regional 1

What You Need to Know About Regional Work in Australia

regional 1Any backpacker who wants to extend their Australian Working Holiday Visa for another year must complete 88 days of specified work in a regional postcode. For most travellers, working in the back-and-beyond of Australia is a chance to save money and experience the ‘real’ Australia. But before you dive in head first, this is what you need to know about regional work in Australia.

Use Gumtree

Gumtree is the best resource for finding your regional work. Post an ad with a brief description of yourself and what you are looking for and the farmers will come to you. A word of warning – most girls who post ads will probably receive some less than helpful ‘work’ offers so be careful!

Decide what type of farm work you are after

gaplife 6 1Do you want to work with animals, harvesting crops or in the mines? I thought farm work was all one of the same  but I couldn’t be more wrong! Working with animals is generally more varied but can also involve longer hours and being covered in various animal fluids 24/7. Decisions, decisions…

You will probably get ripped off

Farmers know that backpackers are desperate to get their second year visa so can pay you pittance and work you till you drop in return for signing off your paperwork. If you argue then there will always be another backpacker waiting to take your spot. It’s a rubbish situation so take care.

The chances are that you will be short-changed in some way but be aware of exploitation and put your foot down when necessary.

Find a place which hires other backpackers

farm 3Life in the middle of nowhere gets lonely. There can be some fab locals and fellow Aussie workmates but sometimes people who have lived such rural lifestyles can be a bit, well, weird… If you find a farm which hires other backpackers then you are more likely to enjoy your time in the wilderness and connect with some like-minded people.

Try to get work close to an area you want to explore

When we were narrowing down where to do our regional work, we decided to look close to areas we wanted to explore. By narrowing our Gumtree ad to offers within 100km of our chosen destination, we knew that we would be able to escape to civilisation on our days off and see our friends nearby.

regional 2We weren’t prepared to sacrifice our weekly dose of wifi and flat whites just yet!

Try to visit the farm before you commit to work

Visiting the farm beforehand gives you a great chance to get a feel for the place and your potential workmates. You can have all your questions answered and be able to make an informed decision on where would suit you best.

Be realistic

Calving 3Working on a cattle station 1000km from anywhere does sound like a romantic idea but when it comes down to it, where on earth are you going to do your shopping? Will you have phone signal? Could you cope with the isolation?

You are potentially going to be staying at your farm for 3 months, that’s a bit chunk of time. Make sure you are realistic with what you can cope with.

Prepare for a culture shock

Working in a regional postcode is like a whole other world. You could watch every Australian film set in the outback, Google until your heart’s content and read every guidebook your Kindle can handle and you will still not be prepared.

You ain’t in Melbourne anymore!

Remember that you can always quit

nullabor 4Farm work can be hard. Working at my new farm is the hardest thing I have EVER done. But remember, you never have to stay in one place. If you hate the work or you’re being exploited then leave. There are plenty of farm jobs out there and if you start clocking up your days early then you will have plenty of freedom to pick up and drop jobs when it suits you.

Working in exchange for food and board doesn’t count towards your visa

From 1st September 2015, WWOOFing (working on organic farms in return for food and board), no longer counts towards your 88 days. Unless you commenced work before the 1st September, this is no longer an option.

Get all your paperwork sorted before you leave

Print off copies of your paperwork and make sure your boss signs off your days. Most applications for second year visas are completed online but it always helps to keep a hard copy for evidence.

Also keep a note of your days in a diary or spreadsheet so you know exactly what you have done and when.

Make the most of it

Calving 4When else in your life will you be helping cows give birth or watching the sunrise through orange trees? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity (thank God!), make the most of it!

Have you completed your regional work? Share your experiences in the comments below or via my social media pages!

working holiday visa 2

The Definitive Guide: Moving to Australia for a Year Part 2 of 2

working holiday visa 2Ever since I moved to Melbourne in March, I’ve been inundated by emails and comments asking how to move to Australia for a year. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while but wanted to make sure that I’d experienced enough of Australia to give you the best information first. 

Once I started writing this post I realised that it was going to be a long one. Check out Part 1 here.

If you are thinking of moving to Australia for a year, then here’s part 2 of the definitive guide on how to make it possible.

When you arrive:

Belgrave Dandenong 10– Tax File Number (TFN)

In order to legally work in Australia, you have to have a TFN number. You can apply online and it will take around 28 days to process. Most jobs will let you start work without it and you have a 28 day grace period before you start getting charged 50% tax.

You will need an Australian address to complete the application. I just used my hostel’s address. Your TFN will be sent through the post but don’t worry if you have no permanent address as you can ring up to check the status of your application and get your TFN over the phone.

Find out more here.

Gaplife month 4 6– Jobs

How you go about getting a job completely depends on what your looking for and your experience back home.

