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Confession time: I am a World Cup fan and the 2018 World Cup tournament will be the first where I won’t be setting alarms for 1.40AM to watch my favourite teams take to the field. Instead I’m in the US (on the east coast at that), and have no clue how to watch Australian World Cup games from my new posse.

And if I don’t know, that means some of you guys might be scratching your heads as well, so here’s your guide to watching the Russia World Cup from the US. If you’re on the east coast, you will not be spared the joys of setting your alarms to before the crack of dawn. The first games start at 3AM, but at least it’s not the middle of winter so you won’t need to be wrapped in three blankets.

If you’re supremely organised and have everything ready to go for the first game of the cup on Thursday morning, well done. You can always scroll down to check out some of my favourite World Cup moments and sketches.

When is Australia Playing?

The new Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk, who hails from Denmark himself, has one goal for his new charges – make it to the Round of 16. It’s a tall order, considering the fact that an Australian team has only made the Round of 16 once, back in 2006 under Guus Hiddink, who is also from the Netherlands. Incidentally, Hiddink is coaching the hosts, Russia, this time around.

The odds seem to be against the Socceroos (aren’t they always?), with no real star players other than the saviour striker Tim Cahill. But there are a couple of bright hopes like Aaron Mooy and Daniel Arzani (who remains, as yet, uncapped).

But I digress, to get to the Round of 16, they’ll have to make it past the likes of  1998 champions and 2006 runners-up, France. Australia is in Group C along with Denmark, Peru and France. Their games are scheduled and you can watch the on the following Fox channels:

  • Saturday, June 16: Australia v. France, 6AM (ET) or 3AM (PDT), on FS1.
  • Thursday, June 21: Australia v. Denmark, 8AM (ET) or 5AM (PDT), on FS1.
  • Tuesday, June 26: Australia v. Peru, 10AM (EDT) or 7AM (PDT), on FS1.
Watch Australian World Cup Games from the US

Let’s start with the most traditional way of watching the World Cup games – on cable TV. Fox Sports has the broadcasting rights in the US, so if you’ve already got a sports-focused cable package, you’re laughing. You can visit the website to see the game schedule and set calendar reminders so that you don’t miss a game.

There are ways to watch Fox if you don’t have a current cable package. You can use streaming services that charge a fixed rate per month for access to certain cable channels.

  • FuboTV gives access to 85 channels (including FS1 & Fox) in its base package, which costs $45 per month.
  • SlingTV’s mid-tier package includes 45 channels (including FS1 & Fox) for $25 per month, and is currently offering a 7-day free trial.
  • YouTubeTV is also getting in on the game, and costs $40 per month for a huge list of shows and event coverage.
  • Hulu TV (is what I’m using), their package (including Fox channels) costs $40 per month.
  • Playstation Vue’s base package is $39.99 a month but only includes FS1 and FS2, not the main Fox Sports channel. It offers a 5 day free trial period.

If you can’t afford any of these, you might want to check local bars or restaurants who might be opening early to screen the games. I just can’t see anyone opening at 3AM.

Favourite Socceroos Send Ups

We have to start (and end) with the TV show Santo, Sam and Ed’s Cup Fever, which was nice enough to bring us Bresh’s World Cup Diary. It began way before the episode that I’m linking to first, but this is my absolute favourite. It’s from the 2015 Asian Cup:

Asian Cup Fever! Bresh's Diary - YouTube

If you’re not familiar with the Aussie team, Mark Bresciano was first called up in 2001 for the Confederations Cup. A year later the midfielder moved to Italian team Parma, from Empoli, for a 7 million Euro transfer fee. He remained an instrumental part of the Socceroos, playing in three World Cup games, but retired from International Football in 2015.

Here’s an entry from his World Cup Diary from the 2010 cup in South Africa.

Cup Fever! Vincenzo made a joke about fish... - YouTube

Favourite World Cup Moments

I’m not going back very far in history, mostly because I’m  not *that* old. These will strictly be World Cup moments that I can remember, and since I don’t have a fantastic memory, this is it:

1994 in California

My first proper introduction to the World Cup was as a 10-year-old, when Brazil faced Italy in the final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. My Dad and I got up to watch the game (to be fair, he always got up that early anyway). It was a long one that famously went to penalties, so I was already late for school. We were slowly inching towards the door with every penalty shot. My primary school was filled with Italians and I remember that after Brazil won 3-2 in penalty shoot outs, a few of them showed up at school with black ribbons in their hair. That’s how seriously they took it.

FIFA World Cup 1994 Final Brazil vs Italy 3 2 Penalty Strokes Highlights - YouTube

November 16, 2005, Australia

Australia and the Socceroos had been through 32-years in the football wilderness – without a berth in the World Cup competition. But we saw our chance for the 2006 cup and just had to clear a game against Uruguay to make it over the line and to Germany. Coach Guus Hiddink had just three months and two matches to get to know the team and whip them into shape.

There were worries that the Uruguay qualifier might echo a match-up from four years earlier, where Australia was trounced 3-1 in Montevideo. But, luckily, it wasn’t to be. The teams headed into penalty shoot outs after the score remained locked at 1-1. Two stunning saves from Socceroos hero and long-time goal keeper Mark Schwarzer kept Australia in the game long enough for John Aloisi to score the final goal that sent Australia to the 2006 World Cup.

I screamed so loud that my Mum thought I’d stabbed myself. That was such an amazing night.

Australia At The 2006 Football World Cup - YouTube

2006 Germany

Consider this sour grapes, because it almost certainly is. But the moment when Zinadane Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi in the cup final between France and Italy was absolutely golden to me. You have to rewind a few games to understand why. Australia had made it to the group stage for the first time ever, and to the World Cup for the first time in 32 years (see above). The Socceroos faced football giants Italy, and while they were definitely the underdogs, they were doing surprisingly well. Materazzi was given a red after he deliberately fouled Australia’s Marco Bresciano, denying him the chance to score. Still the teams remained locked at nil-all throughout the game and into injury time. But a penalty was awarded to the Italians after Fabio Grosso fell in response to a challenge by Lucas Neill. It was a dive. I know that sounds sour, but Grosso even conceded the fact, saying he felt contact, so he went down, and that he may have accentuated the fall a bit.

Also I don’t really like their air of arrogance. Basically, if Italy is playing another team, I’m going for the other team. You can see that I’m painfully biased.

Now, onto the Zidane incident. Exactly what Materazzi said to the champion goal scorer, is up for conjecture. There are claims he was called a terrorist and that Materazzi made lewd comments about his mother and sister. Materazzi admitted to insulting Zidane, but denies his comments ever touched the above subjects. But good on Zidane for sconing him one in the chest anyway. So many people have been wanting to do that for so many years.

Zidane headbutt - YouTube

2010 South Africa

Moving onwards, we have Germany’s famous coach Joachim Loew, who looks to me like the fifth member of The Wiggles. His jumper (sweater) game is strong. Loew’s chiseled features and sporting prowess made him a favourite among fans. Until this moment in South Africa, when he decided to pick his nose and eat the contents. In front of the millions of people tuned in around the world.

Germany Coach Joachim Loew eating Booger in 2010 FIFA World Cup - YouTube

And that wraps up my pre-World Cup wrap up. Let the games begin! This is going to be great (I hope). What’s your favourite Socceroo or World Cup moment?

The post How to watch Australian World Cup games from the US appeared first on Bright Lights of America.

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If Niagara Falls is on your bucket list (and even if it isn’t) planning to visit Niagara Falls from Toronto as a day trip is a great way to see one of the world’s most photographed sites.

There are a couple of ways take on the 137-kilometre (85 mile) journey – by car on your own, on a tour bus, by train on VIA Rail or on a Greyhound or Megabus. Each of them are tailored to different types of travellers and will suit different time frames.


If you plan to visit Niagara Falls from Toronto for a day trip, the bus tour or rental car will be your best bet. You can also catch the train, but according to the online schedules, it seems to run the almost 2-hour trip once in the morning, departing Toronto at 8.20AM, and once in the evening, leaving Niagara Falls at 5.45PM. So it may not be the most convenient method of getting to the falls, especially if you’re visiting in winter (like I did).

There are a few different tour bus companies that run services to and from Niagara Falls, usually with a couple of side-trips thrown in for good measure. This is not a sponsored post, I’m not getting any kickbacks for this and the company doesn’t actually know that I’m writing about my trip with them. But for the sake of your own knowledge and comparison, I went with King Tours.


This tour experience was slightly different to others I’ve had in the past. King Tours picks up from a variety of hotels and hostels across Toronto, but they didn’t pick us up in the bus we were travelling in.

It makes sense, since the city is so spread out, and picking up everyone on the way out of the city just isn’t feasible when it comes to time management. So I was picked up by a town car, along with a couple of other people from the same side of the city, and we were dropped at the King Tours office in the Garden District. You can pay for the trip there if you haven’t done so online already.

The other great thing about the King Tours bus was it had free WiFi. Very handy if you’re travelling internationally.

Once everyone’s been picked up and deposited at the office you all clamber onto a bus (ours was a smaller type) and you’re off with a driver who explains a bit of history along the way.

Why visit Niagara Falls in Winter?

I know what you’re thinking. Who travels to Canada, one of the coldest countries in the world, during the coldest season? It seems like a foolhardy thing to do, especially when it’s such a popular place to visit in the summer months.

Don’t let the icy weather deter you, the Falls in winter are beautiful.

But that’s precisely it. It was busy enough during winter with snow on the ground and ice on the water leading to the falls. I can’t even imagine what it’s like during peak season, I’m really not sure that you’d see much at all. I don’t know about you, but large crowds tend to frustrate me, and I get fed up with a place much quicker if I have to battle with crowds and patiently wait for 100 other people to take their Instagram photos before I can stand in the exact same space for the exact same shot.

Sure, there aren’t any cruises that you can go on during the winter months but there are a few ways to see the falls up close from water level if you really want to. And there’s the added bonus of not having to worry about getting your sea legs first.

