Endangered -Bali tiger




The Bali tiger and the Tasmanian wolf has gone the way of the dodo. The mountain gorillas, Sumatran rhino and Bengal tiger are not be far behind and unless we, as travellers, are all prepared to take a responsibility in their welfare many more will follow.


1. When you hire guides or arrange a trip with a trekking operator you take a responsibility for their behaviour. As the client you have the right (and the moral obligation) to complain if an operator is not working in as environmentally sound a way as possible. Coming from a paying client a sensitively worded complaint (along with an explanation) could have some lasting effect.  


2. Don’t buy crafts made of animal parts or made from sensitive natural habitat. Few sensible travellers these days would buy souvenirs made from turtle-shell or ivory. On the spur of the moment an impulse purchase of a shell necklace or a coral bracelet can seem completely ok however...until you give it a moment’s thought later and realise that these things were harvested from sensitive environments that were established long before the first human city.


3. Don’t make the mistake of buying animals from local people in a well-meaning effort to free them. It can be heart-rending to turn your back on wild animals that are sure to die in a local village but buying them only leads to an increase of trapping or hunting when word gets around that tourists will pay good money for these pitiful creatures. 


4. Consider working as a volunteer on an environmental (or social) study during your RTW. Helping to protect rhinos in Kenya or jaguars in Costa Rica could turn out to be the highlight of your trip and will often give you an insight into an area that you could never hope to acquire as a ‘mere tourist.’ Earthwatch Institute (www.earthwatch.org) are looking for volunteers on more than 100 wildlife projects in locations all over the world. 


5. In most countries national park fees are not excessively expensive yet many travellers feel that it is perfectly ok to find a back way in to avoid those costs if it can easily be done. The few dollars extra you are paying is crucial to the existence of the park...and without the park there will be no animals.


6. Support good, well-run zoos that are active in conservation...but condemn and boycott badly run zoos. These sorry institutions can only exist through public admission fees and it is preferable even that the animals starve (or, hopefully, are relocated) than that these zoos continue to operate.


7. As a traveller you are able to report on situations that many people will not be aware of. If you find a worthy cause or a wonderful wildlife trip that seems to be making changes for the good then tell your friends and sing some praises (on Facebook, Twitter etc). If you come across a bad situation that needs to be exposed...then you too are in a position to do it. Tell the world what you saw.



Movies on your RTW



Stuart from roundtheworldflights.com casts a net into his mind and catches up with movies that mean different  things in different places 


Kickboxer in Bangkok
Many of you hipster kids might not believe this, but Jean-Claude Van Damme, the Belgian ex-pornstar with issues, currently advertising Coors Lite (a particularly tasteless American ale) was a pretty famous kick ass movie star in the late 80s and 90s. His films followed a format that, a bit like lego, plot-wise was interchangeable, and could be followed by a 6 year old. And often were. Still a guilty pleasure of mine whilst first-time backpacking in Thailand was catching up on JCs non-challenging oeuvre over a steaming plate of Thai Holy Basil Chicken and an ice cold Singha or two. I came to admire his kick ass moves, his non-acting acting and the way he always seemed to get the girl. But for me Jean-Claude Van Damme will always be synonymous with Bangkok 1990.


Braveheart in Arequipa
Now it's a little known fact that Sadaam Hussein's favourite film was Braveheart. You can kind of see it in his latter TV appearances, when holding a sword on high in public appearances and waving it with a small slightly shy smile; but it could be argued he lost out by not going with the full face painting malarkey. Still, deluded sociopath that he was, he obviously saw himself as the small guy (Scotland) against the real bastards everywhere (England). Which made watching Mel Gibson's masterpiece in a lovely old cinema in Arequipa in Southern Peru in 1996 really rather strange. As I walked out I was surrounded by wee lachrymose Andean folk. Everyone crying. So was the lady from of all places, Cheltenham, that I was with: And between sobs, they were all muttering Muy Bien, "Freedom" and smiling to each other. It was weird. Now initially I didn't think it was that good a movie but I've changed my mind. It is. With universal messages for your well-hanged psycho dictator and Peruvians alike. "You may take our lives, but you'll never take our freedom!". Plus never trust an English King. Or a dodgy pack of Scots Nobles.

Young Guns 2 in LA
A film filmed exclusively with annoying actors, a poor script and a truly diabolical (Oscar nominated) soundtrack. I suppose I did have jetlag, but I was truly excited. An original first-time Los Angeles experience - catch a drink and a late movie with my cool LA cousins. The drink was cool, the cousins cooler but really the movie was shite. I'm trying desperately to remember anything good about it. I can't remember one scene. My jaundiced feelings towards it veer between annoyance at the flabby script and direction, to anger at an opportunity missed. Still I don't blame Los Angeles for Estevez, Sutherland and Slater's overblown performance. If they've taught me one thing, it's life is too short for watching bad movies in the cinema. That's what DVDs are for.

