Making the Most of Study Abroad:
Using Public Transportation
Most major cities in Europe are massive. Sometimes, a lot of the major attractions, museums and landmarks are located relatively close to one another, but often times, you will have to travel across the city in order to make your rounds. That being said, the cheapest way to get around is obviously on foot, plus it allows you to actually explore the city and see the sites.
Unfortunately, you’re not going to experience everything a major city has to offer if you plan on walking everywhere. Plain and simple, it takes too long to get from place to place and you’re going to end up missing out on a lot. Not to mention your feet will be so sore after a few hours, you won’t want to move the next day. So what are your options?
1. Take a taxi
This is probably my least favorite mode of transportation. Taxis, specifically in Europe, can cost a lot of money, and with the traffic on major city streets, it will probably end up taking you just as long to take a taxi as to walk. Now in a place like London where the taxis are famous, it wouldn’t hurt to take a quick ride just for the experience. And if you find yourself in Belfast, the black taxi tours are not to be missed!
Speaking from experience, some places in Asia are an exception to the expensive cab fee stereotype. Many nights, I traveled from one side of the city to the other for under $10.
In many countries outside of the U.S., the price of the cab ride is often set right when you get in the cab rather than at the end. Set a price and make sure the cabbie sticks to it. They often see tourists as an opportunity to charge a higher fare, so stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to negotiate.
I’ve included them all in the same category because often, when you buy a transit ticket, it includes all of the afore mentioned modes of transportation – part of the reason I love it so much. The underground (metro, tube, subway, etc.) is extremely quick and with day passes running at about $7-$8.00, it’s also very cost efficient. If you aren’t too keen on riding the subway, just hop on the bus instead (although the subway is still the most efficient mode of transportation in most major cities).
Another thing to keep in mind – check for obscure group rates. When I was traveling around Munich with 4 other people, we got a discount rate on our tickets because we were a group of 5. Why? I don’t know, but I didn’t question it.
So there you have it. If the only thing you spend money on during your trip, besides food and lodging, is a public transportation ticket, it’s well worth it. For under $10, you can make your way to a wide variety of attractions, landmarks and museums in a single weekend.
See the Sites for Free
Unfortunately, you will probably have to pay to see some of the landmarks and attractions in most major cities, but a large percentage of what you pay probably goes to the upkeep of some of these monuments. (There’s a reason they’ve stayed up for a couple thousand years other than solid construction; they need constant maintenance.) That being said, you do have a few options to cut the cost of experiencing local culture and world famous landmarks.
1. Go to museums
For some of you, the first thing that comes to your mind is “lame”. I thought that as well, until I realized museums aren’t the dark, boring, nerdy graveyards for artifacts that I once thought they were. And the best part – more often than not, museums are free.
And no matter how much you don’t think you want to walk around the national history exhibit all day, museums are a goldmine for knowledge and history. They are probably the best place to learn about the city you’ve been walking around all day.
2. Take name-your-own-price tours
I’m not joking, tours where you can actually pay whatever you want are extremely popular and you’ll find them in most major cities without fail. You go on the tour, which has no specific cost, and depending on how you think the tour went; you tip the tour guide accordingly at the end.
Keep in mind that this is someone’s livelihood, so you of course will want to pay. That being said, most organized guided tours normally cost about $15-$25, so you can save quite a bit by taking one of these name-your-own-price tour.
3. Bring your student ID card and ISIC and Check for Student Discounts
A lot of places, especially in the EU, promote students learning about local culture. They understand that students have no money, so often times they will knock a few euro/pounds off of entrance fees to attract the younger crowd. Not only might you get a discount, you might get in for free. Again, this was very common, even at the bigger attractions.
So in short, always check to see if you can get reduced rates or student discounts, and keep your budget at the forefront. But don’t deprive yourself of seeing attractions that you really want to see just because of the price. After all, this may truly be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!