Student gap year travel tips
So, you've decided to take a gap year before starting the next phase of your education, and like millions of other young people around the world, you're busy planning your great escape.
Here are ten tips to keep you focussed and help you prepare for that incredible year ahead:
1. How are you with people – think about whether travelling alone or with friends is best for you.
Deciding to head away for a gap year isn't just about where and when; think carefully about who you'll be travelling with, if anyone. If you're confident about travelling alone you'll be able to pick and choose how and when you travel, without worrying about other people in your party. You'll most likely meet other solo travellers, and might even decide to head somewhere together. If you're going with others, you'll have the support of each other, you'll be able to share some costs (travel, food, accommodation), but you need to be able to get along well!
2. What are your intentions – adventure/learning/working?
Gap years don't have to last 12 months. Some people travel for a month, some for six months, but whatever your plans, be sure of what you want to get out of your time away. Are you a thrill-seeker? Do you want to experience new cultures and immerse yourself in a completely different way of life? Do you want to volunteer and help give back to communities in need? Think carefully about the reason for your gap year, and make sure you plan to do something that will really do it justice.
3. Pack the correct travel adapters and chargers.
As exciting as it is to be jetting off somewhere new for your gap year, remember to keep your practical head on! Research is key, and finding out as much as you can about your destination will stand you in good stead for your arrival. You can be caught out by even the smallest of things, like what plug points are used in your destination country – remember to check what travel adapters you need, and take a few. It's also worth buying a portable mobile phone charger to use when you're out and about.
4. Use a mobile phone network that’ll allow you to receive calls internationally.
You'll no doubt want to phone home at some point, or keep in touch with friends, but depending on your destination, calls and texts can be prohibitively expensive. Check with your operator before you leave – there are plenty of add-ons that could save you money on calls, or consider picking up a sim card locally and taking a cheap handset with you, rather than taking your expensive phone away!
5. Don’t rush beforehand; take the time to plan everything correctly.
However long your trip might be, you're most likely only planning on taking a gap year once in your life, so be sure to plan everything as much as you can! You don't need to plan for every day of the trip, but being prepared for the first few days of your journey will help you adjust to your new surroundings. Once you've chosen a destination, take time to enjoy the planning and preparation – it's all part of the fun.
6. Stay open to suggestions whilst travelling – only make loose plans before.
All that planning and preparation will certainly help you ease your way into the gap year lifestyle, but also be prepared to change and adapt your travel plans as you go. You might decide that your destination isn't all you thought it would be, or that you want to move on earlier than planned. Meeting other travellers on the road might mean you change your plans and head somewhere new together, or on hearing tales of other exiting places from fellow travellers, you might just want to head for somewhere different.
7. Take half the luggage you think you need and twice the amount of money.
Packing light is essential for a long gap year trip, especially if, like most others, you decide to backpack your way around. If you're staying in hostels, why not make use of their laundry facilities? It'll mean you can take less with you. Taking fewer clothes will mean less weight to drag around, and your back and arms will be thankful. Don't forget you could always pack light and look out for local markets to buy clothing while you're away.
8. Get gap year travel and health insurance, and keep the details in a secure email account.
You'll definitely want to be insured while you're away, and gap year insurance is perfect for peace of mind that your possessions and health are covered. Gap year insurance is designed to cover you for the entire duration of your trip (i.e. 12 months), rather than a regular annual insurance policy, that usually only covers single trips for up to 30 or 60 days. Losing your prized possessions while away – or even worse, needing medical care – can be a costly and upsetting experience, so make sure you budget for insurance before you leave.
9. Ensure you have all the correct documentation required for each place.
If you're travelling to multiple countries on your gap year, you'll want to prepare as much paperwork in advance as you possibly can. Check out all the Visa requirements, book in for your jabs if necessary, and ensure that your passport is well within date. The UK FCO website lists entry requirements for countries around the world, and you'd be wise to check it before you leave!
10. Check the laws of each place before you visit as you don’t want to unintentionally break them. Girls should check the laws for women in each country too.
Local customs differ in every country, and while something you do or say might seem innocuous to you and your friends back home, you could be causing great offence in your new destination. Anything from how you dress, to even giving a thumbs-up can cause offence in certain countries, so make sure you take time to learn as much as you can about the people and the place you're visiting!