cities go, Sydney is a pretty great place all over, with sunny days, great beaches and lots of opportunities to soak up the Australian lifestyle.

darwin markets australia
Darwin Street Markets

 

3) Darwin

Australia’s northern most capital city, Darwin certainly doesn’t look like much compared to Sydney. It’s not a massive backpacker town all year, although in the Dry Season (May-October) they do flood in looking for work. But there’s something about Darwin that really sets is apart. Closer to Asia than to most southern Australian cities (Timor is less than 1 hour flight) it has a uniquely tropical Asian atmosphere that’s unrivaled. Equal parts great Australian outback, and tropical northern gem Darwin boasts Asian markets, beautiful beaches and fantastic weather (as long as you like it hot!).

 

4) Byron Bay

Now, there’s probably not a backpacker out on the Australian (and perhaps international circuit) who doesn’t know about Byron Bay. Hardly the tiny hippy hub that once made it famous, Byron Bay is still a great place to be. Surfing hub and alternative cultural vibes abound, Byron also has an awesome hostel scene and some unbelievable backpacker bars that just must be visited. The surrounding area is flawless, and although it’s sometimes better in the off-peak season, peak definitely guarantees lots of crazy people to keep the party pumping all night long!

melbourne street art
Melbourne Street Art

 

5) Melbourne

Australia’s culture capital? Well, I’m not going to start any wars here, but there is definitely a lot to see and do in Melbourne. Melbourne definitely holds the upper hand when it comes to street art with almost every available public wall canvassed with graffiti creations. The same could probably be said for the competitive coffee war, easily the best in coffee in Australia and at some of the cheapest prices. Melbourne is full of great entertainment venues and things to see, some more expensive than others. But even without the dollars, the backpacker scene is very much alive, and everyone knows where to go for the cheapest bars, and the free gigs. They might lead you down winding alleys to hole-in-the-wall bars, but that’s what makes Melbourne magical.

 

What would be your Top 5 Aussie Spots? Care to share them and why?!

 

Mon has already chatted through some great ways to start saving for your backpacker travels – but what about once you’re on the road?

Yup money will be at the fore front of your mind through all your adventures, but if you manage it and are sensible there’s no reason that it should ruin your mood!

I’ve been on the road for a few years now so I’ve picked up a few handy tips for saving money – so here’s 5 of my top tips for saving whilst you’re on the road…

Last Minute Deals

Last minute travel deals are a great way to keep your bank balance healthy whilst bouncing around. Things like standby rates on trips and accommodation are more common than you think so keep an eye out.

If time is on your side being flexible enough to accommodate a few days waiting around for a spot to open up can soon let the savings mount up.

travel planning
Proper Preparation…

 

Pre Booking

On the flip side of waiting until the last minute is pre booking things, which is something Sam mention with her pre travel tips. When I left for Australia I knew I wanted to complete my PADI dive course on the barrier reef from Cairns.  Having this all paid upfront nearly 9months before I even landed meant it was a huge cost out of mind and I could simply turn up and enjoy the whole thing as it then didn’t form part of my budget.

Pre booking some things like bus passes also means you can take advantage of sales as they come up – take the Kiwi Experience for example, they quite often offer up to 50% off their bigger passes if you pre book…now that’s some serious discount!

 

Creating A Budget – And Sticking To It!

Having a solid budget always allows you to save on the road, it reigns in your drinking, makes you think twice about big spends and generally means you spend your money wisely.

Sticking to that budget on the other hand can be a bit more troublesome! It’s easy to say it doesn’t matter if you go over but it can quickly mount up.

A handy thing I’ve started doing is taking out your weekly spend in cash and keeping half in my wallet and half in my bag, that way I know exactly where I stand budget wise. If i over do it one day, I simply take it off of the next days spend. The trick is being strict with yourself!

 

Discount Cards

Sure a card that saves you a dollar everytime you spend heaps of money may sound like a waste of time – but on trip of a few months or more those savings can really add up and you’d be surprised how quickly they can snowball!

Whether it’s a hostel chain card, supermarket card, cram your wallet with some plastic and let the savings build up.

 

Group Together

One of the simplest things to do to save you money is bulk buying and grouping together. If a group of you want to do a tour approach them and negotiate a deal if you all book in one hit.

The same goes for booking two or more activities, there’s no harm in asking for a discount if you book them all in one go, whats the worse that could happen!?

If you plan on staying in a hostel for a while too ask if they offer a weekly rate or if they’ll cut you a deal for a longer stay – most hostel will be happy to reduce your room rate by a few dollars per night – happy days all round!

 

Any of you guys picked up some great ways to save on the road? Share the love and help your backpacker brethren out!

It’s a common problem affecting the best of us – your bank balance is not as healthy as you would like it to be – but this does absolutely nothing to negate your burning desire to get away from it all with one of the last minute deals that you find online. You’re not alone and that’s why we have compiled a checklist of ways to ensure that you are ready to rock at a moment’s notice…

 

Time off

Unless you work in the rare kind of place where the HR guy isn’t a complete tyrant, you will need to make sure that you have booked the time off well in advance – normally at least two weeks. Booking the time off doesn’t mean that you also need to book the holiday. As the time approaches, lie in wait and keep a close eye on those websites to find the best deal for the dates that you have off work.

 

Vaccinations

Depending on where you are planning on going, it is probably worth checking whether or not you will have to pay your doctor a visit to get some vaccinations. If you are off to more tropical climes you will need to make sure you have up-to-date typhoid, tetanus, polio, diphtheria and hepatitis A jabs, plus it is possible that you will need malaria tablets. Although it is cheaper to visit your GP for these, if you are really pressed for time, you can visit a travel clinic where you will pay more, but get the jabs faster.

