Tag Archives: Oz

Leaving Melbourne – back to life and back to blogging | Australia

imageToday marks the start of a brand new adventure. Yesterday, I sat in my apartment attempting to squeeze my life into my backpack and felt like I was standing on the edge of a precipice about to jump. Oh god how I’ve missed that feeling. I’ve missed the feeling of freedom and excitement at picking up and starting again somewhere new and different. I’ve been back in Melbourne for five months after living here for five months last year – don’t get me wrong, Melbourne has turned into a home from home for me and remains one of my absolute favourite places in the world. But when you know it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

Living in the city, both times, has been a real challenge with surreal highs and some crazy lows that have left me questioning everything. Every time I come here, I seem to end up in jobs that push me to the very end of my tether and while I’ve loved my cocktail waitress gig and have had an amazing time working on a rooftop bar all summer – I am more than ready to move on and get back to traveller life. This last few months have been both amazing and exhausting – I’ve worked too much in my goal to save as much money as possible and I’ve had to sacrifice my writing due to lack of time and routine. But at the same time, I’ve made some amazing new friends and I’ve had some pretty special adventures in this city and beyond. I don’t regret a single second of it, but I know that out there a healthier and happier life is waiting for me, so I think it’s about time I went and found it.

This past week has been a flurry of goodbyes and leaving drinks, after living here for a total of ten months I’ve picked up a pretty special crowd along the way. I want to say a huge thank you to every single person, who no matter how short a time we spent together, really made my Melbourne experience. Now I plan to finish my time here with a bang, tonight I’m heading to a pretty incredible house I’ve rented with my friends for a joint-birthday celebration along Great Ocean Road. We’ll be spending the weekend there and, just as it should be, I’ll be finishing my time in Melbourne with the people who mean the most to me. Follow me on Instagram and check out my InstaStories for all the live updates.image

So what’s next for Absolutely Lucy?

On Monday I’ll be flying to Adelaide, where I’ll be catching up with an old friend and checking out the city for a week. I’m definitely going to need a chilled week after this hectic last few weeks in Melbourne! Then I’m heading to Perth, where I’m hoping to find some road trip buddies to start heading up the West Coast with – it’s been a dream trip for a long time and I’m so excited to be on the road again. I can’t wait for the sunshine and beaches after this last week of rain in Melbourne, get me tanned, fit and healthy again. I’ve slipped into so many bad habits lately, not sleeping enough, barely eating and drinking way too much – hospo life has definitely got the better of me – so now I’m looking forward to taking care of myself for a while.

I’m excited to get back to blogging and to be able to focus on my passion for a while instead of working the same repetitive job and having the same conversations over and over again. Being a waitress in the bar was fun but I’m so much more than that and I can’t wait to pursue the things I really love, to have the time and the energy to be creative again. I’ll miss my big city life, my cute little apartment all to myself with a gym downstairs, my local coffee shop and bars where the staff remember my orders, my work crew and how much they cared about each other. I’ll miss the families I found in my neighbours, my work crew and my besties I’ve met all over Australia. Melbourne is an incredible city but it is always the people who make the place and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing characters who I already can’t wait to see again. Next week I’ll have lots more to share with you all – trust me I have a lot of adventures to catch you all up on! But for now Melbourne, over and out.16683867_10154214948757617_1195632386496349610_n

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Backpacking | My ultimate guide to finding a job when travelling Australia

imageYou’ve booked your ticket, you’ve quit your job, your visa is ready. You’ve got a bit of money saved but you’ve heard how expensive Australia is and figure it won’t be long until you have to find a job. But how easy is it to find a job in Australia? That’s the question that plagues the conversations I have with friends, messages from readers and the Facebook groups for backpackers down under. Well, I’ve teamed up with Dimitri Roumpos of Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs websites to put your mind at ease and prepare you for job hunting in Oz. I’ve posted before about my top tips for job hunting when in Darwin and top tips for getting that second year visa, but this post will be focusing on the best ways to seek work, what you need to have prepared and how on earth you find a job that will qualify for your second year visa. So sit back and prepare to learn all you need to know to get a good job in Australia – coming from a girl who figured it all out as she went.

