The Ultimate Guide On How To Travel as a Student
How to travel as a student? Is it even possible? You have too many exams, projects, not enough time and certainly not enough money.
Many people wonder if they should start studying immediately after highschool, or take a gap year and travel the world. The question is quite common, yet difficult. I have been there myself.
What if I told you, you could do both?
In this article I’ll cover every question on how to travel as a student.. And if you have any questions left in the end… just ask in the comments!
So let’s get on with it.
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1. How to travel as a student: Studying abroad
So there’s really only two options as for where you study. Either you are planning to stay at your home country, or to enroll abroad. Now, this is not an easy decision and there are many factors to be taken into consideration, most of which financial (see 2. How to Travel As a Student: Earning Money), but stay with me for a minute here.
Enroll in a University Abroad
And you were wondering how to travel as a student! What better way to travel than spending 3-4 years into a foreign country? Nothing will expand your horizons and mind more than being surrounded by internationals each day of the week. I would have never known I enjoy travelling so much if I had enrolled in my homecountry. Going to the Netherlands at the fragile age of 18 all by myself was scary. Very scary. I cried for days before going there. But being on your own teaches you how to be a tough cookie and you eventually learn how to properly enjoy your time.
There are so many benefits to studying outside your comfort zone. E.g:
Mastering/ Learning a new language
Being introduced to different cultures and mindsets
Separating from your parents nest
Learning how to cook
How to travel as a student - tip #1 : Talk and take Travel advice from your International Friends
Learning How To Survive On Low Budget
Making international friends
Learning about possible destinations
Performing better at school
Usually those who choose to study abroad have more to fight for than those who enroll in their home country. There are plenty of reasons for that, some of which are the self-thought discipline and independence, and the fact that there was a particular motive that drove you into going abroad. More often than not, you’ll will do everything in your power to perform well and fight for what you’ve earned!
Well, enough with the benefits! Enroll abroad and you’ll find out more of them.
Join an Exchange Program
Exhange programs are quite often my adivce to people who ask me how to travel as a student. You can take advantage of exchange programs both if you’re studying in your home country or abroad. Here are some options worth taking a look into.
Erasmus is a well-known option, but here is some info in case you haven’t heard about it. The program is based in Europe and its mission is to provide opportunity for students to experience global education and study in a foreign European country for a set period of time. Some universities have set an Erasmus exchange as a mandatory part of their program. Others don’t, yet they still have opportunities for a semester abroad. Erasmus offers a number of scholarships.
EF offers opportunities for different age groups, starting at 13 to 25+. They operate in 114 countries/regions and specialize in language learning, educational travel, cultural exchange and academic study. Make sure to check out their programs and select your age group.
I definitely think that Go Abroad.com is the best website, especially if you are just beginning your research. It’s just a search engine for all the people that want to experience a foreign country and the website is neatly organised. They’ve got options for study, intern, teaching, volunteer, gap year, TEFL courses, adventure travel and even jobs.
Ok, I know I’m not supposed to have favourites, but whatever. This one is my absolute favourite. Their concept is so unique and so what my travels are all about that I can promote it for free even if I go hungry. Where There Be Dragons focus on experiencing the culture and immersing into the environment. They are also super eco-friendly, for which I have huge respect, and everyone involved does a little something for our Mother Nature and becomes more conscious abot preserving our given treasures.
Opportunities for Highschool Students
This small section is exclusively for highschool students, that’s why some of the links are repeating.
Are you reading about all these cool options but you are not even in uni yet? Fear not. There are plenty of opportunities for the highschool sweethearts. Here are some of the largest operations going on at the moment:
Although AFS Intercultural Programs focus primarily on high school students, they have plenty of offers for older adults as well. The main idea is to go in a place you’ve never been before, volunteer, encounter the culture, gain knowledge and skills, and most of time – stay with a lovely host family.
And again, Go Abroad is just the best for general research, comparison of prices and opportunities. Start from here.
