Program Guide:

The Voyager,
Fall 2023

September 8 - November 17, 2023
Itinerary Packing & budgeting Country guides


Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to availability and local conditions at the time of departure.

Days 1-22: Australia & New Zealand

Day 1: Friday, September 8
Depart the US
Say your goodbyes and hit the road for your first step in your journey! Depart from your home airport to fly to Melbourne. Be sure to get to the airport at least 3 hours early. Because of the distance, the time zone change, and the International Date Line, your travels will be long. Make sure you have your passport, a change or two of clothes, any medications you might need, chargers and battery pack, and some snacks in your carry-on bag.
Meals included: Some meals may be included on your flight; check directly with your airline for more details

Day 2: Saturday, September 9
Transit Day
Because Australia & New Zealand are located on the other side of the International Date Line, you’ll have an extra travel day as you travel forward in time! With the time change, this day will (literally) fly by. Make sure to try to grab some shut-eye and hydrate!
Meals included: Some meals may be included on your flight; check directly with your airline for more details

Day 3: Sunday, September 10
Arrive Down Under
Land in Melbourne, your first stop in Australia! An EF representative will be awaiting you at the airport. Once you arrive in Melbourne, take a walking tour with your Tour Director to get acquainted with the city. Enjoy dinner together with your group.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 4: Monday, September 11
Orientation & Explore Melbourne
Get acquainted with your cohort of fellow Voyagers and get ready for your upcoming adventures. Explore the dynamic city of Melbourne on a guided tour, and start to get to know Australian culture.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 5: Tuesday, September 12
Free Day in Melbourne
Enjoy exploring Melbourne on your own! Your Tour Director will have suggestions for how to make the most of your time.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 6: Wednesday, September 13
Melbourne’s Laneways
Take a walking tour of Melbourne’s laneways, the iconic Victorian-era narrow streets and pedestrian paths teeming with cafes, street art, and cultural activity.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 7: Thursday, September 14
Fly to Cairns
Fly from Melbourne to Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Enjoy a welcome dinner with your group.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 8: Friday, September 15
Great Barrier Reef
Spend a day on the water doing guided snorkeling with a marine biologist seeing the amazing plants and animals in the Great Barrier Reef!
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 9: Saturday, September 16
Cruising through the Rainforest
Spend a day white water rafting through a river in the Australian rainforest! Spot the flora & fauna surrounding you while getting a big adrenaline kick.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 10: Sunday, September 17
Port Douglas & Mossman Gorge
Head to Port Douglas, one of Australia’s most spectacular beach towns, to spend a day in the sea & sand. Visit Mossman Gorge, where you’ll walk through the rainforest and learn about the Indigenous communities that live there.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 11: Monday, September 18
Head to Sydney
Fly from Cairns to Sydney, where you’ll do a walking tour to acquaint yourself with the city.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 12: Tuesday, September 19
Sydney by Land & by Sea
Take in the sights of Sydney with a guided tour by bus — then hop aboard a boat to see Sydney’s iconic skyline from the water.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 13: Wednesday, September 20
Surfing on Manly Beach
Take a ferry from Sydney to Manly Beach, where you’ll take a surf lesson. This stunning beach is a haven for locals and foreigners alike to take in some amazing surf!
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 14: Thursday, September 21
Blue Mountains Excursion
Take in the views and do some walks through the Blue Mountains. Take a gondola ride through the peaks!
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 15: Friday, September 22
Free Day in Sydney
Enjoy a free day to explore Sydney on your own time. Your EF Tour Director may have recommendations on optional activities you can do.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 16: Saturday, September 23
Fly to Rotorua
Say goodbye to Australia as you head to your first stop in New Zealand! Fly from Sydney to Rotorua. This could be a long travel day or an overnight flight, so make sure you pack everything you’ll need for comfort and entertainment in your carry-on bags.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 17: Sunday, September 24
Explore Rotorua
Spend a day exploring Rotorua, including a Duck Boat tour on the lake.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 18: Monday, September 25
Indigenous Culture in New Zealand
Visit Waka Maori Village to learn about the Indigenous Maori culture of New Zealand. Do a traditional Hangi feast with a community that works with marginalized groups in New Zealand.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 19: Tuesday, September 26
Hobbitton & Transfer to Auckland
Take a bus from Rotorua to Auckland! Along the way, stop at Hobbitton, where you’ll feel like you’re stepping into the Lord of the Rings movies as you visit the lush pastures of the Shire. See where the movies were filmed and take in the stunning landscape. In the evening, arrive in Auckland.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 20: Wednesday, September 27
Waiheke Island & Ziplining
Take a ferry to Waiheke Island, where you’ll go ziplining to take in views of both the forest and the Hauraki Gulf.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 21: Thursday, September 28
Free Day
Enjoy a free day to explore Auckland on your own. Your EF Tour Director will offer some optional activities that you can choose to do. See the Budgeting section below for more details.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 22: Friday, September 29
Free Day & Farewell Dinner
Enjoy a free day to explore Auckland on your own. Your EF Tour Director may offer optional activities that you can choose to do. In the evening, say goodbye to New Zealand with a farewell dinner with the group as you prepare for your next step on your journey.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Days 23-46: Thailand

