Study Abroad Europe: Make the most of it
This article is for people who are currently studying in Europe or look to study in the future. I am writing it to help you get around Europe efficiently on a budget. Read on and I will teach you how to fly around Europe for under $10 and get bus tickets to major English cities starting at 1.50£.
Learn your objective
Regardless of your original intentions for studying abroad in your specific country, try to make the most of it. If you are studying in a place for a specific reason (i.e. to learn a language), then do it. Embrace the local way of life, hang out with locals, and learn to love a new culture. Realize that there are some things you will always be able to do when at home, and some that you will not. For example, you will always be able to go out and party, but you might not always get a chance to take a stroll through Rome with some Italians while practicing your Italiano. On the other hand, how often to you get to tangibly see the effects of the Cold War first-hand?
What you need to know
Europe is an interesting multi-cultural blend of countries packed in to a small geographic region of the world. The good news for that is by traveling for just a few hours you can find yourself in a completely new place with a different language and culture. As you study in Europe you will have an opportunity to get to know the country that you are in, as well as see new ones. If you want to do this on a budget, you can easily. It just takes some planning.
How to get around?
As you will quickly find out, most European nations have very good public transportation options. Buses and trains link nearly all major European cities. Additionally, there are a number of budget airline companies with very cheap flights.
It is in your interest to search by country for specific buses, trains, and planes. You will likely find my European links page helpful to your planning. On that page, I have links to many train and bus companies as well as a few budget airliners.
Also, be open to different methods of traveling, such as carpooling. Most people never think about looking for a carpool, but carpooling can be a reliable and economical way of getting around. Check the country specific links in the page above.
Where to stay?
In my opinion, your best bet is hostels. Hostels are extremely common in Europe. They vary substantially in price depending on the city. In parts of Eastern Europe you could easily pay less than $10 for a night. In Western Europe, it would be challenging to find accommodation for less than $20 during the busy season.
If you are open to the idea, you can try Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a website that links travelers together who are looking for accommodation. The way that it works is that you search for people in the cities that you are going to be traveling to and ask them if they have room for you. You can screen them by reading their profile and comments left by other surfers about them. It may help you to read my article on building credibility with Couchsurfing.
Also, try to do some networking before you leave. Check and see which of your friends or friends of friends might be studying or living abroad. This may help you to get connected with some people who really know the areas which you hope to visit. It might also help you with a place to stay.
If you are looking for a middle of the road place, try AirBnB. It is a website that allows people to put their rooms up for sale for a night. It is very similar to booking a hotel room, but you have a more personal touch. Unlike Couchsurfing, you have no obligation to the person whom you stay with. You have more autonomy.
How to budget?
Budgeting for Europe is much like budgeting anywhere else; you need to be conscientious of what your budget actually is and do your best to stick to it. I would recommend budgeting around $40-50 per day on the road; however, as you travel and learn more tricks, you will likely be able to reduce that number a bit. That being said, I have met people who clearly do not budget anything near that. They might spend a hundred or more daily, but if you plan to go the cheaper route it can certainly be done.
It is important to note that in the last two years the Euro exchange rate per all dollars has fluctuated greatly. The Euro to US Dollar for example, was as high as 1.5 € to $1 a few years ago. Recently, that number has ranged between 1.15 and 1.30 € to $1. In fact, the number can fluctuate almost daily.
Also, note that the Euro is not the sole currency of Europe. It is widely accepted and becoming increasingly more so; however, the countries which have their own currencies will generally require you to pay in theirs.
The daily budget above accounts for around $20-25 per day in accommodation, and the rest of the money can be used for food. If you stay at a hostel try to stay at one that has a kitchen listed in its amenities. This will help you cut the costs of eating out so much.
Buses: will cost you varying prices, but to give you an idea I will throw out some numbers. Barcelona to Madrid is around 29€. Zagreb to Split 109 Kuna or 25€ ($19). Dublin to Galway (18€). All of these prices were taken from their respective website links on my European Links page.
Clearly, they may change, but probably not too much. However, if you happen to be in England look into MegaBus. You can find tickets for as low as 1.50£ a few weeks in advance.
Trains: It depends on the country, but you are likely going to have to take the train at least once. It is important to realize that trains are typically slightly more expensive, and in some cases significantly more expensive. In places like Italy, trains are the best method of getting around. A few examples: Berlin HBF to Munich would cost around 140€, Rome Termini to Florence (Firenze) 20-45€ depending on the type of train that you choose. Seville to Madrid 85€. Regional trains and shorter trips will be cheaper, but long train rides will be more expensive than buses.
Flights: Unlike many other places in the world, Europe offers extremely cheap budget flights if look at the right time. For example, you can find flights with Ryanair for 5€ and up. In order to get these good deals, you are going to have to plan your trip out to a certain extent. Flights this cheap usually sell at least a month in advance.
You can help to reduce your budget by staying with people. Accommodation is by far your most expensive cost incurred when traveling for a longer period of time (It adds up trust me). The second most expensive thing would probably be getting around; whether it be via train, bus, car, or plane. As mentioned early in this article, a third way that you can save money is by carpooling. Carpooling is common in Europe and there are several websites that link you up with other drivers. Look into it, I did it several times and had nothing, but good results. Occasionally, it will save you a few bucks as well. Lastly, be careful about how much you spend on food. Eating out can cost quite a lot. If you buy food and cook, you can save big.
What are your options?
Basically, if you want to see multiple places while you are studying you have a few options. Here I will list three that may help you in your thinking process.
Option 1: Use your weekends. Many study abroad programs enable students to have 4-day weekends from Thursday-Sunday, which gives you the opportunity to check out new places by leaving Wednesday night or early Thursday and staying through Sunday.
Option 2: Stay after and travel. This option gives you a chance to enjoy your study abroad location and then get to see other things after. It is not a bad option if you have the time because it gives you a good deal more freedom. In Option 1 you would have to rush back on Sundays where if you stay after you will be able to make up your own schedule and be free for a while.
Option 3: Arrive early. If you report early for your study abroad, you can use the time to travel before your classes begin.
- Europe is full of pickpockets. Violent crime is low in most places, but there are some expert pickpockets out there. Be sure to be extra careful when in the more famous European cities, which are more prone to pickpockets.
- If you are trying to budget for less, realize that you can save on many more things like sticking to grocery stores, hitchhiking, camping, and sharing with other people. These might take a bit of effort, but they can help you out.
- Be open to new ways of doing things, and don’t be afraid to try new experiences.
- Consider going it alone at least sometimes, your experience will be totally different.
- Make good use of my links. I have found that most people do not realize that they can easily save themselves some money by having the right information. Do your research to know what you should pay, not what someone tries to charge you.
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