Okay so you’re going to study abroad. Congrats! Usually your college will deal with all the expenses between tuition, housing and meals while you’re abroad so you don’t have to worry about that. But there is A LOT more to prepare your wallet for when you’re headed to a new country.
It’s time to figure out a study abroad budget!
This is not the case for everyone, but most people save up a little because they know they are going to go all out when they study abroad. Go big or go home, right?
The first thing to figure out is how much you want to spend on traveling while you study abroad. Typically, students travel three out of four weekends of each month if not every weekend. Especially when studying abroad in Europe, it’s so easy to travel to different countries on the weekend. Being abroad is the perfect time to take advantage of the proximity.
Travel between European countries isn’t too expensive (especially when using sites like StudentUniverse), but it’s not free. Always cross reference trains, planes and buses with websites like GoEuro or Google Flights.
Sometimes the cheapest flight patterns are not the easiest. You may be buying three to four individual tickets on different airlines just to get to one destination and back. But if you want to spend the least amount, it’s worth conducting in-depth research.
Try to schedule your trips early! Once you receive your school schedule, sit down and map out where you want to go and when. Consider weather conditions, seasons, the amount of time you have and what you want to accomplish. Then begin booking! The earlier you book your trips, the cheaper they will be.
I traveled to ten different countries during my time abroad and my travel expenses ranged from $30-200 dollars. In total, I probably spent about $1,500 just on travel alone. Be sure to keep this in mind when calculating your study abroad budget.
As far as accommodations go, the cheapest options for your study abroad budget will always be hostels, AirBNB or discount hotels. There are VERY lovely hostels and if you enjoy a social atmosphere, they can be really fun to stay in! Hostelworld is a great resource to compare places.
Hostels are ordinarily $15-30 per night depending on what type of rental room you prefer. AirBNB is a hit or miss. Usually the cheaper ones are farther from the city center so then you end up breaking even with the amount of travel charges. AirBNB is an option to consider if you are splitting a place with friends!
StudentUniverse offers student discounts on hotels all over the world, so be sure to check that out too.
Ultimately your accommodation is just a place to lay your head, so you might as well save some money in this category.
The next expense to evaluate is transportation costs in your study city and in the cities you travel to. A lot of the airports near bustling cities are at least a half an hour to an hour outside of the city center. Train, ride sharing apps, taxi, shuttle or bus travel from the airport to the city center can cost anywhere from $15-30 one way.
Once you’re in the city there is usually GREAT public transportation, but single trip tickets can add up. Do research online for metro passes or multi-day tickets for the city you are visiting. Be prepared and find the cheapest option before you go.
Food ends up being one of the biggest expenses when traveling. It’s tempting to eat out for every meal because there is so much delicious and traditional food to try. I would recommend choosing the famous foods in each city and trying them once.
Almost all hostels and AirBnBs have kitchens and groceries are cheaper than restaurants. Consider cooking some of your own meals (especially breakfast) and then choosing just the best places to eat out.
It’s also tempting to get drinks at every meal, so if you’re with a group, consider splitting bottle or pitchers to save on high drink costs.
Pro tip: Rooftop bars and restaurants, while they offer great views, ALWAYS carry high prices. They are tempting for the sophisticated experience and flattering photo-ops, but $15 is hefty for one beverage. Head up for a few pictures and the view, then purchase your drinks elsewhere.
You can expect to spend around $100 per getaway on appetizers, entrées and beverages alone.
Shopping is one of the easiest factors to control when it comes to over spending. Avoid tourist traps when purchasing mementos and be sure to notice of the listed price. Some shop owners will exaggerate the price if they see you are a foreigner.
Stick to one small item from each shop (even just a picture postcard for the memories). When you are browsing clothing racks, remember how much space you have in your suitcase. You still have to pack to go back home!
I never spent more than $10 while shopping in a single place.
Things to Do
Activity costs range depending on the country and what it is you’re hoping to do. Admittance to a museum can be up to $15 (always ask for the student discount). A boat cruise on a canal may cost up to $20 (look up different companies before you commit to the first one). Pub crawls usually cost around $20 (always great deals). Something bigger like skydiving or paragliding will get up to the hundreds.
The best thing to do if you love doing lots of activities, is to look up if there is a combination card. A lot of cities offer discounts on their activities if you buy them in a bundle.
Almost every city also has free walking tours if you just want to get the lay of the land and learn a little about the history and the culture.
Then there are gifts you want to buy for family and friends, treats you want to get yourself, impromptu nights out, late night gelato cravings and the occasionally treat-yo-self fancy dinner.
Making Your Study Abroad Budget
It all ADDS UP!
Overall I would say your study abroad budget should include around $150-200 for each weekend trip—not including your travel expenses and accommodations.
By the end of your time abroad, depending on how much you traveled, you may have racked up a bill of anywhere between $2,000-5,000. If you went abroad with the goal to see and experience the world, then it’s worth it! You just need to be prepared.
There is so much you can do to prevent wasting your money. it just takes a little bit of extra effort! Plan your study abroad budget ahead of time to make the most of this life-changing semester.