Want further information on each country, you will find it here.
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When you think of Africa you probably think of safaris and the ´Big 5´ (and possibly Nigerian email scams). But what about the Xtreme Gap Big 5? Get ready for the world´s highest bungy jump, sky diving, Table Mountain abseil, shark diving and Kilimanjaro climb. Actually, that´s just the beginning – we have far more than 5 crazy, once-in-a-lifetime things for you to do on this diverse continent of vast open spaces and rugged beauty. You may be addicted to that rush of adrenaline, get a thrill from being up close and personal with wild animals or love to spend most of your time in the water \” whatever gets you going, we´ve got it!
We have trips available in no less than 9 countries, including Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa. If you want to learn a new skill or get involved with the locals (human or animal) then you can choose one of our conservation experiences or training courses, such as the Big Cat Conservation Project in Namibia, the Kruger to Coast Adventure or the Safari Guide Training. On the other hand, you might be the ideal candidate for the Cape Town Adrenaline Overload, but which level are you game for \” hard, double hard or the ´born without a fear gene´ mentalist level? Sick bags can be provided, but the other end is your problem!
With the range of trips we have, you can choose to take one big one or combine a number of smaller ones. Tell us how much time you´ve got, what you want to do and what your budget is and we´ll give you the best options. What would you rather be doing in 6 months \” sitting in a boring office staring out at the rain or learning to track lions, coming face-to-face with a Great White or just chilling out on a white sand Indian Ocean beach?
Botswana is rich in its wildlife, boasts interesting terrain, and is one of the wealthiest countries in South Africa. If you´re thinking that this sounds like your ideal gap-year destination, you´d be right. Except for one thing. Botswana is also one of the most expensive countries in South Africa \” so it´s not exactly ideal if you´re planning a gap year on a budget. But never fear! This article contains some clever little tips on getting to Botswana, having a great time while you´re there, and seeing all the sights, while on a student´s budget!
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Although Botswana´s main airport is the Ser Seretse Khama International Airport, about 15 kilometers outside of the capital, Gaborone, tourists tend to use the Maun and Kasane Airports. To keep your costs low, try to avoid the busiest times of May through August. When you arrive in Botswana, you should receive a 30-day entrance stamp. You can extend this period of time to three months, but only with proof that you have enough money to support you for this time \” and as you´re on a budget, extending the duration of your stay may not be the best idea!
Of course, you´ll need a place to stay. Your cheapest option is to use youth hostels – there are many of these throughout Botswana, and prices in Gaborone can be as low as $10 per night. If you´re determined to use a hotel though, always avoid such amenities as bathtubs – choose a room with a shower instead. And we´ll say it again \” avoid May through August to keep prices down!
If you´re planning to do a lot of travelling, your first thought may be to hire a car. However, this can be as expensive as $100 per day, so you may have to rethink this depending on your budget, and there are other ways to get around. Public transport is available, but is usually limited to main routes between towns and around cities, and can be unpredictable. Another option is hitch-hiking, which is safe and common on main routes and highways around Botswana. Drivers will expect you to pay, and are generally happy with the bus fare of the route you want to take, but discuss this before you hitch a ride with them. Botswana´s terrain can be difficult, as around 85% of Botswana is made up sandy valleys, and there are many sandy miles between towns, so if you´re planning on hitch-hiking, then make sure that you have camping equipment and enough food for around three days.
Finally, the main attraction for travelers to South Africa is generally the wildlife. The main sites for getting up close and personal with the Big Five (that´s lions, leopards, elephants, black rhinos and buffalo) are the Chobe National Park and the Moremi Game Reserve.
Mix the old with the new in Mozambique
An up and coming destination in Africa, Mozambique isn´t going to disappoint on your gap year. The beaches are stunning and the diving exhilarating! There has never been a better time to visit Mozambique on your gap year than now. You can go snorkelling around the Bazaruto Archipelago which you will not be able to do anywhere else. You will also be able to go sailing on a dhow and laze under palm trees. It is the great mixture of excitement and relaxation that makes Mozambique the perfect getaway on your gap year.
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Safaris are also available to take part in when you visit Mozambique. The Gorongosa National Park is the best place to do this. Here are the best examples of wildlife that Mozambique has to offer to you. You will also be able to walk on the cobbled streets on IIha de Mocambuque which is going to offer you a completely different experience to the safari. There are also lively sidewalk cafes at Maputo that can offer you the urban sides of Africa and how the country is developing as a whole.
There are going to be different aspects that you find moat appealing, but you can be sure that there is going to be something for you. With music and jazz bars dotted around the urban areas, there is going to be something that will take your fancy when you are enjoying a night out.
Luxuries such as these are new to visitors, so ensuring that you make the most out what is available to you is going to give you the best experience possible. Being able to experience the beautiful animals and different lifestyles is what Mozambique is all about. It is quickly becoming one of the most popular places to visit whilst you are a gap year student. You are able to do volunteer work in schools and orphanages, by helping to build them and teach in them. You will also have accommodation that will meet your requirements and everything that you will need to feel at home.
There has never been a better time to visit Mozambique. With the new urban areas, you are never going to get bored during the night time, and there is regular access to the internet if you are going to need it. It is reasons like this that have made Mozambique ideal as you are not going to get homesick or bored.
Take advantage of the amazing experiences that you can have in Africa. See animals that you have never seen before and experience the local culture and music in bars, cafes and villages. Being a gap year student needn´t be difficult, you will have all of your home comforts and be able to know that you are making a valuable different in many peoples´ lives whilst you are away. Mozambique is a place that you will visit and want to return to, there is no doubt about that! So make sure that you take this chance to have an experience of a lifetime
With an eclectic mix of Middle Eastern, Moorish, Mediterranean, Berber and African cultures, Morocco is a melting pot of interesting cultural influences, from north, south and east. Traveling through Morocco is a sensory treat, as colors, sounds, smells and textures encompass you in energetic bubble of rich experiences.
From the bustling and colorful souks of Marrakech, to epic desert treks through the Sahara or surfing impressive waves on the coast, there is a wide and varied appeal to Morocco for the young enthusiastic traveler.
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You´re point of arrival will most likely be Marrakech (or Marrakesh). Whether you´re heading west to the Atlantic coast to ride some waves, or you´re traveling east for a Saharan adventure, you should definitely spend a day or two in Marrakech first. The energy of this city, especially within the walls of medina is unlike any other place in the world. Evenings inside this square need to be experienced to be understood. The non-stop activity of the medina is amplified by hundreds of motorbikes, weaving their way between shoppers, vendors and startled tourists.
Make sure to visit the infamous souks (markets) of Marrakech. Expect lots of noise, bargaining, invitations for sweet green mint tea and potentially buying 5 or 6 embellished carpets, that you didn´t realize you ´needed´!
However, once the intensity of Marrakech gets too much, there are plenty ofchilled out beach towns on the coast to retreat to, with great waves and a mellow atmosphere. Essaouria is an increasingly popular destination for young surfers and backpackers. With its beautiful beach and ancient castle, it has the perfect mix of old-world charm and modern appeal. Agadir also attracts lots of travelers each year, and its tourism scene is much more built up that Essaouria. Other popular tourist cities in Morocco include Fez and Casablanca, which can all be reached by bus.
As Morocco is a Muslim country, alcohol is pretty hard to come by, as is pork. If you´re really determined, you can find some at the back of certain supermarkets but there is a limited choice; usually local beer. Instead, Moroccans drink a lot of sweet mint green tea. It is also normal to eat with your hands in Morocco, using the bread as a scoop in which to assist yourself. Due to the Muslim religion, women should be advised to dress modestly and appropriately, although be reassured that the majority of Moroccan people are very respectful and friendly.
Don´t forget about the call to prayer, which is proclaimed several times a day in Morocco. If you don´t want to be woken every day at 5:45am, you should consider the location of your accommodation, in relation to the nearest minaret.
The official language in Morocco is Moroccan Arabic and Berber, however you will find that most people also speak French and some people will even speak English. The currency is the dirham, written as ´dh´.
Morocco really has something for everyone; desert treks, mountain hiking, beach towns, busy markets, amazing shopping and cheap travel. Travel services and facilities are continually improving and travel within the country gets easier all the time. So dip your toes into African travel, with a Moroccan adventure that you´ll never forget.
Namibia \” a Country of Contrasts
Namibia has potentially the most diverse wildlife population and landscape in South Africa. Its Western border with the Atlantic ocean is a complete contrast to its borders with countries such as Botswana, where dry-season temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius, while the difference between the luxurious, historic buildings and the beautiful natural scenery means that your gap-year in Namibia will really be unforgettable.
