• Posted:Thursday, December 18, 2014
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The Most Important Things to Ask Yourself before Planning a Gap Year

Posted in: Travel Tips
The Most Important Things to Ask Yourself before Planning a Gap Year

Taking a gap year is an important decision and thinking about it seriously may be the key to whether it is a successful one. Follow these steps and you will be equipped to have the best year of your life.

Why should you take a gap year at all?

There are many reasons why someone would want to take a gap year but it's important you know why you are doing it as it can mean putting other things on hold. Taking a gap year to travel or work abroad can have a positive impact on you in terms of independence, learning different cultures and being aware of how other people in the world live.

Where can you go?

The world is your oyster here! Is there any one place you have always dreamt of going one day or are you open to travelling the whole world?

  • Europe

Europe is a good place to travel as you can see so many countries very easily. From Ireland it is a short flight to Britain or straight to mainland Europe to The Netherlands, France or Germany, among others. From these countries you can drive, fly, bus or inter-rail your way around from one country to the next, covering so many destinations.

  • Africa

If you are an animal lover, Africa may be your choice of destination. With so much wildlife and nature to see, you will come back with memories to last forever. Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia are some of the best places for seeing the 'big five'. If you are a city lover, Cape Town is great for young people and you can take a trip out to Cape Point, surfing areas like Kommetjie or go wine tasting in Stellenbosch.

  • Americas

South America may be easier on your pocket but you can still take in some of North America if you budget wisely. With South America, you have a choice of countries to travel through from the carnivals in Brazil all the way across to penguins in Chile or further again out to Easter Island.

  • Asia

Covering some huge countries, you could take a lot of time to see all of Asia. Starting in India with amazing colour and spice, you can then move on to some 'smaller' countries like Thailand for beautiful beaches and full moon parties, or Cambodia and Vietnam to learn about the history these countries have experienced.

  • Australasia

If you're an adrenaline junkie, New Zealand might the place you want to see for part of your trip. Some activities include sky-diving, zorbing, paragliding, taking a bungee jump....and more! With travelling on your gap year you will meet so many other like-minded people, and none more so than in Australia. The Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns may be top of your list, while taking in the Great Barrier Reef along the way, but there so much else to see in this huge country as well.

How can you be smart with your money?

Barter or haggle where you can - especially in South America or Asia. Market traders especially expect you to do this so don't be afraid - once you do it the first time, there will be no stopping you after that.

Don't just go for food that you recognise from home. Immerse yourself in the local culture and try their cuisine - it will be so much cheaper. Just be aware where you are buying the food from and ensure things are cooked properly and fruit is washed before eating. Eat a proper meal rather than snacking over the day - you will be surprised how much money this saves you.

Drink local beers as buying the imported ones that you drink at home will always cost more. And stay active - even if it's walking, reading a book or lying on the beach. When you are bored you will probably spend money. With transport, try and use the local buses or trains where possible. Taxis could take advantage when they know you are a tourist, but if you do need a taxi then try to agree a price before reaching the destination.

What other things should you think about?

These are simple things and should be done before you actually set off!

Buy a good back pack that you are comfortable carrying when filled to capacity. And make sure you pack at least one of each staple item like trainers, a pair of long trousers, shorts, long sleeved and short sleeved top, jacket etc. It's good to have at least one items for all weathers.

Make sure you have a valid passport soreted out, visa information in good time and an international driving licence so you can drive in different countries. Make sure you know the rules of the road in the country you want to drive in before setting off.

Make sure you get the correct vaccinations for each country you are visiting and in good time. Some need to be done over a period of a few months so make sure you get them as soon as you know you are heading off. Bring any medication in your hand luggage to help with upset stomachs or allergies and always make sure you have the right travel insurance to cover you. You may never need it but it is something that's best to have, than not.

Adaptors, ear plugs, phone, money and of course a camera to capture all the moments are a must.

Most of all, enjoy your gap year wherever you decide to go - it will leave you with most wonderful memories of your life!

Siobhan Maguire is a budding journalist studying at the University of Salford in Manchester. A well-seasoned traveller, she blogs at A Girl Gets on a Bus, and you can follow her Twitter here.

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