Which are the most powerful Passports? Best Passports for global travel?

Brits travelling abroad reached a high in 2017 when 72.8 million left the UK for visits to other countries. This was a three per cent increase on the previous year. As a nation, we base our entire year around escaping from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and boarding a plane. Whether it be for a weekend city break, a honeymoon, or that all-encompassing gap year – it is what we live for.

10 Ways To Stay Cool In The Hottest Countries 

Staying Cool In The Heat

Travelling should be fun, but when you are confronted with extremes heats things can become tedious really quickly. Here are 10 tips to help you keep your cool.
For many of us, a trip abroad means one thing more than any other – sun. We sun-starved Brits are drawn to the big yellow ball in the sky like proverbial moths to a flame. However, there is obviously an element of danger associated with this behaviour.
Avoiding the heat
So, what can we do in order to stay safe whilst travelling in countries with a climate we are unused to? Below are 10 tips for beating extreme heat and making the most of your travels:
1) Get Some Cover
We don’t mean hiding underneath a parasol all day; we’re talking about insurance cover here. Purchasing some travel medical insurance before you leave home will give you the cover you need should the worst happen if you encounter any really extreme temperatures. Medical insurance will also give you peace of mind should you have any existing health problems, such as diabetes.
2) Keep An Eye On The Weather
Making regular checks on the weather forecasts for your destination country before you leave home makes good sense, as it will allow you to prepare far better for your trip. If you are making stops on the way to your destination be sure to check those out too.
3) Pack Accordingly
Once you have a fair idea of what the weather is doing, make sure that you pack your bags accordingly. Ensure that you have plenty of loose fitting clothing that is light in both colour and weight.

All this in a backpack?
All this in a backpack?

Pay attention too to the humidity levels where you are travelling as well. Hot and dry conditions will require more protection from the sun than hot and humid atmospheres, where you’ll need more cooling garments.
4) Have An Airport Plan Of Action
Airports are notoriously hot places to be. Yards and yards of tarmac along with some of the biggest engines on the planet make airports hellish places on a hot day. Do some research and plan ahead of time to minimise your movements while in the airport. Get there early too; rushing will only raise your body temperature further.
5) Pay Attention To Your Accommodation
When making bookings in a very hot climate, always try to opt for accommodation that has air conditioning. You can also take this one step further by visiting the websites or making a few phone calls to the places that you intend to visit such as restaurants, museums, galleries and other local attractions to check if they have AC in their premises.
6) Do What You Can In The Morning
Naturally, the mornings are going to be the coolest part of the day – so make use of them. Book trips and excursions for the early hours and you’ll have the added bonus of attractions and sightseeing spots being a little less busy then too.
7) Catch A Nap
The Spanish are famous for their siestas, and for good reason. Getting out of the heat during the hottest part of the day makes great sense and it will allow you to stay up later in the evening to enjoy the local nightlife.
8) Make Use Of The Evenings
Although the evenings will still be a lot hotter than early mornings, they will certainly be more conducive to moving around than in the middle of the day. Consequently, many countries that experience regular bouts of extreme heat are often very lively places after dark – would you really want to miss out on that?
 9) Plan Your Trips
 If you intend to do a lot of sightseeing or if you intend to hop from one attraction to the next, try and make sure that you stick to the same areas wherever possible. Staying in the same part of town each day will cut down on travel time, keep you cool and save you money. Win-win-win.
10) Be Cool To The Core
Watching what you eat can really make a huge difference to how your body reacts to the heat. Cold drinks and ice cream can lower your core temperature and help keep you hydrated too. Making sure that you drink regularly will help you body cope with the heat.
  

Clothes for Backpacking – Is this the perfect hoodie?

The Perfect Hoodie for Backpackers?

Ever get a crook neck when trying to sleep on a long distance bus journey? Well, how cool would it be to have a pillow embedded in a hoodie hood?! The team at BauBax have designed a few geeky-yet-stylish garments that mean you can practically stow away passports, pens, earphones, iphones, gloves and even an eye mask without having to house all this clap-trap in your pockets.
This company is raising investment funds on Kickstarter and has $900k USD already (it ony needed $20k USD so someone obviously likes it)

baubax_multipurpose travel clothing
Uber practical yet still stylish do we think?

