Backpacker Banter Travel Blog - Reviews, Advice and Budget Tips
A travel blogging website with heaps of reviews, advice and banter from around the world - covering everything from how to plan a gap year to guest posts from our network of backpackers. It is an award winning travel blog featuring reviews, advice, stories and budgeting tips from around the world.
But there’s one piece of advice I haven’t really dedicated a whole post to.
The best piece of travel advice I can give you…travel for yourself.
“The best piece of travel advice I can give you…travel for yourself.” Click To Tweet
The Best Piece Of Travel Advice I Can Give You
Yup it’s that simple – when you travel, travel for yourself, on your terms.
Travel How You Want, Where You Want
You see, over the last few years it has become more and more apparent that people are relying too much on the opinions or advice of other people when it comes to where to travel next.
Bloggers, Instagrammers and “influencers” all pushing the next big destination (ok ok ok I know I fall into those categories from time to time…so don’t come at me with too much hate!)telling you that Thailand is overrated, that this place isn’t as good as it was a few years ago, or that this other spot is the next big thing.
Every article you read online is biased.
Yup, that also includes mine!
The joys of being human is that everyone has their own personality, opinions, tastes and passion, but the downside of the internet is that everyone is shouting so freaking loudly across the interwebs to push their own opinion that sometimes people forget that they need to form their own.
So you know what?
“Every article you read online is bias. Yup, that also includes mine!” Click To Tweet
You Do You!
My Happy Place!
Do what makes you happy and don’t be afraid of how other people view your travels.
I hate cities, seriously I hate them. I absolutely loathed being in San Francisco, so when people ask me about it I’m not going to sugar coat it and say the Golden Gate Bridge was magical to see in real life…nope I’ll straight up tell them I didn’t enjoy my stay and I couldn’t get back to Australia fast enough!
Now some people don’t like that kinda of honesty. But you know what, that’s more their problem than mine.
And the same for you guys too – don’t be afraid to not like a place and want to leave or simply not go there in the first place because you just don’t want to!
I’ve met so many people who head to somewhere like Asia and then do the standard Thailand > Laos > Cambodia > Vietnam route simply because its what everyone else is doing. But when you speak to them they have no interest in a lot of the places!
Figure out what you REALLY want to be doing and just go do it!
“Do what makes you happy and don’t be afraid of how other people view your travels.” Click To Tweet
Be Unashamed About Indulging Your Passion
Waves Waves & More Waves
For me that’s surfing.
This year all I’m really doing is surfing.
It’s what makes me the happiest and it’s all I really want to do!
I started off the year with a week long trip to Morocco. Honestly I should’ve taken my own advice and stayed longer but for some reason or another I came home, only to book another flight out there 3 days later.
Then I booked a flight to Australia to go surf with my bro and buddies in Byron Bay.
Now I’m back in Indonesia again, surfboard firmly in tow.
…and I’ll probably stay around here until the surf season ends towards the later part of the year.
And you know what – people have been saying “oh you’ve been to Australia heaps, try somewhere new” or “why are you going to Bali, it’s so overrated”
Well…it’s my money and my life so if I want to sit in Bali for a month and find some waves, that’s what I’m going to do!
And this year if someone tries to drag me off to do something cultural or visit somewhere new and the surf is pumping somewhere else…I’m just not going to go with them unless I REALLY want to!
…and I urge you to do the same, stick to your guns!
“Well…it’s my money and my life so if I want to sit in Bali for a month and find some waves… Click To Tweet
So Should You Trust Travel Bloggers For Travel Advice?!
Find Bloggers That Reflect Your Interest – Like Jules & Christine From Don’t Forget To Move
Admittedly there’s a whole side to this post which might well come across as a “don’t trust travel bloggers” post, which is obviously pretty ironic given that that’s what I do as a job!
But what I’m saying here is take travel blogs with a pinch of salt when it comes to figuring our where you want to go, or more importantly deciding that you don’t want to go somewhere.
Find a blogger who reflects your interests, not necessarily the one who ranks the highest in a Google search.
Think as taking advice off a blogger like taking advice of a person in real life – there might be a table full of people who have travelled Thailand, some may have lived there for long periods of time or claim to be an expert.
But one of those people is a friend of yours.
…Or Stephen From A Backpackers Tale
You’re going to trust the opinions of your buddy more than the randomer who just happens to know a lot about Thailand right?
Because you have similar interests and generally speaking you know what they like is probably something you’ll like too.
I might love staying in Byron Bay in Australia, enjoying the beaches and surfing, but if you hate the beach and like the hustle and bustle of a city, then the chances are you wont enjoy Byron at all!
Do the same with blogs. Follow the people you most relate to and ask their advice (yes some bloggers do actually reply to their readers!) and take it from there.
The bottom line on this though is make an informed decision and then go see for yourself!
“make an informed decision and then go see for yourself!” Click To Tweet
Don’t Just Do It For The ‘Gram!
Another big thing people are falling into the trap of, is doing stuff just to chuck a pic of it on Instagram.
Honestly if you have no interest in going to see the temple, don’t just go there to take a picture for your Instagram.
Doing a working holiday visa in Australia was one of the biggest and best decisions I’ve ever made – that year in Oz was packed full of adventures, epic new travel buddies, pumping surf and it ultimately led me to where I am now.
Not only will we be packing in heaps of cool experiences (and yes that does include surfing!) but the Welcome To Travel crew will also help you take care of the boring but essential bits about starting your working holiday visa in Australia – such as bank account setup, tax file numbers, SIM card and help finding work in Australia too.
Basically we get to sit back and enjoy all the fun stuff Melbourne has to offer whilst they do all the stressful but necessary bits! ;)
Check out their epic promo video for an overview of all the cool stuff we’ll be getting up to together!
Welcome To Travel: Melbourne | The Perfect Start To Travelling Australia - YouTube
Wildlife experiences (yup this does include kangaroos and also penguins!)