Day 23: Saturday, September 30
Fly from Auckland to Bangkok
Board a plane to travel from Auckland to Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city. You’ll meet your local EF Tour Director near baggage claim at the airport in Bangkok.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 24: Sunday, October 1
Explore Bangkok
Explore Bangkok on a guided tour, including the iconic Buddhist temple Wat Pho and a boat canal tour with a stop at an orchid farm. Enjoy a welcome Thai dinner with your group.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner 

Day 25: Monday, October 2
Floating Markets
Wake up early to make it to see one of Thailand’s iconic floating markets. You’ll see a spectacular array of local foods and other goods for sale — many from vendors rowing boats through the canals of the market. In the afternoon, take some free time to rest or explore Bangkok on your own.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 26: Tuesday, October 3
Free Day & Evening Walking Tour of Chinatown
Spend a free day exploring Bangkok at your own pace. Once the sun sets, explore the streets of Bangkok’s Chinatown neighborhood, one of the best places in the city to taste street food.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 27: Wednesday, October 4
Visit Organic Farm & Train Market
Visit an organic farm near Bangkok and learn about farming practices in Thailand. Visit a market that is set along a train track and watch as the vendors fold their stalls up when trains come by!
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 28: Thursday, October 5
Free Day & Night Train
Enjoy a free day to explore Bangkok on your own. In the evening, board a night train to take you to Chiang Mai in the northern part of Thailand.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 29: Friday, October 6
Explore Chiang Mai
Spend the day exploring Chiang Mai and learning about the unique Northern Thai culture. See Wat Doi Suthep, a spectacular mountainside temple just outside the city , and have a traditional kantoke dinner.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 30: Saturday, October 7
Free Day in Chiang Mai
Enjoy a free day in Chiang Mai to explore the city on your own — or take a well-deserved rest day. Your Tour Director may have recommendations for activities for your free time.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 31: Sunday, October 8
Free Day & Walking Street
Enjoy a free day in Chiang Mai to explore the city on your own — or take a well-deserved rest day. Your Tour Director may have recommendations for activities for your free time. In the evening, re-join the group to visit the walking street of Chiang Mai — a vibrant night market where you can try street food and buy different goods.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 32: Monday, October 9
Wat Suan Dok Temple and Home-hosted Dinner
Visit Wat Suan Dok Temple, filled with exquisite carvings. In the evening, have a home-hosted dinner with a local family to learn about Northern Thai culture and cuisine.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 33: Tuesday, October 10
Mountain Village of Mae Kampong
Visit the mountain village of Mae Kampong, where you’ll stroll through the forests and visit an herbal sauna.
Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Day 34: Wednesday, October 11
Transfer to Krabi
Fly from Chiang Mai to Krabi, in the southern part of Thailand.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 35: Thursday, October 12
4 Island Boat Trip
Hop on a traditional long boat and travel around to four islands off the coast of Krabi. Take in the impressive rock formations and the sandy beaches.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 36: Friday, October 13
Free Day in Krabi
Enjoy a free day to take in the sun and the sand in Krabi.
Meals included: Breakfast

Note: For this portion of your Thailand program, the two cohorts of Voyager students will be split into different itineraries in order to accommodate the needs of our service learning partners. One cohort will go to Koh Lanta first, and one group will go to Krabi first. Both cohorts will work on the same projects and get to do the same activities.

Days 37 – 40: Saturday, October 14 – Tuesday, October 17
Environmental Education & Service Learning at Nature Mind-ED
Participate in a service project with NatureMind-ED, an organization focused on sustainability and environmental conservation. While there, you’ll participate in activities like a permaculture and sustainable living workshop, work on a coral reef restoration project, and work on mangrove conservation and caring for the dugong population. Explore the area through hikes and a visit to a bat cave. 
Meals included: All

Day 41: Wednesday, October 18
Travel to Koh Lanta
Head to Koh Lanta, an island off the coast of southern Thailand.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Days 42-43: Thursday, October 19 – Friday October 20
Service project with Following Giants
Participate in a service project with Following Giants, an organization dedicated to improving the habitat and welfare of elephants. Both EF and Following Giants are partnered with the World Animal Protection, ensuring that any activity you are doing is safe and providing a healthy environment for animals. There are unfortunately many tourist organizations that exploit these animals, and you’ll learn the difference as you work side by side with Following Giants to care for the elephants.
Meals included: All

Day 44: Saturday, October 21
Free Day in Koh Lanta
Enjoy a free day to rest or to explore this Thai island.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 45: Sunday, October 22
Fly to Bangkok
Fly from Koh Lanta back to Bangkok.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 46: Monday, October 23
Free Day in Bangkok
Enjoy a free day in Bangkok to check off any last Thailand bucket list items. In the evening, have a farewell dinner with your group before heading off to your next destination.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Days 47-71: Japan

