Ways to avoid culture shock on a gap year

Backpacking can seem a little bit daunting at first, it’s only natural that you feel a little intimidated at the idea of striking out on your own in a foreign country where the people have different customs and speak a different language. No backpacker shows up in a foreign country for the first time and is immediately at ease, read on for some tips on how to be prepared for your gap year…

Read about your destination
Before travelling to a country, read a good guide book and learn about the local laws and customs of your travel destination. It is important to look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to see if there are any travel warnings for the countries you are planning to explore. If you decide to organise your trip with a gap year company, research it thoroughly before committing. Find out how long they have been operating and how many people they have taken abroad in the past. It’s a good idea to chat to other backpackers on travel forums online and ask them for advice on what challenges you might face. You should also read up on what health risks exist in the countries you want to visit as you may need to arrange travel vaccinations with your GP.

Practice speaking the language of the country you want to visit. If there is one thing that will make your backpacking trip easier, it is the ability to communicate with the locals. Just some basic phrases are usually enough, but the more you can speak the better. It is difficult to travel without the help of local people – you will need to order food, request hotel rooms, ask for directions, and enquire about transportation so dig out your phrase book!

As a traveller in a foreign country, there is a higher chance of you standing out. Keep a careful eye on your possessions. Never leave your backpack or valuables unattended or with someone you don’t completely trust. Also be aware of pickpockets who tend to operate in crowded areas like train stations. Make sure you have copies of all your important documents such as your passport, driving licence, travel tickets, travel insurance policy, itinerary and contact details and keep these separate from the originals.

Have you always dreamed of going to a certain place, maybe the Taj Mahal or the Great Barrier Reef? Wherever that dream place is for you, this is your opportunity to go there and to fulfill that dream. Don’t be tempted to tag along with new friends on their travels, remember, your trip is what you make it and could be a once in a lifetime opportunity so let your enthusiasm give you the motivation and confidence to reach your dream destination despite any fears or doubts that may be putting you off.

Don’t forget your gap year insurance
You can purchase great value gap year insurance direct at 24/7 travel insurance. For a 2-month trip in Asia, will cost you just £18.43* – a small price to pay to really enjoy your gap year all the more!

* Premium £18.43 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on an individual aged under 36 taking out a ‘Standard’ Backpacker Worldwide excluding USA/Canada/Caribbean 24/7 travel insurance policy for 2 months. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (February 2011) and are subject to change.