Gap Year in South Africa

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South Africa, one of the most multicultural countries in the world, is impossible to generalize. In addition to the indigenous black peoples of South Africa, colonialism and immigration have brought in white Europeans, Indians, Indo-Malays, Chinese and many more. Home to captivating landscapes, exotic animals, sophisticated cities, world-renowned vineyards, famous townships and delicious cuisine, South Africa is a truly fascinating country. The difficulties South Africa has faced make it a rewarding place to spend a gap year.


South Africa is a rewarding place to volunteer. It has struggled to recover from the many changes that have developed in the last 20 years and many people live on less than a dollar a day. While townships have started to improve, poverty is still widespread. If you're an international volunteer in South Africa you will have the opportunity to provide the underprivileged population access to better education and healthcare. Fight for human rights and help build a working infrastructure!

Group of Children in South Africa
Group of Children in South Africa
Adventure Travel:

To relax in your downtime, you should visit nearby beaches and enjoy the restaurants and entertainment by the waterfront. The beaches have become hubs for tourism, offering fun activities like scuba diving and snorkeling off the coast. Visit Robben Island and see where local heroes like Nelson Mandela and others were imprisoned during the apartheid.

Traveling is difficult in South Africa since the country suffers from widespread crime and consistent threats of terrorism. Think carefully about where you travel to and who you're traveling with. Don't travel alone at night and always have your possessions hidden.


Recently, South Africa's economy made it to the top 20 in total GDP. South Africa's economy is on the rise, making it a good place to find an internship. While Cape Town is still a developing city, (many residents live in unsafe and overcrowded conditions) interning in South Africa gives you the unique opportunity to improve the lives of Cape Town's residents. Find an internship that matches your interests and offers you a chance to expand your horizons with cultural and learning activities.

Cost of Living in South Africa:

South Africa is cheap when compared to the Western world. Living in urban areas costs in terms of commodities, rentals and leisure activities. The rural areas tend to offer more of a quiet life and there are very cheap places to live in with lots of space. The cost of goods and food products cost only half of those found in supermarkets and grocery stores in the United States. For more info, visit Numbeo.

View of Cape Town at Night
View of Cape Town at Night
Culture and Etiquette in South Africa:

It is very difficult to define South African etiquette and culture due to the country's diversity. Greeting styles in South Africa vary depending upon the ethnic heritage of the person. When dealing with foreigners, most South Africans shake hands while maintaining eye contact and smiling.

Business attire has become more informal in many companies. Still, for the first meeting it's best to dress more conservatively. Men should wear dark colored business suits and women should wear more elegant business suits or dresses.

It's important to realize that some women do not shake hands, but only nod their head in appreciation. When meeting a woman, it is best to wait for her to extend her hand. Men may also kiss a woman on the cheek if they are well acquainted. In general, greetings are leisurely and include time for the exchange of pleasantries.

Health and Safety in South Africa:

The government has failed to redistribute wealth which has made AIDS a huge health issue for the nation. There is a very high level of crime. Fortunately, most of the violent crimes occur in isolated areas away from tourist destinations. The driving standard is low and there are many fatal accidents.

Make sure to get travel and medical insurance before traveling. You should always have two blank pages in your passport on arrival and avoid giving personal or financial information details to anyone. Vaccinations will be required to protect you from a multitude of diseases. That being said, the South African citizens take pride in their fight against this suffering and need your support! For more info, visit the UK Foreign office website.

Elephants in South Africa
Elephants in South Africa
Why Take a Gap Year in South Africa?

South Africa's diverse landscapes and ethnic diversity make it a rewarding place to take a gap year. If you're in need of meaning and want to feel like you are part of making the world a safer and better place to live in, then South Africa will give you the unique possibility of becoming part of a rising social movement. Visit beautiful beaches, eat amazing local cuisine, learn about unique cultures, and support the fight for human rights!

Photo Credit: South African Children - Cape Town at Night - Elephants

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Programs & Reviews

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Do you have a burning question about taking a gap year abroad in South Africa? We're here to help! Most questions are answered within 24 hours. Here are some example questions:

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