Day 47: Tuesday, October 24
Fly from Bangkok to Tokyo
Board a flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. Touch down for your first stop in Japan.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 48: Wednesday, October 25
Explore Tokyo, Old & New
Spend a day on a guided tour of Tokyo. Take in sights like the Meiji Shrine, the Sky Tree, and the Harajuku Neighborhood. Have a welcome dinner with your group.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 49: Thursday, October 26
Explore Shibuya
In the morning, take a walking tour of Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood, famous across the globe for being a hub for youth fashion and culture. Cross the world’s busiest road crossing. In the afternoon, explore Tokyo on your own.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 50: Friday, October 27
Sushi & Akhibara
Learn how to make authentic sushi in a cooking class. Visit the Akhibara neighborhood — famous as a hub for the anime, manga, and gaming industries — where you’ll visit one of Tokyo’s famous game centers.
Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Day 51: Saturday, October 28
Day Trip to Kamakura
Take a day out of the city to visit the Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura. See the Great Buddha of Kamakura and the Hasedera Temple.
Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Day 52: Sunday, October 29
Free Day in Tokyo
Enjoy a free day in Tokyo to explore on your own. Your Tour Director may have suggestions or optional activities for you to join.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 53: Monday, October 30
Free Day in Tokyo & Karaoke
Enjoy a free day in Tokyo to explore on your own. Your Tour Director may have suggestions or optional activities for you to join. In the evening, join your group for dinner and a karaoke evening!
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 54: Tuesday, October 31
Free Day in Tokyo
Enjoy a free day in Tokyo to explore on your own. Your Tour Director may have suggestions or optional activities for you to join.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 55: Wednesday, November 1
Transfer to Hakone
Transfer from Tokyo to Hakone. During your journey, take in the views of Mt. Fuji! Have a traditional style dinner with your group.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 56: Thursday, November 2
Cruise & Cable Car with Mt. Fuji Views
Take in the views of Mt. Fuji as you take a boat cruise on Lake Ashi and a cable car up to Mt. Komagatake. Visit the Open Air Museum.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 57: Friday, November 3
Bullet Train from Hakone to Kyoto
Board one of Japan’s bullet trains — which go up to almost 200 miles per hour — to travel from Hakone to Kyoto. Note that because of baggage restrictions on these trains, your large suitcase may be transported separately and arrive a day later than you do in Kyoto.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 58: Saturday, November 4
Explore Kyoto
Spend a day exploring Kyoto. Kyoto is where you’ll see a lot of traditional Japanese culture — think kimonos, tea ceremonies, and Zen temples. Learn all about Kyoto’s past and present with a local guide. Check out castles, shrines, temples along the way.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 59: Sunday, November 5
Sunday Zen-day
Visit a local Buddhist temple and immerse yourself in the spiritual traditions of Japan. Tour the temple and tap in to your unconscious mind during a guided Zen meditation session. Visit the Zen gardens. Have a free afternoon to explore the city on your own.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 60: Monday, November 6
Shinto Shrine Fushimi Inari
Walk through Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine famous for thousands of red Torii gates. Walk up steps and follow the pathway of gates up the mountain to the Yotsutsuji intersection, and take in the panoramic views of Kyoto. Enjoy a free afternoon.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 61: Tuesday, November 7
Free Day in Kyoto
Enjoy a free day to explore Kyoto at your own pace. Join up with the group for dinner.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 62: Wednesday, November 8
Nara Park
Visit Japan’s former capital, Nara.  Stroll through Nara Park, home to hundreds of sacred wild deer.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 63: Thursday, November 9
Mt. Koya Excursion
Head out of Kyoto to the sacred mountain of Mt. Koya. Mt. Koya has 8 different UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Great Buddha.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 64: Friday, November 10
Bullet Train to Hiroshima
Take a bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima. Note that because of baggage restrictions on these trains, your large suitcase may be transported separately and arrive a day later than you do in Kyoto.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 65: Saturday, November 11
Hiroshima & Peace Memorial Park
Get to know this renowned City of Peace by visiting Peace Memorial Park to see the ruined Atomic Bomb Dome, marking the exact location where the atomic bomb detonated during World War II. Learn about the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing and the mission to create a world without nuclear weapons, during a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 66: Sunday, November 12
Miyajima Island

Take a short boat ride from Hiroshima to Miyajima Island to view the 12th-century, UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 67: Monday, November 13
Travel to Osaka
Travel from Hiroshima to Osaka, the birthplace of many of Japan’s well-known arts, such as Kabuki theater and the tea ceremony.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 68: Tuesday, November 14
Explore Osaka
See the sights of Osaka. Visit the massive Osaka Castle, which houses a museum dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the legendary leader who built it. Stroll through Kuromon Ichiba Market, famous for its selection of fresh fish, vegetables, fruit, and other Japanese specialties. Walk to Dōtonbori, one of the most colorful areas in the city and a haven for food culture.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 69: Wednesday, November 15
Wrap-Up & Free Afternoon
Spend the morning with your group reflecting on all that you’ve been through during your semester through workshops and sessions. Enjoy a free afternoon to explore Osaka on your own.
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 70: Thursday, November 16
Universal Studios Visit
Visit Japan’s incredible Universal Studios amusement park. Get an adrenaline kick on the rollercoasters and immerse yourselves in the worlds of Mario, the Minions, and Pikachu. Have a farewell dinner with your group in the evening to celebrate all that you’ve accomplished!
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 71: Friday, November 17
Fly out of Osaka back to your home city.
Meals included: Breakfast

