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.
No matter how you spend your time, however, you can rest assured that your time in South Africa will be surrounded by beauty. Not convinced? Take a look at this compelling photo essay of a gap year in South Africa.Photo Credit: Elaina Giolando
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!
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.