 

Visas

This won’t be a worry if you only plan on holidaying in Europe but again, if you plan on snapping up a deal to somewhere more exotic then you will need to check what the visa restrictions are. If you are off to the USA, you can get your ESTA visa granted online in minutes; others you will be able to get upon arrival to the country as long as you aren’t staying more than 30 days. However, some countries like India and Vietnam are far stricter and may require a trip to the Embassy. Make sure you are informed before you go ahead and book anything to avoid being sent home as soon as you arrive!

 

Pre-pack

If you are King or Queen of the last minute deal then you are probably one step ahead of us already and have that case packed! Those who aren’t so organised could at least make sure that their case is loaded up with all the travel toiletries that you will need and a list of what to pack should you book something which means you only have hours to get packed and get to the airport.

 

Money

Hopefully you have been putting aside the funds for a while now in order to pay. It’s a good idea to keep your holiday fund separate from your day-to-day funds so that you don’t spend it elsewhere and then have to whack the last minute holiday on your credit card. Keep that holiday fund topped up and ready to go!

RTW travel airport tipsNobody really likes airports.

Travellers and backpackers might say they do, but in the end although airports represent the start of a new adventure, they’re really just a purgatory of needless waiting punctuated with scenes of people either totally losing it, or giving up entirely.

You don’t want to be that person that goes postal when they realised they’ve missed their flight by only a few minutes. You don’t want to be that person that has a public meltdown when their flight gets delayed due to general airline nonsense. And you definitely don’t want to be the person who causes a Hollywood-worth scene in the middle of the departure lounge when the loudspeaker announces that due to a situation out of their control, the flight is cancelled.

Instead you want to be the cool kid. The ‘I don’t mind if I wait’ guy. The ‘I’m happy to just sit back and relax’ personality. But that isn’t always something that comes easy to people, regardless of their travel expertise. I know that despite being a self-confessed travel addict, I really don’t like airports. Sure, me being at an airport pretty much always means I’m about to embark on another exciting part of my travelling life, but they’re just really horrible places. So, when I was recently sitting at Brisbane Airport with a seven hour wait ahead of me, I started to compile a little list in my head of just how I deal with being in airports.

 

Time It

There is a fine line to be walked in relation to how much time you want to spend in an airport, so don’t make it anymore than it needs to be unless you absolutely have to. Know how early you have to be at the airport for your flight, and then plan to get there more or less at that time. Definitely double, and even triple check this though! But once you’re sure, it makes sense to get to the airport exactly at that time, and not hours beforehand so you’re wait isn’t extended any more than it needs to be. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is miss your plane, but at the same time sitting around the airport is just a soul-destroying exercise.

 

Ample Entertainment

I cannot stress this enough. Unless you’re planning on spending your time at the airport doing zombie stares into space to pass the time, you’ll want to bring enough to keep you entertained. This means charge the iPod, mp3 player or walkman (no judgement man), make sure you bring your headphones and bunker down for the long haul. But, I’d also suggest bringing more than one form of entertainment, like a book or a drawing pad as well as music. Unless what you actually do to keep occupied is zombie staring into space (or at people, which may very well be entertaining), then you’re probably fine.

 

Snack Time

Airport food is already ludicrously expensive without the added issue of being a backpacker looking to get the most out of every dollar. Unsurprisingly, I can’t see great value in paying massive dollars for food that is worth half as much, which I’d probably pass on if I was anywhere else. But if you’re at an airport, especially with the possibility of long waiting times, you’re probably going to need to eat. So if you don’t want your rumbling stomach echoing around the terminal, do yourself a favour and pick up some food before you get to the airport. Even if you don’t expect to be waiting that long, throw a few muesli bars or crackers into your bag just in case.

 

Sleep It Off

I’m a big fan of nap time in any environment, and have been known to be awfully protective of my lunchtime siesta. One of the positives of this for me when it comes to airports is that I can fall asleep just about anywhere. If you’re on the road, this is a good skill to have anyway, but it comes super handy if you’re delayed or laid over for hours in airport land. Just make sure you set an alarm so you don’t miss your flight!

 

Airport Exploration

Yeah you’re on your way to an adventure, but who says you can’t start that adventure right here at the airport? If you’ve got time to kill during a delay or a layover, there are few things that will pass the time better than a walk and and a people watch. One thing about airports is that they’re usually full of all manner of people. Plus, larger airports also tend to cover a lot of ground, meaning your can stroll around to your heart’s content. So familiarise yourself with your gate, and then let the adventure begin!

 

For most people, airports hardly represent an enviable place to be, especially for hours and hours between flights. But, if you go about it the right way, you can keep yourself occupied, and keep your head level in any airport situation, no matter what change of plans comes flying in your direction.

 

They say good things come in small packages, and those seeking for the proof to support the claim need look no further than the lovely Mediterranean island of Menorca. Far smaller and less developed than its Balearic sibling Majorca, this Spanish island is one of Europe’s real hidden gems.

So why come here with the bigger Balearic island lying just across the water? Well for one thing, whilst Majorca may have stolen the crowds, the reputation and Franco’s construction budget in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Menorca has been left with something far rarer and more valuable: its purity.

 

Get Back To Nature

Boasting places of extreme natural beauty such as the Parc Natural S’Albufera d’es Grau wetlands and a rich biodiversity notable thanks to the island’s abundance of flowering plants, birds and butterflies, this really is a Mediterranean Eden. Menorca is practically unique in its region in offering the opportunity to discover miles upon miles of secluded, if not deserted beach, which for some travellers represents adequate reason to book a ticket in itself. If you’re looking for sun-kissed bliss in an unspoilt location with a strong tourist infrastructure, you couldn’t do better than look into some of the options available for Menorca holidays.

