How to save money on travel and trips when studying abroad
This is Part 3 of my series, “50 Ways To Save Money While Studying Abroad”. Let’s be honest, the number 1 reason you are/went abroad wasn’t to take classes. I would venture to guess that for most people (myself included) studying abroad is maybe your first, and probably your best chance to travel the world. Of course, travel can sometimes come with a pretty hefty price tag, and when you’re on a student budget trying to visit as many places as you can in a short amount of time, spending those dollars wisely becomes important.
Here are 10 money saving tips that will make your travels hopefully a bit easier, and definitely a lot cheaper:
1. The Givens – Flights And Hostels
Given #1 – Fly on low-cost carriers. If you’re studying abroad in Europe and haven’t yet heard of EasyJet or Ryanair (or Aer Lingus, Flybe, WizzAir, etc.) you will very soon. There are definitely some drawbacks – lack of space, outrageous overweight-baggage fees, inconvenient airport locations – but it doesn’t really matter. The money you save by flying on low cost carries far outweighs just about every negative you can think of. You can book right on their websites, but I suggest going through Vayama since they specialize in searching for cheap flights on multiple budget airlines.
Given #2 – Avoid Hotels, Stay in Hostels. Hostels may as well be called hotels for student travelers. They’re cheap, and they usually provide everything you need: bed, sheets, a locker, and some sort of breakfast. While you can still crash on a metal bunk bed in an 18 person room for $10 a night, many hostels are actually on the verge of hotel quality. I always booked through Hostelworld and they never let me down.
There are a few different ways to do this. If you are lucky like me, there are other students from your home university who are studying abroad in other countries. Instead of staying in a hostel, see if you can crash on their couch. If not their couch, maybe their floor. The other option is of course to join a legitimate CouchSurfing community. CouchSurfing is a great way to save money, meet interesting people, and be immersed in different cultures. Check out this fellow study abroad blogger’s couch surfing experience in Korea!
3. Use your International Student Identity Card
Yes, that little teal card that your school either bought for you, or you were smart enough to buy before you went abroad. Wherever you go, check for student discounts or reduced rates. A lot of places in Europe promote students learning about local culture, and because they also understand that students have no money, often times they’ll knock a few euro/ pounds off of entrance fees to attract the younger crowd. Your ISIC, like it says, can be used as an official form of student identification all over the world. Not only is it possible to get a discount, you might get in for free. My ISIC card even helped me see most of Paris and Rome for almost nothing!
4. Refrain from buying souvenirs
Everyone wants to buy souvenirs. Outside of photos and video, they’re the best way to remember your trip and a good way to relate your experiences to friends and family. The problem is that souvenirs are usually expensive, cheap (quality), and they take up space/add weight to the one carry-on you’re allowed to take on your flight.
So what can you do that’s both cost and space efficient? You can collect.
Here’s a list to get you started:
- Tour pamphlets
- Restaurant menus
- Post cards
- Museum tickets
- Coasters (especially from places like breweries)
- Bottle labels
And when you get back from your travels, make a scrapbook using some of the photos you took along with your collected souvenirs.
5. Take and/or steal food from your hostel (sort of)
This has to be one of the better tips in The Ultimate Study Abroad Guide. Before you leave, buy a box of Ziploc bags from your local grocery store and bring 5 or 10 with you in your carry-on. All decent hostels will have some sort of breakfast, some better than others. Load up on things like fruits, granola, cereals, bagels and breads – put them in those plastic bags you brought, and then just like that, you have snacks and/or meals for the rest of the day.
This isn’t allowed in some hostels, but if you want to do it (and I’m not necessarily condoning it), just wait until the staff isn’t looking. If your hostel has one, a more morally acceptable idea is to take advantage of the community pantry which is stocked with non-perishable food left over from other travelers and is free for the taking.
6. Utilize travel apps on your iPhone
For now, let’s all agree that the iPhone (and smartphones in general) make our lives much more convenient. This includes travel, and using some of the thousands of travel apps offered, you could probably make out pretty well carrying only your phone and a credit card. Keep in mind that many apps not only make your travel experience more convenient, they can also help you save money. Here are a few helpful apps:
Skype: Free calls to anyone anywhere who also has Skype
Where: Finds the best local spots to eat, drink, and sleep, and keeps you in the loop on deals from local businesses.
WiFi Finder: Download an offline WiFi Finder in advance so that you can find the closest free hotspot anywhere in the world.
KAYAK: It’s pretty simple – search for the best price on low cost flights, hotels and car rentals.
And for more, check out The Top 50 iPhone Apps For Studying Abroad.
7. Go at the right time
It could actually also read “Go at the wrong time” since your goal is to travel when it’s least convenient for everyone else. This means going before or after holidays, during the winter as opposed to the summer, and even flying on the right (wrong) days – Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Doing this will help you get the best rates on everything including flights, hostels, and admissions tickets. The beauty of a being a study abroad student is that due to both a lack of class time, or a lack of wanting to go to class, we have flexible schedules that allow us to travel when other people can’t.
8. Ride the metro or rent a bike
Although the subway isn’t as comfortable as a taxi, it’s more convenient in terms of speed, and although it’s not as cheap as walking on foot (which is free of course), a full-day ticket will probably only cost you about 5 euro/pounds. In the long run, it will help you save not only money, but time and energy as well. Another more environmentally friendly/ culturally relevant way of getting around is by bike, popular in cities like Amsterdam among both locals and tourists alike – and you can rent a bike for about 10 euro/pounds a day.
9. Board the green bus
For anyone who has been to big city in Europe, you know what the big green (weird shaped) tour bus is. For those who don’t know, in most major cities, there will probably be at least 1 open-top bus tour, which you’ll be able to identify by their outrageous colors (usually shades of green). Through these hop-on hop-off riding tours, you get more of a general overview of a city as opposed to a detailed tour of every site and attraction, which is great if you want to see and learn a bit about certain places without having to pay admission.
Of course, you still have the option to get off the bus and explore on foot whenever you want. It’s also a great alternative form of transportation, and pretty cheap at around 10 – 15 euro/pounds for an entire day. My one piece of advice is to search out the live guided tour buses.
10. Plan and stick to a travel budget
For obvious reasons, sticking to a budget comes up a lot when you’re talking about saving money. My travel philosophy (although changing now) used to be quantity over quality. It basically meant I needed to figure out how far I could stretch my dollar in each city or country I went to, so that I could visit a greater total number of places.
I started with the total amount of money I was willing to spend on each trip, booked flights and hostels, then split up whatever was left over into categories like food, transportation, yes, the occasional souvenir, etc. I didn’t mention it above, but there’s even an app to help you stick to your budget – Travel Budget App.
Yea, we’re on a tight budget, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy traveling the world. There are a ton of ways to save money, ranging from the more desperate – sleeping on a friends floor, to the more practical – not buying souvenirs that are bound to become dust collectors. While it can be one of the most expensive parts of studying abroad, it can also be a place where you save a ton of money.
-If you’re looking for a way to fatten your travel fund, head over to myTab, a travel search site with a twist.
Check out the rest of the posts in this series:
If you have any other money saving suggestions, questions, or comments please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!