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Namibia´s main airports are theChief Hosea Kutako International Airport and the Eros Airport. When you arrive in Namibia, you will be allowed a 90-day stay without a visa, if you have a US passport. And, while 90 days sounds like a long time, once you are in Namibia, you´ll find it just isn´t long enough!
If you need a break to regenerate and unwind, you could choose to spend your time in Namibia in pure luxury. The capital, Windhoek, boasts a Hilton Hotel \” so you know that Namibia can provide you with unmatched comfort. If you´re planning on immersing yourself in Namibia´s history, then the Titenpalast and the Goerk Haus should be on your must-see list \” and don´t forget the camera, as these beautiful buildings really deserve a page or two in your gap-year scrapbook! Then, why not take a dip in the hot springs of Fish River National Park, overlooking the Fish River Canyon? These bubbling geysers are thought to have medicinal properties, so you can return from your gap-year feeling refreshed and revitalised! Finally, you could end your day of history and culture in one of a variety of restaurants \” Windhoek alone contains traditional African, Portuguese, German and seafood restaurants, English pubs and even the â€œDial-A-Mealâ€ company, so that if you´re just too tired after a hard day of taking in the beautiful sights of Namibia, you can get a meal delivered straight to your door!
Or maybe, you´d rather have a more adventurous, action packed gap-year? If that sounds like you, then Namibia is your perfect destination. Why not hire a four wheel drive and take a trip to the Etosha National Park, to witness lions, ostriches and zebras in the flesh? There are many campsites within the Etosha National Park, so you could spend your nights under the stars, truly at one with nature. The Etosha National Park is also home to the so-called Haunted Forest, famous for its upside-down Moringa trees \” so if the forest doesn´t frighten you too much, you´ve got the chance to capture some really unique photos! A trip to the West coast of Namibia could provide one of the most unexpected experiences of your life, as penguins and seals are its natural inhabitants, due to the icy Atlantic ocean currents.
Maybe this all sounds too good to be true, and it nearly is, as Namibia is the only place on Earth to offer such diverse and contrasting experiences. If you´re looking for a really remarkable gap year to boast about when you get home, then Namibia should be your first choice. Be safe and have fun!
Discover the diversity of South Africa
For those looking to experience a gap year involving copious amounts of diversity, South Africa is ideal. With its lively culture resounding in the popular cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban paired with the stunning views to be seen away from the well worn track, South Africa sits high on the ´places to visit´ list. Whether you are travelling in a group, with a partner or alone, there are plenty of activities to delve into in order to make the most of your gap year experience. South Africa retains its title as being the world´s most epic continent through the diversity in terrain, unable to be recorded in order to portray the magnificence seen within this country. The best way to understand the sheer variety within this country is to explore yourself.
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Away from the bustle of the city, you can visit the deserted Kalahari in order to see the pattern of wildflowers lacing the landscape. The Drakensburg Mountains offer a breathtaking view for those wishing to embark upon peaceful meditation. The steep cliffs that loom over deep ravines create a striking and vivid background for a gentle hike \” an opportunity not to be missed. For those on a limited budget, the Mountains are arguably a living museum with no admission fee! Examples of well preserved rocks can be found here, many of which are thousands of years old. Become part of South Africa´s history by visiting this beautiful scenery.
Most of us can only dream of visiting the Kruger National Park, where the wildlife stalked savannah is home to an abundance of animals. The National Park becomes ever more well known each day thanks to the scene of the famous lion-buffalo-crocodile battle that has now been watched over 40 million times on YouTube. If this is not wild enough for you, zebras and dolphins can be seen in the Wetland Parks to the east of South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal´s iSimangaliso Park.
After a day enveloping yourself in the wildlife associated with South Africa, an altogether different type of wildlife is able to be discovered. Gap Years are there for the enjoyment, and what better way to enjoy yourself than to return to the city and hit the nightclubs in Cape Town. Another way to end the day is to sample African homebrew in an unlicensed bar or township shebeen. At the end of your time in South Africa, reflect upon your experiences over a seafood meal on the Garden Route, a curry in Durban´s Indian Area or a braii (barbeque) in the wilderness for one final time. Accompany your tales of your adventure with a bottle of pinotage produced within the country; one of the oldest wine industries outside of Europe.
South Africans are renowned for being friendly and welcoming; excited to share the magic of their culture with you. Everywhere you go you will hear the cheerful greeting, as people wish you ´molo´ \” good morning in Xhosa. Spend your gap year in South Africa in order to experience a once in a life time opportunity.
A Taste of Tanzania
Each name within the country of Tanzania resonates within the mind and implies the exciting and exhilarating adventures that come hand in hand with a gap year spent within the country. With each new fact learnt about Tanzania comes yet another reason to start packing your suitcase in order to begin your exploration into one of the wildest countries available for discovery.
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Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar are just a few of the places that provide a background for each amazing adventure to be encountered in Tanzania. Within all but a short few hours, it is possible to find yourself exploring the ruins of ancient Swahili cities that sits with its history preserved by a thick layer of moss that trickles down the sides of each building. When tired, one can casually rest on the idyllic beaches that border the magical country, in order to prepare for the next adventure of climbing the mist-covered slopes in the Highlands. After a spot of lunch, the exploration continues through the barren expanse of Ol Doinyo Lengai, led by a Maasai warrior and his equally admirable spear that strides alongside him.
Despite many attractions, Tanzania still remains to be one of the most low key countries. Untouched by rivalries and political debates and upheavals, Tanzania is a perfect place to avoid busy city life and meditate upon a different viewpoint in life. This said, Tanzania is seen to have a booming tourism industry and so offers gap year students the chance to feel as if they are still in touch with the bustling atmosphere of life in England.
The extent as to how far removed from the society you get is completely up to you. If you feel that you are seeking creature comforts, it is possible for you to remain on the northern safari circuit where the main roads are sealed and plenty of hotels and restaurants can be found around each and every corner. Elsewhere, for the more adventurous, it is feasible to find yourself well away from the busy towns and cities as you wander well off the beaten path to find yourself encased in a Tanzania that is far removed from Western Development. This offers gap year students the perfect opportunity to have an experience that will travel with them throughout the rest of their life.
Throughout the country, any gap year student will be astonished as to the wide array of options for travellers. Each activity is set against a backdrop of a cultural puzzle, with each piece within over 100 ethnic groups fitting together in perfect harmony. Explore the shoreline of Lake Victoria and let the small fishing villages on tranquil islands sink into your memory. Then, after, descend deeper into the wilderness of Katavi to walk alongside buffaloes and hippos.
Wherever you choose to go in Tanzania, make sure that you make full advantage of the warmth of character seen within the people that live and work there. Their culture is acknowledged by many to be the most dignified and majestic cultures seen in the world, so allow this to surround you \” it is them that usually remain most prominent within the memory and are thought to be the highlight of any visit.
If there is one place that´s the golden boy, the Promised Land, the holy grail of today´s gap year circuit, it has to be here. The big daddy of Oceania, this cultural and geographical synthesis of mighty dust-sprung deserts, abandoned bush land, world famous rolling surf swells, meticulously engineered, slick and stylish cityscapes, party beaches, sleepless nightlife, kangaroos and cork swinging hats, Tim Tams and vegemite breakfasts, bush dwellers and billabongs, Australia is a modern mecca for backpackers with a taste for the wild and crazy, the fast-paced and energetic, the curious eccentricities of the natural world, or vibrant mixtures of culture, character and people afforded by this destination, coveted by travellers like no other….
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Stark natural formations, like the red desert bluff rises of Ayer´s Rock and Kata Tjuta in Australia´s Northern Territory, the kaleidoscope colour land of Queensland´s Great Barrier Reef (famously visible from space), the yellow, sun dried Pinnacles jutting from the dusty ground in the Nambung National Park, the Twelve Apostles of the Great Ocean Road, or the Three Sister peaks perched on the New South Wales skyline, make Australia sound more the stuff of fantasy novels or Sci-fi; a real and undeniable natural wonder like no other.
But what Australia can offer in natural wonder it can more than match in its human character. Famously welcoming and full of life, Australians love to mix, meet and party with cultures the world over, rendering their cities ever-changing centres of diversity, excitement, and, more often than not, youthful hedonism in excess. From the waterside view-rich, open-air bars of Sydney harbour, to the grassroots underground music venues of Melbourne, and the live band, rural drinking spots of Brisbane, the range of nightlife here is matched only by the variety of characters that populate its bars.
