Studying abroad is an amazing experience no matter where you decide to go. You become more confident, more sure of yourself, and learn how to navigate in a completely new country and culture. I picked a European country as my study abroad destination because I knew how easy and inexpensive it would be to explore the rest of continent. If I wanted to travel to all these places from the US, it would completely break my bank.
Even with cheap and convenient ways of travel, being a student in a new place without your parents to fall back on, you try to save all the money you possibly can in order to get through the months you’re away. Although I agree, I don’t think someone should drop every dream of experiencing new cultures and broadening their worldview just because they’re tight on money.
If you stick to a strict budget and make sure to spend frugally and carefully, there should be room to see a few different places while you are studying abroad. Here’s some advice for someone who is trying their best to make the most of their travels and money while abroad.
1) Book Ryanair.
You may have already heard that this airline is the cheapest way to navigate Europe, but be aware that they offer cheap flights for a reason. I’m not complaining, as it gets me from point A to point B, maybe not luxuriously but I’ll survive. Do your research before flying, though. If you are from outside the EU, you will need your boarding pass stamped with a visa check at the Ryanair help desk before getting to the gate. If you’re not careful, Ryanair will also hit you with hidden fees at the airport. For example, you have to check-in online and print your boarding pass before you arrive (both about a 40 euro fee if you forget). Your checked baggage is not free, and there are big fees to check bags if you go over your carry-on weight limit. The planes are also small, and there are no free refreshments or snacks—they also try to sell you lottery tickets on board. Overall, if you do your research, you can get to your destination at a very cheap price.
2) Stay in an Airbnb.
Although hostels are a fine choice, consider staying in an Airbnb if you have a bigger group. These are usually completely private accommodations, with cleaner facilities, and you get to split the cost with your friends which can be cheaper than a hostel. There is usually a kitchen and sometimes breakfast is included. Make sure you look at the location, as transportation to the city center can sometimes cost more than booking a more central location.
3) Grocery shop.
I am a firm believer that trying the food completely adds to the cultural experience of traveling to a new place, however, if you’re on a budget, you don’t need 3 meals a day to experience this. On my trips, I bring granola bars for snacking if I get hungry, plus fruit like apples, oranges and bananas (yes, you can pack food in your carry-on). Once I get to my destination, I try to find a grocery store and stock up on deli cold cuts, cheese, bread, and some type of dressing for my lunches (I also bring tupperware with me so that nothing gets messy). I only spend a few euro on my breakfast and lunch, and then at dinner I splurge so that I got the most out of my cultural experience.
4) Look for student discounts and freebies.
The Musée du Louvre, Paris
In most places, there are museums and attractions that are free for students, and even more places that give student or youth discounts. Since I am on an Irish student visa, I am considered a member of the EU for my time studying in Ireland. In Paris, I got into the Louvre for free because of this, and although I ran out of time and didn’t make it the Arc de Triomphe, I could have gone to the top of that for free as well. Student and youth discounts may not always be advertised, so make sure you ask everywhere you go.
5) Buying online vs. at the station.
Most of the time, it is cheaper to purchase train and bus tickets online, although sometimes they are the same price. For long distance journeys, you should buy in advance as tickets are more expensive on the day of travel. Even if the price is the same, it is easier to buy at the station if you don’t have a printer readily available, but if you’re like me and you tend to cut it close, buying online may be the way to go.