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Top tips and destinations for your teen’s gap year

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Thousands of students have just opened their A-Level results and while many have secured a university place starting this autumn, for others, it’s the beginning of their gap year adventure.

Whether you’re celebrating or commiserating your child’s A-Level results, for some parents, the next big worry is them flying the nest to go on a once in a lifetime gap year adventure.

They may be heading to the other side of the world to travel, work or study (see below for popular destinations) but no matter what they’ll be up to, here’s how they can make sure they’re prepared.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has these top tips for gap year travellers:

  • Check with the travel company and with the Foreign Office for “dos and don’ts” and “no go” areas for the country being visited. It will also give details on visa requirements and how to get relevant visas, which is especially important if your kids are going to be working.
  • Your kids should choose a reputable gap year travel company with a good track record that is a member of a trade association, such as ABTA, so they have a point of contact and support should anything go wrong.
  • A good quality travel insurance policy is essential: it should cover all the activities they plan on doing as well as the length of time they will be away. The cheapest policies will not necessarily provide the right level of cover needed for a lengthy stay overseas, or for extreme sports.
  • Your kids should research local customs and culture before going to understand more about the host destination and to avoid unwittingly causing offence.
  • They need to get all the necessary jabs and inoculations, usually at least eight weeks before travelling.
  • If they’re going to a country where malaria is prevalent, make sure they pack anti-malarial medication and always finish the course.
  • For those volunteering, they need to think carefully about the kind of activity they’ll be doing, especially if the volunteering is with children. ABTA recommends using an operator that matches your child with suitable projects. Check that they do background checks when volunteers are working with children or vulnerable adults and that they will provide your child with necessary support when they’re abroad.
  • Adventurous kids travelling to non-English speaking countries should take some basic language lessons before they go as well as a phrase book/pocket dictionary in the local language. If they’re going to rely on a mobile device for translation, check the costs involved.
  • Make sure they inform their bank of where and when they’ll be travelling to reduce the risk of them stopping your card.
  • Have your kids print off and keep electronic copies of all the important travel documents and leave a copy you.
  • They should keep a list of emergency contact numbers in a safe and accessible place.

Popular gap year destinations

According to ABTA data, these are the most popular gap year destinations:

Thailand, Australia, Vietnam, Peru, New Zealand, USA, Cambodia, South African, Argentina and India.

However, with the pound so weak against many major currencies at the moment, foreign exchange specialists, Caxton FX, highlights destinations off the beaten track where sterling still gets good value for money. Here are four destinations worth considering:

1) Argentina

Since this time last year, the pound is 14% stronger than the peso. £500 gets you 11091.10 pesos now versus 9716.50 pesos in August 2016 (1375.60 pesos more). This means a room in a nice three-star hotel costs £62 and a main course in a restaurant is just £9.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), it is relatively safe but there is quite a bit of petty crime, such as bag snatching. UK Passport holders don’t need a visa as a tourist as long as the stay is under 90 days.

2) Mongolia

Right now the pound is up 10% against the Mongolian tugrik since last year. £500 gets you 1570695 tugriks now versus 1423827.5 in 2016 (146867.50 tigriks more). An evening meal in a restaurant in Ulaanbaatar costs just £6 and a double room at a standard hotel costs £58.

According to the FCO, it is mainly trouble-free but the advice is not to go out alone on foot at night as Western tourists can be targeted for their relative wealth.

3) Myanmar

At the moment, the pound is up 12% against the kyat compared to last year and £500 buys you 878935 kyats now versus 782476.45 in 2016. You can get a two-course meal in a restaurant for just £4 and a double room in a mid-range hotel for just £39.

For anyone wishing to travel to Myanmar, they should check the latest advice from the FCO as there are some areas where travel is not recommended.

4) Egypt

Currently the pound is up a whopping 103% against the Egyptian pound since last year and £500 gets you 11826.15 Egyptian pounds now versus 5815.45 in 2016 (6010.70 Egyptian pounds more). In Egypt, a two-course meal in a restaurant can cost as little as £3 and a double room in a standard hotel can cost just £23.

For anyone wishing to travel to Egypt, they should check the latest advice from the FCO as there are some areas where travel is not recommended.

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