As priceless as the memories of a study or internship abroad experience are… the travel itself can come with a steep price tag. It takes a lot of saving to be able to temporarily relocate to a new country, so being smart with your money shouldn't stop as soon as you’re abroad. We have 10 money saving tips to help you stretch your dollar as you travel.
1. Make your own meals as often as possible
This rule is true almost anywhere in the world: the grocery store is going to be cheaper than a restaurant. All you need is some space in a refrigerator and you can save hundreds of dollars a month. Seriously - refills in restaurants abroad are not free. Eating at home also makes it easier to eat healthy.
2. Get a credit card without international transaction fees
Cards like the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card are meant for going abroad - no international transaction fees! That phrase will soon be music to your ears. Using a credit card abroad with international transaction fees could very easily double the money you think you are spending - even before calculating the exchange rate. Ouch.
3. Withdraw cash in large amounts with an affiliate bank
If you can, find an affiliate bank abroad (for example, Bank of America is partnered with Barclays in the UK - no extra flat fee for withdrawing cash from their ATMs) and only withdraw cash from those ATMs. Use that zero international transaction fee credit card as much as possible, but the necessity of keeping cash on you will still be there - so bring along your debit card. Take out large amounts of cash as few times as possible - this will lower any fees you may still have to pay.
4. Communicate back home for free
Don’t waste money on long-distance calling. No matter where you are abroad, all you need is an internet connection (or unlimited data on a SIM card) to talk with the family and friends back home. We already have a great list of free apps and online services to use. Don’t keep putting $20 (or £20/€20, which is worse) on a calling card every week or month. With technology today, there are more resources than ever before for reaching someone overseas! (However, its still nice to send postcards occasionally.)
5. Get the best SIM card deals for in-country communication
If at all possible, get your smart phone unlocked at home and take it abroad with you. (I ended up taking my father’s old smartphone after his upgrade, since that was the only phone we could get unlocked by the phone company.) SIM card plans abroad are generally very good value for what you need. If you happen to be traveling within the UK, we already have a list of the best pay-as-you-go phone plans. £15 for unlimited data and more calls and texts than I could ever use per month? You can bet I signed up for that!
6. Show your student ID everywhere
In Europe, there are student discounts everywhere. Just get into the habit of showing it at any attraction or activity you happen to be at. Whether you run across the occasional paid museum in London, or are headed to the movies - try it on everything! You can even apply for an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) which may be recognized in more places than your university’s card.
7. Go for cost and space efficient souvenirs
Sure, that sparkly miniature snow globe of the Eiffel Tower looks amazing and the huge plastic beer mug with the floating leprechaun from Ireland will get a laugh back home… But how, exactly, are you going to fit all of these things in your suitcase? No one wants to pay for an overweight or extra checked bag. The space-hogging souvenirs also cause you to spend too much cash. Instead, grab all the free maps, restaurant menus, pub and brewery tour coasters, and tour pamphlets possible. Postcards, small art prints, and similar items are usually quite cheap. The bonus to all of these great, low-cost memories? They’re flat for easy packing! (And when you get home, they make great scrapbooking material. Even if you don’t feel creative, slip them into clear sleeves in a binder - instant memory book to show friends and family!)
8. Use budget travel services
One of the main reasons to go abroad for school or an internship is to travel. Take advantage of the other nearby countries as often as possible without breaking the bank by grabbing tickets from budget travel companies like Ryanair or Megabus. If you’re spending the weekend in a new location, check Hostelworld for a place to stay that won’t break your bank.
For your semi-permanent residence in your host country, don’t forget FlatClub! We can help you find accommodation for your abroad program with one our many hosts.
9. Utilize free walking tours when you travel
You would not believe how many free things there are to do when you travel. London may be known for its free museums, but free activities are all over Europe. Sandeman’s New Europe Tours are found in 18 cities throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. If your vacation spot isn’t listed on Sandeman’s website, all it takes is a little searching on Google to find other free tours such as this Rome Free Walking Tour!
10. Meet Groupon, Livingsocial, Viator: your new best friends
Don’t forget to set your new city for Groupon and Livingsocial to your new host city. There are food, attraction, and experience deals on that you may never have heard about otherwise. Viator mainly offers deals for activities in tourist destinations. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway, Groupon and Livingsocial both have great package deals on offer as well, many times with flights included. If you get used to researching every short trip as you plan, it won’t take long before you become a money-saving pro for holidays!