Love islands: match to your perfect Fiji island

If you’re anything like us, you’re obsessed with Love Island (not an island at all, but actually a villa in Mallorca), and you spend the weekday slot of 9pm-10pm frantically WhatsApp’ing your other Love Island-obsessed mates…

Did you know that the first series of Love Island was filmed on Armstrong Island in Fiji? Big up Bianca Gascoigne and Calum Best. In honour of those original islanders, we’re playing the part of ‘The Flack’, and getting ready to couple you up with your perfect Fiji Island – that’s 100% your type, and not just on paper.

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Join the green scene! Our eco-traveller packing guide. 

Are you a scruncher, folder or a roller?

Oi, mind out of the cistern! We’re talking about packing. More specifically, how you can be greener and more ethical with what goes into your backpack. 

Buzzkill guys, but by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. 

As travellers and all around decent human beings, we have a responsibility to protect the rivers, beaches, mountains and oceans that have given us so much unconditional and unqualified love over the years. Which means thinking about what you’re taking with you from your world, into theirs. 

The good news is, both big brands and start-ups are responding to travellers’ desires for more eco-friendly and sustainable travel gear. Here are just some of our favourite green products that are currently out there. 

STAnd up, Go Green, Do Good.

Refillable toiletry bottles

Those handy travel-sized toiletries that we love so much? Great for short trips and getting around the 100ml hand luggage rule, but a nightmare for the oceans and landfill sites where the miniature plastic bottles end up. Invest in refillable bottles instead. We love GoToob by Humangear. Fresh shades, BPA-free and a lifetime guarantee.

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Mineral suncream

Some of the chemicals and parabens in sun-cream are not only bad for your skin, but also for the oceans and reefs that you swim in. Using a mineral-based sun-cream like JĀSÖN will not only protect your skin, but also the environment. There are no artificial colours or animal by-products, and the packaging is bio-degradable and packaged in recycled and/or recyclable containers. Now that’s hot!

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Bamboo toothbrushes

That plastic toothbrush that you replace every six months? That toothbrush never disappears. The plastic can’t decompose, which means all your toothbrushes are out there in the world somewhere.

Go for a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush instead, like Humble Brush. Their ‘Go Humble, Give Smiles’ project also means that for every brush you buy, a child in need will receive a toothbrush, oral care or hygiene education. Plus, bamboo is naturally antimicrobial, so you won’t get any of that nasty bacteria that hang out on your plastic brush.

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Refillable water bottles

Barbie was wrong, plastic is not fantastic. Rivers, coastlines and railway verges clogged with rubbish and plastic bottles are a familiar sight for many travellers. Which is exactly where your single-use plastic bottle will end up.

Take a refillable bottle away with you. We are OBSESSED with Dutch-brand Dopper. So many reasons… not least the dreamy shades of neon corals and cool aquas, BPA-plastic free bottles that are recyclable when you’re done, and a wicked ethos where 5% of the company turnover is pumped into their projects. Oh, and a removable cup that looks – to us – much like it’s designed specifically for wine.

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Soaps and sanitizers

Just what the doctor ordered for every eco-warrior, there’s not a single occasion when we don’t have Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Organic Hand Sanitizer in our hand and man bags. Kills 99.9% of germs, smells incredible, and doesn’t strip your skin like normal anti-bac.

We’re also all over Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid soap. You can use this stuff for literally everything when you’re away – face, body, hair, food, laundry, dishes. It comes in ten lush scents, is made with organic and fair-trade ingredients, and is packaged in a 100% post-consumer recycled bottle.

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Bamboo sarongs

We know what you’re thinking, another bamboo product. And what about the effing pandas, you monsters!

Okay, this does raise an important issue about checking that the natural products you’re buying are responsibly sourced. However, bamboo consumes much less water than cotton and doesn’t need high quality arable land to grow, which makes it much more sustainable. It’s also 60% more absorbent than cotton and it’s super soft (like a panda), making it the perfect travel accessory.

We love Karavan’s Bamboo Peshtemal. Bus blanket, top sheet, sarong, towel… you genuinely have to try one to appreciate how fast they dry out, way faster than a travel towel. Plus, they look sheet hot! Here at STA Travel HQ, they’re a staple for every trip.

Reusable tote bags

Did you know that carrier bags are illegal in Rwanda? Yep, totes ahead of the game.

