Studying abroad is an amazing and inspiring opportunity of a lifetime to venture out into a world unknown. My summer semester in Italy is still remembered fondly as the best time of my life. I made many sacrifices (including using the last of my cash to visit the inside of the Coliseum instead of eating!)
Here are my personal 7 money saving tips to make your travels hopefully a bit easier, and definitely a lot cheaper:
1. Give Your Financial Institution a Heads Up
For your protection, your banking cards are monitored for fraud and traveling abroad could be viewed as unusual activity. To avoid being stranded in a foreign land without access to your cash, let your financial institution know you’re leaving the country.
2. Know the Exchange Rate
Depending on where you’re studying, your US dollar can either be stretched out or maxed out easily. The exchange rates at airports and hotels are usually lower so that they can make a profit out of you, so make sure that you already have some local currency before traveling.
3. Create a travel budget
My personal travel philosophy is memories over comfort, which makes things very easy when you’re trying to stretch your money. Find out how much you have to spend and split it into categories of food, transportation and yes, the occasional souvenir. There are even apps to help with this!
4. Cash on the Go – Get ATM Savvy
Like ATMs in the U.S., international ATMs charge a transaction fee for customers who don’t belong to that particular institution. Unfortunately, the costs are even higher abroad. If you need cash on the go, take out large sums at a time so you don’t keep getting pinged with fees.
5. Refrain from buying souvenirs
You want to remember your trip, but buying expensive cheaply made souvenirs can drain your funds quick. Instead, I’ve found that framing maps, postcards or restaurant menus are just as efficient and keep the nostalgia in check.
6. Avoid eating out/cook it yourself – Tricky request! Especially if you’re visiting a country known for amazing cuisine. Unless you’ve budgeted otherwise, make it a point to only eat out on certain days. My apartment mates (there were 7 of us) took turns making dinner during the week so we could enjoy Italian nightlife on the weekends. Everything was delicious!
7. BYOW (Bring your own water)
Some countries do not consider water a free right at restaurants. In some cases, it was more expensive than wine. Bring a water bottle to fill as you go when traveling. You won’t regret it!