Travel Tips

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Buckingham Palace in London, UK

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Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan

Tag: Backpacking Travels

Learn travel advice and tips about backpacking travel from long time travelers and beginners, including what to bring and where to go.

What to Do in Cairns, Australia

What to Do in Cairns, Australia

Cairns is located in the far northern reaches of Queensland in the northeastern corner of Australia. Once a booming port for the goldfields, it’s now a popular destination for tourists (foreign and Australian) exploring the nearby Great Barrier Reef and other points further north. It is probably my favourite city in Australia – from its small town vibe to it’s laid back feel and great weather. It’s a great city for travelers as it’s well laid out (so it’s hard to get too lost) with so much in close proximity to the downtown area and waterfront. Plus all the great outdoor activities right on its door step. If you’re wondering what to do in Cairns, I got you covered.

View from the top of the Daintree Rainforest in Australia
View from the top of the Daintree Rainforest in Australia

Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is a 2-hour drive north of the city of Cairns and well worth it. It is one of the most complex tropical rainforest ecosystems on earth and is also a region of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site.

You can go up and explore on your own, or take one of the many guided tours available. Since I was new to the area and would likely get lost in the forest I took a tour with Jungle Tours. In addition to getting me up there, the tour stopped at a wildlife habitat to see some kangaroos and crocodiles, the Alexandra Lookout for magnificent views of the Coral Sea and Daintree River, Cape Tribulation for lunch (which we ended up sharing with a Komodo dragon who stopped by our picnic table) and to hang out on the beach, a boat ride up the Daintree river to look for more crocodiles, and a walk through the Dubuji Boardwalk in the rainforest. It was a long day but such an experience!

The beach at Cape Tribulation in northern Queensland Australia
The beach at Cape Tribulation in northern Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the longest reef in the world and the largest living structure on the planet (yes coral is a living thing). The reef is home to thousands of marine creatures including corals, worms, fish, rays, dolphins, sharks, whales, jellyfish and mollusks and is most always on everyone’s list of travel tips for Australia. Cairns has long been a destination for both international and local Australian divers as a starting point for diving the reef. Don’t dive? No worries mate as there are numerous local boating charters that will take you out to cruise through and around the reef, or take you snorkeling so that you can see the reef first hand and up close. Or if you prefer a birds-eye view, there are local helicopter companies that will fly you out so that you can really take in the reef, the surrounding rainforest and the whole city of Cairns.

Tropical fish in the Great Barrier Reef off Green Island, Queensland, Australia.
Tropical fish in the Great Barrier Reef off Green Island, Queensland, Australia.

Green Island

When I was in Cairns I was told by a fellow solo traveler at my hostel to try the Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruise charter to Green Island and I’m glad I did. Leaving at 9am, we traveled for just over an hour out to the island on a massive catamaran then had 5 hours to explore the island, the water and the Great Barrier Reef around it. The journey out to the island was great as we snaked our way around small coral cays. Once on the island, there were tonnes of things to do:

  • Snorkeling
  • Helmet diving
  • Glass bottom boat tours (for those travelers who want to see the reef but don’t want to get wet)
  • Nature walks through the island’s rainforest (both guided and self-guided)
  • Water sports including canoes, windsurfing and water-skiing
  • Beach volleyball
  • Lazing around on the gorgeous white sandy beaches to work on your tan

The island also has several restaurant options so you won’t go hungry while you’re there. It’s a great way to spend the day and experience the Great Barrier Reef first hand.

Esplanade Boardwalk

Running alongside the waterfront is the Esplanade Boardwalk. During the day it’s an idyllic place to catch some rays, peruse the various displays about the Aboriginal and local history, or use the various pieces of exercise equipment sporadically located alongside the esplanade. In the late afternoon, the activity picks up as people jog along, meet for picnics or just meet up to enjoy the scenery. It’s also a great place for travelers and locals alike to hang out and people watch. Be careful to stay out of the water, there are signs posted everywhere about the crocodiles that inhabit the area.

Crocodile warning sign on the beach boardwalk in Cairns Queensland Australia
Crocodile warning sign on the beach boardwalk in Cairns, Australia

If you want to hit the water to beat the heat the Esplanade has it’s own lagoon. The almost 5000 square meter saltwater lagoon has sand so you can build sand castles (for kids of all sizes) as well as picnic tables, decks, some shaded areas, water fountains and really strange metal fish sculptures. On weekends the Lagoon sets up a stage and features local live music. It’s a great place to hang out right next to the water.

