Via #3

Byron Bay, Australia

Dreaming of Byron Bay getaways…

This is an exciting time of year when I usually plan my travel for the next six months. It’s something I can look forward to, as well as you, as I plan to feature my next travels on here soon. But in the mean time the inspiration continues with these links.

Another inspiring speaker from TEDx Brisbane, Harvey Hayes’ film, Dreaming of South America.
Speaking of travel apps and guides on your smart phone, here’s the ultimate app I’m looking forward to using one day.
The World’s strangest drinking customs; surprisingly Canada’s drinking custom is the strangest of them all!
Count on Norway to create the World’s coolest currency (pun not intended).
Possibly the most seasoned traveller out there, Anthony Bourdain gives his tips for travel (I swear pun not intended again).

How to Master Visa Applications

Visa ApplicationsThe dreaded travel sentence, “Visa required for travel to this country”. I understand the necessity for visas, but they can be a pain in the you know what. Some are simple, some are not. Having studied and worked in various countries around the world means I’ve faced my fair share of visas, and consequently my fair share of issues with them. But I have lived and learned, and now can provide my best tips for dealing with this modern-day reality of travel, from simple visitor visas to complicated working visas.

1. Check the visa requirements BEFORE booking your trip
We are often eager to book a trip, only to realise, after the fact, that we need a visa to visit the country and we might not get in time, or worse, might not meet all the requirements. It has happened to almost all travellers, including myself. Trust me, it is worth checking the requirements for travel to your desired destination before anything is booked.
I start by checking my government’s travel information website. This usually gives me a good idea of what is required. I then check the destination’s government website to confirm what is required and how to proceed with fulfilling my visa application. Additionally, my boyfriend told me about a service that streamlines the process for you, at a premium though.

2. Get organised
Once I know I need a visa, I make a list of what is required for said visa. It is important to be organised during the application process, as one missed tick of a box or wrong form of payment can mean starting all over again, possibly delaying your trip. Most visa applications these days have checklists of their own.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Even if a checklist is provided, you might still have questions about the requirements, all that legal talk can be confusing. After all, you want to get it right the first time. Sometimes you can call the visa department of the relevant government, but time zones, long distance phone charges, and language barriers do not make this ideal. I suggest calling or emailing the embassy or consulate of the destination’s country in your country. Even better, checking to see if walk-ins are accepted, you might be close enough to visit said embassy or consulate. However, some larger countries that are inundated with visa applications everyday, ahem United Kingdom, don’t make it easy to seek assistance. During times like these, it might help to employ an immigration lawyer, depending on the expense and complication of your application; usually both go hand in hand.

4. Make copies of everything
Even though your visa application is complete, double (triple) checked, and ready to submit, the process is not complete. Ensure you have made copies of everything, from your actual application form, to copies of your police and health checks, even a copy of the payment.

5. Check your visa once it is granted
It happens, despite your best efforts to provide all the correct information, you can receive an incorrect visa. Trust me, I was granted a student visa, only to receive someone else’s visa in my passport, it had my correct name, but everything else was completely wrong. This is when those copies come in handy. If the visa you received does not match the information you provided, there is usually contact information provided to rectify the problem.

Finally, as a rule of thumb, ensure your passport is valid for at least SIX months AFTER your return date of travel. For some countries, this is not required, it might be three months instead, and for other countries, it is recommended, but you can pretty much interpret recommended as required, ahem Mauritius (don’t ask). I know it sucks that your passport is really only valid 4.5 or 9.5 years instead of the full 5 or 10. Just keep track of that expiration date and renew your passport when it approaches its last six months, especially for peace of mind for those last minute vacations.

Note: I do not represent any government agency and therefore I am not an expert about visas. The above is simply based on my experience with various visas.

Getaway to the Sunshine Coast

Glass House Mountains, Montville

Glass House Mountains

One of the great aspects about living in Brisbane is its proximity to some of the most beautiful places in Australia. One of my favourite getaways is the Sunshine Coast, located between an hour to three hours drive north of Brisbane. I thought I would share some of my favourite places along the Coast and its hinterland, which are worth checking out for a weekend getaway or even a detour during a tour around Australia.
Noosa HeadsNoosa
You cannot go wrong with Noosa, it is a hot spot for any Australian vacationers, with its combination of luxury getaways along vast beaches and national parks.
The Sebel: We usually stay at here because of its location in town, reasonable price, and usual availability for last-minute getaways.
See and Do
Stand Up Paddle: I learnt to stand up paddle board here, as the canals through town provide the best route.
Surf: The breaks along the rocks at either end of Noosa Beach provide consistent waves for all levels. Boards can be easily rented in town or from beach vendors.
Noosa National Park: The best view of the area with varying walks to some of the best surf spots. It is also the best place to spot whales during the migration season.
Hastings Street: Located along Noosa Beach, this is a luxury shopper’s dream come true. Often at a premium, it is still nice to browse.
Sunshine Beach: For a real taste of the Sunshine Coast beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. Great for long walks and watching hard-core surfers battle the huge waves.
Bistro C: Located along the Noosa Beach boardwalk, this is a great spot for any meal, including happy hour!
10 Hastings: A cute café on Hastings Street for a fresh breakfast or happy hour sangria jugs and pizzas.
Rococo Bistro: Alex’s favourite for quality Italian food and live music almost every night.
Noosa Heads Surf and Lifesaving Club: For the best view in town overlooking Noosa Beach, serving typical bar fare. Just ensure shirts and shoes are worn when visiting this beach club.

