Home to captivating landscapes, exotic animals, sophisticated cities, world-renowned vineyards, famous townships, and delicious cuisine, South Africa is a truly fascinating country for a gap year.

Most gappers who choose to spend part of their gap year in South Africa will opt to participate in a volunteer program or indulge in one of the many adventure travel opportunities the country has to offer. However, there are also several world-class universities with programs in English if you'd prefer to spend your gap year learning.


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!

Adventure Travel

As South Africa's tourism industry has grown over the past decade or so, so has the amount of adventure travel options.

Whether you want to spend your gap year diving, surfing (or learning to surf), trekking, biking, bungee jumping, or spotting wildlife on safari, South Africa has it. Not to mention, they're also known for their shark cage diving in Cape Town. Anyone??


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.

Typically, budget travelers should expect to spend about $50 per day on food, lodging, transportation, and excursions. However, if you're on a program, some of those items -- particularly food -- may already be included.

Flights, though there are a few direct ones from the States now, will likely be your biggest expense.

Culture and Etiquette in South Africa

Souht Africa's cultures are diverse, but we'll try to cover some general basics here. 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.


In order to travel to South Africa you are required to have a yellow fever vaccine and proof. Make sure to consult a nearby travel clinic well in advance of leaving.

While on the ground, make sure you take precautions to make sure your food and water are clean, and protect yourself against mosquitos. Malaria and dengue fever are both issues here, but you can prevent them by using Deet and sleeping with a mosquito net.

And of course, please practice safe sex and use your judgment when it comes to drinking.


South Africa has a bad rap for being unsafe. Yes, Jo'burg has a comparatively high crime rate, but fortunately, most of the violent crimes occur in isolated areas away from tourist destinations.

To stay safe while in South Africa, be sure to watch your bags in crowded areas, avoid going out at night alone, and talk to locals about which areas are safe and which areas to avoid.

For more tips, head over to the UK Foreign office website.

Gap Year Programs in South Africa

Want to take a gap year in South Africa? Check out these programs!
Displaying 1 - 15 of 48 programs
GVI: Volunteer in South Africa
South Africa
9.76 •41 reviews

South Africa is often referred to as the Rainbow Nation, for...

123 reviews
Warriors Academy
Warriors Academy Gap Year Program in South Africa
South Africa
9.72 •123 reviews

The Warriors Academy Gap Year program is aimed at developing each...

Seamester: South Africa to Caribbean - 90 Days
Multiple Countries
10 •5 reviews

This voyage is a once in a lifetime opportunity to sail aboard S/Y...

Seamester: Australia to South Africa - 90 Days
Multiple Countries
10 •4 reviews

This voyage is a once in a lifetime opportunity to sail aboard S/Y...

Seamester: Bali to South Africa - 80 Days
Multiple Countries
10 •1 review

Sailing aboard our 112-foot schooner S/Y Vela is a unique chance...

VACorps Gap Year Program in Cape Town
South Africa
9.8 •10 reviews

The VACorps Gap Year Program is a transformative experience that will...

Winterline Global Education
Explore the World & Learn New Skills on a Winterline Global Gap Year Program
Multiple Countries
9.53 •15 reviews

Are you prepared for life? Are you not sure what you want to do after...

Tru Experience Travel
Gap Year Volunteering with TRU Experience Travel
Multiple Countries
10 •8 reviews

Have you ever wanted to use your skills in less developed parts of the...

United Planet
Gap Year: 6-month+ Service Learning in South Africa with United Planet
South Africa
3 •1 review

Imagine yourself in this complex, yet warm and welcoming country known...

Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Visit South Africa for a Volunteering & Adventure Travel Gap Year
South Africa
9.33 •3 reviews

South Africa is an incredible country with a rich and varied history...

Hamba Africa
Wildlife Experience in Kruger National Park South Africa - 12+ Projects!
South Africa
9.86 •7 reviews

4-week wildlife placement working on conservation projects in the...

Field Guide Courses Africa – Become a Game Ranger in Africa's Wilderness
Multiple Countries
9 •3 reviews

If you are interested in Southern Africa, an adventure seeker and...

Iko Poran Volunteer Abroad - IKPVA
Highly affordable programs in South Africa from $400 for 2 weeks!
South Africa
9.6 •10 reviews

Enjoy the time of your life in South Africa by volunteering for a safe...

Victory Gap Year
Gap Year - Victory Gap Year
South Africa
9.5 •16 reviews

In the seaside town of Jeffreys Bay, the surfing capital of South...

Gap Year South Africa
Surfing Program
South Africa
9.6 •5 reviews

The Surfing Program is designed for all levels of surfing, whether...

New Jobs

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What People Are Saying

My time in Cape Town through VA Corps allowed me to grow as a person and work on my specific goals in a comfortable, organized, and independent setting. VA Corps provided me with structure but also...

Cederberg swimming holes

I actually was in South Africa this past summer through my University and we worked with GVI. It was amazing. It was 100% the best summer of my life. GVI gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in...

I was teaching these little girls how to play rock paper scissors

At my internships site, interns are given such amazing opportunities and responsibilities, regardless of qualification/experience, which I really loved. I also appreciated the large network of other...

Me and other Vacorps interns at Cape Point

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