Gap year travel

A gap year is an extended break that some people take at a life transition, such as between studies, between study and work, or between careers.

There's no need for such a trip to be precisely a year, of course, but a year is a typical length of time for people who have just finished secondary school: they typically have to delay university entrance for a year to take the time off. Some of the same principles can be applied to just a summer between school and college, or any extended break "between jobs".

This article discusses options for low budget long-term travel of the type that a gap year traveller might be interested in. See Volunteer travel and Working abroad for more general but related discussion.


Pre-departure planning is important. No matter how much you plan for the trip there may be instances where you have to throw all the planning out the window. However, there are certain things you should watch for and plan for:


Check with the appropriate consulate or embassy in your country to find out if you will need a visa to visit the country of your destination, especially for an extended period of time. Some countries have extremely detailed and complicated entry/departure laws, and treat visits of a week or two very differently from longer stays. IATA Visa Database , provided by Delta, is an excellent place to check whether you need a visa or not.


Itineraries are important for two people: the traveler and the traveler's family. Some parents will be more supportive of allowing their son or daughter to go abroad if they know where they'll be. An itinerary may be helpful in the event that an emergency happens and somebody needs to contact you while you're away, and helps to satisfy a parent's instinctive need to know where their children are. An itinerary describes the route of the journey or tour or the proposed outline of one.


If you're traveling to one area, check the cost of living there. If it's high you'll probably want to budget more carefully and save some money before leaving. The lower the cost of living the less you'll have to save, but be sure to have a back up reserve in emergency cases.

Consider opening a second account in your home country and allow your parents or a close relative to have access to the account. In the event that you have to come home early they can withdraw money from the account, which can be used to purchase a return ticket for you.

Get in and around

If your gap year is going to involve several stops in several different countries and continents, you should look into the many budget tickets designed for long term travel. Gap year travellers are often referred to as backpackers and will often receive discounted travel. Examples include:

By plane

Open ended return tickets allow you to come home at any time within a given period (often a year, sometimes six months, rarely 60 days.) They're generally more expensive than regular discount round-trip tickets, but genrally much cheaper than a fully-flexible/refundable round trip (or two one ways, except on some routes where there are the inflexible discount one-ways.)

Open-jaw tickets allow you to return from a different city than the one you flew into, and may be worth saving you the cost and time of returning to the city you started in; fares will be highly variable - in the best case, the cost will be in essence the average of two discount round trips, in the worst it will be comparable to two one-way tickets. It always pays to check for yourself in these cases.

If your travel plans are more ambitious than that, round the world flights might fit your needs.

By train

Long term train tickets aimed at backpackers and travelers. Sometimes these will let you travel more cheaply than any local fares. Examples include the Eurail pass in Europe, the Backpacker rail pass in Australia, and for travelers in North America, see Rail travel in North America.


A long trip may be impossible to save for in advance. Often gap year travelers want to support their journey by taking work, often of a low-skilled and/or intermittent nature. Unfortunately, working in other countries often requires a work visa. Typically these are onerous for gap year travelers: you need to find an employer to apply for the visa, the visa is expensive, and the employer must show that they cannot hire someone with your skills locally. The work visa will be tied to your term at that employer. However, there are some visa schemes and work schemes that cater specifically to those who are looking for a job to support their travel.

If you are a citizen of certain countries, you can work in some other countries without needing a visa at all:

Gap year travelers who are under 35 should look into working holiday visa arrangements where you can go to a country for a certain period of time, often 12 months and sometimes up to 24, and work intermittently. The intention of the visa is that you work to fund your trip, and there will typically be restrictions on your working including: not working for more than a certain amount of time during the visa period, not working for any one employer for a long period, working only in specified industries and sometimes not working in jobs that further your career path.

These are typically reciprocal arrangements: your country will offer visas of this sort to citizens of certain other countries and those other countries will do the same for you. Hence it is best to check with your own country's foreign affairs officials to see if you have reciprocal visas, and if so, with which countries.

See Working abroad for suggested employers and industries, Teaching English for one type of job, and Volunteer for volunteer opportunities.


An increasingly more popular option for those planning a gap-year is to travel and learn. This is especially popular with school leavers, allowing them to take a year out before university, without compromising their education. In many cases, enrolling on a gap-year course abroad can actually improve your chances of moving into higher education back in your home country. Typically there will be a tuition fee to enroll in these educational programs. There are two reasons for this: firstly, many of these courses are run by private institutions, and secondly, because international students rarely attract government funding.

There are a number of organisations offering gap year educational programmes. A few of these include:


It is every traveler's dream to take an extended trip - whether it's three months in Europe or a year of around the world adventures. The first thing to realize when considering a long trip is that travel can be hard work. A trip isn't the same as a vacation and can often be more taxing than the work or school that you're leaving behind. A long trip can involve dozens of new places or an extended stay in just one or two. In either case there will be the daily challenges of functioning in a new environment. Things as simple as buying a bus ticket or fresh vegetables at the grocery store need to be relearned - often again and again.

Before you go

On the road

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.