19 Oct 2023 | A Handbook for Taking a Gap Year in Asia
Potential destinations and activities in Asia
Asia stands out as the ultimate continent for backpackers, offering a kaleidoscope of contrasts, adventurous opportunities, and awe-inspiring landscapes. From cutting-edge metropolises to stunning natural wonders steeped in history, there's no better place to embark on an epic journey or gap year of a lifetime. The array of potential destinations and activities in Asia is virtually boundless.
To cater to all your queries regarding a gap year in Asia and we understand there might be plenty – we've crafted this comprehensive guide to make your experience seamless. (If you're still unsure about heading to Asia, explore our gap year guides for the US, Australia, and New Zealand).
From Pristine Beaches to Thriving Megacities
Fulfil Your Wanderlust: Whether you crave pristine beaches, towering mountains, lush rainforests, or bustling megacities, Asia will surely satiate your wanderlust. Exploring every facet of this diverse continent within a year is a formidable task, but Asia will capture your heart no matter where you venture.
A quintessential gap year activity involves navigating Southeast Asia on a scooter. Imagine a thrilling journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, uncovering Vietnam's hidden gems. Alternatively, you can explore Thailand on two wheels, from vibrant Bangkok and wild full-moon parties to idyllic beaches. If the bustling Asian roads don't entice you, consider a serene boat ride down the Mekong River, unveiling the best of Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Further south, you can dip into the vibrant capital, Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, before immersing yourself in the untamed rainforests of Borneo or visiting nearby Singapore. From there, you can island-hop across the 17,500 islands comprising the Indonesian archipelago.
A visit to Asia would only be complete with experiencing ancient marvels like Angkor Wat, the Great Wall of China, and Burma's Bagan. These are sights of unparalleled grandeur that should not be missed. Equally unmissable, albeit for entirely different reasons, are the ultramodern metropolises of Tokyo, Shanghai, and Singapore, where cutting-edge technology is on full display. In Japan, a high-speed bullet train provides a swift and affordable means to explore the country's highlights, including Mount Fuji and Kyoto, not to mention savouring delectable sushi at top-notch restaurants.
Should your gap year itinerary include Japan and India, you'll encounter two distinct modes of train travel. India's railways possess a unique charm, offering a budget-friendly way to immerse yourself in the country's rich culture. Given the subcontinent's incredible diversity, you could spend your entire gap year in India without growing bored. Whether you wish to lose yourself in bustling markets of exotic cities, witness the Taj Mahal at sunrise, trek the Himalayan mountains, or unwind on the pristine beaches of Goa, the choice is yours.
The list of captivating Asian destinations is extensive
We have only scratched the surface, with dreamy locations like the Maldives, adventurous escapades in Mongolia, and the vast Chinese hinterlands yet to be explored. Let your travel aspirations run wild!
Learning and Teaching
Teaching in Asia ranks among the most popular and fulfilling gap year pursuits for those seeking more than travel. There's a constant demand for English teachers holding TEFL, TESOL, or TESL certifications. It enhances your resume and brings the gratification of making a meaningful impact on individuals who may have faced adversity due to their backgrounds. Teaching opportunities abound not only in major Asian cities but also in remote communities throughout the continent, offering a chance to venture off the beaten path. Remarkably, as a teacher, you'll also glean valuable insights from your students. Salaries and benefits, including vacations, vary by region.
Alternatively, you can approach education differently: learning Japanese or Mandarin. This offers a profound immersion into a new culture and lifestyle. It's also a standout choice for enhancing your profile with admissions committees, job searches, or career advancement. Tokyo and Beijing are the world's most exciting cities, ideally suited for international students. If Japanese or Mandarin feels daunting, consider honing your English skills in international hubs like Singapore, opening doors to numerous career opportunities.
Volunteer Time: Asia offers many volunteer opportunities, spanning community development and environmental conservation. Despite rapid urbanization, many communities in Asia still grapple with poverty, which volunteers can address by constructing schools and housing, assisting in orphanages, participating in health projects, or providing emergency aid after disasters.
Asia boasts abundant wildlife, but many natural reserves face threats from poaching, climate change, and urban development. If you're passionate about flora and fauna, few experiences rival a gap year immersed in Asian nature. Help conserve pandas in China or tigers in India's Kanha National Park, contribute to orangutan conservation in Borneo's rainforests, care for coral reefs and marine ecosystems on Madelieven Island, or lend a hand with elephants in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and other countries. This is just the pinpoint of the volunteering iceberg; Asia welcomes all passions.
Visa Matters: Navigating Asian visa procedures can be a traveller's challenge, but fear not – all you need is patience, time, and occasionally a bit of luck. Visa requirements vary from country to country; some can be processed within days, while others may take a month. In some cases, visas can be obtained at the border. Certain passports come with specific conditions, such as being used solely for tourism or temporary work. Travel insurance is mandatory for some visas and recommended for others. The duration of your stay also varies, ranging from up to a year in some Asian countries to only 30 days in others, often extendable.
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