How to Travel as a Student

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The Ultimate Guide On How To Travel as a Student

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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.

Learn how to travel the world as a broke student, visit the article at www.kissmybackpack.com. A picture of me as a student exploring the picturesome town of Matera in Italy
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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

Unless you are English speaking and you go into another English speaking country, chances are, you’ll have to learn a language. Maybe you already got the basics from highschool or some previous lessons. In that case you’ll become even better at it. I had perfect English skills when I enrolled in the Netherlands, except one little fact – I couldn’t speak. There was literally nothing coming out of my mouth when someone was talking to me. See, it’s quite difficult to start friendships and connect with people when you’re a mute. I got pushed into the corner, and one way or another, I just had to do it! Now, 5 years later, I can express myself better in English, and sometimes my Bulgarian sentences don’t even make sense. 
  • Being introduced to different cultures and mindsets

Where to begin… So many people! Of all ages, of all countries, each one with their own perspective of life, each one with different views on culture, religion, race, work, social life, adventure, travel, sport. It’s just incredible! I am the person I am, because of the people I’ve met. And although my degree has turned out not to be my passion, I do not regret going into uni abroad for one second. It’s been an amazing experience and life-changing in my case.
 
A girl meditating on a sandy beach in the Hague, The Netherlands
  • Separating from your parents nest

Let’s get the party starteeeed! Once the time comes to go off for uni, you’d be probably bursting in joy that you will be finally set free.
 
Good luck with that.
 
It’s all shits and giggles until you have to get a job. Freedom is lovely, yes, but it comes with its negatives. Growing up (in the sense of becoming a fully functional adult) is difficult when there is someone constantly taking care of you. 
 
Reality check: Me, or no other self-respecting woman, would be attracted to a man whose mom does his laundry for him. 
  • Becoming independent

That’s directly related to the point above. In addition, you’ll not only be separated from your parents, but also from your friends. And yes, it will be hard, but no, you won’t die. That’s when you learn to adapt and grow as a person. Stepping outside your comfort zone is the biggest challenge and the most satisfying one, once its accomplished.
  • Learning how to cook

Yep, mama’s gone. So you better learn how to cook fast, or at least make some really close Italian friends.
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How to travel as a student - tip #1 : Talk and take Travel advice from your International Friends
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  • Learning How To Survive On Low Budget

You won’t be any Rockfeller while studying abroad. Unless you come from Norway. Then you’re all set.
But if you are not, chances are you’ll have to learn how to pay your uni bill, eat in, eat out, get shitfaced, go on trips and festivals, pay bills, rent, buy drugs, texbooks, furniture, coffee, ciggies… with 100 bucks.
 
University can teach you best how to travel as a student on a tight tight budget.
A happy girl laying on the rocks ner the ocean on the beach in Sicily, Italy
  • Making international friends

One of the best things is making friends from all over the world. So you can go sleep for free when visiting their country. 
 
Although it’s true, it’s needless to say that it definitely shouldn’t be your end goal when making friends. Most of the time, these people will become better and more long-term friends than the ones you’ve got at home. The reason behind this is that you will have found each other in a pool of strangers, overcome personality-shaping obstacles together, see and explore a part of the world together. In most cases, you’ll have more to relate to those people than any others that have never left their safe homes.
  • Learning about possible destinations

It’s inevitable to learn about awesome places when meeting so many new people from all over the world. Start writing shit down and make a bucketlist! The best free travel guides are right in front of you. 
  • 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. 

Article on how to travel as a student:Miniature town of Madurodam in the Hague, the Netherlands
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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.

A travelling student with a backpack standing on a bridge on the Arno River in Florence, Italy

ISEP is a non-profit educational community. They are very reliable and are trying to give opportunity to everyone without any exceptions. ISEP offers programs in each continent, which are categorized in study, intern, volunteer and summer.

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.

Awesome news guys! They’ve got highschool and summer programs as well! Visit their website now and start planning your next adventure!

And of course, Nacel has some really nice highschool programs worth checking as well.

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How to travel as a student - tip #2 : think outside the box and Learn how to see Opportunity
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A travelling girl walking under the shadow in El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain
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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:

  • Academic
  • Avarage academic
  • Athletic
  • Creative
  • For minorities
  • For women
  • Community service
  • Sponsorship from an association
How to travel as a student: A girl exploring the narrow streets and elevated cave buildings in Matera, Italy during a colourful sunset

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. 

  • Example 1

    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.

  • Example 2

    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.

Earning money while studying, a smiling girl working in a busy bar, holding shot glasses in hand

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:

Part-time jobs

  • Bartender/Waiter
  • Baby/Pet sitter
  • House keeping
  • Food delivery
  • Cashier
  • Clothes shop assistant
  • Lifeguard

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

  • Photography
  • Design
  • Video
  • Sports
  • Social media
  • Web developer
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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
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Side Hustle

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.

A girl with a protection hat exploring the ruins of the ghost town of Craco in Basilicata in the south end of Italy
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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.

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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.
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  • Go minimalistic

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.

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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.
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  • 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)

Kiss My Backpack Blog

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.

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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!

  • Hitchhiking

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!

A happy hitchhiker girl in the middle of nowhere
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  • Bla-Bla Car

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.

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How to travel as a student - tip #8 : Travel with a friend and share the costs. You'll be surprised how much you save!
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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.

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  • Hostels

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.

A girl in front of rock formations Los Roques de Garcia and the Volcano El Teide in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
  • AirBnB

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

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.

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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.
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  • Camping

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.

  • Other Cheap Accommodation

You gotta be flexible. Just do some research and find your best deal.

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How to travel as a student - tip #10 : Being flexible and staying open-minded are the first rules of every traveller.
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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.

  • Enjoy nature

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.

Tips on how to travel as a student: A girl camping alone overnight, taking a morning walk in the mountains in Gran Canaria, Spain
  • Food/Dining

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.

  • Sightseeing

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.

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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. 🙂
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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.

A girl enjoying a can of beer during a stunning pink sunset over the ocean in the island of Santorini in Greece
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Christmas Holidays

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.

A girl mesmerised by the green mountains in Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria

Spring Break

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.

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Internships

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.

Stunning shadows of mountain peaks during a beautiful sunset in Gran Canaria, Spain

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).

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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.
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How to travel as a student: A girl taking a weekend trip to a small authentic village in The Netherlands. Villagers' fishing boats in the flowing canals of Holland

Summer Holidays

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.

  • Volunteer

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.

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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!
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A girl relaxing on the large grass fields in front of the Schonbrunn palace in Vienna, Austria
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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.

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How to travel as a student. Everything you need to know at www.kissmybackpack.com. Picture of me as a student, meditating on the peak of Roque Nublo in the Canary Islands, Spain.
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