They offer some options for younger students as well. You can check it out here.
And of course, Nacel has some really nice highschool programs worth checking as well.
How to travel as a student - tip #2 : think outside the box and Learn how to see Opportunity
2. How To travel as a student: Earning money
How to travel as a student when you’re broke? Hell, even pizza night gets difficult. The ethernal problem – “I got no cash”. I got some bad news for you. You gotta work for it. Meaning both to get a job and to put some effort into saving. Yes, it sounds awful but it doesn’t necessarily need to be that difficult. Here’s a few ideas:
Be the Best You Can and Earn a Scholarship
Each country and university have different criteria and options for student support. Do some research in your area, find the requirements and see what applies in your case. You might be a very good student and high grades would take some load off your bank account. Maybe you’re great in sports – many universities have special programs and benefits implemented for their top athletes. Here are some different types of scholarships, some of which you might have not heard of:
- Avarage academic
- For minorities
- For women
- Community service
- Sponsorship from an association
Governmental and Financial Support
Scholarships are not the only way to get some extra cash flowing. Again, very different and particular for each region. I can give you some basic idea though.
Depending on where you come from, your home country’s government may cover some of your expanses if you study abroad. I know that Finns do that for their students who chose to study somewhere else.
Let’s say you are a working student. I was as well, and I graduated in the Netherlands. There, if you are a full-time student and a part-time worker, you get a set monthly financial support from the Dutch government in addition to your travel expanses being covered.
During my student years this was given out as a gift and the only rule was to fullfill your working hours and graduate within 10 years. Nowadays, it has turned into a loan which needs to be returned, but with no interest and you got to pay it only after you find yourself a stable job with good income. Which leads me to the next point.
Applying for a Loan
See, this I absolutely do NOT recommend, please, try to avoid it at all costs. You are completely capable of managing without getting in debt! BUT… Unexpected things tend to happen, so if you do find yourself in a pickle I advice you to thoroughly read all the tiny words at the bottom of the page. And again, depending on the amount you need, consider if it’s not better to ask a family member or a friend for help. Don’t fuck with banks.
Getting a Job
Kind of an obvious one, right. I bet that the city you study in is full of employers eager to underpay students. Get out and start asking around, look at job websites, join Facebook groups for expats and keep an eye there as well.
Below you can find some of the most common jobs taken by students:
- Baby/Pet sitter
- House keeping
- Food delivery
- Clothes shop assistant
Jobs inside university
- Tour guide
- Open-day assistant
- Research participant
- Dorm security/watch (don’t be a snitch)
- Jobs in the library
Turn your hobby into work
- Social media
- Web developer
How to travel as a student - tip #3 : Take a job that brings you a bit of joy and smiles and a side hustle that is your passion
Side hustles are small daily things you could do to save up on some extra cash.
Some of them are not time consuming at all and completely fit in in your daily schedule. Examples of these are shopping apps, UBER driving, credit card rewards and others.
Others can be a bit more time-consuming, but more profitable as well. These range from taking surveys, becoming a transcriptionist, blogging or selling on online platforms. Such can eventually turn out to be your full-time income if you’re passionate about them.
3. How to travel as a student: Saving Money
Ok, now that we’ve covered how you can earn money, it’s time to see how you can keep them in your pocket!
Saving Before Traveling
If traveling is really on your mind, you can put your heart and soul into saving some extra for the road. The following advice is a mix between both: ways to save big cash and little tips and tricks to save those cents.
Rent a cheaper place to live
You don’t have to live in a palace. After your classmates come over, it will be a mess anyway. Look for options before spending your money. And remember, trying to save money doesn’t mean you need to compromise with the basics comfort of living.
Pre-pack your day food and drinks
This will save you a ton! You might need to get up a bit earlier, but consider that a normal sandwich in campus will be no less than 4€, while for the same price you can buy a whole loaf of bread, meat, cheese or whatever veggies you wanna put in your sandwich. And they will last you for a week.
