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Plan My Gap Year

About

Plan My Gap Year is an award-winning volunteer travel organisation, offering life-changing experiences across 15 countries in Africa, Asia & South America. PMGY provide a safe, structured and social platform with volunteer, travel and immersion opportunities available from 1-40 weeks. With over 10 years of experience and expertise, PMGY is widely regarded as the global leader in affordable and trustworthy international volunteering experiences.

Our international headquarters are based in the UK & USA and we have local teams based in every host destination to ensure you have a positive impact whilst overseas. Whether you’re looking to take a gap year, give back to a local community or simply travelling overseas we are here to help organise every aspect of your trip. Are you ready for it?

Founded
2011

Reviews

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Kate
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Best two months with PMGY Sri Lanka

If you're considering volunteering with PMGY Sri Lanka – do it. The time I spent there from October 15 to December 17 were the best months of my life. The volunteer work was super rewarding, I made so many incredible friendships, and the opportunities to travel and explore the country meant there was never a dull moment.

I volunteered with the dog rescue project (@bringthemhome_srilanka) for my entire time there, and it never got old. Besides falling in love with the dogs at the shelter, it was beyond incredible to get to be a part of the early stages of this project. Ashika is super open to working with the volunteers, and I always felt super heard when I came to him with concerns or ideas for the project. I also did three weeks at the girls home in the afternoons. I so wish I had more time with these girls – they're some of the coolest, funniest, and smartest kids you'll ever meet. I highly recommend spending some time volunteering with the afternoon childcare project.
Some memorable volunteering moments:
- Three new tiny puppies came in on my group's orientation day. Me and the other dog project volunteer at the time got to give them names – Mocha, Peanut, and S'more <33. I got to watch them grow up over my time there (and we had the same first day which I thought was adorable).
- There was a turtle release in my first week and there were enough turtles / few enough volunteers that we each got to release one of the babies. Incredible experience.
- English lessons at the girls home, then playing hangman with all the new words – so many laughs!
- Spent a day doing Christmas crafts with the girls and dancing and singing to Christmas music.

There was a ton to do in our free time as well. Some out-of project activities that are definitely worth doing:
- Waterfall hike (about 45 minute tuk tuk ride away from London House) – hilariously chaotic experience in the rainy season; super quick and pretty stroll in the dry season.
- Badminton nights
- River boat tour (beautiful way to spend an afternoon; don't engage with the guy outside of the boat with the tied up baby crocodile though – blatant animal abuse)
- Hang out at Coral Rock – the pool's super nice and, depending on the season, so is the beach
- Visit Chicken Chop down the street – the guys who work there are super nice and the food's really good, plus it's only about a 5 minute walk from the volunteer house
- Mask museum in Ambalangoda
- Tsunami museum in Hikkaduwa (really emotionally intense, so go when you're in an okay space for that)
- Day trip to Galle

I did both PMGY-organised weekend trips (cultural triangle / Kandy weekend, hill country / Ella weekend) and highly recommend doing both if you're able. And I'll never forget my weekends in Weligama, love Hangtime Hostel with my whole heart.

The local team was super helpful and accommodating – we had weekly house meetings where they would check to make sure everything with the food and house was okay, if projects were going smoothly, if anyone wanted to change projects, what evening activities we wanted help organizing, etc. In between that, if we had any questions or needed help with anything the local team was super accessible and helpful. Ashika and his team go above and beyond to make sure volunteers are safe, comfortable, and having a good time. He approved multiple extended curfew requests, helped us to find and organize all kinds of reliable third-party activities and day trips, and just generally always had all of our backs. One time, I called him in a bit of a panic from a weekend trip I was on with some friends in Ella – one of my friends got pretty sick and I was freaking out and didn't know what to do. Ashika talked me through it, told me what the nearest hospital was and helped me come up with a plan, allowed me to return a day late, and even helped me figure out the bus schedule since I would have to travel back on my own the next day.

