A study by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has found Australia is the most sought-after destination, followed by New Zealand and the USA. It has always been popular amongst backpackers and, with its laidback culture, jaw-dropping scenery and endless sunshine, it’s easy to see why.
But there are a few factors which take away from this being the perfect gap year travel destination. So if you’re considering Australia for your gap year, make sure you look over these pros and cons first.
Let’s start with the pros to taking a gap year in Australia, shall we?
Pro: There’s a Lot to Explore
Australia is one heck of a large country and the variation between the different regions will make you feel like you’re travelling through several countries, as opposed to just one. It’s home to some of the best beaches in the world, and with over 10,000 to explore, your options are hardly limited!
The majority of these beaches are natural, unspoilt and wild, with crystal clear water and waves that are perfect for surfing. As well as the beaches, you’ll find rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef near Queensland, mountains a few hours north of Melbourne and Kangaroo Island near Adelaide, which boasts an array of wildlife including koalas, whales and dolphins, as well as kangaroos.
Pro: The Locals Are Friendly
One the whole, Australians are a friendly, cheerful bunch, who‘ll be more than happy to help you and make you feel at home in their country. In fact, it's officially the world's seventh friendliest country for tourists according to the World Economic Forum The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015.
If you’re travelling solo, expect to be approached by locals everywhere from shops and pubs to public transport and even on the street, as they’re usually eager to learn about your reasons for visiting and tell you more about Australian culture.
You’ll also find you get invited along to all sorts of things with them, such as trips to the beach, bar crawls, gigs and sporting events - sweet as!
Pro: The Weather Is Blissful
Australia has a moderate climate, with hot, glorious summers and mild winters. There are in fact just a couple of places in the country that ever receive snow and the further north you travel, the warmer it gets.
Because of this, Australians spend a great deal of time outdoors enjoying the sun – whether it’s barbecues in the garden, sports on the beach or drinking outside bars, you’ll find people soaking up the rays at every turn. Bear in mind that the sun here is very strong, so it’s essential to pack plenty of suncream and hats.
Pro: You Don’t Have to Learn a New Language
Travelling is a whole lot easier when you can talk to anyone in your language without worrying that they won’t understand a word you’re saying (and vice versa). Things like asking for directions, checking bus times and ordering meals can be extremely challenging when you don’t know the local lingo.
But fortunately in Australia, this is one obstacle you won’t have to overcome. There is, however, a great deal of Australian slang, but you’ll undoubtedly pick this up in no time.
Pro: It’s Close to Southeast Asia
Australia is just around the corner from Southeast Asia, meaning you can check out Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos on route. Alternatively, if you’re planning to spend your entire gap year in Aus, you can hop across to these countries for a short break, before heading back.
At The Leap, we offer a 10-week volunteering placement in Cambodia, which involves teaching English, caring for elephants and living alongside traditional communities – the perfect way to kick off your gap year for those looking to travel to that part of the world.
Of course, it’s not all rosy. For all the amazing benefits described above, there are a few downsides...
Con: It’s Very Far Away
Unfortunately, Australia is not exactly on our doorstep, meaning it’s going to be one long, expensive journey, unless you break it up a bit. A direct flight to Australia from the UK will take roughly thirty hours and cost you anywhere between £600 and £1000 return.
For the best deals on flights, check STA Travel’s website and, if you manage to find a flight that’s cheaper than one of theirs, let them know as they’ll beat it.
Con: Dangerous Animals Are Everywhere
Australia is home to many species of dangerous animals and insects, such as spiders, snakes and crocodiles, which, although they’re protected, can still be a terrifying threat to people.
Other potentially life-threatening animals that can be found in the water include jellyfish, the great white shark and the blue-ringed octopus. There is no way to avoid these creatures, so just be sure to watch out for them and try to keep yourself at a safe distance away.
Con: You’ll Burn Through Money
Australia is incredibly expensive, so much so that whatever you would normally budget for food, accommodation etc. at home, you should probably double. In the major cities, rent is high, even if you’re in a hostel.
You wouldn’t want to slum it though, as with bars and restaurants being so pricey, you’ll inevitably be spending a fair few nights in. Make sure you plan carefully to reduce your costs while travelling here, or you could find you run out of money much quicker than you were expecting to.
Con: Jobs for Backpackers Are Hard to Come By
Due to the aforementioned high prices, you might decide you want to get a casual job to fund your stay in Australia. And because backpackers have gained a bit of a reputation for upping and leaving whenever they please, employers here are quite often reluctant to hire them.
For this reason, you might want to look into finding work through a gap year company and carrying out a program such as The Leap’s 5-week program in Sydney, which will get you settled and sorted on the job front, as well as enable you to travel up the East Coast.
Con: It’s Too Big to Travel Around Easily
If you were to put a map of Australia over mainland Europe, it would pretty much cover it; that’s just how vast this country is! Travelling long distances can really take the enjoyment out of visiting a place but unfortunately, this is unavoidable in Australia.
If you’ve saved enough money, you’ll be able to take flights across the country, which will obviously save you a lot of time. But if you don’t have the cash to spare, then expect to spend hours in the car (start with these Aussie driving tips from TripAdvisor) or on public transport, which won’t be much fun.
Going Down Under?
Have you been already been to Australia? What did you most like and dislike about it? Share your stories and advice with others by posting in the comments box below.
on 18 / 08 / 2015