Hit the Rails

Another great way to see northern Queensland is by hitting the rails. There are several scenic railways leaving from Cairns that give travelers the chance to see the surrounding area.

The Kuranda Scenic Railway travels from Cairns north to the mountain village of Kuranda located in the Kuranda State Forest. You pass through hand carved tunnels, by the Barron Falls and across mountain gorges.

The Gulflander heads out to the remote outback. Long known as the railway that takes travelers from “nowhere to nowhere” the Gulflander travels between Normanton and Croydon, on the same route that once connected the river port to the bustling gold fields. The journey takes a half day and will take you from the wetlands through the grasslands and into the arid Savannah country of Croydon.

The Savannahlander offers a variety of tours that will take you into many of the unique areas surrounding Cairns. Many of the journeys include stops in Stoney Creek Falls, the Undara Lava Tubes, Chillagoe, Mt Surprise, Forsayth, Barron Falls, Karanda, Dimbulah and more. It’s a longer journey that will give you a great experience in a 1960’s classic silver bullet train.

Solo Travel Tips to Stay Safe When Travelling Alone

Solo Travel Tips to Stay Safe When Travelling Alone

If we had the choice, most of us would sooner travel with a friend or loved one, but that opportunity does not always present itself. There are just times in life when you are forced to go solo, and that means that a situation may arise when you need to travel alone. Heading to a strange city or a foreign country on your own can be incredibly daunting, and can make you truly start thinking about the whole safety in numbers motto. Rather than staying in your hotel room all day, you can feel safe and secure when travelling solo by making a few smart decisions and following our solo travel tips.

Always Try To Plan Ahead

The internet is a full of fantastic resources that will give you the lay of the land of the place you are going to visit. You can very quickly look up a city and see which areas are safe and which are deemed to be a little high risk. This is absolutely something that should be done before you seek out accommodations in your intended destination. Yes, you may have to pay a little more for a hotel in a nicer part of town, but that little extra is worth it for the peace of mind that you will get.

Before you leave, it is also a good idea to let friends and family know where you are going to be. If traveling for work, there is a good chance that you will have an itinerary and a list of destinations already put together. That is something you should consider doing if traveling for leisure purposes too. Give a few trusted people your list of dates and destination, and set up a time that you will check in with them to let them know that all is well. If that deadline passes, they can then try to contact you to make sure that all is as it should be.

How To Behave In A Strange Place

The key to staying safe when traveling solo is to not do anything that will draw attention to yourself. That means dressing conservatively if need be and leaving all of your expensive jewelry and accessories at home. When you are out and about, carry only the money that you believe you will need for that day. It’s surprising how many people believe that carrying all their spending money is safer than leaving it in a hotel room. If you choose a good hotel, they will have a safe available where you can leave your extra spending money and your travel documents.

You should ask the concierge at the hotel the best way to reach your intended destination, and consider picking up a map when you do. Steer clear of shortcuts or areas that you don’t feel so confident about, no matter how busy or crowded they are. As you can see, traveling alone can be a safe, pleasant experience if you just take the time to do a little bit of forward planning.

Ever done solo travelling? Have any advice for first-timers to stay safe?

What You Need – Backpacking Around South East Asia

What You Need – Backpacking Around South East Asia

No doubt you’re getting excited about your trip to South East Asia already and there is such a lot to consider. After all the things you need to do, from passport to visa, shots to dollars, perhaps you’re beginning to think about what kind of things you should take. The most important thing to always remember is that you will be able to buy most of the things that you need when you arrive and that they will cost a lot less than if you buy them before you leave. However there are a couple of things that would be useful to take with you backpacking around south east Asia.

Get a really good backpack! One that is made from high quality materials, that is lightweight and with lots of useful pockets to allow you to store different items. You should also ensure it has padded shoulders and is very comfortable to carry. This is the basis of your trip and everything will go in that backpack, so it is not really comfortable it will affect your trip every day. Add to that backpack your own sleeping bag- not because you will be cold, but so that you always have personal sheets that you know are reasonably clean.

A good quality pair of boots can be useful for walking out of the city and will protect your feet, although they are also going to be quite heavy, so if they are not going to be that useful to you just buy flip flops when you arrive; they are what everyone wears. One good thing you can get from home will be a microfiber towel. They are light, rinse out in a sink and dry in a half hour; just buy one that is big enough to wrap around you.

A few light clothes and a couple of bits to start you off will be more than enough to get you going. Now forget about the packing and focus on having a great time! Just forget those hairdryers and hair straighteners – the boho look is in!