Doesn’t look too shabby or geeky does it?
Here’s the coat version in action:
http://giphy.com/gifs/3o85xjWq9xDY6vC5yM/html5
  

Exploring with Guided Excursions

When you decide where to go on holiday, this can be a decision fraught with choices, and it’s easy to get yourself stressed trying to pick between your short-list of resorts! For me, it would always come down to choosing a resort that had plentiful scope for getting out and about, as well as plenty to do within the town/resort itself. Basically, I look at excursions that are available, because these give me more fun and exploration in my holiday, and this is an important factor for me.

Minolta DSC
Scottish Tour Guide – giving the lowdown on Edinburgh…

You don’t have to pick somewhere that involves trekking mountains or finding your way through jungles to explore, it can simply be a beach resort that has nearby villages, or historical ruins to check out. It doesn’t have to be extreme, and can be anything to fit into your comfort zone.
Excursions do however cost money, so it’s important to find ways to cut costs before you go away, and whilst you’re away, in order to allow you to see more. A good way to do this is to say ‘no’ to expensive public transport in order to get to the airport door. This is something I do regularly, so I can certainly vouch for it, and parking at Leeds Bradford Airport is regular service of mine, giving me a cost-cutting option, and a calmer start to my travel day. This is a nationwide service, so do check out what is available from your airport.
You can continue your cost-cutting mission whilst you’re away when it comes to purchasing your excursions. Now, if you book a package deal you will probably have a welcome meeting with your rep when you arrive. It’s personal choice whether you go or not but it does give you important information, and it will also allow you to find out more about which excursions are available in your area. I would simply treat this meeting as an information finding mission, and instead, I would go onto the street, and book my excursion of choice with a street vendor.
The New Berlin Walking Tours - Free and uber informative
The New Berlin Walking Tours – Free and uber informative

Why? Well rep trips are almost always more expensive, and you can find the same or very similar trip from a street vendor for less cost. You can also haggle your price here, and if there are a few of you then you may find you get a discount, especially if you book more than one trip. Basically, if you don’t ask, you don’t get! Or alternatively, perform a google search for ‘free tours’, for instance, the New Berlin Walking Tours are excellent.
I would book around two or three excursions myself; I would break up a two weeks’ holiday by having a trip in the middle of the first week, perhaps one on the middle weekend, and another in the middle of the second week. This breaks up your holiday and prevents possible boredom.
Excursions are the ideal way to explore with a safety net, so get out and see what your destination has to offer, other than the beach and pool!
  

Planning for a Trans-Siberian Train Journey

The Ultimate Train Journey

All aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway…

Here’s an action-packed post from one traveler to another, full of travel tips and points of interest along the way during your trans-Siberian train tour!

Planning for a Trans-Siberian Train Journey
Planning for a Trans-Siberian Train Journey

Image by Damian Bere via Flickr
 I had a blast when I did one of the Trans-Siberian railway tours, and after doing it 4 times I thought I’d write about it for my fellow travelers that are about to make the same journey. I’ll let you know what to expect, and answer some frequently asked questions.

1. Choose Your Own Adventure

The first thing you will need to do is evaluate your options. Among a long list of options, there are a number of routes to three key destinations. There are two routes to China, and one to Vladivostok. These are the routes I’ve taken, so they are what I am basing my experience on.

Routes on the Trans-Siberian
Choose a route…

2. Go First Class

The price increase to go from 2nd class to 1st class is nominal, considering what you are getting out of the deal. When you’re traveling anywhere and sleep is involved, the benefits of a good night’s sleep come back in spades.

A first class cabin on the Trans-Siberian
A first class cabin on the Trans-Siberian

3. How Much does it Cost

I’ve only ever booked a 2-berth cabin, which start just under $500 USD each way although I know you can shave off $200 by going economy class.

Kupe Class Trans-Siberian
Welcome to Kupe Class!

4. Required Reading

Lonely Planet guides for Russia, China, and Mongolia are a great way to do a little bit of research if you’re nervous about taking the trip, but perhaps the most important reading will be found in between the covers of Thomas Cook’s European Rail Timetable and a Travelers Map of Europe.

