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.



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.



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.



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…



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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.



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 – 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.

This is a guest post from the lovely Neil over at Backpacks and Bunk Beds.

Under any other circumstances, if a total stranger were to hold out his hand and offer me a little brown paper bag full of unmarked white pills, I would like to think I’d have the sense to decline such a generous and yet terrifying offer.  But when the stranger offering you said mysterious pills has the letter D and R before their name, an element of trust is already pre-established, and all of a sudden you can wait to slam the pills down the back of your throat.  Ok maybe a slight exaggeration, but you catch my drift.

This is a position I one day found myself in whilst in Sri Lanka. It was a one off, I would never touch pills normally, but the good Dr told me to take two a day for a week, so that’s what I took.  Brave? Stupid?  Risky?  He was a Dr, but still they were unmarked and in a brown paper bag.  They weren’t my lunch!  Shouldn’t they have been in a plastic container or something?  Ah well, bottoms up *glugs water and swallows whilst saying a small prayer.

The above probably makes little sense without a back-story so let me provide you with one.  In 2006 I spent 3 months of my year volunteering as a teacher and sports coach in both Sri Lanka and India.   As you can imagine, most of my work took place school with young kids, snotty nosed, whingey, ungrateful … I jest, the kids were great.  They were a world apart from kids who I’ve taught in the UK, these little wonders actually wanted to be in school, it made teaching a whole lot easier.  I loved both my placements but sadly had to cut my placement in India shot by a week and headed back to Sri Lanka before I’d move on to Thailand and the rest of my rtw trip.

Neil and his eye pimping it up with the ladies

Upon my return to Sri Lanka I made plans to meet up with Natalie (@girlandtheworld) and the some volunteers I already knew, but before I met them I had a couple of nights by myself in Colombo.  I took in a movie, went shopping, went to the pub and generally enjoyed myself.  On the second morning at my guesthouse, however, I had distinct difficulty in opening my eyes.  It wasn’t that I was tired, far from it; my eyelids were literally stuck together.  A film/gloop has formed during the nights a literally glued them together.  When I finally prised my eyes open I washed them out and knew I had an issue to deal with.

I travelled to the volunteer’s base in Sri Lanka and had a chat with my old volunteer liaison who wrote down in Sinhala an address and some instructions before putting me on the next tuk tuk out of there.  That is how I ended up in a Dr’s surgery being given unmarked white pills.  My eyes were a mess, I had caught conjunctivitis and I knew exactly where I’d got it from, my favourite School in India.


Conjunctivitis (also known as Pink Eye) is swelling (inflammation) or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids known as the conjunctiva.

There are many causes of conjunctivitis. Viruses are the most common cause. Other causes include:

  • Allergies
  •  Bacteria
  •   Certain diseases
  •   Chemical exposure
  •   Fungi
  •  Parasites (rarely)
  •  Use of contact lenses (especially extended-wear lenses)


“Pink eye” refers to a viral infection of the conjunctiva. These infections are especially contagious among children.


Conjunctivitis in my Madurai based School

Conjunctivitis (also known as Pink Eye) is swelling (inflammation) or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids known as the conjunctiva.


There are many causes of conjunctivitis. The most common is looking into he eyes of another person who has Conjunctivitis.


“Pink eye” refers to a viral infection of the conjunctiva. These infections are especially contagious among children.


Can you spot the difference?  Did you see that little pearl wisdom about sight?  In case you missed it …


The most common (cause) is looking into he eyes of another person who has Conjunctivitis.


Yup, conjunctivitis is transferable by sight (apparently).  The kids who had the VIRAL infection were made to come to school with sunglasses on so that no one would be able to see their eyes, or they were sent home.  I sh*t you not.  Andrew (a medicine volunteer who also did a bit of teaching) and I tried to explain to the kids in a couple of classroom based lessons that the infection was VIRAL, and they should wash their hands lots and avoid touching around their eyes, and touching each other, but we think for the most part it fell on deaf ears.  The language barrier probably owed a lot to this, but we did try.