What you need to have prepared:

  • A working holiday visa or a student visa to work limited hours – you cannot work on a tourist visa.
  • A tax file number – apply when you arrive and it’s posted out within a few weeks.
  • A bank account – you will need to set this up immediately and make sure you also have a Superannuation account (for this you will also need an…)
  • Australian mobile number – easy to get a SIM from a corner shop/supermarket, go for Telstra as they offer the best coverage even in the outback.
  • White card – this is compulsory for anyone that wishes to work in the construction industry in Australia.
  • RSA – this is compulsory for anyone who works in a job with alcohol involved – bars/restaurants etc will require this and there are different RSA’s available for each Territory. Northern Territory is the cheapest and easiest to get online, New South Wales and Victoria require you to actually attend a session at a centre.
  • CV – always arrive with two or three copies of your resume at the ready. You want to make sure you have one that is in your chosen field with all relevant experience (mine is a journalism CV) then another that focuses on hospitality work with bar/restaurant experience. Then it can also help to have another specialised CV available – I have one that focuses on administrative experience and another on sales experience and all of these have come in handy at one point or another. If you have any outdoor work/construction/manual labour experience, this is also a good one to have at the ready.
  • References – whether you have good references from back home or you put down a mate’s number – make sure they are aware they may get a call and have something prepared.

Preparation is key and having all this ready can really make a difference to the speed at which you find a job and can actually start work. I had all this ready and it meant I got two jobs and started both the following day which really helped my bank account after the East Coastimage

Where to look for work:

  • Sign up to Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs, like the Facebook page and follow on Twitter to make sure you get instant updates of job alerts.
  • Use social media to ask friends/contacts when you move to a new place – if lots of your friends are travelers too this could help get you a tip. This scored me a great bar job in Darwin thanks to a friend-of-a-friend messaging me back.
  • Word of mouth – speak to other travelers in your hostel, they’ll always know if anyone is leaving and their job might be up for grabs.
  • Hostels – check the jobs board daily and talk to staff, they have all the insider information.
  • Hayes Recruitment are fantastic for finding administration jobs and, if you’re looking for sponsorship, a more long-term prospect. My friend found a job as a property manager and is now being sponsored to stay.
  • Job seeking agencies – don’t get sucked into paying to join a club or job fair who promise to find you a job, just get out there and find it yourself. It saves you money and is quicker.
  • Print off CVs, walk to every business/cafe/bar/shop in town and ask to speak to the manager. If they’re not available, ask what time they will be and go back. It’s much easier to secure a job in person than over email/the phone.
  • Check out Seek and Indeed – they’re great for the professional job seekers.
  • Gumtree and Craiglist are a used a lot more in Australia than the UK – I found my second year visa job on Gumtree. Obviously be careful but don’t write them off as full of creeps. These are great for one-off labouring jobs and these can be almost as good as a full-time job.

It can be difficult to know where to start when you’re job hunting, but don’t let it put you off actually looking. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find something. If you don’t have access to a computer go to the library, print CVs at Peter Pan’s for free and speak to everyone. Don’t let it get you down if you don’t find something straight away, just change your approach and get a friend to glance over your CV.image

How to find a second year visa job:

  • First of all try to choose a Territory where you would like to work – narrowing your search to QLD, VIC, NT, NSW, WA, SA or TAS can really help when trawling through endless job lists. Also, you’ll be spending three months in a place – make sure your location is suitable.
  • Be aware that a lot more different types of job count in the Northern Territory and you don’t have to be quite so remote when completing your 88 days there as you would in Queensland or Victoria.
  • Think about the type of work you would like to do – you could do anything from fishing and pearling, to fruit picking or landscaping, even working in a vineyard counts. Think outside the box and turn it into a travelling experience not just ticking off your 88 days. I have a friend who worked in real estate and on a cattle station and said it was an amazing experience, he was glad he didn’t just stick to fruit picking. Check out a full list of suitable jobs here.
  • As mentioned, sign up to alerts from Fruit Picking Jobs and Working Holiday Jobs, plus any others you can find, these are great for finding work. Also, check out Gumtree as this can be a goldmine for second year visa work – be careful and don’t take risks.
  • Look carefully at what is offered as part of the deal – some will offer reduced wages to cover food and board, others will charge you after wages have been paid. Be savvy and compare different jobs so you have an idea of what is fair.
  • Likewise, compare wages for fruit picking, check how they pay – whether by hour or by bucket and make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. You can actually make and save quite a lot of money doing your farm work, but you have to be clever about the job you take.
  • Speak to other backpackers/friends who have completed their farm work and see if they can recommend a job/place, also listen to the warnings. I heard on the backpacker grapevine that Bundaberg was still accepting backpackers despite there being no work, so I knew to avoid.
  • Try and get it out of the way in plenty of time – don’t leave it until the final three months as seasons and work aren’t always reliable. Give yourself six months to complete it and then enjoy the time if you get done early.
  • Make sure you get payslips, evidence of you working – pictures etc – and any paperwork signed off. You need payslips now since the laws have changed – and you need to have been paid for the work. Extra evidence will help you if you end up being one of the unlucky ones to get investigated.