Trans-siberian in Winter
The beauty of winter

5. Must-Have Travel Gear

USB Battery Backup

A simple chunky block of battery with a USB port: great for charging devices while on the go, or if you don’t have enough electrical outlets for all of your devices on the train.

People taking photos on the trans-siberian
Don’t forget your charger

Eye Masks

You’re going to be on a train for a week so you never know what time of day you’re going to need a little shut-eye. Eye masks are perfect for an afternoon nap when you’re sharing your space and can’t cover up the windows.

Flask

Like we said, you’re going to be on a train for a week.

Tablet

Train rides are a perfect time to binge consume an entire series of a television show or a podcast, or read that copiously long list of ebooks you’ve been downloading for a rainy day.

Binoculars

Binoculars aren’t just for creepy stalker people and bird watchers. I’ve carried binoculars in my pack for a year now and I am always finding new uses for them. Great for long distance views, hikes, long walks, and of course camping.

China - Trans-Siberian
Heading into China

Clam Shell Bag

A “clam shell bag” is a bag which you can open up and have access to the entire thing in one shot –instead of first in, first out style bags. These are a must in small spaces and while on the go because they greatly reduce the effort in digging something out of your bag.

Chewing Gum

You never know who you are going to meet on that train, and whoever you do meet, you’ll be spending a lot of time in close quarters so clean breath is an absolute must.

Hygiene Wipes

Showers are cramped and are a generally unattractive bathing solution. Hygiene wipes and the cup rinse method at the sink would probably be much easier.

Earphones

 I forgot mine once. Woe is me. Never do that. 

Bubble Hotels – Bursting onto the Scene

Never mind the bricks and mortar…

Conventional hotels are getting a little run of the mill these days. We’re not just talking about boutique, elaborate spa ridden luxury either. The diversity and ,
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Getting a TEFL Job Overseas – it's not education, it's globocation!

Exams done. Presentations delivered. Dissertations handed in. Three consecutive nights out amidst too much sambuca celebrating the end of university life – survived. But now what? As a follow up from an earlier globocation post concerning that minefield of choice students face when they graduate, I thought I’d write another piece, specifically about teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) and why it’s such a cool thing to do when you’re abroad.

Teach English
Teaching English abroad can be such a rewarding experience (image:Bunac)

 
Let’s not stop at post-grad students as the only bunch that would benefit from the whole TEFL experience. Undertaking a teaching job overseas is also a cool thing to do if you’re stuck in a soul destroying job, yearning for a change of scene and desperate for cultural exchange with a different race of people who will be as intrigued by your presence as you will be with their whole country.
Boredom Strikes
Break the desk chains and go and see a bit of the world…

 
Jetting off overseas (whether post uni or after dumping that horrific 9-5 job) and mixing a spot of independent travel with a CV enhancing stint as a TEFL  teacher can reward you with increased levels of self-confidence and character building skills in abundance. Unlike the backpacker who visits a place for 2 or 3 days, ‘does the sights’ before trotting off to the next place on the tourist trail, a TEFL teacher is based in a place for months or even years, giving them an excellent insight into local culture. Some TEFL placements are in schools so far away from the tourist hotspots it’s likely you could be the only English speaker (until you educate the masses!), allowing you the opportunity to forge some amazing friendships with the people of real China, remote Ecuador or perhaps rural Japan.
China, Old Man
Chatty man – meet the locals!