As I had office experience, I signed up with a few temp agencies which worked out great. Contact agencies as soon as you touch down in Oz. They will set up a meeting with you and then start looking for work straight away. If you’re in Melbourne or Sydney, I’d recommend Interstaffing.

For cafe work, handing in your CV face-to-face or searching Gumtree is usually best. A lot of this work is cash in hand so will save you from having to work out the complicated tax-related issues.

Bar work can be tricky as you will have to complete an Responsible Sale of Alcohol (RSA) course. This course is only valid for the state you are in as all have different alcohol laws. The courses are easy, take a day and cost around £25.

The same goes for laboring. If you have any laboring experience then definitely make use of it in Oz as the pay is INSANE, but first up you will have to get a White Card. Again, this consists of a short and easy course which will enable you to work on building sites throughout the state.

For farm work, hit up Harvest Trail or Gumtree for work in your local area.

Melbourne First Impressions 4– Phone

You will need to get a new sim card and an Australian number. If you are staying in the city then chose Vodafone for cheap tariffs and free calls home. If you are travelling chose Telstra for the best network coverage.

Melbourne First Impressions 8– Long term accommodation

If you are a solo traveller then long term hostels are probably a great shout for you. Most people are working like you so you can get some shut-eye at night, you meet new people and there’s always something going on. You can get cheaper deals if you book weeks or months in one go.

If you want some privacy then look into getting a house-share. You usually get your own room or can opt to share for a cheaper deal. Check out Gumtree, Facebook groups or Flat Mates for vacancies.

Double and triple-check any contracts you sign and be wary of handing over large bonds.

Free Things to do in Melbourne 5– Extending your Visa

It’s almost guaranteed that you will fall head over heels for Australia. Luckily for us, we are able to extend the Working Holiday Visa for another year.

Unfortunately, we have to work for it. If you are even slightly considering the second year extension then get on to your farm work as soon as you can. We have to complete 88 days of agricultural work in order to apply for a second year.

A lot of Aussie farmers know that us British folk are desperate to extend our time here and can rip you off with rubbish wages or threats to not sign your paperwork. Take your time to consider your farm work options and choose a farm which will treat you right.

Look at Harvest Trail to see what work is in season and make sure you leave enough time to complete it!

If you’re lucky and are working in a job you enjoy then you may be able to get sponsorship. This is a long-winded process so, again, make sure you leave plenty of time to complete it. Chat with your employer and see if this could be an option for you.

Gaplife Month Two 5– Tax Rebate/Super Annuation Rebate

Before you leave Australia, make sure you have claimed back all your tax and your Super Annuation (their equivalent to a pension). The Australian tax year ends in June so make sure you keep all your paperwork and make a claim.

Unlike the British system, this can all be done online and crediting back to your account within 21 days (UK TAKE NOTE!).

Find out more here.

That completes my definitive Guide: Moving To Australia for a year. If you have any further questions then please let me know.

Have you done the working holiday visa? Anything you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages.

 

working holiday 1

The Definitive Guide: Moving to Australia for a Year Part 1 of 2

working holiday 1Ever since I moved to Melbourne in March, I’ve been inundated by emails and comments asking how to move to Australia for a year. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while but wanted to make sure that I’d experienced enough of Australia to give you the best information first. 

Once I started writing this post I realised that it was going to be a long one. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming your way soon.

if you are thinking of moving to Australia for a year, then here’s part 1 of the definitive guide on how to make it possible.

Before you go:

tips for nervous flyers 5– Visa

Obviously the most important thing! Brits aged 18-30 can apply for a Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417).

The visa costs around £220 and is generally granted within 72 hours, although it pays to be organised and apply for the visa at least 28 days prior just in case there is any issues.

One of the prerequisites of the visa is that you enter the country with at least £2500 to your name. From my experience, this isn’t enforced.

Of course it would be nice to start your year in Oz with a healthy bank balance, but if you don’t have that much cash don’t fret. They are unlikely to ever check.

For more information about the Working Holiday Visa, visit the government website here.

Gaplife month 4 1– Insurance

Get yourself some decent travel insurance. Health care isn’t always free in Oz so make sure you are covered as you would be for your normal travels.

– Tax

Make sure you have got all your tax back from your job in the UK. As you are leaving the UK you need to fill in the P85 form. Get this organised and completed as early as possible. This cash injection will be so needed when you get to Oz and I’m still waiting on mine more than 6 months after applying…

Find out more here.

Winter in Melbourne 4– Choose an area

It’s all well and good doing the boring admin stuff but now for the fun bit! You will need to choose where to live.

Do you want the beaches of Perth? The glamour of Sydney? To live in culture-capital Melbourne? Or join a commune in Byron Bay?

Google, Google, Google. See where the job opportunities are, check out the cost of living and make sure the lifestyle suits you.