Don’t say I just need to do my 88 days! I was amazed how many people said I need a job so I can do my 88 days to get my second year visa. Whilst we know that is the reason most backpackers seek regional work, stating that that is your pure motivation, does not sit well with a lot of farmers. By stating this your basically saying your heading out to a regional area under sufferance and you can’t wait to get the hell out of there!

Dimitri Roumpos

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Top tips for job-hunting:

  • If English is not your first language, get a friend/dorm mate to check over your CV and right any wrongs. Bad spelling is a big no-no for employers.
  • Be available – if you’re asked when you can start, tell them straight away.
  • Have a smart outfit at the ready for interviews – and if you’re going for a hospitality job having an all black outfit can be helpful in case you’re asked to start the next day.
  • If you can’t find something immediately, ask in the hostel. There are almost always opportunities to work for accommodation or to take on paid roles in hostels.
  • Don’t be afraid to big yourself up – list your skills and talents with pride.
  • If you don’t have any experience, gloss over the truth. A lot of jobs, especially in bars/cafes/restaurants, you can learn on the job so if you’re not getting anywhere you can easily pick it up if you’re willing to work. I don’t recommend outright lies claiming you can do circus tricks while laying tables but it’s okay to bend the truth a little.
  • Ask those already working to recommend you at their workplace – I got a lot of my friends jobs in this way.
  • Don’t give up. It can seem hopeless and frustrating if you don’t get something straight away, but don’t lose hope. Keep at it and you will find something – it’s much easier to find a job Down Under than it is in the UK!

What do the travelers say?

  • “Word of mouth. My friends were at a hostel where the manager finds you the work. Just had to wait til there was a free space at the hostel and then was working two days after.” – Devon Tobin
  • “Go to a cattle station or crop farm where you get to do actual helpful work that’s fun and really teaches you something!” – Holli McCarthy
  • “Remember that people also can do construction in all of NT, SA, Tassie and lot of other smaller towns for the second year.” – Robin Lassinniemi
  • “I had to be up as early as 6am as the farmers were up posting jobs. The good jobs went fast so you had to be up at the crack of dawn.” – Stuart Harrowing
  • “Make sure you’re getting a legal wage ($17ph) and check how many days are you actually being signed off for? Don’t assume a week sign off if you didn’t work the weekend.” – Jodie Green
  • ” I lied about being a farmer in Sweden on Gumtree to get a job.” – Richard Andersson
  • “I’ve heard a few stories about people working picking jobs and having to spend most of their pay just on the accommodation and food but I think if you can make the right contacts and get smart about it, you can find some good jobs out there. Pro tip though: prepare an iPod with all the music/audio books you can get your hands on, three months is a long ass time and the days go faster if you’re listening to tunes!” – Paul Jefferyes

imageWhile I was in Australia, I worked in a bar/restaurant, a theatre box office, as a nanny, on a cattle farm, and in sales. All of them were a great experience and I’d really recommend getting in a range of different work while away. It keeps things interesting and broadens your skill set, plus you can make great money in all of these. Darwin is a good bet if you need work fast, particularly in dry season, I managed to find two jobs within an hour when I was at my poorest. If you need good money quick and don’t fancy taking your clothes off, it’s worth trying sales, I was on $2,000 a week in Melbourne within just a few weeks and it gave me invaluable work experience. If you have any questions about finding work in Australia – leave a comment below, find me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at absolutelylucy@hotmail.com

How did you find a job in Australia? Any top tips for finding work? How did you find your second year visa job?

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Australia | My ultimate budget guide for a month on the East Coast

11745765_1147415768609240_7957452483586575087_nThere’s no denying the East Coast is a huge draw for young travellers heading to Australia. With its white sandy beaches, epic party spots and the Great Barrier Reef on your doorstep, it’s become something of a rite of passage for backpackers. For first-time travellers, it’s a perfect place to start out with all the familiarities of home but a damn sight more sunshine and fun trips to do. There’s no better place to make friends in Australia and many of the people I met on the East Coast actually became some of the best friends I have found since travelling. There’s so much fun to be had along the way with Fraser Island being a huge highlight for me, but don’t forget Whitsundays cruises, skydiving, white water rafting, surfing in Byron Bay and all the rest. The list of amazing trips and things to do is endless, and it can become a bit daunting when you first start thinking about planning your East Coast adventure, it doesn’t take long for things to get very expensive! The East Coast will without a doubt be the most expensive part of your time in Australia – why? Because you’re spending weeks partying non-stop and going on incredible trips – don’t worry, it’s worth every penny! But there are lots of ways to cut costs along the way – it just takes careful planning. So how do you go about budgeting for your trip?11224855_10152949576367617_5464624702726152160_n

How long does it take?