Bank and Tax File Number setup (boring I know, but trust me you’ll be glad its sorted!)
Some awesome group meals
Ongoing support in Australia – from both myself and the Welcome To Travel crew
And of course you get some bonus Backpacker Banter extras as well!
1 hour pre trip Skype chat where we can discuss anything you want about planning your trip
Travel talk about my top destinations and activities in Australia
Exclusive onward travel deals
I’ll also be putting together a video edit of the whole week too – so you’ll have an awesome reminder of your first week in Australia and something to send home to all your family and friends dot make them heaps jealous!
Ok so let’s be open and honest straight up about this – there actually isn’t such a thing as a Bali visa on arrival or Bali visa extension!Bali is actually part of Indonesia – so in actual fact you’re going to be sorting and Indonesian visa on arrival and extending your Indonesian visa!But if you’ve got to this post I’m going to assume that you’re heading to Bai and will be doing all your visa stuff in the lovely Island of the Gods!
So here’s my mini guide to sorting your Bali visa on Arrival and your Bali visa extension…
“here’s my mini guide to sorting your Bali visa on Arrival and your Bali visa extension” Click To Tweet
The Mini Guide To Bali Visa On Arrival And Bali Visa Extension
Free Visa or Paid Visa?
Delay This View!
In the last few years Bali and Indonesia have changed their policy to include a free Indonesia visa on arrival for many nationalities (140 in fact!) which include the likes of the United Kingdom, Australia, United States, Canada and Ireland.
This free visa is for tourism purposes only and allows you to stay in Bali/Indonesia for up to 30 days.
That’s great for everyone staying for that period of time (yaaaaay for saving money!) however this free visa is NOT EXTENDABLE. So if you love Indo heaps or the surf is pumping you’ll have to do a visa run out to another country.
The other option which IS EXTENDABLE is the visa on arrival. This cost $35USD but is open to less countries, however this does again include the UK, USA, Canada and Ireland.
Again your initial visa is valid for up to 30 days but this time you have the option to extend for an additional 30 days (so 60 days total).
So if you already want to stay in Bali or Indonesia longer than 30 days, or are thinking that you might the paid visa on arrival is the way to go.
“Bali and Indonesia have changed their policy to include a free Indonesia visa on arrival for many… Click To Tweet
At The Airport
On arrival at Balis Denpasar Airport you’ll have two option when heading to immigration – for those opting for the free visa on arrival there counters on the right hand side of the hall are where you need to head.
A word of warning – the lines here can be super hectic, especially at peak times of the day and you could find yourself in line for well over an hour, so be patient and make sure you have both your passport and boarding pass to hand.
For those who want the option for a Bali visa extension or simply wanting to skip the long line you can head for the small counter in the middle of the hall (which often looks un manned but there’s always someone tucked away in there!) where you can buy your visa on arrival.
This can be done in cash (preferably new, uncreased $USD or IDR) but you can now also pay on card too if you want – great news for those with no fees abroad like with Starling Bank!
Once you’ve got your payment receipt you can head to line 2 and 3 signposted “Visa On Arrival” and waltz through pretty quickly – where you’ll be stamped in with your first 30 day visa.
“you could find yourself in line for well over an hour, so be patient “ Click To Tweet
Bali Visa Extension – What’s The Deal?
Stunning Sunsets On Nusa Lembongan
Ok so you’re in Bali, having an epic time, have your paid, extendable visa on arrival and want to stay longer. What’s the deal with your Bali visa extension?
Well for eligible countries you can extend your visa to a maximum of 60 days and you have two options for doing so.
The first is to sort everything yourself – which includes 3 trips to the immigration office and filling out all your paperwork.
For those who want to spend more time enjoying Bali and less time messing around with long lines at immigration offices and negotiating the notorious Bali traffic the easiest (but slightly more costly option) is to use a Bali Visa Agent to get all your stuff sorted.
Personally it’s the option I use and recommend as it takes out heaps of hassle!
“for eligible countries you can extend your visa to a maximum of 60 days” Click To Tweet
Bali Visa Agents
So how do you pick a Bali visa agent?
It can be a tricky business as there’s always a few scammers around and you’re going to be handing over your passport – which is always a nerve racking experience in a foreign country!
A quick google search will pull up a whole heap of results – but personally I’ve used Visa4Bali a few times (nope this isn’t an ad or paid promotion!) and they’ve proven reliable, helpful and most importantly I’ve had absolutely no issues with leaving/re entering the country with their visa extensions!
Personally recommendations are always the best on these kind of things so if you guys have used anyone else (good or bad!) let me know in the comments!
Admittedly yes, if you do your visa extension yourself it will work out cheaper – but when you factor in all the running around you need to do and 3 trips to the immigration office you’ll probably come to the same conclusion I did…it’s easier to pay someone else to sort it, especially when you consider the price.
Visa4Bali have two options;
The first is their regular extension which takes 10-15 business days to sort and cost 650,000IDR (approx £33/$65AUD/$48USD)
The second is their Express version which costs 100,000IDR more – so 750,000IDR – which works out approx £38/$75AUD/$56USD and then only takes 7-8 business days to sort.
Most people opt for the cheaper, slower option – which is no worries unless you’re leaving to explore more of Indonesia and not returning to Bali.
“their regular extension which takes 10-15 business days to sort and cost 650,000IDR (approx… Click To Tweet
So How Does The Bali Visa Extension Work?
With both options you can simply drop the guys a What’s App message or email, they’ll ask a few questions about your nationality, arrival date and also for a picture of your current visa to double check everything is ok to extend.
Who Wouldn’t Want More Time Here?!
A driver will then head to your accommodation to collect your passport.
Yes, I know that sounds terrifying but they do give you a receipt and I always make note to take a picture of them, my passport and their moped just incase – something I suggest you do as well.
Their team then get everything sorted for your extension and fill out all your forms and do all the boring stuff at the immigration office for you. Saving you two trips.