Menorca has all the wonderful scenery, flora and fauna you could possibly hope to see in any holiday destination, but that’s not all. The island also bursts with an alluring human presence, past and present that really brings its beautiful environment to life.

The locals of this so called ‘Gem of the Balearics’ love nothing more than a good fiesta, making the summer months your optimum period to plan a visit to Minorca. Fiesta season runs (intermittently) from late June until late September – be sure to check dates carefully with your tour operator or a reputable online source before booking. Highlights of the fiesta calendar include the stirring ‘L’ithica’ full moon pageant (August 6-8) and The ‘Festes de Sant Joan’ – watch out for a burly local man carrying a grown sheep through the streets at this one!

 

A Quiet Drink?!

Menorca is not famous as a party island in the ‘UV foam party/throwing up everywhere’ sense, and to many, that’s exactly where its appeal lies. There’s ample provision however, for a spot of cultured fun-seeking; traditional singing and dancing, and drinking Pomada, a traditional mixture of gin and bitter lemon – phew!

This really is the Mediterranean island destination for grown ups – absolutely not dull in any way as some would like to think us adults are, but mature, tasteful and truly rewarding. People have settled here since prehistoric times as the island’s extant megalithic structures attest, and within its traditions it’s not hard to see a strong link back to the distant, distant past. To experience a taste of how the Menorcans have enjoyed unwinding over the centuries, waste no time in booking yourself a flight and setting out for this vibrant paradise.

 

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!

 

One of the main reasons people give for not going travelling is that they can’t afford it and I’m the first to admit that travelling for a few month or longer is crazy expensive. But I’ll also admit that it will be the best money you will ever spend and it’s well worth working your socks of for a few years in order to save for that big trip.

Here are my top tips to help you save for your trip that bit faster and make the saving process as bearable as possible.

 

Have a spending detox

Like a diet, it’s good to start with a detox, mainly because it’s horrible and when you allow yourself a few little treats you’ll really appreciate it.

 

A spending detox should last for a week and you should spend nothing all week other than your rent, bills and transport costs. Make sure you take packed lunches when you’ll be out for the day and don’t buy ANYTHING! If you can, don’t even take any cash or cards out with you to avoid temptation.

 

A spending detox will be tough but it will help you realize how much money you waste and the places you really need to spend it. You’ll realize that you don’t need to spend money on drinks and treats throughout the day, you don’t need those magazines and papers and you can go without a few drinks in the pub after work.

 

Have a target

It’s tough to save if you don’t know exactly what you’re saving for or how long it will take. Work out how much you’re going to need for your trip and when you want to go so you know exactly how much you need to put away each month.

 

Cover your walls, your fridge, your notebooks, your office, your bedroom, (hell, cover your bathroom if it helps) with pictures of the places you’re going to keep you inspired to keep saving.

 

What could you be spending your money on?

One night’s accommodation in Thailand can cost as little as £5 a night so try to keep this is mind every time you spend a fiver at home. What can £5 get you at home? A McDonalds meal, two coffees, a pint and a packet of crisps, a book, a magazine and not a lot else. These are all things you can live without so whenever you’re tempted, think about what you could be spending that money on.

 

Sell everything

That’s right, everything! If it’s not going with you, get it on eBay. If you’re travelling long term, all your clothes will be outdated and all your technology will be old news. Sell your books and DVDs because, let’s face it, who reads on a book and who watches DVDs these days? Sell your car; you could travel for months on the money you get for your car and you’ll thank yourself for it later when you can stay on the road that bit longer.

 

Start buying travel

If you’re really terrible at saving, start spending, just make sure you’re spending it on the right things. Buy a flight as soon as you get paid, buy your backpack, book some accommodation, book activities with flexible dates or put money on a travel money card. If you’ve already spent the money, there’s no way you can spend it!

 

If all else fails…get a working holiday visa

If you’re under 30 you can get a working holiday visa fairly easily for Australia, New Zealand and Canada. If you’re working abroad, you’ll only need to save enough money to buy your flights and keep you going for a month or two just in case you don’t find work immediately.

It’s much more fun to save for travel when you’re already travelling and you’ll find that you’ll meet lots of other backpackers in the same situation. I lived with heaps on people in Australia who were all working 12 hour days in order to save as much money as quickly as possible to start travelling again. You can travel around that country and when you run out of money, just stop travelling and start working again. Simples.

 

Do you have any other tips for saving for travel?

 

We live in an amazing age for communication – well some make think otherwise but the sheer amount of social media and tech means keeping in touch with people is heaps easy!

I’ve been on the road for a few years now and to be blunt I don’t really miss anyone! People ask me why and it’s simple really – I chat to everyone all the time, people know what i’m up to via my blog and the joys of the internet mean I can even see these people whilst talking to them. They’re still as much of a part of my life when I’m sunning myself on an island in Thailand or on a glacier in New Zealand as they are when I’m back in my own living room in the same town as them!

As a backpacker although you’re looking to escape the 9-5 grind and explore it’s still important to keep in touch with people back home, not just to annoy them (although to be honest this is now my main reason!) but because that’s what friend do!

Luckily there’s a whole heap of ways for backpackers to keep in touch with home (or travel buddies for that matter) – here’s My Top 5 Ways To Keep In Touch While Travelling...

 

  • Postcards – you can’t beat a good old fashioned bit of postcard communication with home? What sums up your travel fun more than a generic photo of a place, an exotic stamp and some squashed up writing?! Or you could take postcards into the 21st century with a smartphone app called TouchNote, which turns your phone pictures in to postcards ince postage and a mpa of where you sent it from! Postcards just got a whole lot easier!