First of all, you need to decide how long you’re going to spend on your trip – whether you’re squeezing it in just before a flight home or have endless time to stop off along the way. I took five weeks to complete the trip, starting in Sydney and including one final week in Cairns. This seemed a perfect amount of time to fit in all the trips we wanted while still getting some downtime to relax between the nights out. I’ve had friends do it in two or three weeks, but they all wished they had longer to do it. Likewise, I’ve known a lot of people who, instead of booking a whole trip in one go, have figured it out along the way and stopped off in places to work. After asking a lot of travellers I met along the way, the consensus was that four weeks was the optimum time to take travelling the East Coast. 

It’s important to work out what your budget will allow for, to work out who you’ll be travelling with and how long you want to spend at each stop. Also, think about whether you want to do it during peak season, we did it during winter and still had amazing weather, and met lots of people – but it did make the trip cheaper overall. If you’re travelling with a big group there may be less flexibility on time and costs, but you may also manage to get great group discounts if you all book together. If you’re travelling as a pair, or alone, you get total freedom over every stop and can just decide on the spur of the moment to hitch a lift with anyone you meet along the way which can work out a lot cheaper. Even booking as a pair will wind up being cheaper overall than booking individually as they’ll often throw in extra meals/trips for free or discounted rates. Speak to a travel agent when you’re looking to book and ask for their best offer, then visit three others from different companies and ask for their best offer. Ask them if they can beat the previous offer!11898942_10153005074437617_7025964837598304311_n

Where to stay?

There are lots of different accommodation options from camping and couch surfing, to hostels and hotels, but by far the best option is hostels when you’re on the East Coast. They’re the best place to meet people and get further discounts on food and trips. I saw the very worst and the very best of hostels on the East Coast – from the bed-bug infested and the filthy to the luxurious chalets and en suites. The best way to find the best of the best – ask other travellers you meet along the way for up-to-date reviews and cheap deals.

  • Cheapest hostel: Gilligans Backpackers Hotel & Resort at £14/$25 for 10 bed dorm
  • Most expensive hostel: WakeUp Hostel in Sydney at £22-26/$38-45 a night
  • Favourite hostel: Base Backpackers Airlie Beach Resort at £19/$33 for a six bed dorm
  • Least favourite hostel: BUNK Brisbane at £14/$25 a night for a 20 bed dorm
  • Average bed: £18/$31 a night

TOP TIP: Always ask at the travel desk – often backpackers run it and they’re just as keen to get you the best deal as you are to find it. They’ll often give you huge discounts and throw in extra free meals or the odd night’s free accommodation.

Total: £360/$635

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How to get there?

There are lots of options available, from flying and organised bus trips, to renting a car, hitchhiking and hop-on hop-off Greyhound. On a tight schedule and without much money to spare, I’d recommend the Oz Experience Greyhound pass which costs just £213/$375 to travel a whopping 3150 kilometres at your own pace, it’s actually cheaper now than when I used it, so even better value! It does mean one or two long journeys by bus but it does give you the luxury of sleeping through them rather than having to drive and skip nights out. Before booking I really wanted us to drive the East Coast, but now I’m glad we didn’t, it would have been significantly more expensive and we would have missed out on meeting a lot of people if we had a camper van instead of hostels. Camper van hire starts from around £40/$70 a day but you also have to factor in fuel and insurance costs – it just depends on your budget and the experience you want. Internal flights are available if you’re on a very tight schedule and need to travel quickly between Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns for trips, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you have only two weeks for the East Coast.

TOP TIP: Always go prepared on Greyhound – take warm and cool clothes as the temperature can be unpredictable and there’s nothing worse than shivering for a whole 12 hour bus journey. Take a packed lunch/dinner, the rest stops can be pretty grim for snacks and this will save you a lot of money. Don’t rely on the wifi on the bus as it’s pretty rare that it will work well for the whole journey.

Total: £213/$375 for Greyhound

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What to do?

The whole of the East Coast is chock-full of amazing trips and things to do, and there is a huge list of once-in-a-lifetime experiences you simply cannot miss out on! During my five weeks I swam with sea turtles, kayaked with dolphins, went whale watching, diving, white water rafting, drove 4WDs around a desert island and saw the Great Barrier Reef with my own eyes. It was incredible and definitely not something you want to scrimp on. Trips you don’t want to miss:

If you can’t fit all these in or just don’t have the money – narrow it down to the main ones (Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Whitsundays and Diving). There are plenty of other cheap, or even free, experiences to enjoy along the way!

