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travel tips

Travel, Travel Advice

Booking Flights – Using a Travel Agent Vs Doing It Yourself

September 6, 2015

So you’ve been busy saving and now it’s time to book those flights! Do you head over to your local travel agent in town or do you browse the web and book the cheapest flight you see? Other travellers I’ve met seem to be in one camp or the other. You’re either Team Travel Agent or Team Online. I’ve booked flights with STA Travel and I’ve browsed Skyscanner to find the best deals. From hearing people’s horror stories, there’s definitely pros and cons to each.

Team Travel Agent

There’s a lot of travel agents out there and a lot aimed specifically at backpackers. The most common one is probably STA Travel. They’re an international company and you’re bound to be near one where ever you are in the world. Both times I’ve been to Australia, I’ve booked my flight with STA. Although I never had any issues I did hear of people who did.

The main benefit of using a travel agent is the support in store. It’s literally their job to help you. Hundreds of backpackers have booked the exact same trip that you’re planning on doing so the staff know the best time of year to fly, the best airlines and where to stopover. If you don’t have any time constraints then let them hunt around for the best deal. STA also give discount if you’re a student or under 26 which is a massive bonus. Another good deal that STA do is a little add-on which allows you to change your flights once your trip has started – ideal for the backpacker who has no idea how long they want to stay in each country for!

A downside to using an agent, is the agency fees. If you’ve got a discount then hopefully you’re still saving money in comparison to booking direct with the airline, but always check you’re getting the best deal! Some people also complain that agents aren’t very helpful if you need to make any changes to your booking. I’ve never experienced this but ask around friends to see what their experience was like with travel agents.

Doing It Yourself

When I say ‘doing it yourself’ I mean booking with the airline direct or using a comparison service such as Skyscanner. I cannot recommend using Skyscanner enough. It’s so easy to compare and book flights and will save you so much money. You can either do it on the website or there is an app to use on the go. If you want some inspiration for where you want to travel to next then you can just select your nearest airport and select ‘To Anywhere’ to see cheap flights to countries all over the world.

When booking directly, the responsibility is on you. You need to make sure that you read the fine print, check what your baggage allowance is and any visas you may need. Find out what the cancellation policy is and whether you have to have travel insurance to fly. Double and triple check all your details before booking. All relatively simple stuff but you would be amazed at the mistakes people make.

How do you book your flights? Ever had any issues with STA or Skyscanner? Comment below or tweet me @frankiegoesto__

The post Booking Flights – Using a Travel Agent Vs Doing It Yourself appeared first on Frankie Goes To…

Lists, Travel Advice

How To Survive An Overnight Bus

August 15, 2015

I’ve been known to say that the worst part of travelling is the travelling part. Makes no sense I know. Don’t get me wrong, when you’re sat on the top of a boat as you pull in to one of Thai islands, you’re feeling pretty good and you forget about the journey once you step on to a golden beach. But to get to paradise you’ve sometimes got to survive some horrific overnight buses. Your bus may be in Thailand or Australia, be old or new but the fact of the matter is, you’ve still got to be on a bus for 12 hours. Just thinking about it brings back bad memories!

I’ve been on my fair share of overnight buses (one was 22 hours from Alice Springs to Darwin) and although it’s never going to that pleasant, there are ways of making journey a hell of a lot easier!

  1. Neck Cushion – A true lifesaver when trying to catch some sleep on a bus. Without a neck cushion, your choices are either leaning on a shaking window or dribbling on the shoulder on the person your sat next to. I have a fantastic neck cushion called the J Pillow which as well as supporting your neck, has an extra ‘arm’ to lean your head on – something I think normal neck cushions definitely lack! Here’s Kara from Heels In My Backpack giving her review on Youtube!
  2. Eye Mask – Not everyone wants to sleep on an overnight bus so take an eye mask to block out any lights people have on around you and to make it clear that you want some shut eye even if they don’t!
  3. Jumper/Scarf – The air-con on buses can be very temperamental in my opinion, they either seem to be freezing or uncomfortably hot. Take something warm just in case and I always find that having a big scarf over me makes me feel like I’m under a blanket and therefore more likely to fall asleep.
  4. Bug Spray – Overnight buses seem to be a haven for mosquitoes. I always find myself covered in bites the next day so make sure you give yourself a quick spray before you get on and cover up any exposed skin.
  5. Entertainment – 12 hours is a long time to be sat on a bus and you’re unlikely to be able to sleep for it all. Take your iPod and listen to some music,watch a film on your laptop or read a book. Anything to make the morning come around that little bit quicker. I find this a great time to catch up on my travel diary.
  6. Water and Snacks – You’ll feel better the next day if you keep yourself hydrated and fed. Most buses stop at service stations but the selection of food and drink can sometimes be limited or just plain weird if you’re in Asia so take something with you.
  7. Wet Wipes and Tootbrush/Toothpaste – You will be dying for a shower when you get off a bus so take these to have a quick freshen up before you get off and feel a little bit human again. That hostel shower will feel great!

I hope these tips help you survive your next overnight bus. They may not be your first choice of transport but they’re cheap and save you a nights accommodation. Don’t worry you’ll soon be at your next destination!


This post How To Survive An Overnight Bus appeared first on Frankie Goes To…

Travel, Travel Advice

Should you go travelling with your boyfriend or girlfriend?