 

  • Whats App/iMessage/Viber/Heytell – there’s a millions smartphone apps that allow you to easily get in touch with friends and family, be it texts, pics or short voice messages. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone these days and as long as you can steal some free wifi it’s cheap and easy to do!

 

  • Facetime/Skype – if you want to actually see peoples from time to time then a good old bit of skype video calling or Facetime is perfect, providing you have a reliable internet connection. For me this is my preferred method as it’s nice to have a face to face chat…well nearly!

 

  • Calls – Sometimes a good old fashioned phone call is always good! Especially if you know people who haven’t quite caught up with 21st century tech! Luckily making international phone calls doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg anymore and you can easily do it via the internet or phone card.

 

  • Facebook – easily the best way to keep in touch with multiple people is Facebook. Love it or hate it for a backpacker it’s the quickest way to share information, show people your pics or send a private message. Even if you don’t chat to people one on one at least your buddies won’t be out of the loop on what you’re up to and you can keep an eye on the gossip back home!

 

How do you guys keep in touch with people whilst on the road? Message in a bottle? Written letter?!

 

While planning a big trip your brain goes in to overload. There are copious amounts to do. I have put together a timeline of a few essential pre-travel tips and things to think about before you go. Let’s prevent your from head exploding!

Between 12 & 6 Months to go…

  • Where do you want to go? You don’t have to set anything in stone, but a rough idea about where in the world you would like to visit would be good. Do you fancy relaxing in an Asian paradise? Or maybe exploring what South America has to offer? Or how about a city sightseeing Eurotrip? The world is your oyster!
  • Who do you want to travel with? This is important. You don’t want to choose a travel companion that will drive you insane and make you want to launch yourself off the edge of a cliff. Whether you choose to go with a boyfriend or girlfriend, a group or a mate, make sure you can trust them and you will enjoy travelling with them. There is always the solo travel option too. You will always meet new people and make friends along the way.

 

  • Save, Save, Save. Saving is really boring. But it has got to be done. Whenever you’re a bit low about the lack of spending money you have, just think what all your hard work is going towards, a fantastic trip that will be full of laughs and new experiences. It will be worth it in the end. When you go out, drink less, save your money and save your liver at the same time! When you go shopping and want to buy those beautiful sparkly stilettos, just think to yourself… ‘Do I really need these? Can I take them travelling?’. While saving money, it helps if you can live at home and car share, I know sometimes this isn’t possible, but just think of different ways to economise. Work out your finances and set a travel fund target that you can hit. Put aside a certain amount a month, but don’t leave yourself too broke! Sorted.
  • Book your flights! Then there is no backing out! Flights are cheaper when you book them in advance and once you have an outbound flight booked it is all suddenly real! Plus, you have time to replenish your money.
  • Create a blog. Blogging is the best way of keeping  your loved ones up to date with your travels and a way of keeping your very own personal diary of your adventures. You can make it absolutely perfect before you go away and start writing about your previous travel experiences, interviewing other travel bloggers and sharing tips. It’s great fun, I would recommend it.

Between 6 & 1 Month to go…

  • Get organised. Write lists. Then you will feel less stressed about everything and you will not forget to do anything. Think about what you need to buy, do and sort out before you go away. Do it the old school way, where you get a pen and notepad and write it down! Smartphones are good but you could easily delete it by mistake!
  • Spend some money. You need to start buying boring things like visas, travel immunisations and insurance. These can be expensive, but are essential.
  • Research. Read up on your chosen destinations. Make sure you know about the culture, language, sites and local hotspots. Travel books and traveller blogs are my favourite ways of researching.
  • Sort your life out. Hand in your notice at work, sort out your bank, check your passport, make sure visas are approved, sell things that you don’t need to get a bit of spare cash! Try a trial round of packing your backpack, it gives you a good insight in to how much stuff you can take! Etc Etc. You get what I mean.

1 Week to go…

  • Time to get excited! Counting down the days! Make sure everything is sorted and start to pack. Have a think about what you want to get out of your trip. Make sure you have a huge leaving party with all your family and friends, make sure you leave the country on a high! Remember to get those skype contacts and give your blog web address out to keep in touch! Have a fabulous time!

Ok so we’ve got something to admit – RTWBackpackers.com didn’t quite go as we envisioned!

Life as travellers took president and the organisational skills of backpackers failed us miserably!

The original cast got caught up in awesome new jobs and simply couldn’t find time in amongst all their travel plans…

however – RTW is back and better than ever!

We’ve redesigned the site, created a shiny new logo and now there’s some old and new faces to introduce…

Chris Stevens

Chris – One of the original RTW members, Chris has since left South America after exploring Ecuador, Peru and the Galapagos. His travel plans changed, changed and changed again – and after 6 months bouncing around Asia and a random month in Switzerland of all places he ended up surf coaching in Morocco for the winter! Later this month he’s finally heading to NZ!

Dan Collins

Dan – He’s still in the Welsh Valleys but Adventures With Dan is still finding time to live up to his sites name! Whether it’s white water rafting, learning to dive in the freezing lakes of the UK or plotting some adventures around Europe and beyond he’s still got travel on his mind.

monica stott rtw travel blogger

Monica – The final original member, Mon has jumped into the travel industry with both feet – being the networking whizz behind Flight Centres social media team. Her job comes with a whole heap of travel perks and she’s been bouncing around the world – from snowboarding in Canada to camel trekking in northern Africa.

samantha starling rtw travel blogger

Sam – The first of the new RTW recruits! Sams currently on the home straight of travel planning before she flies off on her RTW adventure later this year from the UK. Expect a whole heap of planning advice from her and a greta person to pick the brains of if you’re heading out on your first travel experience soon.

oceana rtw travel blogger

Oceana – Our second new recruit and solo Aussie of the pack Oceana is currently pit stopping in Sydney to drum up some more dollar for an epic adventure in Asia. Having lived in Indo for most of her childhood and spending the last few years bouncing around in Australia she has a pretty unique take on life.

