Go Higher: How to travel the world

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The Independent Online
FOR AN increasing number of young people considering taking a gap year the chance to travel and work abroad is a key priority.

After spending months locked in your bedroom, battling the temptation to turn on the TV and trying to avoid your panic-stricken friends like the plague while you revise, the idea of eight months of freedom in an exotic country is bliss.

For most the combination of travelling and work is inseparable as it is almost impossible to spend a long time abroad without running out of money, even in the cheapest of places, and it is impossible to go abroad without enough money for at least a return ticket.

Most students who take part in foreign expeditions, cultural exchanges or conservation and community projects want to combine the experience with wider travel.

Tessa Doe and Helen Evens, co-authors of "A Year Off ... A Year On", published by Lifetime Careers, advise you find casual work while travelling as it will impress future employers as well as give you a different outlook on the country. They also advise you plan your trip as thoroughly as possible to save a lot of disappointments later on.

For example, make sure you have all the right work permits, visas, health requirements and have swotted up on cultural differences because you will be an awful long way from home should anything go wrong.

Travel abroad can be expensive, but if you are aged over 12 and in full- time education, you are eligible for an International Student Identity Card, which entitles you to certain student reductions on fares and places of interest, as well as enabling you to use the ISIC helpline, an emergency service.

For cheap round-the-world air fares, it is well worth scouring the travel sections of the national newspapers, Teletext and the internet for special deals as most student, or specialist travel operators are listed.

They will be able to make your flight arrangements if you give them an idea of your budget, or where you want to go.

As for finding out more about the country you wish to travel around, consider contacting its UK embassy or tourist board. They will have all the latest information about potential political/civil hot spots and health scares.

The shops are also full of useful guidebooks, like the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide series which are made with budget travel in mind, listing cheap places to stay in.

Comprehensive travel insurance is a must. As you are not likely to be staying in top class hotels and will be on the road a lot of the time, you are bound to have something stolen or broken. For the best deals shop around. You do not have to take the travel insurance offered by your travel agent.

Some workcamps and voluntary agencies arrange their own insurance for people working on their projects, but it is not always the case.

It is vital you find out what the visa requirements are for the country you are visiting because if you get it wrong you will not be allowed in. For some countries you will have to arrange a visa before you arrive, depending on how long you want to stay. If it is only a matter of weeks you will probably be able to obtain a tourist visa on arrival at the airport - but it is worth checking with the relevant embassies in London.

As for knowing how much money to take, the only way you will be able to calculate the cost of your stay, is to research the cost of living in the country you plan to visit. It is not easy as some have hugely fluctuating inflation.

Guide books may give some indication of the cost, as will the embassy if you ask, but you should always make sure you have enough money for a return flight home and to cover you in an emergency.

Make sure you know of a way to get money sent to you in an emergency, or invest in a credit card. It can be invaluable when things go wrong.

Travellers cheques are an excellent investment as you can exchange them almost anywhere and replace them if they are stolen, so long as you keep their details separate.

One of the first things you will have to do when you've decided where you want to go, is check your innoculations and health requirements. It may take a month to complete some courses.

Your GP should be able to tell you what injections you will need, or you can ring the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad helpline, and you will be sent a detailed health brief tailoured for your journey, as well as information about immunisations and the latest health news.

The phone number is: 0891 224100, 24 hours a day, or if you are going to six or more countries, call: 01705 553 933.