By Kristin Savage

It’s normal for a young adult to feel exhausted and overwhelmed after finishing high school. Some pupils start feeling depressed because it’s hard for them to cope with rapid changes in their lives.

If you recognize yourself here, why not take a gap year after high school? You won’t be alone in this since 40% of students said they were seriously considering taking a year off in 2020. During this time, you can recoup, explore your interests, and even find your passion.

But the most exciting thing you can do during your gap year is travel. You can either choose to go volunteering in another country or live there, learning a new language and culture.

But what are the best gap year destinations you can visit?

gap year destinations pin with young women laughing in the background and overlied title

Here are our top 7 gap year destination picks

1. Thailand

Two girls sit looking out at their gap year destination in Thailand, the sea surrounded by cliffs

Average cost of living – $1,500/month

Our first pick is Thailand, with its diverse sights, beaches, and mountains. Those who love active travels, will adore this country for its abundance of hiking trails surrounded by beautiful nature. Besides, Thailand is quite affordable – $1,500 a month will be enough for a comfortable living.

If you would like to combine traveling and work, you can easily find English teaching jobs in Thailand. Plenty of rural areas are always looking for teachers, so you can use this opportunity to share your knowledge and immerse yourself in Thai culture at the same time.

2. Costa Rica

Average cost of living – $1,400/month

Costa Rica is, without a doubt, one of the most appealing gap year destinations in Central America for students. There, you’ll get an opportunity to perfect your Spanish or learn it from scratch.

Costa Rica also provides countless volunteering programs connected to sustainable living and eco-awareness. For example, the Sustainable Development in Costa Rica program for high school students starts in July 2021 and will engage all the participants in learning how to protect the environment.

Students can also get a job in Costa Rica. For example, if you’re from Canada, you can apply for a working holiday visa, and then you can legally look for work while staying in Costa Rica during your gap year.

3. Australia

Three boys sit with their backs to the camera on white poles on a beach in Australia under blue skies.

Average cost of living – $2,800/month

Another country where you can also get a job if you have a working holiday visa is Australia. Of course, the cost of living is higher than in Costa Rica or Thailand. That’s why not every student can afford to stay in Australia for a year. But if you decide to spend all this time in this country, you won’t regret it for a second.


Life in Australia is chill and relaxed. There are plenty of sights to visit, and you will have a lot of fun getting to know the people who are very friendly and open-minded.

Students who would like to work with animals and ecosystems will have a blast in Australia. The country has many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, where you can find a position as a volunteer and get hands-on knowledge.

Here are tips for traveling in Australia.

4. New Zealand

A woman skips away in a green landscape. In the distance a mountain is visible

Average cost of living – $3,000/month

Rightfully called Middle Earth after hosting the legendary Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, New Zealand, with its spectacular nature and breathtaking sights is an amazing pick among gap year destinations.

Even though this country doesn’t have big noisy cities, you still won’t be bored here. You can join a group of backpackers and go hiking around the picturesque mountain trails. There are also many national parks where you can stay overnight at a camping site.

New Zealand also offers quite a few gap year programs and volunteering opportunities. For instance, you can apply for the Coast and Waterway Conservation Program, which is available all year round. Your task will be to help restore traditional Maori lands, which you will be doing alongside the local iwi community.

By the way, Lords of the Rings features on our ranking of movie sets that make amazing travel destinations.

5. France

Average cost of living – $3,000/month

A gap year is also a wonderful chance to visit Europe, and France can be your destination of choice. A legendary country with a great history and numerous historical sights, France offers gap year students plenty of opportunities to make their stay meaningful.

First and foremost, you’ll get to learn French, which can come in handy later on in your career. Also, if your future major at the university is connected to art, spending one year in France could turn you into an expert since many significant works of art are in museums all over the country.

The biggest plus of living in France is that you can easily travel around the European Union without additional visas. A visa to France opens the door to all other European countries, so you can plan fun trips, enjoy famous sights, and get to know new people.

6. South Africa

The sun blazes down on this gap year destination in South Africa over the mountains

Average cost of living – $1,900

South Africa is among the most popular destinations for gap year students as well. This country is diverse, with plenty of opportunities for students to help local communities and work as volunteers for different organizations.

South Africa has a lot of national parks that offer gap year volunteering programs. For instance, the Nakavago Experience program offers voluntourism opportunities for anyone, including students. This program involves conservation activities, community work, and sustainability projects, where you will work alongside South Africans to help preserve their land.

Students can also apply for different internships in South Africa. This is a great chance to earn some pocket money while also gaining hands-on experience that you can later add to your resume.

7. India

A woman with a backpack on walks towards the Taj Mahal in India

Average cost of living – $1,300

It’s hard not to mention India as one of the most desired gap year destinations for students. It’s affordable, culturally diverse, and definitely out of your comfort zone.

What can you do while staying in India for an entire year?

There are plenty of volunteering opportunities in India. You can try yourself as an English teacher in a rural community or volunteer in NGOs or local charities. If you’re passionate about animals, you can work for the Elephant Conservation Program, which even provides you with accommodation, meals, and transportation.

There are also many other volunteering programs for which you’ll get paid – women empowerment, orphanages, theater, and art volunteering projects, etc. But make sure you check the program before you apply for it, as there are a lot of scams.

Not ready to continue studying? Use your gap year!

There’s nothing wrong with taking a year off after finishing high school. Or even if you’re a college student and feel like you’re burning out, a gap year can be a perfect way for you to restore your energy, gaining new skills and experiences.

But going on a gap year somewhere else doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to earn money. As you can see, there are plenty of volunteering and job opportunities in every country we listed. In some of them, you can even apply for a working holiday visa and earn some pocket money.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and not ready to keep on studying, take a gap year and turn your life around.

About the author

Kristin Savage is a journalist and a content writer. She took a gap year herself, and during that time, she developed the idea for, an essay and flashcard database. She is a believer in the idea that a gap year means a fresh start for anyone and everywhere.


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