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Where in the world would you like to be right now?


Over nine years ago I was asked this question. My reply was something along the lines of "on a beach in the Caribbean". When pushed to explain why I wasn't on this beach, I found myself at a loss for words. After all, if I really DID want to be there, it was simply a matter of getting on and doing it.

Turning our dreams into realities can be a hassle, but here I seek to help those who wish to see the world - that is, without the aid of a huge great bank balance. Below are a couple of "must do's", followed by links to the most useful traveller's web sites out there.


Work Your Way Around the World

Firstly, I reccomend that you get hold of a copy of Work Your Way Around the World by Susan Griffith. This is a fantastic publication from Vacation Work, fully revised and updated every two years, full of addresses and contacts that will really get you off on the right foot. Easily available worldwide. For more information click here.


Secondly, join WWOOF. WWOOF is the working travellers Best Friend, especially when the working traveller is more interested in gaining a real understanding of their destination than simply earning money and moving on. Wwoof can provide you with thousands of contacts throughout many countries worldwide. On these farms and communities you can live and work as a part of the family in return for food, a warm bed and an insight into the local language and customs. I personally have Wwoofed in France, Switzerland and Japan and believe that it should always be considered no matter where you are travelling. Click here for more information. An alternative to WWOOF that seems to be run along similar lines is www.helpexchange.net, but I have no direct experience of working with these folks.


There are many many websites given over to travel, but unfortunately most are a complete waste of time and don't really provide you with any worthwhile service. Below, I have listed those that I have found to be truly useful - including the sites where you'll find the cheapest flights.

Job Vacancies online

I thoroughly recommend www.anyworkanywhere.com although country coverage is limited. For teaching jobs check out www.eslworldwide.com. Proffesionals click on www.monster.com. If you are considering teaching in Japan then get hold of a copy of the FREE online twice-monthly magazine from www.ohayosensei.com, it's packed with jobs, links and other useful stuff. Perhaps THE most popular Teaching English as a Foreign Language website is http://eslcafe.com/search/. This is a huge database with over 3000 links to TSL related sites. Great for finding a job, great if you've got one. In Japan sign up to www.findateacher.net and let the students come to you (I thoroughly reccomend this service). Another similar service is 121sensei.com. , as is orangutanenglish. Also, Gaijinpot.com should never be overlooked. Easy to use with loads of great jobs. If you have already secured a teaching position and need some advice and material on how to go about doing the job, in addition to the above links you should go to http://esl.about.com/library/lessons/ were you will find lessons and advice that can be downloaded and printed off. Lessons tend to be based on real news stories such as the one about the lady who decided to spend her retirement on a cruise ship as it wasn't much more expensive than an old folks home in London. Recently, I've heard good things about Tokyo-based http://www.ihcway.net/ who find students for you, although I have no driect experience of the company myself.

Want to try your hand at acting for Japanese TV? I recommend Group Echo.

I've recently come across another website that is definately a must-see for anyone wanting to escape: http://escapeartist.com/

Also, when in Tokyo, check out the No.1 English language zine, Metropolis. Pick it up for free in any big record store (and 700 other locations in Tokyo) or go to www.metropolis.co.jp Tokyo Notice Board is also a useful free mag.

If you are a private english teacher in Japan I THOROUGHLY reccomend The Home Sensei, a superb site packed full of resources for teachers, created by a friend of mine, Shari Custer, who has almost two decades of experience in this field.


General Japan-based organisations

If thinking of heading for Japan, your first click should be in the direction of www.wwoofjapan.com. The Japan branch of Wwoof can help you to experience life as a native of this fascinating country, by providing you with the details of organic farmers and other orgainisations in Japan who welcome foreigners into their homes, providing them with a bed, meals and invaluable experiences in exchange for a few hours work each day. You can join wwoof today by going to

GaijinPot.com has grown from its humble beginnings and now provides info on jobs, accomodation, visas, flights, learning Japanese... you name it, it's there, either in the main website itself or the many forums.

When in Tokyo you should sign up with the Kimi Information Centre who will take your details and then place ads (in Japanese) for students in the your local area of the city. They can also provide assistance with accomadation, visas and so on. If you have a Working Holiday Visa contact The Japan Association for Working-Holiday Makers (JAWHM) who can help you find a job.