The only trip you still need to make to immigration is to get your photo and fingerprints taken. Visa4Bali will ping you a message a day or so before telling you your appointment time – you just turn up, take a ticket and wait in line with your immigration agent.
Be aware sometimes this can still take a while. On some occasions I’ve been stuck there fro upwards of 4 hours (admittedly with another visa extension company) and sometimes it takes less than 15 mins.
Basically don’t plan anything big for that day just in case!
Once you’ve had your photo and fingerprints done you simply hand your forms back to the visa agent, say thanks and head back to the beach.
A few days later they’ll message saying everything is sorted and then a driver will come meet you, return your passport and take payment.
Boom – you’re now allowed to stay in Bali and Indonesia for up to 60 days total!
“Boom – you’re now allowed to stay in Bali and Indonesia for up to 60 days total!” Click To Tweet
So Can I Travel Whilst My Passport and Visa Are Being Sorted?
You can request a note from your immigration agent to explain why you dont have your passport and I’d always suggest having a photocopy/photo of your passport incase anyone askas. But I’ve never had any issues.
Enjoy Your Time In Bali And Indonesia!
So there you have it – extending your visa in Bali is actually a pretty easy and cheap process – so there’s no excuse not to spend more time exploring this beautiful part of the world!
PLEASE NOTE: Visa requirement are constantly changing and all info was correct at the time of writing. I’m not responsible for any issues with visa as a result of the advice on this site and it’s your sole responsibility to double check the latest visa requirements for Indonesia and your passport.
Choosing a backpack to go travelling with can be a bit of a minefield – there are so many options to choose from and a whole range of styles, features and of course budgets to navigate.So when the guys from Code 10 Backpacks asked me to put their C10 Backpack through its paces on the road I was keen to see what this successful Kickstarter backpack had to offer.
Having bounced around Australia and Indonesia for a few weeks here’s my full Code 10 Backpack review to help you decide if it’s the day pack for your next adventure…
“Choosing a backpack to go travelling with can be a bit of a minefield” Click To Tweet
REVIEW: Code 10 BackpackBuilt For Adventure
The Code 10 Backpack range are all marketed at adventure travellers and have been built with that in mind – boasting some handy features that make life that much easier.
So what are the key features of the C10 Backpack that I tested out?
Built in lock system
Removable laptop sleeve
Ability to hide shoulder straps
Card pocket on shoulder strap
Hidden pocket on hip (ideal for your phone)
For me the two features that stand out the most are the fact it’s waterproof and the inbuilt security – two things I’m always on the look out for in a backpack!
Durable, Comfortable and Fully Waterproof
The C10 Backpack in it’s most basic description is a pimped out version of those rollable waterproof bags used by divers – a travel accessory I’ve carried around for years as it makes carrying gear on snorkel and dive trips that much easier!
The C10 boasts that same waterproof design but in a 40L day bag complete with comfortable straps and extra pockets to easily reach items that you need to hand – such as your phone, passport or credit card.
For many people though the inbuilt locking system will be a real selling point. The bag itself is equipped with with a. Metal cable locking system which easily hides away when not in use. This can then be quickly used to secure your bag to something solid (like a hostel bed or even palm tree!) so you can rest assured its safe and secure.
The system can also be used to simply lock the bag too – perfect for overnight buses, flights or just for use in a hostel room.
As well as these two solid features it’s also worth pointing out that the bag was extremely well built, felt incredibly durable and was also really comfortable too – 3 things that you should be looking for in any backpack that you’ll be travelling with.
“For me the two features that stand out the most are the fact it’s waterproof and the inbuilt… Click To Tweet
Not only did the waterproof design mean I didn’t have to worry about my camera kit getting splashed (including the new Mavic Air drone I’m reviewing) the the array of straps and buckles also meant I could easily secure it so it wasn’t rolling around everywhere!
The hip picket also served as the perfect place to stash my phone so that I could quickly access it is I wanted to take pics…which of course I did a lot being surrounded by so many stunning islands!
The other flip side to having a waterproof bag like the Code 10 Backpack is you can also use it in reverse to store your wet gear, so on the way home I packed in my boardies and towel so they wouldn’t soak the rest of my stuff! Of course you need to make sure you dry it out properly before using it again, but its a handy thing to keep in mind!
“I gave the Code 10 C10 Backpack a solid run for its money on my recent surf trip to the Mentawai… Click To Tweet
What Didn’t I Like?
…Just Be Prepared To Dig Around!
The biggest niggles I had with the Code 10 Backpack were the entry system and the fact the inside colour was black – which both kind of combined into the same issue.
Basically it was pretty difficult to find stuff quickly and I often found myself digging around elbow to shoulder deep trying to locate smaller items I’d chuck in for the day.
Sure it does come with the laptop sleeve (which also has pockets for phones, cables and other small items) but compare that to the Slicks Carry On Backpack which is super organised and it just didn’t feel quite as user friendly – especially if you were looking for a day pack which you’d be using as your carry on luggage as well.
However it’s worth saying that Code 10 have now also released the C10 Daypack – which has a revised entry system and also a white interior – which overcomes the only two things I wasn’t keen on and they do also have a duffel and messenger bag option too depending on the style you’re looking for.
“I often found myself digging around elbow to shoulder deep” Click To Tweet
Well it’s not the cheapest investment at $129/£97 – but if you’re hitting the road and want a durable, waterproof day pack that will handle life on the road it’s definitely worth checking out and it’s also available in black, grey and blue so you can pick the design that suits your style.
Personally though it looks like the extra $10 for the C10 Daypack would be a better choice and that would be my recommendation – I’ll be testing that one out soon too so I’ll keep you posted!
“a durable, waterproof day pack that will handle life on the road” Click To Tweet
Which day pack do you use for your travels?Any you’d recommend?
For most surfers a stay at a Mentawai surf camp is the dream and top of the surfer buckets list – tropical islands, heaps of palm trees and world class waves, what more could you want?