Visit Niagara Falls From Toronto

I’d made a friend on the two hour bus ride to the falls. Or rather, I’m rubbish at making new friends on tours since I’m always falling asleep or listening to music, so to be fair, she made all of the effort. Since Mr M was busy working and not with me on this trip, she was welcome company. Plus she was an Aussie who’d been living in San Diego for a while, so it was pretty fortuitous that we ended up sitting next to each other.

Our scarves acted as mufflers, we gloved up and put on our warmest jackets (it really wasn’t so bad, although we’d managed to be in Toronto during a particularly cold snap that February. Our driver dropped us off close to Horseshoe Falls, aptly name for the shape that the waterfall takes. It was around 10am and we made a beeline for the first attraction that’s open during the winter months – Journey Behind the Falls.

Journey Behind the Falls

On the shore across from Three Sisters and Goat Island you’ll find the Journey Behind the Falls building. During the warmer months you can head down 38 metres (125 feet) to an observation deck where you can look up at Horseshoe Falls. The water travels at 65 kilometres per hour over those falls and thunders down into the Niagara River.

You even get an elevator ride down to the viewing portal, which I really recommend doing.

During winter you can still descend those 13-storeys down to viewing portals below – boarded up to keep you as warm (and dry) as possible, but with viewing windows for you to experience the stalactites of ice hanging from the cliffs and rocky outcrops. That’s aside from the amazing amounts of water crashing down to the sides of you. When we visited, snow covered the cliffs and rocks as well, making the blue-green water even more of a magical sight.

Journey Behind the Falls is open between 9am and 5pm during winter and 9am to 8pm in the warmer months. Ticket prices vary depending on the packages you choose.

Horseshoe Falls and Rainbow Bridge

We doubled back for a look at Horseshoe Falls next, and had a great time watching people climbing on stone fence posts for the “perfect” shot, and clambering to the see the falls from every possible angle. If you’ve never been to Niagara Falls before and don’t know much about it, you might be surprised to learn that it’s the collective term for three falls on the same river.

Even on an overcast, cold day in February, Horseshoe Falls will take your breath away.

Horseshoe Falls is also known as “Canada Falls” since it’s viewable from the Canadian side of the border. It’s also probably the most spectacular (but I’m biased since I don’t think I’ve seen the other two). It’s the largest of the three waterfalls, with water dropping 51 metres into the Niagara River. About 90 per cent of water from the Niagara river tumbles over Horseshoe Falls. The American and Bridal Veil falls get the remaining 10 per cent.  

The International Rainbow Bridge connects Ontario and New York.

Opposite Horseshoe Falls, you’ll be able to see the International Rainbow Bridge in the distance. It arches 400 metres across the Niagara River, connecting Ontario and New York. The bridge was built when an earlier one, known as the Honeymoon Bridge, collapsed in 1938. The new bridge was officially opened in 1941, despite World War II raging in Europe and other parts of the world. Both the United States and Canada were part of the Allied war effort. Annoyingly, the origin of the bridge’s name isn’t known, although it’s thought to be taken from a quote in the Bible book of Genesis, which mentions a “bow in the clouds”.


The combination of all of that walking and the cold made us hungry, so we went off in search of lunch and found a tourist town that was full of chain restaurants designed to capture tourist dollars. There’s no shortage of places to suit a diverse set of needs – from family restaurants to sports bars, pubs, fast food chains and food courts.

Even if I wasn’t hungry, there was no way I was leaving leftovers.

We traipsed up the hill to what I thought was a mall, but Google says is a casino, and had lunch at Canyon Creek Restaurant. It’s got a great view of Horseshoe Falls and also the surrounding town. Plus the food was pretty stellar. I had the garlic shrimp ravioli and a Moscow Mule to celebrate finally visiting a natural wonder that had been on my bucket list for a long while.

Niagara Whirlpool & Sir Adam Beck Power Station

After meeting our driver and hopping back on the bus, we took a short trip up Niagara Parkway to check out the Niagara Whirlpool. During the warmer months you can take a Whirlpool Aero (cable) car on the kilometre-long journey from bank to bank.  At its deepest the whirlpool  stretches 38 metres (125 feet) and it’s thought to have been created about 4,200 years ago.

The Niagara Whirlpool runs anti-clockwise. Except for when it runs clockwise.

How? Good question. It involves eroding escarpments and ancient pre-glacial river beds, and is way too complicated for me to even understand. So if you’re a geology fan, look up the Niagara Escarpment and that should help fill in the gaps for you. The result is that the river swirls anti-clockwise, but if the hydro-electric power plants nearby divert water from the river, the whirlpool can start to spin clockwise instead.

The Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Power Station supplies 140,000 homes with electricity.

We all jumped back in the bus for the short trip up the road to the Sir Adam Beck Power Station(s). There are two that are almost side-by-side on the Niagara River, and I’m pretty sure that we visited Sir Adam Beck Power Station II.

The Hydro-Electric station first started producing power in 1954 when water was diverted from the river in tunnels under the Canadian city of Niagara Falls. The station was re-engineered over seven years in the early 2000’s to help it generate more power. It supplies power to about 140,000 Canadian homes and  generates 1499 MW of electricity.

The Whirlpool Aero Car is at 3850 Niagara Parkway, and runs during the warmer months. Tickets are $14.55 for adults and $9.45 for children. 


Think of a quaint British-Columbian town and you’ve probably got a picture of Niagara-On-The-Lake in your mind’s eye. I don’t know what it is about it that strikes me as “British” about it…. it’s probably not at all. But it’s just so beautiful and has such a lovely community feeling that I wanted to stay there to live.

There are so many sweet treats to choose from in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s definitely geared towards tourists – cafes, ice cream parlours and trinket stores line the main street. And far be it from me to pass up the opportunity to sample a local bakery’s treats. I had a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake served to me by a woman who wasn’t old enough to be my grandmother, but had the charm of a lovely older lady that you just want to hug. Enough of me being creepy though.

I don’t know who I feel more sorry for – the horse or the driver out in the cold.

Niagara-On-The-Lake has a Christmas store, filled with every single kind of decoration that you could think of. They’d make great souvenirs, if you’re looking for something by the way. The town is filled with 19th Century buildings and even in winter you can tell that the greenery would be lush at a more hospitable time of year.

Ice Wine

Our final stop of the day (before heading back to Toronto) was at Lakeview Wine Company for a spot of ice wine tasting. I’d never heard of ice wine before this trip, but it is definitely suited to my palate. Anything sweet is for me. Lakeview produces the full gamut of wine – from reds to rose and over to white wine. But they are especially known for their ice wines, which are confined to colder climates.

I learned a lot about Ice Wine at Lakeview Wine Co.

Ice wine is all about timing. The grapes need to be harvested when it’s below freezing, around -7C (-20F) to be exact. That means to get a harvest that remains at that same temperature while they’re being picked, they need to be harvested between midnight and sunrise. Not a fun job at all in those temperatures. Then the frozen grapes are tipped into the grape crusher and press. But only 10 to 20 per cent of the resulting juice can be used to create ice wine because of the sweetness content.

I feel sorry for the vintners who have to go through that entire process, but the result is pretty spectacular if you’re a dessert-wine lover.


The post Visit Niagara Falls from Toronto (in winter) appeared first on Bright Lights of America.

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Bringing pets to Australia is a much more nuanced and prolonged process than taking them out of the same country. Australia’s stringent quarantine laws are well-known throughout the world. And they can strike fear into the hearts of expats and repats alike.

If you’re looking into bringing your pet into the United States from Australia, you need this handy post, which includes recommendations of pet carrier companies.

This post will go through the process of bringing pets to Australia from the US specifically. Pets coming into Australia from other countries may be subject to different rules and quarantine periods, so please do not use this guide as gospel for pets from other countries. Get more information through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ calculator, which asks your species of pet, country and date of export.


The most important thing to note is that you’ll have to start planning about seven months before you hope to bring your pet to Australia. There are certain quarantine requirements that your cat or dog must meet, in terms of rabies shots and proof of health, that begin with a trip to the vet six months out.

Use the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ calculator to work out how you should time all of the necessary vets’ visits and get all of your applications and fees in on time.

Click the picture above (or here) to sign up for the checklist.

The truth about cats and dogs (I couldn’t help it) is that they aren’t too different in the eyes of the Australian Government, and you basically have to follow the same procedures to bring them into Australia.

What if I Need to Travel Sooner?

That seven month buffer (it’s about six months all up, but it doesn’t hurt to be fully prepared) can be tricky if your visa isn’t renewed unexpectedly, or you lose your job, or have family issues and need to return to Australia. That’s the situation that Jessamyn found herself in with her West Highland Terrier, named Juniper Roo.

“When we moved to Australia, we had to move in less time than the government required to attain all shots, and processes, so we ended up without our pup for nearly six months while my mom had to jump through the hoops here in US to get her (West Highland Terrier) to OZ,” Jessamyn said.

Juniper Roo had to stay behind to go through the quarantine process, when her owners moved to Australia. They were reunited six months later.

“While it’s fairly straightforward, it’s painstaking and very costly. The amount of paperwork, different vets involved and coordination of all of these requirements within certain time frames was extremely stressful.

We had to coordinate flights, and then cancel because of things out of control on our end in terms of getting the correct documentation from various parts of the country.”

Once Juniper Roo arrived in Australia, she remained in Quarantine for 10 days and Jessamyn said she “seemed to have been relatively well cared for, but it was difficult to have communication answered during that time”.

“It was just a really stressful and costly experience altogether. It may have been a different experience had we not had to move prior to her being able to join us, and also had we utilized JetPets, which we utilized on our return and it was a very smooth and straightforward process on the return.”

If you think you might find yourself in a similar situation, your best bet is to continue to get your pet rabies vaccinations and Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre Test done while you’re in the US, so that you’re always ready to leave as soon as possible.

