Tips from a real life study abroad student

By Emily O’Hara
Published July 25, 2011

Let’s face it, as a student it’s always important to save an extra buck whenever you can. This becomes even more true when you’re traveling, studying and living abroad! So, when I decided to study abroad in London, I quickly discovered that international money spending is no joke. Check out some of these simple money saving tips that can keep you within budget while you continue to make the most of your travels abroad.

1. Choose a bank or credit card wisely

Some American banks have “sister banks” abroad and therefore don’t charge you extra ATM fees. Most of the major credit card companies charge you an average of 3-5% for international fees in addition to the ATM fees that the local banks charge.To help you plan ahead and be prepared during your travels, here is an international ATM finder.

2. Don’t ask for another drink at dinner

Free Refills don’t exist in Europe. Stick to the motto “one and done.” Quench your thirst with plenty of water and pick your beverages up at the local grocery store to save money.

3. If you have kitchen access, use it

Going out to dinner, as it is in America, is much more expensive. Instead, you can get affordable groceries abroad and use the kitchen to cook dinner. But make sure you don’t cut too many corners; you still need your daily nutrition for all that sightseeing!

4. Take advantage of budget travel

There are great deals on flights from different airlines abroad. Try RyanAir or EasyJet! Not into flying? There are lots of ways to travel on a budget and transportation outside the U.S. always seems to be surprisingly more affordable.

5. Explore the country you’re in

Find out what’s going on just outside the city limits. Chances are there’s a lot you might enjoy seeing and exploring. Take pride in where you’re living, you’ll regret heading home without having gotten to know where you stayed. Plus, local travel is much cheaper than country-hopping every weekend.

6. Get acquainted with the public transportation

Or Walk! You’ll save money and see more that way. You’ll also have a better opportunity to get to know the local culture and act like a local.

7. Skype

Cell phone charges abroad can get extravagantly high in the blink of an eye. Take caution and sign up for a Skype account to make phone or video calls from your computer. You pay once for international and you’re good to go.

8. Watch the exchange rate

Keep track of where your money is going by understanding the exchange rate and know when it’s low. There were times when the exchange rate got as low as $1.35 to the pound, and believe me, we all ran to the ATM’s on those days!

9. Take advantage of the student pubs

The pubs aren’t extremely expensive, but it adds up if you go frequently. So, save the real pubs for special occasions and enjoy cheaper pints at the student pubs. You can also use the opportunity to meet some local friends!

10. Make friends with the local students

If anyone is going to know how to save money it’s the students who have already been there and know the ins and outs of the system.

Looking for more information? Check out our study abroad student guide to learn more.

Emily O’Hara studied abroad in London during 2009. She is a 2010 graduate of American University.