After 10 days of living the dream with the crew at Beng Bengs surf camp in the Mentawais I thought I’d share my review of the place, hopefully it’ll help make planning your dream surf trip that much easier…
REVIEW: Beng Bengs Surf Camp Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
How To Get To The Mentawai Islands & Beng Bengs Surf Camp
First off you’ll need to figure out how you’re getting to the Mentawai Islands – which are situated off the West Coast of Sumatra in Indonesia.
Beng Bengs Sits 3 Hours Of The Cost Of Sumatra
Flight wise you’ll need to get to Padang Airport (PDG).
Internally from Indonesia Lion Air, Garuda Indonesia and Sriwijaya Air fly from many spots (including Bali) so just plug it into Skyscanner for the best deals.
I ended up flying from Bali with Lion Air as it included 20kg of luggage and included surfboards as part of that allowance – which was perfect.
Internationally a lot of people end up flying into Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and then getting an Air Asia flight from there to Padang.
My bro flew from the Gold Coast in Australia through to Kuala Lumpur and then down to Padang which worked out pretty cheap (about $750AUD return + boards) or if you want a bit more comfort airlines like Emirates, Singapore and Ethihad cover the route to Singapore/KL as well.
Once you’re in Padang you can then grab the Mentawai Fast ferry out to Siberut (included in any booking with Beng Bengs surf camp) which is the main port before heading out to the smaller islands.
Lets be honest, surfing in the Mentawais isn’t the cheapest surf trip in the world (more about the cost of the camp later) so what does a stay at Beng Bengs Surf Camp get you?
It Doesn’t Get Much More Tropical Than This!
Airport transfer to/from accommodation in Padang
Transfer to ferry from Padang accomodation
Fast ferry from Padang to Siberia
Local boat from Siberia to the surf camp
3 huge meals per day (more about that later too!)
Unlimited tea, coffee and drinking water
Morning and afternoon surf sessions to a variety of breaks
In terms of the extras you’ll need to budget for your trip to Beng Bengs Surf Camp here’s also the major things NOT INCLUDED;
Flights to Padang
Luggage on the ferry from Padang to Siberia (15kg = 230,000IDR – approx £12, 2 boards and your surf stuff should easily be covered with this)
Pre and post trip accommodation in Padang (and you’ll need to arrive a day before and leave a day after)
Mentawai surf tax (surfers only) = $80USD
Photos = $120USD inc USB
Wifi access = $50USD per stay
Beers and soft drinks (a large Bintang is roughly £3)
Surf equipment (although lets face it if you’re heading to the Ments you are bringing your own kit!)
I ended up staying at Savali Hotel in Padang – check out this link to check rates ands availability – which was reasonably priced (under £30 a night) for a twin room as I was sharing with my bro and it came with A/C and a pool – both of which were much appreciated after a long flight and also the ferry journey back from the islands!
The Surf Camp
Welcome To Beng Bengs Surf Camp!
Ok so enough about how to get there and what’s included – what is Beng Bengs surf camp actually like!?
I’ll be totally honest, on their website things looked like they might be a bit basic, but I was super stoked to discover the camp was clean, comfortable and was exactly what I was looking for!
With its postcard perfect beach front location, an epic beach bar (new for 2018) and A/C rooms it was the perfect base for a tropical surf adventure!
Italian owners Massimo and Cristian were super accommodating and helpful and all of the local staff were equally so.
The vibes were exactly what you’d expect from this kind of location – smiley, friendly and nothing was too much trouble for anyone!
For those not wanting to totally detach from normal life there camp has wifi (admittedly a paid extra and not the cheapest at $50USD per stay) but there was also plenty of space to chill or socialise amongst the bean bags, hammocks and beach bar decking.
With a max of 12 surfers at a time (split across 2 double rooms and 2 quad share dorms – all with A/C) it’s more like a patchwork surf family than a surf camp and you’ll quickly get to know the other guests who you’ll be sharing heaps of waves with!
There are even hot showers – although personal the cold outdoor shower is a much more refreshing option after a day in the salt water and sunshine!
In regards to location it’s an hour local boat (provided by the camp) from Siberut after your ferry out from the mainland and it’s perfectly nestled amongst the palm trees. Surf spot Ebay is situated 150m in front of the camp (you can watch it from the bar) and just around the corner from that is Pit Stops, which is another 5 mins walk along the beach or through the jungle trail.
Based on the island of Pulau Masokut it’s right in amongst all the best breaks of the area – which I’ll get to in a moment!
Cheeky Tucks At Burger World
It might seem weird that I’m dedicating an entire section of a surf camp review to food, but trust me – it’s well deserved.
Once you’re served your first meal at the camp you instantly know the owners are Italian – the food is on point! Not just on quality and style but also on portion size.
Our first dinner at the camp was a 5 tier home made lasagne which each portion about the size of a brick…that’s ALOT of food! And of course the side salad as well!
You’re going to be well fed throughout – which is ideal as two big surfs a day mean you need you’re going to be heaps hungry and want to be well fuelled!
Crystal Clear Waters and Pumping Reefs
From a range of pasta dishes to fresh pizza and garlic bread there’s a lot of Italian influence in the meals – but you’ll also have a good feed of local dishes too.
Make sure you try the sambal too (a local chili sauce) which they make to perfection – not too spicy but packed with amazing flavour and freshly made each day.
And of course the breakfast spread is just as impressive – with museli, toast, cereal and fresh fruit on a help yourself basis alongside a main breakfast dish each too.
Going hungry at Beng Bengs is not going to happen!
Also it’s worth noting here that as a veggie I was well catered for as well!
Empty Perfection At Burger World
But obviously the main reason you’re heading out to a surf camp in the Mentawais is to score the waves of your life (this place isn’t for those learning to surf!) and Beng Bengs Surf Camp is right in amongst the action!