Finding a Government-Approved Vet

There’s not much information on what constitutes a government-approved vet around on the Australian government websites. I contacted the Australian Agriculture Department, which directed me to their US counterparts, with this information:

To assist you in locating the appropriate Official Government Veterinarians in the United States of America, the department suggests that you contact:

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) http://www.aphis.usda.gov/
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
National Centre for Import and Export
General Enquiry Phone: +1 (301) 734 8364 or
+1 (301) 734 6402
Veterinary Services Area Offices Locator www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/area_offices/
Email: VS.Live.Animal.Import.Export@aphis.usda.gov

It seems that any US vet that is accredited with the US Department of Agriculture (see here for more information), qualifies. It may involve some ringing around though, as the accreditation may not be listed on your vets’ website. If your personal vet isn’t accredited, you can always ask for recommendations of others who are.

Initial Vet Visit (Rabies Vaccination)

This first vet visit can be performed as early as two years before your pets’ departure date. But it must be completed at least six months before the travel date. For example, if I wanted to travel with my pet on December 20th, I would have to take my cat or dog to the vet for an initial visit, no later than June 2nd that year.

Remember that you can’t just visit any vet for this, or any part of this process, it has to be a government-approved veterinarian. The vet must scan your pet’s microchip and confirm the information stored on it matches the correct health records. Then your pet must be vaccinated against rabies and your vet must write a note for you, confirming that they carried out the above two steps.

Secondary Vet Visit (Blood Sample)

Three weeks later, you’ll need to return to the vet so that your pet can have its microchip scanned and records checked once again. The vet will also need to take a blood sample, in order to complete a rabies test. Make sure that you get a note from your vet, detailing that both of these steps have been completed.

Official Government Veterinarian Visit (Blood Test Results)

At least six weeks before your pet is due to leave for Australia, you need to take its blood test results to the official government veterinarian. Who qualifies in that “official” capacity? This took a bit more digging, but you’ll need to visit an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services Veterinary Service Endorsement Office. It’s a mouthful, but if you click through the above link, you’ll be able to search for your closest office.

You can complete this step as early as 14 days after your pet was tested for rabies. Don’t leave it to the last minute, as your next step has the same deadline of six weeks before travel.

Once you find your closest office and make an appointment, the official government veterinarian needs to complete and sign this declaration form (Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre Test Declaration). The form asks for details such as the dates and country of your pets’ rabies vaccinations and test results. Ensure the official signs and stamps the form.

Import Permit & Health Certificate

The deadline for applying for an import permit and blank health certificate is also six weeks before you plan on bringing your pet to Australia. Visit this part of the Department of Agriculture website to begin the import permit.

These permits are usually approved and issued in less than 20 working days after they are lodged and paid for. But if they require a technical assessment, are incomplete, have the wrong information, or require more information, they could be held back.

You also need to request a blank health certificate from the Australian Department of Agriculture, through the same portal.

Book a Quarantine Space

Now is the time to book your pet a space in the Australian Quarantine Facility, located in Mickleham, just outside of Melbourne. Animals must arrive via Melbourne International Airport. If you and/or your pet are flying into a different Australian airport, speak to your airline or pet transport company for assistance getting your pet “transhipped” to Melbourne.

You’ll need a valid import permit (see above) in order to book a post-Australian entry space for your pet. Keep in mind that a kennel or space in the Quarantine facility is not guaranteed, so try to book as early as possible to leave yourself some wiggle room if you need to change dates.

Once you book (here), you’ll receive a tentative confirmation via email within five working days. To make this a solid booking you need to pay the invoice attached in full. This cost includes inspection of your pet and its heath certification by a vet, assessment of your pet’s documents, an airline document charge and the daily quarantine accommodation rate.

If your pet arrives outside working hours, you will incur an additional fee.

Airlines will only be able to take your pet if it has a confirmed booking with Quarantine.

You’ll get a second invoice for your pet’s stay in Quarantine, via email, while it is being kept in the facility. This needs to be paid before your cat or dog will be released to you. This bill can vary, depending on whether your pet required extra treatment. But it can include parasite treatment, additional days spent in Quarantine and any other third-party expenses incurred during that time.

You can pay by cash, EFTPOS, Visa, MasterCard or American Express, but bank cheques must be received by Quarantine at least 14 working days before your pet is due for collection.

Find more information about Quarantine fees and charges here. By the way, the Quarantine facility at Eastern Creek, Sydney, has been closed. You can find more quarantine information below.

Fourth Vet Visit (Ticks & Worming)

Pat yourself on the back for getting this far without losing your patience. This is where the process changes depending on whether you’re moving a dog or a cat to Australia. This step  needs to be completed at least five weeks before departure for dogs, and at least three weeks before departure for cats.

Return to the vet you visited the first two times (Government-Approved vet), for the following:

Fifth Vet Visit (Contagious Disease & Blood Samples)

Just two more trips to the vet (for dogs) and you’re free as a bird (unless you need to import a bird to Australia – that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Don’t get me started on the fish). There’s no real time frame for these visits, as long as it’s not earlier than three weeks before departure. Make sure that your vet documents that s/he has completed all of the steps in a letter for you, and attaches any reports or relevant documentation.

Your cat is done with vet visits now, you can skip to the Health Certificate section. But your dog’s still got one more date with the vet.

Sixth Vet Visit (For Dogs Only)

Your poor pooch just has to get itself through one more vet trip. By now you know that the vet has to review the requirements of the import permit and scan your dog’s microchip to check that the records match.

They also need to administer a second worming tablet, check for ticks and give your dog another treatment if necessary. They also have to sign off your dog, stating that it is free from ticks and any clinical signs of infections and contagious disease.

Then write you a note, confirming that they performed all of the above and attach all of the necessary reports and documentation.

Health Certificate

It’s back to the Official Government Veterinarian (see step three above) no earlier than three days before your dog or cat is due to depart the US. Take every scrap of paperwork, report and vet’s note with you for them to complete and sign the health certificate for your pet. This certificate will be placed on your dog or cat’s crate and will be checked along its trip, including in Australia.


If you’re bringing pets to Australia, you probably want to know a bit more about the conditions they’ll be kept in, once they arrive in Quarantine. Unless there are issues or complications, most pets spend a 10-day stint in quarantine, before they are released.

Your pets will be kept in separate pens, but if you’re housing pets of the same species (two or more cats, for example), Quarantine will try to put them in adjacent pens so they can see each other. Their enclosures are also in a climate-controlled area, and they will receive bedding during their stay.

Don’t send treats, toys or bedding with your pet that you want them to be able to keep, as these need to be destroyed once they arrive in Australia. Unless your vet suggests otherwise, your dog or cat will be fed once a day. Any special dietary requirements should be noted when you first apply for an Import Permit. Any special food items will need to be provided to Quarantine, and come from Australia.

No visits are allowed during the 10-day quarantine period, but if your pet needs to stay for a longer period of time, you can call or email to discuss the possibility of visiting.

You can find more information about Quarantine practices and facilities here.

The post A Guide to bringing pets to Australia appeared first on Bright Lights of America.

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Ask a travel-enthusiast to name the one city, country or town they’d never travel to again and most of them will have a ready answer. Mine took a while to dig out of the corner of memory where I’d buried it more than a decade ago.

Before I reveal the destination in question and you get upset with my unwarranted disdain, let me preface this entire post with a few qualifying sentences. Everyone travels differently, people are used to different standards of living and react to different situations. You do you, by all means. This post isn’t about me convincing you not to visit this spot. By all means, I think you should, just to prove me wrong. It’s just my opinion.

I’m talking about the US-Mexico border city of Nogales. I visited with a friend all the way back in 2006 (so take all of this with a grain of salt), and it made me so sad that we only spent a few hours there. That doesn’t qualify me to tell you not to go. But I can tell you why I will never travel to Nogales, Mexico again.


There are two Nogales’, in two different countries. The border cities span the US state of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora. Incidentally, Sonora is also a town in California that you really should visit, but that’s another story.

Nogales, Arizona and Sonora have long acted as trading  points between the two countries but that doesn’t stop the usual tensions that surround borders. Having said that, they are known as “Ambos Nogales”, translating to “both Nogales”, and the trade between the two cities allowed the Mexican Nogales to expand and develop. You’ll see why soon enough.

So what’s my problem? I’m too much of a softie.

Security & the Border Fence

Getting over to Nogales, Mexico is easy. You park your car on the Arizona side (or you can drive through), and follow the signs pointing you “To Mexico”. Walk through the turnstile and you’re in another country with the smallest of fuss. You may be stopped for a bag search, but otherwise it’s a simple process. It can be a little menacing though. The border fence stretches about 10 miles and is made of steel tubes with steel plates on top – all reinforced with concrete. It ranges in height from 5 metres to about 9 metres tall in various spots.

The border fence at Nogales, Arizona

The bars are placed inches apart, so that family members and friends separated by bureaucracy and circumstance can reach through and hold hands or take small gifts or food. The sight of tearful families standing in separate countries is enough to give me the sniffles (although there has to be immigration policy and process for good reason). And this happens at 48 US/Mexico border crossings over the country, every day. The US/Mexican border is the most frequently crossed in the world. 

Getting back into the US from Mexico made me a little more antsy. Whatever you do, don’t forget your passport. We waited in line to have our passports examined and be questioned by US customs. And my Australian passport raised a few eyebrows, and earned me a few ‘What are you doing here?’ questions. I was happy to be out of that line and back in the US.

Back in 2012, 16-year-old Antonio Elena Rodriguez was part of a group on the Mexico side of the border, throwing rocks at border agents on the US side. He was shot by the agents, through the fence, and hit 10 times – 8 of those in the back. Rodriguez was trying to smuggle drugs over the border at the time. Why am I telling you this? Because while the border seems pretty run-of-the-mill to most people, it can be dangerous for border agents and anyone who happens to be there at the time.