Travel tips


You will be responsible for carrying your luggage on-program; you will be on the move constantly and may not find elevators at every accommodation, so make it easy on yourself and don’t pack more than you need. You will experience an assortment of activities, climates, and excursions, and it’s important to pack according to your itinerary. The most important thing to bring is comfortable walking shoes. Additionally “athleisure” is not super common in places like Thailand and Japan, so we suggest assembling a capsule wardrobe. We also ask you prepare to be visiting places–such as temples–that require modest clothing (knees and shoulders covered along with the potential for closed toed shoes).

Whatever your personal spending habits are, it’s important to anticipate your expenses and budget accordingly so that you can travel care-free with more time to enjoy participating in your program. While many meals and activities are included during your EF Gap program, we want to help you build a realistic budget for additional expenses so that you can fully enjoy trying the local cuisine, participating in activities in your free time, and, of course, shopping for souvenirs to bring back home.

Packing list

– Shirts – mix of short and long-sleeve (5)
– Tank tops (2-3)
– Nice shirts/outfits (1-2)
– Raincoat/windbreaker
– Athletic/sport shorts or pants (2-3)
– Jeans or other casual pants (2-3)
– Comfortable walking shoes/sneakers
– Flip-flops/sandals
– Sturdy work/hiking shoes
– Socks and underwear (2 weeks)
– Warmer layers in case of chilly nights (2)
– Lightweight pajamas
– Bathing suits (2-3)


– Reusable water bottle
– Sunglasses
– Hats: 1 for sun coverage, 1 for warmth
– Packing cubes, optional
– Micro fiber towel / beach towel
– Work gloves
– Headphones
– Camera / memory card / charging cables
– Portable charger
– Universal plug adapter
– Travel lock for luggage and belongings
– Laundry bag
– Face masks (These are commonly used in Japan and you may need to wear them in public transit or other public spaces)
Light weight scarf (This is useful to carry in Thailand and Japan when visiting a temple — it can be used to easily cover knees or shoulders/chest, a requirement in most temples)


– Toothbrush / toothpaste
– Deodorant
– Body wash/soap
– Shampoo / conditioner
– Hairbrush
– Reef-safe sunscreen
– Calendula / aloe vera for sunburn
– Stomach soothing medication
– Wet wipes
– Stain Remover stick / detergent packs
– Contact lenses / solution / eye glasses
– Insect repellant
– Menstrual products


– Passport
Pro tip: bring a photo copy as well

– Copy of your flight itinerary
Found in your EF Gap Year portal

– Copy of your itinerary and accommodations
Found in your EF Gap Year portal

– Health Documents:
CDC vaccination card (if applicable)

– Copy of any prescriptions

– Primary Health Insurance card from the U.S.


– Backpack
This is your carry-on! It can also double as your daily bag while abroad.

– Wallet
Bring your debit or ATM card so you can withdraw cash, as well as your credit card, ID, and student ID if you have one (discounts!)

For prescriptions, make sure it is in original container and bring enough of a supply to last your program (click here to learn more about bringing medication into Japan). 

– Change of clothing.

– Entertainment!
Books, downloaded Netflix streams and Spotify playlists, magazines, travel journal, deck of cards, etc.

– Passport
– Airline ticket
– Reusable water bottle
– Neck pillow / eye mask / ear plugs
– Toothbrush / toothpaste
– Contact lenses / solution / eyeglasses

Budgeting guide

We don’t recommend traveling with large sums of cash. You may want to convert a small amount of money to the currency of your first destination. From there, you’ll be able to access local currency by using your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM. 

Be sure to check with your bank ahead of time and, if necessary, provide a travel notice so they don’t block the card for suspected fraud. Also ask them about any foreign transaction fees that might apply, as these can add up quickly. Apple Pay is another great option that past students have used during their time on-program. 

Make sure to check on the exchange rates before and during your travel as they can vary.

Australia’s currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD).

New Zealand’s currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD).

Thailand’s currency is the Thai baht (THB).

Japan’s currency is the Japanese Yen (¥‎).


Budgeting in Australia & New Zealand

Plan to budget around $70 per day for living expenses during your time in Australia & New Zealand.

Australians and New Zealanders are some the wealthiest people in the world, so the cost of living can be quite high. While you’re traveling, all your breakfasts will be covered as well as some dinners.