The Hunt for Red October in Sydney

Now this is a not-bad film that's actually aged rather well. It's an odd movie truth that some books by complete nut-job right-wingers, can translate rather well into movies. This film came out after the fall of the Commies, but was written when the Iron Curtain was well and truly up. Still with a sharpish script rewrite and with some deft acting from Scotland's finest ever actor, Sean Connery, adopting an unusual Lithuanian accent with slight hints of Leith, whilst managing to turn in one of his best post-Bond performances, it works. Still twas odd walking out after into Sydney CBD, in the rain, for a quick fallafel (sub) whilst thinking about the deeper meaning of the Silent Submarine War in the Atlantic. Then realising there really wasn't one. And that sometimes, when far away from home, made-up submarine wars do seem all rather irrelevant. 

Killing Fields in Siem Reap

I'd read the books, watched the documentaries and the film before I first visited Cambodia. But I watched it again in Siem Reap at Smileys Guest House evening showing. It's a great and important film but it was sad. Truth be told I just can't think of another film so linked in with a country and its recent political history; to a point where it almost defines that country to outsiders. With the benefit of hindsight Phnom Penh might be a more appropriate city to watch it, maybe after visiting the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison here. But worth saying, again and again, Cambodia is a wonderful (and much changed) country worth visiting. And Angkor is still special.


by Stuart from roundtheworldflights.com

In praise of the Gap Year




When I came back from my first round-the-world trip in 1990 I sat down to lunch with a pretty girl. I was shy. She asked me how my holiday went? Stuttering with incoherence, all I could whisper was it wasn’t a holiday, it was “travelling”. I suppose this was the forerunner of the “Gap Year”, but I’ve never been sold on the name "Gap Year". For starters most people don’t actually travel for a year. For most it’s 4-8 months. Secondly a Gap from what? Life? Thirdly there’s the Gap Yah thing. Yes you’ll meet yah’s on your trip. But also plenty of plumbers, dentists, students, and those who have no idea what they’re going to do next. It's a journey. And in my book it's good to meet other folk from other backgrounds.

Not just for the rich

Nor should it be. When I was asked by a well known travel journalist (he's off the telly) what I thought the biggest change in our sector of travel had been over the last 20 years, it wasn’t technology, it was the democratisation of travel ie the ability of those on median and lower incomes to be able to afford to travel. Bearing in mind  that a Navigator RTW cost £1100 (almost 2 months wages) in 1990 and now costs under £1500 (just over 1 months wages based on £23K salary) then in real terms, travelling has become a lot more affordable. I hope it stays that way.

Not just for the young

The biggest growth in Gap Years we've seen is amongst those who are taking a career break. Not every Gap Year traveller is 18.


3 Years at Uni or Poly =£60K+

1 Year Travelling to 11 of the greatest countries on earth including backpacker level spending money = £8K-£12K

Worth remembering you're a long time dead

What happens when you’re old and decrepit and you wish you’d gone there? Nothing. it's too late. Regrets - you'll have a few. But you’re young. You’re free. You can stay at home, mess around all you want, get stoned and come up smiling Tuesday, go clubbing, get drunk, then wonder why you have this horribly empty feeling where your soul should be. Unless you’ve trekked up a mountain to see a sunrise and travelled many miles to visit that museum, how will you ever know what might have been…Want to know what Australia looks like - and the sense of space it engenders? Nepal smells like? Ever dipped your toe in the Pacific? Go there… End of.

Eat with different people from different cultures

You may live in a multi-cultural society but have you ever eaten in someone's home that has a different skin colour, or religion, or nationality? Doesn't sound that important when you write it down but I have this memory of myself from 1990 sitting in a friend's Mum's kitchen in Chiang Mai as she whizzed up some chicken and rice in a blaze of laughter, smiles and patter. It was one of the most perfect meals I've ever eaten.

Education, Education, Education

I'm a big fan of life long learning. Too many folk “peak” at University and forget there’s a lot still to learn in life.... Travelling (or a Gap Year) is a form of education. Financial, cultural, personal and as educational if you want it to me. As an added bonus, and as mentioned above, a Gap Year is also working out cheaper than a year at Uni from next year...




Meet an Australian

Everyone assumes you will have met one before. This is not always the case. Travelling is a perfect opportunity to meet one. They are different.