You’re probably the kind of person that wouldn’t use a single-use plastic bag at home, right? So why would it be any different when you’re away? Take a foldaway reusable tote with you, also great for doubling as a beach and laundry bag.

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Backpacks

The key to backpacks and being sustainable often comes down to longevity and not upgrading your backpack every few years. Find a size and shape that works for you, and you’ll have your beloved pack a lifetime. (On a personal note, this author’s Osprey side-loader is on its 20th year and just about to visit its 89th country. Old school).

However, there are also brands out there such as the mountain legends VAUDE, who now offer environmentally-friendly backpacks that are ethically produced and made from sustainable materials. Check out their awesome Green Shape eco-range.

Sustainable clothing

It’s perhaps fair to say that once-upon-a-time, if you wanted to buy ethical clothing, you had to be into a certain, look? We’re personally down with the whole boho hemp vibes, but if you’re not, brands like Patagonia, Volcom and H&M Conscious are doing sustainable gear that does good and looks good. Surfdome.com have a whole section of their site dedicated to gear that’s sustainable in some way.


We could go on…got your own eco-packing and green tips?

We want to hear them! Shoot us an email at blog@statravel.com 

Want to consume less and do good on your travels. Why not add in one of our conservation trips to your next big adventure? See here.

Where the city slogan is… keep Austin weird

Texas’ quirky state capital has natural beauty, bohemian southern charm and a live music bar on every block. Cruise up the South Congress for vintage boutiques and street art, shop for the perfect pair of cowboy boots at Allens Boots, and cool off with the paddle-boarders and picnickers at super-chill Lady Bird Lake in the middle of town.

shopping in austin

For the art

With community paint parks, iconic street art and random messages of kindness sprayed on the sidewalks, Austin’s streets are galleries in themselves. Check out the famous ‘I love you so much’ script on the side of Jo’s coffee, Daniel Johnston’s ‘Hi, how are you’ cartoon frog, and the constantly changing murals at the community-run HOPE Outdoor Gallery.

art in austin

For the food

It’s true, everything is bigger in Texas! Tex-Mex, food trucks and southern barbecues – Austin’s food scene is huge. For handmade tortillas and the best tacos in town, check out Veracruz All Natural; for buckets of chicken and creole okra, hit up Lucy’s Fried Chicken; and for a taste of traditional Texan barbecue, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q is legendary.

food in austin

For the music

Home to South by Southwest, Austin City Limits Festival and over 250 live music venues, Austin lives up to its ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ title. The city is alive with the sound of sax, soulful vocals and an irresistible Deep South twang. One venue not to miss is the Continental Club, famous for hosting an eclectic mix of genres from punk to country under one roof, seven nights a week.

music in austin

If deliciously loaded taco’s, a thriving music scene and seriously cool cowboys aren’t enough to entice you, continue to explore Austin through the eyes of UK Band Skinny Living with our interactive music video here.

 

Best trips for solo travellers

People are overrated anyway.

STA Travel Beats, India and Europe
Good for: solo festival-goers

“Nah, I’m not really into Stormzy, or Clean Bandit, or fun. But thanks for asking anyway, mate!”.

First of all, doesn’t like Stormzy? What kind of monsters are we dealing with here. And second of all, if your own friends aren’t interested in going to festivals with you, then we know a gang of people who are.

In collaboration with the music-mad humans at Beats Travel, our small group festival tours are hitting up a serious lineup of festivals this year. 8 Day Icelandic Beats takes on Iceland’s Secret Solstice in June (the Foos and The Prodigy headlined last year) and 10 Day Balkan Beats includes Serbia’s EXIT festival in July, plus Sail Beats in Croatia and Goa Beats in India.

Unique tours built around music, culture and people, you’ll explore new destinations, the local underground music scene and some of the greatest moshpits on the planet. And more to the point, you’ll do it with people who quite clearly have much better taste in music than your regular friends.

We’d be there in heartbeat.

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Bura Surfhouse, Lagos, Portugal
Good for: solo surfers and yogis

Get down with your new omies! (Ommmmm….).

Finally, an establishment that appreciates drinking time as much as downward facing dog time. Located on the Portuguese Algarve, this super social surf hostel is great for solo travellers. Famous for its banana pancakes and subversive combination of sporting and drinking activities, there are heaps of ways to explore the area. Or just chill out at the pool bar or rooftop terrace.

