Travelling & Gap Year Check List

Where are you Going?

Take a look at a map, either online or on paper, to orientate yourself. Check out where places of interest and routes into other countries are. Find out when seasons affect areas. You don't get washed up in monsoon time or risk getting burned as you try hiking in the hottest seasons.

Jabs

Check out whether you need any specific vaccinations like yellow fever or malaria. A note on malaria - in some areas a good insect repellent and long sleeves will suffice, but take medical advice beforehand. There are alternatives to the controversial Lariam type drugs so look at all the options.

Visas

Avoid getting stranded in a country and missing buses, trains or friends just because you haven't got the right stamp in your passport. Consult the relevant embassy for up-to-date information about how long you can stay in their country and if you can work during your stay. Tourist visas can last up to three months depending on the country and your nationality and can be 'renewed' by crossing over the nearest border or going to the local immigration office - but be careful not to get caught out!

What Do You Intend to Do?

Everyone has different interests and this will shape your travel plans. Log onto the net or browse through some guide books to find out when the best surf is up, where the best walking routes are, or when the biggest arts, music or religious festivals are on so you don't miss out on some quality experiences.

  • If you're a thrill-seeker and want to try adventure sports like rafting, rock climbing, parachuting or even bungy-jumping, it would be a good idea to check out companies that run such activities. There are some rip-off merchants who are more interested in your cash than enjoyment and safety, so shop around. Go on personal recommendations to find an organiser who has a record of fun, excitement and safety.
  • If you're interested in voluntary work, most countries operate voluntary programmes. Embassies or national support groups will be able to give you more information. Volunteering can be immensely rewarding, giving you the chance to live and work in a country - as well as meeting many people from all over the world who may become travelling companions.

Where are you Staying?

Think about your accommodation. Do you want to camp, stay in budget accommodation or even with a local family? Don't panic if you are not up for 'roughing it' in a wet tent on an isolated mountain path, there are many options for all types of travellers.

Lists of places to lay your head can be found in travel guides and tourist board brochures. You will find, however, that when you set foot off the bus, train or plane, you'll suddenly have celebrity status as hostel and hotel touts swarm around you offering 'cool' places to stay, tugging at your backpack and nudging you towards their luminous battered minivan. Take your time. Ask questions about location, room types, hot water and choose the best for you.

Who are you Going With?

Discuss your expectations and plans with your companions - if your life ambition is to swim with sharks and your friend gets shaky at the sight of a mere goldfish, you may have to plan to go different ways for a while. Get all of this out in the open before you get on the road to avoid disappointment and friction whilst you're actually travelling.