You will need personal money for lunches and most of your dinners. There are also optional activities you might choose to do during your free time; depending on the activity, those can cost upwards of $100 in Australia and New Zealand. For example, in Auckland there are two options:
1) Weta Workshop ($30 USD): Step into Weta Workshop’s fantastical film effects workshop and explore the worlds of horror, sci-fi and fantasy in the making. It’s a journey through Wētā Workshop’s creative process that needs to be seen to be believed. Wildly immersive experience takes you on a journey through the wacky world of movie making. It’s a mind-bending 90-minute hosted tour centered on three fully developed and original film concepts: a nail-biting horror, a fantasy epic, and a mind-bending sci-fi.
2) All Blacks Rugby Experience ($30): The All Blacks are the New Zealand national rugby team and are often regarded as the most successful sports team in history. The All Blacks Rugby experience will include a 45 minute guided tour where you learn what it takes to make, shape and be an All Black. This will include learning the story and feeling the passion behind the All Blacks haka, up close and personal. You can then test your rugby skills against All Blacks and Black Ferns in the hands on, interactive zone.

Many of the cities you will be in are very walkable and/or accessible with low-cost public transport. If you opt for private transportation like Ubers or taxis, this will add to your expenses.

As with any location, budgets in Australia & New Zealand vary greatly depending on the types of meals you choose and what you choose to do with your free time. It is important since this is the first stop on your journey that you make your own personal budget and stick to it so that you have enough left for the rest of your trip.

Budgeting in Thailand

Plan to budget around $20-$25 per day for living expenses during your time in Thailand.

Compared to places like the US, Australia, or New Zealand, Thailand is an extremely affordable country. You can get a good, authentic, hearty meal for the equivalent of just a few dollars. You can have a fantastic time in Thailand on a budget!

While you’re traveling, all your breakfasts will be covered as well as some dinners. While you’re on service projects, lunches will be covered as well.

Souvenirs, while not necessarily expensive, can add up and increase your total costs (and your luggage weight!), so be mindful of the additional expense and weight.

Budgeting in Japan

Plan to budget around $50 per day for living expenses during your time in Japan.

Japan is a place where you can find a range of prices for food and activities.

While you’re traveling, all your breakfasts will be covered as well as some dinners.


We recommend budgeting up to $50 a week for extra costs. This could mean putting money aside for things like:

– Additional checked bag airline fee (usually around $30-50 per flight). 
– Additional items of clothing
– Emergencies
– Extra toiletries
– Souvenirs
– Laundry

This can vary in cost based on where you are. To save money, we suggest bringing a small bottle of condensed soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s, that you can use to wash your clothes in the sink. 

Optional activities or excursions
Throughout your trip, your Tour Director may find opportunities for additional excursions and activities; typically, these experiences can cost anywhere from $10-$50+, and there may be one or two opportunities like this each week. 

Packing tips

Safety & Support

EF Gap Year is a key part of EF’s expansive global network. With a presence in over 120 countries, 52,000 staff, 600 schools and offices, and over 400 community partners our team has your back and is always available to help you succeed on your journey.

Your global support network

Elizabeth Searls is thrilled to be your Advisor! Her role is to support you from a distance, check-in with you throughout the program, and encourage you to achieve your goals.  Elizabeth liaises with your Tour Directors, Student Life Coordinator, and local EF staff, collectively working to ensure the success of your experience. She is also available for parents and guardians as well. Elizabeth along with the entire advising team works from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM EST Monday through Friday.

Tour Director

Your Tour Director is the logistical and safety coordinator of the group. They are a local guide who will serve as your best resource for logistical support, like ensuring you arrive on time for flights or helping you find the nearest ATM. They are also there for safety purposes and can help with medical concerns or emergencies as well. In certain countries, Tour Directors may be referred to as Field Directors.

Student Life Coordinator

Your Student Life Coordinator supports the group dynamic as well as provides individual socio-emotional support on the ground. They will be present for the duration of the program and are available to encourage you to develop new relationships and support you in overcoming challenges, like homesickness.

Safety & Incident Response Team

The Safety & Incident Response Team is available to all of our students 24/7 and is trained to support students in times of crisis.

The EF Emergency Line is: 617-619-2520  

Making the most of your program

To make the most of your time during your program, this section gives some helpful context and resources for the locations you’ll visit during the Voyager.


The Basics

With spectacular landscapes and a rich ancient culture, Australia is a land like no other.

The Commonwealth of Australia is home to approx. 25.7 million people, with 3.3% of the population identifying as indigenous. Before the British ‘First Fleet’ arrived with ships packed with convicts in 1788, Aboriginal people had already inhabited what is now Australia for more than 50,000 years, developing flourishing societies with rich cultural traditions and complex systems. The British established colonies upon their arrival, and in 1901, those colonies unified to form the nation of Australia.  

Today, Australia is a stable, democratic, and culturally diverse nation with a highly skilled workforce and one of the strongest performing economies in the world; however, issues related to indigenous rights and extreme nationalism tied to the British cultural identity persist.  

Australia is known around the world for its stunning natural wonders which include the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park deep in the semiarid Outback region.   