Specialist packages include the 5 Day Surf Yoga Wine, 5 Day Boot Camp, or our particular favourite, Bad Yogis, described as 9 days of “stretching and savasana followed by (several) 1€ beers and BBQs by the pool”.

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9 Day Galápagos Camping Adventure, Ecuador
Good for: solo Planet Earth fans

Let the animals be your friends instead.

These dancing blue footed boobies make excellent dancefloor partners. And as you’re camping on the islands, it’s a much more economical way to see the Galápagos than on a cruise.

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1-2 Week Thai Elephant Conservation, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Good for: solo animal lovers

Or how about these elephants in Thailand? They come with their own trunks, making them excellent travel partners. And as an elephant never forgets, you’ll basically have a best friend for life.

Working at this internationally-renowned conservation project, you’ll help feed, bathe and care for abandoned or abused elephants, with weekends free to explore with the other volunteers. There’s also an on-site dog rescue project. Just stop now…

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Kiwi Experience, New Zealand
Good for: solo adrenaline junkies

Welcome to the friend zone.

Backpackers have been exploring New Zealand on Kiwi Experience’s legendary hop-on hop-off buses for over 30 years. More popular than a company credit card at a Christmas party, Kiwi Ex is the perfect way to meet other travellers while discover one magical country. (So magical, it even has its own government appointed wizard. His name is Ian. Not Ian McKellen – real name Gandalf – but another Ian).

Make friends from all over the world, have the freedom to travel at your own pace, and book beds and bungy jumps as you go – making your trip as active as you want.

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G Adventure active tours, mostly high up places
Good for: solo hikers

Hiking up big scary-looking mountains on your own is a truly terrible idea. So, if you can’t find a friend mad enough to climb Kilimanjaro, Everest, Annapurna or Mount Blanc with you, join these guys.

G Adventure connect you with other trekkers, helping everyone keep costs down compared to hiring individual guides and porters. Share laughs (and Deep Heat), and cheer each other on, celebrating your achievement at the top with new friends you’ll never forget.

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Contiki tours, pretty much everywhere
Good for: solo 18-35s

Showing the young, the wild and the free the world since 1962, Contiki are the go-to tour company for 18-35 year olds. With more activities, meals and accommodation included than other tour companies, it’s a great way for solo travellers to buddy up and not blow their budget by having to pay for single rooms or private guides.

Plus, while we love partying with the odd Octogenarian, Contiki are a good way of ensuring that your tour group’s demographic stays strictly Calvin Harris. (“I’ve got love for you if you were born in the 80’s, the 80’s…).

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So don’t hang about waiting for your pals to get their act together, head on a solo excursion and make some new ones?

Find the perfect tour for you here >

Travel crush: Feel the energy of New Orleans

With street jam sessions to make your hips sway, rich creole food to make you drool and an infectious care-free atmosphere – it’s hard not to fall in love! So, pack your stretchy pants, dancing shoes, alligator spotting binoculars and get ready to embrace the infectious New Aww-leans way of life.

Where music is in the water and the rhythm runs deep

Home to beignets, jazz and European architecture there ain’t no city like the Big Easy. Sweet liquor and brass bands rule the French Quarter most days of the week. World-class musicians are found busking on every corner and hole-in-the-wall dive bars keep you dancing to the early hours. A city that celebrates food and festivals, and history and hedonism in equal measure – nowhere is more at home with itself than NOLA.

new orleans music

Street culture

Pastel-coloured stucco, wrought-iron balconies and the rattle of streetcars, New Orleans is an old soul. The architecture may be faded, but no city is more alive. Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street are a hotpot of homegrown musical talent, over-spilling bars and smoky cocktails. Catch a live set beneath the ceilings of Preservation Hall, and try and time your trip around Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest. Although to be fair, every night in the French Quarter is a carnival.

new orleans street

Lip-smacking food

You don’t go to the Southern States unless you’re a) serious about music, and b) not serious about your waistline. For café au lait and beignets (French-style doughnuts covered in sugar), head for the striped awnings and local institution that is Café du Monde; for poboys (Louisiana’s bad boy meat or seafood sandwiches) go with an empty stomach and loose trousers to Parkway Poboys and Tavern; and for oysters, dive into Bourbon House Restaurant. Happy as a clam.

beignets

From swamp bayou’s to wild boars

New Orleans has a wild reputation, inside the bars and out. Only a short drive from the city, the swamps are utterly magical and entirely unexpected. A pristine wilderness of ancient waterways, exotic bird life and Cajun culture, plus a line-up of resident swamp monsters including alligators, wild boar, turtles and raccoons.

new orleans nature

Still want to know more about New Orleans? Check out our new interactive music video here and let UK band Skinny Living show you around this unmissable city!