Originally, I'd signed up for 6 weeks and was super nervous that it was going to be too long, but the first 4 weeks flew by and I didn't want to leave at all. Even at the end of my extended time, it felt too short – I will definitely be back :))

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Lucy
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

the most amazing experience

Highly recommend the PMGY program in Sri Lanka. I spent 4 weeks there and had the most amazing time. From start to finish I can’t fault anything, it was so well organised and their communication throughout was great. The volunteer programs that we were involved in were really well set up and I made so many special memories with the children that I worked with in Sri Lanka that will stay with me for life. Ashika and his team in Sri Lanka were incredible and made every effort to ensure that we had the opportunity to see the country in our spare time. The volunteer house felt like home away from home and had a really positive atmosphere. If you are thinking about going to Sri Lanka but are skeptical given the current crisis definitely go, the only regret I have is not staying longer.

Pros
  • Make friends that you will have for a lifetime
  • Make a difference
  • Experience a different culture
Cons
  • honestly don't have any cons to give
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Elisabeth
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

PMGY Bali offers me amazing memories

The pre-departure help was amazing. The international team provided answers to all of my questions and offered a great support. At the final destination, everything was planned and arranged. The pick-up at the airport was trouble-free. The accommodation in Bali was clean and had everything you need. Indra and his family made you feel very welcome. It felt like a second home. There are different projects everyday if you do the wildlife one, which is so cool. I got to meet so many different species and got to be in direct contact with them by feeding, cleaning and by taking care of them. Overall, I am more than happy that I could experience PMGY Bali.

Pros
  • A lot of different animals
  • Helpful and nice host family
  • Amazing friends
Cons
  • Be careful about your food
  • You might catch Bali belly
  • Time flies by too fast
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Xin-Yue
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a wonderful time with PMGY Bali

The past few days have been one of the best times I've ever had! I just wanna say thank you to all the people who have generously helped me in my time of need.

The first night I couldn't sleep so I climbed on the roof to see the sunrise and I saw people getting up early to start their day. Once when we passed a house I saw an old lady put an offering in front of the gate and reverently sprinkled a few drops of water. These moments really made me feel the passion and love for life of the people here.

And I still remember the joy when I first held Sunny in my arms and the feeling of a baby goat with its little head on my hand.

And again hank you for being my home during the past few days. See you again! :)

Pros
  • You can meet fabulous people here.
  • The local team is very kind and friendly.
  • The time spent with those adorable animals is truly unforgettable.
Cons
  • Be cautious with your food choices.
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Ella
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

The program was truly amazing

I spent 2 weeks volunteering with PMGY Bali. I hadn’t done volunteer projects before much less going overseas alone, but the support provided was amazing. There were zoom calls you could join before going in which you could ask any questions you had which helped ease any worries I had about going. The food and accommodation was great as-well as the staff who were there for you whenever you needed it. The other volunteers were great and I wasn’t as nervous about meeting and living with people I had never met before. The projects it’s self was amazing I loved that I got to work on something different each day. My whole time there was amazing and I had to stop myself from asking if I could stay for longer.

Pros
  • The project
  • The people
  • The experience
Cons
  • The bugs

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

Plan My Gap Year just caught my eye from it's amazing reviews and it's response to all my questions (plenty of this there was). I was encouraged to join their Facebook Group for Sri Lanka where I got to talk to past, present and future volunteers about their experience - this really cemented my choice for me!

I wanted to do something where I could make an impact and I wanted to go some where both developing and needing of the help, and slightly more untouched than the other Asian countries - Sri Lanka was the perfect location!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

They assisted with everything!!

The Handbook was my holy grail. PMGY have created this handbook for your specific country which answered every question I had. We had to get Visa's and CRB checks ourselves, but they helped me and advised me with all this during the process. They even had their own insurance if you wanted it and they offered flight quotes. I took them up on this and they did everything - found a flight, booked it and sent me all the details, it was very hassle free!

Everything before I left was guided and the 'service' didn't really feel like a service at all - it felt very personal.