Sydney is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Home to the iconic Opera House and Harbor Bridge, the city is also filled with quirky colorful areas like Potts Point, Surry Hills, and Newtown. For such a large city (Sydney has a population of 5.3 million), it’s safe and respectful to travelers. The lifestyle you can have when you live in Sydney is very relaxed, connected, and cheerful. 

Key Cultural Norms and Guidelines 

Check out this link for a list of useful Aussie words and phrases for travelers.  

It’s not common to tip in Australia: service wages are high enough such that workers do to not rely on tips and it can be confusing to add extra gratuity. 

Follow the road rules. Jaywalking in Sydney can result in getting fined, more so than in the U.S., and cars typically won’t stop for you unless you are in a crosswalk with a green light. 

Notes and Advice from the EF Community 

“I didn’t realize that in Sydney, everyone is very blunt and swears a lot—but that’s not considered impolite! People just say what they’re thinking and are very direct. It’s something I learned to appreciate after I got used to it.” – EF Gap Alum 

“I wish I knew about the city transport ahead of time: they rely on buses mostly and don’t have a metro system, except for the city center. Coming from Europe right before, it took some getting used to.” – EF Gap Alum

You don’t want to miss trying these foods:

  • Barramundi 
  • Sydney rock oyster 
  • Australian prawns 
  • Avocado on toast 
  • Bacon and egg roll 
  • Lamington cake 
  • Potato cake 
New Zealand

The Basics 

New Zealand is a welcoming, diverse country with a history of Māori, European, Pacific Island, and Asian immigration. This rich blend of cultures, combined with geologically fascinating landscapes and unique flora and fauna, make New Zealand an exciting country to explore (source).  

Māori were the first to arrive in Aotearoa (New Zealand), journeying in canoes from Hawaiki about 1,000 years ago. A Dutchman named Abel Tasman was the first European to sight the country, but it was the British who made New Zealand part of their empire. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed: this agreement between the British Crown and Māori established British law in New Zealand, dispossessed many Māori of their land and cultural identities, and is considered New Zealand’s founding document and an important part of the country’s history. Despite hundreds of years of British rule, Māori culture is still preserved by the descendants of the first Māori, and their cultural sites continue to be a main attraction for visitors to the country today.   

As a nation of immigrants, New Zealanders (or Kiwis) are known for being friendly, down-to-earth people who embrace the spirit of manaakitanga, or hospitality. Today, the population of five million is comprised of people with European heritage (70%), indigenous Māori people (16.5%), people with Asian heritage (15.1%), and non-Māori Pacific Islanders (8.1%).  

New Zealand is also known for its stunning diversity of natural beauty: spectacular glaciers, picturesque fjords, rugged mountains, vast plains, subtropical forest, and miles of coastline with gorgeous sandy beaches. With all this natural wonder, it makes sense that movie series like The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and several others were shot in New Zealand.   

Temperatures in New Zealand are generally mild, but the weather can vary a lot around the country and changes quickly which is why it’s important be prepared for your travels! Summer (December–February) is the most popular time for sunny beach days, water adventures, and mountain hiking. Autumn and spring are temperate, with temperatures averaging around 67 degrees, while winter (June-August) is the best time to visit if you want to check out the North Island spots for skiing and snowboarding.  

Key Cultural Norms and Guidelines 

Common Kiwi words or phrases you might encounter:  

  • Kia Ora= Māori word for “welcome” 
  • Togs= swimsuit 
  • Chilly Bin= cooler 
  • Sweet as= “that’s cool” 
  • Dairy= local convenience store 
  • Tramping= long-distance hiking; usually when you spend the night at mountain huts 
  • Jandals= flip flop sandals (the name comes from combining Japanese + sandals) 
  • Wop-wops= in the middle of nowhere (aka “We’re driving through the wop-wops now!”). Can also be shortened to just “wops”. 
  • Fizzy drink= soda 

Kiwi culture is highly informal and relaxed. The 2015 Global Peace Index identified the country as the fourth safest in the world; a strong sense of security combined with relative social and economic prosperity has provided many New Zealanders with an optimistic outlook on the freedom and possibilities around them (source).  

In the major cities such as Auckland, New Zealanders sport casual, modern, Western-style clothing, but Maori still wear traditional dress for special occasions or cultural celebrations.  

In NZ, workers receive a fair wage, so tips are seen as a small bonus and New Zealanders generally do not tip.  

Be respectful of all statues, religious monuments, and temples, especially those that celebrate the history and culture of the Māori.  

Notes and Advice from the EF Community 

The internet and cell service in New Zealand, given its isolated geography, can be spotty. It is significantly better in cities in the south such as Auckland, but don’t be surprised if you come across difficulties loading content, especially in more rural areas.  

Tap water is safe to drink–bring a reusable bottle and fill it up!  

You Don’t Want to Miss

Check out this page for a list of New Zealand’s favorite food and drinks: 

Check out this page for a list of top things to do in Auckland: 


The Basics 

Known as the “Land of a Thousand Smiles”, Thailand is a truly special place to visit and learn from.  

Thailand lies between Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos, with the Gulf of Thailand to its south. Its varied landscapes are extremely diverse; you’ll find everything from forested mountains and dry plateaus in the north to river plains, sandy beaches, and dozens of tropical islands in the south.  