Quit unimportant memberships
We all have them. Are you not that much of a sports persona? Don’t keep paying a monthly fee to the gym. You’ll also survive without your Netflix subscription (yes, I just said that!). Narrow down your interests and what really brings value into your life. Scratch everything else.
Control your drinking habits
I have difficulties with that one, coming from Bulgaria and all. Another problem when I drink is that I suddenly become very generous. My bank account does not like this. Social life is very important part of your student years, however it is possible to be social without drinking like an animal. Don’t forget your goal and work towards it. Maybe the rest of your mates go out every night. Well, you could go out once a week. Socialise with them during the rest of the time, in campus, study time/projects, go for walks instead of a bar (booooring). Or at least do a house party insted of going out. It’s much cheaper buying booze from the store. OR!!! Make very good bartender friends.
How to travel as a student - tip #4 : It's very important to learn about cash management. Be smart about it. If you know it's a weak spot, open a savings account. Go out only with certain amount of cash. Try telling your mom what you spend your cash on last saturday and just Wait.
Cut all the useless crap you keep buying. How many clothes sit in your wardrobe untouched? Mhm. Guilty as charged. You don’t need more, or if you do, make sure it’s something you could use every day. This goes for all unnecessary expanses such as going to the cinema (tickets are crazy expensive?!) or dining out because it’s Tuesday.
Find cheap stores and grocery shops (and shop when you are full)
It does make a huge difference. E.g. while I lived in the Netherlands all the Dutch supermarket chains were considerably more expensive than the private or foreign ones. I always went to Lidl or my favourite Turkish stores where you can find your stuff for half the price without compromise in quality.
As for shopping after you’ve filled up the belly, it helps you ignore those tasty snacks that you’d otherwise buy.
How to travel as a student - tip #5 : Find your inner motivation. E.g. my motivation is imagining how this bottle of booze I'm about to drink is going to be a bungee jump over a river in Thailand.
Find Coupons and deals
Coupon and daily deal websites like this one are of great help but can be a little time consuming to be honest. So if you don’t have an ISIC card yet, get it now! It will help save before and during your travels. (see below)
Saving While Traveling
Pay attention here, since it’s probably the most important section.
No matter how much money you save before your travels, it almost doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to save them on the road. Money is just paper and a little bit of wind is enough for it to be gone. It’s very easy to fall into expensive habits when you’re somewhere new.
And, in all fairness, the more money you have – the more you’ll spend. That’s just how it works. If you manage not to – please send me a message with your secret! Anyway, let’s start.
Choose your destination wisely
Think outside the box. You wanna travel but don’t know where? You don’t have much money saved up? Well, it would be way wiser to choose a cheaper destination, wouldn’t it be.
Keep in mind, proximity doesn’t always mean it will be cheaper. Yes, the flights may be. But compare Northern/ Western European countries to… let’s say Southeast Asia.
Did you know that Finland is 120% more expensive than Vietnam? Well, that might not exactly be true. But the point is – Vietnam is cheaper! Flights might be a bit more, but it would be worth it. And, in addition, you could spend more time there with your savings. More time is always better as you really get to know the place, instead of just taking a few photos and posting them on Instagram.
Save on transport
There are many ways to save on transport. You don’t always have to take an expensive bus to get from A to B, but you might need to grow a bit more adventurous. It’s not always necessary to buy a flight ticket, but if you do it anyway – at least find the best deals!
Take that thumb out! This is far the best way to keep the money in your pocket and meet a few interesting characters. If you’re insecure or have never done it before, try it out with a friend first. Just take a quick trip to the nearest city one afternoon. See if you die. It’s fun!
I get it. Hitchiking is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you wanna save your cash but feel a bit more secure (or on time) – Bla-Bla Car is the way to go! It’s like Uber, just for longer distances.
Flight fares and last moment deals
Skyscanner offers you a way to see the cheapest flights throughout the month and the year. If your departure and arrival dates are flexible, you have the awesome option of choosing the cheapest flights or waiting on a sweet last minute deal! The last minute deals are never a guarantee, but sometimes you can get really lucky.
