Top 11 Ways to Stay out of Trouble on Your Gap Year

Written by: Vicky Philpott


The list of troubles you could find yourself in on your gap year is literally never ending. Getting a bit ‘naughty’, a bit ‘out of hand’, a bit ‘lads lads lads’ might seem like a great idea at the time, with all your new travel mates egging you on, but find yourself in a police cell/hospital bed/naked, alone and penniless on a beach, and all of a sudden – not so fun.

Travel should be all about fun and adventure, not trouble and strife. Here’s how to stay out of trouble on your gap year.

1. Don’t do drugs

Seems obvious, but we’re saying it anyway. The fact you’re with newfound friends in some fantastic location might mean you’re open to trying new things. That’s great, but don’t let that sense of adventure spill over into pharmaceuticals.

Aside from potentially damaging your health, in countries where drugs are illegal you could end up in jail Bridget Jones-style, at the least, Peru Two-style at the worse. Save yourself the agro and just say no. Stick to the local beers.


2. Never walk home solo

Staying out late while you’re travelling is a given. With clubs, bars and beach bonfires to attend, the hours soon wile away and you could be left to wander your way home in the dark.

To make sure you don’t get lost or end up in a dodgy situation, walk home with a travel pal you trust and not the stranger you just met. If in doubt, phone your hostel and get them to recommend you a trustworthy taxi firm.

3. Know where you live

Whenever you arrive in a new hostel, hotel or AirBnB, pick up the business card, take a photo of it or write down the address. Getting yourself lost somewhere in a new destination, and then not even knowing where you live, sucks. Trust me, I’ve done it. Cue desperate search for Wi-Fi to look up my hotel name.

4. Drink responsibly

When it comes to jungle whisky and local liquor you really need to be careful. You don’t know how strong the stuff is or what’s even in it. Would it even be legal in the UK? Go easy.

Even when you’re drinking alcohol brands you’ve heard of just have a little restraint. It can be tempting to get annihilated – best way to make friends, right? It’s also super dangerous when you’re in a new place, with people you don’t really know, and no one to reliably look after you.

Also, don’t leave your drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers.


5. Watch the budget

Empty bank accounts equal big trouble. If you’re lucky, you have someone who loves you to phone and save you, although even if you do, they’re going to be angry at you.

Avoid the wrath by budgeting. Work out your weekly spend before you go away, don’t be tempted into going beyond it. Constantly keep an eye on what you’ve got left – I love the app Money Dashboard for keeping an eye on my finances.

6. Distribute the dollar

Speaking of your hard-earned cash, like most backpackers you’ve likely toiled away to save up for the dream trip. Don’t let any sticky-fingered criminals take that away from you. Keep your cash and cards safe. That means separating it and keeping it in a few different places: the suitcase pocket, bra and backpack lining are good options.

Always carry a lock for your locker when staying in hostels and never flash your cash in public.

7. Be respectful

Always be kind and respectful to the country you’re in. You don’t want to anger any locals. At best they may just think of you as an obnoxious traveller, but at worst there could be damage done.

Do yourself a favour and be polite, don’t go looking for fights and back off any one trying to antagonise. Just. Walk. Away.


8. But not too respectful

Having said that, don’t feel that you have to be so polite as to end up in hot water. A local asks you for dinner? A dodgy character wants to go for a stroll? Beggars asking for money? All these requests may well be innocent, but if you feel they’re not, don’t feel pressured into going along with it just to be respectful. You can say no.

9. Trust your gut

Know your own mind and trust your instincts. Your parents are back home and your besties may not be around so your usual safeguards aren’t on hand. You need to trust yourself enough to get out of any situation that doesn’t feel quite right. There’s pushing your comfort zone, and then there’s just putting yourself in danger.

10. Keep clean

Trouble can also take the form of puking your guts up and having your head in the toilet. It’s the kind of trouble that can ruin a trip, have you paying unwanted medical bills and a quick trip back on the next flight home. Being sick can also tarnish your memories of a destination, which isn’t what you want.

So don’t let sickness get you down. Be wise about what you’re eating and how you’re taking care of your health. It’s simple stuff but washing your hands, using anti bacterial hand gel and lathering on the sunscreen can save your trip.

11. Communicate

Always let someone know where you are – even if it’s a friend back home. If you’re meeting someone you met the day before, going to a local’s house, or just going off for a walk, it’ll help you to enjoy yourself to know you have back up if you need it.

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