In Sri Lanka, the local team assisted with everything I asked for whether it was a weekend trip I wanted to take myself or transport back to the airport. Nothing was ever too much - I think thats what made the organization so special.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would say to go with an open mind!! Especially as you are volunteering in a developing country; things may not be on time or may not be organized in the place you're volunteering like it is in your home country, but just be patient and understanding.

The worse volunteers were the ones who weren't understanding of the culture and the situation. PMGY did everything they could to provide us with a platform to volunteer and help the local communities, but every so often a tukuk would be late or there was a power cut so you couldn't charge your phone - but you're in a developing country... What do you expect?

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

As I did the renovation project - this was a morning project - , it would be around 3-4 hours every morning, depending on how much work you had to do.

An average day would be wake up and have breakfast at the house (pancakes on Thursday was my favourite!!) and then take a tuktuk to project at about 8:30-ish. After project, we would go back to the volunteer house for lunch which was at 12:30ish and then the afternoon's were free.

If you have your afternoons free, you are able to pick up teaching or the orphanage project as a free addition, as they are afternoon projects and the help is wanted and encouraged. This was a two week minimum commitment and I decided against doing it... However, after my first week, I instantly regretted this, as travelling and going to the beach in the afternoon was great, but I should have grabbed the opportunity to make the most of making an impact in my afternoons!!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was fearful about travelling alone. I have travelled before, but never alone, and I was wondering If I would make friends or if it would be dangerous to travel as a solo female to a developing country.

I think PMGY helped with all this a lot. Social wise, there were so many volunteers, all like minded and keen to help like me. I made so many friends and at the start PMGY made it so easy for us to do that. Even before I arrived, I used the Facebook group to meet other people who were arriving the same day as me. The local team in Sri Lanka put on lots of social evenings, like quiz nights and a Sari social, that just helped us all bond.

Not once was I ever really fearful for my safety. The local team were always so careful and aware and looked after us so well. Even before I left, I joined a 'safety webinar' that they do for there volunteers, which made me feel safe before I had even left.

Anything you would have done differently?

Like I mentioned earlier... GET INVOLVED. I had the opportunity to do the childcare program and I decided against it. They gave me the opportunity to make even more of an impact, and I didn't take it?? The childcare is a minimum two weeks commitment, so when it got to my final week, it was too late. I understand why it's a minimum two weeks: for the children, but next time I will take every opportunity they give me.

Also, PMGY always offered opportunities, such as language lessons and to ask Ash (the main coordinator/director in Sri Lanka) questions about the projects, but I really didn't get involved as much as I should have. Make sure you do... You'll only regret it if you don't.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Laine Hodges

Job Title
Volunteer Coordinator
Laine is a free-spirited American from Virginia with a love of curry & Vegetarian cuisine. She has a keen ear for Spanish, will always greet you with a smile and if you ask her about the best places to visit in Cusco, she will offer endless recommendations!
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What is your favorite travel memory?

In Ecuador, I got to hang out in the Amazon Rainforest for a week, which was awesome. I learned all about the various fruits and plants there and how the community uses them for sustenance and nutrition, medicine and healing.

Probably one of my favorite parts of exploring the rainforest was hiking out to the thick of it and spending the night in a hammock. All of the sounds and sights and smells were just so captivating and beautiful.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I have grown a lot in my field professionally, learning how to produce and edit videos and growing in graphic design. But I have also grown personally, just getting to meet and talk with our volunteers and learn their stories, and learning about Peru.

I think anytime you have the chance to learn about another part of the world and gain a new perspective you also have a chance to broaden your horizons and grow as a person.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I feel that we offer a very personal experience from start to finish. The moment you read about the programs on the webpage you are met with a friendly chat, from there after application there are loads of way to communicate and get questions answered.

Upon arrival there is a smiling face and a warm hug to greet you and each day following, it is no doubt an adventure.

We dedicate our time to offering a unique and secure experience to ensure that this trip across the world isn't your last! The world is beautiful and there is so much to explore.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

A good team is a team with trust in each other, and lots of communication. They know and understand each member’s strengths and weaknesses and use the power of the team to balance things out accordingly, lifting and supporting each other.