Caribbean sunshine and Havana’s glorious architecture are big pulls, but it’s the vibrancy of the people that really makes Cuba special.
A great way to explore the country is through the people, get close to the people, travel cheap and eat amazing Cuban food. Staying with local families will really give you an adventure of Cuba’s culture. Check out cuba-junky.com , a useful site that lists many of them for you.
The bus system allows you to travel with ease through a straight forward system and look out for the men in orange boiler suits whose job it is to flag down rides for hitchhikers.
Take a 13 hour trip to Santiago, a city vibrating with beats and bands playing on every street corner. Head to Casa de La Trova for a taste of the original song, which inspired the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca on his visit and where the locals are more than happy to teach you a few steps of Salsa… By Rina Shah, student, Leicester University
Mexico is still mystifying backpackers and travellers who make the visit to Central America with its big booming cities, beautiful beaches and ancient ruins of the Mayans. 2013 is set to be a big year for Mexico, especially as Cancun has just been voted the friendliest city in the world. It’s a great point to start or finish a gap year… By Francesca Dolton Smith, Gap year student, City University
Most students will associate summer in Budapest with the Sziget Music festival, the Hungarian capital has alot more to offer. The city is famous for its ruin pubs with their arty underground atmosphere in hidden courtyards.
Sightseeing is beautiful along Andrássy út, dedicated to 20th-century Hungary’s fascist and communist regimes. Stop by Menza for lunch, not very cheap but it serves delicious Hungarian food. Roshan Kiyani, Student, Nottingham University
Ibiza is for late nights, long mornings and great fun in the sun. The weather is good all year round so it doesn’t really matter when you visit.After a breakfast of melon and coffee at in Talamanca, we took to the streets of Ibiza old town, drinking Cola through a straw. It was pretty hot so don’t forget your sunscreen.
The best memories are of scrambling down to the sea from the summit of the old town and launching into a deep pool. Water in the shade is much colder than it looks.
In the afternoon, we were lucky to chill with our books, beach and sunglasses, with regular dips for temperature control. Playa del Talamanca is a family beach, but with a flock of great bars it turns into the long, Spanish night out. Great fun.
Return flights in June from £61 midweek, with Monarch from various UK airports. By Jay Kumar, Student, Birmingham University
Thailand is now considered the number one destination for those on a gap year. It’s easy to get to (only a 12 hour flight. Trust me, that’s easy when it comes to travelling), it’s cheap and there’s so much to see and do. Thailand really does tick all the boxes and more… By Rupert Sar, Student, University of Dundee.