The NYU study abroad student guide to traveling Europe on a budget

Travel is an important part of many NYU students’ study abroad experience. Here’s how to do it without breaking the bank.

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Natalia Palacino

There are wise ways to save money while enjoying your study abroad experience. (Illustration by Natalia Palacino Camargo)

Gabrielle Trinidad Almeter, Staff Writer

Dear abroad NYU students: I’m sure you’ve already felt some FOMO scrolling through your classmates’ Instagram posts as they jet off to glamorous new destinations every weekend. Believe me, I have too. Yet — and this is coming from someone who saved up all summer working a full-time job — any travel plans should involve careful consideration and creating a detailed budget beforehand. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the hundreds of options, and planning that goes into arranging a fun but budget-friendly trip, look no further.

A key part of traveling through Europe while studying abroad is picking the right time to travel. This is necessary for two reasons: weather and price. If you’re studying abroad during the school year, you’re in luck — autumn and spring offer a mix of affordable flights and decent weather. Contrary to popular belief, there is no ideal day of the week to buy tickets. If you’re unsure about purchasing tickets, you can monitor ticket prices by turning on “track prices” using the Google Flights search engine to get frequent updates on price changes. There’s also no cheapest day to fly, as an analysis by the team behind Google Flights shows that the difference in price is negligible. 

The most important factor in the final cost is the airline you choose. World Airline Awards ranks Ryanair as the best low-cost airline in Europe as of 2022, but beware of expensive checked baggage costs and other unnecessary fees. The best way to avoid these is by packing light; a backpack will suffice for a weekend trip. Also, be prepared for long lines and delays.

If that all sounds a bit tricky, you might want to consider taking a train instead. Although they take longer, trains offer a scenic route and more space to walk around and stretch, not to mention that in many cases, they’re cheaper. There are two types of trains in Europe: Eurail for non-EU citizens and Interrail for European citizens. As an international student, however, you can get the Eurail youth pass, which provides discounts up to 25% off for those 27 and under. 

Next on the list is accommodations. Typically the cheapest lodging option, hostels have been a staple of student housing for decades. They also happen to be the most social, since they give you the chance to meet like-minded travelers and potential friends. If you’re worried about safety, Hostelworld is a great website to read reviews from previous travelers. An increasingly popular alternative is Airbnb, a website that allows property owners to rent out their spaces to travelers from all over the world. This is a particularly cost-effective option for larger groups who want to rent out a whole house or apartment. The site offers accommodations at a wide range of prices, and recent addition Airbnb Experiences boasts cooking classes, sunset boat tours and historic day trips at any destination of your choice. 

Now, in regard to attractions, you might want to look into getting the ISIC card, a student ID that is valid all around the world. This service allows you to get plenty of discounts on museums, flights, and a plethora of other attractions and activities. Getting an ISIC card is a simple process that costs only $15 a year. Check out the ISIC website to see what is included with the purchase of a card.

Without an ISIC card, discounts on student tickets for museums, theaters, and cinemas are country- and institution-specific. The best way to know for sure is to ask at the institution’s counter; they will be able to tell you if they have anything that is applicable to you.

Food and nightlife are also country-specific. A quick Google search of food and nightlife recommendations in your destination city is a great place to start, but don’t be afraid to ask for tips from friends and family if they’ve been there before! A dinner recommendation from my boss at my internship ended up being one of the highlights of my trip to Budapest.

Lastly, remember that there’s no pressure to travel. There are plenty of activities and places to explore within your site city, and it’s friendlier to your wallet. Staying at your abroad site gives you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in a new culture and hone your language skills. Try visiting coffee shops or bars to meet locals, or partake in free events you can find at sites like allevents.in or eventbrite.com. Also, don’t be too quick to dismiss the events organized by your abroad site. Most sites will offer a wide range of cultural events throughout the year, which are a great way to get to know your classmates and your city better — and they’re free. Studying abroad is guaranteed to be a rewarding experience no matter what, and financial limitations or academic stress shouldn’t prevent you from having a good time. 

Contact Gabrielle Trinidad Almeter at [email protected]