Taking a Gap Year in Australia: Everything You Need to Know
Thinking about taking a gap year in Australia? Here's the travel guide you need to read...
Looking to set out on a gap year in Australia? Or not sure where to travel yet and want to find out if an Australian gap year lives up to the hype?
There’s a lot of information floating around about student travel down under, career break ideas, working abroad and gap year travel in general, so we thought we’d create the ultimate, easy to digest guide to everything you need to know about spending a gap year in Australia.
Whether you’ve done a lot of travelling before or not, as soon as you dream those immortal words, ‘it’s time to plan my gap year’, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed about the process that lies ahead.
Well, stress no longer, because you’re in the right place. Here’s the low down on that gap year in Australia you’ve been dreaming of all your life. Thanks us later from the golden beaches of Oz.
What is a Gap Year?
If you’ve been living under a rock for the majority of your life so far – which by the way is a great reason to now get up and go on a gap year – then this one is for you.
A gap year is a period of time taken out between life-stages, whether a career break or break from academic life as a student, to travel, volunteer or work abroad.
If you’re looking at this screen, still contemplating what to do with your life and thinking ‘should I take a gap year?’, the answer is yes, it’s a great way to get away from the rat race for a while, live out some dreams and see parts of the world that you never would have otherwise.
Australian Gap Year Experiences and Adventures
Wondering what to do in Australia when you get there? Well, there are a whole host of reasons why a gap year in Australia could be the right one for you, and the sun, surfing and famously laid back culture of the country are only the start of it.
If the reason you’re taking a break in the first place is to get out there and see the world like you’ve never seen it before, a gap year in Australia could well be the one for you. It’s a big country, and the vast variation between the different regions really makes it stand out from the crowd.
The beaches in Australia are some of the best in the world. From the legendary Bondi Beach in Sydney to the Twelve Apostles in Victoria and less-trodden beaches in between, the place is basically a sun-lovers heaven. Think golden sand, golden sun, attractive members of the opposite sex and more surfing spots that you can point a bag of GoPros at.
Moving on from the beaches – which is something many of you are justifiably unlikely to do if you do ever make it down under – the wildlife down under is another common reason folk choose to take a gap year in Australia. Kangaroo Island, where you can see koalas, whales and dolphins as well as ‘roos, is just a short ferry ride from Adelaide, or you could even nip over to Tasmania and see an endangered Tasmanian devil if you’re lucky.
We should note that you may also see the odd 11-foot spider holding a giant, spiky boomerang in the corner of your bedroom, but don’t let that put you off...
Terrain-wise, the country is so diverse that a journey through the heart of it can be like a journey through the four seasons of the year – it’s the perfect mix for gap year travel.
The eerie-redness of the Australian outback is famously bizarre and unlike anything else on the planet, with canyons and waterfalls popping up out of nowhere and aboriginal caves lending a bit more culture and history to that adventurous trip of yours.
On the other side of things, you’ll find both rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef near Queensland, and even the opportunity to go skiing or mountain biking a few hours north of Melbourne at Mt. Buller. To sum up, a gap year in Australia is effectively like travelling through a highlights reel of the planet Earth. All killer, no filler. Perfect for those wanting to get away.
Getting Around Australia and Where To Stay
There are plenty of ways to travel the country as well, some of the best of which are hop-on hop-off buses that navigate across the country. Touring company Oz Experience offers 18-35 year old backpackers flexible bus travel, letting you stop off and spend as long as you want at each of your destinations before getting back on the road.
It runs multiple daily departures between Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and it’s massively popular with student and post-university travellers from Britain and indeed around the world. There are plenty of other services like it out there as well that let you make the most of your gap year in Australia!
You can also get a train pass for a bit more money from Rail Australia, and a lot of people like to rent or buy a car or campervan too, which while a little more expensive offers you even more flexibility.
For all of the above options, the most popular form of accommodation for gap year travel is to choose one of the host of backpacker hostels planted in and around every major city in Australia, but there are also the usual international hotel chains and plenty awesome places up for grabs on Airbnb, which is definitely worth checking out before you head.
If you’re grabbing a job and staying in one place down under for a bit longer of course, or heading out with a gap year program, your options may involve renting a place or even being put up for free by your employer. Read on to find out more...
Working Abroad in Australia
Often after committing yourself mentally to twelve months of gap year adventures, once you’ve dreamed of the wonder and freedom of it all, your thoughts may turn to the darker side of travel, and asking the dreaded question: how much does a gap year cost?
The answer, of course, completely differs depending on what your plans are, but fear not, because working abroad is often easy to organise and doesn’t have to be as strenuous as you might imagine.
Where should you start when looking for gap year jobs? Well, summer jobs abroad and gap year programs are all options for your working holiday in the sun... We’ll get to volunteer work later!
One of the most common gap year jobs in Australia is fruit-picking. The main pros for this are that you get to work in the Aussie sunshine, meet a lot of new people, the majority of whom will be like-minded travellers, and the work is available across pretty much the whole of Australia. It’s also very flexible work and you don’t need any experience.
The good thing about this option is that most fruit farms will also provide accommodation and food with the temporary contract, but it is an early start, the pay is more often than not minimum wage, and you’ll likely be based an hour or so outside of the nearest city.
Working as a jackaroo – which will see you work with cattle and sheep at a ranch – has many of the same pros and cons as a fruit-picker, but both can be organised well in advance through a gap year program, and will more often than not save you a lot of hassle with accommodation.
If you’ve got experience of course, you should be able to pick up bar work in one of the many cities in Australia, or you could even work as a diving instructor on the Great Barrier Reef if you’re looking for something a little more glamorous.
You do need to remember that working in any gap year job in Australia will require you to apply for a working holiday visa (WHV), which allows you to live in Australia and work in literally any job in the countrya for up to a year, or up to two years if you have a second WHV accepted after your first expires.
Once you’ve got your WHV, Australia is a blank canvas as far as jobs go. Depending on your qualifications, tastes and budget, the gap year jobs options really are endless...
Volunteer Work in Australia
It’s also possible to get volunteer abroad in Australia, with many conservation sites offering work which also comes with accommodation and food included and will see you spend a lot of time around some of the most stunning scenery in the country.
Most free volunteer work abroad isn’t usually completely free – you may still have to pay your own way out there normally and you’ll definitely need spending money – but it is a great option for those who would prefer less responsibility, no hassle over accommodation and a gap year experience spent deep in the great outdoors.
The voluntary jobs on offer in the country range from working in parks and reserves to working on beaches and even deep in the Outback – and that’s only what’s on offer around Sydney and New South Wales.
Western Australia, including Perth, offers similar experiences, while Queensland boasts rainforests, Brisbane and beautiful coastlines and Melbourne and Victoria offer access to the Great Ocean Road and the most famous coastlines of Australia.
There are also conservation volunteering jobs around the famous Ayers Rock in the North, working with wallabies in Adelaide or even with Tasmanian devils in, you guessed it, Tasmania.
Again, remember that you’ll need to sort your tourist visa before you head out for any of these!
The Basics: Australia
Currency: Australian dollar
Average temperature: Varies vastly throughout the country, but South Australia’s summer runs from December to February, where the average is 28.3 Celsius but regularly rises above 30.
Emergency numbers: 000 is the national emergency number to remember in Australia.
Visa Info: Working Holiday Visa needed.
Main attractions: Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, golden beaches, rainforests, deserts and ski slopes. Take your pick!