Hubs to Include on Your Gap Year
These are some of the best cities in the world - make sure you try and factor at least one of them into your travels!
1. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo; city of flashing neon lights, super-advanced gadgetry, Hello Kitty and about 13 million people, which makes it one of the most densely populated cities in the world. But it's got more to offer than batteries, bodies and blinking lights. From the cacophony of sights, sounds and smells that is Tokyo, it is possible to make a short journey and find yourself atop a mountain with nothing other than peace and tranquillity surrounding you. It may be far to travel to but it's got a whole lot to offer - whether you like stuffed cat toys or not.
Tokyo and Japan in general is not a cheap place to get to or stay. Cheap flights can be obtained for about £400 to £500, but during the summer months can peak at £900 return! Hostels cost around £15 to £20 per night and there are plenty of fast food outlets about, so you can feed yourself cheaply. If you've got the stomach for it, sushi can cost as little as £1 per portion, so that should help stretch the budget.
2. New York, USA
New York, New York; setting for hundreds of sitcoms and films, inspiration of many a song. Five boroughs, 12 avenues and street after street crammed full of museums, shops, fast food outlets and 'I ♥ NYC' gift shops - and that's before you get started on the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square and all the other tourist-tastic stuff that you can get up to.
Home to the world's largest department store, New York is probably the most fashionable, hip city on the planet. Plus it's really easy to get to with all major mulit-national airlines flying there - flights costs range from £300 to £700 depending on the time of year you travel - summer months are much more expensive. New York is not a cheap city to stay with prices similar to those in the UK, but beware, prices displayed are not inclusive of tax, so bear this is mind before you head off on the mother of all spending sprees! Go on, take a bite out of the Big Apple...
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Say Rio and you think Carnival, thousands of bronzed bikini-clad bodies snaking through the sun-baked streets of Brazil's capital city in time to a thumping samba beat. But this city has plenty more besides - some of the world's most stunning beaches, thriving nightlife, a 24/7 party vibe and Sugar Loaf mountain too. All of which are proudly enveloped by the open arms of the huge white statue of Christ the Redeemer standing atop the Corcovado Mountain at a height of 710 meters. Rio de Janeiro, a jewel in South America's crown.
A couple of things to be aware of before hot-footing it across to Rio. Portuguese is the official language throughout Brazil, although you shouldn't have any problems finding English speakers in the main cities like Rio. Flights start at around £400 to £500 and peak at over £900 in the summer months, so pick your flights carefully. A bed in a hostel costs around £7 a night and you can eat plenty of food very cheaply in Brazil. But you'll soon burn off any excess calories dancing the night away in the Rio's bars and nightclubs.
4. London, UK
It was a toss-up between London and Paris for the honour of top European city, but we think that England's capital just pips it. After all, London played host to the 2012 Olympics, so we figured it must be better. Home to Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, the London Eye, the London Dungeon's and more musuems than you can shake a cucumber sandwich and a cup of tea at, this city is simply bursting with history and culture. Take a boat trip along the Thames, stroll through Hyde Park, gaze at the Crown Jewels or feed the pigeons at Trafalgar Square. We promise you'll never get bored in London...
London can be a pretty expensive place to stay if you want it to be, but you can also do it on a budget. A bed in a hostel costs about £15 to £20 and there are loads of small, quirky restaurants and cafes down various backstreets that allow you to eat well, but cheaply. London is a massive city and the best way to get around is by underground; you can get a one day travelcard for all zones for around £6.
5. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is often regarded as the World's most beautiful city. Combining the fast pace of a great urban metropolis with the immense natural beauty synonymous with Africa, it certainly is a city of contrasts. Nestled on a peninsula between lush valleys and rocky heights and overlooked by the great Table Mountain, whether it's stunning wildlife or crazy nightlife you are after, Cape Town has it in spades.
Flights to Cape Town begin at around £400 and peak at £600 in the summer months - bear this in mind when booking. A bed in a hostel costs around £7 and you can eat out cheaply too - just get off the main streets and hunt out the smaller places that will offer you cracking seafood or game animals by the half kilo. It's also worth remembering that South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere so has seasons opposite to the UK's (their winter is during our summer, etc). Also Cape Town has a Mediterranean-type climate with hot summers and warm, wet winters. The South Africans are also well-known for their partying, so will certainly be able to show you a good time if you stop by Cape Town.