While the stuff of dreams for backpackers, Australia is the surfer´s only dream. With beach breaks and waves to match the reef swells of Bali or the Pacific islands, catering to all board styles – long, short, foam, paddle and wind \” the golden-sanded, sunny coastline of this continent is as varied as it is attractive. Whether it´s the tropical, dune backed coastline of Byron in the north, where hippy riders park up in their beat down, free-love VW campers, or the long board, point breaks of Noosa Heads on the sunshine Eastern coast, every facet, nook and cranny of shoreline in Australia oozes its own unique style, character and class.
With airports aplenty, and sitting well within the reach of the low-budget flight links with major stops in Southeast Asia, Australia has matured into an accessible traveller´s symbol of freedom, independence and fun. The coveted working visa has meant many a gap year has been spent entirely within the golden shores of this continent – working, living, travelling, exploring – rarely regretted and never fruitless.
While some countries are dramatically different from our own, meaning we need time to adjust to their cultures and traditions, New Zealand is a place where familiar home comforts meet an interesting, unique heritage. This means that it is the perfect place to begin your gap year, as it gently introduces you to new experiences, rather than shocking you with striking changes all at once. However, you may find that once you´ve spent time in New Zealand, you may not want to leave!
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Although the New Zealand weather is always changing, it´s also generally pleasant \” never too cold or too hot, and always providing plenty of fun things to do! The government is continually introducing measures to make the most of New Zealand´s natural climate and landscape, without destroying it. June through August sees picture-perfect snow, meaning that skiing and snow-boarding are popular, and if you enter New Zealand with the right qualifications, there are plenty of opportunities to teach these alpine sports. On both the North and the South islands, there is significantly more rainfall on the east side rather than the west, although there are rarely problems such as flooding because of this. On the other hand, November through April provides the perfect weather for hiking through some of New Zealand´s mountainous terrain, or even for trying your hand at the exciting sport of zorbing, so your gap-year will be completely action-packed!
Not only is there much to do in New Zealand, but there is also much to learn, as New Zealand´s historic Maori culture is interesting and easily accessible. There are plenty of museums and art galleries which display genuine Maori artifacts and modern replications, while there are also many energetic festivals, traditional tribal dances, and dynamic displays which keep the country´s historic traditions and culture alive. Very few countries can boast of respecting their roots in the way that New Zealand can, and surrounding yourself with a people so proud of their heritage is an interesting and inspiring way to spend your gap-year.
While New Zealand maintains its traditional ways of life, it is also very similar to countries such as America and Great Britain in many ways. There are an abundance of Italian, Spanish, Mexican and Chinese restaurants in towns and cities throughout the country, where New Zealand has welcomed and absorbed other cultures into its own. There is also a great deal of national emphasis on sports, particularly Rugby – despite New Zealand´s loss in 2007 World Cup, the country´s passion for the sport has not died, due to its role as the host of the 2011 tournament.
In short, New Zealand is home to a people passionate about their past, but equally as enthusiastic about their future, and, despite being immensely proud of their culture and heritage, they are also accepting of others, welcoming many different people from all over the world each year to join in their unique celebrations. Can you think of a better place to spend your gap-year?
Experience the beauty of Fiji
See the most amazing white sandy beaches, cloudless skies and palm trees when you visit the beautiful island of Fiji. Mamanuca and Yasawa are surrounded by the amazing clear blue seas that you won´t be able to see anywhere else. Island hoping the best way to have the full experience of Fiji, you will be able to experience the sheer natural beauty of the islands and the calm, slow paced way off life that it can offer to you.
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If you are after a quiet and exotic gap year, then you need not look any further than the Fiji islands. They have been a main holiday destination for years, and that is not going to change anytime soon. If you live in a busy city or town, then you can be sure that this is going to be best getaway that you could have asked for. You are not going to be rushed off your feet if you are doing work whilst on your gap year. The experience is going to be enjoyable and exciting. Teaching English in schools is the most common work that is available if you are going to be travelling to Fiji on your gap year.
With exotic cocktails and exiting beach bars, there is nothing not to like about Fiji. You can have a sun kissed glow without even trying. You will not need to be slumming it in an over crowded city or town which will no different to your life back home. You can spend hours and hour´s snorkelling and exploring the underwater scenery and see animals and species that you probably haven´t even heard of before! With volcanic islands also surrounding the area, you can occupy your time by exploring the natural environments and seeing how different it is to buildings and roads.
As you will be spending a lot of time in Fiji, you will be experiencing more than just the scenery, you will be experiencing the way of life. If you were to just go there for a holiday or short break you are not going to have the best experience possible. This is why Fiji is the ideal place for a gap year. What is more amazing than waking up to a white sandy beach with animals and trees scattered all over the area? This is something that you will not see anywhere else in the world.
Fiji is renowned for its calmness, but you can also experience the busier way of life with the main cities Suva and Lautoka. This is going to be a rare opportunity to get escape the beach resorts and see how the local people go about their daily routines and chores.
There is simply nothing not to love about the country. Each and every island is unique and magnificent. You can experience each and every one of them throughout your stay. Have the most amazing gap year possible and choose Fiji. Earn your keep by teaching and have an amazing affect on many peoples´ lives who you will remember for the rest of your life.
Over the last twenty years this land of bent palms and balmy waters has become a symbol of mystery and self-discovery, experience and exploration, high-life relaxation and unbridled hedonism, successfully securing its position as one of the gleaming gems of the gap year circuit; it´s now arguably the ´big daddy´ destination of Southeast Asia, with a cultural mixture so varied and unique, the backpacker can´t help but keep coming back for more.
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Stretching from the laid back, lush green, twisty tracked mountain vistas of the Burmese border hills in the north, where a dusty pink sun sets over Chiang Mai, or Mae Hon Son, while the curious hippy subculture of Rasta Buddhists, reggae loving Thais and ex-pat army vets strum guitars together in bamboo bars until the early hours, right to the silver sanded beaches of the Malaccan straight, and the warm watered diving meccas of the Thai Gulf, where face-painted party goers drain buckets under the clear, unclouded, full-moon night sky, this is a country as much about adventure and energy as it is about placidity and discovery, with a character so rich and different, it´s difficult to be left behind.
Last year Thailand received a record influx of 22 million tourists, most of which flew into the capital, Bangkok. An energetic and proudly full-on metropolis, rich with religious culture, from the colossal Wat Pho reclining golden Buddha, to the formidable, grey stepped, Wat Arun, Bangkok hums with human activity, and rarely sleeps. Whizzing Tuk Tuks weave through the traffic packed streets, while backpackers sip Chang and party late on Khaosan Road, fuelled by the delicious noodle concoctions of the street side vendors, just the tip of a dark and gaudy underbelly that has given Bangkok its name for hedonism and indulgence.
But, if this all sounds too much, you´re in the right place. Intensely Buddhist, Thailand is a centre of calm and relaxation, just as much as it is energy and action. There are sleepy temples vibrating with the steady hum of meditating priests, and no shortage of interesting, chilled-out villages that will get you away from the city hubbub of Bangkok.
While not the cheapest of Southeast Asia´s destinations, you can rest assured that value for money is one of the great pulls Thailand can offer. Generally speaking accommodation is very cheap, with the price of a budget guest-house ranging from 150 to 400 Thai Baht (5-10 USD), while a beer will set you back 40 to 60 Baht, depending on whether you want to risk the infamous ´Changover´ morning, drinking Thailand´s better value national beers.
Many visitors require a visa for entry to Thailand, while some will be granted tourist visas on arrival \” typically allowing them a month´s stay. Visa applications can be done in the airport, and it´s a good idea to have passport photos ready to make the process go smoothly. Once in, domestic travel is extremely easy, and the Thai tourist industry has developed well, with bus connections (called VIP bus services) to most major cities. You can also get interior flight connections to Krabi (a good gateway to the beautiful Andaman Coast in the south) and Chiang Mai (great for reaching chilled out Pai or into Laos in the North).
Mix the old with the new in China
Rich in history and modern technology, China makes for a different and exotic gap year. You can enjoy the hustle and bustle of exciting towns and cities such as shanghai to the large open spaces of Tibet. There is simply nothing that won´t take your fancy. You will be able to ensure that you are making the most out of your visit when you witness the very different ways of life and how people earn a living.
There is no question that the main attraction of China is the Great Wall of China itself. Seen from space, there is nothing quite so magnificent. Whether you have ways wanted to visit the wall or you can simply never even thought about it, you can be sure that it is not going to disappoint! Easy to get to by coach, you can also enjoy the surrounding scenery that will take your breath away. It is historic monuments such as the Great Wall which will remind you that China is not just important today, but it has been throughout history.
