Ready to switch things up? Spending some time abroad is often just what the doctor ordered when you are looking to get out of a rut.
Sure, some people may say gap years are a waste of time. I mean, shouldn’t we all be sticking in one place, focusing on our futures and staying in our comfort zone? Bullshit.
A gap year in Germany sounds like an EPIC opportunity if you ask me. I mean, you can live smack bang in the middle of Europe, and learn something completely new! People use a gap year to travel long-term, learn a language, volunteer, work abroad as an au pair or even do some kind of internship.
You’ll get a bunch of time to soak up the unique German culture, from their quaint villages, rowdy beer halls, fairytale castles, vibrant and modern cities and alps that are just begging to be hiked, skied or snowboarded – you won’t find a lack of things to do.
Sounds like a pretty good investment in yourself, right?
If you’re keen on the adventure but want to know how to take a gap year in Germany, stick with us. We will answer all your questions and give some amazing suggestions of how you could spend your time.
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Why Take a Gap Year in Germany
Taking a gap year is something, we think, everyone should do.
The main demographic that comes to mind when we think of gap years is recent school leavers. Taking a year out offers the ideal opportunity to see what the world has to offer before diving into more education, work or whatever you have planned next.
You might be a higher education student wanting to make the most of those long summer holidays, or someone who needs a break from the 9 to 5 hustle and to take a sabbatical – YES, grown up gap years are a thing. Whoever you are, the benefits are the same!
Spending an extended period of time exploring Germany is the ultimate way to polish up your German language skills. It’s a notoriously hard language to master, but the language immersion you get while living there is a real sink or swim scenario. I bet you’re gonna thrive!
You will have the chance to have a true cultural experience while in Germany. You might choose to live with a host family as their au pair, or do a volunteer project where you meet a bunch of cool locals and other travellers. Germany has a rich history with historic cities, quaint villages and gorgeous nature. However you like to travel, you’ll be exposed to new and interesting sides of the country.
If you’ve seen a map of Europe, you know that Germany is smack bang in the middle of other countries that are just waiting to be explored. You’ve got France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria Switzerland AND Luxembourg right next door. That’s not even mentioning the other close neighbours. You can use Germany as your base to visit Europe by train, car or bus.
Europe probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of a cheap gap year, but there are definitely ways you can economise and do it on a budget. Spending an extended period in one country is one of them!
How to Plan a Gap Year in Germany?
There’s a lot that goes into planning a Germany gap year. You need to think about all the things you want to do, things you need to do, and then those little boring politics like visas and budgets.
We have a WEALTH of knowledge when it comes to budget backpacking and finding ways to make your adventure all the more wallet friendly – if that’s what you need.
Here are the top things you need to consider before you dive head first into planning your gap year.
Budgeting will be the most important thing to think about when planning your adventure of a lifetime. It will be what determines where you can go, what you can do and how long you can stay.
Have a long hard think about what you can – realistically – afford, and how that will affect your gap year. If its the difference between a couple of extra beers on a night out instead of heading over to France, do what makes you happy! Beer in Germany is some of the best in the world after all..
What are you looking for in your gap year? Do you want to get off the beaten track and have some deep thoughts in a remote field in the middle of nowhere? Or are you looking to get involved with the community, immersing in the language and getting to make some lifelong friends?
Everyone enjoys their travel differently, some like the fast paced tourist life while others thrive with slow travel.
Think about what you want to get out of your gap year, and make sure anyone you are travelling with is on the same page!
3. Pre-planned vs winging it
Germany is known to be an organised and structured country. But, what are you?
Are you the kind of person who likes to pre-plan everything down to what you’re going to eat for lunch on Thursday, or do prefer to go with the flow? Both approaches have their benefits.
Even winging it will involve a bit of planning, though you’ll have the flexibility to make decisions as you go.
If you’d prefer to arrive in Germany with some structure around your plans, check out Global Work and Travel. This crew of travel experts offer top-notch programmes for people wanting to take gap years all around the world, including Germany. They can help you sort out visas, provide orientation to the country, organize accommodation, and much more.
Alternatively, you could also go with Worldpackers. It’s an online company that connects travelers with foreign volunteer hosts who then work in exchange for housing. You basically get to live for free by helping the company or business with a few hours every week. Worldpackers also offers a plethora of additional resources, a great support network, a blogging platform for collaboration, and a whole lot more – ideal for your gap year!
Your situation back home will have a HUGE impact on how long you can spend on your gap year. Students normally spend between 5-9 months out and exploring, while those who are homeowners or pet lovers may be restricted.
If you have the chance, and the budget, spend a whole year travelling for your gap year! Perhaps it will persuade you to take the leap into full digital nomad life – making money from wherever you are.
