Everyone knows that students often have a hard time of things when it comes to money. Between student loans, rent, food, and everything else, it’s a lot to think about. With class and assignments thrown into the mix, travel might feel like a distant dream for most students, but this doesn’t have to be the case! In this post, we give you tips for how to travel on a student budget, so those dreams can become a reality! After all, as the maxim goes: travel is the best education a person can have.
Go on Exchange
While on the surface it might not seem like the cheapest option, going on exchange is quite possibly the best move you can make if you want to accomplish your travel goals during your student years. In most cases you pay tuition to your home institution, same as you would any other year; and if you can find someone to sublet your room, rent shouldn’t be too much more expensive than it would normally be. Depending on where you choose to do exchange, it might even be cheaper!
Wherever you choose to do your study abroad, be it Europe, South America, Asia or elsewhere, chances are that the cost of travelling will be far cheaper than if were you to visit those places from Canada. So, take advantage of it! Chances are you’ll never get the same opportunity again; and because at most institutions the course-load of exchange students is lighter, you’ll have more opportunity to take trips than you otherwise would at home.
What you spend on transportation can either make or break a trip budget. The amount you spend getting to a place can determine where you can stay, what and where you can eat, and what you can see. So travel cheap, and dig for the best deals! A little discomfort is worth it if it means you’ll be able to do more while you’re there.
Discount airlines like Ryanair and Norwegian are becoming increasingly viable options. But when the distances are less intimidating it’s always a good idea to explore other options as well. Oftentimes taking the bus is cheaper than flying, and while it might take longer – you’ll get to see more of the country you’ll be visiting, as well as reduce your carbon footprint! Besides, some of the best travel stories don’t come from the destination at all, but from the journey itself.
Where to Stay
You might be able to guess my next words, but yes, hostels. Now, forget everything you ever learned about hostels from the movies (Yes, there is a movie called Hostel. Yes, there are two sequels. No, you probably don’t need to see them.). Though it’s likely that most everything else you’ve heard about them is true. Sure, you sleep in the same room with a bunch of other people; sure, sometimes people snore; sure, sometimes people come in late after a night of drinking and aren’t as considerate to the other sleepers in the room as they ought to be; and with little doubt, you may well end up being one of those people.
So yeah, most of the stereotypes you’ve heard about the hostels are probably true, but you have to take the good with the bad. I’ve had stays in hostels that turned out to be far better than a lot of hotels, and with a far more forgiving price tag. But, how do you find a good hostel?
Well, do your research firstly. Sites like booking.com and hostelworld.com are great resources, with tens of thousands of listings around the world, millions of reviews, and the option to filter properties by price. Read the reviews, see what amenities they have on offer, and don’t neglect to look at the location. Sometimes the price tag is cheaper for a reason, and it might be worth paying a little more if it means you’re not commuting from the boonies into the city centre every day you’re there.
AirBnB is another great option; particularly if you’re travelling in a bigger group, or are looking for more privacy. But, and especially if you’ve never done it before, you’d be doing yourself a disfavour if you didn’t spend a few stays in hostels over your lifetime. You’ll meet some truly amazing and interesting people, and some of your best travel stories will come from there. I guarantee it.
Where to Eat & Drink
While not usually as significant a cost as accommodation and transport, what and where you eat (and drink) on your trip can either bring you back in line after an expensive plane ticket, or set you irredeemably over budget. It is also the area of your trip allowance that requires the most discipline to stick to. It shouldn’t require me to tell you to avoid the five star restaurants. Although, if eating at a nice restaurant is a priority for you while on your trip, be sure to budget for it; and remember, it’s always better to overestimate how much you’ll spend.
But unless, and even if, food is a big priority for you, there are usually far better places to eat for your buck than those with a Michelin star. Again, do your research! Look up places you think you’d like to eat ahead of time, if possible, and plan out your meals. Form a rough estimate of how much you can spend each day on food and try to stick to it. Take advantage of breakfast if it’s included at your lodging, and why not sneak some food away for lunch while you’re at it. We all need to eat, but try to get the best value for what you spend, your trip budget will thank you.
What to See
Now for the big question, what to actually see while on your travels. Of course, the answer to this lies entirely with you, and differs somewhat depending upon the destination you’ll be visiting. There are some tips to keep in mind though, when planning your itinerary.
First of all, if museums are big on your list (they certainly are on mine), check out the discounts they offer students, and if they offer any free days during the week. If your to-see list is long and time is short, having an idea of which museums are the most affordable might help you to narrow down your priorities. That said, some places and institutions you just need to see, and even if the price tag is a little steeper, most of the time it’s worth it. It is for your education after all.
The solution to this is the same as it would be for the expensive restaurant you just can’t miss out on, rework your budget to accommodate it. If it means a day or two of hard-boiled eggs, coffee, and street food so you can visit all five museums of Berlin’s Museumsinsel, for example, do it! Let’s face it, you won’t regret it. Not to worry though, a 3-day pass for those same five museums in Berlin, and over 25 more, is only 14.50 EUR for students!
While purchasing a city pass can often be a great investment (do your research though, some cities offer greater value than others), another great way to see more for less are the free walking tours that are available in most popular tourist destinations these days. The guides are oftentimes incredibly knowledgeable, and doing these walking tours is usually a great thing to do when you first arrive to help you get your bearings and pick up some background info on the place you’ll be visiting. As the guides are frequently students or recent graduates themselves, they are also great people to talk to for tips on where to eat and drink on a student budget.
Other than that, just walk around on your own! So long as you’re comfortable doing so, walking around and exploring a new place at your own pace is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences you can have. While it’s not always going to be relaxing, it will always be educational.
Get Out There
When it comes down to travel, there’s a lot of stuff going against you as a student, but there’s far more you’ve got going for you. Generally speaking, you don’t get more free time once you’re out of school, and while student discounts are nice as a student, you don’t realize how truly awesome they are until you stop being eligible for them. So get out there and take advantage of them while you can! They won’t be waiting around forever.
You can start at Continental. Pick up a Student VIP Card for discounted rates on your currency exchange before you travel!
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