Children begging

Remember what I was saying about being a softie before? This is where it really comes in. I’d never seen so many families and children on their own, begging for money. And to be honest, I’ve never seen anything like it again. Now I’m more used to seeing a mother with a few children standing outside of a grocery store with a sign asking for money to feed the family. But in Nogales there were children dressed in rags, looking like they hadn’t been able to have a bath for a month.

It broke my heart and I ended up giving up all of the cash I’d brought with me really quickly. Then I had to walk past every other destitute person without a glance. I felt like an awful excuse for a person. When I think about it, this is the real reason why I’ll never visit Nogales again. The feeling of walking past beggars without even trying to help is awful. And seeing them in that situation in the first place, is upsetting in itself.

The Economy

I studied economics for a year in high school and dropped it like a hot rock as soon as I could. I don’t have a mind for numbers, maths, supply and demand (actually that’s probably the only part of economics I grasped in that year), or anything else really. What I know is that US Nogales residents flock across the border to take advantage of cheaper everything. Medicine, manicures, dentist visits, haircuts, veterinary services, and everything else you can think of.

Their money has helped the Mexican Nogales grow exponentially. Many dental clinics advertise how much less expensive they are to their US counterparts and they accept some US health insurance also.

Of course it also works in reverse, Mexicans also cross over to the US Nogales in search of bargains. They’re just less likely to find them.

In a Nutshell

Nogales in Sonora, Mexico has lots to offer visitors and it’s one of the most-crossed borders in the US, with 3.5 million crossings each year. And I’d never say that you shouldn’t visit. But I do know that I’ll never travel there again. Once was enough for me, and there are lots of places in the world that are probably similar for many people.

This post was written as part of a LinkUp run by Denyse over at DenyseWhelanBlogs. This weeks’ prompt was ‘What I will Never See Again’.

The post The one place I’ll never travel to again appeared first on Bright Lights of America.

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Lots of Australians make the expat pilgrimage to London at least once in their lives (myself included). But what happens when an Aussie leaves the comforts of an English-speaking country? Tasmanian Kristy started her expat journey as an English teacher in London, but love took her to the Netherlands.

Kristy was nice enough to write about and share her experiences of moving abroad for adventure and then love. You can follow her travels on Instagram and Facebook.

All About Kristy

Hey there! My name is Kristy, I blog at Tassie Devil Abroad and I grew up in a small town on the East Coast of Tasmania (hence, the Tassie Devil handle). I now live in the Netherlands (after living in London for a while) and you might be wondering how that came about.

I studied to be an English teacher in Australia and then worked in high schools in Tasmania and Western Australia for four years before making my first move abroad. For most of my life I had dreamed of living in London. I visited London and some other parts of Europe for a month in 2010 and then in 2013 I did what so many Aussies do and applied for a working holiday visa (now called a Youth Mobility Visa) so that I could live and work in London for two years.

Moving to London

Apart from the hassle of organising all the paperwork for visas and, you know, finding a job and somewhere to live, moving to London wasn’t that hard.

Kristy didn’t have to deal with too much of a language barrier when she moved to London in 2013.

There are heaps of companies that place teachers in long-term, short-term or daily supply positions across London so finding a job as an English teacher was very straightforward. I also used a company that rents share-houses to professionals (mostly teachers) and organised where I would be living before I got there, which made life much easier for me.

Australians and Brits have a lot in common, and I actually found it more of a culture shock moving from Tasmania to Western Australia (a few years previously) than I did when moving from Australia to London! Obviously the language is the same (bar some slang) so all the organising of somewhere to live plus work, getting a bank account etc. was very easy without the hindrance of a language barrier.

I later learned just how easy I’d had it! I loved living and working in London, and being able to travel Europe easily and cheaply. I also loved the single life and dating British men! But I unexpectedly met a Dutch guy online, and the relationship quickly turned serious. So serious, that after a year and three months of living in London, I moved to the Netherlands to be with my Dutchman!

Moving to the Netherlands

I definitely had it easy moving to the Netherlands in some respects, because I had a Dutch native partner to help me with all the language and paperwork that needed to be done. I also skipped the whole ‘finding a place to live’ part since I moved in with Dennis straight away. But the process of coming to live in the Netherlands, and staying, wasn’t all a piece of cake!

Dennis was able to help Kristy though the Dutch paperwork Challenges and Opportunities as an Expat in the Netherlands

The language barrier is definitely the hardest part of moving to the Netherlands. I was pretty lazy about learning Dutch before moving (apart from some very basic phrases from my boyfriend) and I also found it a pretty hard language once I did start learning.

You can take the girl out of Tasmania, but you can never take the Tasmanian out of the girl.

For my first year of living in the Netherlands I was on basically the same visa I had used in London, except that the Dutch version is only for one year. This meant I could live and work in the country, although I quickly found out that wasn’t as easy as I had expected either. Moving to London and finding work as a teacher was a synch compared to doing the same thing in the Netherlands.

After a year on the working holiday visa, we applied for a relationship visa, which meant I could stay in the country for five years on the basis of being in a relationship with a Dutch resident. This again involved lots of paperwork – including certificates from every country I’d ever lived in to prove I wasn’t already married! Dennis also needed to prove he was earning enough money to support me if I wasn’t working, which wasn’t even a theoretical part as it took me a long time to get work in the Netherlands. Most of this is due to the language barrier. Even to apply as an English teacher at an entirely English-speaking international school, I needed to be able to prove I could speak Dutch.

Language Exams for Expats in the Netherlands

If you want to stay longer than four years in the Netherlands you also have to pass a set of exams to prove you can speak and understand the language to a basic degree. Once I started taking official lessons my Dutch improved and I’m happy to say that I recently passed all five of the exams to allow me to stay in the country for the time-being!

I also finally got a job teaching English online through one of the other students in my Dutch classes. And, of course, living in the Netherlands means I am able to explore the country, travel easily throughout Europe and live with the love of my life! It also gave me the opportunity to focus more on my blog which is something I love. If you are thinking perhaps you would like to live in the Netherlands for a while here are my tips from five years of living here.

Tips for moving to the Netherlands

One of the reasons I had difficulty finding work in the Netherlands was because we don’t live in one of the big cities with large expat communities. If you are planning to live in Amsterdam or the Hague as an English speaker then you will have a lot more opportunities to find work. However, finding affordable accommodation in the big cities is also a lot harder. I would suggest trying to organise accommodation and a job before coming to the Netherlands, although this might not always be possible.

Getting a visa or residence permit in the Netherlands is also rather different than doing it for the UK, because you can do it after you arrive in the country. You just need to make an appointment at the local gemeente (town hall) to start the process. Obviously it’s more complicated than this so you will definitely need to check the Dutch immigration website for all the specifics. But also be aware that sometimes one person or website will tell you one thing, and then the next person or place you go to will say the complete opposite.

Try not to stress about things like this (it happened to us a lot when we were getting my visas) because they won’t automatically kick you out of the country if you’ve missed one paper or something. The Dutch officials we spoke to were usually very nice when helping organise everything, so don’t panic! Just be prepared to get a lot of mixed messages as Dutch bureaucracy can be a bit ridiculous.

Tips for Learning Dutch

One of the most important tips I can give you if you are planning to move to the Netherlands, is start learning the language now! The more you can speak and understand it, the easier you will find everything about living in the country. Dutch isn’t technically that different from English and other Germanic languages, which share very similar alphabets.

As a native English speaker, learning Chinese, Japanese or Arabic is going to be the hardest since the languages are so different. But as I was in my late 20s when I started learning Dutch, and had never learned any language other than English, I found it very challenging. If you are already bi- or multi-lingual you will probably find learning another language a lot easier than I did.

The hardest thing about learning Dutch (as an English native) is the grammar and some of the sounds. Also, as many people notice, the Dutch speak excellent English because they start learning it in primary school. So it’s often hard to even practise your Dutch since nearly everyone speaks almost perfect English and they will usually switch as soon as they realise your Dutch sucks! But you will get left out of conversations and find it very difficult to deal with any parts of government (like immigration and taxation) if you can’t speak at least a little.

Use apps like Duolingo to get started but I would also recommend having lessons from a certified language school if you are going to need to do the integration exams. They teach you what you will need to pass the exams and carry on basic daily life in Dutch so you can spend more time enjoying everything this unique country and culture has to offer!

I really like living in the Netherlands and there are so many cool things about this country and its people that are worth learning about and exploring if you have the opportunity.

Some useful websites

Here are some websites to check out if you’re thinking about moving to the Netherlands.

  • The Dutch immigration website for all the immigration visa information you will need: https://ind.nl/en
  • All the information about the Inburgering (or integration) exams and requirements, as well as which language schools to use and how to get a loan to pay for your courses and exams – https://www.inburgeren.nl/
  • For all of my blog posts about living and travelling in the Netherlands (and other parts of Europe) make sure you check out my website https://tassiedevilabroad.com/

The post Aussies Round the World: From Tasmania to the Netherlands (via London) appeared first on Bright Lights of America.

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If there’s one thing that might break your expat child’s heart (or yours), it’s leaving a cherished pet behind. But what should you consider before starting the process of bringing family pets into the US? And what hoops will they (and you) have to jump through before you both get the all-clear?

The only pets I had back home were cows and chickens, and they’re not exactly the most acceptable of pets. Suffice to say, I haven’t been through the process of bringing any furry family members over to the US when I moved here from Australia. Speaking of furry family, my brothers don’t count, mostly because they haven’t visited me here.

So for this blog I had to delve into the collective wisdom of the Australian community over in the US for their experiences with bringing family pets into the US. Some used dedicated pet-moving services to bring their dogs or cats to the US, while others brought them over themselves.

Whichever way you’re thinking of doing the big move, there’s real-life experience for you to read about right here. But first, let’s talk about the US government restrictions and protocols.


The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a few regulations that apply to any animal that is brought into the country – including those that have left and are returning. And while you might not need to present a health certificate for your pet to the CDC, one may be required by certain airlines or by some states.