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You can experience both sides of Chinese life. In the busy towns and cities it is very much like any other country. There are people busily going to and from work, going out their daily routines and simply walking past each other. This is both exciting and interesting to experience when you are young. However, you are also able to visit the quieter villages and towns where people will stop and talk to you without knowing you. Here the way of life if very slow paced and work is very different. People work with what they have and how they can; it is experiences such as these that encourage you to take a gap year as you may not be able to visit such a diverse place again.
With the country divided between history and robots, it is sure to be a very surreal experience! You can learn about the oldest civilisations in history in one building, and see the technological developments in another nearby. It is the clear different between the old and new which makes China one of the most interesting places that you will ever visit.
Enjoy watching the local people live their lives in very different ways. It is guaranteed to be extremely differing to the town or city that you may call home. There will be many sights, good and bad, that you will see in China, and this is to open your eyes to the word. Work wise, you will be able to teach English in small schools and enjoy the youngsters who are the next generation for China as a country.
You are not going to be bored or unimpressed by such an intriguing country. Unlike anywhere else in the world, you will have the oldest examples of history combined with the newest advances in technology. Does it prove that China is becoming a world superpower, or is it all too good to be true? There´s only way to find out, and that´s if you choose China for your gap year.
India is the land of the sublime, prodigal in experiences and wild in character. It´s a country at once serene and restless, pumping with an energy and mystery that is found nowhere else on earth. From the golden beaches of Goa, where the diagonal palms of the sea-side treeline, cast shade on the scorching sand, to the soaring peaks of the Indian Himalayas, the doorstep of the Hindu Kush and heartlands of Asia beyond, this land of rice paddies, sand dunes and roaring rivers, is punctuated with sprawling metropolises that astonish and confound in equal measure.
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In the north, the River Ganges slices through the land, a throbbing artery of life in this nation of religious devotion and captivating mysticism. To Hindus this is the water of life, the quintessence of all sacred rivers. The energy that buzzes on every section of its banks \” both rural and urban- is echoed in the ebb and flow of the river, a veritable symbol of the Heraclitan flux that characterises the history and life of the Indian nation itself. Also in the north, at the head of this great nation, its capital, New Delhi, is a compounded fusion of Asian culture. Riddled with awesome temples, vast museum collections and a myriad of other cultural gems, the capital is scented with the coveted treasures of Indian cuisine, and energised with the full momentum of the Indian people. Here, the streets are crammed with traffic, and the markets overflow with custom; New Delhi is the New York of the East, never sleeping, never stopping.
On the coast, India has some serious clout. The beaches of Goa have accumulated a reputation as some of the best in the world, where long stretches of white sand fades into the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. But that´s not it, there´s untouched coastline right the way round India´s horn, with equally as perfect sand at places like Tamil Nadu in the Southeast, and, if you´re feeling adventurous, the paradise island beaches on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are within easy reach.
For food lovers, the Indian cuisine is a goldmine of flavours. Oozing with the aromas of exotic spices, the culinary creations of this nation´s food gurus can be dangerously spicy and dauntingly varied. So, leave plenty of time to sample the lot, from the tandoori dry meats of the North, to the spicy seafood dishes of the southern sea fishing towns.
Whether you come to India, for a high-energy, adrenaline filled splurge, a kick back, or in search of greater truths, this is a country that rarely disappoints. The bubbling energy of India´s cities is tempered and penetrated by a curiously relaxing vibe that emanates from the nation´s overarching love of serenity and peace. Remember, you´ll never be too far from a secluded soaring mountain range or exquisite beach front if you need a little break. It´s a place where the word diversity just doesn´t cut it; India has all types, and all terrains, and it´s waiting to be explored!
Indonesia \” An introduction
From the pearly white beaches of the Nusa Tengarra, to Java´s wet, gecko-echoing jungles and volcanic slopes, the surf-spray swells of board-rider heaven Bali, to the untouched, unmanned wild lands of Flores and Sumbawa beyond, scattered over more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is one of the world´s most curious fusions of nature, humanity and culture, with a unique and startling character that has successfully kept travellers coming back for more.
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This geographical concoction of more than 700 languages, nearly 250 million people (it´s the fourth most populous country in the world), 130 active volcanoes, and a myriad of religious faiths, from Islam, to eastern mysticism, to Balinese Hinduism, makes Indonesia one of the most attractive destinations on the Southeast Asian circuit.
As with most things Indonesian, diversity is word when it comes to cuisine. Travellers will enjoy fresh mangos and soft avocadoes (when in season) and a menu of rich, spicy and dangerously tasty dishes – from the vegetarian´s dream, peanut tempeh satay, to the traditional egg fried nasi goering rice, and a hodgepodge of other recipes extracted from the variety of cultural influences at work on this archipelago.
While not the cheapest in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is still astoundingly value for money and expect to get a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you learn to haggle like a local! Expect to pay between 10,000 and 30,000 Rupiah (around $3) for a meal – street style – and upwards of 120,000 for a cheap bed – with haggling. The national beer is Bintang, and tastes just great in the sun, but there´s a host of ´local´ spirits and drinks to enjoy that can be a cheaper and more adventurous option, from the infamous Arak rice wine, to locally brewed versions of western drinks.
Most international flights will fly into the capital, Jakarta, a sprawling metropolis of over 23 million people that fuses western and eastern architecture on the top Western tip of Indonesia´s most central and the world´s most populous island, Java. Despite being scattered across so many islands, it´s deceptively easy to find transport in the country; the presence of railways highlight the colonial influence of this archipelago, while there are always eager tourist services willing to do special journeys to most destinations if the price is right.
So, wherever you land, the whole of Indo is your oyster; hop on a train to Yogyakarta to revel in the rich and historical Javanese art, get low-cost connections to Bali and be surfing legendary reef breaks before bed, scour the Jumanji-esque ´Monkey Jungle´ of Ubud for historical architecture now claimed by a more simian population, go dragon spotting in Komodo, diving in the Gilis, or grab a Bintang and just soak it up – sun, beach, jungle, city, or sea, in Indonesia, the choices really are endless.
Japan the land of the rising Sun and the country often overlooked by gap year travellers. Japan is home to several martial arts, none more iconic than karate. Through Xtreme Gap Year you can learn karate from the living legends in Okinawa, the spiritual birthplace of karate in its modern form. Eighth and ninth and 10th Dan’s will be your masters teaching you skills only available to people who have dedicated their lives to karate.
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Fall in Love with Laos
Laos is a small and relatively unknown country to many, but don´t let this fool you into thinking that it´s not worth a visit. Laos contains many interesting sites of historic and religious significance, and your gap-year will be spent in a truly rewarding way if you work at uncovering the hidden beauties of this country.
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If you, like many people, know little about Laos, then your first stop during your gap-year may be to one of the many museums or archeological discoveries that Laos has to offer. The Laos National Museum in the capital of Vietiane, while not the most attractive of buildings, has displays and artifacts dating from various significant periods in Laos´ history, such as its colonial history, and the two World Wars and their influence.
There are also many beautiful and revered temples throughout Laos, which continue to inspire generations of visitors. Wat Wisunarat is one of the oldest temples in the country, dating back to 1513, and is a place where spiritual curiosity meets historical discoveries, making it a doubly rewarding visit.
In addition, there are attractions which simply cannot be labeled or categorized. One such attraction is the Plain of Jars, a large area which contains over-sized glass jars. While many archeologists, historians and architects have puzzled over the purpose of these jars, their reason for being is still unknown. So why not visit them, and add your own ideas to the continual debate?
The food and restaurants of Laos are just as diverse as its attractions. Restaurants range from typical Asian cuisine to European food, such as French bakeries and typically British fish and chip meals. A notable restaurant in Laos is the Makphet restaurant, which employs and trains homeless young people, arming them with skills in waiting-on and cooking in order to improve their own lives. Not only do you leave Makphet with a sense that you have done some good in the world, you also leave with a full stomach and a yearning for more of its delicious food!
The best time to begin your gap year in Laos is during the dry season, which occurs from November through May in most of the country. This is also the time when most of the country´s vibrant, colorful festivals take place, on both a regional and a national scale. During the wet season, beginning in May or April and lasting through to November, rainfall is often daily and heavy, but lasts for only a short time. However, rivers and roads quickly fill up and overflow, so boat travel is a common, quick, interesting and usually cheap way to travel during the rainy season.