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Gap Year in Germany Budget
Europe isn’t the first destination that comes to mind when thinking of a cheap gap year, but there are ways you can economise and do it on a budget. In fact, living in Germany can actually be pretty affordable. Compared to some of its neighbours, Germany isn’t expensive and you can find a way to live your best life in a way that suits your budget.
Your cost of living in Germany is going to depend on your lifestyle. If you have a student discount, you’ll be able to save a few euros with discounted public transport, and maybe even a special happy hour.
The cost of groceries in Germany is pretty decent. Groceries or “lebensmittel” aren’t super high, which means you can eat like a king from your own kitchen. For a country with some of the best standards of living in the world, it’s possible to find a way to live where you can make the most of the German beer, eat well and spend your spare time enjoying yourself with friends, even if you aren’t earning a tonne of money.
Rent varies depending on where you choose to stay in Germany. It’s not only considerably different between inner-city areas and those outside the city, but also dependent on which city you choose to live.
For example, staying in Munich and Frankfurt is pricey as they are the big business cities. While places in Berlin have a reputation for being a bohemian and alternative. The demand means the cost of rent is high, and you might have to cough up a bit more to live there.
On the other hand, if you decide to do work as an au pair in Germany, you won’t have to stress about rent, as you’ll likely be living with your host family.
Unless we’ve said otherwise, these prices are average monthly prices.
|Rent (1 bedroom apartment in city)
|Rent (1 bedroom apartment outside of city)
|Rent (Room in a share house)
|€300 – €800
|Eating Out (Average restaurant)
|Eating Out (3 course meal)
|Local Beer (0.5 litre)
|€120 – 180
|Petrol (per litre)
Visas for Gap Years in Germany
Woohoo, this is totally the fun part (eye roll) – VISAS!
The visa you need for a gap year in Germany will depend on your nationality, what you want to do and how long you want to stay.
If you want to work while you’re in Germany, you’ll need a work visa. Even unpaid work like volunteering is considered work, so make sure you check. If you happen to be one of the lucky buggers with EU citizenship, you’ve already got working rights in Germany (and how many other countries?) and won’t need to take any further steps. If you’re from elsewhere, you can look into visa requirements with the German embassy or consulate in your country.
If you don’t plan to work during your time, you may be eligible for the 90-day Schengen visa. Some countries need to apply for and organise these in advance, but you may be one of the fortunate folk who can get your stamp on arrival. Look into it!
I wish I could wave a magic wand and guarantee that any visa process would be super easy. Sadly, that’s not how it works. I would pack my bags and move to a foreign country in a heartbeat, but the idea of having to sort visas out myself has me absolutely trembling in my boots. If you agree, why not make it easy for yourself?
We’ve made friends with the crew at Visa First who can help you out with things related to visas, particularly the kind that allows you to work and live in another country longer than the typical tourist visa.
That means you can use your time thinking about what you really what to do with your gap year in Germany, and not sweating the small stuff.
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What to Do in a Gap Year in Germany
How you choose to fill up your time away will be totally dependent on you!
The most common ways that people spend their gap year in Germany is either working as an au pair for a German family, or taking part in a volunteer project.
Let’s take a deeper look at the opportunities.
Volunteering in Germany
Volunteering in Germany is a great way to give back to the community and contribute to projects that make the world a better place.
There are a whole heap of projects you can get involved in, ranging from protecting the environment to empowering people and bringing tangible social change.
The best volunteer project for you is one that strikes your interest and lets you use your skills. Have a think about causes that light a fire in your belly, and a meaningful way you can contribute to them. This is where you’ll have the biggest impact.
A great option for finding volunteer projects in Germany is to use Workaway or Worldpackers. These platforms connect travellers like us with cultural exchanges, environmental projects and social programs all around the world.
Worldpackers: connecting travellers with meaningful travel experiences.
Getting involved with a project through Worldpackers and Workaway is super simple. Once you’ve signed up to their platform, you have a membership for a whole year and can take part in any of the projects listed on their site. It’s a great way to have a cheap gap year in Germany, be immersed in the culture and have an impact while you’re at it.
You can also take the DIY approach and track down a project yourself. You might already have an organisation in mind, but if you don’t, it’s easy enough to do some research yourself and find one online.
Try a specific Google search like “volunteer with refugees Germany” and see what comes up. Of course, you can change the location to a more specific city or region if you already know where you’d like to be. With this approach, I found amazing and meaningful projects such as Serve the City Berlin and the Liberty Experience in Munich, which do meaningful work to integrate and support refugees in Germany. You’re not limited to causes like this, you should choose one that inspires you to get involved!