I’d tell anyone to make the move to Melbourne, but hey I’m biased…

Choose Melbourne 1– Banking

Save the fees on your British bank card and set up an Australian bank account before you leave. You want to choose a bank that is used nationwide, otherwise you will incur charges for withdrawing money from another bank’s ATM.

I’d recommend Commonwealth Bank as you can set up an account and collect your card from a local branch the very first day you arrive.

Sign up here.

Free Things to do in Melbourne 4– Contacts

Do you have any family, friends or friends of friends living in Australia? Get their numbers, add them on Facebook and get chin-wagging.

Any contact is valuable and I’ve noticed that everyone is happy to help when you’re stranded on the other side of the globe. Contacts can be great for general Oz knowledge, work opportunities or to help show you around.

Belgrave Dandenong 16– Accommodation

Always book accommodation before you arrive in Australia. Whether it be an Air BnB, hostel or hotel, you will want somewhere to crash as soon as you step off the plane.

If you are arriving to an Australian summer make sure you book at least a couple of weeks in advance. Good hostels can get booked up fast so make sure you are prepared.

Don’t worry too much about long term accommodation, we will get to that in part 2.

So that’s what you will need to do before you reach Australia. Part 2, What you have to do once you arrive, will be up shortly.

Have you done the working holiday visa? Anything you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages.

 

tips for nervous flyers 6

8 Top Tips for Nervous Flyers

tips for nervous flyers 6So, I have a travel confession to make. Despite being a frequent flyer and avid travel enthusiast, I have a fear of flying. 

I’m not sure when I first began to feel anxious about flying or the reasons behind the sudden onset of in-flight anxiety.

I used to love the sensation of flight and the thrill of take-off and landing but recently I’m more about the sweaty palms and the certainty of imminent death. Weird,eh?

tips for nervous flyers 5

I’m definitely nowhere near the level where my anxiety would stop me from flying but it just makes the whole experience more uncomfortable than it should be.

Over time, I’ve learnt how to control my anxiety and now I often even find myself enjoying flights!

So here are my tried-and-tested top tips for all you nervous flyers which will hopefully help you overcome some of your travel anxiety!

tips for nervous flyers 2

1 – Meditate

This is a new one for me but probably one of the most helpful techniques so far.

As your plane is taxiing on the runway, close your eyes, take deep breaths and focus on a spot in the middle of your forehead. Pop in your headphones and play some calming music and try your best to clear your mind.

By the time the plane is taking off you should be completely relaxed. Don’t stop meditating until the plane is at cruising level.

2 – Pamper yourself

On long haul flights, take the time to truly pamper yourself! Plug in some of your favorite music (or a Harry Potter Audiobook for you cool kids like myself), pop on some comfy socks, relax and even treat yourself to a hydrating facial mask like these.

Yup, you’ll look weird but you’ll have the last laugh when you step off the plane relaxed and hydrated!

tips for nervous flyers 3

3 – Look out of the window

The views you get from above are breathtaking. I could spend an entire flight gazing out of the window, wondering about the people who live in the villages below or taking pictures of stunning mountain ranges or deserted islands.

Make the most of the birds-eye view. When else will you fly over Everest or watch the sunset over Paris from above?

4 – Spend time researching your destination

Flights are the best time to get excited about your destination. Pack your hand luggage with destination guides and spend the flight swotting up on your destination.

It will give you something positive to focus on and by the time you touch-down you will know your new country inside out!

tips for nervous flyers 1

5 – Understand the noises the plane makes

The best piece of advice I’ve heard is to educate yourself about the noises and movements the plane makes before, during and after your flight.

When you know that the horrible scraping noise is the wheels retracting or that it’s normal for the plane to tip when navigating its landing at the airport then you are a whole lot less likely to freak out and think that you’re about to plummet to earth.

This quick guide from Qantas is a great place to start.

6 – Sleep!

Easier said than done, I know! But once you’ve managed to drift off then your flight will whizz past and you’ll be on solid ground before you know it!

7 – Walk around

It’s really important to stay active during flight, especially during a long haul.

Getting up to have a wander, brush your teeth or speak with friends or family sitting elsewhere is a great way to distract yourself and also to trick yourself into thinking that you are still on the ground.

tips for nervous flyers 4

8 – Remember the statistics

I know that this is a cliché but the stats are there for a reason. Despite the horrendous media coverage surrounding air travel recently, flying is still one of the safest forms of transport.

Driving to your destination would be nearly 3 times more risky. Just remember that, ok!

Do you get nervous when flying? What are your tips? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media links.

Guide to australian slang

A Guide to Australian Slang

Guide to australian slangG’day Sheilas! Welcome to The Student Travel’s ‘Guide to Australian Slang’. In this post, I will be sharing some of my favorite Aussie slang words and some words that are just plain weird. If you’re heading Down Under soon, then this is the lingo you’re gonna need!