So I was in paradise but looked a state.  I went to sleep scared that in the morning I wouldn’t be able to open my eyes at all.  But to the good Doctors credit the pills did actually work and I made a full recovery.  What took me longer to recover from was his tedious lecture on the Blackburn housing marking, but as he made my eyes better I’ll let him off.

So the moral of this story, take unmarked white pills?  Trust people who know about the Blackburn housing market?  To be honest I’m not sure, maybe I should have more faith foreign medical services, they obviously do a very good job and had me patched up in no time.   Either way,  I just thought it was an interesting tale to tell.  No one wants to get ill on the road but there’s no guarantees that you’ll stay 100% healthy. But, to help you out, here are just a few things that you can do to give yourself a better chance at staying fitting fit …

  1. Wash your hands regularly, especially when coming into contact with kids and questionable toilet facilities.
  2. Check your water source, stick to bottled water if unsure if the tap water is safe.  That goes for ice too, avoid having ice in your drinks if you’re unsure of its source.
  3. If you have meds to take such as Malaria tablets, establish a routine for taking them.  Don’t slip and lose the habit.  You paid for them, take them!
  4. Carry things such as plasters, it sounds lame, but don’t let that tiny scratch get all pussy and infected.
  5. Brush you teeth, this sounds sill in some sense, but I along with a lot of people I met on the road all had some gum issues by the time we’d finished our travels because we’d so rarely brushed our teeth.  Naughty!
  6. Make sure you have all the recommended jabs for the area’s you are visiting.  I hate needles, but your jabs are a must!
  7. Don’t hop into bed without wrapping your tool.  If you have to get tested, clinic’s like to give you your results in person so you may have to stay somewhere longer than planned just to find out that your night(s) of pleasure mean you’ll be on meds for the next couple of days.

If you’re going to settle down in any area for any length of time, it may pay to look up medical facilities in advance.

You can find more from Neil over on his fabulous blog, Backpacks and Bunkbeds, on Twitter @packsandbunks and Facebook.

Has anyone else ever had conjunctivitis while travelling and have an equally sticky story to tell?


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

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

The picture that…..takes my breath away

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

The picture that….makes me laugh or smile

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

The picture that….makes me dream

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

The picture that….makes me think

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

The picture that….makes my mouth water

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

The picture that….tells a story

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

The picture that….I’m most proud of

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

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

Our nominees

We nominate…….no-one!

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


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

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

What is Songkran?

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

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

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

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

A few pictures from Songkran in Bangkok last year.

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

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

Happy Songkran Festival!

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


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

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

Web: www.manversusworld.com

Twitter: @Themanvsworld

Facebook: Man vs. World


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

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

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

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

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


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

Beverley : Jusy keep going, it gets better!


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Sure beats Leicester Square
Sure beats Leicester Square


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

Get through the door

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

Learn the lingo

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

Erm, which way was it again?

Use your hands

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

Ignore the sleeping woman

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

Ask younger people for advice

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

Keep your passport on you

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

And finally… Take your time

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


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

Backpacker Tattoo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the RTW Backpackers team getting a cheeky Tattoo

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

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

Some tips for getting tattoo’s while travelling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Certain things change when you start travelling, particularly in the backpacker world. You suddenly have the desire to do things out of the ordinary and act in different ways than what ‘normal’ society dictates. It can be simple things or down right stupid things so You Know You’re a Backpacker When

  • You have the sudden urge to wear anklets/foot jewellery/random bits of string
  • Drinking excessively on a weekday is completely normal
  • …and being sober is an odd sensation and kinda painful!
  • Beard growing, dreadlocks and general hairiness are actively encouraged (sometimes referring to both sexes!)
  • When you won’t spend $4 on a meal, but will blow $20 on booze without a second thought
  • You’ll haggle over 10baht with complete stubbornness – despite it only being 30p
  • Suntan cream and bug spray are your biggest expenses
  • Trying to sleep in a room where people are having sex is something you just deal with
  • The swimming pool DOES count as a shower (failing that public beach showers are the way forward)
  • Wifi is the deal breaker when looking for a bed for the night
  • Sleeping in a van at the side of the road is living the dream

