Want to make the most of your Australia and New Zealand Backpacking adventure? Here’s how...
1. Don't be afraid to talk to people
Backpacking is not always about the destination, but about the people you meet along the way. The beauty of travel is that it immediately surrounds you with others that share a common interest: the need for something new, an eagerness to explore the unknown and to open themselves to the people and the places around them. Remember that you are never alone and that your fellow travellers are in the same boat. Take our tip: grab a beer at the hostel bar, approach other backpackers and just lay it on the table – “can I be your friend?” – works every time!
2. Chat to Locals
One of the main reasons we travel is to explore the local culture right? Locals are the best source of information and are a great means of finding those secret locations that the tourist trail tends to bypass. Australian and New Zealand locals (the majority) tend to be very friendly – so make the most of it. Note: They may be inclined to ‘take the piss out of you’ (make fun of you). Do not be confused – this is a traditional welcoming.
3. Flip Flops
Flip Flops (commonly referred to as ‘Thongs’ in Australia or Jandals in New Zealand) will become your most common form of footwear in wet, cold or sunshine... so try not to pack too many shoes. Most nightclubs and bars in Australia and New Zealand (this will vary in the cities) will allow you to enter whilst wearing them. If the handle pops off from the sole – use the plastic tab used to keep a bread bag closed to hold it in place!
4. Inflatable Pillows
Travelling Australia and New Zealand will sometimes involve long bouts of driving, whether by public bus or tour. Inflatable travel pillows take up little luggage space and, trust me, will make the world of difference! On a budget? Keep your empty Goon bag and re-use as a pillow – Aussies love recycling!
5. Waterproof Camera Bag
Ok so the weather in both countries can sometimes be a tad unpredictable! For those of you happy snappers (aren’t we all?), invest in a waterproof camera bag that can double up as a day pack – big enough to fit your wallet, sunscreen, phone and any other items you may need whilst exploring.
6. Indulge in local delicacies
No visit to Australia is culturally complete without an introduction to Goon – cheap wine which can be purchased by the bag. Mix it up with some OJ. Also… Vegemite. Do not spread it on bread like Jam, you only need a little dabble here and there because this stuff is strong! Try it with cheese or on toast. Kanagaroo, Emu & Crocodile is also a must!
If in New Zealand make sure you try L&P Soda – this stuff is unique to New Zealand and you will not find it anywhere else! Every traveller must also try a Hangi – a traditional Maori feast that is cooked underground!
Both New Zealanders and Australians have been in decades long battles as to who invented the Pavlova (a yummy cake like treat) – so no matter which country you are in – give it a whirl!
7. Travel with a Notebook
Using the internet on hostel computers can sometimes be expensive. Most places have Wi-Fi these days and in many cities in Australia and New Zealand you will find cafes that offer free Wi-Fi if you purchase a coffee or a drink. Leave your expensive laptop at home and invest in a cheap notebook (I found one on Ebay for $100).
They don’t take up too much room in your luggage and won’t leave you crying and wailing if damaged or stolen. The notebook allows me to write blogs, keep in touch with friends via Facebook and double as a mini TV when hungover or in need of some ‘me time.’
8. Get up early
The best way to cure a hangover? Get up early and seize the day! By the time you’ve downed a greasy breakfast and found yourself in the next beautiful location – a hangover will seem miniscule.
9. Learn to Surf
Australia and New Zealand are both island nations – hence, lots of surf! Raglan and Gisborne are both popular surf spots in New Zealand. In Australia? Head to Perth, the Great Ocean Road just out of Melbourne, Sydney’s northern beaches or Byron Bay.
10. Take Risks
Open yourself to new experiences, trust new found friends, walk unmarked paths and don’t be afraid to explore places that aren’t highlighted as a ‘must do.’ Some of the most amazing locations I have stumbled upon have stemmed from an impulsive decision, following the guidance of a trusty local or taking a right turn instead of a left turn.
11. Back up Bank Cards
Always have a back up bank card. Invest in a Visa or Mastercard that can work in multiple currencies. Most companies will provide you with a second back up card in case you lose the first one, and there are emergency cash replacement services available to ensure that you don’t get stuck in a country or miss a flight!
12. Prepare for all types of weather
Regardless of what you may think, it's not always sunny in Australia. It does rain in both countries and there are ski fields in both countries. Do not let the season or time of year influence your packing. Pack a raincoat, trainers and a hoodie. (And a wolly jumper, hat and scarf if you're travelling in winter!)
13. Keep in Touch
One of the biggest lessons I have learnt whilst travelling is the importance of staying in touch with family and friends back home. Although true friends love you for your gypsy like ways and don’t need a constant update, never forget where you have come from. If you are lazy like me and continue to blow off Skype dates – send a postcard!
14. Get off the Beaten Track
Like many countries, the ‘real’ beauty lies off the beaten track. The East Coast of Australia is absolute paradise but to experience the country’s real remoteness plan a trip to the outback, the northern territory or the West Coast. If short on time or on a budget, rent a car and drive inland for a few days and hang out at a local pub. If travelling New Zealand, some of our favourite locations are alone the coastline: think Raglan, Gisborne, Paihia or to the very south: Invercargill.
15. Don't be afraid to say goodbye
You will meet a whole new group of friends on each of your journeys. Never be afraid to say goodbye to continue your chosen path. One of my biggest mistakes has been forfeiting my own desired travel plans to follow the group. Appreciate the time you had together and endeavour to stay in touch. But remember, for every ‘goodbye’ there is a whole new world of ‘hellos’ waiting at your next destination! If there's one thing we know, it's that the friends we meet travelling are for life!