Arvo – afternoon. Eurgh, I hate this one. ‘See you this arvo’ – NO!

Avo – Avocado. Avo is an Australian staple. ‘Smashed’ (or mashed to us Brits) avo on toast graces practically every brunch menu in the land.

Bogan – Google defines ‘Bogan’ as ‘an uncouth or unsophisticated person, regarded as being of low social status’.

According to my Aussie friends, ‘Bogan’ is weighted with meaning and can’t simply be compared to our use of the word ‘chav’ as I suggested.

I’m still not too sure about this one but I know that if someone calls me it, I get to punch them in the face.

Doco – Documentary. Teehee, this one is sweet.

Doll – a term of endearment, especially adorable when used by the elderly.

Doona – duvet. Super legit and used on duvet packaging.

Far OutThis expression is not, as I initially thought, purely used in 90s stoner films. Nope, real people actually use it on a day-to-day basis. I thought that it meant ‘cool’ but actually is used in the place of ‘damn’ or ‘FFS’. Who knew?!

Heaps – ‘I like using the word heaps, heaps!’ I don’t. It’s actually very annoying.

How you going? – It is so important that you know how to respond to this before coming to Oz as you will get asked it daily!

When the question ‘How you going?’ was first posed to me, I had no idea what to say. ‘I’m going good’/’I’m not going anywhere’/’I’m walking’/’I’m delightful thank you’ – all potential possible answers.

I reacted by mumbling but I now know to treat it as ‘How are you’ and to respond accordingly. Although it is perfectly normal to reply ‘I’m going good’. Grammar at its worst.

Rugged Up – dressed in warm clothes (I find this one so cute!)

Sanga – Sandwich. I love this and am waiting for the opportunity to say, ‘sling me a sanga’.

Super – Makes your sentence have 10x as much gravitas e.g. ‘I’m excited’ turns into ‘I’m super excited!’ I know who’s telling the truth.

Too easy/ No dramaThese two are interchangeable, simply meaning, ‘No trouble’. Typically used to round-off a phone conversation or by the waiting staff at a restaurant.

What’s your favorite Aussie slang word? Do you have any to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages. 

Don’t forget to add me on Snapchat “studenttravels”. I’m following the first 50 people back!

How much does it really cost to live in Australia

How Much Does it Really Cost to Live in Australia?

How much does it really cost to live in AustraliaWhen we told people we were moving to Australia one of the first questions we were asked is, ‘but isn’t it expensive?’

True, back in my ‘gap yah’ days, I saw a banana in Sydney which cost £10. For a single banana. But what about now?

How much does it really cost to live in Australia?

We came to Australia on a very tight budget. We were expecting everything to be crazily expensive.

But this wasn’t always the case.

Here’s a lowdown on how much you should expect to shell out for everyday essentials when you live in Australia.

All prices typical for Melbourne CBD.

Queen Victoria Market 9Food

Aside from rent, your weekly shop will be your biggest expense and where you’ll notice the largest increase from the prices back home.

Here’s some examples:

2L Milk: £1

Loaf of Bread (weirdly expensive): £2

12 Eggs: £3

Bar of Chocolate: £2

Bottle of Coke: £2.50 (Whyyyyy!)

Week’s Worth of Veggies from the Market: £10-£15

Weekly Shop for 2 people: £55

Budget busting tip: Buy your fruit and veg cheap from the markets. They are a lot fresher and last longer. Stick to own brands and buy in bulk when possible.

Melbourne First Impressions 3Accommodation

If you’re coming to Australia after a stint in South-East Asia, as many do, then be prepared to be shocked. Hostels are crazily expensive, and it’s not like they are much better than their South-East Asian counterparts.

Be prepared to spend around £15 per night for a night in a 6-12 bed dorm. Many hostels offer weekly rates for around £110.

If you are going to be sticking around in one place for a while then I would recommend finding a house share to rent. These are a lot better value than hostels as you get your own room. Expect to pay upwards of £120 a week in Melbourne.

Budget busting tip: Melbourne’s extensive public transport network opens up the entire city. For cheaper rent, head to the suburbs. Your commute might be a bit longer but you’ll save the pennies. If you’re staying in a hostel, see if you can exchange a couple of hours of your time for discounted accommodation or even a free stay!

Queen Victoria Market 6Eating Out

The cost of eating out has pleasantly surprised me. In Melbourne, there is something for every budget. On average, prepare to spend about £5-£10 on a main in a restaurant, £2 for a (very decent) coffee or the same for a soft drink.

Tipping culture (as far as I’ve noticed) isn’t a massive thing here, although I’m sure it’s always appreciated!

Budget busting tip: For great bargain meals, head to mall food courts and take your pick! For dinner, China Town is a great bet with dirt-cheap eats and BYOB.