TOP TIPS: Always look for trips that include free meals and shop around, often the travel agent next door will try to undercut the first one you go to. Also, enter competitions! They’re held at every hostel along the way and you can win some amazing trips – we won a Whitsundays cruise and a Kiwi Experience bus pass for New Zealand in one night!

Total: £1,470/$2,590

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What to eat/drink?

Food and drink can quickly blow your budget way out of control – it’s important not to get carried away, but also not to miss out by being too tough on yourself. You’ll meet all kind of travellers along the way – some are living off instant noodles and goon, others are surviving from one budget backpacker deal to the next. You need to work out what is realistic and try to balance your own meals – we flitted between eating out, taking advantage of backpacker hostel deals and cooking our own meals during our five weeks. Something to consider is going veggie, if you’re looking to cut costs this is a great way to do it. Meat is expensive in Australia and I’d much rather spend that money on activities or alcohol, I found it cheap and easy to eat healthy as a vegetarian in Australia. Just make sure to stay healthy – no-one wants to get ill on the East Coast!

  • Cheapest backpacker meal: instant noodles at 30p a pack!
  • Best hostels for budget backpacker meals: Wakeup Hostel in Sydney and Gilligans in Cairns from as little as £2.50/$4.50, or even free if you buy a drink!
  • Cheapest home-cooked meal: veggie pasta £2-3/$3-4
  • Best budget group meals to make: beach BBQs, fajitas, pasta
  • Average cost of goon: £7/$12 (Golden Oak 4l)
  • Cheapest bottle of wine: £2.50/$4.50 (Whispers)
  • Cheapest beer: £3/$5 (Tooeys stubble)

TOP TIP: Head to the backpacker bars and take advantage of the drinks deals, free breakfasts and food deals. Group together in hostels to rustle up a meal and find the costs cut hugely by sharing. Enter competitions and win drinks for you and your mates!

Total:  £200/$350 for food (based on spending £10 a day when not on trips with meals included) For alcohol it totally depends on how much, and what, you drink!11222133_10152951499637617_5982267502697766247_n

So how much will it cost you?

I’ve budgeted generously here and know lots of people who have done it on a lot less, but if you want to go all out and enjoy every amazing trip – you can do it in £2,000/$3,500. With a budget of £2,500/$4,400 you could easily drink every night and squeeze in even more trips along the way – likewise you could cut back even more on trips, food and drink to spend less. It sounds like a lot of money but when you see what you get for it, it quickly becomes clear this is a once in a lifetime trip, and one you want to do well! Nobody wants to regret not going diving on the Great Barrier Reef or not taking the catamaran to Whitsundays. If you’re on a tight budget, just prioritise the things you really want to do and cut out some of the less important trips/stops – you could easily cut this budget down to around £1,800/$3,100 this way. Every backpacker is different, but it’s important to find the right trip for you and to make your experience the best it can be. Talk to travel agents – their job is to make your backpacking dream a reality – and don’t forget the goldmine backpacker Facebook pages that hold a wealth of travelling experience and advice within them. Need any tips? Leave a comment with any questions and I’ll help you plan!11168431_10152928893202617_9101439380460830205_n

What was the highlight of your East Coast trip? How much did you spend along the way? What tips can you give other backpackers?

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Cairns | The huge East Coast reunion | Australia

