India is a fantastic place to take a Gap Year. It offers a wealth of opportunity for things to do, places to go and sights to see. It’s a great place to go on a tight budget as living costs are low and you can get a lot for your money. Taking a gap year in India also offers you the chance to do something worthwhile as there are plenty of opportunities for gap year volunteering in India. Take your gap year in India and you will have the experience of a life time!
There are many volunteering opportunities in India, from English teaching to medical work and environmental conservation to community development. You can volunteer with local charities and NGO's in India, such as Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata or with global organizations such as UK or US charities. When choosing who to volunteer with, do some research and make sure that what you choose is ethical, worthwhile, sustainable, and that it is REAL volunteering. Volunteering is the best way to see the real India, to learn and begin to understand the culture, customs and people.
Traveling through India offers the opportunity to see beautiful cities, incredible landscapes, historical temples and colorful festivals. Of course don’t miss the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, the Golden Triangle in Rajasthan, and the chance to glimpse Everest from Darjeeling. Take a ride on the famous Darjeeling Toy Train, visit the bustling cities of Bangalore and Mumbai for shopping, or cruise peacefully down the Keralan Backwaters. Traveling by train across the country is very easy, accessible and cheap. For example, a train journey from Siliguri in the North, to Bangalore in the South costs (roughly) only £5 (it does take three days though)! Driving is not advisable – once you go there and experience the roads you’ll understand why!
For those with an adventurous streak, there are plenty of things to do in India. You can camel trek through the desert of Rajasthan, look out for Bengal Tigers in Ranthambore National Park or trek through the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. There is something for everyone, whatever thrill you seek, and you’ll bring back so many stories to tell in years to come.
When planning a gap year in India it is a good idea to get a rough idea of what you want to do before you leave your home country. Do some research on the Internet, get a good guide book, and make some plans. This way you will you’ll be able to set yourself targets, a budget and a time scale, although of course it is advisable to be as flexible as you can when you get there! Think about what you want to get out of your gap year in India. Do you want to volunteer and - “give something back” - or just explore a new country? Do you want to learn new skills? Are you looking to learn the language or need experience in a particular field, such as teaching? When booking any trips or packages, check you are using a reputable company and do some research, the advice may be that it is a better to book when you actually get there.
If you’re looking to do some gap year volunteering, again, make sure you are going through an organization that has a good reputation, can provide you with alumni to contact who can tell you what it’s really like, and most importantly look for value for money. For example volunteering with a charity will ensure that the money you pay is going back into the organization to make sure the project you volunteer on is safe, secure and worthwhile. Make sure your volunteering contributions will truly benefit the local community.
Visas For India
What you are going to do on your Gap Year in India will determine what type of visa you need. You are required to fill in an online application form before submitting your application either by post or in person to obtain your visa. Check with your government’s official Indian Embassy or High Commission to obtain information about the type of visa you need, or visit VISA HQ.
Cost of Living in India
You can live in India quite cheaply as the cost of living is relatively low, but budget hotels can have quite low standards. When deciding where to stay in India it is good idea to check your guide-book or take advice from others who have visited. If you take local advice on where to eat and where to find the best bargains, then your money should go a long way!
Culture and Etiquette in India
India is a diverse and vibrant country, full of festivals, culture and customs. It is a multilingual and multiethnic society. The four most prevalent religions are Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Sikhism, and the official language of India is Hindi.
Indians have a variety of cultures and customs. In India hierarchy and social order are highly valued. For example, you would always greet the eldest person or most senior person in the family first. Indians are very respectful of their elders and have very extensive and close family relationships.
Health and Safety in India
India has a good public transport system in the main cities and an extensive rail network, making it a relatively safe to travel in. It is a good idea to travel in groups, and not advisable for young women to travel alone where possible. Be aware of your possessions at all times, keep your wits about you and keep alert.
At first you may be shocked to see such things as extreme poverty living side by side with extreme wealth. The best way to deal with this is to keep an open mind and to take everything as it comes. Be patient, adaptable, and do not judge those around you. You will soon get used to the way things work and be able to adapt to living in India. More in depth travel advice can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Tap water is generally unsafe to drink in India so you will need to drink bottled water only. Several parts of India are Malaria risk areas so you will need to take adequate anti-malaria tablets if you are going to these parts. Check with your GP or Travel Nurse before departure to get advice on this, as well as advice on inoculations as you will most likely need quite a few!
Contributed by Abby Hunt
Gap Year Programs in India
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