Planning you gap year is an exciting undertaking. It may be the first time that your travel planning is entirely up to you. You decide where you'll go, what you'll do, and what experiences will change your life as part of your gap year. Whether you're a recent high school or college grad planning a gap year in 2019, or a professional in need of a career break this coming year, the world is your oyster.
Some gappers want to head to the most popular or best gap year countries, and that's cool for them. If you want a less conventional gap year, you need less conventional, up-and-coming gap year destinations. But where are those?
If you don’t want to follow the beaten path, consider these countries for an upcoming gap year. The Go Overseas team spent time considering which countries aren't going to make that "ultra-popular" list, but which you should consider because they're equally interesting and culturally immersive. We consider these the "up-and-coming" gap year destinations, and they may be perfect as part or all of your gap year itinerary. Here's our list of up-and-coming gap year destinations for 2019.
When considering a gap year abroad, Hungary may not be the first country to come to mind. For many, its first impression screams cold weather -- scaring travelers away with the thought of overweight baggage fees from heavy winter clothing.
If you share that sentiment about Hungary, then you’re missing out! Not only does Hungary get warm weather too, its capital city, Budapest, but is also world renowned for its culture and architecture. In fact, many people think it is one of the best cities in Europe.
Don’t only stay in Budapest during your gap year, though. Explore this landlocked country and you’ll swim in Central Europe’s largest lake, frolic across wine regions, bathe in hot spring-fed spas, and visit UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Hungary:
- Volunteer with Culture Exchange Programs in Hungary with Angloville
- Semester in Mathematics Education with BSME
- Stoke Travel: Passport with Stoke Travel
Kenya may not be as popular as other destinations for a gap year, but that doesn’t make it any less recommended. Not surprisingly, it is actually quite a bucket list country for people seeking rare wildlife sights or a career in global health.
While the wildlife excursions in Kenya can run a hefty price tag, they aren't the only thing gappers can experience there. Head to the city of Nairobi for community development and public health opportunities, or visit rural areas to volunteer in fair trade and medical industries.
Whether you’re white water rafting, observing the wildebeest migration, or learning about the country’s latest efforts in conservation, healthcare, and politics, you’ll love a gap year in Kenya.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Kenya:
- Adventure travel and volunteering on the amazing Kenya coast with Africa & Asia Venture
- Most Affordable Kenya Volunteer Programs with International Volunteer HQ
- Gap Year and Volunteer Programs with African Impact
Located just south of the United States, Mexico is North America’s underrated gem, with a range of gap year experiences for every curious traveler. As a bonus, you’ll find exploring and eating on a budget to be achieved with ease!
In truth, politics and fear mongering have recently made Mexico an intimidating destination to visit. But gappers who see beauty beyond biases will be enchanted by turquoise seas, Aztec and Mayan ruins, marine wildlife, and welcoming communities.
Teach English to kids as a volunteer, or sign up for language classes yourself (many language-learners find Mexican Spanish to be one of the easiest to pick up). Whatever you do, try not to get sucked into resort culture -- you’ll miss immersive experiences! That said, a resort break or two won’t incur any judgment from us.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Mexico:
- Semester in Baja California, Mexico with NOLS
- Global High School Volunteer and Adventure Programs with Global Vision International
- Volunteer in Mexico with International Volunteer HQ
Travelers who seek a balanced serving of city life, cultural immersion, and adventure should definitely consider traversing Peru during their gap year. This South American country offers an abundance of memorable day trips and multi-day treks, as well as opportunities to volunteer or intern in urban and rural communities.
Brush up on your Spanish speaking skills and take your gap year to Peru’s Andean villages, buggy through sand dunes, and enjoy the flavors of authentic Peruvian ceviche, Pisco, and lomo saltado. Whether you pass your time pondering our existence at the Nazca lines, or admiring the diversity of life itself at the Ballestas Islands, it’ll be a gap year well spent.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Peru:
- Most Affordable & Trusted Volunteer Programs in Cusco with International Volunteer HQ
- Local Volunteer Projects in Peru with Maximo Nivel
- Innovative Gap Year Program with Projects Abroad
You might travel for your gap year in Thailand for the cheap prices and a memorable Full Moon Party, but you’ll stay for the culture, street food, and outdoor experiences.
