The number one priority for most if not all students when studying abroad is traveling. Luckily, schools in the UK have a month-long Easter holiday which normal students use to revise (review/study) for final exams, but study abroad students use to go on the infamous Eurotrip.
Europe is not only filled with culture and opportunities to make great memories, but is also convenient and cost-effective to travel around. For me, the transportation and lodging for ten cities in three weeks cost less than $800 (I may have blocked out of my memory and journal exactly how much I spent on food). Here are my tips for traveling around Europe while staying within your student budget.
1. Travel in a group.
For two out of the three weeks of my Eurotrip, I traveled with 7-8 people (a few people planned to join and leave at certain points of the trip). If you’re wary about staying in a hostel, traveling in a group is a great strategy because you can try to book entire rooms and not worry about strangers in your room. Because the larger rooms (more beds) are cheaper than doubles or quads, you end up paying less and having peace of mind.
However, staying in a large room with just one other friend is also fine because most travelers are just young explorers like you. I’ve stayed in 10 and 14-bunk rooms and met some lovely strangers during my stays. Just do your research on hostels and lock up or keep your valuables with you and you’re good.
2. Take coaches over trains.
I personally opted not to get a Eurorail pass, so I can’t talk about any experience with that, but I found that traveling by coach (bus) was much cheaper than traveling by train. Just to give you an idea, here are some of the prices of my coach tickets that I recorded in my journal while abroad:
Brussels to Amsterdam (about 3 hours): Eurolines, €10 ($13)
Amsterdam to Berlin (overnight, 10 hours): Eurolines, €39 ($50.70)
Prague to Vienna (overnight, 5 hours): Czech Transport, €14.40 ($18.72)
As an example to contrast, my train from Florence to Rome (about 1-2 hours) cost roughly $43.
Coach rides generally take about an hour longer than train rides, but I think the cost justifies that. Also, I felt pretty safe on overnight buses because a thief couldn’t exactly run away with my things – overnight trains could be more dangerous in that sense.
3. Go grocery shopping.
I am in no way opposed to eating three meals and two snacks a day in order to try all types of local cuisine, but once in a while it’s nice to just pick up some groceries and have a night in at your hostel. You can either cook your food or, like me, go crazy with bread, cheese, fruit, and wine and have an epic hostel picnic. Not only does this save money, but it also somewhat cleanses your system to be ready for another day of eating bratwurst, schnitzel, falafel, waffles, or gelato.
4. Use budget airlines (with caution).
European budget airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet are very well-known for their prices – and their fees. When booking with these types of airlines, keep in mind that although your flight might only cost €7, the cost of being one minute late to check in your bag, being one pound over the carry-on weight limit, or being one inch over the maximum carry-on size will cost you €50 at the gate (been there, done that). Also, these airlines tend to fly into obscure airports, meaning it could cost you a lot to take a bus, train, or cab to your destination.
They’re still a good cheap option, but offer very little leeway. You have been warned.
5. Visit friends who are also abroad.
If you have a friend who is studying abroad at the same time as you, make plans to visit and stay with them (given that their living situation allows guests). Free lodging hosted by a trusted friend is the best kind. If they have time, they might even play tour guide and give you a break from looking at a map the entire time. And of course, offer and do the same for all of your friends who are abroad!