imageAfter an epic four weeks of travelling up the East Coast – taking in the stunning sights of Fraser Island, Whitsundays, Magnetic Island, traipsing through the national park in Noosa and kayaking across Byron Bay, we were more than ready for the final stop on our tour. Cairns is one that everyone talks about and we were excited to see what it would have to offer – if our previous stops were anything to go by it was going to be pretty amazing! More than anything, we were looking forward to the huge reunion we would have with all of our friends we had met along the way – with countless more stops along the East Coast route, we’d lost some friends to places like 1770 and Mission Beach, but we were all due to arrive in Cairns during the same week. When you’ve got a huge week like this planned, it’s important to have a good hostel ready and waiting for you, and in Cairns there’s only one that people talk about – Gilligan’s! Owned by Base Backpackers, the super-hostel is a multi-level hostel with rooms ranging from four to ten bed, each boasting en suite facilities with a kitchen on every level. To say it was one of the best and most impressive hostels I have stayed in was an understatement – the nightlife was great, the location was perfect being right in the middle of Cairns, it was the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed in and there were loads of deals for those staying there including free backpacker dinners when you bought a drink each evening. We had booked in for four nights, but already planned for stay for at least a week.imageimageAs soon as we arrived the reunions started, we bumped into some friends we had met down in Airlie Beach and Noosa and went for drinks and dinner. That first night there saw us joining upon the fun and games downstairs as the staff had us all playing Bogan Bingo – a hilarious game we ended up playing over a few different nights. The next few days were spent exploring Cairns – we checked out the lagoon and spent a few days sunbathing and barbecuing down there with friends, we headed out in the evenings for drinks and ended up partying in the Woolshed – another place you simply have to go. It was a blur of fun, goon and complete exhaustion – every night we partied and every day we spent the whole thing out in the sun. Between this we had trips planned including The Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation and White Water Rafting Xtreme – more on these in my upcoming posts. So we were fully booked with plans and on top of this we had to find time to hang out with everyone before we all parted ways as some people flew home, others to New Zealand and others to the other side of Australia.imageimageCairns was a great little place, as soon as you arrived it felt like you were on holiday as you could tell most of the people walking the streets were. It was full of shops, bars, restaurants and more, and the lagoon was packed with sunbathers every single day. I could understand how some people could love it and end up staying to work, but personally it wasn’t somewhere I could have stayed longer – I was happy to stay for 10 days of fun with friends but that was what kept me there for so long, not the place. I found myself very aware that it was a holiday town and that people were constantly passing through – that the backpacker culture there was so transient it was less of a culture and more of a business. But that was fine with me, I had no plans to stay longer than we did and I didn’t want to work in Cairns, it was just a perfect end to our East Coast trip. So where did we spend our nights? In true backpacker style, we followed the cheap drinks and food which took us to our own balcony, to Gilligan’s bar, the Woolshed and Irish bar, and for one night we ended up in a bar around the corner after being offered unlimited drinks and pizza for $20 or $30 on a Sunday night. Best advice for saving money, trawl the streets and keep your eyes open for deals – these girls just passed us some leaflets as we crossed the street for that one and it was a great night!imageimageAnother really great night we had in Cairns was actually one when we were bored one night and decided to go out for a drink and a walk. We were walking when we heard a load of fireworks going off and spotted the shower of stars beyond some trees, we headed over and saw that they must have been part of an event that was ongoing at the cruise terminal – naturally the journalist in me wanted to know what was going on and walked straight over. Despite it being a private and ticketed event, we waited until the doormen were distracted then snuck in to find a really lovely party going on. It was celebrating an Aboriginal art exhibition opening and how better than to do that with music, champagne, fireworks and food? We ended up checking out the exhibit which featured pieces worth tens of thousands, hobnobbed with the other guests and enjoyed some fancy foods and fine wine. It was a bit of a treat considering we had been living off scraps for the last week. It was a really refreshing change to be around that kind of event and some of the pieces of art were amazing – we ended up having a really interesting night and it was totally different to what we had been up to every other night. I love when you stumble across things like that.

Have you been to Cairns – what did you think? What was your favourite bar in town? Have you crashed any exciting events? 

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Sydney | Manly and Maroubra Beach | Australia

imageOne of my favourite places in Sydney was Manly – I only went there twice in the month I spent in the city, but both times I fell in love with the seaside town. It’s one of the places you could just see yourself living long-term, and I know many backpackers who moved there despite working in the city and facing a bit of a commute every day. My first time there was actually the first Sunday I spent in Australia, just two days after I arrived. A group of us caught the ferry over from Circular Quay (an easy free bus ride on the 555 from the top of the CBD, and just $2.50 on the ferry as all travel prices are capped on Sunday’s) and after just 30 minutes we arrived at the small harbour there. As you walk out, you come to a little Boardwalk that takes you past a selection of bars and restaurants which look out right across the water. Don’t be put off thinking they are really expensive, actually a couple are really well priced and I had a lovely meal in one of them. Once you get to the road, it’s just a short walk through the town centre towards the main beach, with lots of places to eat, drink and shop along the way.imageThe main beach is heavenly – the golden sand goes on for miles and as far as the eye can see there are surfers riding the waves. Up and down the beach you can see groups playing volleyball or runners making their way along the sand, picnics and children playing. It’s just perfect, although be sure to get there in the morning or early afternoon because the sun actually sets on the harbour side and the beach is cast in shadow from the late afternoon thanks to the buildings. But I’m sure the sunrise is gorgeous there, and I know the sunsets are absolutely stunning over on the harbour side. There are lots of walks for those who want to explore further along the coastline, or to find somewhere a bit more secluded. I think what I loved most about Manly was that the beach and town felt like a place where people live, not just where people go on holiday or visit to pose like they do at Bondi and some of the others along the East Coast.imageAnother beach I visited, which is definitely worth a visit, was Maroubra. Sadly the day I went it was absolutely chucking it down and I got soaked through, but even then the surfers were out in full force and you could tell it would be a beautiful beach on a sunny day. Even in the rain it was pretty awesome, just miles of open sand and more of a deserted feel than the others. If there’s one thing Sydney boasts a lot of, it’s miles of gorgeous coastline with endless sandy beaches, waves packed with surfers and that beachy Aussie lifestyle we all come here looking for. Definitely try and fit a visit into some of the beaches into your stay. I’m already looking forward to heading back when the weather is better for a chance to sun myself on that golden sand.image

