Making Your Money Stretch While Abroad

Top Articles on Studying Abroad from Students and Experts

story by Antonio Reyes

Are you excited yet? The semester is about to end and soon you’ll be on a plane headed to study abroad in a foreign land where you will gain new and exciting experiences. You’ll explore every inch of your new home, dine on strange yet delectable cuisines and meet interesting and colorful people while gaining a better understanding of the world and yourself. All of this is great, but just keep in mind; none of these experiences will pay for themselves! So whether you’ll be spending Pounds, Euros, Reals or Yuan, to insure you get the most out of your time abroad, here are six tips to help you budget your money while abroad:

1. Budget
One of the best things you can do to make your money last while you’re studying abroad needs to be done before you ever step foot on a plane; budgeting! It not only makes your money last longer, but because of your finite resources, it also forces you to consider which activities you are truly interested in participating in abroad.

Of course, it is difficult to know the exact cost of everything when you first develop your budget before going abroad. While in your host country, adjust your budget according to your circumstances. Once you have decided on your final budget, stick with it! Initially, setting a budget can be difficult, however, over time, you will get the hang of it.

2. Public Transportation
Public transportation is one of the cheapest ways to get around when living abroad. Buses and trains are excellent alternatives to expensive taxicab rides around your host city. Taking public transportation is a great way to meet people from all walks of life and get acquainted with the local culture. You never know what kind of interesting conversation you could experience at a bus stop or train ride. Remember, only use public transportation if it’s safe.
In addition, buying or renting a bicycle or walking is the ultimate way of saving money on transportation while abroad. There is no better way to explore your surrounding than riding or walking around your neighborhood. In no time, you will gain a better geographical understanding of your host city. By the end of your travel, you will not have only saved money but gotten into a fit and healthy shape.

3. Travel Deals
Finding travel deals can save you hundreds of dollars when studying abroad. These special deals can cut the cost of flights and hotels, among other things. Companies similar to offer discounts for Rail, Airfare, Hostels, and Travel Insurance. To take advantage of many of these opportunities you will need to plan ahead. Take notes on what you will need while abroad and then research deals and discounts that pertain to your special needs. Also consider getting an ISIC card, which comes with specific student discounts. Don’t pay full price for travel expenses when you don’t have to!

4. ATMs/ Credit Cards
Keeping some cash for miscellaneous needs is smart, but using ATMs or credit cards are great ways to save money while abroad. Unlike dealing with cash, ATMs or credit cards often have a better currency exchange rate, and most credit cards are accepted internationally. However, make sure you inform your bank and credit card company that you will be spending some time abroad. In many cases, these companies have security measures in place that will prevent purchases internationally due to fraud. The last thing you want to experience is the embarrassment of being without cash and having your credit card declined after eating at a restaurant!

5. Eat Like a Local
Food can quickly drain your wallet while abroad. You would be surprised how easily you can spend hundreds of dollars dining out while abroad. Rather than going out for meals, consider doing your own grocery shopping and cooking for yourself. Cooking your own self-bought groceries is a great way to reduce the cost of eating and help you learn more about the country’s culture through food. Depending on your host country, buying fresh and local food is also a great way to maintain a healthy diet—stay away from fast-food American restaurant chains! (Okay, maybe every once in a while.) If you don’t know what to cook or even how to cook, ask a local friend or your teacher to assist you. You would be surprised how eager and excited they may be to introduce you to their local cuisine!

6. Self-Explore Your New Home
Why pay a tour guide to do what you can do for free? All you need is a trusty travel guide to find local attractions that are free or inexpensive. In most places, you can find many local festivals and celebrations that are free for you to attend. If you are interested in visiting local attractions often missed by tourists, consider making friends with locals or other foreigners who have been in the country for a while. Not only is this a great way to find lesser-known attractions, but you will also develop and build new friendships. For example in China, the general visitor to Beijing is aware of the Summer Palace (Yihe Yuan), but a very few are aware of the Old Summer Palace (Yuanming Yuan).
Antonio Reyes


Antonio Reyes is a China specialist and a Fulbright Scholar with 9 years experience in International Education.

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