With recent news that employers expect over 70 graduates to apply for every new job vacancy, heading away for a gap year may be an increasingly attractive option for this year’s new graduates and those simply looking to take a career break. When you’re choosing your gap year destination, there’s lots to think about. You have to think about whether you want to go somewhere that feels reasonably familiar, perhaps where they speak the same language, or whether you want to go somewhere that feels very foreign so you can experience an entirely different culture.
If money is tight, you need to think about where your budget will stretch furthest, or where you might be able to get paid work to help pay for it all. Safety is also an issue, even if you’re travelling in a group. Do some research before you go and find out how to travel safely. Some countries have more risks than others, but simple precautions can mean you remember your experience for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
Here are some of our top gap year picks – a mix of some of the most popular favourites as well as some more unusual and exotic locations off the beaten track – don’t let the bugs bite!
Depending on what you’re looking for, there is something for everyone out there!
Thailand Thailand’s stunning beaches are massively popular with young people, who jump on flights to Bangkok in huge numbers to take advantage of its great value food, accommodation, clear blue seas and party atmosphere. Thailand offers some spectacular and varied gap year options, from earning your scuba diving badges to working with wild animals such as monkeys and elephants. Many rural provinces are also looking for teaching volunteers to work across all age groups.
Australia When you arrive in Australia you’ll probably have flown into Sydney or Melbourne, where you’ll have a decent chance of finding at least a part-time job. However, the vast expanses of rural Australia can be a peaceful alternative to the cities, with deserts, coral reef and water sports among the activities you can indulge in. If learning to surf isn’t your thing, you could head to the Outback for some ranch training or work in a Koala sanctuary. With a great range of deals on flights to Australia, why not escape down under for a while?
Hong Kong The city where East meets West in super-cool style, Hong Kong has a unique flavour and plenty of internship and work experience opportunities available across industries such as finance and tourism. Flights to Hong Kong are not only the gateway to this exciting city but also the islands beyond, such as the beautiful Lantau where you can take part in a range of water sports. Another island off the coast of Hong Kong, Macau, is the gambling capital of Asia and also home to some lovely Portugese-influenced cobbled streets, the site of the first European enclave in Asia.
China Steeped in a unique and ancient history, modern China is now a powerhouse of 21st century industry and still a cheap destination outside of the main cities. There are many interesting teaching opportunities available across both urban and rural China, and if you fancy learning Mandarin you could plan a long stay here combining your studies with teaching English. Venturing across the Great Wall of China is another great way to explore the country, or spend some time at a Buddhist retreat for a more spiritual experience.
Venezuela For an exciting and alternative gap-year experience, why not head to South America and learn Spanish? You’ll be the envy of your friends after this adventurous trip, and it won’t cost the earth either. Venezuela is located in the North-east corner of the continent, benefitting from the Carribean Sea to the North and the dense jungle further South. Spend a few months by the beach learning Spanish and kayaking before taking a trip into the Orinoco Delta, an area of rainforest home to some spectacular wildlife – including one of the world’s most powerful birds of prey, the monkey-eating eagle. Venezuela is also home to the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls, which stands almost 1km high. The incredible boat journey through the rainforest justifies the trip to Angel Falls in itself.
A true travel author, Jon loves nothing more than taking exciting journeys across the globe waiting for the next piece..