With such lovely long holidays, it makes sense for students to think about travel when term time is over. From Interrailing around France, Germany and the rest of Europe, to lazing on the beaches of South America, there are many sights to see. While most students don’t have enormous resources, this doesn’t have to stop you. There are plenty of ways to see the world as a student on a budget.
Perfect the Work:Travel ratio
You can lessen the impact of travel on your finances for next term with a 50:50 work to travel ratio. Smart students work for months or weeks before leaving, to get the cash together for flights etc. This means you can enjoy your travels with money in the bank. However, there are also many jobs abroad available to travellers, depending on your skills. You could teach English, clean a bar, pick fruit or be a tour guide, for example. Working as you go often means you can travel further, as well as enjoy the experience of feeling like a local. Work for a month then travel for a month and you might even return home with a tidy profit.
Make a budget
It’s very difficult to keep costs down without a budget. Every study ever undertaken on spending habits concludes that, without a budget, we’re doomed. Work out a budget based on what you can afford – not what a travel agent suggests. Remember to account for travel, accommodation, food and sightseeing costs. Once you’ve drawn up the budget then add another 20% on top so that you have a buffer zone, as most of us overspend when we travel. While it’s wiser to fund most of your travel with earnings, loans and credit cards can be a useful back up. The last thing anyone wants is to be stranded on the other side of the world without any cash. So, consider a short term loan or credit card to keep in reserve for emergencies.
When in Rome
Whether you’re travelling to Italy or elsewhere, it always makes sense to behave like a local wherever you are. Local food and ingredients are always cheaper to buy – as is local alcohol. If you steer clear of the tourist areas of a city then you will always find prices are lower and you get more for your cash. Take public transport, rather than taxis, and arrange sightseeing when you arrive, rather than in advance. Find a good local guidebook that will let you into the secrets of what the locals love to see, eat and do.
It’s not only in the UK where students get money off everything from food to fashion. An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) will open up a wealth of cut price options on everything from accommodation to sightseeing entry. Remember to use student travel groups, such as STA, when you’re booking flights etc too, as this tends to be significantly cheaper. If you’re taking multiple flights then book them with the same airline (or airline group) and collect the miles. The opportunity for a free flight during term time as a result of your summer jolly is too good to miss.
Research your destination carefully
It’s no secret that some locations are more expensive than others. Coming from the UK we assume that everywhere will cost less in terms of travel and basic expenses. However, that’s not always the case. Make a list of the destinations you want to visit and then use a search engine to work out basic costs. How much is public transport? What will you pay for a coffee or a beer? Is a week’s accommodation going to cost more than your airfare? Once you’ve collated the information, compare prices and see where you can actually afford to go. Norway, Sweden and Denmark are notoriously expensive, for example. Mexico is much pricier than you might imagine. Thailand, North Africa and Vietnam are still relatively cheap.
Don’t skip the insurance
Yes, it’s an extra cost to budget for but travelling without insurance is a headache if things go wrong. Theft or damage to your possessions or passport can ruin your trip, as can illness or injury. Buy a student insurance policy that covers your area of travel and gives you basic cover. Remember to include any ‘extreme’ sports you want to try, such as skiing or paragliding. And bear in mind that many insurance policies won’t pay out if you’re injured or robbed while drunk. If you’re travelling in Europe then get a European Health Insurance Card. This remains valid, despite Brexit, and entitles you to free or reduced cost healthcare across Europe.
Oliver Jones has written for Solution Loans since 2016. His passion for personal finance comes through in the 200+ blog posts he's written since that time. His talent for explaining all things money means he's covered topics as diverse as...Read more about Oliver Jones