Meet an American

You've seen them on the telly-box, you know their legal system better than your own, so a Gap Year is a perfect opportunity to meet  and interact with one on so many different levels.

Learn about your own country

I've met people half way up the Andes who've never been or met anyone North of St Albans (Watford is just such a cliché). This is not a good thing. Travel should encourage you to visit your own country. Especially after you have kids.

Grow up

I've yet to meet anyone who's done a Gap Year round the world who has then gone on to regret it. Personally I think it's a rite of passage for some if not all:; Morever I think having to organise your finances, travel on the ground, and laundry are rather good life skills to learn on the road. A lot of folk grow up on their Gap Year.

Real food

An average Chinese meal in the UK tastes nothing like an average Chinese meal in China. You think Indian food is Tikka Masala? It’s not – pea masala  or a Thali is more like it. A fried egg on your fried rice for breakfast – how can that taste delicious? It does. Look unless you go and seek out foods and get a sense of what food is and means to different peoples and cultures, you’ll never know the real deal when it smacks you right in the chops. Some goes for wine, but that's another story.

Smell vs a 56 inch plasma widescreen

For the price of a RTW you could buy the world's largest monster plasma screen 3D all singing dancing television. You could then invest in some sofa time and become a seriously lazy oaf whose only experience of life is through someone else's experience and camera skills. Or you could go travelling and regain your senses. Start with smell. Read this article by Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads on spices: it’s superb.

Coz it’s what the clever people do

Well clever people do stupid things too, and there are a lot of well-travelled bigots, but yes most of the clever people I’ve met have done a Gap Year (or a variation thereof)

Bobby De Niro

Travelling will make you more money in the long run. Employers like well-travelled folk (up to a point). But the real secret of a Gap Year – it’ll give you confidence, and employers really like that.*




By Stuart Lodge

Booze of the world



David Whitley takes an alcoholic trip around the globe to discover some of the hard liquor you’re likely to encounter on your RTW trip.










The city of Pisco is a generally underwhelming port on Peru’s south coast, but it has given its name to the country’s most famous firewater. Pisco is a white grape brandy renowned more for its punch than smoothness of taste. It has a consistency similar to sambuca, and some brands go down a lot easier than others when tackled neat. Those wanting to coat the pill should try it in the form of pisco sour. This pseudo-cocktail combines pisco with egg white, syrup, lemon and a dash of bitters, and it has effectively become Peru’s national drink. 






What the pisco sour is to Peru and Tennent’s Super is to the Glaswegian tramp, the Caipirinha is to Brazil. It is not, as many people seem to think, made with rum. It’s actually made with cachaca, which is similar to rum, but is made from fermented sugar cane juice rather than molasses. It doesn’t have to be drunk as part of a cocktail, although the white, unaged cachaca is best tackled that way. The older it is, the better it tends to be – and some of the gold cachacas can be drunk straight. Otherwise, the caipirinha is pretty simple – just cachaca, sugar and lime.




Central America and the Caribbean


There’s no contest here – only one spirit gets a look-in at being king in this part of the world. And that’s rum, lovely rum. Just about every country in the region has its own distillery, and once you go tasting, you quickly realise that there’s a lot more to life than Bacardi. Top drops to look out for include Barbancourt from Haiti and El Dorado from Venezuela. But the best of the bunch has to be the divine amber nectar produced by the Zacapa distillery in Guatemala. Anyone daring to sully the majestic 23-year-old aged rum with Coke should be taken outside and summarily executed.






Australia has its own rum, and whilst no-one in their right mind would claim Bundaberg Rum is amongst the finest in the world, it has a special place in the Australian psyche. Bundy has long been advertised by a mischievous polar bear, and its effects are legendarily boisterous. Or fighty, if you’re being impolite. Bundy and coke is the Aussie roughnecked, blue-collared version of a bourbon and coke in the southern US. A man’s drink that can’t shed the reputation of those who choose to drink it.




Pacific Islands


It’s called something slightly different everywhere you go in the South Pacific – Kava in Fiji, Ava in Samoa, for example – but it’s much the same thing. The roots of the kava plant (a relation of the pepper bush) are mashed up in water to provide a murky, muddy concoction. It basically tastes of muddy water with a tiny added tingle, but it has supposedly narcotic qualities. You’d have to drink a hell of a lot to feel any more than a numb tongue, but it’s the social function rather than the taste that’s important here. Men – and it is usually men – drink kava either ceremonially or with an unwitting sense of ceremony. Join them, and that’s when conversational doors open.






