Life & Culture

Fancy a gap year after A-levels, think about these important things

If you’re heading off for 12 months of adventure after A-levels, seek out some financial advice before you go


Rear view of young female tourist enjoying the view in Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

With A-Level exams over, hundreds of thousands of school leavers face the choice of whether to go directly to university, get a job or defer for a year and travel.

This year more than 180,000 will choose to take a gap year. According to a Department for Education and Skills (DfES) study, two in five claim they want to use the time to become more independent through work and travel. It went on to reveal some 83 per cent will work in the UK during their gap year and more than half intend to travel. The costs are high.

Teaching Abroad Direct estimates the average cost of a gap year in 2022 was £2,258 a month, or £27,097 for a full 12 months of travel. Four in five school leavers said they intended to fund this themselves through work, while one in five intends to rely on the bank of mum and dad.

Key to a successful gap year is planning, says digital wallet HyperJar. Setting out countries and places to visit, the documents needed and time spent in each place allows travellers to get an idea of the budget they will need and plan ahead accordingly.

Don’t forget costs such as an international mobile phone plan, travel insurance, vaccinations, visas and contingency money just in case things don’t go to plan.

Is working a possibility while abroad? TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses cost a couple of hundred pounds and can offer a good way to earn money if you intend to stay in one country for a while.

Alternatively bar work or waitressing can offer more transient work options.

For travellers intending to take part in charity work, is sponsorship an option? Projects Abroad ( has a good list of charities and organisations offering funding for charity-based gap years. Alternatively consider organising fundraising events to raise cash.

Think about how you will spend your money when abroad. Apps or online travel cards such as those offered by Revolut, Wise and Travelex provide a cheaper way of spending abroad than traditional credit or debit cards. Using a pre-paid version means you can top up the account as needed, and if it is stolen the thieves can spend only what is actually on the card.

Travel insurance is a must and it is important to buy specialist gap-year cover as this will provide protection for continuous travel. Annual travel policies limit individual trip times to typically 30 or 60 continuous days. Make sure any pre-existing conditions are disclosed at outset as not doing this could invalidate the policy.

Does the plan offer enough medical cover for the countries visited? America, for example, is more expensive than Europe for treatment. Is there enough luggage cover? Don’t forget electronics such as phones and laptops.

Is a return trip to the UK covered during the gap year? Is working abroad? And what type of work is covered while travelling?

What sports are covered as standard — participating in more extreme sports will cost extra.

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