Many of us dream of jet-setting around Europe, eating at Michelin Star restaurants that overlook the Seine and sipping world-class pinot noirs in Tuscany or sunbathing on the deck of a super-yacht in the azure water of the Riviera a la Brigitte Bardot. However, chances are if you’re studying abroad, that sort of Hollywood glamor and James Bond sophistication is going to be out of your price range. But that doesn’t mean your semester abroad has to be the foreign equivalent to nightly meals of Ramen noodles and hot-pot concoctions. There’s an art to pinching pennies when you travel abroad; with a little ingenuity, foresight and planning, you can live the good life on a shoestring budget.
Strangers on a Train
Trains are the dominant mode of transportation in Europe, and they’re a cheaper means of getting around than booking a flight. Whether you’re traveling within a country or hopping to destinations around the continent, trains are inexpensive and efficient, and because of their popularity they’re an ideal place to meet other students, backpackers and travelers. In Europe, trains are like cafes. They’re a moveable feast of cultures and nationalities, and those people who boarded the train with you in Madrid as strangers have a good chance of becoming your friends by the time you pull into the Gare du Nord in Paris.
A Sentimental Education
The cultural life, art and cuisine of a foreign country are just as important as the academic textbooks you’ll be reading. These extracurricular activities are part of your education and imperative if you want to fully immerse yourself in the culture. However, culture–like money–doesn’t grow on trees. If you want to see an opera in Vienna or visit the Tate Modern in London, you’re going to have to find a way to foot the bill. Many museums and cultural attractions have a free day; if it’s not completely free, there’s at least a substantial discount. This is where a little foresight comes in handy. When you plan your sightseeing around free admission or discount days, seeing that Botticelli or Rembrandt painting won’t cost a dime. The same approach can be taken when it comes to eating at restaurants: Look for daily specials, appetizer deals and student discounts.
Bunking at a Hostel
The hostels in Europe are known for their loose, convivial vibe and UN style demographic. Hostels are ideal places to stay if you’re on a budget, but they’re also popular meeting places for all walks of life. Hostels feature dormitory style living, complete with bunk beds and communal bathrooms. If you haven’t slept on a bunk bed since you were eight, that study abroad insurance policy is going to be a lifesaver if you happen to take a tumble from the top.
While jet-setting isn’t going to be in your budget as a student, there’s no reason why you can’t live the good life when you’re in a foreign country. To live cheaply but cultivate a sense of luxury is an art form, and one you’ll master as a student studying abroad.