Choose Melbourne 4Drinking

Unfortunately drinking isn’t cheap in Melbourne. You will be hard pushed to find a pint for less than £5 with the same going for a simple mixer. Cocktails are more like £8-£10.

Budget busting tip: Lots of hostels have cheap drink nights so keep your eyes peeled! Sign up for sites like Groupon for occasional amazing cocktail deals. 

Dandenong 13Getting Around

Melbourne’s CBD is served by the free tram zone, with the Circle Line tram stopping at many of the city’s top tourist sites.

If you need to head to the suburbs then you’ll need a MyKi card which costs £2.50 from any 7/11 or train station. A single journey with a MyKi costs around £2 with fares capped at just under £4. Use your MyKi on trams, buses and trains within the two travel zones.

If you want to buy a car then be prepared to spend around £600-£2000 depending on model and condition. Make sure you have it checked by a mechanic beforehand! Petrol is more affordable than the UK at 70p a litre.

Budget busting tip: Save money by using the weekly or monthly rates offered on the MyKi. Make the most of the Myki and head out to the beautiful Dandenong Ranges. This 2 hour round journey costs less than £4!

Melbourne First Impressions 2

Miscellaneous

There’s always something going on in Melbourne and endless things to do. Here’s a few:

AFL game: £13

Museum entry: £6 (free for students)

Cinema: £7-£10

Budget busting tip: If you have a valid student card then don’t be afraid to ask for a discount as sometimes they are accepted. Shows and films are often cheapest on Tuesdays so bear that in mind when booking tickets.

What do you think about Australian prices? How did you budget on an Aussie trip? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages.

Have a pal who’s about to head off to Oz? Then don’t be afraid to share!

 

Philippines Budget 1

How Much Does it Cost to Travel the Philippines?

Philippines Budget 1I’ve had a couple of requests to write a post about how much I spent in the Philippines. I have been very reluctant to actually sit down and face the fact that I was a rubbish budget traveller in the 3 weeks we spent in the Philippines.

We stayed in cushy private rooms, ate out 3 times a day and divulged in nightly cocktail binges.

And the figures ain’t pretty.

But I will confess to you anyway and also give some pointers to my past self about how I could have been more cautious with the pennies…

All prices are per person based on two sharing over 20 days. I calculated the costs at £1=68 php.

Accommodation

Philippines Budget 2We didn’t scrimp on accommodation. We didn’t dorm-hop or stay in many hostels.

Regardless, our nightly average cost of accommodation only came to £8.50 p/p.

Overall I spent £171.50 on accommodation for 20 nights.

The cheapest was £5.80 a night for a 10-bed dorm and the most expensive was £14.70 for a plush place in Boracay.

Philippines Budget 5How I could have saved money: Obviously I could have stayed in more dorm rooms or traded beach front accommodation for something more modest. As it was peak season places booked up quick and prices were hiked up accordingly. Book in advance on sites like Agoda or be prepared to barter hard for longer term stays.

Food and Alcohol

Philippines Budget 4This is the hardest figure to admit to.

As I was totting it all up I simply couldn’t believe it. Well, I kind of could as its me all over…

I spent £425 on food and drink ALONE. Almost half my entire spend.

That’s what eating out in restaurants and bingeing on cocktails does to you! That’s a hard to swallow average of £21.25 a day.

manila sunset cocktailHow I could have saved money: Easily. I worked out that if I ate fried rice 3 times a day then I would have only spent £70.50 over the 20 days. But, I wanted cocktails on the beach and to eat slap-up Filipino fare with my feet in the sand. I ate from food markets and in tiny family-run roadside joints so it wasn’t all fine dining and tiny umbrellas in my drinks. I just like my food ok?!

Activities

Philippines Budget 4We took 3 boat trips (Tour A & C in El Nido and the Underground River Tour) as well as hiring a moped for two days.

The boat trips cost a total of £60.30 and the moped for two days was £9.55p/p. This made the overall total for activities a reasonable £69.85.

El Nido moped 7How I could have saved money: If you’re in El Nido then island-hopping is a must. You can sign-up to the ready-made tours like I did or, if you grab yourself a bunch of mates, you can do it solo.

We met a few people who had hired a boat and a captain and created their own blend of Tour A and C. Splitting the costs between a group meant that the cost came to around £6 p/p saving almost £30!

Transport

1 Boracay BoatLuckily transport around the Philippines is cheap! The average tricycle ride would set us back £0.73, a single jeepney journey £0.15 and an hour-long metered taxi ride in Manila cost £4.41.

Chuck in 3 internal flights totaling £82.28, a return journey to Boracay from Kalibo for £17.65 and Puerto Princesca to El Nido and back for £16.17 and various terminal fees of £17.64 for a grand total of £155.61.