Aussie Tracey and her Dachshund enjoying San Francisco.

In this post, we’re focusing on dogs and cats, but if you want to bring other animals into the US, you can find out more here. Wondering what types of animals are allowed into the country? Here they are:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Turtles
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Bats
  • Some birds
  • Fish
  • Horses

Now that you know your lizard is welcome here, we can move onto the regulations for the most common pets.

CDC Regulations for Dogs & Cats

If your dog has lived in Australia for more than six months, or for its entire life, then you won’t need to have it immunized against rabies before entering the US (although it is wise to do so anyway). There is a list of countries that are accepted from the rabies immunization rule, which you can view here. With that being said, it is a good idea to get your dog and cat immunized to protect them from rabies. It’ll also be easier to take them back with you, should you return to Australia.

Cats don’t need to be vaccinated against rabies in most states, but there are exceptions. Each state also varies on the amount of time that can lapse between booster shots and who can administer them. For state-based rabies information, check the PDF attached to this section of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website.  Here’s an overview of a couple of the big states:

Rabies vaccination rules vary by state. Here are a few of them. Source: American Veterinary Medical Foundation

You don’t need a health certificate for your dog or cat, but know that if your pet looks sick or sickly to officers when you enter the country, you might have to pay for it to be examined by a vet before it’s allowed into the US.

Pre-Move Checklist

Even though the government restrictions aren’t that stringent, compared to what we’re used to in Australia at least, there are some things you should do before, during and after you decide on bringing your family pets to the US with you.

1. Visit an Approved Vet: Get your pet thoroughly checked out by an Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service vet before you leave and, if possible, get a signed and dated certificate of good health. It might come in handy if there are any questions at the other end of your trip.

2.  Check the Airline: Some airlines have different requirements for allowing animals on board. Some smaller animals may be able to fly with you in the cabin for shorter flights and others will need to be put into the cargo hold.

3. Pet Carrier: If you’re sending your pet on its own, try to get it used to the assigned carrier, so that it’s not too stressed or worried about getting in on the day of departure.

4. Summer Months: Some US airlines won’t allow pets to be shipped between May and September because of the heat. Make sure you check this stipulation while planning, especially if you have connecting domestic flights within the US.


Now that you’ve read through the important bits and pieces, it’s time to get into stories from Aussie pet owners who have made the trip over with their beloved animals and get a first-hand look at what the process is like.

JetPets for Dogs & a Cat

When Charmaine and her family decided to make the move to the US, she first consulted her vet about bringing German Shorthaired Pointer Abby and Domestic Shorthaired cat Ernie along for the ride. The vet recommended JetPets, and Charmaine was happy with the reviews so she booked the adorable pair with the service.

Abby’s happy even though a giant Ernie seems to be looming to her right.

The couple decided to spend some time with their four children at Disneyland when they first arrived here, so Abby and Ernie were shipped over two weeks later.

“If we hadn’t done this, Jetpets said they could get them on similar flights to us so they would arrive at the same time if we preferred,” Charmaine said.

“Our pets are part of our family, we plan to be here at least two years, realistically more like four or five, if the kids love it, we may even stay longer. I did not want to abandon our pets as we love them, plus it would also be devastating for our kids.”

While Charmaine said that Abby and Ernie didn’t need any extra vaccinations, they were told that getting rabies immunizations each year would work in their favour when it came time to take their pets home to Australia again. It cost $4000 to bring the dog and cat to the US, but Charmaine said it was definitely worth the cost and that the pair settled in quickly.

It seems that JetPets is a popular choice for Australians moving to the US. Leah used the company to bring her Daschund Barney over when he was 10-years-old. She highly-recommends the company (by the way, this post isn’t sponsored at all).

“They provided a really comfy crate for him and vet checks on the way, as well as handling all paperwork,” Leah said. “The hardest part overall was the worry and stress while he was in transit.”

While Barney has left us for the great farm in the sky, Leah said she would use the same service to move pets in the future, depending on their temperament.

“I had faith in Barney’s adaptability and resilience. A more flighty dog may not have fared so well,” she said. “He was also quite old when we moved, if he were in any kind of bad health I would have kept him in Australia.”

Do-It-Yourself Move for a Dog

Gwen, who writes a great Aussie expat blog from the LA perspective called It Started In LA, moved to the US with her family and their 2-year-old Cavoodle, Cassie, five years ago. They settled on bringing Cassie along on the same Qantas flight as they were leaving Australia on, for peace of mind.

Cassie and two of her best friends, ready for a flight to LA.

“I decided to bring her myself because someone told me as long as I followed the steps it was easy to do, and the pet transport companies charge a lot of money,” Gwen said.

“I also liked the idea that she would be on the same flight as us so she would leave with us and arrive with us. Once I knew I could do it this way, to me it was a no-brainer.”

Like the great researcher she is, Gwen got down to finding out exactly what was needed. She suggests visiting the  Australian Department of Agriculture site but it also doesn’t hurt to check their US counterparts’ website for the complete run-down. Gwen was also assisted by the airline.

“I started with Qantas and found out Cassie could be booked on our flight. They were really helpful, sent me links to information I needed and supported me to do it myself. Being nervous I called them a couple of times and I also called the Department of Agriculture. I just wanted to make sure I understood everything and wouldn’t stuff up any of the steps. Everyone was very helpful every step of the way.”

Buy your pet carrier early and make sure it’s big enough for it to lie down, stand up and turn around in.

The family dropped Cassie off at the freight terminal in Australia, then had to fill out some paperwork at the Los Angeles Airport freight terminal before they could pick her up again. Helpfully, Gwen has broken the process down for you:

  • Starting the paperwork for Cassie’s export;
  • Booking her on our flight;
  • Finding an approved vet to do her health test and administer her rabies shot as well as doing a titre test to ensure she meets the requirements and has enough antibodies in her system;
  • Getting the correct crate for her (which involved lots of measuring and triple checking);
  • Ensuring everything is good to go in that last 72 hours.
  • It’s important to note that you have to go to an approved vet for the check ups, and your vet may not be on that list.

If you’re planning on bringing your pet back to Australia with you one day, make sure you follow the Australian Department of Agriculture‘s guidelines while you’re in the US.

“I still make sure she has a regular rabies test and pay the exorbitant amount to ensure her title test is valid and the time she spends in quarantine is as short as possible,” Gwen said.
Halfway Through Moving Two Cats With Petraveller
Please welcome current Melbournite, and almost Bay Area resident, Kylie to the mix. She’s moving to San Francisco in a few weeks with her job, but she started looking into pet relocation in February. She and her husband couldn’t part with their two cats, Yoda and Luke, so they’re coming along for the adventure.
Kylie and Rob with Luke and Yoda, who are also pictured in the main post image.

“My cousin is a vet and had advised I needed to get an AQIS vet (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) to vaccinate the cats and also get lots of paperwork ready so I was prepared,” Kylie said.

“I ended up going to Hawthorne vet and met with an AQIS vet to do rabies vaccinations and get some advice, including the need to do the RNA blood tests for my two cats to avoid the hassle of quarantine for 180 days if and when I should return from the states.”

I’ll let you Google RNA because I did and it got a tad confusing. Just know that the blood tests will cost a pretty penny, at $900. Kylie chose Petraveller to bring her cats tot he US, because of the overall customer service experience she had with the company and the results of her research.

Meanwhile, Yoda here is ready for a trip to San Francisco.

“I did get quotes with JetPets and two other companies but Petraveller, I had the best feeling with – they were prompt, answered all my questions and also were recommended by my global mobility specialists from my company,” she said. “Their pricing was also most fair. I also did some Googling and found some horror stories, which also made me discount some of the other companies.”

Yoda and Luke will leave Melbourne a day before their owners and will be delivered back to them a day after Kylie and her husband arrive in SF, to give them time to buy food and have everything ready for them in their new home.

The post A Guide to bringing family pets into the US appeared first on Bright Lights of America.

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When I think of Las Vegas, the neon lights of slot machines (pokies to us Aussies), giant casinos and over-the-top glitz and glamour come to mind. But if you’ve reached your tipping point, you might want to consider a day trip from Las Vegas.

You really don’t even have to drive very far to escape it all for something completely different. Nevada feels like a desert stretching for miles-on-end, broken up by mountain ranges running north-to-south. It all makes for beautiful (and hot) trails to hike, and mountains to climb. If you’re looking for a day trip from Las Vegas that doesn’t involve a tonne of driving and offers something a little different, you need to head to Red Rock Canyon and Bonnie Springs Ranch.


I’m lucky enough to have an awesome local friend, Lisa,  who took me on a little sightseeing trip away from The Strip. It was worth every second of feeling like I was a tiny speck on a huge horizon that stretched forever. And to marvel at the mountains that towered above us.

We started off a little late in the day, due to excessive ice-hockey-related partying the night before. So we didn’t spend as much time exploring as we wanted to, but it was well worth the time that we were out on our day trip from Las Vegas.


If you’re into cowboys and western movies, then you need to visit Bonnie Springs Ranch. It’s also a great place to haul the kids out to – they’ll have a blast. There’s enough to do to keep them busy all day, or if you just want to visit the Old Town Ranch, spend a couple of hours.

A Bit of History

The indigenous peoples of the Great Basin, known  collectively as Paiute, were the first to take advantage of the area’s natural springs as a water source.

Not a representation of the tent town. Just in case you were wondering.

But the Bonnie Springs Ranch was built in 1843 so that travellers and wagon trains could stop and replenish their water supplies as they  made their way across the country. It was basically a tent town, and the buildings that you see in “Old Nevada” today were not originally there.

To explain the town’s current name, you have to jump forward to 1952, when Bonnie McGaugh bought land in Red Rock Canyon, along with a small house and an old bar. She ran that bar (without electricity) for a while and opened the ranch properly in 1958.