Why festival tours are the best tours

Some things are considerably improved by the addition of music.

Such as discos. And TRAVELLING.

Because let’s face it, without music, the world would just B flat, right?

Collaborating with the music-mad crew at Beats Travel, STA Travel Beats are unique small group tours that revolve wholeheartedly around music, festivals and culture. From Iceland’s Secret Solstice to India’s Magnetic Fields festival, plus exclusive parties, sailing adventures and underground music events in between, we are back on the road this year with a killer lineup of festivals and music tours.

Discover the world, discover new music, discover a new way of travelling.

 

Let us introduce you to the crew.

Beats Travel is a crew of avid travellers and music enthusiasts, who saw a gap between the two, and decided to bring music touring to life as the next generation of travelling. The crew consists of experienced tour guides, along with DJs, photographers, videographers and event planners, all with one thing in common, a love of a unique party, and sharing this passion with everyone.

beats travel

Are you a Beats traveller?

If you love music and travel, you’ve come to the right place. Experience a new generation of travelling by combining your love for music and culture in unique locations around the world. We revolve solely around music and festivals, working with renowned artists and DJs from around the globe. Think exclusive parties, cult nightclubs and underground music events.

Watch the action >

What’s included?

A legendary Beats guide and crew, festival tickets, special events such as opening and closing parties, new friends that you didn’t know you needed, and all transport and accommodation. Dependent on the country, this can range from hand-picked hostels/hotels, to Bedouin tents and VIP Yachts.

india beats

Where do we go?

STA Travel Beats has three types of trips: Festival Tours, Sailing Tours and A.M.C Tours (Adventure, Music and Culture).

Festival Tours

8 Day Icelandic Beats (includes Secret Solstice festival)
When: 18-25 Jun 18
Where: Reykjavík, Iceland
Go for: Dancing under the midnight sun

Ready to rave? Find out more

10 Day Balkan Beats (includes EXIT festival)
When: 9-18 Jul 18
Where: Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia
Go for: Stage dives and culture dives

Take me there!

A.M.C Tours

8 Day Goa Beats (+ resident DJ on tour)
When: Weekly between Nov-Mar
Where: Goa, India
Go for: Hedonistic house and hippy markets

Tie dye and face paint at the ready. Find out more

Sailing Tours

4 Day Sail Beats (+ an onboard DJ)
When: 4-7 Jul 18
Where: Croatia
Go for: High tides and DJ vibes

Boats and beats? Read more

sailing beats


You feeling the beat yet? For all STA Travel Beats tours, festival videos and testimonials from past Beats Travellers, click here. Your summer needs this. 

 

10 reasons why women make better travellers

As it’s International Women’s Day, we thought it was only right to celebrate being women. Which we did by eating biscuits and loudly discussing what awesome travellers we make. Discuss.

1. Women are better at multitasking

multi tasking

We mean, look at this chick. She can negotiate public transport, juggle multiple luggage options, carry off mad braids AND still pose for a photo. Heroine.

2. Women handle pain better

If you’ve ever woken up in a campsite full of dudes on the third day of the Inca Trail, you’ll understand exactly what we mean. No, you’re not injured, you’re just stiff. Deal with it.

3. Statistically, women will book their trip earlier than men

Which means we get better deals, save up more money and so can travel for longer.

4. Women are better in a crisis

Imperative for all those all important travel decisions on the road. Nap or hostel happy hour? HAPPY HOUR, ALWAYS HAPPY HOUR. THE CLUE’S IN THE NAME.

5. Women are proven to be better at foreign languages

Say what now?

6. Women snore less

You’ll thank us for this when you’re in shared dorm-based scenarios.

7. Women are cleaner

See above. However, that Aussie dude’s four day old jocks that have somehow made it onto your bunk bed? Can’t help you with.

8. Women live longer

Which means we have more years to travel. Booyah.

9. Women have less spacial awareness

Doesn’t matter, we’ll get a tuk tuk.

10. Women are also good at making sweeping generalisations about how awesome they are (see above). This has nothing to do with travel, it’s just a fact.