Philippines Budget 7How I could have saved money: I kept transport costs cheap and to a minimum. I spent a lot of time walking or travelling as the locals did and got a the internal flights for a steal! If you’re planning on booking internal flights in the Philippines book in advance. Also, only take hand-luggage and you can score flights for as low as £15 one way.

Miscellaneous

Philippines Budget 3We had some unexpected costs such as £10.29 on suncream and £1.50 on sun-hats. We also splashed £1.40 on a litre of local rum, funded my Buko addiction spending £22.20 over the 20 days and keeping ourselves hydrated with £29.40 worth of water.

This all came to £64.79.

Philippines Budget 8How I could have saved money: I could have risked bringing the suncream I left in Manila. I thought that there might be a 100ml rule for internal flights but not so! Suncream on the islands was really hard to hunt down and very expensive.

I’ve heard that there are clean water taps on Boracay and El Nido which are free or a very minimal cost which I will make the most of next time!

The Overall Cost

Philippines Budget 9So after 20 days in the Philippines I spent a grand total of £960.08.

Yup, it’s more than I had anticipated and I definitely could have spent a lot less. But would I change it? Nope.

As an introduction to my new #gaplife, living the life of luxury in the Philippines was perfect. Lazing around on beaches, sipping on coconuts and slipping into a clean, comfy bed every night was bliss!

When I inevitably return to the Philippines I’ll be more budget conscious (promise). It’s definitely possible and will be just as fun. Just you wait!

Have you been to the Philippines? Did you stick to a budget? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages.

 

Best Country in SEA 2

Why the Philippines is the Best Country in South-East Asia

Best Country in SEA 2I’m putting it out there. It’s something I think a lot of people will agree with but few will admit to.

The Philippines is my favorite country in South-East Asia.

There, I’ve said it. It’s out in the open. It’s bumped former fave Thailand from the top-spot, bypassed Laos and blown Cambodia out of the water. Soz.

Like every great love affair, I didn’t expect it to happen.

Here, I’m going to attempt to explain why I fell head over heels for this often overlooked island nation and why you CAN’T skip it on your visit to South-East Asia.

Visa

Carry on Essentials151 countries benefit from 30 visa-free days in the Philippines. There’s no hassle, no charge and no worries for a whole month! See if your country is exempt here.

Cheapest alcohol in the world

manila sunset cocktailThis one’s self-explanatory. There are few places where you can get a 40p rum and coke watching the sunset or grab a beer for 70p.

The Philippines is also home to San Miguel Light which has the same alcohol content as normal but ONLY 100 CALORIES. Why isn’t this a thing everywhere?! Guilt free drinking!

It’s still undeveloped

Best Country in SEA 5It feels like the whole of South-East Asia has become saturated with gap year backpackers all scrabbling for the last patch of sand or queuing up to be blessed by phony monks.

You have to search a lot harder to find ‘real’ experiences nowadays.

Not so in the Philippines. The country is still relatively new on the backpacker radar and islands like Palawan still hold that ‘final frontier’ magic. I even began to get annoyed at how underdeveloped Palawan was, there were so many beautiful sights that are still hidden from tourists. You either had to dig around to find them or stumble upon them by surprise.

The best beaches in the world

Best Country in SEA 3Sand that stretches uninterrupted for miles, crystal clear water and lazy palm trees strung with hammocks. The Philippines is beach bum bliss. You can head to beaches like White Beach in Boracay which has everything you’ll ever need in walking distance of your hammock, or hide away on the deserted beaches of Palawan with just the coconuts for company.

Don’t just stick to the sand, the water is teeming with amazing sea-life, packed with coral and tropical fish. The snorkeling and diving are world-class and not to be missed.

Cheap internal flights

manila sunsetThe 7000 islands of the Philippines are spread out over 300,000 square kilometres. But you don’t need to rely on overcrowded ferries or spend hours on a bus, you can simply fly. If you book in advance, flights can cost as little as £15 one way and open up the whole archipelago.

Diversity

manila national museumWant your culture fix? Head to North Luzon for hanging coffins and ancient towns. Want natural wonders? Fly to the Chocolate Hills in Bohol or the perfectly conical volcanoes of the mainland. Beaches? Check. Rare wildlife? Check. Hiking? Check.

The amazing ecological diversity of the Philippines means that there is something for everyone, beach bums and culture vultures alike.

The people

Best Country in SEA 4After travelling South-East Asia it gets tiresome having to always be on the lookout for con artists. Simply taking a taxi or tuk-tuk becomes a chore as you have to barter and reason with the drivers then cross your fingers and hope that he sticks to his end of the bargain. Not so in the Philippines.

In the Philippines it was so nice to actually trust people. True, there’s a couple of bad eggs out there but overall everyone was lovely. Kids would chase you in the street, not to get your money but to say hello and shower you with high-fives. Tricycle drivers would take you straight where you needed to go without a fuss, when we hired a moped it didn’t break down and the vendor didn’t add on extras.