The closest surf spot is Ebay which is just a 150m walk from the camp and you can check it from the beach bar whilst eating your breakfast or enjoying a cold Bintang! This epic left hander peels across the point and is the perfect spot for an extra early morning session or cheeky lunchtime dip if you have the energy!
Each morning and afternoon the 2 surf camp boats will head out to the surrounding waves too – which include world class waves like Rifles, Bank Vaults, Pistols, Kandui Lefts as well as more mellow waves such as Burger World, Good Times, Beng Bengs (my personal favourite) and Pitstops.
I never turn down a surf trip and will use any excuse to score some waves on my travels (ok lets be honest my travel plans pretty much revolve around the surf!) so when I received an email in my inbox inviting me to join a surf trip in Madeira I didn’t think twice about saying yes.So what’s the deal with surfing in Madeira, actually where the heck is Madeira?
Have I just signed myself up for a cold water surf trip or am I escaping the UK winter here?
…I guess there was only one way to find out and that was to jump on a plane and see for myself…
“So what’s the deal with surfing in Madeira, actually where the heck is Madeira?” Click To Tweet
Maderia – Surf, Sun And Scuba In The Hidden Hawaii Of Europe
And This Is Maderia!
Ummm…Where Is Maderia?!
I’ll be totally honest, when the guys from Visit Madeira invited me over I had never heard of the island and actually had to Google where it was!
If you’re in the same boat of me I’ll fill you in;
Technically it’s part of Portugal.
But it’s just off the coast of Morocco.
Slightly above the Canary Islands.
So now you know where Madeira is…you learn something new everyday hey?!
…oh and apparently it’s the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo, but I don’t care too much about football so that’s all I have to say on that matter!
“Technically it’s part of Portugal. But it’s just off the coast of Morocco.” #VisitMadeira Click To Tweet
A Surfers Paradise
Jardim do Mar – One Of The Best Waves On The Island
My trip to Maderia was mainly in search of one thing – surf.
Once you know the location of Maderia it’s not surprising to discover that surfing in Maderia can be world class – soaking up the same big Atlantic swells that make spots other surfing destinations like southern Portugal, The Canary Island and Morocco so popular.
And with such a rugged coastline the surf spots in Maderia are littered all around the island.
A quick word of warning though – the rocky bottom and strong currents mean that Maderia isn’t really suited for beginner surfers – however if you and intermediate or advanced surfer you’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to uncrowded surf!
The stand out surf spots in Madeira are certainly Jardim do Mar (Maderias answer to Bells Beach in Australia), Lugar de Baixo and Paul do Mar – with other spots like Ponta do Pargo reserved for some epic big waves surf sessions when the swell is right!
“Once you know the location of Maderia it’s not surprising to discover that surfing in Maderia… Click To Tweet
Meeting Some Of The Locals!
And Below The Surface
And of course as with many surfing destinations Madeira offers up some awesome scuba diving too. Admittedly I wasn’t there for the best season for this (trust me the water in December is pretty chilly!) but I still took the opportunity to join Scorpio Dive Madeira for some adventures in the big blue too.
We hit up Maderias most famous dive site – Garajau – and came face to face with some friendly giant groupers, who followed us for most of the dive!
The North Of The Island Has Some Stunning Natural Pools
If you’re heading to Maderia for a surf trip (or not!) make sure you take the time to explore a few parts of the island, ideally rent a car if you can.
There are plenty of stunning view points to take in the views of the coastline and pop into one of the rustic local pubs to sample the islands famous drink – Poncha.
This potent mix of rum, lemon juice, orange juice and honey will certainly go down well and warm you up after a day in the ocean!
It’s great to check out the contrast between the north and south of the island too – with the north boasting lush vegetation versus the souths drier climate.
Make sure you pack your camera too as there are plenty of photo opportunities on both coasts and a quick scour through Instagram will show you some of the best locations Maderia has to offer.
The capital of Funceria is well worth a visit too and although it’s the biggest tourist hub on the island it’s worth spending an afternoon exploring the colourful alleyways, dine al fresco style enjoying some of the local dishes and soaking up the ocean breeze.
“pop into one of the rustic local pubs to sample the islands famous drink – Poncha” Click To Tweet
Dont Expect A Typical Beach Escape – But You’ll Certainly Find Some Sunshine!
The Perfect Winter Break
With pretty awesome year round weather (average of 16 in Jan to 23 in August) Madeira is a great escape from the European winter time.
With direct flights with the likes of EasyJet from London (and other parts of the UK too actually) and via Lisbon with TAP where you can extend your stopover and enjoy some of mainland Portugal it’s pretty easy to reach from the UK and European mainland – and you can pick up a return flight pretty cheap.
Couple that with uncrowded surf breaks, awesome local cuisine and a whole heap on Poncha and you’ve got the receipt for a pretty fun island destination!
So if you’re looking to stray away from the usual winter break destinations Madeira is well worth checking out!
“Madeira is a great escape from the European winter time” Click To Tweet
Have you visited Madeira or been surfing in Madeira?
Any tips you’d like to share?
If you’re busy planning your Australia trip at the moment you’ve probably quickly found out that Australia is BIG and fitting everything into an Australia 3 week itinerary can be a bit of a task – in fact how long to spend travelling in Australia and where to stop is one of the most common questions I get asked!
Depending on which way around you’re travelling Sydney will either be the start or the finish of your Australia 3 week itinerary, but for the sake of this post I’m assuming you’ll be travelling north!
It’s one of the most iconic cities in Australia and no trip to Oz is complete without checking out the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
If you’re looking to do a quick day trip whilst you’re here head out to the Blue Mountains for some incredible views or for those on more of a budget for the Coogee > Bondi coastal walk…just packed plenty of sunscreen!
Overnight Bus Sydney > Byron Bay (12 hours, 22 mins)
If you’ve opted to travel Australia on a Greyhound Bus Pass or Premier Bus Pass this overnight journey is a great way to spend more time on the ground enjoying Sydney and Byron and less time stuck on a bus!
