For many students, a gap year is a perfect opportunity to take a break from their regular routine, acquire new skills, and immerse themselves in learning new cultures and languages. 

From Southeast Asian gems to vibrant North African cities, the world is full of exciting destinations to visit — whether you’re a student taking a year out, learning a new language, or just an avid explorer. But which destinations are the best for gap year travellers in 2024? 

To find out, we’ve analysed 65 locations, looking at metrics including city safety scores, the number of hostels available, volunteering projects, things to do, restaurants, and the average temperature to create a final ranking of the best spots to visit on a gap year. 

So, grab your backpack and get ready to discover the best places to explore during your gap year! 

The top 10 best gap year destinations in 2024 

1. Bali, Indonesia 

Bali, also known as ‘The Island of the Gods’, is an island province of Indonesia. Renowned for its scenic beaches, rich culture and world-class surfing hotspots, it ranks as the best location to visit for a gap year in 2024.

If you’re thinking about travelling here, you’re likely going to need somewhere to stay. Luckily, Bali has the most hostels to choose from of all locations in our study, with a total of 271. Bali is also home to a number of action-packed activities. Whether it’s spending the day at a monkey sanctuary or climbing Mount Batur at sunrise, Bali has 1,420 activities on offer per 100,000 people — ranking second for this metric behind Siem Reap. 

Bali also has the third-highest number of restaurants, at 997 per 100,000 people, so there is plenty of authentic Indonesian food to choose from. Plus, the average yearly temperature of 26.6°C, a comfortably warm climate, is an added bonus. 

2. Koh Samui, Thailand

Thailand’s second-largest island, Koh Samui, ranks as the second-best destination to visit during a gap year. Its picturesque beaches and dense rainforest make it a hotspot for countless tourists. Koh Samui has a staggering 2,058 restaurants per 100,000 people — the highest number of restaurants of all locations — serving up classic Thai cuisine and dishes from around the world. 

Koh Samui has the highest yearly temperature of all destinations, 28.67°C — so fairly warm, but not an unbearable climate. The island is also the safest location among the top three on our list, with a safety score of 71.39 out of 100. 

If you choose Thailand as part of your gap year experience, Thai lessons might help you to communicate better with the locals. 

3. Siem Reap, Cambodia 

Another Southeast Asian city rounds off the top three locations in our study. Siem Reap is Cambodia’s second-largest city and home to Angkor Wat, a famous Hindu-Buddhist temple recognised around the world. 

Siem Reap has the highest number of things to do, totalling 1,517 overall, including street food tours and traditional Apsara dance performances. If you’re keen to help out the local community, there are around 23 different volunteering projects available, including community work, food and farming and clean water projects. 

When it comes to dining, there are 703 restaurants per 100,000 people available here serving up all kinds of Cambodian cuisine (including scorpion and papaya salad if anyone is interested!) and the average yearly temperature is a pleasant 28°C. 

The 10 most affordable gap year destinations in 2024

We know that many gap year travellers are on a budget. So, to help you out, we’ve created a list of the most affordable destinations to visit. 

1. Cairo, Egypt 

Egypt’s capital, Cairo, ranks as the most affordable city in our study. To stay in a one-bedroom flat for a month, it will cost you just £132 — the most affordable price overall. When it comes to getting around, a one-way bus ticket costs as little as 17p! 

A meal for one will cost around £2.85, the ninth cheapest average of all. Koshary and Mesakaa are two staple dishes in Cairo, offering a taste of classic Egyptian cuisine. Whether you’re exploring a museum or going on a cultural day tour, daily entertainment costs an average of £4.65.

2. Hanoi, Vietnam 

The city of Hanoi ranks as the second most affordable city. Vietnam’s capital is full of historical landmarks, vibrant nightlife and picturesque scenery. It’s just a bonus that the city is considered to be affordable for travellers on a budget. Although the price of a one-bedroom flat for a month is slightly more than Cairo (£277.53), this cost is still the fifth cheapest of all locations in our study. At a similar price to Cairo, bus tickets in Hanoi cost just 22p for a one-way journey. A meal for one costs £1.60, the second cheapest in our study behind Chiang Mai, and the average cost of daily entertainment is £6.82. 

3. Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, known as Morocco’s ‘city of luxury’ comes in third place for the most affordable city. A monthly stay in a one-bedroom flat in the city is similar to Hanoi, averaging £270.58 for one month, the fourth cheapest on the list. 

Here you’ll pay about £5.55 for daily entertainment, ranking fourth for this metric. For a one-way bus ticket,  you’ll pay just 31p and a meal for one costs around £2.73. 

Marrakech is an ancient city with bustling markets, colourful streets, and plenty to do both day and night. You can’t miss Djemaa el-Fna square, where you’ll find snake charmers, food stalls, and stunning architecture.

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The safest gap year destinations in 2024

We know the importance of safety while travelling. That’s why we’ve taken a closer look at the safety scores of each destination to help you make informed decisions. 

1. Kyoto, Japan

The city of Kyoto is located in the Kansai region of Japan, known for its traditional Japanese gardens, temples and culture-soaked atmosphere. With a high safety score of 85.26 out of 100, this city is the safest location according to our study, with a tourist-friendly reputation, low crime levels and clean, well-lit environments. 

If you travel here during your gap year, you might want to take some Japanese lessons to help you out with basic words and phrases on your trip. 

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

In second place for the safest city in the study is Chiang Mai, Thailand, located just north of Bangkok in a mountainous region of the Thai highlands. With a high safety score of 76.83 out of 100, this city is considered to be a safe destination for locals and visitors.

3. Singapore

Singapore secures the third spot with a score of 76.19 out of 100, following closely behind Chiang Mai. Its efficient police, surveillance and low crime rates make this city an excellent option for solo travellers on a gap year.

Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin. For those wanting to brush up on their English speaking, an online English tutor is a great option for refining conversational skills.

teenage girl with backpack for gap year

Top tips for gap year travellers 

Taking a gap year is an exciting opportunity to explore the world and broaden your horizons. Whether you’re seeking cultural immersion, language learning, or simply a break from the ordinary, countless destinations are waiting to be discovered. 

We’ll take you through some of the top trips for travellers, offering insights to help you plan an unforgettable gap year. 

1. Learn the language 

Learning a new language is not only a great life skill, but makes travelling to a new country where they speak the language a lot easier. A simple tip is to learn basic words and phrases in your destination’s local language if you don’t already know it. Just being able to say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ is a great first step and will help improve your travelling experience. 

2. Respect the culture 

Each destination has its own unique culture, customs and religions. Taking the time to research and familiarise yourself with these differences will greatly enhance your travel experience. 

Remember to do your research before you go so you’re fully prepared. Most countries will expect you to respect their local customs, for example, in some temples and religious establishments, you’ll need to cover up certain parts of your body. Always carry something to cover up with, like a scarf or sarong, to show respect and avoid any unintended offence. 

3. Pack light…and smart

You’ll be travelling around a lot, so don’t forget to pack light and think about what you will need on your trip.

Opt for light, quick-drying fabrics and clothing that are suited for the climate of your destination. Pack travel-sized toiletries and consider using solid toiletry options like a shampoo bar and solid sunscreen to minimise liquids in your luggage. Remember to pack charging cables and adapters. A power bank can be really helpful too in case you’re unable to charge your phone somewhere. 

4. Prioritise experiences over luxury

When budgeting for gap year travel, seek out budget-friendly options like hostels, use public transport and try local street food rather than more expensive sit-down restaurants. Align your budget with activities you’ll be participating in, and your ultimate goals for your gap year. Whether you’re volunteering, learning a new language or visiting cultural landmarks, prioritise experiences that will contribute to this experience. 

Set aside a portion of your budget for emergencies or spontaneous opportunities that might arise while you’re away. 

By focusing on meaningful experiences and being mindful of your spending, you can make the most of your gap year without breaking the bank.

Sources and methodology 

For this study, we used an index methodology and included the following metrics:

The best gap year destinations

the most affordable gap year destinations

  • The average cost of rent in a 1 bed flat per month of a hostel- Numbeo
  • The average cost of a single bus ticket- Tripadvisor
  • The average cost of a meal for one-Tripadvisor
  • The average cost of daily entertainment – Tripadvisor

Each location was ranked using the above metrics to achieve an overall score out of 10. 

All data was collected on 02/04/2024.

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