She and her husband Al Levinson eventually added a stable, zoo, restaurant and a replica old mining town by bringing in old buildings from other towns.  

Visit Old Nevada
About half an hour’s drive from The Strip you’ll find Bonnie Springs Ranch Old Town. Park in the first parking lot to ride up to the town on the little steam train (weekends and holidays only) or drive straight up to the town and park just outside.
I’m not ashamed to say that we rode the train over to the Old Town. Just don’t sit directly behind the driver unless you like diesel fumes. Or maybe it’s two-stroke. Either way, the petrol smell can be a little overwhelming at the front.

The replica 1880s mining town is laid out just like an old western town in the movies. The main street stretches a long way with buildings like the Stamp Mill, schoolhouse, shooting gallery (just $1 for 20 shots!), Opera House, church, bank, jail and mine.

Also there’s a gallows in the middle of the town square. But more about that later.  Wander through the town at your own pace and drink in the beautiful Red Rock Canyon views.
Back in the 1800s, Melodramas were big business. It was kind of like a pantomime, but much more dramatic. Which seems impossible, but it’s not. Troupes of actors would travel the US putting on melodramas. They were a popular form of family entertainment, but a women who travelled to act at the time would ruin her reputation. So instead, men would play the women’s roles.
The Bonnie Springs bank robbery, complete with a bumbling assistant deputy.

I’m telling you all of this because Bonnie Springs Ranch Old Town has its own melodrama. Pack into the Opera House or the Saloon (depending on the day) and you’ll be treated to a little play complete with audience participation and lots of purposely-terrible jokes.

There are also the requisite “main street gun fights” to contend with, and after the melodrama you can assemble in the town square to watch a bank robbery complete with dynamite and a trail at the gallows.
These guys referred to me as “The Australian” the entire time. I was not arguing.

All of the above entertainment is only performed from Wednesday to Sunday though, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your visit.

The Zoo

I’ll be honest, the zoo seems a little out of place at Bonnie Springs Ranch. I don’t see how an old western town fits with a zoo, but I guess that’s why I don’t own a zoo. Or a ranch. We did have a great time wandering around and checking out all of the exotic animals.

Is this a Burro or a Donkey? What’s the difference? I don’t know.

A little less exotic were the chickens that roam free, which did make the place that little bit more authentic. There’s a covered section in the middle of the zoo where you can feed the animals as well. The great part about that is that you can interact with them, and they are not afraid of people by any means.

Lisa found that out when a deer started nibbling on her shirt and wouldn’t let go without a bit of assistance. It was pretty funny, but you do need to be aware of your belongings so the animals don’t accidentally eat something that they shouldn’t.

The Patagonian Cavy is a strange-looking animal.

There are donkeys are deer, a lama, and the animal that intrigued me the most – the Patagonian Cavy. They look like a cross between a rabbit, a wallaby and… something else.


Of course you know that a place like this is going to have stories of hauntings. It’s not an old US town if it’s not haunted. Ask any of the staff and they’re happy to tell you about the ghostly spectres that are said to haunt the Opera House, Wax Museum and Schoolhouse.

The supposedly haunted Opera House.

The apparitions are said to be the spirits of those who died while making the hazardous journey across the country on the Old Spanish Trail a few hundred years ago. A US TV show called Ghost Adventures, visited the town examine the claims. They claim to have heard a voice in the mine saying “let me just help you” and drums being beaten.

They also claim to have heard the footsteps of cowboy boots in the Saloon. The padlock on the Opera House has sprung open in the park supervisor’s hands before and unexplained shadows have appeared.

Do with this information what you will. I’m chuckling just writing this stuff.

Horse Riding

You can’t have a proper cowboy/girl adventure without riding a horse! I’m guessing that’s why Bonnie Springs Ranch has its own stables a little further down the road. We didn’t do this (I’ve never ridden a horse and suspect I would get thrown if I tried), but it looked like a lot of fun.

The ranch gives you the opportunity to take an early morning horse ride along a trail for an hour. Even though you don’t need to reserve a slot days in advance, you will need to sign up half an hour before the ride. And the horse rides are guided, so you don’t have to worry about being too inexperienced.

All The Details

Bonnie Springs Ranch operating hours differ according to the seasons. During the summer it is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10.30AM to 6PM. During the winter months it is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10.30AM to 5PM.

Entry to the Old Town is $10 for adults and $7 for children under 12.

If you want to make sure that you don’t miss any of the shows, they are as follows:

  • Melodrama – 11.30AM, 2PM, 4.30PM
  • Bank Robbery – 12PM, 2.30PM, 5PM
  • Posse Show (Saturday & Sunday only) – 1.30PM and 4PM

If your heart’s set on a horse riding tour, it’s $60 for each rider and there are a few stipulations:

  • Only those over 6-years-old are accepted.
  • Weight limit of 250lbs.
  • Only closed-toed shoes are allowed.

For more information call +1-702-875-4191 or email . 

Funnily enough, just off Red Rock Canyon Road, is the entrance to the canyon’s Scenic Loop and the Visitor’s Centre. The canyon is in the Mojave Desert and you’ll know it. There are cacti and Joshua Trees dotted all over the landscape. But nothing is as awe-inspiring as the imposing sandstone mountains striped red.
There’s a look out that you can stop at before getting to the National Conservation Area.

It’s the perfect way to round out a day trip from Las Vegas and I really wish we’d had more time to hike and explore.

13-Mile Scenic Drive
You’ll need a car to get to the National Conservation Area, and drive the 13-mile scenic loop around the area. Or you could walk in to the first stop on the loop, Calico I, and admire the view and go on a short hike.
There are so many hikes and trails at Red Rock Canyon to explore that even if you lived in Nevada, it’d take a very long time to double up on them.
It’s important to note that the Scenic Drive is a one-way road, so even if you plan on a short stop at just the first outlook, you’re still going to have to drive all the way around the loop to exit the Conservation Area.
But I would really recommend staying for as long as possible. We did the 1-mile Calico II hike, which is classed as ‘moderate’, and spent a good amount of time exploring as the sun began to set. There’s also the Grand Circle hike that starts in the same spot but it’s a ‘difficult’ one and clocks in at 10.6 miles long.
We drove the rest of the Scenic Loop, stopping every now and then at pull-outs and lookouts along the way.
What to Bring
Remember that it is a desert though, so it’s a good idea to have some or all of the following:
  • Plenty of water
  • Snacks or a picnic
  • Sunscreen
  • Hats or bandanas
  • Comfortable walking shoes with good grip
  • Camera
  • A small backpack
  • Bandaids/a small first aid kit (just in case)
 All The Details
Entry to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is $15 for a car or truck, $10 for a motorcycle and $5 for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Visitor’s Centre is open from 8AM to 4.30PM, while the Scenic Drive is open at different times according to the seasons:
  • March: 6AM-7PM
  • April to September: 6AM-8PM
  • October: 6AM-7PM
  • November to February: 6AM-5PM

Got more questions? Call the General Information line: +1 (702) 515-5350.


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If you’re not up-to-date on election cycles, all you had to do was listen to Scott Morrison’s 2018 Australian Budget speech on Tuesday, May 8. The federal treasurer handed down a classic election year budget. He was basically the guy at the club fanning out dollar bills to the crowd below.

There are income tax cuts, changes to the top end of tax brackets and a stagnation of the Medicare Levy. Superannuation funds will not be able to charge exit fees and we’re getting our own Space Agency, because we’ve obviously been hurting all these years without one of our very own. Then there’s the infrastructure funding of $75 billion over the next decade.

When we said jump, Morrison and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull didn’t ask “how high?” they just got out their pole vaulting sticks. But what does the 2018 Australian budget mean for Australian expats who are planning to go home or are still residents for tax purposes?

Keep in mind that I’m not a finance expert (far from it). Check back later this week for more updates and keep in mind that as with many election budgets, a lot of these changes are contingent on the re-election of the Liberal Turnbull government. If you’re interested in any of the following, do some research or follow up with a financial adviser/planner.


Superannuation is the one thing that affects most expats who have worked in Australia for any length of time before moving away. And the 2018 Australian budget delivers a few whammies on the super front that you might want to keep in mind.

It has released the Protecting your Super package, with a few measures that aim to stop the whittling down of super balances.

It’s Easier To Find Your Super

If you’re one of those people who opened a new Super account every single time you started a new job, you might be happy to hear this. The Australian Taxation Office (to be referred to as the ATO henceforth) will be given the power to hunt down any lost, or inactive superannuation and consolidate it.

Why? Well, your (many) balances won’t be hit with fees on each account. This is especially good news for expats, whose accounts are more likely to be inactive, and may have low balances.

How will it work? The ATO will seize inactive accounts with balances under $6,000 and then try to match it with an active account to consolidate it with. Inactive accounts are defined as those that haven’t had any contributions in 13 months.

Keeping a Lid on Fees

We’re continuing with those Super accounts that have less than $6,000 in them. These accounts will get a cut in fees, or will at least enjoy a fee cap on them. Super funds will only be able to charge fees of three per cent on these accounts.

Those exit fees will soon be a thing of the past as well. If you’re thinking of moving your retirement savings into another account, you won’t be hit with those pesky exit fees. They will be abolished from July 2019.

By the way, the government is hoping to encourage Australians to withdraw their super in installments, instead of as a lump sum.

Insurance Premiums

Although some industry Super funds already allow young people to opt out of what many see as ‘unnecessary’ life insurance, the government is putting the practice into law.

As of July 2019, all Super funds will be banned from forcing those aged under 25 from taking out life insurance. Although these members of the workforce will still be able to opt into these policies if they choose. It’s basically because those who don’t own houses or have any dependents are much less likely to need the insurance.


Bear with me while I try to explain this cut in withholding tax. This is already in action for those living in the United States, however, the government is updating its list of countries that it exchanges tax information with to include 56 new ones.

When the Australian government enters into a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (you can find the full list of countries here in Subdivision D, Subsection 34) with a country, information is usually only provided when a request is made. That request needs to include a case detailing why the specific information is required.