While Laos remains relatively untouched by tourists compared to other Asian destinations, it is certainly a worth-while place to spend your gap-year. Youthful energy and curiosity is an essential quality, as this country is quiet and unassuming, so you need to work quite hard to uncover all the mysteries and beauty that it has to offer.
Nestled in the foothills of the world´s most majestic and iconic mountain range, the Himalayas, Nepal is a country that oozes mystery and a powerful and peaceful spiritual aura. Whether you are looking for an extreme adventure, a cultural voyage, or a spiritual journey, Nepal will welcome you with open arms and inviting smiles.
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Nepal is a paradox within itself, as extreme thrill-seeking adventurers risk their lives to summit, that which has gripped the fascination of man for centuries; Mount Everest. On the other hand, Nepal is a place of strong spiritual peace and silent resides, where devoted Monks wander the streets and towering Buddhist and Hindu shrines decorate the land. As such a unique and vastly different country to those in the West, it is no surprise that, over the last few decades, Nepal has attracted hundreds and thousands of young ´lost souls´, as travelers seek to ´find themselves´ in this new and exciting land.
Don´t worry though, you don´t have to be on a quest to ´find yourself´ to travel to Nepal. If you are simple looking for some classic adventure, then you´ve come to the right place. Even if you´re not a skilled mountain climber, you can still enjoy the life-changing experience of hiking in the Himalayas. There are plenty of great tour operators based in Kathmandu that can bring you on amazing treks and hikes to the Mount Everest Base Camp. And in case you need to stock up on gear, the streets of Kathmandu are full of hiking stores with everything you need for your climb.
Kathmandu, the capital of the country, is a haven for travelers with lots of cheap hotels, hostels, inns and guesthouses available throughout the city. If it´s culture, architecture and history you´re after, there are some gorgeous Buddhist temples around the city, which are well worth a visit. Some of the most popular temples include the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the holiest Buddhist sites in the city, Swayambhunath, another stunning Buddhist pilgrimage site just outside of Kathmandu, and Bhaktapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated a 30 minute drive outside of the city, in the Kathmandu Valley.
Arriving at the airport of Kathmandu, you can obtain a 15-day ($25), 30-day ($40) or 90-day ($100) tourist visa. This can be paid in cash in USD, Euro or in local Nepalese rupee (NPR). Ensure you bring two passport-sized photos with you for a smooth application process.
Nepal is a relaxing country, where nature and religion play a strong role in everyday life. However, despite the peaceful appearance of Nepal´s people, the country has had a troublesome past with both Tibet and China, so you should always keep updated on the current situation before traveling there.
Just like in other Buddhist and Hindu countries, women should dress modestly when traveling through Nepal. While Kathmandu has a large tourist presence, the rest of the country remains relatively unexplored by foreign travelers so extra caution should be exercised when traveling outside of the city. Always try and respect the local cultures and traditions; for example, taking off your shoes before entering a temple, or not taking photos in certain places. It is a good idea to do some research on Hindu and Buddhist customs before traveling to the country.
Nepal has an interesting mix of old and new. To come here is to experience life in the extremes; extreme adventure, terrain, beauty, culture and tradition. Open your mind to new experiences and ways of life and you will fall deeply in love with this country, as so many other travelers do.
Renewal in Nepal
Nepal is certainly not a country for those who want an easy, comfortable gap-year. However, for those who want to be challenged, to experience new cultures, to witness some of the greatest features of the natural world, and to feel truly rewarded by their gap-year, then Nepal is most definitely a place to visit.
You only have to see Nepal´s climate to understand what type of country it is. In June, the wet season begins, with four months of notorious monsoon rains. The roads become rivers of mud, infected with leeches, and rains pour heavily every day. However, after this period of extreme harshness comes a long period of quiet, calm, and pure beauty. The monsoon results in a kind of regeneration within the natural world, with all kinds of new and beautiful plants able to grow in the newly churned and watered soils. Not only that, but the air is no longer murky \” the monsoon rains have cleared it, resulting in crystal-clear views of Nepali landmarks, especially the infamous Himalayas.
Nepal is one of the only places in the world where mountaineering is open to all who wish to try it. The popularity of the Himalayan Mountains, especially Mount Everest, means that there are many hotels within this region, so you can enjoy trekking through the mountains without worrying about where you are going to set up your tent. And the Himalayas are not only valued for their beauty and their challenging climbs, but the rivers which run through the mountains are popular for white-water rafting among the most adventurous visitors \” why not give it a go? After all, you´re only young once!
After all the hard climbing and water-sports, you´ll also need time to recover and rejuvenate – luckily, Nepal is the perfect place for that too. Nepal is famous for its Buddhist temples and monasteries, and there are hundreds of shrines throughout Nepal that would give even the most adamant of atheists goose bumps. While you´re in Nepal, why not take the opportunity to learn (or just receive!) Indian massage techniques, or feel the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga and t´ai chi? In the beautiful, luscious, natural surroundings, nothing feels better than engaging in an activity that calms both the body and the mind.
Not only do you benefit spiritually from visiting Nepal, but there is also a great deal of culture for you to immerse yourself in, meaning you will return from your gap year a well-travelled andmore peaceful human being. There are many festivals throughout the year, one of the most beautiful being the Dasain festival in October, just after the monsoon season.
But beneath these exciting festivities is something very serious, as while Nepal enjoys a rich culture and natural world, economically it´s still a developing country. Nepal will humble you in a way that no other country possibly could, and such a spiritual transformation is surely the only motivation you need to spend your gap year in Nepal.
Although the Philippines is a poverty-stricken country in comparison to most of the western world, and despite its awkward location in China´s shadow, the Philippines is certainly not a place to be forgotten. If you want to spend your gap-year in a place that is truly one of this planet´s unsung joys, then the Philippines is the country for you.
The country´s changeable weather means that every season is slightly different, as the influence of prevailing winds differs each year. However, the best time to settle into your new Filipino home is January through May: although in some parts of the Philippines (mainly on the east coast) the weather is often the exact opposite to the rest of the country. The Philippines is under the complete control of the weather, as typhoons often result in damage during the wet season of June through October.
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However, despite the damage inflicted by the typhoons, many of the country´s most well-known buildings continue to provide delight to their visitors. Malacanang Palace, the Presidential residence, is a beautiful and majestic building admired by all who visit it, while the Coconut Palace, built in 1981, is often used in tours and for weddings, as it´s such a striking building.
The natural world is even more stunning than the man-made creations of the Philippines. Why not take a trip to the Tamaraw Falls, where a thirty foot wall of water cascades into clear pools, in the midst of a jade-green jungle? Or how about a visit to the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, where over 50,000 of birds have a break from their migration to refuel and relax?
In fact, those 50,000 birds have the right idea, as the Philippines are the perfect place for anyone to unwind, making it the ideal gap-year break. Beaches in the Philippines are rated as some of the best in the world – and with the white sands and clear waters of beaches such as Panglao and Boracay, it´s easy to see why. If you ever get tired of all that hard sunbathing sand, you can take a dip in the sea, where there are plenty of colorful coral reefs, and even some shipwrecks for you to discover off the coast of Coron.
If you ever need a break from the beaches, you can always head to one of the many museums that the Philippines have to offer, showcasing the country´s unique and sometimes violent history. A perfect specimen is the National Museum of Filipino People, which contains artifacts estimated to be over 26,000 years old \” if that doesn´t quench your thirst for knowledge, nothing will!
While the Philippines are often regarded as a destination to visit only because of its beaches, you will uncover so much more about this chain of islands when you spend your gap-year here. The beaches are obviously beautiful, but immersing yourself in these islands will reward you with cultural experiences with a friendly, lively people \” and what better setting to spend your gap year in?
Sri Lanka once described as the finest island in the world by Marco Polo is an amazing place to visit. Undeniably beautiful, with friendly people you can discover it all with our Sri Lanka experience programme.
The country of winding rivers, rolling hills, snow-capped, ski slope mountains, proud, high perched and sleepy bastide villages with crumbling medieval walls, cobbled cities bubbling with merlot and bordeaux and sauvignon, world-famous coastline, from the white beaches of the warm Med, to the rugged rocky cliffs of the cool Atlantic, rich cheeses and adventurous cuisine, the home of the romantic, the artistic and the eccentric, a centre of culture and full of interest for any traveller of Western Europe.