Not only would embarking on a TEFL course develop your own resume it would also accelerate your pupils learning’s and open up potential career opportunities in their own lives. In fact, the British Council estimates that there are approximately 1 billion people trying to learn English today, 75% of which are in countries where English isn’t even a second or third language. Even within the closed communist borders of North Korea, TEFL teachers are in huge demand because people are so keen to learn English to boost their own career prospects given the international acceptance of English, predominantly in the western world.
It makes a lot of sense to teach English abroad, especially if you’re hoping to become a teacher back in the UK once your wanderlust has subsided. TEFL teaching is solid, practical, classroom experience that future employers can’t ignore. However, even if teaching isn’t a long term career goal a TEFL position will undoubtedly give you key strengths that all employers seek such as communication skills, confidence in public speaking, thinking on your feet, and perhaps most importantly of all, the tenacity to solve problems when you’re literally thousands of miles out of your comfort zone!
Due to the global demand for TEFL teachers there are financial benefits to getting a teaching post in most countries across the world whether rich or poor. For example, it’s not uncommon to earn £1,000 per month in South Korea which usually includes free accommodation, a million miles better than a dull temping job in the UK. Likewise, in Japan earnings can be up to £1,750 per month and even at the other end of the economic spectrum, Indonesian TEFL vacancies are offering £500 per month, ample wages to live very comfortably. It gets better, depending on which company organises your TEFL placement, you’ll have your flights reimbursed and receive a cash bonus for completing full terms. In the example of Japan, it is such an expensive country to travel around that a paid teaching post will allow you to have an extended stay for months on end without burning a hole in your traveller’s wallet.
There are travel companies such as i-to-i.com,  skilled in handling the practicalities of organising TEFL placements abroad, from weekend teacher training courses to the logistics of getting to your school which could be well off the beaten track. For more information try diving into this rather comprehensive guide on all things TEFL related: Graduate’s Guide to Teaching and Travelling Abroad.
Choosing the right TEFL course is important and as the guide suggests, some countries have

Travelling by Campervan – So Cool!

The Benefits of Hiring a Campervan on Holiday 

Everyone loves going on holiday and it is a great opportunity to explore a new destination that you have never been to before. However, know how to get around and explore somewhere new can be confusing as there are lots of options to choose from including renting a car, going on guided tours, hiring a bicycle and getting in a taxi. But there is one option that outweighs all of the above in terms of being convenient, good value for money and flexible and that is hiring a campervan.
 

Camperva Freedom in Western Australia
Campervan Freedom in Western Australia

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits:

  1. It Provides Freedom

One of the best things about hiring a motorhome is that it gives you a lot of freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want to go. You don’t have to worry about waiting for other people or getting up on someone else’s timetable, as you are free to plan your own itinerary. You can choose to set up your campervan the night before you want to see somewhere new and you never have to worry about the hassle of being told when to go where. Being able to customise a holiday is a great way to ensure you get to see exactly what you want.

There's something quite enchanting about the open road..
There’s something quite enchanting about the open road..

 

  1. It’s Affordable

When you calculate the cost of accommodation and eating out, renting a motorhome is an affordable option compared to staying in a hotel, where you will have to eat all of your meals in a restaurant. Motorhome rentals are ideal for families or large groups, as you can save money by cooking your own meals and setting up a tent outside to sleep additional people rather than having to pay for a costly hotel room.

  1. A Choice of Vehicles

Another great thing about renting a campervan is that you can choose between a wide choice of vehicles, allowing you to find one that suits your needs and budget. You will need to consider how many people the van needs to be able to accommodate, however, bear in mind you can get a smaller van and take sleeping bags or a tent to keep the cost down.
Here are some of the on-board amenities that campervans can offer:

  • Television
  • Multiple beds
  • Oven and microwave
  • Hot shower
  • Outdoor awning
  • GPS devices
  • Air conditioning
  • Fridge

You can keep the cost down by hiring a basic motorhome or you can spoil yourselves and get a campervan that is fully equipped with the above modern amenities.

A home from home
A home from home

  1. Enjoy an Adventure

Hiring a campervan is a great way to enjoy a real adventure. You are free to go off the beaten track or stay in dedicated parks overnight and you can also park up and go hiking or cycling if you want to take a break from the van for a few hours.
You can organise a convenient pick-up and drop-off location, book a deal online and enjoy a really memorable holiday experience when you hire a campervan instead of staying in a run-of-the-mill hotel. 