It seems like a lot of areas in the Philippines haven’t yet been dragged into the dark side of tourism. Scams seem relatively rare here and it’s so refreshing to be able to chat to someone without being coerced into buying tacky trinkets or keeping an eye on your valuables.

The festivals

El Nido 5Filipinos love a party. Any excuse and they pour onto the streets, stringing up bunting and organising beauty pageants. It’s great!

We were in El Nido when they celebrated their 99th birthday with a fortnight of celebrations, because why the heck not?! It’s a great way to meet the locals and get involved with some of the stranger Filipino traditions, like caribou racing and drag queen contests.

Sunsets

Best Country in SEA 1I saw the best sunsets of my life in the Philippines. Manila, Boracay and El Nido delivered fiery melting suns daily. I made sure I never missed a single one.

The modes of transport

Best Country in SEA 6Squidging into a jeepney never got old. Chugging around the streets of Manila, squeezed next to smiling old ladies was one of my fondest memories. The fact that journeys cost less than 10p made it even better!

On the islands, tricycles and mopeds were the main means of getting from A to B. Working out how to fit your bags and you into the tiny trikes always proved an amusing challenge.

No language barrier

Island Hopping El Nido 7I love experiencing a new language and trying to decipher shop signs and menus. But sometimes it nice to be able to ask where the toilet is rather than work out how to convey it in sign language…

By removing the language barrier it’s so much easier, and quicker, to get to know people or casually chat in passing.

I loved the Philippines but have barely scratched the surface. I’ll definitely be back to explore more of my new favorite South-East Asian country.

What’s your favorite South-East Asian country? Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages!

 

The ULTIMATE Packing List

The ULTIMATE Packing List

The ULTIMATE Packing ListWe’ve all been there. Flapping around before the big trip, panicking about what we’ve forgotten or where our passport is. I feel ya.

So to save you the hassle, I’ve created the ULTIMATE packing list with a couple of packing tips and tricks chucked in for good measure.

Apologies to all you lads out there as this is a female-centric list but regardless, swap the maxi-dress and bikinis for some chinos and trunks and this list is perfect for you too!

This list is also geared towards countries with temperate to tropical climates. So perfect for trips to South-East Asia or Australasia. I use a Berghaus Jalan 55l with a 15l backpack attached. Similar here.

The last time I went travelling, I thought I had to dress like a tramp. That it was a right of passage to spend half a year in khaki and hoodies. Not so. I didn’t bring jeans or anything I would normally wear at home so I just felt frumpy and gross the whole time. The takeaway? Bring clothes that you will feel comfortable in but also bring things that you would wear at home and make you feel more human, like your favourite t-shirt or necklace.

So hold on to your hats folks, here it comes – your ULTIMATE packing list and guide for your big trip or gap year.

Packing for Travel

Documents

– Passport

– Money (local currency and potentially some US dollars for certain countries).

– Debit/ Credit/ Currency Card

– Travel Insurance Documents

– Flight Tickets and Boarding Passes

– Hostel Confirmation and Directions

– Visa Confirmation/ Documents

– Guide Book

Packing for Backpacking

Clothing

– Jeans

– Comfy Trousers/ Hareem Pants

– Jumper

– Scarf and/or Pashmina

– 4 x T-shirts

– Maxi Dress and Skirt

– 2 x Shorts

– Leggings

– 8 x Knickers (1 for every day of the week and 1 for when you’re washing the rest!)

– 8 x Socks

– 2 x Bras

– 2 x Bikinis

– Beach Cover-Up (e.g. sarong or big tee. Added bonus if you can double it up as sleepwear).

– Pac-a-Mac or light raincoat

– 2 x Sunglasses

Travel Shoes

Shoes

– 1 x Splodgers (or sea-shoes to normal people…)

– 2 x Trainers (Converse and Nikes for casual/sporty occasions).

– 1 x Flip-Flops

– 1 x Sandals

Worry Dolls

Jewellery and Accessories

– 2 x Necklaces

– 1 x Watch

– 1 x Ring

– 1 x Quick-Dry Towel

– 2 x Notebooks

– 3 x Pens

– Snorkel

– Small Bag for going out and a Backpack for treks and mini-adventures

– Worry Dolls (Gifted to me by the fabulous Globe Trotting Graduate!)

Travel Documents

Electricals

– Phone

– Kindle

– Camera

– Netbook

– Selfie-Stick (don’t judge).

– Straighteners

– Headphones

– Go-Pro

– Tablet

– All Chargers

– Global Adapter

Travel ToiletriesToiletries

– Make-Up Bag (with all your essentials).

