Without a doubt, traveling is a HUGE part of any study abroad experience. It’s also often the favorite part. The problem is, it can get logistically complicated and quite expensive very fast. At United Mint Campus, we love traveling so much that we’ve compiled some simple Study Abroad Travel Hacks that will help you get more out of your experience (for less $$$). Whether it’s tracking down underutilized discounts or knowing the right places to look for local experiences, these study abroad travel tips will go a long way during your study abroad experience. Here are 6 simple ways to level up with your travel game:
1. Flex your student ID for discounts
Remember that little piece of plastic in your wallet that magically lets you into the dining hall buffet at school? Believe it or not – it opens up a whole lot more doors when you’re studying abroad. An official student ID will not only get you a load of discounts at museums and popular tourist destinations, it will occasionally get you free or discounted access to concerts and sporting events as well. Make sure to practice your new favorite phrase: ¿Hay descuento de estudiante?
2. Never underestimate the power of the internet
We agree that it can be a bit creepy how much Skynet, I mean Facebook, knows what you’re up to and what type of lunch you’re craving. All the same, you should take full advantage of what online social networks have to offer at the local level. And I’m not talking about “liking” the cafe downstairs that you steal wifi from. Searching for your interests on sites like Facebook or Meetup.com will expose a wealth of options to get involved in the local scene and meet people who live nearby. So, while your study abroad classmates from University of Minnesota are great, we recommend that you do like a good investor – and diversify with some locals.
3. Making friends from different locations
And that leads us to our next hack. Making friends is obviously awesome, but making friends who you can visit later and who know the real deal about their hometowns will give you a more in-depth experience than any study abroad program can offer. Best of all, new friends mean new couches that you can crash on – FOR FREE! Saving money is a clear advantage of visiting and staying with friends, but the advice they can share about an unadvertised concert or the gourmet-restaurant-disguised-as-a-health-risk down the street is invaluable.
4. Online Classes
Study abroad options are almost exclusively confined to the places where your school has partnerships. And there’s often the rigamarole with transferring credits back over at the end of your program. This is somewhat ridiculous when you consider the widespread availability of online courses from accredited universities. Can’t find a program that fits your interests? Enroll in online courses and buy your plane ticket. You’ll have much more freedom guaranteed and as long as you’ve got a wifi connection, you can make the world your classroom. Better yet, you can do internships abroad while taking some classes from your home university. That’s what we call a study abroad home run.
5. Using a local SIM card
When it comes to traveling abroad, there’s a long list of cell phone taboos meant to save you money: stay in airplane mode; don’t use data; never answer a phone call; etc. Well the cheapest way to avoid all of these restrictions is to leave your SIM card at home, get your phone unlocked, and buy a temporary SIM when you arrive in your new country. The price difference between getting a local SIM and using your home carrier’s “travel bundles” would be funny if it wasn’t so astronomical. One US carrier for example charges $450 in international data for what a local Spanish SIM charges $16. That’s not a joke.
6. Dealing with exchange rates and money transfers
Regardless of what a country’s exchange rate is to your home currency, there are a million ways that banks and credit card companies will pick away at your savings. The two best ways to deal with this are:
- Get yourself a credit card from your bank that has a 0% international fee. In addition to saving you money in fees, you’ll even earn points on most cards that you can redeem later for points or cash back. Just make sure you watch your spending and pay your bill on time!
- Use a money transfer service like Transferwise. Bank-to-Bank transfers are a thing of the past with services like these, whose transfer rates for amounts above $1,000 can be as low as $5. You’ll just need a destination bank account in the country you’re studying in. Ask a friend or advisor or just set up your own temporary non-resident account. They’re easy to open and close in most countries and you can practice your banking vocabulary along the way.