You can find heaps more info about the crew over on the new about us page – so go get acquainted with your new hosts!

 

But what are the original crew up to now?!

The original crew are still blogging away- here’s what they’re currently up too..

 

Bev – The Bevster has settled down in Auckland, NZ for the time being. She’s still blogging via Pack Your Passport as she explores the land of the long white cloud and she’s also already put together and epic set of plans for 2013.

Poi and Kirsty – Poi and Kirsty are back in the UK after an awesome time living and working in Asia. No Place to Be is still going strong and they’re slowly adjusting to life bck in the UK, but no doubt will hit the road again very soon!

Gemma – Media girl Gemma is still doing what she does best – social media, promo and planning her own epic trips!

 

We hope you enjoy following some new adventures, the new faces and the new look – here’s to some epic backpacking carnage! *cheers*

 

New Faces, New Places, New Adventures…

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

Backpacking can quickly consume your life – first you’re exploring further form home, the next thing you know everything you own is in your rucksack and you haven’t set foot on home soil for over a year. It creeps up and takes over everything you think about…

Not sure if you’re a travel nomad yet?! Here’s 10 signs you’ve got the travel bug bad…!

 

1) Being in One Place Doesn’t Work For You

It might seem obvious, but whether it is for better or worse, restlessness is definitely becoming a trend in your life. It’s the first thing that tips people off to your nomadic ways, and it is a handy excuse for your constant moving. Even day to day you want to get out into the world and see what there is on offer. Sitting around and passing time without purpose? No thanks! If you arrive somewhere, you can guarantee you won’t stay long before that gypsy blood of yours is pushing you back out to adventure.

 

2) People Have Stopped Trying To Keep Track Of You

Once, when you we’re just a newbie nomad, your friends and family back home faithfully kept track of where you were and where you were heading next. Now they’re most likely to say you’re “On the road” or “Travelling around”. They’ve reached peak levels of either comical confusion or annoyance at your constant bouncing, and your habit of being gone by the time they figure out where you’ve just been.

 

3) It’s Completely Normal For You To Relocate Every Few Days/Weeks/Months

If people were to see your relocation history they might think you’re running from something, and their assumption is hardly without ground. You’ve hardly stayed in one place for long enough to know it or be known for longer than you care to remember. It’s not so much that you can’t decide where to go, but that every time you do make a decision, another option parades itself seductively around your travelling mind.

life as a travel nomad blog

4) You Can’t Remember The Last Time You Held A Job Longer Than 3 Months

Your work history includes everything from sales and promo work to cleaning toilets in questionable hostels. You will, and in the past have, work any job that is going to help you get from Point A to Point B. And to be honest, you’re usually counting down the dollars until you have just enough to get moving again. It’s hardly a good look for your resume, but hey, at least it makes for an entertaining read!

 

5) Your Friend Group Has Representatives From Just About Everywhere

When you walk into a hostel, you can guarantee that on walking out your ranks of travelling friends will have grown. You aren’t always going to the same destinations, and you’re rarely travelling together, but its nice to see people suffering from all the same nomadic curses/blessings that you are. Keeping track of your global network on social media, they’re a little bit of inspiration, and a little bit of a challenge to stay exciting throughout your travels.

 

6) Seeing Old Friends On Facebook Getting Houses and Families Worries You

People you went to high school (and god forbid elementary school) with are buying houses, furthering careers, getting married and having babies. Updates from their lives via Facebook, in amidst the flood of traveling goodness from your nomadic friends, is bringing out some new emotions. It seems every time you’re internet AWOL while getting lost in the Amazon or running wild in South East Asia they’re making money and spawn like theres no tomorrow. And to be completely honest, it’s freaking you out.

 

7) You’re A Verifiable Expert On Flight and Hostel Comparison Websites

For some people having to book flights and accommodation is an annoyance, but to you it’s a challenge. Always you’re asking yourself: ‘what’s the lowest price I can get for this flight’ or ‘I wonder just how cheap I can get this room’. You’ve got a memorised list of hundreds of websites and databases guaranteed to save you money, and you can jump between them without a thought.

 

8) You Can Fit All Of Your Worldly Possessions Into One Bag

Ownership is hardly on the top of your list of priorities. You can acquire and dump possessions as you need to, usually based on how much you can be bothered to carry around at any one time. Those who’ve ever woken up hungover 10 minutes from checkout know the feeling of people totally unattached to anything that’s just too difficult to get into your bag. Impermanence is the name of the game, and you’ve taken it from its Buddhist roots right into the middle of backpacker heaven.

 

9) Anything in the Future Beyond Three or Four Months is a Mystery

Any notion of future plans gets you very quickly bouncing between two moods. The first is excitement: So many places to go and things to see, and you might have just enough money to do this and that, or to check out this random place. The second is complete and utter confusion: Let’s be honest here, you have no idea where you’re going to be three months from now, even next week is an open book, a plan written in pencil. But you know what? That’s just how you like it!

 

10) The Most Valuable Things You Own Are Memories From Your Adventures

The best thing about memories is they’re nice and light for a streamlined packing experience. Whether they’re photographs stored on handfuls of hard drives and USB sticks, or good old-fashioned memories blending in with dreams in the nomadic sponge of your brain, they’re the only thing you really care about now and in the future. You could stand to lose anything else, and you just might, but nobody can take back the memories you’ve had.