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From traditional to explorative (really explorative), there is food and drink for every palate. Savour the Moules–frites of Brittany´s sea towns, the pungent cheeses and dark reds of Burgundy, the potent Armagnac and PÃ©rigord truffle of the Basque country, blue Roquefort of Aveyron, oysters in the deep-south Roussillon, the infamous escargot (snails) of Franche-ComtÃ©; camembert, crepe, baguette and brandy, French cuisine is rich, varied and full of flavour.
France has a host of international airports, with great connections throughout the continent and the rest of the world. The largest is the Charles de Gaulle in Paris, with such great train connections to the Gare du Nord, you can be out of arrivals and sipping a coffee (or maybe a vin rouge) in no time. France has one of the best railway systems in Europe, again with fantastic international connections, via Eurostar to London, and the high-speed Thalys to Brussels and Berlin beyond. But, if it´s the famous rustic French life you´re chasing, renting a car is easy and the roads are of great standard, from the comprehensive motorway system to the James Bond hill winders of the south coast.
For the city lover France is buzzing with action, from the medium regional capitals of Lille and Marseille, to the sprawling Parisian metropolis. Drop into the Louvre to wonder and France´s collection of worldly treasures (including Da Vinci´s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa), scout wine bars and cafÃ©s on street corners to ponder the flux of French life as it passes you by, or go small scale with weekend markets packed with smelly cheese, organic veg and a local vibe that oozes France´s unique human character.
If it´s green hills, rustic barns, sunflower fields, warm beaches and vineyards you´re after, you´ll never be far away. Drive through the poppy fields of Somme, through brandy country to the warm sanded coastline of St. Maxime and St. Tropez, or east, through the rolling yellow flower fields, to the soaring peaks of the French Alps, the country´s beating winter heart.
French culture has always held a reputation for richness and passion, and whether it´s in its food, people, places, it´s mountain vistas, azure seas, sleepy village squares, or bubbling city centres, this is a country that really lives up to its name: Vive la France!
The passionate culture housed in the country of Spain can be read about in books, watched with wide eyes in many films, but few get to spend a large amount of time experiencing this culture for themselves. Glittering beaches border Spain´s flaming nation as flamenco dancers swirl with a vivid blur of colour and bullfighters don majestic red as they parade side by side to a bull in the bullrings. Spain offers the chance to experience its culture through your eyes, ears, taste and smell as you gather around enormous pans of steaming paella and discuss your adventures over a drink of Sangria.
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Hidden behind this arguably clichÃ©d understanding of Spain´s zealous culture lies a picturesque landscape that is perfect for those wishing to spend time with nature surrounding them. An emerald green horizon shows mountains that join faultlessly with the deep blue waters of the Atlantic. The charmingly rugged mountain ranges such as the Sierra Nevada is home to numerous ski resorts; a great activity to participate in, whether you are a beginner or can ski at an advanced level. And, further, through the dense culture that sits heavily upon the country, the Celtic music of Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia reminds us of a place closer to home and the hazy lands of Britain.
The history of Spain is dotted throughout the countryside as the castles belonging to medieval towns stand proud and emerge from the lush grass. The country is a treasure chest of artistic relics and architectural wonders that create an inimitable, distinctive cultural palette. Visits to Spain´s cities provide perfect day trips during your gap year stay in the country as you explore the magnificent buildings in city of Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid to name but a few. Roman relics can be found within the country, whilst Muslim palaces sit next to baroque cathedrals with stories echoing within their walls. For those wishing to experience the more recent of architectural buildings, the Modernista constructions are prevalent within society and waiting to be explored.
Enjoy the freedom to explore both city and countryside at your own pace as the friendly atmosphere allows for a confidence to be instilled within. Public transport is reasonably priced and regular, thus creating the possibility to explore a much further radius of the country. The country itself is linked to other European countries by rail, air and road, making Spain a perfect destination for gap year students; especially those who have yet to travel alone or who wish to be closer to home but still experience a great gap year!
When you arrive in Spain, it will become apparent as to the hedonistic vibe that dances around the vibrant, sparkling and bubbling cities. A gap year is a time to enjoy yourself and experience things that you ordinarily would not get to experience. Throw yourself into the culture so openly displayed in Spain and experience a gap year that would be the envy of those around you!
This is a land of difference and diversity, always ´sitting on the edge´ in more respects than one. Between the warm Med currents of the south, and the cold surf of the wide Atlantic that strikes its western coast, between the continental expanse of mainland Europe to its back, and the maritime borders of ocean and sea that isolate it on all other sides, between the mythical, snow touched peaks of the Serra da Estrela,to the scorching heat-peaks of the Algarve´s cliff-backed beach stretches, between the fertile wetlands of the mighty Tagus estuary, to the proud and daunting, hill-top Moorish castles of Portugal´s rocky, central plains, this land is a palimpsest of human action, natural beauty and cultural medley.
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All of Portugal is unashamedly alive with the footprint of the hundreds of cultures that have flowed through its history, from the Greek colonialists and Roman imperialists of ancient times, to the medieval Moorish settlers from African Morocco to the south, all augmented by an historical Portuguese reputation for exploration and cultural expansion, and the influences of all the European peoples sitting right on the country´s northern tip, that, through the vein of the Iberian peninsula, have enriched this country right at its heart.
An ancient city by everyone´s standards, Lisbon is oft termed the ´oldest city in Western Europe´. It was once a major player in Roman efforts to wrangle the Iberia from the control of Carthage, but it is now a mosaic of human life, rich with Moorish castles and Roman baths, Renaissance palaces and sprawling docklands, home to one of the European Union´s fastest growing business centres, and indelibly full of life. Its scattered hilly topography, and suitably descriptive nickname – A Cidade das Sete Colinas, ´The City of Seven Hills´ \” leaves the visitor wondering strangely, if there is any other European city, famous for its ´Seven Hills´, artistic richness, religious history and spots of cultural interest, that could possible give Lisbon a run for its money!
For the seafood lover, Portuguese cuisine should always be on the menu; being surrounded on two sides and by two different maritime environments, means Portugal´s fishing industry has thrived since inhabitation began here, and fresh fish is the order of the day. The seafood options are eclectic, from squashy octopus to rich, red lobsters, while influences from the nearby Med and the exotic lands once colonised by Portugal, make this a country a journey of discovery for the culinary enthusiast.
Portugal´s biggest airport is Lisbon´s Portela, but both Faro to the south (the best access point for the Algarve and southern coast), and Porto to the north (the best access points for the rugged northern Atlantic coast and the Spanish border), take international arrivals. There have been great improvements in the country´s national and international rail links over the last 20 years and frequent trains run between the country´s largest cities, with international links to Madrid and Paris also available.
Have the best of both Worlds in Argentina
Ideal for hikers, nature lovers and anyone who wants to experience a lively culture, Argentina is the perfect travel destination for anyone who is looking to travel on a gap year! Being able to experience the stunning views alongside cosmopolitan cities, there is something for everyone. Whether you are travelling with a friend or are braving it on your own, there is sure to be something that is going to take your fancy. After all, you´re not going to want to go somewhere that´s no different to the quiet city or overrun city that you already in are you?
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What more could you want on a gap year than being able to say you walked alongside penguins and waterfalls? You certainly can´t do that in Birmingham city centre! Argentina is there to ensure that you can have the best experience possible when are travelling away from home. With South America´s highest peak, Patagonia´s glacier and Andean deserts, you can enjoy every single moment that you spend in the country. You will even be able to impress you family and friends by learning the local language, playing football with the local people, and learning the intimate tango dance.
Enjoy the freedom to have days where you can enjoy the scenery and local atmosphere, or having a hunt round the designer shops to fulfil your shopping needs whilst you are away! You will be able to feel safe in the friendly towns and cities. There will be no need for your family to worry about you being away on your own during your gap year \” after well, we have all seen most the horror films that are around today!
Dip your toes into the cultural aspects alongside the wilderness and modern cities. With Argentina being affordable, it is ideal for gap year travellers who do not have a lot of money. This is making it very popular, meaning that you may find you are not only gap year student staying in your accommodation. You can make the trip your own experience. Simply travel the country throughout your stay or volunteer. When volunteering you will have Spanish tutoring and can make life long friends and have amazing experiences.
Help artists and join outreach programs to young children in the local areas. You will have the thrill of being able to learn about the Argentine lifestyle through the locals themselves. They all come from different walks of life and have different stories. Have a change from soap opera conversations and enjoy learning about different and real people.
It is the designer shops mixed with the rich heritage which makes Argentina one of the most amazing places on Earth. There is nowhere that can literally offer you the best of both worlds so take advantage of the current low prices of travelling to the country and have the opportunity of a life time. Spend your days exploring the stunning scenery or hunting through racks of clothes in the cities. Come back confident in Spanish and within yourself!