You might find yourself scrounging the internet for a while and see a dramatic increase in your screen time, but it’s worth doing the research to find a project that really interests you.
Au Pair in Germany
Working as an au pair is an appealing option for many people who want to travel and have an authentic experience. It’s also a good way to earn some cash as you go.
If you’re good with kids, this is the for you, and offers a base during your gap year in Germany. The specifics of the job will vary from family to family, but you will end up with tasks like school pickup, homework assistance, cleaning, and organising activities for the children.
It’s not all work though, you’ll also have time off where you can explore the local area, hang with your friends, and do whatever it is that your heart desires.
Most people will organise their au pair experience through an agency or website. This involves making a profile for yourself on the platform, and browsing through the options of families looking for an extra pair of hands. You might find some opportunities on Facebook groups or hostel noticeboards too!
Be sure to check out the au pair programme with our mates at Global Work and Travel. The big appeal here is they sort out the tricky stuff for you. In the case of au pairing in Germany, they ensure you are matched with a safe and welcoming host family.
This is an important part of any au pair experience, as being matched with a family you’re not compatible with is going to put a real wet blanket on your time abroad. We sure as hell don’t want that! In case it does happen, they will re-match you with a new family. It’s always good to have a backup!
GWaT will arrange for you to be picked up by your host family when you arrive, and have your own comfy and private bedroom in your new home. There will be no cupboards under the stairs for Global Work and Travel au pairs.
Another huge incentive to sign up is that you’ll get an allowance to enrol in local language classes AND get a holiday to either Oktoberfest or Ibiza! The choice is yours! But either way, you’ll get a trip away from any responsibilities and the chance to let your hair down. Epic.
Expeditions and Epic Things to Do in Germany
Look, we know the reason why you want to spend your gap year in Germany isn’t just because you want to spend time with a host family or volunteer on a project. There are a bunch of incredible cultural experiences and expeditions you can embark on during your trip!
The list is long, but these are our top picks of unmissable things to do while you’re in Germany.
Nestled at the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, you’ll find majestic castles that have inspired Disney fairytales. This day trip leaves Munich and takes you out to Neuschwanstein and Linderhof castles where you can check the castle grounds. These sights are literally straight out of a storybook and are said to have inspired the stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
When you’re not castle hopping, you can wander through the cobblestone streets of picturesque towns. You’ll get a feel for old-school Bavaria, its quaint villages and historic significance.
Berlin is a vibrant and exciting city to visit today – and there are stories to be told at every corner of its streets. Berlin was a setting for some of the 20th century’s most significant moments and regimes. A tour like this is a must to understand what Berlin, and Germany as a whole, have been through.
As you weave through the streets of former East and West Berlin, you’ll pass ruins of the Berlin wall and learn stories from the Third Reich and Cold War. You can’t visit Germany and remain ignorant to these dark and fascinating parts of history.
A government building tour may not seem like a fun way to spend a day. I’m a total politics and history nerd, so this tour was right up my alley – please hear me out if those topics usually induce a snoozefest for you.
This tour of the Reichstag takes you around the iconic government building, and gives insight into Germany’s unique political history.
You’ll be taken through areas of the building, and hear engaging stories of mysterious fires and secret tunnels. You’ll walk up into the Reichstag’s glass dome which can be seen from outside the building – the glass of the dome represents the transparency of the German government, and you’ll get a kick-ass view out over Berlin from the spiral walkway. Architecture fans will love this. If nothing else captures your attention, you’ll get some cool pics for the gram at the very least.
It’s a must-do in Berlin, and will enrich your experience travelling in Germany. Do it and thank me later.
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And don’t forget your insurance…
Many many travellers embark on exciting adventures around the world and think they don’t need to bother with travel insurance. Sure, we all have a choice, but the folks who don’t bother with travel insurance are the first ones to freak out when something goes pear-shaped.
We get it, travel insurance can feel indulgent, and you sometimes don’t even know if you’ll be covered for the things they promise.
Let us point you in the direction of those who do what they say they will and can help you out of a sticky situation.
If you prefer to only take out coverage for medical stuff, SafetyWing offers great insurance that is available on a flexible month by month basis.
Month to month payments, no lock-in contracts, and no itineraries required: that’s the exact kind of insurance digital nomads and long-term traveller types need. Cover yo’ pretty little self while you live the DREAM!
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to work! Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.
That’s all from me!
Whether the path of an au pair or a volunteer is the one that calls you, we bet you’re gonna have an absolutely wunderbar gap year in Germany.
All that’s left to do is get stuck into your planning and make sure you’ve budgeted for a few beers in a beer hall to celebrate this awesome new chapter.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!