Whether you fancy tackling the coastal lighthouse walk (a great freebie to do and in the right season you can watch the whale migration from here), kayaking with dolphins, learning to surf or simply want to kick back and enjoy the beach this little hippie town will no doubt be one of your highlights of Australia!
Day Bus Byron Bay > Noosa (4 hours, 40 mins)
Noosa – 1 Night
Noosa is packed full of natural beauty – from the stunning beaches to the gorgeous National Park. Make sure you take the time to have a wander around the coastal paths on the search for wild koalas and also head out into the Noosa Everglades on a canoe adventure too!
Day Bus Noosa > Rainbow Beach (2 hours, 30 mins)
Rainbow Beach – 2 Nights (1 pre and post Fraser Island Tour)
Rainbow Beach is arguably the most popular starting point for any Fraser Island tour so you’ll need at least one night pre and post 4×4 tour. Just make sure you arrive in time for your pre Fraser Island safety briefing else you risk no being allowed to go!
Again if you’re travelling with Greyhound or Premier this will need to be in the mix – although it is a solid 18 hour stint!
Airlie Beach – 2 Nights (1 pre and post Whitsundays Sailing Adventure)
As well as being the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach is also a really fun party town! Shake of your hangover with a day lazing at the lagoon pool in the centre of town or maybe even skydive with epic views of the islands!
A 2 night sailing adventure fits perfectly into this Australia 3 week itinerary – with Tongarra, Wings and Powerplay being my personal picks for the best Whitsundays Sailing Adventures.
Day Bus Airlie Beach > Townsville and then ferry Magnetic Island (3 hours, 40 mins)
Magnetic Island – 2 Nights
An often overlook but incredible stop, Magnetic Island is the ideal island retreat before or after the chaos of Cairns! Make sure you hire a Barbie car to explore the island a bit more and take in the epic panoramic views from the look out point – an awesome place to spot more wild koalas too!
Super easy to add into your itinerary too with a Magnetic Island Package deal, which include accommodation, return ferry transfers form Townsville, welcome drink and snorkel hire!
The perfect spot to begin or end your Australia 3 week itinerary!
So what stops have I skipped out to make the most of your Australia 3 Week Itinerary?
Well places like Yamba, Surfers Paradise, Brisbane, Agnes Water/1770 and Mission Beach have all been cut out.
Personally out of that lot Yamba would be the one I’d be most inclined to get back into the mix (it’s the hidden gem of East Coast Oz in my opinion!) and Mission Beach if you’re looking at skydiving or white water rafting.
Also if you do want and extra day in there you can fly from Sydney to Byron Bay (either into Ballina or the Gold Coast) which will be around $100AUD + the airport transfer (max $45) and it does take $100 off your Greyhound or Premier Bus Pass as you can then grab a Brisbane > Cairns Pass (with free Byron sector), so it’s certainly something you should consider!
“Holy crap – this thing is freaking tiny!”– that was my first reaction when I opened up the new DJI Mavic Air for the first time!
The latest drone by the crew at DJI comes in an insanely tiny (and stunningly beautiful) design and packs some serious punch in the tech department.
Having spent the last week putting it through its paces on my latest adventure out in Byron Bay, Australia to see how it handles life on the road, here’s my run through review of the Mavic Air and whether it’s a contender for the best drone for travel…
“review of the Mavic Air and whether it’s a contender for the best drone for travel…” #MavicAir Click To Tweet
REVIEW: Is The DJI Mavic Air The Best Drone For Travel?Mavic Air – Main Specs
Meet The New Mavic Air
Ok for those looking at everything from a tech perspective here’s a quick lowdown of the main Mavic Air specifications so you can have a little geek out;
Weight – 430g
Dimensions folded – 168x83x49mm
Dimension unfolded – 168x184x64mm
Max speed – 28.8kph
Max speed (sport mode) – 68.4kph
Max flight time – 21mins
Max distance (phone only) – 80m
Max distance (controller) = 4km
Camera – 12mp (and 32mp sphere panoramas)
Max Video Resolution:
4k = 30 frames per second
2.7k = 60 frames per second
1080 = 120 frames per second
720 = 120 frames per second
Mavic Air – Small Drone With Big News
Despite being almost as small as your smartphone the Mavic Air is packed full of incredible tech and although some of this is already standard across the DJI drone range the Air did come with some significant new upgrades.
There’s A Lot Packed Into It!
To make things simple here are some of my top features and highlights so you can easily see whats’s new under the hood;
NEW Forward, down and now BACKWARD environmental sensors (very much appreciated!)
3 axis gimbal (for super stable videos)
NEW HDR photos
NEW 8GB internal memory (and absolute saviour if you forget your SD card or run out of memory!)
NEW Foldable Controller (even the joysticks unscrew and slot away for a slimline fit)
NEW FlightAutonomy 2.0 (basically the obstacle avoidance on the Air is epic!)
Intelligent Flight Modes (such as active track, tap fly, tripod etc)
NEW Asteroid (an epic way to smoothly capture yourself in a scene)
NEW Boomerang (basically a fancy selfie mode which zooms right out into a mini planet style shot)
NEW 32MP sphere panorama (great for capture interstice, 360 images)
User Friendly (both the app and controller have the same easy to use DJI interface of the entire drone range)
It’s amazing that all of the above features come packed into a drone that weighs nearly half of the Mavic Pro and folds down into a size that’s actually smaller that the Spark!
“all of the above features come packed into a drone that weighs nearly half of the Mavic Pro”… Click To Tweet
What’s The Mavic Air Like To Fly?
Super Stable – Even With Wind!
One of my biggest concerns about the Mavic Air was how it was going to handle in the air given its size.
I’ve got used to flying the Pro which is incredibly stable and can handle a fair bit of wind without too many issues and stability was my biggest issue when reviewing the Spark – it just didn’t fly how I needed it to fly and it did feel less stable.
I shouldn’t have been worried though – the way the Air handles mirrors the Pro perfectly!