 

Casinos have become popular entertainment complexes that many travelers wish to include in their travels. For many, exploring the casinos across the area is exciting and provides them with different perspectives regarding gaming. For those who will be in the Midwestern state, Indiana, there are some casinos that offer the best in casino gambling. One of these is Belterra which is the leading gambling boat casino within the state. Offering two floors of slot machines and table games, the Belterra is a classic example of riverboat gambling.
Located in Hammond, Indiana, within walking distance to Chicago is the Horseshoe Casino. With over 350,000 square feet of casino floor, the Horseshoe attracts many from around the world. The casino has a variety of casino games including more than 3,000 slot machines. Many of these slot machines are also available at online casinos so many visitors are already familiar with them. Numbering over 100, table games are also found at the Horseshoe. The casino also has the largest poker room found anywhere in the Midwestern United States. An Asian gaming room, Le Cheng, is also included.
When one visits these Indiana casinos they can expect to find the most popular table casino games. This would include blackjack which many people today play at online casinos. The intent of blackjack is to get as close to the card count of 21 without exceeding it. Of course, to win, a player’s hand count has to exceed the dealer’s. In this game, players are all playing against the dealer which means it is possible for all players to win. There are often special versions of blackjack found at both online casinos like Lucky Nugget as well as land base venues. Knowing the basic game of blackjack is mainly all one needs to know to learn these special variations.

I am quitting my job, hanging up my stilettos and packing my backpack for a RTW adventure! It’s a bit daunting but mega exciting and the most spontaneous thing I have ever done! I am usually super organised but all I have done is book a one way flight to Bangkok!

So many travelling thoughts keep running though my head, but one question really gets my pulse racing…

 

What am I most looking forward to?”

 

1)      Not having a job

I have worked two jobs since I was 15, so I think I deserve a little break! So many people have said to me “doesn’t it scare you knowing that you have nothing to come back to?” and, quite frankly the answer is NO. Travelling the world is such a fantastic learning experience, it teaches you lessons that no job could ever teach. It opens your eyes to the world around you, rather than keeping you in your own little bubble and it enables you to ‘find’ yourself and have a think about what you want to get out of your life. Plus, If I want something I will work and work until I get it. So it will be fine!

 

2)      The ‘Backpacking’ experience

Not going to lie. I am petrified of backpacking. And staying in hostels. When I told my friends and family that was what I was going to be doing, they laughed in my face. Everyone I know who has been Backpacking seems to be so carefree. I need carefree in my life. The thought of just have one bag to live out of does, somehow, make me feel liberated! I can live without my heels and make up (I think…) and I can’t wait to put that tremendously gigantic backpack on and explore the unknown! And as for budgeting, well I’m going to try and avoid being a flash packer.

 

3)      Full Moon Parties

Who doesn’t dream about getting totally sloshed on a beautiful paradise island, dancing with fire and covering each other in UV paint? C’mon… It can’t just be me!

 

4)      Travel ‘Friend’

I am really looking forward to meeting the locals and other fellow travellers. I can’t wait to swap tips, stories and learn about new cultures from the people who know best.

 

travel backpacker planning rtw trip
My New Home!

5)      Beaches

White golden sand, turquoise ocean and the scorching yellow sunshine. Take me to Paradise. The Islands of Thailand, Bali and the Whitsunday’s are the picture perfect places that I cannot wait to visit.

 

6)      Blogging

Writing a blog is such a good way of keeping your friends and family up to date while you are away and it is a practical way to pass the time on boring train or plane journeys. It’s like an online diary of all of your experiences. I love writing, it takes me away from reality and I get lost in thought. It’s always fun to look back on older posts and remember what you did and how you felt at that particular time. My site, Totally Sam’s World, opened in June 2012 and I love it. It’s a great tool to help other travellers plan their trip or give readers a giggle. I love reading other people’s blog posts too. Learning about who they are, where they have been, what they have done and listening to their tips. Blogging rocks my socks.

 

7)      Sharing the laughs

This is super cheesy and I am not the romantic, slushy sort. But I’m really excited to be backpacking RTW with my Boyfriend. It is always good to share awesome experiences with someone special.

 

8)      *NEW*

Trying new things is sometimes a little nerve wracking but it’s good to open your mind and try experiences that you haven’t tried before. I think food is going to be my biggest nemesis, as I am not normally very adventurous with it. Grotty public transport scares me too, but I am willing to giving it a go! Being a bit of an adrenalin junkie I am most looking forward to learning to surf, going skydiving, getting my PADI open water diving qualification. Bring it on!

 

9)      Not being in the UK

Honestly, I am not the biggest fan the UK. I love my friends and family, and a good cup of tea. But apart from that, I really won’t miss it. The majority of people are rude, the places are dull and the weather sucks. Sometimes I genuinely believe that I have lost the colour from my eye sight because the days are so grey and miserable! Routine is not for me. I want to get out of my comfort zone, get a sun tan and start my adventure, many miles away.

 

10)   NYE in Sydney

I have always wanted to see in the New Year, watching the fireworks in Sydney. 2013/2014 is the one. Electric atmosphere, beautiful surroundings, lots of yummy Aussie accents and a whole lot of booze. Perf.

If the idea of doing these things gives you butterflies, or if you have just turned green with envy, then get out there and make it happen!

I know it is cliché, but you only live once…  so what’s stopping you?

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.

 

With the economy in a slump, it is often those lovely items like holidays that are first to be crossed off our list of ‘things we’d love to do’. But don’t despair; with cheap flights and a bit of know-how there is a way of getting that much needed escape and earning a few bob while you’re at it.

Working holidays have never gone out of fashion and can be a great way to earn, learn and see the world. It also looks good on your CV! Here are a few ideas how…

 

Teaching

Doing a TEFL course has become the standard for anyone wanting to hot foot it to another country while making some cash along the way. With jobs in almost every country in the world you can choose from teaching English in Thailand to Siberia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. The one month course is your passport to travel and helping others learn your lingo at the same time.