    Parked up for the night
    Parked up for the night

  • Shoes are no longer part of your day to day dress code
  • …and wearing a tshirt is “getting dressed up”
  • …you also genuinely can’t remember the last time you wore socks!
  • Jumping out of a plane is a standard day out
  • You post status updates on Facebook for no other reason that to annoy your friends at home
  • You have no idea how much money you actually have – but you’re sure it’s enough
  • Smelling your clothes is how you pick what to wear (aka “sniff and see!”)
  • This rule also applies to food!
  • The free food shelf is a gold mine
  • You have 800+ Facebook friends but can only really remember a handful of them
  • You’ve perfected the squat toilet technique
  • Tiger balm cures EVERYTHING
  • Your iPod is your most treasured possession
  • If its free, you’ll take – regardless of whether you like/want/need it!
  • You save money by putting apples through as onions on self serve supermarket tils!
  • You can tell anyone the price of booze and where happy hour is…but have non clue about what the time is

    Forget the Amazon tour, let's drink!
    Forget the Amazon tour, let's drink!

  • …or what day of the week it is (see airport transfer concerns!)
  • The only local language you know is how to swear, order a beer and chat up girls/guys at the bar
  • You have a massive craving for things like PG Tips, Heinz Baked Beans, Peanut Butter….
  • You steal toilet paper from places simply so you don’t have to buy it
  • Being able to juggle, dread hair or play with fire suddenly seems like a good career path
  • “I’ll do that tomorrow” actually translates as “I’ll leave it to the last minute or forget”
  • You can name every possession you own
  • …and where in your bag you need to locate it at 3am in a dark hostel dorm
  • Which also means airline baggage handlers are your arch nemesis
  • A 31 hour bus/ferry/train combo is preferential over the extra $40 it’ll cost to fly there in 3 hours

So how many have you guys ticked off – or is that list simply making you wary about hitting the road?!

The lust capital
Amsterdam's red light district


Lust – Amsterdam, Holland

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


Pride – Los Angeles, USA

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


Greed – Las Vegas, USA

The ultimate sin city
The ultimate sin city

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


Envy – Dubai, UAE

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


Gluttony – Paris, France

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


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

Wrath – London, UK

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




Sloth – Barbados, Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how was it when I was travelling?

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“You’re going on an around the world adventure? Who are you going with?”

Nobody. I’m going solo

“…Wait, what? Are you mental?!”

Well no, actually, you’re not mental. Thousands of people embark on around the world trips every year and 99% of them are looking to meet new friends and acquaintances along the way. Some of the best friends I have these days are people I’ve met on the road and even though I’m living in another country to them now I still talk to them almost every week.

One of the biggest myths about travelling solo is that it’s a very lonely task. If anything, I think travelling solo is one of the most social things you can do. I’ve generally found other travellers to be some of the most genuine, friendly people that I’ve ever met. No matter who the traveller is, you always have one thing in common with them – you like to travel!

Bearing this in mind it’s very easy to make friends with people in hostels and on the road. Most travellers like to share their experiences with each other and talk about where they are going to next, places that could be recommended by others, places others have been… we’re like younger, more sane versions of that crazy grandma we all have that wants to know every little detail and any little story. If you’re happy enough to share then we’re happy enough to listen.

It’s safe to say before I started travelling I wasn’t very social at all. I didn’t join any groups at home in fear of having to talk to strangers and making a fool out of myself and I didn’t mix with other people because I was ‘happy with the friends I’ve got’ – going travelling and being on my own made me sick to the stomach with the thought of being thrown in to a room full of strangers but take it from me, you have nothing to fear AT ALL.

The fact of the matter is there’s only one thing you need to remember when trying to make friends while on the road – be yourself. Don’t act a fool, don’t try and be somebody that you’re not and don’t annoy the others in the room you’ll find yourself making friends left right and centre. Obviously it’s going to take a little effort on your side. You may find yourself in a room with people as new to this as you – try striking up a conversation first “Hey, I’m Dan, what’s your name?” If the encounter doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped then it doesn’t matter as it’s highly likely you will be moving on to a new hostel in a few days or they will. I can guarantee you that if you’re open to making new friends then you’ll find them and it’s highly likely they will be friends for life.