Bolivia is a remarkable little country which boasts plenty of extremes. It has the world’s highest city, the world’s highest lake, and the biggest salt flats on Earth. Whilst it will not take you long to visit it should definitely not be left off your itinerary as the landscapes are completely unique.
Brazil is fast becoming a developed exciting country to visit. With big cities like Rio de Janeiro, massive landscapes like the huge waterfalls of Iguazu (the biggest in the world) not to mention it hosting the World Cup, it’s an exciting place to visit. Brazil has some incredible martial arts programs, surfing and kite surfing as well as general backpacking routes.
Ecuador: the best things come in small packages.
Being the second smallest country in South America, you would think that there wouldn´t be much for you to see and do in Ecuador; however this is not the case! It is the natural diversity in the country that will make your gap year fun and exciting! There are so many things that you can see and do in just one day in Ecuador. Journeying from the Amazon Basin to the Andean Volcanoes to Otavalo, there is going to be plenty for you to experience on your gap year. Your friends and family will not have concerns about you being in such a large place on your own, and if you are travelling around the world, Ecuador is going to be the perfect place to add to your list.
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The Amazon jungles are there for you to explore and see wildlife. You can easily just watch David Attenborough on the TV is you wanted to, but how exciting would it be to be there yourself? Seeing the animals there right in front of you whilst you take in your surroundings, there will be nothing like this that you will be able to experience anywhere else. So now if your chance to grab the opportunity.
Whether you are a passionate nature lover or want to experience something extraordinary, Ecuador is not going to disappoint. With exotic birds, insects, paramo and plats, it is a dream location to visit. Alternatively, if you are looking for a more active gap year there are more choices for you to do. Mountaineering, trekking, horseback riding and surfing all ensure that you´re not going to get bored! It may be surprising to learn this when you think of Ecuador being so small, but you must remember that the best things come in small packages!
If you are more interested in the cultural side of things the country´s heritage is going to be perfect for you. Traditional costumes and markets are going to enable you to experience the history of the country and what life is like for the people that live there. It will make a chance from your usual trip to Tesco and outfits of shirts and jeans, that´s for sure!
Architecture is also very popular in Ecuador/ Cuenca and Quito are the places for you to see some of the most amazing buildings and features that Ecuador has to offer. There is nothing that is going to disappoint and you will be able to have the experience of a lifetime that will be like nothing else.
Banos is also going to provide you with the experience of the Ecuador nightlife. You are not going to have to stop going out simply because you are in another country! Your gap year is for you to enjoy, and Ecuador is the place for you to go. Explore the whole country and make the most out of your opportunity, as you may not have another chance to! Ensure that you can have the best year possible when you choose Ecuador as the destination for your gap year.
Perfection in Peru
Peru is one of the most fascinating places on the planet, with a diverse landscape, every-changing weather conditions, and a history which spans thousands of years. Of course, the infamous Inca trail to Machu Picchu is an essential experience if you´re planning on spending your gap-year in Peru, but there are plenty of other magnificent sights to see, places to visit, and things to do.
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When you arrive in Peru, you must remember that the highest numbers of tourists are present there during June through August, so it´s a good idea to avoid legendary sites such as the Machu Picchu trail during this period. However, whenever you decide to undertake the challenging hike to this historic Inca site, prepare to be dazzled when you reach the end by the beauty and mystery surrounding an area which lay undiscovered until the early 19th century. Due to concerns over the trail´s endurance under the pressures from tourists, only 2,500 people are permitted to use the trail per day, so you should to book with a tour guide in advance. The numerous temples which sit atop Machu Picchu are fascinating to atheists and the religious alike due to their history, beauty, and spirituality. It is claimed by many that witnessing the sun rise over Machu Picchu is one of the most breath-taking sights on this planet: and seeing it whilst on your gap-year is certainly something to boast about!
Not only does Peru contain majestic man-made features, but it also lays claim to one of the most naturally diverse areas on the Earth \” the Amazon Rainforest. If you feel brave enough to challenge the spontaneous daily downpours, then the Rainforest will reward you with views of rare spectacles, such as jaguars, sloths, and nearly 40,000 other species of animals. Unfortunately, the current deforestation taking place in the Amazon Rainforest means that this natural wonder may not be around for much longer, so imagine being able to look back on your gap year 50 years from now, and recalling how you witnessed a truly iconic feature of the natural world.
As well as the Amazon Rainforest, Peru also contains the world-reknowned Andes mountain range. The snow-capped mountain peaks and towering volcanoes make for a once-in-a-lifetime trekking experience, where you can encounter cougars, chinchillas, llamas, and over 3,500 other enchanting species of animal and 30,000 types of plant. The combination of the Amazonian and Andean wildlife means that , in Peru, you have the opportunity to see two-thirds of this planets animals and plants, and who would pass up the opportunity like that?
Peru is the perfect place to spend a gap year for all types of people, whether you´re interested in biology, history, culture, or geography. The demanding treks, high altitudes and changeable weather can be difficult, but as all visitors to Peru will agree, it´s worth it in the end. All you need to provide is your energy, and while you´re young, what´s the point in waiting around? Peru will provide the rest!
Venezuela is still a relatively undiscovered country for travelers. Despite the ecological diversity, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, the country has remained under the radar for many world travelers, even those traveling through South America.
All that is now set to change, as the country goes through a huge political and cultural shift, with the recent death of former President Hugo Chavez in March 2013. Tourism to the country is expected to increase, so get there before the whole world does, and take advantage of the cheap prices, the lack of huge ´gringo´ developments and the natural beauty that remains in this stunning country.
With the tallest waterfall in the world, the Amazon Rainforest and River on it´s doorstep and the longest Caribbean coastline of any country in the world, Venezuela is a tropical paradise just waiting to be discovered by the world.
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From sensual salsa dancing to sexy Spanish and the sizzling hot weather, Venezuela is a country sure to entice and excite your senses. Dance the night away in Caracas, the city´s capital, scuba-dive in the stunning turquoise waters of the Caribbean, or go on an epic hiking adventure through desert, mountain and jungle, where you´ll be surrounded by exotic and colorful tropical wildlife. The avid adventurer will feel right at home in Venezuela, with hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, kite surfing, windsurfing, paragliding and more all on offer. Venezuela has it all!
Entering Venezuela by land, from Colombia or Brazil is a fairly straightforward process. You will be given a tourist visa, which must be filled in and presented to the officials, along with your passport. Your passport and card will be stamped and you will then receive a yellow copy of the entry card. This card must be handed back to the immigration officials upon leaving the country and you must also receive an exit stamp on your passport. While entering the country itself is free, you must pay a departure tax of $17.50 USD.
Entering by air requires a similar process (although the departure tax for international flights is $44 USD), but flights to and within the country can be very expensive. Try searching around for good deals, and look at various options, such as flights through Miami or other South American countries for better prices.
Venezuela does have a reputation for being a dangerous country, so you should always be cautious while traveling around the country, especially in Caracas, as petty theft and crime is common. Caution should be taken at all times and you should never walk around the city at night, especially on your own. Always try to carry as little cash as possible and avoid wearing flashy jewelry or pulling out your camera in public. Other parts of the country are much safer, such as the Andean city of Merida in the West, which claims the longest cable car line in the world, or the stunning Margarita Island, which is a Venezuelan Island in the Caribbean Sea, off the northeastern coast of the country.
Venezuela has so much more to offer travelers than just Angel Falls, although that is a definite must-see when you do travel there. With a multitude of tropical islands off the north coast of the country, soaring mountains that peak above the clouds and dense tropical rainforest, it is an extremely diverse country that continues to improve as a great tourist destination as time goes by.
Costa Rica is a Central American paradise, Mecca for surfers, divers and people wanting a true sense of adventure washed down with amazing tasting coffee.
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See the change before your eyes in Honduras
it isthis isWith tourisms expanding and becoming more and more apparent in Honduras it is the perfect place for you to spend your gap year as it is becoming one of the most fascinating places on earth. With a maturing political scene helped by globalisation, Honduras is going further and further up in the stakes on the world stage. You will be able to experience the beautiful scenery before it becomes too popular and thus overcrowded. With dangers just like any other places, there are the threat of AIDS and drugs. This is common in many gap year destinations and therefore should not put you off Honduras before you have even considered it.