Compare transport options
Knowledge is the way to go. Don’t go blindsided. People invented a great source of information called the Internet. Learn how to use it for something other than watching cat videos! Here’s a website to help you plan your trip. You can choose the cheapest flights and hotels via Skyscanner or Momondo.
How to travel as a student - tip #8 : Travel with a friend and share the costs. You'll be surprised how much you save!
Save on accomodation
The next big expanse is accomodation. It’s important to be creative when choosing a place to stay. Most of the time, hotels are crazy expensive and even shitholes can cost you up to 100€ a night without a problem.
Here are my solutions:
Stay with people you know
If you are in a country where you have relatives or friends, keep in mind they will always welcome you in their homes. Make sure to ask them in advance and don’t just show up on their doorstep. If, for some reason, they cannot host you at the moment, they will do everything they can to help you find proper accomodation. Sometimes you won’t even know you have friends in the area. Use Facebook’s “Friends in the Area” to see if anyone’s around.
Hostels are chill and something’s always happening. Very rarely you’ll get bored in a dorm. You’ll meet people interested in similar things as you. I’ve met lots of my good friends in hostels. And another plus is that you’ll have a buddy to go around with during the day as well.
If you talk in your sleep (like me) and worry about it (unlike me), you may not like sleeping in the dorms of a hostel. *Truth bomb* – or maybe you don’t like people fucking above your head. Or maybe you just feel like a bit more privacy. Check out AirBnB, fill in your destination and dates and book your best fit.
Couchsurfing has saved my ass on multiple occasions, and although sometimes it can feel weird or dodgy, most of the time it’s awesome experience. Use your common sense and be social with people who host you. The website’s purpose is cultural exchange, it’s not to be used as a homeless shelter. Be respectful with people’s homes. They have just trusted a stranger and gave you the keys to their safest place on earth. Don’t be an ass.
How to travel as a student - tip #9 : try doing a WorkAway or Wwoofing. It's a good balance between travel, work and meeting people. It's great for your pockets as well.
You’ll need some equipment, but even with the cheapest tent and sleeping bag, you won’t have to worry about finding a room. You can crash anywhere. As long as you don’t get caught. My choice would be a forest or a beach, but history has caught me in city parks, abandoned buildings or construction sites. No matter where you stay, don’t leave your trash behind or keep unattended fires.
How to travel as a student - tip #10 : Being flexible and staying open-minded are the first rules of every traveller.
Save on Activities
You can always save from what you are actually doing while traveling. Don’t forget you’re a student, not a millionaire, and be mindful. It can be quite stressful to run out of money while you’re supposed to be having the time of your life.
Everybody has their style, of course. But nature is way cheaper than the night life in a city. Go for a hike, stay camping with friends. You can still get wasted in the forest. Spend a few days on the beach, catch some tan and turn into a fish. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed secluded places more than busy cities, and I find it a better way to connect with the people around you.
Experiencing new dishes is an important part of getting to know the culture of a new country. I am in no ways against that. However, some restaurants can be quite pricy. Choose your moments, and go for street food more often than in fancy restaurants. Go buy products from the shops and organize an intercultural dish night with your new friends! Everyone will prepare something delicious from their home country. I guarantee it will be way less expensive than going out.
Do some research for the area you’re at. There are plenty of free sightseeing tours (not to mention you can do it on your own), and free entrances to museums and galleries.
Use student discounts
The ISIC association, for example, is a wonderful organisation aiming at improving intercultural exchange and fascilitating student life. If you own one of their cards, you are eligible for hundreds thousands of discounts worldwide. You could save up from everything from a cup of coffee to bungee jumping.