Now that’s explained, we can talk about Managed Investment Trusts (MIT) in the context of the Tax Information Exchange Agreement. In a very small nutshell, an MIT is a type of trust that allows you to invest in shares, property or fixed interest assets.

Non-residents who invest in MITs are subject to a default income tax rate of 30 per cent on certain payments (dividends, interest and royalties, or fund payments) they receive from it. However, those non-residents who live in one of the countries that are signatories of Australia’s Tax Information Exchange Agreement, get a bit of a break. Their income tax on the aforementioned MITs sits at 15 per cent.

For those thinking of moving onto a country other than the US or Australia, these are the new countries added to the agreement.

Countries added to the Australian Taxation Information Exchange Agreement. Source: Treasury.gov.au FOR BUSINESSES AND INVENTORS

IP Australia (for the life of me I couldn’t find what the acronym stands for) is part of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and looks after intellectual property rights and laws for patents and trade marks, among others. So if you want to patent an invention or product, or invoke intellectual property rights, they’re the people to go to.

The 2018 Australian budget will invest $600,000 into “the development of a detailed business case to modernise IP Australia’s patents management system and streamline access to its services via digital channels”. (2018 Australia Budget Papers, page 153).

Obviously nothing’s changing yet, but the creation of a business case is better than nothing. The plan aims to support and strengthen innovation in Australia.


They’re ramping up the mail screening capabilities, with the Aviation, Air Cargo and International Mail Security Package. All it means is that the government will spent $121.6 million to enhance screening for inbound air cargo and international mail.

So maybe be extra careful that what you’re mailing home in future, doesn’t breach any quarantine laws because you’re more likely to be caught.


Some expats are still earning incomes back home, which means they’re subject to Australian income tax. The government’s new Income Tax plan will be rolled out in three phases and will only come into play if the Liberal government is re-elected . But first, let’s talk about Tax Deductions.

Tax Deductions

This is a simple one. The government is boosting funding for the ATO, to allow it to “crackdown” on workers who are claiming tax deductions they don’t deserve. Let this be a warning to you.

Income Tax

The first step of the government’s Income Tax plan will be for those who  earn between $48,000 and $90,000 a year. They’ll receive a cash rebate of $530 at the end of the 2018-19 financial year. Taxpayers who make between $37,000 and $48,000 will get between $530 and $200 rebate, depending on their earnings. And everyone earning below $37,000 will get $200 back.

Tax Bracket Creep

Now for the second stage of the plan. It deals with tax bracket creep and will lift the upper limit of the third tier on the tax bracket pyramid. If you earn between $37,000 and $90,000 each year, you’ll pay 32.5 per cent in tax. The measure basically benefits those earning between $87,000 and $90,000 because they’ll be spared from being pushed into a higher tax bracket and paying 37 per cent tax. 

You can calculate your income tax by using the calculator on the front page of the Budget website.

You’ll have to wait to 2022 if you’re sitting just above that magic $90,000 figure. During that financial year, the 37 per cent taxation will not come into affect unless you’re earning $120,000.  Only those earning between $120,000 and $180,000 will be hit with 37 per cent tax.

Finally, if the same government is voted in for a fourth term, the 37 per cent tax bracket will be removed altogether and everyone earning between $41,000 and $200,000 will be taxed 32.5 per cent instead. This measure wouldn’t be brought in until July, 2024 though.


That’s what I got out of my first reading of the 2018 Australian Budget papers. I’ll be doing a little more research over the next week to be sure to capture anything I might have missed. While the budget papers are well laid out and easy to read, they’re not always easy to understand so it’s good to get the opinion of tax professionals.

The post How the 2018 Australian budget impacts expats appeared first on Bright Lights of America.

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There’s a ring on my left hand that wasn’t there a couple of weeks ago and it’s sparkling at me as I sit at my laptop (eating Cheetos). I’m trying to figure what to say about finally being engaged to the man that I’ve wanted to marry for a while now (hence the Cheetos – cheesy snacks are scientifically unproven to cure writer’s block). But it’s wrapped up in so many legal issues that it’s a bit scary, and it makes me wonder if I’m shooting myself in the foot by saying anything at all.

For those of you who’ve been following my almost-three year chapter of expat life in the US, you already know that Mr M is a Californian – born and bred. And that I hail from the other side of the Pacific Ocean. So while I came to the US with no real plan except to work and travel for a bit before scooting back home, things might be changing.

I knew I wanted Mr M to pop the question and I may have been getting a bit antsy about it over the past month or so, but I hadn’t properly thought about what that meant in terms of the future. It’s taken me three paragraphs to get to the crux of what I’m trying to say: when people started asking us when and where the big day would be, and where we would live, I realised I had no answers. How could I have not even cast a fleeting thought to those questions?

I guess because I’m not really the type to plan too far in advance. And I never really thought I’d be getting married or daydreamed about it, honestly. Some family have affectionately joked that I had to travel to the other side of the world to find someone who would have me. There’s the Aussie sense of humour that I love (and miss)! Life’s always throwing curve balls so I don’ t plan too far in advance. Where’s my next holiday going to be? No clue. What am I doing this weekend? It’s not even Friday night yet, how should I know? What’s for dinner tonight? We’ll cross that bridge at 6pm.

To say that I was blindsided is a bit of an understatement, and I feel stupid about it. In an effort to help out expat brides and grooms-to-be, I’m doing the one thing I know – writing about it all. Hopefully this post will prepare you for getting engaged and married to an expat or a ‘foreigner’.


As much as I love a bit of online research and interviewing/talking to others about their experiences, marrying a US citizen is not something I wanted to be gambling over. I did get some great advice and lots of stories from other Australians who married their American sweethearts. But I didn’t take it as gospel. Laws and processes change over the years and what your friend went through five years ago isn’t necessarily going to be the same as what you’ll face.

The best thing to do is speak to an immigration lawyer regardless of whether you’re planning to stay in your expat country or if you want to move with your significant other back to your ‘home’. There will be hoops to jump through either way and it’s best to be prepared from the very beginning so that you know what to expect.


Be ready to compromise! My mum’s family is quite large and most of them wouldn’t be able to come out to the States for a wedding because of age, work or illness. Mr M and I were seriously considering doing a small ceremony and party in the US, and another in Australia so that both of our families could partake.

Luckily we didn’t get into the planning much at all before speaking to a lawyer and finding out that wouldn’t be possible. If we married outside of the US or travelled overseas between our wedding and me getting a green card, there’s a large chance that I wouldn’t be allowed back into the country. We can always wait for my immigration status to be settled before going to Australia to have a wedding party. But considering I’ve heard of some people waiting up to two years for their green cards to come through, it would feel strange to celebrate after such a long time.

This is a little upsetting for me, since I really wanted my grandparents to be at my wedding, and of course, the rest of my family and friends. But sometimes you’ve got to roll with the punches and plan around as many roadblocks as possible.

Having spoken to fellow Aussie’s who’ve jumped through the same hoops before me, gave me some great alternative ideas – like live streaming the wedding ceremony in Australia for all of our friends and relo’s to see. That way they’ll feel like they were included.


Everyone’s going to have an opinion about what you should do, but at the end of the day, it’s your wedding and your life. Try not to be swayed or overwhelmed by the well-meaning enthusiasm. I know, it’s difficult. But a lovely, wise friend said this to me and it helped so very much:

May I offer some advice which I “hope” will help you get through. 1. Everyone likes a bride story. You my friend, are that person. 2. Everyone seems to think they can tell you how and what to think and do. SO…. stop right now, and with you and M, (yes, just you) think and talk about what it is you both want…it’s actually a marriage, not a wedding (contrary to the TV shows and all that) so..if you can understand it is pretty bloody normal for people to hoot and holler…it is not something you have to react to or take.

Denyse, whose blog you can read right here, is so spot on. Be gracious about listening and thinking about other people’s advice and suggestions. If you and your partner like the ideas, then by all means, take the advice. But if you don’t end up going down the exact path suggested, your friends and family will understand. If it becomes an issue, they may not be as close to you as you thought.

That obviously includes the big decisions that you’ll have to face together. As an expat, you decided to move to a new country to try out life there. It didn’t necessarily mean that you were planning to live there forever, and from the Aussie’s I surveyed last week, that seemed to be the furthest thought from many of their minds. Before they found ‘the one’ that is. What kinds of decisions am I talking about?

  • Where to marry
  • Where to live
  • Will you have kids
  • Will they be dual citizens
  • How will your finances be split

Most of these are conversations that you’d have with your significant other regardless of whether you were both from the same country or not. But others have more of a bearing on expats and their significant others. For example, it’s a good idea to have joint bank accounts and have both your names on bills and leases as proof that you’ve been living together and that you’re a couple – not just trying to scam the system.


Or take advice with a grain of salt? However the saying goes, for every Aussie expat who’s happily married with (or without) kids, there’s another for whom things didn’t quite work out. It’s normal, and while the consequences of divorce for a foreigner brings with it a few more issues, especially when children are involved, they shouldn’t stop you from tying the knot.

Don’t take the good news stories as gospel, or let the bad news scare you out of happiness.


I can understand why some expats and their partner’s end up eloping. The pressure of having everyone at your wedding and keeping everyone happy can be pretty real. One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from this so far (it’s only been three weeks mind you) is that it’s all about compromise. I’m hoping to take that mindset into our marriage because, let’s face it, a stubborn Australian and an American are not always going to agree on everything.

Oh and don’t plan on spending a huge sum on the wedding – remember, wherever you decide to live will mean costly visa applications, so you’ll want some money left over for that as well.

I realise this post is more serious than my usual light-hearted fare, probably because I’m thinking so much of it through as I write. I don’t want to give the wrong impression though – I’m happy and excited and looking forward to the next chapter of expat life!

Have you got any tips for Aussie expats planning to marry their foreign sweethearts? Please drop them in the comments!