It’s responsive, stable and can handle the wind with ease – something I really put to the test whilst shooting the surf and the headland in Byron as there was a pretty hefty offshore wind!
In standard mode it does feel slightly sluggish with ascent and descent speeds (although admittedly I think I just have to tweak some of the settings to remedy this) but in regards to approaching video and images it’s a dream to fly.
The real fun though comes when you flick it into sports mode and the Mavic Air really comes into it’s own – this thing is fast, but still retains shooting stability – ideal for shooting tracking shots along the beach, keeping up with dive boats on the move or shooting surfing!
Basically if you’re used to flying the Mavic Pro or any of the Phantom series you’ll barely notice any change in flight style when using the Air.
“It’s responsive, stable and can handle the wind with ease” #MavicAir Click To Tweet
Well Worth The Cash For Shots Like This!
How Much Does Mavic Air Cost?
So how much does all the tech set you back?
Well admittedly yes, this isn’t going to be the cheapest item on your packing list, but you knew that already!
The Mavic Air starts at £769 ($799USD or $1299AUD) or the Mavic Air Fly More Combo is currently reduced to £949 ($999USD or $1599AUD) – which then includes a bunch of extras like 2 extra batteries (so 3 total), some extra propellers, carry bag (which is surprisingly compact and beautifully made!) and a battery charging hub.
And given the fact you’ll want at least 1 extra battery the fly more combo is certainly a wise investment – so I you do have the cash that’s what I’d personally recommend going for.
When it comes to specs both the Air and the Pro blow the Spark clean out of the water, both shooting 4k and also having the 3 axis gimbal which ultimately results in much smoother and clearer footage.
And size wise folded up the Mavic Air is almost the same size as the Spark.
Basically unless you want the most affordable option the Spark is pretty much off the table. That being said as a first drone or for someone who wants the most affordable option (although admittedly the controller brings it to nearly yet same price as the Air) the Spark is still not going to let you down, but if you have the money to upgrade do it!
Picture Perfect Days In Byron Bay
So the real fight here is between the Mavic Air and the Mavic Pro/Platinum.
At £130 more expensive you’d think the Pro would win straight out. But in actual fact the Mavic Air matches (or beats!) the Pro/Platinum in almost every specification!
It’s faster, lighter, smaller and boasts the addition of backward sensors and more advanced object avoidance!
In fact the only two big things the Air doesn’t match up with is flight time (21mins v 27mins) and max distance (7km v 4km)
And for most people the flight distance isn’t something you’ll ever be that worried about!
So in simple terms;
Spark Advantages (v Mavic Air) – cheaper
Mavic Pro Advantages (v Mavic Air) – longer flight time, bigger max flight distance
Some are pretty obvious in hindsight, some have been learnt from personal experience, but all will help you land in Australia a bit more prepared for life down under…
“doing my working holiday visa in Australia is still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made” Click To Tweet
10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Backpacking In Australia
Yup, it can rain in Australia too!
It DOES Get Cold
Despite what you might think, Australia does have a winter and yes it DOES get cold. Admittedly we’re not talking about the whole of Oz here when it comes to wrapping up in jumpers and jeans, but if you find yourself in Melbourne, Adelaide or even Sydney in July/August time you might well be needing some extras layers and a heater!
It Also Gets REALLY Hot
On the flip side of that you can get super caught out with how freaking hot Australia can get. January in Melbourne and it’s not uncommon to have the temperature hit low-mid 40 degrees.
You might be thinking “yaaaaaaay for the sun” but seriously that’s melting style hot and you won’t be leaving anywhere with A/C.
And with that in mind, also make sure you’re slapping on the suncream regularly, even when it’s overcast. Aussie sun is dangerous!
Make sure you have enough dollar!
Backpacking In Australia Is Pretty Pricey
If you’re busy bouncing around the globe, chances are that you’ll be passing through South East Asia on the way to Australia, where life is cheap and you can happily coast by on $20 a day.
Well you’re in for a big wake up call in Australia!
Gone are the days where the Aussie dollar had an awesome exchange rate (at one point it was $3AUD to £1GBP!) so you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the travel funds to cover you.
Yes we all know Australia is home to a million deadly snakes and spiders and that the ocean is full of sharks and that babies get eaten by dingos or you might get mauled by a dropbear.
But seriously, Oz isn’t as dangerous as you might think.
I’ve spent some serious time living and travelling all around Australia and I’ve seen 2 red back spiders, 4 snakes and 2 sharks (apart from the ones I’ve seen scuba diving!)
…and I’m still alive and unhurt.
In fact you’re more likely to injure yourself whilst drunk or get hideous sunburn – so like all things in life, be aware and be sensible and you’ll reduce the risk!
..and none of these guys are Aussie!
You’ll Meet More Backpackers Than Locals
If I was to do a rough count, I’d say I probably know about 20-30 true Aussies.
Most of them I actually met travelling OUTSIDE Australia!
The backpacker bubble in Oz means that you’ll probably end up meeting WAY more backpackers than locals in Oz – and most of those are going to be German!
Sure if you do some rural work out in the sticks you might meet some more Aussies, but don’t expect to nab that Aussie husband or wife that easily!
Love it or hate it, you’ll drink goon!
Goon Hangovers SUCK
Goon is cheap Aussie boxed wine and it tastes pretty gross. But when 4 litres of the stuff is about a quarter of the price of a slab of beers, you’ll soon learn to love it for the sake of your travel budget!
And it’s one thing having to deal with drinking goon, but goon hangovers are the worst – so be prepared for some crazy dreams, days laying around in bed and stock yourself up with Berroca to help bring you back to life!
How Stunning The West Coast Is
Everyone goes on about the East Coast trail – it’s the most popular part of Australia to backpack and yes it is totally worth it.
The biggest thing that I wish I’d known though, is how much of a lasting impression Australia would make on me and that no matter where in the world I’m travelling, a little piece of me is always longing to get back.