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With the laid back attitude to life in Honduras, you will have the experience of a life time. You can have a break from the busy world that we live in and enjoy a quieter way of spending your time. When you do have free time to spare from any work that you may be doing in the area, Parque Nacional Jannette Kawas has perfect white sandy beaches and great snorkelling for you to do as an activity. There is also the opportunity to do bird-watching, see waterfalls and national parks. So although there is a laid back approach to life, there is plenty to do when you feel like taking park in an activity.
It is Honduras that makes coming home very difficult. You will soon get used to having the chance to go to lovely beach and enjoy the natural sights and animals as opposed to getting back into your usual routine. If you are specifically interested in backpacking, there is Utila. Here you have everything cheap and cheerful, cheap food, good accommodation and fantastic diving to fulfil your adventurous needs.
With everything changing in Honduras there are many arguments as to whether it is happening too quickly or not quick enough. After visiting the place for yourself you will have your own opinion on Honduras. You may think that the change is good as it is making the beauty place more popular and well known. However, you may think that it is better to have something kept a secret and relatively undiscovered. It is visiting interesting places like that this are going to make your gap year special. There is nothing like being able to back pack and then dive each and everyday.
There are so many things on offer to you in Honduras that you won´t be able to experience anywhere else. It is time for you to take the bull by the horns and step out there into the great unknown. There is no doubt that Honduras will give you the best experience you will ever have in your life, and there is no better time to visit than when there is much change happening but still the original way of life. It is something that can simply not be compared to anyone else in the world. So why not see Honduras for yourself.
Mexico is an extremely vast and beautiful country full of cultural and physical diversity. From the tropical blue waters of the Yucatan Peninsula, to the dry, lonely deserts of the north and the bustling metropolitan megacities of Mexico City and Guadalajara, there is something for everyone in Mexico.
Whether it´s the food, the beaches, the music or the language that has attracted you to Mexico, we know you will have the time ofyour life in this friendly andfun country. Despite many media reports, Mexico is very safe country, especially in the tourist areas (which is the vast majority of the country!). With basic precautions, which you should use in any country, you will have no issues and see that people are more willing to help you than hurt you.
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Popular airports for arrivals are the Benito JuÃ¡rez International Airport in Mexico City or CancÃºn International Airport on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s YucatÃ¡n Peninsula. Don´t get overwhelmed with the sheer size of Mexico City, especially if you arrive at nighttime to see the thousands of endless twinkling city lights that stretch out across the horizon. The metro is Mexico City is the cheapest metro in the world and will bring you anywhere you need to go, while often giving you plenty of free entertainment in the form of local buskers that ride the rails all day. If you´re in Mexico City on a Sunday, make sure to check out the hundreds (literally!) of free museums across the city!
Of course, if you´re heading to Mexico, you can´t miss the stunning YucatÃ¡n Peninsula, which is home to some of the most beautiful and unique travel spots in the world, including the incredible underwater caves, known as cenotes, and the infamous Mayan archaeological ruins that are scattered throughout the land. As well as swimming in some of the most beautiful turquoise blue waters in the world, in Mexico´s Caribbean, you can also sample some of the worlds most beloved cuisine and do shots of the worlds worst hangover culprit; tequila!
While traveling through Mexico is not as cheap as other parts of Latin America, you can still find plenty of cheap accommodation on your travels, which will often be of a higher standard due to the extensive tourism competition in this frequently visited country. It´s possible to get a bed in a hostel dorm for $5 a night, or less, depending on where you are. Of course, the best time to get these great deals and cheaper costs on excursions, tours and even eating out is by visiting Mexico during the low-season; May \” October. Bear in mind though, that Mexico can get extremely hot during these months, hence why less people visit at this time, so don´t forget to pack plenty of sunscreen!
Traveling through Mexico is easy with extensive and relatively cheap bus routes that serve all of the major tourist areas and run on a regular schedule. The buses in Mexico are clean, spacious and often with air conditioning and on-board entertainment, but due to the sheer size of the country, expect long journeys of up to 12 hours or more.
So whether you are looking for adrenaline filled adventures in the wild, cultural and historical exploration through the ancient ruins of the Mayan civilization, stunning beaches and awesome waves, sleepy indigenous villages and urban jungles, or simply a new experience through language and culture, you will find it all in the colorful and energetic country of Mexico.
Everything is bigger and better in Canada! This refers to the area, the animals, buildings and scenery. There is never going to be a dull moment if you travel to Canada on a gap year as there is simply too much to see and do! With wild life ranging from grizzly bears to humpback whales it is a far cry from the goldfish that you may have a home, and this is the whole idea! You are experiencing new things and ways of life during your gap year, and Canada is not to be missed off your list!
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With everything that you can ask for from festival cities to historic sites, Canada is going to suit each and every person who visits it. You can be as active or as relaxed as you like. There are very popular sporting activities such as skiing and snowboarding in Banff & Jasper National Parks, and slow wheat-waving prairies in Saskatchewan. Food also varies from fresh fruit to hamburgers in surrounding restaurants and cafes. Like I said, whoever you are and whatever you want from your gap year, you are not going to be disappointed!
Canada is the place to visit if you are looking for an experience that you can´t have anywhere else. You aren´t going to be able to have such an amazing experience if you were to stay in the UK, so why not travel overseas on your gap year and have a fantastic time?
With plenty of things to do and learn about you will find yourself coming home just wanting to go back! Canada is a very interesting country that has everything to offer to you. You can learn about its history and stories when you visit local towns and cities. With friendly locals, you can be sure that you will befriend people and enjoy everyone´s company.
Popular bars and restaurants are everywhere in Canada. Whether you are on the slopes or in a city, there is going to be something scrummy for you to devoir. Enjoying yourself is what having a gap year all is about, so don´t waste your time and effort going somewhere that isn´t going to give you the experience that you are looking for. You are able to have a fun and exciting gap year in Canada, or you can have something slow paced and calm. It is what you make of it. There is no one that can tell you what you can and cannot do; the decisions will all be made by you! Although, yes, this can be daunting, it will provide you with the life experiences and skills that you will need either at work or at home.
Canada can give you everything that you are looking for, so why visit somewhere else? If you want to have a good time and enjoy making friends with other gap year students, you need not look any further than a gap year in this large and beautiful country.
America is renowned as being a land of dazzling lights, crowded streets that house a distinct diversity of culture and, for those just arriving in America for the first time, the promise of an amazing adventure reaches dizzying new heights! The USA is a perfect place for those wishing to experience a gap year, as behind the glamour of the hectic cities, hides a peaceful wilderness undisturbed my man. Alpine lakes, vineyards that roll across the landscape for as far as the human eye can see and barren deserts all create a dramatic scenery to act as the background for your gap year, your experience of a life time.
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The culture of America is arguably the most multilayered of ethnic tapestries across the world as the urban streets, that boast loud music and a chance to witness some of the most dramatic dancing possible, links faultlessly with the dominant mountains that stand proud over the country. Plains of vast forests carpet the country with a bright green, whilst the cities dot lights across the landscape as the sun sets on the USA.
Each name conjures different images and understandings of a specific culture and the cuisine or entertainment that coincides with this. It is in spending time in this country on a gap year that a true understanding of each detailed culture is built upon and understood.
America is a country where a road trip is most certainly prevalent on the list of activities that must be completed before the end of the journey in the USA. The great open skies seem endless when the red rock deserts stretch out for four million miles either side of the winding roads. Towering mountain peaks will alter your perspective on the world as you swerve around the roads and across the fields of wheat that in turn seem to roll off into the horizon. For the great American road trip, there are countless starting points for the journey. The scenic country lanes of New England, the dense forests that lie across the Pacific Northwest, or the steep hillsides of the Great Plains are all perfect places to begin your American road trip and experience a true USA gap year
As states, the multicoloured tapestry of the USA when unravelled reveals a wide array of culture. On your gap year in the USA you will be able to discover the amazingly eclectic music taste that resounds in Austin. For those wishing to be closer to nature, the ecoconsciousness of Portland will surprise you with its free spiritedness and encourage you to rethink your perspective on life, as any good gap year should.
You can take a dip in the Great Lakes as you are awed by the largest area of freshwater seen on the planet in order to cool down on a hot day. After this, perhaps take a break at Carhenge, Nebraska. This roadside attraction will provide a memory for you that will forever alter your view on Stonehenge! If you are feeling adventurous, perhaps Ketchikan is the place for you to visit. Here, it is possible for you to scale down a 4600ft mountain where you will be greeted at the bottom by a stream of bears as they feast upon salmon. Whatever the activity, you will be sure to find something you enjoy in the USA and experience a gap year that will stay with you forever.