10 Top Tips to consider when planning your Gap Year

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Sports coaching in South Africa

Assuming that you have already either chosen between the  “random travel” or “work on a volunteer placement with a charity overseas” options (or a combination of both?), here are the most important points you should consider when planning a gap year or career break overseas:

1.    What is your budget?  Most important factor that really determines everything else.

2.    Once you have chosen the country (or countries) you want to visit, what is the maximum number of weeks you are allowed to stay on a Tourist Visa?

3.    How much will your flights and any other travel cost?  It’s always best to pay for these up front as it gives you a time framework to go by.  Flights are generally available to buy 11 months before the date you want to travel and are generally cheaper then.  If you don’t mind an extended flight via some other city, then you can make savings with a last minute bargain but will arrive very tired!

4.    If your accommodation is not included, then book and pay for this in advance.

5.    As soon as you have committed to your plans and made a downpayment, take out Travel Insurance.  It may seem a little early but should you need to cancel before you go for an unforeseen reason, then you may be covered.  Travel Insurance is a “must-have” for any overseas travel and make sure you are covered for all the usual, in particular medical expenses, repatriation, cancellation and curtailment and if you are participating in any extreme sports, such as bungee jumping,  get cover for this too.  If you are not booking a “package”, like say for an all-inclusive volunteer package that includes airport transfers, accommodation,food, transport to your placements/etc, then check with your Travel Insurance Company that you will be covered for booking things individually.

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India – Holi time – volunteering as an English teacher in a school and boys home


6.   Vaccinations – Go as soon as you can to visit your local travel nurse and discuss where you are going and see if you need any new vaccinations, boosters or malaria tablets.  There may be a cost for any jabs and also for malaria tablets but this is a very important part of your travel planning.  You can get advice from the following website http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk

7.    Passport – you should check the expiry date on your passport and make sure it will not expire whilst you are abroad.  Make sure you have more than 6 months before expiry on entry.  You can check with a site like  http://www.projectvisa.com  for information about whether or not you will need a visa before you go and bare in mind there may be a cost for this.  If the country that you are visiting will give you a visa on arrival, make sure you have plenty of empty pages and in the case of South Africa, a double blank page or they may refuse you entry!

8.    How will you access your money?  ATMs are very popular overseas and you should always go into your local bank before you travel and notify them you are going overseas listing the dates and countries to visit.  However, this is no guarantee that they will not stop your card if they are suspicious about the use of your card.  A money card is a good thing to have as a back up and be kept in a separate location to your usual bank card.  Thirdly, I would also recommend taking a credit card to be used solely for emergencies and again, kept in a separate location so you don’t lose all your access to money if you get mugged.

9.    If you have a contract phone, best leave this at home because chances are you may lose it or have it stolen. The easiest thing to do is to take a cheap pay-as-you-go phone and on arrival in the country you are visiting, buy a local sim card and top-up  vouchers. If you can get one that does photos too, then it will save you taking a separate camera.    For internet, it’s always fun to go to the local internet cafes and relatively cheap to pick up your messages and catch up on Facebook.

10.  If you have an emergency when abroad, who will you contact?  Make sure you have details of the local British Embassy or High Commission.  This is always a problem for gappies travelling around randomly – when things go wrong – and they often do – they do not have the safety net that someone who is staying with a local charity has.

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(marine conservation in Mozambique – snorkelling on the ocean safaris to photo and video the whale sharks)


If you are interested in volunteering on one of our projects abroad, please look at our website www.volunteervacations.co.uk 

and drop us an email to:  info@volunteervacations.co.uk

or give us a ring on 07833 208 158

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