Getting around on your gap year couldn’t be easier. The first decision you need to make is do you want to throw yourself into your adventure and jump on public transport or do you want to take your schedule into your own hands and hire a car?
There are pros and cons to either mode of transport; here we talk you through your options.
Thanks in part to the internet and the availability of credit cards; it is easier than ever to rent a car abroad. You can find a car rental office and book a car before you even leave home. The knowledge that you’ll have a means of transport when you reach your destination can be reassuring for you and your parents. But is it the best way to get around?
A rental car is convenient. It will get you exactly where you want to go, and the insurance and other details will be taken care of for you, including help if you break down. However, it can also restrict you to particular timings and places. Rentals need to be picked up and collected on a certain date, especially if you’ve booked in advance to save money. You may need to return a hire car to the same office it was collected from, and some companies don’t like their cars to cross national borders, which may crimp your long-distance travel plans.
In some countries, you may feel safer renting a car than relying on public transport. Having a lockable space can be particularly important for women, especially if you plan to travel in less well known or populated areas, or after dark. With a hire car from an international firm, you can also be sure that the tyres, seatbelts, and other safety features will be checked regularly and kept in good condition.
However, do consider the safety aspects of driving in a foreign country. Traffic signs and symbols on the road, junctions and roundabouts, and the behaviour of other drivers may be very different from what you’re used to at home. Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road can feel strange at first. You might find yourself having to drive while tired, or get distracted by the scenery or by talking to friends.
For many, taking public transport is the only way to get the authentic flavour of another country. The sights from the window, conversations with fellow passengers, and even hair-raising driving are all part of the experience. That said, a car can take you off the beaten track, bringing you to places and views not accessible by bus or train.
Whatever modes of transport you end up choosing while you’re on your gap year; it’s a good idea to pass your driving test before you go. That way, you’ll always have several options available to you.