Tokyo City Guide & Reviews, restaurants and more - Sunnypages.jp is a good English-language website to check if in the capital.

Need a place to stay in Osaka - Umeda Dormitory is very cheap, very friendly, very clean - I've stayed there myself and thoroughly reccomend it. http://www.ne.jp/asahi/umeda/dormitory/shareroom2f_j.html (note that they now have a policy of a minimum stay of one week).

General advice on travelling in Japan can be found at Japan-guide.com. A fantastic website with all train bus and plane times etc can be found at http://www.hyperdia.com. English language Japanese news sites include www.japantoday.com and the Mainichi Shinbum, both of whom have RSS feeds.

The Japanese goverment has a very good website with lots of information. A guide to Japanese visas can be found here. The Tokyo Immigration Information Centre is a great source of useful info, with all visa issues explained in clear Japanese-English.

If you are thinking of travelling to Hiroshima, check out http://www.gethiroshima.com/ for lots of useful info and links.

For information on buying flights in Japan please see below

Want to make international calls from Japan? Pick up a Brastel phone card at any McDonald's in the Kanto region.

Tokyo Accomodation: If staying for a month or more in the city, check out:

Fontana 03 3382 0151 fontana@gol.com (with prices ranging from about 60,000 yen they are expensive, but easy to deal with, none of the ususal key-money - their office is in Shin Nakano on the Marounuchi subway line) or
Apple House 0422 51 2277 www.applehouse.ne.jp (you've got to see it to believe it! Lots of rules but simply excellent) From 39,800yen per month for a private room, located in Higashi Koganei on the JR Chuo line.

For more accomodation contacts get a copy of the No.1 English language zine, Metropolis. Pick it up for free in any big record store (and 700 other locations in Tokyo) or go to http://metropolis.co.jp/classifieds/m Also, get a copy of the other big freebie, Tokyo Notice Board.

A good KOREAN based TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) site can be found at http://www.1-language.com/cgi-bin/jobcenter.pl .

Japanese looking for accomodation in London should check out http://www.japanjournals.com/



...Another must! All I'll say is "don't leave home without it". It's virtually impossible to sort insurance out once you have left your home country. Reccomendations for students include Planet Travel & STA travel

If you're no longer a teenager you may also want to try:

Saga Travel Insurance
As well the world cruises and long-haul holidays they are famous for, Saga also specialise in Travel Insurance for the over 50's.

Another recommendation for travellers of all ages:

Cheap Travel Insurance


General travel information


In addition to their fantastic online catalogue of books on the subjects of travelling, living and working abroad, they also have a Links page packed with relevant useful organisations. Info exchange provides a noticeboard where you can view or post recommendations on places to work, go, see or stay. Latest Jobs is just that - the latest vacancies in the UK and abroad.


Excellent accomodation search engine, with which you can:

- Search multiple sites for the best deals on major hotels.
- Browse their comprehensive list of independent hotels, B&B's, and hostels that aren't listed on those sites.


A fantastic directory full of information for the working traveller, including links to job sites. Check it out now!

www.xe.com Currency Converter

Any currency converted quickly and easily here.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office Website

All British passport holders should check this site before travelling. It provides up-to-date info on where's safe and where's not.I must admit, I hesitated in checking this one out as it's "only" a government website. However, I was very impressed with what I found. There is a drop-down list of countries where you can check to see whether it is safe to travel there. Other topics covered include: Passports & Visas, Insurance, Money Matters, Health Matters, Drugs, Giving Blood, Top 10 Checklist and Laws & Customs. Other topics include Before You Go, Travellers' Tips, While You Are There and If It All Goes Wrong. This is a great site to get the official word on what the score is - it's style is pretty easy-going too.


"Where's my local Embassy?" No matter what your nationality or where in the world you are, your question will be answered here. A great traveller's tool.


This site is great! As they say, "Ask any question! Allexperts.com is the oldest & largest free Q&A service on the Internet. Pick a category and click on a volunteer's name to ask a question! Thousands of volunteer experts are here to answer all your questions!" It's quite true what they say, I tested this out by asking where I could find cheap accommodation in a certain Japanese city (Cheap? is that possible in Japan?!). As the volunteers are all experts in their own field the answer was relevant and personal. Of course, you can also view Q&As by other people. It's a great way to find out a little about where you're going, just give it a little time to get your answer.


