These are the gap year options open to South Africans in their 20s, 30s and 40s

Taking a year-long vacation can actually help boost your career according to a new report by employment specialists, Glassdoor, who interviewed a number of employees who had taken a sabbatical, to better understand how it affected both their personal and working lives.

The report found that while it is important to manage your finances carefully during this time period, it is ultimately a “risk worth taking”, allowing people to focus their time and energy into hobbies, interests and even future potential businesses.

While the report focused primarily on American employees – taking a gap year is becoming an increasingly popular option for both South Africans students and working professionals.


Speaking to BusinessTech, STA Travel’s B2B manager, Karen Pretorius, said that the agency currently had a number of programmes that students or young professional could pick from.

These include:

  • Teaching English across Asia (China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Vietnam).
  • Au Pairing in Italy, the USA and China.
  • Working on a yacht.
  • Agricultural work in Australia, New Zealand, or the USA.
  • Hospitality work in the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Mauritius.
  • Gap year work in the UK and New Zealand.

“We find that a lot of travellers are opting to do these programs as a new adventure, because they are not sure as to what they want to do next, or because it is a great CV filler,” said Pretorius.


The most popular option is to teach English in Asia where you can expect to pay around R35,000 up front to take part in the program, said Pretorius. Breaking down the costs, Pretorius explained that this included a R500 application fee, a R7,852 programme fee, visa fees as well as flights.

You would then pay the remaining on arrival in Bangkok – $1,500 which includes your four week accommodation, breakfast daily and your four week TEFL course, she said.

“You will need to have round about $1,350 ‘spending money’ on arrival in Bangkok, this is just to keep you going until you get your first pay check.”

Another popular option is au pairing in the USA (for ladies only), said Pretorius. “This is a cheaper option, but is more restrictive in that there are set requirements that need to be meet to qualify.”

These include being fluent in English, a matric certificate, a driver’s licence, as well as a minimum of 200 hours of documented childcare experience.

However, applicants can expect to pay just R10,000 for the trip –  before earning themselves, she said.

Other trips – including some programmes in Hong Kong and Macau – require that the applicant only pay for the flights, said Pretorius.

Not just for students

Pretorius noted that STA Travel had seen increased interest from working professionals (South Africans in their 20s, 30s and even 40s) looking to take a gap year.

“We definitely have – with the state of the country, can you blame them,” said Pretorius. It is, however, not an immigration option, she warned, and these programmes are only valid for 12 months, after which you will have to return to SA after the contracts end.

That said, Pretorius echoed the findings in Glassdoor’s report and stated that it was a great opportunity to discover outside of the country – as well as internally.

“It’s a great way to find yourself, as cliché as it sounds, its true. To immerse yourself in a different culture and make new friends.”

“It’s also a great way to make money in a stronger currency and help beef up your CV,” she said.

Pretorius indicated that there were a number of programmes with stricter requirements which were aimed at South African who were older and with more working experience. They also typically pay better than other programmes, she said.

Some of the requirement’s include:

  • The applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree.
  • TESOL or TEFL – a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course (minimum of 100 hours).
  • 2 years relevant/post graduate experience.
  • Being fluent in English.

Read: What it’s like to live in a R300,000 modular home in South Africa

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These are the gap year options open to South Africans in their 20s, 30s and 40s