 

Have you checked out Sydney’s beaches – which is your favourite? Are you a beach bum, or do you prefer city life?

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Sydney | Luna Park, Bridge Walk and Sydney Observatory | Australia

imageOne of my least planned days in Sydney was one rainy afternoon where I reached the final straw after staring out at the blackened, stormy skies all morning. I’d already been up since first thing, had been to the gym and washed my clothes, caught up on emails. Now I was bored and needed some fresh air, one of the girls was complaining about the rain stopping her from seeing the city, but being a true English girl, I wasn’t about to let a bit of rain dampen my day. I decided to skip the free bus and walk instead for some exercise, down through the CBD to Circular Quay where it was just a short walk to The Rocks and up to Sydney Observatory. The Rocks is a lovely area of the city which is full of food, drink and live music, plus on the weekends the markets are worth a look. I wandered through, following Google Maps on my phone to find the road leading to Observatory Park where an amazing view across the city lay waiting. Even if you have no interest in space or visiting the Observatory, I would really recommend walking up to the park just to check out the view, it’s beautiful and a really special way to see the city. A friend from university was actually lucky enough to have her fiancé propose to her there, it’s such a romantic place to watch the sunset.imageThe actual Observatory is brilliant – free entry so a great money saver for the backpackers – and it’s a really cool building. You are given a little guide to the museum but a lot of it is self-explanatory thanks to signs, but it is also a bit of an interactive experience as you can watch videos, take tours of the telescope and more. Definitely worth a visit, and if you like history, the tours available at The Rocks museum are worth a look – they tell you all about the area’s criminal past. I mean, it’s up to you whether you’re interested in more than just boozing and the obvious sightseeing, but I found these were a great way to spend a rainy day in the city. After a good look round the building, I headed back down towards The Rocks, but followed a different path this time and found myself at the end of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Looking up at the skies which threatened rain at every turn but had yet to actually open, I decided to risk it and finally walk across the bridge.imageWalking the bridge is a rite of passage for backpackers in Sydney, I can’t believe that anyone would come to the city and not want to tick it off their list. Not only do you get to see the city from a different perspective, but you also get a chance to visit Luna Park, a vintage fairground which lies just across the other side. I had definitely planned to do it at some point but never thought it would be today, it just seemed silly not to when I was in the mood for walking and already at one end of the bridge. It didn’t take long to get across the bridge, but I took my time and stopped to take photos and chat to people along the way. I definitely didn’t wear the right shoes for all the walking I did that day, so if you do decide to do this day of walking, bear in mind it ends up with you covering up to 10k and for that you do need proper shoes. Halfway across the bridge you can get some great photos of the Opera House and city, and when you reach the other side, you can take the steps down, walk under the overpass and find yourself at Milson’s Point near the entrance to Luna Park.imageLuna Park is a restored 1930’s amusement park that sits on the banks of Sydney Harbour and is filled to the brim with nostalgia for times gone by, from the carnival favourites of hot dogs, candy floss and ice cream, to rides including the Ferris wheel and giant slides. It is one of the most iconic sights of the city, everyone knows the clown’s face and it can be seen from right across the harbour, even at night when it is lit up rather spectacularly. I actually had a bit of a different experience of the park, because when I went over that day it was actually closed to visitors. The gates were still left open however, so I had the very odd experience of walking through what felt like an abandoned 1930’s amusement park just as a storm looked like it was about to hit. It was a bit creepy, I won’t lie, but a cool experience to see the place without any screaming children or bustling crowds. I would definitely say it is worth a visit, whether you go just to check it out or actually fancy a day on the rides.imageAfter a walk round the park, I decided to head back before the storms hit and started walking back across the bridge. By this point I figured I’d walked this far and might as well carry on all the way home, so I ended up walking all the way back to Circular Quay and up through the CBD to my hostel – an app on my phone told me the walk had come to just over 10k altogether and my legs were feeling it! But it was a good way to get out and see the city, and a little exercise never hurt anyone. I was pretty amazed I managed to walk for hours and only felt a few drops of rain the whole time considering how dark the skies were – it was definitely worth the risk.image

 

Have you walked Sydney Harbour Bridge? Do you tend to visit museums and galleries when staying in a city – any you can recommend?