In my view, Lonely Planet publish simply the best guide books around. Check out their online catalogue (a fantastic range of titles available, delivered promptly too). Their site also contains all the usual travel related tools, such as currency converter, flight booking service etc. You can also upgrade any old guidebooks you may have. This is one of the best sites around for the Armchair Traveller, as Lonely Planet publish a great range of books packed with tales of wild adventures on the open road. There's also world news as never seen on TV and numerous travelogues.


Rough Guides publish a vast selection of excellent travel books and music. I think that when it comes to Lonely Planet vs Rough Guides it's simply a matter of taste - check out their website and see what you think.


Planning to travel around Europe? Interail is the way to do it! This train ticket, valid for up to a month in almost 30 countries (including Morocco and Turkey) is a great deal. You can travel on virtually any train for free (there may be a small extra charge for Supersonic services), and the ticket can be bought in most large railway stations. Check out interrailer.com, a fantasticly proffesional "home-grown" site with information in twelve languages covering everything from ticket prices to tips on where to see and stay whilst exploring this beautiful continent.


A site designed for North American travellers, although much of it can apply to anyone. Here you will find everything you need to know about how to backpack Europe - without having to win the lottery first. Topics covered include cheap flights, hostel reviews, train passes, live travelogues (good for the armchair traveller) and packing advice.

I.P.F. - Travelling from the comfort of your own home

International Penfriends is a great organisation that enables you to travel without leaving your home country. I joined I.P.F. (whose motto is "Uniting the world through friendship, fun and the written word") over a year ago, and I now have many good friends in countries as diverse as Germany, Finland, Argentina, Lithuania, China, the USA, Japan, Zimbabwe and Brazil. IPF is the oldest and largest penfriend service in the world. They do a great job of matching you with people in countries that you select who share your interests and ideas. For more information on IPF and how to join, click here. Personally, I give and recieve a great deal of support through this organisation.




Living in the Uk and want to call friends abroad? Living ouside the Uk and want friends in the UK to call you? www.telediscount.co.uk offers absolutely incredibly unbeatable prices - many countries are charged at local rate!

Skype is of course another option, offering free PC to PC calls worldwide. Useful for long-distance relationships...


Is there an Internet Cafe in your destination town? Check before you go by using this Internet Cafe search engine. I tested this by looking for my tiny local camera shop (which has a PC tucked away in the corner) - to my surprise I found it listed.


How do you keep in touch with the folks back home when on the road? Travelling around the world but don't want to buy a phonecard in every country you visit? If you don't have a Skype-enabled laptop, here's the answer, Ekno a service provided by Lonely Planet. Once you have registered you will be able to make cheap calls from over 58 countries using virtually any phone. Simply call the toll-free number, enter your personal code and dial the number you want to reach. Your Ekno account is automatically debited - you can easily recharge it by telephone or via the internet. As a member you will also be given a Voicemail box, a fax-to-mail number and an email account. Don't leave home without it!


When travelling, email is often the easiest way of keeping in touch with those you've left behind. Also, if you're moving around quite a bit it's virtually the only way that other's can be sure to get a message to you. Of course there are millions and millions of email service providers out there, with not much to tell them apart. However, I recommend Gmail as not only does it have a great spam filter, but also you have a ridiculous amount of storage space (2.5GB) so you never have to delete anything. Great search function too for retrieving 6-month old emails from your airline when it's time to go home!

Mobile Phones

Is a mobile phone necessary when travelling abroad? Well, despite owning five of them, I'd have to say No. The first thing to remember is that Pay-as-you-talk doesn't always work abroad. Also, if you're going to America you'll need a Tri-Band handset, and when in Japan you'll need a new one altogether... a bit complicated isn't it? Usually I think the best thing to do is only get one if you stay in one country for a long time - and buy it when you get there!