Travel Essentials App Shpock – The Car Boot Sale App in Your Pocket

With the nights becoming noticeably longer, now might be the perfect time to get a head start on that (now almost critical) spring holiday. March and April are slack water as far as travel companies are concerned and you may be surprised at how cheaply you can get away. What may be even more surprising however, is how you can now bag most of your travel essentials right from your pocket. Thanks to mobile boot sale app, Shpock.
Shpock App
Meet Shpock, the mobile second-hand shopping experience. More than 1 million people have used the boot sale app to buy and sell pre-loved things since its UK launch in March 2014.
More than one million users across the UK are listing their unwanted or no longer needed items on the mobile marketplace, making it one of the fastest growing second hand tools in the country. Shpock’s edge on the competition is that it is a boot sale app for ‘beautiful things’. Meaning finding a pair of brand new hiking boots, or a brand new North Face rucksack in your area is just as easy, not to mention cheaper than on the high-street.
The Car Boot Sale App - Shpock
Right on your doorstep
Items are sorted by your current location in using images rather than text making it easy to find what you’re looking for. Once you find what you need, you can get in touch with the seller directly, agree on a price and organise pick-up details within the app. The app download is free and unlike other listings sites Shpock lets you list buy and sell free of charge too!
Shpock Travel App
Make extra cash from unwanted items
As well as being a great place to pick up last minute bargains for your trip, Shpock can also help the savvy traveller gather a little extra funds before casting off. Listing an item on Shpock takes just 30 seconds and it is then immediately viewable to people in your area. A recent study has shown the average British household hordes a very handy £517* each!
Co-Founder Katharina Klausberger is looking forward to seeing many more items being listed by UK parents: “Once you see how easy it is to find beautiful things and free stuff in your area, Shpock will soon become a necessary tool for those wanting to keep a close eye on expenditure.”
Since the UK launch in March 2014, Shpock has gained more than 1 million users in Britain alone. Over on the continent the boot sale app has surpassed the 4 million downloads mark, continuing to grow into one of the largest mobile first marketplaces in Europe.
Shpock’s simplicity, the picture-based design and above all the fun shopping experience has convinced our users in Germany and Austria. The first app store reviews from UK users show us that Shpock is ready to move to a new region and breathe new life into second-hand shopping.” – Co-Founder Armin Strbac
Connect with Shpock:
Web: www.shpock.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ShpockUK
Twitter: twitter.com/ShpockUK
*Study source: YouGov/Shpock 

The Ultimate Guide to Packing

Whether you’re going away for a weekend trip or packing for an extended summer vacation, whilst most people love travelling, very few enjoy the packing process that necessarily accompanies every departure. In order to make things a little easier for you during those pre-flight hours when you realise you’ve packed four jumpers but no socks, we’ve put together a handy little guide to packing.

All this in a backpack?
All this in a backpack?

Make lists
Who doesn’t know the feeling – you’ve spent hours planning every single trip but haven’t wasted a single thought on what to pack, and now you’re getting stressed, aimlessly shoving underwear, shirts and blouses inside your suitcase. In order to avoid last minute stress, incorporate a packing list into your pre-vacation preparations. It’s not only clothes that you have to think about – ask yourself what else you will need, from a notebook to emergency painkillers and toiletries. Keep in mind that packing will be so much more satisfying if you can tick boxes while you do it.
Tidy up
Packing won’t be much fun if you have to search for every single item in a pile of clothes first. Before you even start packing, make sure the room is clean and tidy, making sure every single item of clothing is exactly where it belongs. Tidying up won’t only make it easier to find what you’re looking for, but will also mean that there’s plenty of space on the floor or your bed to spread out your wardrobe for the ultimate overview. For more information on keeping your home clean and tidy, click here.
Choose a technique
Some people stick to the classic folding technique, whilst others swear that rolling is the best thing that every happened to them. No matter which camp you ultimately belong to, make sure you’ve made an informed decision. Watch some videos explaining each technique, and ask yourself what’s best suited to the contents of your suitcase or travel holdall. Once you’ve made a choice, it’s time to practice. Don’t only fold or roll your clothes – become a pro at it. This will save you time, and keep your shirts and dresses wrinkle free.
Hand luggage
Hand luggage

Think ahead
If you’re the type of person who realises they’re missing travel essentials once it’s already too late, it might be time to rethink your approach to packing. Rather than trying to pack everything you need, think about what you will need – and pack just that. A popular approach is to split up the days you will be gone into outfits, planning what you will wear every single day. This doesn’t only guarantee that you will pack enough clothes, but also makes things easier once you’re on vacation. No wasting time on deciding what to wear – you’ve already done that work at home. Allow for some flexibility regarding the weather, and you’re good to go.
Some useful packing resources:
How to pack for a gap year
Gap Year Essentials