If you’re still not sure then try using a traveller’s social networking site. One site that I’ve used myself (and am in no means affiliated with) is travbuddy. Basically you sign yourself up, bang in a few destinations you plan on visiting and on what dates… the magical mechanisms in the website do all of the work for you and find other people who will be in that destination and on those dates. Hey presto!

If you have any tips on ways that you’ve made friends on the road we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

These are just some of the friends I've met along the way...

Main image supplied by Photostock

Don't forget the fake Ray Ban's and the cut off shorts that get shorter (and shorter) with every wash.


It’s Fashion Week which means that models from across the world will be strutting their stuff on the catwalk, showcasing the latest designer trends and inspiring high street designers to turning them into every day items we can all wear.

Will we be wearing any of these new trends though?  Probably not.  As backpackers we don’t have the room in our luggage or room in our budget to keep up with the latest in fashion.

So what do we do?

Well, we come up with our own. The RTW Backpackers team don’t claim to know a lot about fashion but if you’re confused about what you should wear if you want to rock the Backpacker Look this season then just follow these simple steps*:

Excessively Colourful Boardshorts - it's the future!

1. Girls you absolutely must wear a bikini top every day even if you’re not going to the beach.  Even if it’s raining.  Even if it would probably be more appropriate to wear a bra.

In fact, don’t even bother packing a bra.  You’re living life untethered now and if that goes for your body as well as your travels then you sure as hell don’t need the restrictive feeling of two curved pieces of wire digging into your ribs every time you move.

2. Boys the same goes for wearing anything but board shorts on your bottom half even if you’re not going anywhere near a beach.  Even if it’s cold.  Even if it would more appropriate to wear jeans or, shock horror, actual shorts.  Nothing screams Backpacker Fashion like a brightly coloured pair of board shorts on a rainy day

Even in miserable weather the flip flops remain...
Even in miserable weather the flip flops remain...

3. Don’t even think about wearing anything on your feet except flip flops.  Any brand except Havianas is unacceptable.  Yes we know they’re more expensive than your average family car but there are times when you have to make sacrifices in the name of fashion.  And this is one of them. Failing that you could follow in Chris’s (lack of) shoes and ditch footwear altogether – just watch out for the glass!

New hair
Dan decided not to cut his hair for a while...

4. Don’t cut your hair.  Ever.

5. Don’t style your hair.  Ever.  If you don’t look like you’ve just been for a dip in the sea, rolled around in the sand and dragged through a hedge backwards, you’re not doing it right.

6. Make sure that 90% of the time you’re wearing a singlet or vest top with a beer logo on it.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to Bali or Thailand, buy one off eBay and do everything you can to make it look like you’ve had it forever

7. Girls if you do feel like you have to do something to your hair you can’t go better than flipping your head upside down, twisting your hair around and securing with a bobby pin.  Proceed with caution though; pull it too tight and you run the risk of looking like you’ve tried to give yourself some kind of DIY facelift.

8. Buy an anklet, making sure it’s one that actually ties on so you have no choice but to wear it at all times.  Don’t cut it off when it starts rotting from getting wet in the sea or the shower.  Buy a new one and hope no-one notices.

Backpacker Fashion; short shorts!
Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts!

9. Girls you definitely need to arm yourself with the shortest pair of short denim shorts possible.  Remember to wash them on a hot wash so that by the time you’ve worn them for the millionth time they’re so small that it’s practical illegal.

10. Wear as many hippy-looking bracelets as possible

11. Buy some Aladdin pants in the colour of your choice.  It doesn’t matter if they make your bum look huge or that they’re really unflattering, they’re comfortable and that’s all that matters for you now that you’re travelling, right?!

*None of the following advice should be taken seriously or, indeed, literally.


For any of the non-Brits among us, Pancake Day is another of our weird and wonderful traditions that basically involves being able to gorge ourselves on tasty treats. But if you think there’s nothing more to the day than just flipping a few pancakes, you can think again.