New Zealand Campervan Dos and Don’ts

Today’s blog comes from our resident road tripper Hannah “Jeffers” Jeffery who isn’t actually that keen on Dire Straits. Honestly. 

If you have a secret thing for trailer trash, questionable driving skills (more sheep than people = empty roads) and musical tastes that shouldn’t be inflicted on coach loads of other travellers, then you’re the perfect candidate for a campervan trip! Kidding, it’s quite clearly all about the epic driving routes, mind-blowing landscapes and wilderness campgrounds and only a tiny bit about the Dire Straits playlist and roadside pie shops. However, before you scream “roadtrip” and bundle your motley crew of travel buddies into a van, there are a few things you need to know about campervanning in NZ.

With the help of our lovely friends at Mighty, Britz and Maui – the purveyors and experts of all things campervan –  we’ve come up with some not altogether unhelpful dos and don’ts.

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23 reasons why Love Island is exactly like travelling

No need for an introduction. Other than to say, if you haven’t been glued to ITV2 this summer, YOU BASICALLY HAVEN’T BEEN LIVING.

Unless you’ve actually been away travelling, in which case you’re partially forgiven. Data roaming can be expensive.

p.s. Jack and Dani to win. You guys are just a bit of us.

1. Hanging out around the hostel pool every day, flirting furiously.

 

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2. Trying to sleep while people noisily hook up in dorm-beds next to you.

 

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3. Saying ‘I love you’ after two weeks, because you’ll DEFINITELY still be together when you get home.

 

4. Finding yourself! Or in Eyal’s case (‘I love green things’) discovering a love for nature and expressing it to anyone who’d listen.

 

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5. Trying to stay composed when the ‘one’ ditches you for the new hottie in the hostel. (Don’t worry Gee, we’ve got your back!)

 

6. Sleeping on a hammock under the stars feeling at one with the universe! That is, until the mossies get you.

 

7. Picking up other travellers’ accents and colloquialisms. Or in Love Island’s case, “mug”, “pied”, “sort”, “do bits”, “vibes” and “bantz”.

 

8. When you find out there’s extended happy hour at your new favourite watering hole.

 

9. “I got a text!”. Getting overly excitable about receiving a message from home. Although in the travel world, this is genuine alarm. Gen Z have no idea what a text message is.

10. Or knowing exactly what a text message is, and thus becoming earmarked as the token wise old backpacker of the group EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE NOT QUITE 30?

 

11. Rooting for your new travel buddy who’s finally plucked up the courage to speak to the girl they’ve been eyeing up for the duration of the tour.

 

12. Traveller bonds. Georgie and Danie can we be BFFs please?!

 

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13. The awkward moment your ex checks in to the hostel. Well, you know, that one from the last hostel. In travel terms, that’s a relationship.

 

14. There’s always that one person who eats all the food from the hostel fridge.

 

15. When you’ve yet to do laundry and have no clean clothes left, leaving you to resort to the outfit from the beach luau.

 

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16. Queuing for the hostel hair dryer/straightening station. Don’t judge us, flashpackers have feelings too.

17. Describing your type to your travel buddies when a new group of lads check in – let the dibs begin.

 

18. Teary Skype sessions home

 

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19. The lovable and hardworking backpacker that always gets friend-zoned. Sorry doc, we’re looking at you…

 

20. Coming home from a late night out, trying to get to your bed in stealth mode without disturbing your fellow dorm buddies.

 

21. That feeling you get when you book a shared dorm before an early morning flight, and realise you’ve got the room all to yourself.

 

22. Not being able to stop talking about your travels when you get home. Or in this case, not being able to stop talking about Love Island in all social, work and stranger situations. Sorry is it almost 9pm?

 

23. And basically, having the best SUMMER OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE.

 

Think Love Island is good? Travelling’s better. And the islands are actual islands, like this one in Fiji.

The best Pride parades on the planet

It’s true, love really does make the world go round.

That’s love, not money. And definitely not the conservation of angular momentum. Insert confused face <here>.

To celebrate Pride in London this weekend and all those extraordinary LGBT warriors out there, we gave one of our Round the World routes the rainbow treatment based on the best places to protest and party.

Look lively, you DO NOT want to miss the float on this one.

LGBT – Let’s Go Bloody Travelling!

From £1,799 (inclusive of taxes, love hearts and pots of gold at the end of rainbows…)

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