Top Gap Year Locations
Taking a break from your studies can be education, financially rewarding and give you a wealth of experiences before continuing to university. Whether you’re looking for a warmer climate or something more adventurous, our look at the top gap year locations includes relaxing and more challenging options.
Most offer a range of potential gap year employment. Many students look at teaching English to fund their time abroad. Cities often have opportunities for bar and restaurant staff, but some locations offer more special experiences such as ski instruction, ranch work, or volunteering. It’s also possible to intern abroad and gain valuable experience to complement your studies. You may need a working holiday visa for certain locations (for example, Australia and New Zealand).
It’s worth considering your budget to make sure you have the chance to enjoy your surroundings and socializing with new friends. Generally, South East Asia offers the cheapest accommodation, including Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Other locations that are relatively cheap include Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia. Generally, the further away you travel from the tourist centers, the cheaper the cost of living will tend to be.
The most popular gap year destination is made for backpacking and cities such as Sydney offer lots of opportunities for part-time work. In your spare time, there are plenty of sites to explore including the Great Barrier Reef and the outback.
USA & Canada:
America and Canada don’t offer the cheapest 12 months, but they do have a popular gap year working programs. Options include working on a Canadian Summer Camp (You’ll need to have a life-saving certificate and first aid qualifications), or at one of the many ski resorts. If you’d rather opt for warmer, Southern weather and hospitality, then ranch work or one of the many cities across the U.S may offer opportunities to earn while you are abroad.
Offering beautiful and rugged scenery, New Zealand is a relatively safe destination packed with options for adventurous outings. Fans of Lord of the Rings can tour film locations, or go on their own adventures such as white water rafting, zorbing, bungee jumping and much more.
Who can argue with spending a year in a tropical paradise? Marine conservation is an option for volunteers, with some of the world’s best diving spots as a reward for your efforts. Out of the water, the volcanic islands will give you plenty to explore beyond the beautiful beaches.
Combine the culture and heritage of Agra and the Taj Mahal with a country at the start of a high tech boom. In addition to school teaching and community building projects, a growing number of internships are available with technology and internet companies. And you’ll still be able to enjoy the beaches of Goa, local culture and wildlife. A trip into neighboring Nepal will include Mount Everest and the Himalayas.
The landlocked South American country has dramatic scenery with La Paz as the highest capital in the world. It’s been less affected by tourism than neighboring countries, so Spanish and Quechua are the main languages, and there are fewer gap year working opportunities. Some do exist, such as rehabilitating animals including jaguars, pumas, ocelots and more. In addition to the more authentic experience, there are also the iconic Salt Flats, the volcanic geysers and mud pools in Laguna Colorado and the Inca Crypt on Laguna Verde.
Another South American country which has seen a surge in popularity with gap year students, Argentina combines the cosmopolitan attractions of Buenos Aires with the beauty of Patagonia. It has mountains and glaciers in the Lake District, the Iguaza Falls waterfalls, volcanoes, and coastal wildlife.
The lost city of Machu Picchu, Laka Titicaca, the Inca Trail and the Amazon rainforest are just some of the attractions of a country which is growing in popularity for gap year travel. Various volunteer programs offer the opportunity to get involved in supporting the local environment and community, and budding chefs will know about the growing influence of Peruvian cuisine, including the famous ceviche.
Other South American gap year destinations worth considering include Brazil (for carnivals and a similar variety of geography to Argentina), Ecuador and Mexico.
For an alternative fast-growing economy, China has a range of working and leisure attractions for gap year holidays. The 13,000 mile Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Terracotta Warriors, the cities of Beijing and Shanghai and booming technology industries all provide reasons to experience the country for a year.
The beauty of Malaysia is partly down to the mixture of Chinese, Indian and local Malay culture, and the influence of being en route to Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. The country comprises of the peninsula of the Asian mainland and the island of Borneo 600 miles away in the South China Sea. This provides the contrast between the futuristic city of Kuala Lumpur and the rainforests, providing something for everyone.
The cheap cost of living and historical significance both play a part in Vietnam as a gap year destination. Less touristy than Thailand, you can experience both big city life, and more rural settings. Picturesque beaches and opportunities for TEFL English teaching are also reasons to rate Vietnam highly as a potential destination.
Tourism is a major source of income, and there is a wide range of hostels in Thailand. A large number of travelers also means a good chance of making new friends.
While traveling in Asia, Cambodia is also worth considering for a visit or longer stay to discover a newly opened culture and the world’s largest religious building at Angkor Wat. At the other end of the economic spectrum is Japan with the technological advances of Tokyo, the temples and shrines of Kyoto and the nightlife of Osaka. Bordered by both India and China, Nepal includes eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest.
Spectacular landscapes and the chance to take part in a wide range of conservation projects make South Africa a popular choice. Sport coaching programs are also a popular option for the more athletic gap year volunteer, and there are chances to try something new including cage-diving with sharks, kayaking, white water rafting, and surfing. Not forgetting wildlife safaris.
The East African country of Tanzania includes Serengeti National Park, the tropical island of Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro. Meanwhile, Zambia boasts the Zambezi River and famous Victoria Falls.
It seems strange to summarise an entire continent, but the EU member states currently offer the attraction of easy travel and working arrangements. The long tradition of student Inter-rail trips is easily maintained and overnight trains save you the cost of lodging for an evening.
While Western Europe has familiar attractions and languages, heading further east offers a lower cost of living and more varied experience. Poland has a large demand for TEFL English teachers, with dense forests and beaches on the northern coast, while further to the south, Croatia and Bulgaria mix Mediterranean weather with history and culture.
Whichever countries you wish to visit, it’s never been easier to have a wonderful gap year experience. Before you go, it’s important to ensure you’ve organized your finances, any required visas, and travel insurance – annual cover is unlikely to be suitable for Gap yearing and you need a dedicated policy.
And while you’re living abroad for a year, don’t think you need to take absolutely everything with you. The less you pack, the easier traveling will be, and you can always survive with fewer changes of clothes than you would imagine.
With so many places to visit, and many of them bordering each other, the biggest challenge will be narrowing down how many exciting new countries you can pack into just 12 months!