Travel isn’t cheap. It’s quite easy to swipe your credit card or dish out an unfamiliar currency while abroad, only to look at your account balance later with sheer horror.
Studying abroad requires careful attention to money, but with a few tips, you can spend less and enjoy more.
1) Make a budget
Before you leave, set a few spending limits for yourself. How much do you have to spend each month? What will your expenses be? Consider your personal spending habits, like shopping and eating out. Think about extra expenses, like flights, train tickets and museum entrance fees, then factor those into your budget. You can always adjust later, but creating a budget is a good start.
2) Shop around and book in advance
When booking flights, look early (for international flights, it is recommended by some to buy about six weeks in advance.) For flights while abroad, start your search at least a few weeks ahead, and use websites like Skyskanner, Kayak and Expedia to compare prices. Be sure to clear your browser’s history or search with a private window. Some companies track your searches and may increase prices if you check back more than once.
3) Be cautious with budget airlines
Some airlines offer cheap flights, but beware of hidden fees and read the fine print. Some will charge you for any carry-on bag, others will add fees if you don’t print your ticket at home. Try to pack lightly and take a backpack if possible so you won’t have any issues. If you need more space, do some research beforehand to find acceptable dimensions and avoid getting charged.
4) Two words: public transportation
Cab rides to and from the airport and around a city can get pricey, but most large cities have some sort of public transportation. Do some research before you go and find out if there’s a metro or bus system you can take for a fraction of the cost.
5) Hit the market
Eating out can add up, especially on weekend trips. Take a trip to the market before you leave and pack a few snacks, like granola bars or fruit. Buying a few basics, like peanut butter (if you can find it) and bread from a grocery store or local market, can save you more than you think and means you’ll have more to spend on the meals you do enjoy out. Some hostels also have kitchens, so if you’re feeling culinarily creative, buy a few basics and cook a meal in.
6) Pull the student card
Many museums and attractions offer student discounts on entrance fees and may only give you the discount if you’ve got your I.D. handy (I learned this the hard way and had to pay full price!) Check to make sure it’s in your wallet before you leave and always ask if there’s a student discount available.
7) Walk the walk
Explore for free! Many cities have free walking tours led by locals (tips are expected at the end.) A walking tour is a great way to orient yourself with the city and find a few spots to return to during the rest of your stay. If an official tour isn’t really your style, you could try night running as well.
8) Don’t feel guilty
Even as you carefully budget your money, there are going to be things you won’t want to miss, whether it’s a signature local specialty, a tour or a souvenir from a city you loved. Save what you can, then enjoy what you spend.