The culture of Thailand is a vibrant mix of many different Austroasiatic and Asian traditions, with more than 70 ethnic groups represented and dozens of different languages spoken in addition to the official language, Thai. Reports state that between 85 and 95 percent of the population practices Theravada Buddhism and between 5 to 10 percent practices Islam, with the remainder of the population practicing other primarily eastern religious traditions.  

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a rich political history. The current king Maha Vajiralongkorn is the son of the third longest reigning monarch in history and many Thai people hold significant reverence for the royal family and its symbols.  

Thailand is one of the great economic development success stories of the 20th century, boasting a booming free-market economy that exports manufactured goods and agricultural products including coffee and rice to the global marketplace.  Its currency is the Thai Baht. 

The rainy, or “monsoon,” season roughly runs from May until November, with the heaviest rains coming in October and November. The temperatures across the country hit their highs between March and April, with an average range of 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit in those months.  

Thai infrastructure is well developed, but public transportation is limited across the country be sure to adhere to guidance from your Tour Directors and other EF staff to get around safely. 

Key Cultural Norms and Guidelines 

Common phrases: Mari Johnson Basic Phrases for Travelers  

  • Hello – Sawadee khrup/ka. 
  • Yes – Chai (khrup/ka) 
  • No – Mai (khrup/ka) 
  • Thank you – khop khun (khrup/ka) 
  • Sorry/excuse me – Khor thoad khrup/ka. 
  • Where is the restroom– Hong nam yoo tee nai khrup/ka? 

The wai, pronounced like the word “why,” is the traditional greeting of Thailand. The wai is the placing of two palms together, with fingertips touching the nose. Though foreigners should not go around giving the wai to everyone they see, they are often expected to return the greeting. 

Don’t point with one finger; if necessary, gesture with all four fingers extended and the thumb flat against the palm  

Appropriate dress: Generally summer clothes are okay while traveling throughout Thailand, although some regions are more conservative than others. The tropical climate can get hot: the best way to stay cool is to wear loose fitting, moisture wicking long sleeves and pants instead of exposing a lot of skin. Travelers should also bring clothes that cover their chests, shoulders, and knees for religious sites such as Buddhist temples or monuments. Some temples will ask you to rent coverings if you are showing your chest, shoulders or legs upon arrival. 

Tipping is not customary in Thailand, but small gratuities for great service can be very much appreciated.  

Be respectful of all statues, religious monuments, and temples. In Thailand, it is illegal to disrespect the royal family or Buddhist icons in any way; infractions can carry severe penalties.  

Notes and Advice from the EF Community 

Because of its position as a hugely popular tourist destination, foreigners are welcomed all over the country; however, in places where tourists are less common, there can be varied levels of comfort and understanding of foreign cultures. In these areas, it is especially important to follow any directions and social cues from your local guides and partners. 

Standards related to beauty in Thailand tend toward fair skin. It is common to see ads featuring fair-skinned models marketing products like sunscreen and moisturizer that include whitening agents. Make sure to check the ingredients in any skin products you may buy, like sunscreen, moisturizer, or deodorant, to make sure they don’t contain whitening agents.  Many Black travelers have noted limited availability of black hair and skincare products, which is something to consider for longer stays in the country.  

Thailand is one of Asia’s most LGBTQ+-friendly nations. It’s close to approving same-sex civil partnerships, has a thriving transgender community, boasts hospital services tailored to LGBTQ+ patients, and big Thai companies even offer medical leave for gender reassignment surgery; however, Thailand still has a complicated relationship with those communities which is important to understand before you visit. 

Being vegetarian or vegan in Thailand is fairly easy. Fruit stands are at every corner, fresh markets are abundant, and the demand for organic products is growing. It is almost always possible to get vegan options in Thai restaurants since their traditional cuisine is mostly composed of vegetables. They do tend to use chicken broth and fish sauce in most dishes, so be sure to speak up if you want to avoid these. 

You Don’t Want to Miss   

One of the best ways to experience Thai cuisine is to take a cooking class or join a street food tour. Be sure to try Thai staples like pad thai, green or panang curries, Tom Yum (sour soup), Som Tam (papaya salad), and Pad Kra Pao Moo (stir fried basil and pork).   

You won’t want to miss Thailand’s renowned temples, the most famous of which is Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple in the Bangkok Yai district of Bangkok on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River.  

The beautiful beaches of Krabi are some of the most pristine in the world! Just below the surface you’ll find hundreds of species of wildlife including seahorses, humpback dolphins, and sea turtles.  


The Basics

Japan is a friendly and welcoming country, steeped in history and tradition. 

Japan is an archipelago on the eastern edge of Asia with four main islands and nearly 4,000 smaller islands. The country has become a symbol of modernity and economic development, boasting the world’s second largest economy for more than 40 years; Japan also maintains many rich cultural traditions that date back thousands of years.  