April 17, 2015

When I get asked who I went travelling with, a lot of people are surprised when I say I went with my boyfriend. They’re even more surprised when I say that we are still together. I’m not going to lie, travelling with your partner will put a lot of strain on your relationship but Stu and I are proof that you can go travelling together, have lots of fun and come home still together!

There are benefits of travelling in a couple, just like there are benefits of travelling alone or with friends. There is no right or wrong way to travel, you just have to learn what is right for you and that might change along your journey.

In true backpacker style, one of the most important benefits in going with your partner is it can be cheaper! Now before you get too excited, I’m not talking about some crazy 2 for 1 deal. It’s more like the cost of 1 and a half people than paying for 2 individuals. This is down to few things. You buy your food shops together so can take advantage of more offers and use the whole of that bag pasta you would otherwise have to buy on your own and leave half in the hostel kitchen. (I do miss the free shelf!) You can also occasionally save on accommodation. Double rooms tend to be more expensive but you can sometimes get away with just buying one single bed.  The downside of this is obviously having to share the single bed so try and do this on nights where it’s going to be late one so minimum time is spent in bed!

This next reason can be seen as both a pro and a con. You have someone with you all the time. Living out of each other’s pockets is not easy. We all need some time on our own and the sooner you realise when someone needs some space, the better. Don’t get offended if your partner wants to do something on their own, you don’t have to be two peas in a pod for the whole of your trip. The good side of having someone with you constantly is that you always have someone to talk to. They’re the perfect link to home when the time difference means you can’t talk to someone you’re missing. I found this invaluable on days where I was feeling a bit home sick. If you’re not someone who shares everything with new friends then it’s perfect having someone with you that you can trust with anything. Stu also looked after me during my clumsy moments when I almost left belongings behind in the most random places.

What you have to realise about travelling as a couple is that it is going to be very different to travelling with friends or on your own. It can be harder to make friends because people don’t tend to approach couples for a chat. They assume that you want to be left alone. The best thing about travelling is the people that you meet so you really don’t want to miss out on this. Just approach people yourselves, once you’re in a group people won’t care that you’re together and see you as individuals. Nights out as a couple are obviously different to a night with the boys, so make sure you are not one of those couples that argue after a couple of drinks and leave before everyone else. No one likes those guys.

My Dad gave Stu and I some sensible advice before we left. He said that no matter how much we argued, we were not to storm off on our own. We’ve all read the stories of backpackers who have walked home alone and terrible things can happen. Just be sensible even if you do hate their guts at that very moment.

It doesn’t matter who you travel with, you’re probably going to argue with them at some point. If this becomes a constant issue, its fine to go your separate ways. Plenty of friends start their journey together but then discover they don’t work well when travelling. You might get along fine and just want to travel to different places next. This is okay! Just make sure you are enjoying yourself and making the most of every opportunity.

I loved travelling with Stu and wouldn’t change a single moment. To me, there was no one better to experience travelling the world with. We made brilliant friends, some couples and plenty of solo travellers. Travel teaches you not to judge anyone so don’t be afraid of befriending people that you wouldn’t hang out with at home.

Asia, Indonesia, Travel

Bali – The Australian Magaluf?

January 3, 2015

To those living in Australia it won’t come as a surprise to see the Indonesian island of Bali described as a cheap party destination but to many people in the Northern Hemisphere, Bali is seen as a luxury honeymoon spot for newlyweds to enjoy their start to married life. If you are considering Bali as your next holiday and want to avoid drunk Australians then you need to pick carefully when deciding where to stay on the island.

The main area which has been developed to suit the Western clientèle is Kuta. Think Mcdonalds and other fast food outlets on every corner, chain stores such as Topshop, New Look and even Mark and Spencers and bars and restaurants serving every cuisine imaginable. Not exactly what you picture when you think of this island. If you don’t want to experience any Balinese culture and just want cheap food and alcohol then Kuta is perfect for you. This is where the Australian TV programme What really happens in Bali is based. The programme is fairly similar to the UK’s Magaluf Weekender and depicts young Aussies in a bad light. Kuta offers no culture apart from Bali souvenirs sold on the hundreds of market stalls. The place is crawling with teenagers on their first mates holiday and adults on family holidays still getting just as drunk.

A short taxi ride away from Kuta you have the slightly more upmarket resort of Seminyak. Seminyak is home to lots of little boutique shops. Some of these are owned by Indonesian designers so you feel a little better browsing these stores rather than the same shops you go in every weekend at home. The beaches are also much quieter than Kuta beach. You still get locals trying to sell you jewellery, fruit etc but as this happens all over Asia I think it is to be expected. In general, Seminyak is more expensive than Kuta for food and accommodation. The hotels which line the beach are incredible 5 star resorts so the whole area is suited for a certain class of person.

Have I put you off Bali yet? Have no fear, away from the rowdy party spots there are still places to visit in Bali which stay true to their culture.

The most popular of these is Ubud. This inland town is home to the famous monkey sanctuary and plenty of inspiring temples. The hotels seem to be more in keeping with Indonesian style and this gives you a better experience overall. You can definitely relax more in Ubud and take in the beautiful culture of the island. Take a visit to a temple or just watch the locals go about their daily lives. If you’re still desperate for a beach escape then try the nearby island Gili Trawangan. I loved it there and I’ll write a full blog post on this tiny paradise soon. This is what Bali is really about, not a cheap Bintang vest and an Arak cocktail.

What do you think? Have I judged Kuta unfairly or can you recommend anywhere else to visit in Bali?