This brilliant day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, is always the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent. And lent is that weird time of year when Christians (or people who need a good excuse for a diet) give up something they love (think all your favourite things like biscuits, sweets, chocolate and crisps) during the run-up to Easter. This symbolises deprivation and sacrifice and is meant to make us sympathise with Jesus – although I’m not really sure how giving up Ben & Jerry’s for a month can make anyone feel a bit more holy but that’s a completely different topic.

Before lent, people would use up everything in their cupboards and get rid of any tempting treats and what better way to do this that with a good old pancake.

Making the perfect pancake

I’m going to make this simple for you:

The ingredients

100g of plain flour

2 large eggs

300ml of milk

1 tbsp of oil

A pinch of salt

What to do:

  • Whisk all your ingredients together, preferably with a hand held whisk, put a nob of butter in your frying pan and wait until it’s really hot.
  • Ladle a spoon full of the batter in your pan and swirl it around really quickly so it forms a nice thin layer across the pan.
  • After about 2-3 mins give it a flip and hey presto, you have yourself a pancake. Simples.

 There are a couple of rules for making the perfect pancake:

  • You must make your own batter and you can’t get that stuff from a packet – that’s just cheating.
  • Your frying pan needs to be super duper hot.
  • The first pancake you make will look like crap and you’ll probably feed it to your dog but don’t worry, they get better.
  • The best pancakes are fried in butter.
  • Don’t flip your pancake until it comes away from the pan really easily.
  • There are recipes out there on how to make ‘healthy pancakes’ – ignore them all. Make the most out of Pancake Day and make every one as buttery and sweet as you can.
  • No matter how much ice cream and melted chocolate you have, you can’t beat the traditional lemon juice and sugar pancakes.

And now all you need to decide on is the topping, so tell us, what’s your favourite pancake topping?

The courtyard of San Pedro
The courtyard of San Pedro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Guess it beats your average hostel
Guess it beats your average hostel


Seems like there is an upside to the economic global downturn after all.

Singapore Airlines, in a bid to attract more tourists to Singapore, is offering hotel rooms for just £1 a night.

If you choose to stopover at the minute Asian country en route elsewhere you can snap up the deal at a snazzy hotel such as the Grand Pacific and get a free transfer. All for less than a cheeseburger.

And any additional nights will be discounted by up to 56 per cent.

As the airline serves onward destinations across south east Asia and Australasia including Koh Samui (Thailand), Penang (Malaysia), Adelaide (Australia), Hanoi (Vietnam), Siem Riep and (Cambodia) it’s a pretty good deal. Plus flights to Singapore are currently only around the £400 mark.

Sean Tipton of the Association of British Travel Agents – The Travel Association said: “The travel industry sometimes offers amazing deals like this outside of peak periods when demand is low and many hotel rooms and airline seats are unoccupied.

“If you are lucky enough to be able to travel when these offers are around you can make some incredible savings.”

Fancy taking up the offer? Do you think Singapore is worth visiting as a backpacker? 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

private beach ha long bay
All This beach to yourself

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

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

CC Thanks to David Mckelvey for the title picture.

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

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

RTW Backpacker
Meet Dom

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

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

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

My questions to the backpackers are:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


How do you budget your money whilst travelling?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Dan – What those two said ^


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds of having travelling flings in every hostel you visit?

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

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

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

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

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

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


If you’re fed up of Valentine’s Day and don’t fancy smooching all over your candle lit dinner and cooing sopping nothings into the ear of your sweetheart then why not try some of these restaurants where romance will be the last thing on your mind.

Cannibalistic Sushi, Japan

Sushi isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and cannibalism is pretty much illegal so this restaurant is sure to create a bit of controversy.  You’ll find an open ‘body’ on each table so grab your chopsticks and dig out some sushi.

Modern Toilet, China

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with your loved one, the sight of them sat on the crapper has to be the biggest turn-off imaginable and that’s exactly what you’ll see during your meal at Modern Toilet. These guys have got rid of good old fashioned chairs and replaced them with toilets. Why? We have no idea; we just hope they aren’t plumbed in.

Buns and Guns, Lebanon

This military themed restaurant with the slogan ‘Sandwiches Can Kill You’ is likely to kill the passion as well as any edible looking animal in sight. Try the Mortar Burger or the M16 Carbine Meat Sandwich.  Veggies shouldn’t be put off by the hung-go mentality; The Terrorist is a tasty vegetarian option.

