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Travelling Gap Year Checklist

Travelling Gap Year Checklist main image

Planning a travelling gap year before starting university? Get ready to go with this checklist to ensure your year is as enjoyable and trouble-free as possible.

1. Pack light!

Remember when you're on your gap year, you will have to carry all of your treasured possessions  with you so the less you have of them the better.

You are unlikely to go anywhere with a backpack that requires a dinner jacket or a cocktail dress. Instead, comfortable and practical clothing is more suitable. Anything else you may need can usually be picked up for much cheaper while you are away.

The only exception is perhaps footwear - some flip-flops, trainers and a pair of smarter shoes or sandals should cover you for all eventualities. You may also need hiking boots if you plan on any trekking expeditions.

2. Keep a close eye on your possessions

Never leave your luggage unattended or with a stranger, and no matter how good a time you're having, do remember to keep a close eye on your valuables. Be careful of flashing too much cash around or other expensive items (cameras or smartphones) as wherever you are in the world, it is never advisable to advertise yourself to thieves.

3. Stay in touch

While you may be having the time of your life on your gap year, remember to keep in contact with those waiting for you back home.

Emails, international calling cards and pay-as-you-go sim cards are all great ways of not only reassuring your loved ones you are safe and sound, but also sharing your experiences, making everyone back home very envious.

4. Respect the local culture

Remember you are a guest in someone else's country, so always dress and behave appropriately. This may mean not sunbathing topless or wearing shorts, mini skirts or showing bare shoulders.

Be aware of religious dress codes like covering your head, shoulders or bare legs or removing your shoes before entering temples.

Make an effort to learn some key words or phrases of the language; they are useful and always appreciated.

5. Get your documents in order

- Make sure your passport is valid until well after you plan to return home. You never know, you may just want to stay longer than you expected! Also, check entry requirements of countries you are travelling to. Some may require your passport to be valid for 6 or 12 months beyond your date of entry.

- Make sure you have all the correct visas for the countries you intend to travel to. For some places this can be a lengthy process that must be done before you arrive in the country, so plan well in advance.

- Ensure you have adequate travel insurance that covers you for all the adventures you may get into; skiing, bungee jumping, white water rafting etc.

- Make several photocopies of your passport, visa documents, travel documents (tickets) and insurance policies. Leave one with someone at home, take a copy with you (but keep it somewhere other than with the original items) and if possible scan and email copies of all your important documents to yourself. If your bags should get lost or stolen it is always helpful to have a copy of these available.

- Give a copy of your contact details and itinerary to someone at home and phone or email them with regular updates if your travel plans change.

6. Stay healthy

Staying healthy while you are away on your gap year can make the difference between a great trip and a terrible one. Tales of 'Delhi Belly' make an amusing anecdote years later, but are usually best avoided if possible.

Make sure you have all the requisite medical jabs and tablets before you embark on your trip. This may involve vaccination injections or malaria tablets, which you need to get well before you start your trip.

Check with your doctor at least six weeks before you leave home. If possible, get an official record of all your immunisations and carry it with your passport. Some countries will demand proof of vaccinations and clean health before crossing the border.

A basic first-aid kit is important. Items you could include are painkillers, bandages, antiseptic cream, mosquito repellent, emergency diarrhoea remedies, sunscreen, and sterile syringes. 

Check to see if tap water is safe to drink and if you are in any doubt, stick to bottled water. If the tap water is really not safe, remember to also avoid ice cubes in drinks, and salad or fruit which has been washed in the water.

7. Plan your finances

Money makes the world go around, and is vital to keep you going around the world during your gap year!

Work out a budget for your entire trip. It's always better to over-budget and return home with some change than under-budget and be left stranded.

Try to avoid carrying large sums of cash on you. Only carry as much as you need for the day and in poorer countries carry smaller denominations.

Travellers' cheques and credit/bank cards are often a safer way to have access to money. Remember to keep your travellers cheques receipt separate to the cheques themselves.

Setting up online banking before you leave is a good way to keep control of your finances as ATMs will often not tell you the balance of your account.

Whatever forms of money/travellers cheques/bank cards you take, do not keep them all in one place in case you lose them or they are stolen.

Make your friends and family aware of how they can send you money via a money transfer service like Western Union. Western Union is available in more than 190 countries and territories and you can receive money within minutes.

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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