Gap Year Index

Where are the best gap year destinations?

With hundreds of countries and territories across the globe to choose from, people looking to take a gap year have many travel options available to them. All countries have different elements that make them unique, from stunning cities to luscious landscapes and fascinating culture.

Although it is more common for younger people to take gap years (often just before, or just after university), the concept is becoming more and more appealing to everyone, as sabbaticals become more and more common.

But where is the best place to visit on a gap year? By compiling data for numerous factors from countries across the globe, the most popular gap year destinations have been revealed.

Best countries to visit on a gap year




Gap year score

The best gap year destination is the Netherlands. This country shines in many elements essential for gap year travelers. It is one of the safest nations to travel to on a gap year, with a safety score of 72.84/100, and this factor amongst others helps it rank as the best destination overall. The country scores in the top three for two categories: hostels, and clubs and bars per 1000 square miles so prospective travelers are never far from fun in this nation famed for its nightlife.




Gap year score

Ireland is the second-highest-ranking gap year destination. The emerald isle achieved this score by ranking highly in many categories. It has very well-rated hostels, with an average score of 8.2/10, and the most attractions per 1,000 square miles with 375.




Gap year score

Switzerland is one of the safest countries to travel to with the highest safety score of 78.38/100. The alpine country also scores highly on hostels per 1,000 square miles, as well as a high hostel rating of 8.3/10. On top of that, Switzerland also ranks highly for many of the other categories.




Gap year score

Greece is the fourth European country to appear in the top five, and in fact, eight of the top ten ranking countries are all in the continent. Greece scores highly for attractions (337 per 1,000 miles), as well as solid scores amongst the other categories.




Gap year score

Japan is the highest ranking country outside of Europe, with the Asian powerhouse scoring 5.65. It scored highly for attractions and clubs and bars per 1,000 miles, on top of this it is the second safest country with a score of 77.81/100.

Gap year destinations ranked

Key Area (sq mi) Safety rating Average square miles per hostel Average hostel rating Average square miles per club or bar Average square miles per attraction Price of a beer (500ml) Available volunteering projects Total score/10



The best country for each gap year factor



Safety rating of:


As previously mentioned Switzerland is the safest nation with a score of 78.38, this is 20.92 more than the average score of 57.46. The second safest country is Japan with a score of 77.81, followed by Iceland in third with a score of 76.25.



75 hostels per:

1,000 square miles

The small island nation of the Maldives is where you will find the highest concentration of hostels with 75 per 1,000 miles on average. However, as the country is a chain of atolls and islands you may need a boat or plane to travel between them. Moreover it only has an area of 120 square miles, so there are only nine hostels in the country. Portugal and the Netherlands have the second and third highest concentrations respectively, with 13.8 and 7.7 hostels per 1,000 square miles respectively.

Hostel quality


Average hostel rating of:


Finnish hostels are the highest quality of any destination, with users giving them an average rating of 8.8, this is well above the average of 6.99. Scandinavian hostels in general rank highly with all of their nations ranking in the top 15. Canadian hostels had the second-highest rating of 8.7, and an average score of 8.6 went to Austrian accommodation.


United Kingdom

103 bars or clubs per:

1,000 square miles

If you are looking for refreshment, or to enjoy nightlife, the United Kingdom is the country to visit. The club capital has a bar or club every ten miles on average, far more than the average of 1,261 miles across all the countries. Italy and the Netherlands are second and third with a pub or club every 16 miles in the former, and every 18 in the latter.



375 attractions per:

1,000 square miles

Ireland has the biggest attraction density with 375 per 1,000 square miles, in total there are over 10,000 attractions across the 27,000 square miles of the country. Greece has 337 attractions per 1,000 square miles on average to rank second, and the Maldives come third with 333 attractions per 1,000 square miles.

Price of beer


Average 500ml beer bottle:


Germany is a country famous for its beers and the world-famous Oktoberfest, and it has the cheapest average price of a beer, and a 500ml bottle of local beer costs $0.71 on average. This is far cheaper than the average of $1.95. Bulgarian beers have an average price of $0.74, and they rank second. Meanwhile, Colombia is the highest-ranking country outside Europe at $0.77 per beer.


South Africa

Volunteering projects:


If you want to volunteer on your gap year then South Africa is the country to visit, as it has the most available projects at 379. This is followed by India which has 275, and Peru with 270. Unlike most of the other categories, the entire top ten is made up of non-European nations.


We compiled a list of 53 popular gap year destination countries.

The safety rating and price of a beer were sourced from Numbeo.

Number of volunteering projects was sourced from Volunteer World and Go Overseas.

Number of clubs and bars and number of attractions were sourced from Tripadvisor.

Number of hostels and their average rating was sourced from Hostelworld.

We then divided the country's area in square miles by these figures to discover the number of hostels, clubs/bars, and attractions per square mile.

Finally, we gave each country a normalized score out of ten for each of these factors, before taking an average of these for our overall score.