Having the opportunity to study abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most. It gives you a reason to explore the world and many take the opportunity to travel as much as they can because it’s not every day you get to live in another country for an extended period of time.
However as students, we really have to watch our spending. Travelling on a budget doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves, though! Here are 8 budget travel tips for you and once you’ve mastered these tips, you too can be a globetrotter.
#1 HAVE A BUDGET
First things first, the most important tip of budget travelling is, of course, having a budget. And as students, we have to make the most out of our limited funds. So decide how long your trip is going to be and come up with a budget. Then keep to it.
The key to budgeting is knowing how to prioritize what you spend on. Don’t be afraid to splurge. It’s perfectly OK to go over your budget on some days because you can always make up for it by spending less on other days to even it out. If there’s a restaurant with a Michelin Star you want to visit, do it. Or if you want to try the representative dish of a place such as Florence’s famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina, go ahead! Because you’ll never know if you’ll ever have the chance again.
Instead, don’t go crazy and blow all your money on souvenirs or things you don’t need. Send a postcard or keep a coin or two of the currency from the country. Besides, the extra weight can add up, especially if you’re flying budget or backpacking.
#2 KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SPENDING
This and having a budget go hand in hand. Keeping track of your daily expenditure allows you to stick to your travel budget. No matter how small your purchase is—entrance fee to use the restroom or the cost of a stamp—make sure to note it down! Make use of apps such as Trabee Pocket or write it down in a small pocket diary. At the end of the day or trip, calculate how much you’ve spent so you’re able to know what you spent on. It might seem unnecessary but having the figures stare back at you makes it so much more real and is very helpful in improving your spending habits for future travels.
#3 PLAN IN ADVANCE
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Airfare is probably the biggest expenditure for a trip. It can fluctuate and vary just moments apart, especially if you’re booking flights at the last minute. The same goes for accommodation. Not only does booking early give you more options, but you’d also be surprised to find out how much you can save as well. It’s cheaper to fly on off-peak days say during the middle of the week rather than on a weekend. The difference in a day really adds up. Us students have the luxury of planning our own timetables and probably have some flexibility with our travel dates.
Moreover, popular travel destinations are way cheaper off-season. For example, Iceland is possibly one of the most expensive countries in the world – a simple sandwich or hotdog can easily cost you S$10. But if you travel anytime from January to May, you’ll find that your wallet won’t hurt as much because those are the cheapest months to fly, rent a car and find accommodation.
#4 SLEEP CHEAP
Like airfare, lodging takes up a pretty substantial amount of our day-to-day budget. For solo travellers, youth hostels will be your best friend. Not only are they cheap, but they’re also clean most of the time and you get to hang out with other travellers. Most hostels have female-only rooms or private rooms if you want your privacy. If you’re travelling in a group, consider booking a whole apartment or private room through Airbnb. You’ll find that the cost is pretty reasonable when you split it among yourselves. It gives you the option of cooking your own meals as well, which means you save even more money!
When travelling between cities or neighbouring countries, consider taking overnight buses or trains to save money on a night of accommodation. Just remember to secure your belongings while you snooze.
#5 KNOW YOUR STUDENT PERKS
Always ask if there’s a student discount! Most of the time there is. Almost all museums, tourist attractions and transport options have discounted prices for students. For example, there is a standard youth fare for anyone under 26 years old for Interrail and Eurail. Students can even enjoy free entry for some museums or tourist attractions!
Student cards like the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) card are indispensable for student travellers. With it, you can enjoy greater discounts on accommodation, transportation, attractions, and even food and drinks. Additionally, Ryanair—a widely used low-cost carrier in Europe—provides an exclusive offer for Erasmus students: 15% off flights and a free check-in bag. Isn’t great to be a student?
#6 EXPLORE BY FOOT
Walking is the best way to see a city and really soak in the atmosphere. Go off the beaten path and discover every nook and cranny the place has to offer. You might even stumble upon hidden gems, residential areas with character, and cultural hotspots that are off tourists’ radar. Join free walking tours that are led by local guides to get a more in-depth understanding of the city. But, don’t forget to tip the guide at the end to show your appreciation!
Exploring on foot will not only save you money on transportation, but you’ll probably walk off all the calories from the local food you’ve been stuffing your face with. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.
#7 DINE FARTHER AWAY FROM TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
This one is a no-brainer – try not to eat in the vicinity of tourist attractions. Granted you might find one or two places selling reasonably-priced food but other than that, it’s probably going to be overpriced. Instead, walk a few blocks down and away from these areas, you will definitely be able to get the same dish at a fraction of the price.
Don’t be afraid to ask locals for recommendations; they are usually more than happy to share insider tips with you. It doesn’t matter if it’s street food, a sit-down restaurant or just somewhere to get some drinks, the locals know where the best and cheapest places are.
#8 LOOK FOR FREE THINGS TO DO
Great news for everyone – some things in life do actually come free! No trip is complete without visiting a museum or taking a stroll in a local park.
Most cities around the world have free-entrance days for their museums and major tourist attractions. So even with your limited funds, you can still visit these places of interest. For example, admission to the iconic Louvre is free on the first Saturday of each month. London’s British Museum and Natural History Museum is always free too! In addition, you can visit historical sites such as the Berlin Wall Memorial and St. Peter’s Basilica for free.