In the rest of the world, except perhaps Poland, vodka is treated as a mixer drink to be livened up with fruit juice or fizzy pop. In Russia, it is mixed with more vodka. And disturbingly frequently. Russians tend to elevate hard-drinking to an artform, and vodka is traditionally the weapon of choice. It generally has two effects – violence or inhibition loosening. If you’re on the Trans-Siberian Railway for six days, a few bottles of vodka are likely to be the key to making friends and learning about the country.






If ever you want proof that Mexico isn’t really part of Central America, it’s that tequila is the national drink rather than rum. Made mainly in the northern city of the same name, tequila comes from the agave plant – and if you’re wanting proper tequila, it should be 100% agave with nothing added. Cheaper brands often throw in all manner of extras to try and disguise poor quality. Tequila anejo has been aged for at least a year and tends to go down smoothest.


Being the staple of all good dangerous drinking games, tequila has perhaps a rowdier reputation than it deserved. It doesn’t have to be drunk in shots while you snort salt and pour lemon juice in your eye. As for the worm (a supposed aphrodisiac), that’s supposed to go in mezcal, not tequila.






Thai whiskey is to a fine Scotch what Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow is to LA Confidential. It’s generally drunk because it’s cheap and, outside the tremendously dodgy home-distilled versions, it tends to be lower in alcohol content. More to the point, it’s actually closer to rum, made from a filthy combination of sugar cane and rice. You’ll not avoid it in Thailand – you may even develop a taste for it, but quality is rarely the key criterion.






The Japanese love their beer and whisky, but the local drop is what we call sake. In Japan, that’s the term for alcoholic beverages in general, but foreigners generally mean the rice wine that the country knocks back with gusto.It’s not actually a wine – the brewing process is closer to that of a beer. But it’s stronger than both wine and beer – generally between 18 and 20% unless it’s watered down. A special type of rice - that tastes horrible if you eat it – is used for making sake.It is usually served in small cups, and often with meals in the same way we’d serve wine in the west.

Any others  to share? Let us know below....

Guaranteed Disappointments



David Whitley takes a look at the things that you’re bound to encounter on your travels but are never, ever good.

Part of the joy of travelling is that – most of the time – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. Sometimes the things that seem a bit dull turn out to be wonderful; the small-scale effort that ends up being a treasured memory. Then there are the big set pieces that, pre-departure, you’ve earmarked as inevitable highlights of your trip. Some of them, alas, turn out to be a bit of a damp squib; overshadowed by something nearby that has the majesty without the hype. Some things come with an absolute guarantee, however. And you can rest safe in the knowledge that any of the following will be utterly rubbish. 

A tour that includes a stop at a Hard Rock Café
Hard Rock Cafés are an astonishing phenomenon. They’re basically pubs draped in minor rock memorabilia that serve food that’s only slightly above Wetherspoons standard. But they also have shops selling Hard Rock Café T-shirts. And, for some reason, people buy them. What is even more incredible is that Hard Rock Cafés try to bill themselves as tourist attractions (any tourist voucher book will offer a 10 to 20% discount at a Hard Rock Café), despite them being pretty much the same wherever you go. Thus, if a tour company has been lazy enough to fall for this, you can pretty much guarantee that the rest of the tour will be lazy, soulless and thoroughly ungratifying as well. If it stops at a Hard Rock, book with someone else.

Anything �?folkloric’
The words �?folklore’ and �?folkloric’ are idiot traps. Sign up to anything described using these turns, and you will be served up a load of old toss. This applies to souvenir shops and those terrible open-air museums where you basically wander round a load of wooden shacks and someone in a costume is in one of them weaving a basket. In particular, it applies to shows. Go to one, and it’s a fast track to boredom, surrounded by pensioners who have got such low standards that some of them find it a reasonably pleasant way to pass two hours.

Cultural villages
These are almost exactly the same as folklore shows, except that they take place in �?traditional’ huts. The rigmarole goes as follows: People dress in silly costumes, then bang drums and do a dance that someone once did a hundred years ago and sensibly stopped doing because it was rubbish. There may also be some attempt at audience interaction. Then you might get a bad meal consisting mainly of slop to eat. The moment the ignition on the bus is switched on, the �?traditional’ locals get back into their jeans and football replica shirts, and organise a proper night out on their mobile phones.

Any food bought either in or within 300m of a major train station
The target market for any eatery within this radius is people who are A) in a rush, B) will never come back or C) are so desperately hungry they’ll eat anything. This does not lead to an emphasis on quality.


Can you think of anything else that RTW travellers will encounter that is always irredeemably awful? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.