While Thailand may be a popular destination for backpackers, it can also be the perfect country to spend a gap year. From beaches or cities to the countryside, you’ll find Thailand’s sleeper bus and train system allows for easy independent travel and cultural exposure (even if you don’t speak Thai).
Try volunteering with elephants, tasting a variety of spicy foods and curries, or helping out at a local school. The stories you bring home will be sure to wow your friends and family.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Thailand:
- Summer High School Programs in Thailand with Rustic Pathways
- Volunteer in Thailand for 2-12 weeks with Plan My Gap Year
- Volunteer in Thailand and Discover the Land of Smiles with Global Vision International
For many students, choosing to book a gap year in Israel can be complicated. There’s no denying, however, that its holy sites are a must-visit, regardless of whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or simply interested in theology and archaeology.
Spending your gap year in Israel with an open mind will help you learn more about the origins of the western world, and experience the country’s vibrant art, community, and scenic landscapes. Be sure to visit Palestinian territories during your time there, as well. The wealth of cultural and religious heritage in the region is also part of Palestine and a dual visit will allow you to dive deep into thousands of years of history.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Israel:
- Ancient Israel: Archaeology & History of the Land of the Bible with Tel Aviv University
- 5-Month Internship Programs with Top Israel Interns
- Global Gap Year Program: Destinations Across the Globe with Kivu Gap Year
If you want to be filled with joy during your gap year you might as well do it in one of the most peaceful countries in the world: Costa Rica! This Latin American country is so peaceful it actually abolished its army in 1949.
Ticos will welcome you with open arms as you embrace the meaning of “Pura Vida”; and while Costa Rica may not be the most inexpensive country in Central America, it’ll be much easier on your wallet than other popular gap year destinations.
Wildlife enthusiasts and environmentalists will love a gap year in Costa Rica thanks to its lush jungles, abundance of sea turtles, and conservation efforts. You can pursue related studies while here, or sign up at a local nursery for hands-on training. On your off days, catch some of the region's best waves.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Costa Rica:
Surround yourself with the best homemade pasta in the world before heading to the Opera, and you’ll quickly realize that a gap year in Italy was the best decision you’ve ever made. With a plethora of activities to choose from, you can spend your time here studying, trekking, swimming, wining and dining -- or all of the above.
So much of the world’s history comes from here; so much of the world’s favorite art, wine, and olive oil too. You’ll learn some essential Italian words, explore from the mountains to the seashores, and even get a Milano fashion tip or two before your return home.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Italy:
- 6-week Gap Year Course in Italy with Art History Abroad
- Gap Year in Rome, Italy with John Cabot University
- Pre-College at CET Florence: Italian Food, Art, and Society with CET Academic Programs
Growing in popularity, Vietnam is one of the most underrated destinations to spend a gap year. Because of its complex history of war and occupations, this Southeast Asian country varies by region.
One moment you’ll be sleeping on a boat in the bay or perusing coffee farms and eating French-style baguettes. The next moment, you’ll be repelling down cliffs and swimming at the beach, or falling in love with the bustling cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.
Vietnam is an intriguing place to spend a gap year because of its hospitable locals, affordable prices, cultural institutions, and foreign influences.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Vietnam:
Don’t just spend time in London during your gap year in England -- explore the rest of the country too! An English gap year will allow you to see more of what makes this U.K. country seem postcard-perfect.
Wondering about the British’s love for curry? Visit England’s second largest Indian population in Leicester. Intrigued by Roman history in Bath? Take a tour of the extensive ruins. Wondering if visiting Stonehenge is worth it? Compare it to over 1,000 other prehistoric stone circles in England.
Don’t forget to make time for art and afternoon tea! Pair it with a visit to the many estates and abbeys in England, or wind down after a morning out in the Lake District.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in England:
Wherever you go -- whether to these up-and-coming destinations or to the more popular ones -- , we know you’ll make the most of your gap year overseas. Every country offers a unique look at the world’s heritage and history, and will surely contribute to your academic and personal growth. Where will you go for your gap year in 2019?