– Make-Up/Baby Wipes

– Toothbrush and Toothpaste

– Anti-Bac Handwash

– Paracetamol/Ibuprofen/Preferred Pain Relief

– Plasters

– Diarrhoea Relief (Because you just never know…)

– Deodorant

– Perfume

– Dry Shampoo

– Hairbands and Kirby Grips

– Hand and Foot Cream

– Facewash

– Moisturiser

– Sun Cream and After-Sun

– Travel Sickness Pills

– Razors

– Tampons

– Hairbrush

Carry on Essentials

 Top Packing Tips

– Begin early! Start writing a list of things you need when you think of them, refine the list over time and use it to check off your final pack before you leave for the airport.

– Lie everything out on the floor so that you can visualise what you are taking. It can help you sort out outfits and spot anything that you might be missing.

– ROLL don’t FOLD your clothes. It stops creasing and means that you can pack more in.

– Pack mainly neutral coloured t-shirts and bottoms. This way it’s easier to mix and match. Throw in a patterned scarf or jumper to spice it up a bit!

– Don’t panic! As long as you’ve got your passport, a bit of cash and your travel documents then you’ll be fine. Most things you can pick up on the other side.

So there you have it, the ULTIMATE packing list and guide! What are your travel essentials? Have I missed anything out? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media links.

Don’t forget to keep me company on Bloglovin’!

The Gaplife Checklist

The #GapLife Checklist

The Gaplife Checklist

The time is nearly nigh. We are now into single figures on the countdown clock! This is the time when my planning-ninja abilities start to come into their own.

What better way to start than a checklist! If you are also planning your own gap year, holiday or #GapLife then this is the post for you.

For those of you unfamiliar with me incessantly banging on about #GapLife, here’s a bit of background.

All caught up? Yay! All converted to the #Gaplife? Yay!

Now we can continue… Notepads and pencils at the ready folks.

Cook Islands Mountain ⊗ Read and follow the instructions here.

⊗ Buy Insurance

So you’ve paid for your flights across the globe and you’re a little out-of-pocket. Insurance can wait, yeah?

NO! As soon as your flights are booked, make sure you have insurance to cover you as soon as possible. You may break your leg tomorrow and not be able to fly – so long flight money! Unfortunately we’re not invincible (yet) so insurance is a definite.

⊗ Visas

Potentially another budget-buster but hopefully one you’ve prepared for. Working holiday visas for countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada can be expensive but well worth it if you need to fund your travels on-the-go.

Make sure you check how long the process takes and apply with plenty of time to spare.

Lake Wanaka New Zealand

⊗ Book Internal Flights and Transport

If you’ve managed to get a rough itinerary down then it’s time to start connecting the dots. Think about the best way to get from A to B. Will you have to book internal flights or ferry crossings?

I’m going to be island hopping in the Philippines which required me to book flights in advance. Check out skyscanner.net for the cheapest prices going.

⊗ Book Accommodation

It’s usually only necessary to book the first couple of nights at your first destination as you don’t want to be tied down to overpriced hostels or fixed locations.

You want to know where your headed when you step off the plane and to have that first night security blanket (literally). Check out sites like hostelbookers.com which allow you to book in advance and pay on arrival.

Brisbane GOMA

⊗ Start Inquiring about Work

How are you going to be funding your travels? If you’re going to have to work then it’s a good idea to put some feelers out there before you jet off. Search Gumtree, local temping agencies and Facebook groups to see what type of work is available.

If you can secure a job before you go, bonus!

⊗ Tie-up Loose Ends

Cancel your phone contract, inform your bank and check if you’re entitled to any tax rebates (kerchingggg). It will give you peace of mind to know that you won’t have to worry about these things once you’re abroad.

Scan copies of your passport, bank cards and insurance details to hand over to your next of kin at home. This way they will be able to help out if you get in a pickle on the road.

Barbados Fishermen

⊗ Pack

I’ll probably be dedicating a whole blog post to the trickiest checklist item of all – dreaded packing. In my experience, I always over-pack. I’m someone who will pack 6 pairs of shoes yet end up wearing my trusty flip-flops the whole time.

If you’re going to be lugging a backpack around with you then every piece of clothing and kit needs to be thought about carefully. If you end up clamoring for a pair of heels when you’re on the road (unlikely…) then you can always buy some there.

⊗ Say Your Goodbyes

Ok, maybe this one might be a harder one to check off than packing… Throw a party, have a few drinks and reconnect with your nearest and dearest. Promise to stay in touch – and stick to it! Skype is an incredible travel tool!

⊗ Off you go!

AHHH! The day has finally arrived! All your hard work and planning is finally about to pay off.

Double check the checklist, triple check it just in case, throw on your backpack and leave all doubts at the door.

It’s time to start your #GapLife.

Barbados SunsetAre you planning a #GapLife or epic travel adventure? Let me know in the comments below or on my social media pages.

Don’t forget to keep me company on Bloglovin’!