Oceania is a continent comprised of roughly 34 sovereign countries, territories and republics spread over four regions: Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. But there are also bio-, eco-, geo-, and physiographic regions that include different groupings, and can stretch all the way to Japan and Hawaii. So, you can imagine that with that many countries over that much distance, there's bound to be enough of a variety to fit everyone's budget, desires and skills! Let's take a look at some of the places that gap year travelers call home, if only for a little while.
Types of Programs
Gap year opportunities vary greatly, depending on where you want to base yourself. Australia and New Zealand have a good mix of outdoor adventure and business advantages; for the outlying Pacific Islands, there is a lot of eco-tourism, conservation work and plenty of development volunteerism to help remote and rural areas join the modern age.
Working Holiday Programs
Both Australia and New Zealand have Working Holiday Visas available to select countries. This 12 month visa allows you to work and travel in a temporary basis. You must be 18-30 to apply for a working holiday visa. There are also Working Holiday Programs that are specifically designed to help people find jobs, get to know the city, create a bank account, and more.
The YWCA Australia has opportunities to volunteer for a year in the Solomon Islands. You'd work with the community on several ongoing projects, such as women's literacy and reproductive health access for teens.
New Zealand's Volunteer Service Abroad, based in Wellington, offers longer volunteer stints for agricultural, business and tourism volunteers in Samoa. While there is downtime, this program is a bit more serious than a vacation-oriented volunteer program. However, they do provide accommodation.
Australia – particularly Sydney – is a financial hub for the South Pacific, so business-minded gap year travelers should head there for the best opportunities in the region..
Planning Your Trip
When planning your budget, there are some things you'll see are cheaper, and some that are considerable more expensive, than you're used to at home. The thing to remember is that, especially in the outlying islands but also in Australia and New Zealand, these are all, more or less, patches of land in the middle of an ocean. If they can't make it themselves, it has to come from very, very far away – and that has a price.
So, you might want to make sure that you have all electronics that you may need (remember that this region will have a different electrical system than yours, and a different DVD region as well), and you probably won't want to spend your savings on clothing you could easily get at home for much cheaper.
Cost of Living in Oceania
- Apartment (3BR) - Australia: $3,523, New Zealand: $2,512, Fiji: $2,385, Samoa: $2,571, Solomon Islands: $3,266
- Jeans - Australia: $102, New Zealand: $88, Fiji: $75, Samoa: $75, Solomon Islands: $51
- Internet (mo.) - Australia: $56, New Zealand: $49, Fiji: $13, Samoa: $53, Solomon Islands: $121
- Loaf of bread - Australia: $2.75, New Zealand: $2.17, Fiji: $0.82, Samoa: $2.81, Solomon Islands: $3.66
- Meal, two people, mid-range rest. - Australia: $77.42, New Zealand: $65.17, Fiji: $16.42, Samoa: $70.16, Solomon Islands: $49.52
- Movie ticket - Australia: $16.59, New Zealand: $12.52, Fiji: $5.75, Samoa: $17.28, Solomon Islands: $10.52
Visas for Oceania
New Zealand: Visitors from most major countries do not need a visa to enter New Zealand for a three-month duration; check New Zealand Immigration for a list of visa-waiver countries. Otherwise, there are several different types of visas available for those who want to spend more than three months in New Zealand. (NZ Immigration)
Australia: Everyone visiting Australia needs to have a Tourist Visa. These visas are generally valid for three months. For those who would like to extend their stay, or combine a holiday with working, there are several visa options: a Visitor Visa, a Working Holiday Visa, and a Work And Holiday Visa. Check the Australian immigration website for more information about eligibility and requirements.
Fiji: Citizens of most countries do not need a visa before entering Fiji; one will be issued when you arrive, and is valid for four months with a two-month extension option. In order not to be turned away upon arrival, your passport needs to be valid for at least six months after your departure date; you need to show your return tickets; and you already need to have an entry visa into any other relevant country that is not your home country. (Fiji HighCom)
Samoa: Like Fiji, Samoan visas are issued upon arrival – but they're only valid for two months. You still need to have your passport be valid for six months after your departure. In addition to a return ticket and the entry documents needed for your next destination, you'll also need proof of funds for your stay. (World Travels)
Solomon Islands: The entry requirements here are complex; there are many countries, on every continent except North America, for which a visa prior to arrival is necessary. For everyone else, you will be issued a visa upon arrival. There are also requirements regarding proof of health and a lack of criminal history, and there are also documents needed for families traveling together. In short? Contact the embassy or consulate closest to you for exact information. SB Commerce.
Health and Safety in Oceania:
While there are no travel restrictions to the Solomon Islands, there has been some civil unrest in some areas. In Fiji, there was a military coup in 2006 that has largely been resolved, but rallies can still happen with little warning; steer clear just to be safe.
In Samoa and the Solomon Islands, mosquitoes are your main concern as far as your health goes. Cover yourself in long sleeves especially at night, and sleep with a mosquito net. Also, in both countries it's important to be aware that property owners do not take kindly to trespassers - even if it's just to admire a tree or take a photo. Make sure you don't stumble onto private property by mistake without being invited – you may be asked to pay a “fee” by a land or beach owner.
All of the countries in this report drive on the left side of the road, with Samoa joining the ranks in only 2009. In rural areas roads can be bad (and sometimes not even formally paved in their entire history), so drive slow if the weather is bad or if you're unsure.
Outside of Australia and New Zealand, the culture can still be a bit conservative; dress modestly, always cover up when entering a place of worship, be sensitive to people's archaic views on homosexuality, and never, EVER be anywhere near drugs – the punishment is severe.
Generally speaking, though, petty theft is going to be your worst problem – so stay alert, don't travel alone at night if possible, stick to populated areas, don't flaunt wealth, and have emergency numbers ready:
- Australia: Medical and Police: 000
- New Zealand: Medical and Police: 111 (911 gets redirected to 111)
- Samoa: Medical: 996, Police: 995, Fire: 994
- Solomon Islands: Medical: 999, Check local numbers for faster service
- Fiji: Medical: 000, Police: 000
Outside of Australia and New Zealand, basic medical care can be, well, basic – hospitals and clinics can run out of blood and even aspirin. Make sure you have travel insurance that includes repatriation, and visit your doctor about two months before leaving to ask about any vaccinations you may need and to ask for any tips for a first-aid kid.