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You may have as many as 15 months between leaving school and starting university if you take a gap year. How you use this time may be constrained by a number of factors such as needing to raise additional funds for your gap experiences or to start university, the dates of a programme you wish to participate in, and/or local weather conditions, among other things. 

If you are an inexperienced traveller or have not spent time away from home before, then spending a long period of time outside the UK might be daunting. Consider whether you would like to go away for a long or short period of time – there are pros and cons to each. There is also the option of undertaking several short periods away, returning to the UK inbetween.

To help you decide, consider points such as:

  • Environmental impact (multiple short periods may mean more flights).

  • Whether you want to develop a wide experience and understanding of the culture.

  • Whether you want to learn a language (this takes time!).

  • Cost (again, multiple short trips may be more expensive as flights are often the single biggest expense).

  • How much of the country you want to see.

  • Homesickness (particularly if it will be your first extended time away from home).

  • Culture shock on return to UK (this can be a consideration if you are away for a long period of time).

If you are thinking about participating in a project with a provider, consider the potential pros and cons to a long or short term project. A short term project may enable you to experience volunteering whilst allowing time for independent travel, and fit into a shorter time frame. A long term project is a greater commitment, but may give you more time to get involved with the local community and potentially make a greater contribution.   

Exploratory questions to ask yourself:

  • How long do I want to be away for altogether? 

  • Am I confident about being away from home for this amount of time?

  • Do I want to undertake one long-term gap experience or multiple shorter ones, returning to the UK inbetween?  

  • When would I like to leave the UK?

  • Are my departure dates flexible, and do I have to be back in the UK by a certain date?

  • Are there any time constraints on when I could do my gap experience? E.g. are some of my planned activities only on offer for specific dates?

  • Do I want to keep my arrangements flexible to allow for changes or spontaneous trips? 

  • Do I want my travel to coincide with a particular time of year in my destination(s)? E.g. for a particular activity, event or season.

  • Is there a particular time of year I should avoid travelling in the country or countries I plan to visit, e.g. hurricane season? 

  • Can I extend my flight ticket whilst away if I wanted to stay out longer?


Travel arrangements

In order to be as prepared as possible for your gap experience, you should think ahead about how you will get to your chosen destination, how you will travel around once you’re overseas and what information will be useful to know in advance. 
Consider the following:

  • Gather as much information as you can about transport options and where to buy tickets before you leave. This will also help with your budgeting and planning your itinerary, and enable you to pre-book tickets where possible.

  • Multi-trip tickets for flights, buses and other forms of transport can be cheaper than individual journey tickets. Research the options for your chosen destination(s).

  • Research your planned routes and check what regions they go through. Some countries have acknowledged ‘no-go’ areas which must be avoided.

  • It is generally not advisable to travel at night, although in some countries the night buses and roads are of good quality and overnight travel is considered relatively safe. Know before you go which category your destination fits into by checking FCDO and other country-specific information:

  • It is advisable to have the contact details of nearby accommodation for any transport terminal in case your transport link is delayed or cancelled. If you are arriving at a destination late at night, it is also advisable to have pre-booked accommodation and additional transport organised to take you there.

  • Be aware that many hostels/hotels offer an airport pick-up as part of their service so always ask this in advance. Airport taxis tend to be very expensive and drivers take advantage of the fact that people are arriving who may not be aware that there are cheaper ways to get to town.

  • To keep your personal possessions as safe as possible keep your luggage with you at all times in transport terminals and transfer any valuables to a day sack that you can keep with you if other luggage is put in a hold. If your luggage is in a hold or on the roof, it is recommended to get out and check your luggage is not being removed before you reach your destination.


More tips about travel around and between countries are available from:

  • Guidebooks 

  • Travel magazines

  • Online travel forums e.g. Tripadvisor and the ‘Lonely Planet Travellers’ Facebook page.

  • Travel agents e.g.Trailfinders  

You can also talk to other travellers for recommendations.


Exploratory questions to ask yourself:

  • What modes of transport will I use to travel around and between countries?

  • What can be pre-booked before departure from the UK?

  • Do I have to organise my own transport or is it organised for me?

  • Do I want to use tourist transport or local transport networks when travelling within countries? What are the pros and cons of each?

  • What transport operators would be available to me?

  • Are they reliable and do they take me to the particular places I want to visit?

  • Do the ticket costs fit with my budget?

  • Can I pre-book tickets or shall I buy during travel?

  • Will I need accommodation near to my arrival location for the first night? Can this be prebooked?

  • How will I get to my departure location in the UK and back home on my return.



Always have a list of several accommodation options, their addresses and contact numbers when you arrive in a new place in case your first choice is full or you find it unsuitable when you get there. Guidebooks will always have details of accommodation options. 
You can check out the quality of different accommodation and the value-for-money they give through: 

When arriving in a new destination and finding accommodation, it can be useful to have a check list of criteria for choosing where to stay. This might include a proximity to a local activity; the offer of free airport transfers; a criteria based on cost and your budget; the opportunity to rent bicycles; breakfast included etc. It is also important to consider safety and security risks when choosing your accommodation. Check whether your chosen accommodation has smoke alarms and fire escapes (and find out where they are when you arrive); suitable safe storage for baggage should you need to leave it during the day; a night time guard or someone to call in an emergency; whether it is in a safe area and if it has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. 
If your accommodation is arranged through a gap provider, ask them about the type and quality of the accommodation, how much host families will be paid (if applicable), and talk to previous programme participants about their experiences of the accommodation in which they were placed. 

Exploratory questions to ask yourself:

  • Where will I stay during each phase of my gap experience? Will accommodation be organised by me or by a gap provider? 

  •  Would I prefer to stay in a hostel with the opportunity of meeting other travellers, with a local family to experience the local culture, or with friends in the area?

  • What would be the pros and cons of the types of accommodation that I have chosen?

  • Does it fit in with my budget?

  • What is included in the cost of the accommodation (e.g. food, a towel, transfers from airport)? 

  • Is this accommodation convenient for the places I want to visit (e.g. location, proximity to good transport links)?

  • Is the accommodation safe?

  • What alternative accommodation options are there if I am unhappy with where I am staying?