Penis Restaurant, China

Guo Li Zhuang serves every type of penis imaginable and will either be your worst nightmare and put you off penis for life or, you never know, it may awaken your inner pervert and you might love eating a bit of donkey dick.

Cabbages and Condoms, Thailand

Nothing says romance like a handful of free condoms which is exactly what you get when you leave this safe sex restaurant. Designed to promote safe sex with the reassuring slogan, ‘Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy’.

The Grave Yard Restaurant, India

No one likes sitting next to a dead body while they eat their dinner but unfortunately that’s part of the deal at this Indian restaurant. The graves are thought to bring good luck and plenty of customers for the owners. How romantic.

 Has anyone been to any of these restaurants of know anyone know of any other unromantic places?

Welcome to RTW Backpackers!

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

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

Ok not really.

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

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

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

Calm yourself.

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

So in no particular order…..

Monica from The Travel Hack

Chris from Backpacker Banter

Dan from Adventures With Dan

Beverley from Pack Your Passport

Kirsty and Poi from No Place To Be

Gemma from Gap Daemon

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




So many times I’ve been trawling through travel blogs and found “Top Travel Tips for Women” but never before have I found travel tips for men. Feeling a bit left out and dejected at this I’ve decided shine a little light on this often ignored topic and bring you the long-awaited and desperately needed travel tips for men. The following are what I deem to be some of the most important tips a man can follow while travelling:

Clown hair
The voices told me this would look good....

Never trust that inner voice

Where women can often rely on that little voice in their heads telling them that “this is probably a bad idea”, the little voice living inside a man’s head has been designed to do the complete opposite. Instead of telling us to walk away from a dangerous situation, the voice inside our heads would encourage us to face it head on and be the hero. Or if we found a sign saying “dangerous currents do not swim” the voice in our head takes it as a personal insult on our swimming skills and decides to make us take a dip anyway. That little voice in your head will be the undoing of your travels before you have even started. Ignore it at all costs.

Protect yourself from pick-pockets

Don’t wear pants with pockets. Or even better don’t wear pants at all.

They said they loved me
They said they loved me...

She’s really not that in to you

Going abroad you’re bound to be feeling like a god. You’ve left your cares and responsibilities at home and have nothing left to tie you down. You’re THE man. Knowing you’re ‘the man’ you’re going to be expecting foreign women to be head over heels in love with you. When these supermodels start throwing themselves at you, you start picturing your life married to the stunning-20 year-old who’s currently hanging off your arm. In reality that supermodel who has taken a sudden interest in you is most likely after a visa or all of your money. The 2 month fling with the new love in your life will turn in to the worst investment you ever make bringing with it divorce costs that go through the roof. Before you end up in a sticky situation (and not the one you were hoping for) stop and think what a stunning 20-year-old actually sees in a scruffy backpacker in the first place.

Avoid public humiliation.

Ignore the second point. Wear pants.

Jump! It's the only way...

You’re not Indiana Jones

Something I learned the hard way while travelling is that you don’t suddenly change into an action hero that’s able to take on any situation and come out of it with not so much as a bead of sweat on your forehead. You’re still the same old you and you haven’t learned overnight how to jump out of a moving car, do a few rolls and then stand up without a scratch on you. You’re bound to be placed in to a few situations while travelling when you think “yeah, I can do this” but deep down you know that 13ft jump across a swamp filled with very hungry alligators is way too ambitious for you yet you’ll still give it a damn good go. Do yourself a favour and walk away. Seriously… just walk.

And finally, possibly the most important advice your mother ever gave you reiterated by a random stranger;

Don’t be silly – wrap your willy!

This article isn’t intended as the most serious piece of advice. Check back for some real travel tips for men and women that are coming soon!



‘An empty backpack!? Are you crazy?’ I can hear you all crying this already. You’d be mad to leave without anything…right?

There are literally hundreds of websites and blogs out there offering advice on what to pack for your round-the-world trip but I have to disagree with every single one. You don’t need X-amount of pyjamas, a guide book to every single town in the world or a specialised waterproof coat that doubles up as a canoe, a Swiss army knife and a tent.