Writing 

If you have a way with words, you could try your hand at the travel writing scene. Pitching articles to magazines and websites is a good place to start while having your own blog is essential and great for keeping track of all your travel stories too. It might be hard to break into the industry but there is good earning potential if you do.

Cooking

Handy with a frying pan and oven gloves? All level of cookery jobs are available from kitchen porter to five star chef.  Some jobs can come with accommodation, saving you even more pennies. Qualifications are a must for most of these jobs but it’s a great way to broaden your culinary horizons.

Nanny/Au Pair

If you have experience of working with children, you can find some fantastic jobs in countries around the world looking after kids. Often these come with accommodation, great for money saving and mean that you are usually immersed in the lives and language of your host family, making for a wonderful travel experience. A CV and references will definitely be required for these jobs.

Music

If you’re a dab hand on the guitar or can carry a tune, the world is your oyster. From street busking and cruise ships to playing piano in bars or the bagpipes at weddings, the musical traveller can easily earn a crust playing for passing folks. If you get a job in a hotel, on a ship or in a bar you can make enough to get by and probably meet some likeminded musicians into the bargain.

Skiing

If you have a love of skiing and snow, combine your passions while earing cash by working a ski season. Whether in France, Austria or America, you’ll get chalet accommodation and free or cheap ski hire and lift passes in return for cooking and cleaning the chalets of visiting tourists. If you can ski, and have an instructor qualification, this is another great way to enjoy the slopes and make piles of cash.

VSO

VSO is a volunteer organisation who finds placements all around the world for skilled workers in a variety of disciplines. You can check on their website for the latest requirements. You will always end up working for a worthy local cause but the difference is that VSO pay money towards living costs and expenses and you get a lump sum amount when you return to your home country. Placements can be just a few weeks or up to two years.

 

SEO has become somewhat of a taboo word recently… especially if you’re a part of a certain Facebook group where anybody who dares to mention it receives the wrath of a few anti-SEO martyrs. A lot of people will say all forms of SEO are wrong and if you dabble in the dark arts then you’re cheating the system… but even those who say this are guilty of practising SEO at one point or another. Even though many of you now know what it’s all about I still get people asking me on a daily basis to help out with some of the basics.

As a little background story my past 4 years of working experience has been within the SEO field. I’ve been an SEO manager for some high-end companies and have seen some amazing results within the travel industry… I’m not trying to brag I’m just trying to show I’m not plucking this information out of the air. I’m also not trying to say I’m the expert who knows everything because I certainly don’t… I just know enough. For my next few posts I’ll be doing a mini-series on some of the basics of SEO that hopefully you will be able to use and put to good use on your own sites.

SEO guideThe first myth I want to expel from the dark arts of SEO is that it’s hard… because it’s not. SEO is something a lot of you do without realising it. I’m going to try and explain what I know in a very basic and general manner so I’m sorry to those of you who know what you’re doing.

In a nutshell Google has these little things called spiders. Google uses these spiders to crawl through every web page on the internet and record information about that page. Once Google has all of that information it will assess what that webpage is about and will then show that page in its search results if it is deemed relevant to the search being made. This is why when you search for something like “Weather in the UK” it will show web pages that are related to showing you what the weather is like in the UK rather than a website about sausages. Occasionally you will get a webpage showing in the results that don’t match what you’ve searched for and this is usually down to bad people using nasty black-hat SEO techniques to gain top places in Google for money-making keywords… but that’s a whole different topic.

With this in mind the most basic principle of SEO is to make your site as relevant as possible for the keywords you want to show up for. What I mean by this is if you’re writing about sausages and nothing else then don’t expect to show up for searches in Google from the keyword “travel” – it just won’t happen. However if you’re hoping to show up in Google for the keyword “Australia Travel Blog” then you need to show Google that your website is a good resource for somebody that may be searching for a Travel Blog about Australia. To show Google that your travel blog is about Australia then you need to mention it somewhere on your site… this could be in the form of a few sentences on your ‘about’ page or even post tags and categories… whichever way you do it you need to make sure it’s there. If you don’t mention ‘Australia’ anywhere on your blog then how can you expect Google to recognise your blog as a resource for Australia?

SearchIf your blog is more of a general travel blog then you’re more than likely going to be relying on your posts to do the work for you. Currently 70% of my traffic comes from Google searches and that’s because I’ll make sure to have information in my posts that I know people will be looking for. As an example one of my older posts about Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary receives searches for terms such as “Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary opening times” and “How much does it cost to hold a Koala at Currumbin”. My personal blog is one of the top results for these terms because I’ve included lines in that post that refer to searches that would be made.

Googles spiders have crawled through my posts, recorded information that shows those posts having the information about the opening times and then has shown them in their results pages because they are relevant to what is being searched for. I’ve not deviated away from the post topic by putting the opening times in there… I haven’t blatantly spammed the post with keywords as they are useful bits of information for somebody reading it, but I have made it relevant for something that I know will be searched for.

As I’ve said there are many ways to make sure you’re showing up for keywords and making your site relevant is just one of them. As this is part of a mini-series I won’t dive in too deep just yet but if you’ve any questions so far leave them in a comment below and I’ll either answer you on here or send you an email if the response is too long!

The last couple of months have seen some rather large changes in my personal circumstances which have resulted in some equally large changes in my travel plans.

The short version of it is that I’m now single again after 2 years and I jetted off to Ecuador at the beginning of January, signalling the start of my next long term travel plan.

All this change and slight uncertainty has made me questions why I travel and how I’ve ended up on the path I’m currently walking.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that I use travel as a tool to run away and distract myself.