Japan is known globally for anime, a style of animation popularized by Japanese artists Osamu Tezuka and others. The impact that anime culture has had on Japan is so great that it’s birthed the otaku subcultures, which include roleplaying, computer gaming, and cosplaying. These hobbies have huge followings both in Japan and internationally. 

Public transportation in Japan is extremely efficient and can take you almost anywhere in the country with comfort and ease. Travelers can use metro trains, buses, and taxis to move between tourist areas while the bullet train (shinkansen) or planes are the best option for long-distance trips.  While the trains are extremely efficient, due to the size of major cities such as Tokyo, its common for commutes to be more than 1.5 hrs.  

The climate in Japan varies widely regionally and seasonally, with cold snowy winters and hot humid summers. Tokyo maintains a temperate climate similar to Washington D.C.  

Tokyo is the vibrant and electric capital of Japan. It’s the world’s most populous city and has a unique culture all its own. Some more traditional Japanese customs are gradually being phased out as the city becomes more international, but the heart of Tokyo still revolves around the Japanese values and cultures of respect, helping others, knowing your role, and contributing to your community. All of Tokyo’s vibrant city districts offer unique experiences: travelers can explore the commercial hub of the city in Shinjuku, walk the world’s busiest intersection in Shibuya, check out the anime and arcades in neon Akihabara, and window shop in the colorful Harajuku.  

Key Cultural Norms and Guidelines 

Common phrases  

  • Hello: Kon’nichiwa 
  • Excuse me: Sumimasen 
  • Thank you: Arigato 

Practices for customary greetings etc.: Be respectful. As with most forms of etiquette, it’s best to follow the lead of the person you’re with, or the person who is introducing you. Typically, the person of lower status bows first and more deeply than the elder; however, most Japanese people—especially the younger crowd—will not expect you to bow and will instead reach for a handshake.  

There are typically two types of fashion worn in Japan: traditional Japanese clothing (wafuku) and western clothing (youfuku). Modern Japanese fashion is similar to, yet distinct from western clothing. Many fashion trendsetters take inspiration from, and are influenced by, traditional Japanese fashion. Travelers won’t need to update their wardrobe to visit Japan, but it is recommended to be appropriately dressed to show respect when visiting temples and shrines (i.e., shoulders and knees covered).  

You should not tip at restaurants: gratuity is included in the bill and it can feel offensive or confusing if you try to tip on top of that.  

In Japan, you will not find many trash cans in public spaces. Do as the locals do and keep a plastic bag in your purse or daypack to put trash in until you see a trash can. 

Public transportation can get crowded, so be prepared to have your personal space bubble burst. It’s important to be quiet and put your phone on silent mode; additionally, you should not eat or drink anything while riding the train.  

For decades before COVID-19, face masks have been a common sight in Japan, both as a protection against colds and to avoid passing sickness on to others. Masks are still required in almost every indoor setting and on public transit in Japan. Be prepared to wear one whenever you leave the house. 

Notes and Advice from the EF Community 

The Japanese population is fairly homogenous, with little ethnic and racial diversity. Beauty standards tend toward light, flawless skin, a petite figure, and a quiet personality. Travelers with darker skin may encounter stares or comments from locals that indicate some ingrained prejudices, but this is in most cases driven by curiosity or misinformation and not hate. 

Most people in Japan are accepting of LGBTQ+ people and traveling in Japan as a queer-identifying person is safe; however, Japanese society places more emphasis on group identity and values than personal expression. Sexuality is considered a private matter meaning discussions and public displays of affection are uncommon. 

Japan can be expensive! Budget $50-$60 per day for pocket money as lunch meals cost approx. 1,000 Yen (~$7.50) and dinner meals can cost more than 5,000 Yen (~$35) per person.        

You Don’t Want to Miss the Food!  

Broth-based dishes and noodles of all kinds are eaten year-round at any time of day. Other common Japanese dishes include many different types of sushi, curry rice with chicken or pork katsu, and okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake commonly eaten as street food.  

Not only are Japanese 7/11s the safest place to withdraw money, but they are also chockfull of meals and snacks you’ve probably never tried plus pretty much anything else you might need, including clothing and home goods.  

You can eat ramen just about anywhere in Tokyo, but here are Eater’s top 16 ramen restaurants to try. 

For the freshest sushi, check out Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market or one of the other notable fish markets located all over Japan.  

Don’t forget to bring face masks.

Before You Go 

Read Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding 

Read After Dark by Haruki Murakami 

Listen to Japan 2.0 (Podcast, available on iTunes) 

Practice your chopstick skills!  

Social Identity Resources

Travel provides incredible opportunities to learn about yourself, the world, and yourself in the world. But travel is also a deeply emotional experience that can bring different challenges to every individual
based on the identities they hold and experiences they’ve had.

This resource is intended to help you think about how your intersecting identities can, and will, shape
your experience as an EF student. Take some time to review our Social Identity Resources to hear different perspectives, learn about identity-specific resources, and prepare with helpful tips before you go abroad.

Questions about your
upcoming program?

Your dedicated Gap Year Advisor is here to help every step of the way.