The post Expat Engagement: Marrying an American Citizen appeared first on Bright Lights of America.

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Seeing the sunrise at Haleakala volcano is one of the most sought-after experiences on the Hawaiian island of Maui for a reason. It’s not something that you’ll forget in a hurry, not only because it is freezing up there before daybreak at any time of year.

Haleakala is a dormant volcano on the island of Maui that rises 3,058 metres (10,032 feet) above sea level. It’s one of the islands most prominent features, and so it draws the crowd that its stature demands. Standing at the summit and watching the sky slowly turn a golden pink before a sliver of the golden orb peaks out from behind fluffy clouds and the volcano’s crater.

Be ready to be awed by the surrounding landscape as well. You’ll be staring down at rich, dark soil that hugs the volcano’s craters and dips. I can only compare it to feeling as though you’re standing on the surface of the moon.

Haleakala volcano looks a lot different in the afternoon.

As Mr M and I were working out exactly what time we’d need to be up the next morning to catch the sunrise at Haleakala, I started having second thoughts. Was it really going to be as good as a 3.30AM wake-up would require? Did I want to deal with being tired and crabby for the rest of that Wednesday?

If you’re having those same thoughts, stop right there. It was worth the annoying alarm clock, driving for an hour in the rain (don’t worry, it was clear at the top), sitting in traffic on the way up the volcano, and finally, cramming in with lots of other eager sunrise-watchers draped in towels and blankets.

Don’t give it a second thought, or try to talk yourself out of it. Seeing sunrise at Haleakala is a beautiful experience that you’ll regret missing!


The most important thing to know about seeing the sunrise at Haleakala is that you’re going to have to plan in advance. You can’t just decide to show up on the day and get into the National Park. It’s a very popular activity and as such, there are restrictions on how many cars can enter the park between 3.00AM and 7.00AM each day. With that being said, you don’t need a parking or entry permit if you plan to visit after 7.00AM.

RELATED: Our guide for the Maui adventurer and those who just want to sit back and relax

This post aims to prepare you for every eventuality so that you can enjoy the sunrise over the volcano and live in the moment without having to worry about anything.

Haleakala Reservations

Making a reservation for your group to enter the National Park for the sunrise is simple and quick but it will take a little forethought.

Once you’ve worked out exactly which morning you want to be hauling yourself out of bed early and driving over to the volcano, head to the Summit Sunrise Reservations website. Plug in the date you want to visit and the number of tickets you need. Remember that each car requires one ticket, it’s not based on the amount of people in the car.

Triple check that you’ve got the right date before paying for your car’s reservation. Picture: Haleakala Reservation Website

Pay your $1.50 reservation fee and print out the confirmation email. You’ll have to show it at the National Park entry gate and you don’t want to be relying on your phone at that time of the morning.

Depending on the time of year you’re vising, you’ll want to get your booking done early. We managed to find a spot two weeks in advance, but checking the bookings for May today, it’s booked out at least a month in advance, so be prepared early.

Learn from my mistakes: Don’t do what I did and pick your date, press enter and print your confirmation without triple checking the date you booked for. I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to book for the day after I thought I had. I think the booking site skipped to the next day because the Wednesday had sold out. The lovely park attendant in the booth saw the horror on my face when she told me what I’d done and kindly let us in anyway. But I wouldn’t count on that happening every time.

Baby, it’s Cold Outside

Do not underestimate how cold it can get atop Haleakala before and during the sunrise. Mr M and I showed up at about 5.00AM on a mid-April morning to a chilly 42°F (5°C). That doesn’t sound so bad to my Celsius-loving ears, but trust me, the wind chill is killer.

We were (or at least I was) rugged up and I was still freezing up there in mid-April.

I was wearing the same down jacket that kept me warm in Canada during February, but for some reason, I was still bouncing around to keep warm as we waited for the sun to peek out over the clouds. Mr M, being the All-American, no-cold feeling, strapping gentleman that he is, wore a hoodie. I think he may have been a little chilled as well.

I took a picture to show that I wasn’t even exaggerating. It was cold.

Keep this in mind as you’re packing. Sure, Maui is balmy and you’re going to feel stupid shoving a winter coat into your bag, but you’ll thank me as you’re shivering atop a volcano. Here’s what I would bring:

  • A warm winter jacket with a hood
  • If you don’t have a hood, bring a beanie
  • Gloves or mittens
  • A scarf
  • Double layers of socks
  • Long pants
  • A long sleeved shirt

If you’ve arrived on the island already without thinking this part through, don’t fret. The amount of people we saw up on Haleakala wrapped in hotel towels, blankets and beach towels was pretty high. You’re not going to look out of place if you make-do with what you’ve got. The last thing you want to have to do is scurry back to your car and miss the fun just because you couldn’t feel your hands and your eyeballs froze over.

What Else Should You Bring? 

There are bits and bobs that you might not think of until you’re way up in the sky, nestled above the clouds, so let me help you out here.

Firstly, and most importantly, Haleakala is a long way from just about everywhere on the island. Maybe not in distance, but certainly in time spent winding your way up and down switchbacks. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive there from Kihei, and an hour and 50 minutes from Kaanapali. That’s not taking traffic into account, and trust me, there will be traffic the closer you get to the volcano. I’m telling you this so that you don’t set off with half a tank of gas in the car. Fill up the night before to be safe.

Learn from my mistakes: We thought we could fill up on the way to the volcano that morning. Surprise, surprise, the gas station was closed at 4:00AM on a Wednesday. We made it up the volcano but couldn’t use the heater and we spent most of the drive back down coasting, not touching the accelerator for fear that we’d putter to a stop. It wasn’t pleasant, so don’t do it to yourself.

Remember how I said that it’s cold up on Haleakala? Well I don’t think there’s any tea or coffee amenities up there either. So think ahead and bring your own thermos of tea, coffee or hot chocolate to sip while you wait. This is also a great idea if you’ve got kids and need to keep them busy while you’re waiting for the sun to come up.

Do not forget your camera. Be it a camera phone or one of those proper point-and-shoot things that I hear people still own nowadays. Make sure they’re charged to the hilt as well, you don’t want that flashing “no battery” warning coming up as you’re videoing the volcano-scape. Make some room on your memory card as well. But don’t get too caught up in documenting the whole thing for later. You’ll get a lot more out of it if you experience it through your own eyes and not constantly through the lense of a camera.

There are no lights in the Haleakala car park, so arriving before dawn and making your way to the paths and down steps can be a little tricky in the dark. Bring a flashlight to make sure you don’t stumble or fall along the way. Also, if you’re an avid star gazer, maybe think about bringing a pair of binoculars so that you can enjoy the star-spangled sky before the main event. The lack of light pollution up there means that you’ll get to see a lot of stars if it’s not overcast.

Get Up & Go

I highly recommend planning your route at least the night before and working out how long it’ll take you to get there. Don’t forget to factor in the traffic winding up the volcano and stopping at the gates to pay the entry fee. Look up the sunrise time and then plan to be there at least half an hour before that.

Get in early to nab a good spot because it will be crowded!

It’s popular and there will be lots of people lined up to watch the sunrise at Haleakala, so if you want a good spot you’ll have to be a little early. Plus, you don’t want to put in all of that planning effort only to arrive a little late because of traffic and miss the best part. It’ll mean setting your alarm a little earlier, but it’ll be worth it!

National Park Fees

That $1.50 reservation fee you paid online does not cover your entry to the National Park. It just reserves your car a spot in the parking lot. About halfway up the volcano, you’ll stop at a little toll booth where the attendant will check your reservation and ask for the park entry fee.

The weather on the way up the volcano isn’t always the same as it is at the top.

At the time of writing, you’ll spend $25 per vehicle to get into the National Park and $12 for pedestrians and cyclists. Unlike the reservation fee, this one stands whenever you visit the park, and isn’t just for the 3.00AM to 7.00AM time slot.

If you’re paying cash, make sure you have the right change. The National Park prefers that you pay with a credit card to keep the line moving smoothly though. If you spend a few extra dollars, you can get the Tri-Park Pass which is valid for a year and allows you entry to Volcanoes National Park, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, and Haleakalā National Park. It’s great value if you think you’re going to be too tired or cold to stick around and explore the volcano that morning.

National Park Rules

Remember that even though it’s a volcano and has sparse vegetation, this is still a National Park and the same rules still apply. Stick to the designated pathways so as not to damage native vegetation or erode the soil.  Take your rubbish out with you and be mindful of everyone having a good sunrise at Haleakala experience.

Don’t go off climbing rocks or off the path to try to get a better view if you arrive late. You’ll just get yelled at by the staff, who I’m sure don’t enjoy having to repeat the same thing every morning. Arrive early and you’ll get a good vantage point.

What to Expect

As you can imagine, the sun bleeding over the top of the volcano, surrounded by mist and clouds is beautiful. What you might not know is that the colours of the sky before the sun even makes its appearance are gorgeous, and somewhat heightened by the presence of clouds, so don’t be disappointed if you see some cloud cover on the horizon.

We were lucky enough to have two people singing in the sunrise, as is tradition for the native people of Maui. I couldn’t see if they were Park Rangers, but their singing really added to the awe and hush that fell over the crowd as the sun began to rise. The chant is called the Mele Oli, and it goes like this:

E ala e Ka la i kahikina
I ka moana
Ka moana hohonu
Pi’i ka lewa
Ka lewa nu’u
I kahikina
Aia ka la.
E ala e!

For those who’d like the English translation:

The sun in the east
From the ocean
The ocean deep
Climbing (to) the heaven
The heaven highest
In the east
There is the sun

I wished that sunrise would have taken hours, it was such a  beautiful experience to share with a crowd of people who seemed to be just as awed as we were by the experience. I’ve never been in such a large crowd who were at once so silent without having something prolonged to listen to. The sunrise at Haleakala made as all fall silent. It was truly beautiful.


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