All you really need is your passport, the clothes on your back, a camera, your toothbrush and a debit card. Simples.

Still don’t believe me…? Here’s why I’ll be leaving home with an empty backpack on my next big trip:

My Top 10 reasons for leaving home with an empty backpack

1. There is no danger of over packing – possibly the biggest mistake that every backpacker makes.

2. You will have loads of fun exploring the markets, haggling for a bargain and picking up some unique clothes so much more fun than a regular trip to H&M.

3. You will honestly be able to pick up everything you need on the road – including a backpack if you decide to go all out and leave with nothing.

4. You will be able to confuse the hell out of the airport staff as you check in an empty bag.

5. You won’t need to lug around a load of stuff you will never need or won’t need for 6 months.

6. You may think you’re going to the Arse End of Nowhere but I can guarantee that even the Arse End of Nowhere has shops and they will be cheaper than at home.

7. What you wear at home won’t necessarily be what you’ll wear while travelling. The latest London fashions look completely out of place in Asia and you’ll want to be in baggy pants and a T-shirt displaying the local beer.

8. There is an amazing sense of freedom when you have barely any luggage and nothing to weigh you down.

9. It isn’t until you’ve travelled with nothing that you realise how little you need in life. This can really be a life changing experience.

10. You’ll have loads of space in your empty bag for gifts, souvenirs and all the great stuff you are bound to pick up along the way!

What do you think about leaving home with an empty backpack? Is there anything you couldn’t leave without?



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

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

So what makes this hostel stand out?

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

Guilin Flowers Youth Hostel

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’ve just graduated from uni chances are right now you’re at a cross-roads in your life where you’re not really sure where to go next.  I guess it’s kind of like one of those ridiculous quizzes found in women’s magazines; “You’ve just graduated from University, do you a) apply for a post-graduate course?  b) start applying for jobs?  or c) travel?

The trouble with those quizzes though is that sometimes they don’t even give you another option like d) All of the above.  I think I’m probably a bit biased, but before you start scouring the Seek website for the post-grad job you’ve always wanted, think again.

You’ve probably got people telling you that if you don’t do something with your degree now then it all will have been a massive waste; all that money blown, look at the debt it’s got you in, 3 years down the drain blah blah blah. 

At this point my advice to you would be to turn around to all of those people bringing you down and shout, extremely loudly; “My degree isn’t going to expire!!!” because the way some people talk it’s almost like if you don’t use your degree right NOW then somehow it’s going to lose it’s value.  I mean, have these people SEEN antiques roadshow?!  Things get better with age?!

You’ll always have your education.  You’ll always have that degree under your belt and even though that amazing post-grad job on Seek probably won’t be there for ever, there will be other jobs in the future.

And despite what other people would have you believe, travel can actually broaden your mind, educate you and prepare you for your chosen career in more ways than you could ever imagine.  Don’t worry that travel will look bad on your C.V because it wont:

When you travel you’re constantly planning your life, constantly dealing with changes in situation.  You’re constantly learning new things and experiencing different cultures.  You’re socialising with people you wouldn’t normally talk to and improving your communication skills.

You might not have been sitting at a desk for the best part of your twenties but that doesn’t make you unemployable.  In fact, I think it makes you even more of a catch.

Do you really want to be sat at your desk in twenty years time, only to suddenly be hit with the realisation that maybe you made the wrong decision?  I mean yes you have a gorgeous house, a great job, a nice car and maybe if you’ve been exceptionally silly you’ve gone and grown yourself a couple of babies.  These are all good things.  Great things!

But that’s what they are; things.

Things will be around forever, but your life experiences are something that you have to find for yourself.  That’s not to say you have to start backpack hunting, like NOW; I worked for 2 years after graduating not even realising that at aged 24 I would be jetting off to Australia and I’m really glad that I gained some experience in a working environment, but give yourself the option at least.

At least consider experiencing something out of your comfort zone.  At 26, I am still learning so much about the world and about myself, and I honestly don’t think that that would have been the case had I stayed at home.