The ideal of a gap year is time spent rediscovering what life should be all about. Whether that takes the form of a deeply impacting journey of personal discovery, or a period of selfless giving to those far more needing of it, the perfect backdrop for either is Delhi, India.
One of the oldest human cultures meets one of the most populous modern cities, and the result is a dazzling and deeply complex location for people who wish to spend a gap year abroad!
Just hours from some of the world's oldest and revered cultural sites, Delhi is a bustling, fun, exciting Indian city of 12 million people! That means gappers can enjoy the excitement of modern city life, while recharging their spirits in a deeply spiritual region!
The two main types of gap year programs in Delhi could be divided into what you might call “Cultural” programs, and “Service” programs.
Prices will vary greatly depending on the length of the program, and those considering Delhi should keep in mind that is a very large, very populous, very busy city that does not keep with some of the standards of living that some Americans are accustomed to. If that’s okay with you, then Delhi might be your perfect gap year!
Cultural Exploration / Travel
India has one of the oldest and richest cultures on earth. For millennia, travelers have come to India to reawaken their souls and spirits in a region of tremendous spirituality and deep reverence for the journey of life.
Many culturally-based gap year programs involves lessons in ancient Hinduism and Buddhism, Henna tattooing, the practice of yoga, and explorations of modern Bollywood. Coupled with excursions to the Taj Mahal, Tibet, and the beaches at Goa, these programs are one of the best ways to spend your gap year reconnecting with yourself.
With such a large population of human beings, human rights are a big issue in Delhi. As ancient culture meets modernity, many Americans have the opportunity to make powerful differences for good during their gap year.
Basic medical assessments and distribution of supplies feature into many gap years, and gappers have opportunities to work with women’s rights groups, assist with health outreach and education, and teaching English to children. All of which, gappers will find, are rewarding experiences sure to stick with them for a lifetime.
As of April 2015, all US citizens visiting India for traditional gap year purposes require a Tourist Visa available for $100, which is valid for 10 years and allows uninterrupted stays in India for up to 6 months. For students staying longer than 6 months, simply exiting India to visit another country and returning resets a new 6 month period.
Culture and etiquette
Delhi is more crowded and populated than most American cities, and as such crowds may seem pushy, and rude. Do not let this bother you too much, for it is a necessity of life and not any judgment on you, personally.
Also, don't order beef -- not that you will even be able to many places. The cow is sacred in Hindu culture, and while you won’t find cows on many plates in India, you will find them crossing roads at their own pace, unhurried by patient drivers.
Expect to eat with your hands! Also, understand the order of food service in private homes: generally the guest of honor first, then the oldest men, then the children, and finally the women.
Speaking of men and women - men and women generally do not shake hands or touch, and most greeting between people of any sex takes the form of respectful bowing.
Delhi is in the northern region of India and is home to over 12 million residents. The main ways to enter Delhi are via Delhi International Airport or the New Delhi Railway Station, though taxis and scooters are the most popular ways to get around once in the city.The main religions in Delhi are Hinduism (80%), Islam (13%) and Sikhism (5%).
Cost of living in New Delhi, and India in general, is incredibly affordable. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center averages just $250 per month, and common purchases like inexpensive meals ($2) and cappuccinos at cafes (50 cents) will ease the pain on travelers' wallets.
If budgeting is a concern, prices can be kept way, way down by observing two main factors: minimize international travel, and choose shorter programs. Cost of living in India is low, so even domestic travel can be cheaply accomplished via train, and shorter programs are usually priced proportionate to their duration.
Most of the safety concerns of Delhi are the same as any city, and can be avoided with careful common sense. Foreigners are advised not to wear too much flashy jewelry or clothing, or carry too much cash out in the open. Similarly, crowded areas are hot spots for pickpockets (just like New York or London).
Americans are advised to avoid drinking tap water, and slight food poisoning is common for many visitors. Some recommend minimizing the consumption of meat to avoid the nausea and diarrhea that can accompany it.
All Americans should be up-to-date on their routine vaccinations in addition to the Typhoid vaccination, and all Americans ought to begin a regimen of prescription malaria medication in concurrence with leaving. Malaria is more common in India than in other nations in the region, so mosquito netting alone - while helpful - will not be sufficient to protect most visitors.
Delhi is not the cleanest city on earth, so be prepared with sanitizer and a sense of patience.