So if you have the chance to do a working holiday visa, or extend to do your second year, make sure you take advantage of all the time you can spend in Oz, it’s a pretty magical place.
Have been backpacking in Australia?Anything you wish you’d known before heading down under?Share them in the comments!
So what’s the best way to manage your money on the road?
The saying goes – “if travelling was free you’d never see me again” and as much as I love to help you guys with tips and advice on how to budget for your travels and how to save money on the road unfortunately travelling isn’t free and you do need some cash to make it a reality.
It sucks I know, but lets just accept that fact and move on!
One of the questions I get asked most is how do I manage my money whilst travelling?
Up until recently I had been using the STA Cashcard. It has served me well, but I’m quick to admit it probably isn’t the most cost effective way of dealing with my money whilst backpacking, especially long term.
My American buddies seemed to be spoiled for choice with amazing travel credit card deals (don’t even get me started on the air miles they can quickly rack up!) but being from the UK gave me much more limited options.
And then at the end of 2017 I came across Starling bank, a new UK disruptor bank, which not only brought with it some huge leaps in user interfaces, but also some massive advantages when it came to spending my money abroad.
It’s also incredibly easy to setup – and you’ll be up and running within about 10 minutes. Seriously it’s that easy and you could easily smash it out on your commute to work or lunch break, so no excuses!
Also it does ask you if you have a referral code when you set it up, be awesome and use mine which is WPT8V6ZT.
And full disclosure I don’t think this earns me any cash, in fact I’m not sure what it gets me, but use it anyway! haha!
Ok I know some of you are now going to be thinking “is this safe?” – well I did some research and Starling Bank is all fully regulated in the UK and is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) so your deposits are protected up to £85,000 – which is the same as most ‘traditional’ UK banks. So you can rest easy.
Once you’re all set up you’ll be given a virtual card which you can start using right away via Apple Pay and such like, but your physical card will arrive within a few days anyway.
“you’ll be up and running within about 10mins. Seriously it’s that easy” @starlingbank Click To Tweet
Your Money, Simplified
So User Friendly
I know I haven’t mentioned travelling with this card yet, but we’ll get there, so hold tight.
The other HUGE kudos I have for Starling is how user friendly this app is and the awesome features it has built in to help you manage your money both at home and abroad.
I usually bank with HSBC and I’ll be totally honest, their app totally SUCKS. It’s clunky, it’s ugly, it crashes. Considering the amount of money they’re making you would think they’d have the decency to bring someone in to give it a makeover and actually work! *rant over*
The best way I can describe the Starling app is if Apple did your banking, this is what it would look and feel like. It’s smooth, easy and designed to help you get what you need done quickly and easily.
“the awesome features it has built in to help you manage your money home and abroad” Click To Tweet
The home screen of the app contains two key pieces of information – the balance of your account and how much you’ve spent today.
Where Does Your Dollar Go?!
Two very important pieces of info and the basics of what most people need to know – whether you’re at home or off travelling!
From this home screen you can then delve into the super handy stats and info that banking with Starling allows you to track.
From the category of your spending – like travel, hotels, groceries, shopping, eating out – to the individual businesses you’re spending your cash at.
Starling tracks that and then gives you a handy overview of how much you’ve spent over the month and even as a percentage of your overall spending.
So if you’re a huge fan of 2am ham and cheese toasties at 7/11 in Thailand, you’ll quickly be able to see how much those midnight munchies are racking up a month!
Or how much of your hard earned cash you’re spending at Starbucks on coffee, or on flights.
If you suck at managing your day to day spending, this app is going to give you a huge reality check and allow you to easily see where your cash is going and where you might need to make some changes.
“If you suck at managing your day to day spending, this app is going to give you a huge reality… Click To Tweet
Amazing For Managing Your Money Abroad
The stats are just one of the reasons I absolutely love the Starling Banking app in general, but they’re also super useful for managing my money abroad too.
Zero Fees Abroad – Yeeewww!
But by far the biggest advantage of Starling is the fact they have zero fees abroad.
Yup zero, as in 0, nada, nothing.
They won’t charge you for taking out cash abroad (admittedly if the cash machine charges you’ll have to pay that, but that’s almost impossible to avoid) and using it to pay by card for things abroad is also fee free.
Compare that to the loading fee I had with my STA Cashcard or the set fees I had for withdrawing cash no matter how big or small the amount and those savings will quickly add up.
And not only that but you’ll get the live MasterCard exchange rates when spending abroad. Which basically means they aren’t ripping you off with a terrible exchange rate either. In fact I plugged some of my spending into currency conversion site XE.com (which I use a lot on the road, so download that app too!) and the Starling rate was exactly the same.
And as for tracking spending – the app will display your expenses in both local currency and GBP.
There’s also some nifty other features that lend themselves well to life on the road too – like being able to block and unblock your own card (if you misplace it!) as well as notifications for payments, which means if someone clones your card you’ll instantly know about it.
And there’s a 24/7 live chat built right into the app too, so if you have any issues you won’t be on hold for hours!
“by far the biggest advantage of Starling is the fact they have zero fees abroad.” @starlingbank Click To Tweet
Saving For Travelling?
Keep Your Savings…Safe!
One of the other awesome features the Starling Bank has built into the app is the “Goals” section.
Simply put you can create as many savings pots as you want, instantly, within the app.
No more setting up new saver accounts to keep yourself from spending all your wages. You can set your goal amount and the app will calculate how close you are as a percentage.
Once you’ve moved your money into your goal, you can’t spend it via your card, so it’s safe from being used accidentally when you decide to get another round in at the bar!
However, if you do find yourself needing to dip into your savings pot you can quickly and easily transfer it back into your main account.
With this feature, it’s easy to create lots of little savings schemes for parts of your trip – especially if you’re planning a big around the world adventure.
Bookmark Your Money For Awesome Experiences!
Why not create a savings goal for your flights?
How about one for each country you’re visiting so you can track your spending even more?