 

Full Circle

My first gap year to Australia was planned way back in late 2008.

At the point I was with a girl who I’d been dating for just over 3 years, and who was aware that I was wanting to travel. Initially my plans were to head down under for 3months – covering the east coast, Sydney for Xmas and new year and finishing off in Melbourne with some buddies who had moved out there.

A nice simple plan which would mean a brief period of long distance love.

But the longer the relationship went on and the more arguments we had the more drawn out my Aussie travels became.

Eventually it culminated in a massive argument, the ending of a 4 year relationship, a few too many beers and me purchasing a working holiday visa – which landed me in Australia a few months later, where I stayed and played for an entire year.

At the time it seemed like a slightly rash decision to make, but it’s the best decision I ever made. It grew me as a person, allowed me to clear my head and I came home with an exciting future of travel with a beautiful girl who I’d met along the way.

A further year down the line and a whole heaps of arguments later I once again found myself throwing away another relationship to go head back out on the road.

But was I ending the relationship because I wanted to go and travel or was I traveling because I ended the relationship?

 

Why I Travel

I have pondered on that thought alot recently and on why I travel in general. One of the main reasons behind all my adventures is to surf, it’s been my passion for the last decade and is firmly routed behind most of the decisions I make. I do however tend to use it as an excuse for alot of things – rash decisions included.

I also travel because I want to experience the world and explore the unknown. I want to see new things, photograph them and meet heaps of new people.

But the more I think about it the more I realise that a large part of my travelling experience is escapism.

Through my travels I escape the 9-5 grind that many of my friends have become helplessly trapped in. I’m sure this is the reasoning behind many a backpackers decision and something all gap years travellers have I the back of their minds, the postponing of work and ‘real life’.

I also use it to escape the English weather and climate – again another common reason for travel. Everyone enjoys the sun and leaving behind the rainy UK winter, and indeed summer!

It has however become apparent that I use travel as an excuse to avoid alot of other responsibilities, and as the easy option when it comes to making changes, decisions and confronting difficult periods in my life.

Mainly relationships it seems.

So far is worked out pretty well. I had an epic year in Australia and settled into Byronian living – my home away from home.

And this time I’d scored my dream job surf coaching in South America and I’ve also sorted a long term flight ticket that will take me over 18,000 miles through various places on the way to New Zealand.

Both seem like pretty amazing experiences right?

But this travel is underlined with the fact it’s cost me alot. Not just financially but emotionally.

At some point I will run out of places to run to and have to step up and face my fears – the fear of actually having to deal with the day to day issues of normal life and big decisions.

Everyone travels for their own reasons – and I’m sure I’m not the only one who uses it as a way to escape, whether intentionally or not.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this latest move of escapism is another stroke of glorious genius or a step too far…I’m sure it’ll entail some fun along the way though!

 

Have you jetted off to a far flung place to escape, did it help, or did you simply not questions what you were doing?!

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?

As I prepare to head out on the second part of my RTW trip next week it’s proving to be the biggest focus point of my conversations with people. Alot of the people I chat about my travels with all reply in the same way – thy say I’m lucky to do what I’m doing.

But there’s no real luck involved in what I do.

 

Product of an Aim

I didn’t win my flight ticket. I didn’t stumble into a book of things to do in the places I visited and I wasn’t given the money I’m using to fund it all.

Hard Earned Dollar

Long term travel or seeing the world through multiple trips isn’t luck – its the product of hard work, planning and commitment.

I’ve spent the last 2 years saving hard to build up my travel funds. It’s been hard. I’ve sacrificed a large chunk of my social life and have refused myself certain luxuries knowing that every penny saved will be quadrupled when I head out through Asia.

Would i rather have a Starbucks coffee for the best part of a fiver and let it last half an hour – or would I rather spend that money on a hostel room and a meal in Thailand?!

Everything I spent in the UK during that time was weighed up against what I could get for the same value on the road.

 

Planning

Proper Preparation...

It’s that mindset that helped me plan.

My pay cheques were carefully divided up at the beginning of the month and allocated to expenses, any left over at the end wasn’t splurged – it was viewed as a bonus saving!

And I spent a whole heap of time wading through the Internet, travel guides and chatting to other backpackers researching where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.

That way instead of going in blind I spent my time well I see/do everything that draws me to that destination.

Whilst I’m on the road I’m constantly talking to backpackers, prying for tips and advice and have structured in enough free time to allow myself to change plans and adapt my travel experience.

That’s not luck – that’s being prepared!

 

Commit to the Cause

A lot of people who I know want to travel, but they put mental obstacles in their own paths. It’s too expensive. I don’t want to travel alone. I don’t feel confident enough. I have a job…they’re all stupid reasons to hold off on travels.

You live within your means on the road. You’ll meet tons of people. You’ll find that confidence along the way. You can always get another job.

Commit yourself to leaving to travel and it’ll happen. Just book one single flight. Then your committed.

Even something as simple as making an appointment to chat to a travel agent is the first step. Talk to another backpacker – hell even ping us an email and we’re happy to share our advice with you all!

Follow through on your promise to yourself and you’ll be rewarded with an epic experience that you’ll never forget.

 

Make your own luck

Contrary to what you may think as bloggers we don’t get everything for free. And the freebies we do get are also the product of planning, commitment and hard work. We didn’t get here by accident, we made the choice that this is what we wanted to do and found a way to get what we wanted.

I didn’t study blogging at Uni, nor did someone give me a site to run. I saw an opportunity, researched it, acted on it and committed to it.

There’s no reason you couldn’t do the same.

My way of life at the moment has nothing to do with luck.

Come join me on the road, stop making excuses and explore the world – its a beautiful place.

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

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.