Kondalila Falls

Kondalila Falls

Eumundi Markets
A 30 minute drive inland from Noosa, find one of Australia’s largest artisan markets, every Wednesday and Saturday morning. Give yourself a few hours to walk around the market, as you will most likely find something worth taking home.Kondalila Falls

Spirit House
A short drive south from Eumundi, this has been on my must do list since arriving in Australia. I’ve heard only great things about its contemporary Thai restaurant and cooking classes. Plan your visit to the Coast around its limited availability in advance, something I have yet to do.

Noosa Heads

Noosa Heads

Continuing on a 30 minute drive from Spirit House, work your way up the hinterland for some of the best views around. This cute town provides idyllic shops and cafes sprinkled along the main road.
Montville Oceanview Cottages: A private retreat with luxuriously outfitted cottages dotted along the hill.
Spicers Clovelly Estate: This is another one on must do list since arriving in Australia, luxury at its best!
See and Do
Kondalila Falls: The hinterland is scattered with great walks, but one of my favourites is Kondalila Falls for a swim both where the waterfall begins and ends.
Maleny Cheese: A short drive from Montville, we always stop here to stock up on some of our favourite cheeses, like wasabi cheddar.
Glass House Mountains: The hinterland provides the best views of these unique structures, remains of the cores of millions of years old volcanos. Captain James Cook first named them after glass furnaces found in his hometown.Montville Oceanview Cottages
Australia Zoo
No first trip to the Sunshine Coast is complete without visiting the Australia Zoo, made famous by the Crocodile Hunter himself, Steve Irwin. A 30 minute drive from Montville, this zoo lives up to its reputation with crocodile shows, feeding kangaroos, and petting koalas.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

I often visit this beach when in need of a quick beach day. It is one of the first stops on the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane with lots of café choices and usually calm swimming conditions. But on a good day, any beach up the Coast is a safe bet.
Raw Energy: A funky café with locations along the Coast, serving fresh, healthy food and drinks. Despite its name, it does serve cooked meals.Mooloolaba

Word to the Wanderer #2

Live without BoundariesIt is safe to say, I am full of inspiration after TEDx Brisbane.  This quote is inspired by another speaker, Dr. Fiona Reilly, who left her comfort zone as an ER doctor in Australia for the road less travelled in China with her family in tow.  She ended her talk with the idea of living a life without boundaries, free to experience all the cultures of the world.  I leave you this week with the question, what would you do in a world unrestricted by boundaries?

There is an App for That

Travel AppsContinuing on from last week’s post, let’s talk about apps now. There is no denying that there is an app for everything, including anything one could need when traveling. Here are a few apps I find useful when exploring the world, and most of them are free from the Apple Store!

Everyday Check In
XE Currency: Best up to date currency converter.
World Clock: Register the cities you will be traveling to and your home base.
Google Translate: Simple, easy terms translator.
Weather: Again register the cities you will be traveling to.

Keep in Touch
Skype: Load money to your account, so you can call phones, when video chat isn’t an option.
Viber: Calls over WiFi.
WhatsApp: Texting over WiFi.

TripAdvisor: General overview for not just accommodation.
Airbnb: Great, (generally) affordable hotel alternatives.

TripAdvisor City Guides: Anything and everything about your city of choice, with suggested walking tours and downloadable maps.
Historypin: Historical photos tagged to their locations around the world, adding a glimpse of local history.

Eat, Drink, and Shop
Yelp: Reviewed, local establishments.
Urbanspoon: Same as above, but just for restaurants and cafes.

Flight Track 5: Track your flight’s status along with friends’ flights.
Seat Guru: Find the best seat on your flight.
Gate Guru: Useful for those stressful stopovers.
Most airlines have apps these days, so download the one (or two) that you are a frequent flyer of, to get the most out of those points.

Compass: Sometimes the simplest technology can be the most useful.
Google Maps: Self-explanatory.