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Sydney | Touching down in the land down under | Australia

imageAfter a crazy five months in Asia, I was sad to say goodbye but pretty excited for the next part of my travels which would take me straight to the land down under for some Aussie good times. I was pretty excited to be heading back to somewhere more western, I’d loved my time in Asia but I’d had my fill of dodgy toilets and humidity for a while and was ready for something new. I nearly didn’t make it to Australia when I was supposed to fly back at the end of May – I had applied for my work travel visa about three weeks beforehand but for some reason it hadn’t dropped into my emails. Now most people I know have received theirs in a matter of hours or just days, I don’t even know anyone whose application for a work travel visa has taken the full week to come back. So as you can imagine, I started to be a bit concerned when it hadn’t dropped in after a week, but thought I’d give it another week to be safe as my internet was so unreliable in Cambodia.

By the time I reached Thailand, a week before I was due to fly, it still hadn’t arrived and I was starting to worry so I contacted the embassy by email and by phone to check up on it. Cue a week of frustrating, panicked emails and phone calls as I try to establish what the hell has happened to my application. Long story short, I think my application must have slipped through the system because it was finally approved just six hours before I was due to fly – I was actually about to move my flight because I didn’t think I would make it. By this point I think I had already convinced myself I wouldn’t make it to Australia before my birthday, I had accepted I would be staying in Thailand for a bit longer – so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to finally get it through! I was crazy excited to be moving to a new continent to start my new Aussie adventure and breezed through the airport with the biggest smile on my face. I couldn’t even sleep on the nine hour flight, I just stayed up buzzing with excitement and enjoying having three seats to lay across while I watched movies for the first time in six months!imageAfter my long flight and arriving in Sydney, I was a dizzy mess of sleep deprivation and felt terrible – I stumbled through the airport and collected my bag then headed on the train to Central where Wake Up Hostel was waiting for me. I chose the hostel after lots of great recommendations from friends who had stayed there when they travelled through and wasn’t disappointed. It’s a great hostel, although very expensive for a night at $37, while you do appreciate paying for a really clean and well-run hostel that is dead centre of Sydney, you can’t help but resent paying so much and having to pay an extra $15 a week for wifi which isn’t always reliable. Despite this, the hostel has a great social life and lots of events on every single day and night to encourage people to make friends and mix with each other – in my time there I took part in a walk around VIVID, a light show that brought the city to life at night, which was great and helped me to meet lots of new friends. The evenings saw pool competitions, wine and cheese nights, beer pong tournaments and much more filling up Side Bar, which lay below the hostel. It was great, but I have to say I did feel the hostel was missing just a nice chill out room with sofas for those who didn’t want to sit in the kitchen or reception. Plus, it had a hell of a lot of rules for someone who had just spent five months in Asia where the only rule is there is no rules!

Despite this, I have to say, I stayed in the hostel for a month when I first arrived in Sydney – I had a great time there and made lots of friends I’m still in contact with now, and really enjoyed myself. Sydney was just what the doctor ordered, walking out of the hostel after some sleep was a pretty strange experience. All these skyscrapers and glossy shops were a far cry from the dusty roads and street markets of Asia, but a welcome change. Sydney really is a beautiful city and despite not being much of a city girl, I loved it there – I loved how much effort had been put into the tiniest details, how clean it was, how calm a city it was. It was just lovely and never felt so big it was going to swallow you up, other cities like London or New York have a habit of being quite overwhelming but Sydney was just right. Staying in central was amazing because everything was right on my doorstep and I found myself flitting between days at the beaches of Bondi and Manly, to nights in Surry Hills and Newtown – but more about that in posts to come. For now, just enjoy some of my first pics captured in the city – and the moment I first laid eyes on the Royal Opera House and Harbour Bridge, less than 24 hours after being convinced I was stuck in Bangkok. Trust me, it was a pretty surreal first day there…image

Have you been to Sydney – what were your first impressions of the city? Any other hostel recommendations for me – or what did you think of Wake Up Hostel?

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