5 Safest and 5 Most Dangerous Countries to Spend a Gap Year

20 Jun 2017 by Olga Brighton

Travel Information

There are many gap year travel opportunities and volunteer programmes tailored for the diverse interests and skills of young people.

Going on a gap year trip can be an enriching and life-changing experience. It tremendously benefits personal growth and opens your eyes to the realities of the world. This is why it’s so crucial to choose a gap year travel destination that is right for you.

Gap year travel

During your gap year, it’s a good idea to select a country with a different language and culture, but you should also be aware of the risks and issues involved in going to a foreign country. There are a number of places in the world where it is safe to travel, but there are also the most dangerous places that you might want to avoid.

As a general rule, you should choose a country where it is politically stable, has a growing economy, and where there are no major terrorist threats. Avoid locations where there is political unrest, threat of civil war, terrorism, or religious extremism. Visit the FCO website on health and safety abroad. The FCO provides current information on each country and can help you decide where to choose for your gap year. It might be obvious, but avoid unnecessary risks and don’t travel to a location that is against their advice. Wherever you decide to go, make sure that you are protected with sufficient travel insurance coverage. It’s a must not a luxury!

Here is a list of five of the most safest and five of the most unsafest countries in the world to spend a gap year.

5 Safe Countries to spend a Gap Year:

1. New Zealand

New Zealand gap year

One of the world’s most spectacular natural beauties, New Zealand is an ideal location for your gap year, because it is far away enough to make you feel that you have truly travelled, while at the same time it is not too culturally different. New Zealand is one of the safest places to travel and has a well-established backpacker community. You will meet other travellers who can recommend the cheapest and best hostels to stay in, and give itinerary advice. If you love the great outdoors, the topographical diversity of this country will truly inspire you. Here is an amazing New Zealand itinerary for 6 days.

2. Peru

Peru is a major destination for backpackers on their gap year. It is easily one of the most beautiful countries in South America. There are many magnificent places to explore such as the Amazon Jungle, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca. Peru gets a lot of tourists and relies heavily on income from the tourist industry. The local government makes every effort to make sure that tourists are safe and protected in their country.

3. Cambodia

Less touristy than neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia is an ideal place to visit because of its cultural heritage and the notorious friendliness of its people despite the tremendous adversity faced in their recent history. Visit the iconic Angkor Wat and don’t forget your camera, as Cambodia is one of the 20 most scenic places in the world to photograph.

4. China

China gap year

China is an intriguing country to visit. Language and communication can be a real issue, especially when you get away from the big cities, but the locals are very friendly and welcoming to foreigners. The Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors are just two of the wonders that you will see in this country, and you will discover a lot more. There are also many volunteer opportunities and TEFL jobs available in China.

Read also: 11 Common Risks to Avoid in Any Country

5. Tanzania

If you love animals and nature, Tanzania is a great place to go on your gap year. Many travellers volunteer as English teachers or work with various charitable organisations and help with community projects in rural areas. You will get a chance to go on safaris and trek up the magnificent Mt. Kilimanjaro.

5 Dangerous Countries to spend a Gap Year:

1. Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a volatile location with much of the country on the FCO’s list of areas that they advise against travelling to. Foreigners visiting the country have been beleaguered with kidnapping incidents, bribery, and worse, murder. There are many stories online of young people who visited Afghanistan on their gap year and lived to tell the tale, but visiting the country is too risky and dangerous.

2. Libya

Libya travel

The UK government advises citizens not travel to Libya due to the threat of terrorism. In fact all British nationals who are still in the country are advised to leave the immediately. It is a shame because it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with its Greco-Roman ruins and dramatic landscapes.

3. Iraq

Even if some travel websites say that Iraq is a safe country to visit, especially the region of Kurdistan, there are still high risk elements within the country. The situation in Iraq remains uncertain, so it is best to forego a visit until the situation has stabilized.

Read also: 9 Most Dangerous Foods in the World

4. Syria

The FCO has advised against all travel to Syria. The situation in Syria remains extremely volatile and dangerous as there is widespread fighting, including full scale military operations throughout the country. The FCO also state that terrorist attacks are likely and the risk of kidnapping is high. It’s a location you must avoid completely until further notice.

5. Somalia

Somalia travel

Somalia is a war-torn country, and the civil unrest and extreme poverty has made the country politically and economically unstable. Although it is a beautiful African country, the fact that it is plagued by terrorism and infighting makes it a dangerous country to visit on your gap year.

In fact, there are at least 11 common risks to avoid in any country but with enough research and preparation your trip can be safe and worry-free and an experience of a lifetime.

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