How to travel as a student - tip #11 : The more research you do, the more likely it is you'll find a better deal, a better place, a better experience. However, don't get lost in it. Remember to live in the moment. 🙂
4. How to travel as a student: When to Travel and Where to Go
If you’re reading this article, you probably don’t only worry about budget and savings. Maybe you don’t find the time to go anywhere between your full-time studies, your part-time job and your parents checking on you every half an hour. I’m here to save the day! Keep in mind that advice in different sections is interchangeable, so make sure to read all of them.
Christmas is a family holiday and most students travel back home in December. That’s of course, if they have found cheap enough flights, as the holiday is used as an extortion to show your love towards your closest people. Anyway, if you are lucky enough to be going back home, you should make the most of it! Traveling doesn’t involve only foreign countries. There are hundreds, if not thousands of places in your home country I’m sure you haven’t seen. Go explore the hidden gems of your homeland with a good friend that you haven’t seen during this last semester, or make a family vacation out of it. Take a trip into the unknown and discover the beauty of your country with your closest people.
You could also visit neighbouring countries. Make sure to check the requirements for passports or VISA’s before you go.
Most Christian countries will have a few days or a week holiday around Easter. My experience is that they’re not too long, in which case you can use your spare days to explore the country you study in. Check the nearest national parks, grab a tent and head over there. If the weather is not great or you just don’t feel like spending time in nature, you can always discover other cities and their pubs. Maybe there’s skydiving happening in your area. Sign up! Or check the cheapest flights available. Make the most of those few days. Don’t just watch Netflix at home.
Most of the universities will have mandatory internships as part of their educational programs. I was lucky enough to be able to choose the country and facility where I want to go. Use those moments as another opportunity to explore. One of my best experiences was a six-month internship in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. I did dive into a pool of insecurity by choosing to go there, but in the end I had the best time of my life. Try not to forget that your studies are the priority.
Short Weekend Trips
Use your weekends, human! Most of mine were spent busy working, but not all of them. Instead of getting black out drunk, stay fresh and grab your best friend. Go to the nearest beach or mountain peak. Check out trip advisor worthy places in your area or a bit further away. Visit a new restaurant, or an attraction you just heard about. Use up to 70% discounts here. Go on a bike trip, or join a random group of people for a two-day adventure. Check the Facebook events in your area! Or go to a festival with someone. Or alone. You won’t die (if you don’t take too much LSD).
How to travel as a student - tip #12: Buy a camera and take LOADS of photos. Later on you can make great photo diaries or travel albums, and open them up with nostalgy throughout the years.
The long expected summer holiday is finally here! Use your time wisely and plan ahead. Here are some ideas what to do with your favourite time of the year.
Visit a friend
That goes both ways if you study in your home country or abroad. Chances are, you made a new super cool friend. Go visit them and explore their home country together. They will teach you a lot about their culture and traditions as locals.
Take a road trip
Take a group of friends and go. Organisation can be difficult sometimes. In that case, find people who are just interested in getting from A to B, and turn it into a road trip. Check Facebook groups and find people from your home country who study in the same country as you. Many people can’t afford flights, so they look for alternative solutions.
Campervan rentals would be the ideal option. Although prices for the night can be a bit high for a single person, they’re way cheaper than other forms of accomodation when shared with 4-5 other people. Plus, road tripping with friends has a higher chance of being absolutely epic.
Use your two months to the fullest and have an unforgettable experience! Use platforms such as WorkAway or WWOOF, and choose what fits your style the most. You can volunteer in mountains, deserts, jungles, remote places or in the middle of the party in hostels full of surfers. And you won’t even have to pay for your food or accommodation.
How to travel as a student - tip #13: Stay positive. You'll have some bad experiences. Maybe not on the first or second trip, but eventually it will happen. Remember that positivity attracts good energy and good people in your life. Just smile and go on!
The student years give you so much opportunity for carefree backpacking, shared travels or even just your regular weekend trips.
Talking to hundreds of undergraduates, I realized that a lot of them don’t take advantage of their situation, just because they don’t know how to do it.
Hopefully this article has helped you and now you know how to travel as a student!
If you still have any questions, please write a comment and I’ll get back to you.