In Japan you'll need your Gaijin Card (from your local City Office) if you want to get your own phone (even pay-as-you-go), so your best bet is to get a Japanese friend to go with you when you buy it, and use their details to register. Pay-as-you-go phones are available very cheaply (although calls made with them are very expensive), and can be topped up using cards from Convenience stores etc.


Flights & Trains

Did you know that a return flight from London to Tokyo will DOUBLE your annual Co2 output?

Rather than take a flight, why not REALLY travel, and take the train? Travelling by train is not only far friendlier to the environment, but also gives you a true feeling of travelling, of covering vast distances. You will also meet many more people, have far more exciting adventures, and not be annoyed by those screaming children in row 23!

I have decided that whenever possible I will avoid using aeroplanes. My plane-free lifestyle starts in 2007, with an epic 4 week journey from Tokyo to London, taking me through China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France.

For all the information you could possibly need on travelling by train anywhere in the world, please visit
The man in Seat 61 - a true wonder of the internet.

Still, if you must take the plane...

For a complete listing of airline websites, please click here

No matter where you look on the internet you cannot miss links to online travel agents. Your first stop if flying from the UK should definately be www.cheapflights.com. This site is essentially a huge search engine that encompasses many other sites - I bought my Aeroflot ticket from London (via Moscow) to Tokyo through this company - £300 including tax. Absolute bargain, especially so when you consider that I ended up being transferred to a direct flight from London to Tokyo with B.A!

Check out the following websites of various international flight agents: www.expedia.co.uk www.awlt.com, www.bridgetheworld.com, www.emerald.co.uk, www.flynow.com, www.northsouthtravel.co.uk, www.roundtheworldflights.com, www.trailfinders.co.uk and www.travelcuts.com

Finally, don't forget your local high street travel agent. They sometimes have fantastic offers on, and at the very least you can get a good idea of current prices.

When it comes to flying within Europe there are a couple of companies that shine above the rest pricewise, although destination airports are limited in number. First and foremost, check out www.easyjet.com and www.ryanair.com. With easyjet I have flown from London to Switzerland for just £15.00 (approx US$23.00), and with Ryanair from London to Milan for the same price. Bear in mind that tax is extra, and you MUST observe baggage weight restictions or you'll get badly stung. Other possibilities include www.gofly.com.

Students in particular should try www.statravel.co.uk.

If you are serious about saving a bit of money, get hold of a good travel guide or a copy of Work Your Way Around the World - countless airlines, discount flight agents and companies such as Airhitch are listed. You'd be crazy to pay the normal price for any flight - there are always special deals available. Another option is taking a Courier Flight, where in exchange for a lower fare you carry documents from airport to airport. For more details visit the homepage of the International Association of Air Couriers.

Buying in Japan? Try these discount flight agents (all speak english and are Tokyo-based)

A'cross Travel: 03 3340 6745 www.across-travel.com
No.1 Travel: 03 3200 8871 www.no1-travel.com
Just Travel: 03 3362 3441
Can Tour: 03 3352 5200 www.cantour.co.jp
Hit Travel: 03 3473 9040 www.hittravel.co.jp

If in Sapporo contact Map International: Tel. 011-210-0231

CAR RENTAL: if in Europe go to www.easycar.com. You used to be able to get a Mercedes A-Class for between £5 and £9 a day through this sister company of Easyjet, if you booked in advance - although this may have now changed. Great service, nice cars, cheap. WARNING: Make sure that they are blocked from taking any more money from your credit card after you have returned your car. Three months after I returned my car I recieved a £130 parking ticket fine from Easycar.com- The offence took place in London on a day when I was over three hours away from the city, in Herefordshire!


and finally, don't forget to take...

Your passport, tickets and money! I once spent 10 hours hitching towards the English Channel, before discovering upon my arrival at the ferry terminal that I'd left them all at home!

Take a photocopy of all important documents (including your plastic bankcards and passport).

If taking medication abroad ALWAYS have a letter from your doctor and make sure the bottles are labelled correctly.

If possible, take a VISA credit card (but don't have the intention of using it!). If you will be withdrawing money from your bank account back home during your voyage, set up telephone and/or internet banking before you leave.

Other than that, just make sure you have your copy of Work Your Way Around the World, and remember, if I can do it, so can you!

Good Luck!

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