Ballin’ on a budget: Tips to saving money while abroad

Sunny Sichi/Staff

So, you’re studying abroad. It’s a time for self-discovery, learning to adapt, making international friends and traveling! This may all seem daunting, but I want to tell you that it isn’t as scary or expensive as it seems. 

Don’t let the Instagram influencers and luxury travel magazines fool you; traveling is not just for the rich and famous. The greatest travel experiences come not from how nice your hotel or meal is, but from the people you meet, the random sights you stumble upon and from getting an authentic experience. For many college students, money is tight, which limits opportunities. It is totally possible to travel on a student budget, though, if you put in the right amount of planning and if you follow some of our advice. 

Google Flights tracker

This Google feature will become your best friend when you’re abroad. Once you’ve found a specific flight, turn on the “track prices” switch. You’ll get emails when ticket prices go down or up. This can save you the grief of unnecessarily buying a super expensive plane ticket. 

Public transportation

It’s important to have a rough idea of where you’re going and how far it is. Once you know this, you’ll know whether or not you should buy a weekend pass, day pass or multiple single-ride tickets. You don’t want to spend a ton of money on a bunch of single passes when you could’ve bought the weekend pass, so be aware! 

Take a walk! 

While some places may require a lot of transportation to get around, many cities are actually very walkable! Don’t take public transportation or Uber if you don’t have to — it may not seem like it, but the fares really do add up. By walking, you will also see the parts of the city you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Also, look up free walking tours, which are pretty much available in every major city in the world. Of course, you need to leave a tip, but it’s so worth all the knowledge you gain.  

Buses

For a traveler in Europe (or America), I’d like to turn your attention to Flixbus. This bus service offers ridiculously cheap prices. If you’re willing to sit on a bus for hours and be a little uncomfortable, you should go for it. I actually got roundtrip tickets from Utrecht, in the Netherlands, to Paris for a whopping 20 euros! Compare that to a 90-euro plane ticket — it’s a way better deal.  

Where to stay

Hostels get a bad rep, and while I cannot speak for every country, I had a great experience while studying abroad in Europe. Hostelworld is a helpful tool that shows you available hostels in a given area. It gives you reviews, photos, a quality score and information about the hostel’s amenities. Although you need to keep an eye on your stuff and the money you save, the people you meet and the unique buildings you stay in are worth it. Another recommendation I have is Airbnb, especially if you’re traveling with a group. Some Airbnbs can be cheaper than hostels or hotels!   

Student discounts

Like public transportation, this also requires some research. You need to check if students with a visa or residence permit can get into the places you’re going to for free or for a discounted price. Also, heads up to Paris travelers, your EU student residence permit will get you into most museums for free! Save up for patisseries and trendy bistros instead.  

Get advice from locals 

One of the best parts about traveling is that there are a lot of people that want to help you. In a hostel, take advantage of the knowledge of the locals working there or even from the fellow travelers who have been there for longer than you have. Your Airbnb hosts, or even people in random places, have advice for you! Just be open and kind and most will return the gesture. 

Remember, travel isn’t about being comfortable — it’s about getting out of your comfort zone. When traveling on a budget, you often have to sacrifice your comfort, but in the end, I truly believe you get the best experience out of it. While this list certainly doesn’t cover every way you can save money, it’s a good starting point to follow!  

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