Travel Tips for Students By Northwest Study Abroad Alumni
- Before you travel, make sure that the country or countries that you are visiting does not require that you have tourist visa.
- At all times carry your passport when traveling around.
- Avoid carrying expensive jewelry, excessive cash and additional credit cards.
- Budget around $1500-2000 for expenses per semester (shopping, traveling, etc.) You will want to buy things.
- Check with your bank and/or credit card company to see if there are any fees associated with oversea expenditures.
- You will probably receive a student ID from your host university and this will do as much or as little as the ISIC card for getting you discounts in museums or wherever. Your passport works some places, as well, if the discount is based on age.
- Buy plane tickets online. These airlines are small companies that offer discounted flights. There are others you can find online, as well.
- The earlier you buy the ticket, the cheaper it will be.
- Bring a printout of your flight info with you when you check in if you get the tickets online. Generally, you can board without it, but in case something goes wrong, it's good to have proof of reservation and purchase.
- Ryanair and Vueling offer shuttles from the airport to the city and vice versa for around $20-30. Check the website of other airlines. Since these small airports are 45-60 minutes outside of the city, the shuttle is a much better deal than a taxi. Plus, the shuttles are coordinated with their flights, so you are guaranteed a ride no matter what time you arrive or leave.
- When booking a hotel or hostel online, make sure to check location. Public transportation may stop early and make it complicated or expensive to get back at night if you are far from your hotel. You may be better off to pay a little more to get a location that will offer you more freedom.
- Walk as much as possible! Places are much closer than they appear on the map and you will see much more if you walk.
- But, if you aren't going to walk, consider, getting a metro/bus pass rather than buying individual tickets each time. Often, with the passes, if you get back on the bus or metro within an hour, you don't have to pay again-with individual tickets you probably will.
- Use tourist information booths. In large cities, they will speak English and provide information and tips.
- If you are traveling in a busy time of year, book a hotel or hostel in advance. If it is off-season, you can usually find a decent and affordable place near the center of the city once you arrive.
- A small breakfast is often included at hostels. Some hotels include breakfast at no extra cost, but check to see if there's a price difference if you do not take the breakfast. You may be better off not paying the extra and eating elsewhere.
- Rather than eating in restaurants or buying drinks in bars, shop at supermarkets or small grocery shops. However, in the smaller stores, shop around. Prices vary quite a bit based on location.
- If someone stops you and wants to read your palm or make you a "good luck" bracelet, they also want a lot of your money.
- The Vatican and some cathedrals require conservative dress-no tank tops, short skirts, hats, etc.
- Carry your own beverage. Some restaurants will charge $2-3 for a can of soda or bottle of water. Water is never complimentary!
- When calling home: be wary of phone cards. If you are calling from or to a cell phone, they will eat your minutes faster than you'll believe. If possible, call from a landline to a landline. There are also often hidden fees: weekly maintenance fees or taxes that will devour your credit. I've had good luck with www.callingcards.com.
- Invest in a pair of comfortable shoes, something you can wear with anything that won't make you look like you're going to the gym but that you won't regret wearing after several hours of walking.
- Keep your belongings close to you.
- See as much as you can!
Depending on what season you are traveling, depends on the rate.
If you book online, you will be charged a fee that you don't get back. Sometimes it is better to call or email the hostel directly, or just show up. If you plan to just show up, check the calendar of events, and make sure nothing major is going on there.
You have a better chance of just showing up and getting a room during low to mid-season. (Jan to mid-April). During high season, you will need to book your hostel in advance through email, online, phone (late April-Sept).
Choosing Your Hostel
When choosing a hostel, check out others' reviews online or in books. Pick one that is "rated" high in areas of importance to you and which seem popular among college students. Do not choose a hostel, just because it is cheap.
When booking a hotel or hostel online, make sure to check location compared to distance from the city center, train station, or other sites you are interested in.
Public transportation may stop early and make it complicated or expensive to get back at night if you are far from your hotel. You may be better off to pay a little more to get a location that will offer you more freedom and is easier to find.
Safety in the Hostel
When sleeping in hostels, sleep with your purse/wallet on you or under your pillow. Anything of major value to you put in a locker that you rent in the hostel, or do not travel with it at all. Otherwise, keep it very close to you.
Rooms can be private or hold up to 30 people. The best rooms are 4-10 people, because you have more privacy, and less of a chance something will happen. Normally people traveling alone will stay in these rooms. Big groups will stay in the larger rooms and tend to be louder and more obnoxious.
What To Pack
Remember! you will be hauling your luggage by yourself through the airport, customs, buses, trains, taxis and when finding your room or house.
Just because there is a weight limit, doesn't mean you have to meet that amount! Pack UNDER the weight limit, so you have room to bring stuff back!
Suggestion: Pack one large suitcase, one small suitcase and one backpack. Don't fill your large or small jam-packed, because you will be bringing stuff back.
The small suitcase or backpack should be small enough or large enough, respectively, so you can use it to travel on short trips or weekends.
Pack like you are going somewhere for about 2 weeks and no more.
(Meaning - these exact amounts or LESS!)
- Jeans (3)
Warm Climate: Jeans (2) and Shorts (1)
- Dress Pants (1) -- ex. khakis, black pants, ect.
- Shirts you can layer
- Jackets (2); Hooded Sweatshirt (1) -- Especially important!
Warm Climate: Long Sleeve T-shirts
Don't go overboard with these. You will buy sweaters, t-shirts, tank-tops and a lot more when you are here. Remember that sweaters take up a lot of room.
- Casual (but not tennis) shoes you can wear everyday to travel, go to class and be able to dress them up and down. ex. Rocket dogs, Doc Martens, Skechers, Pumas, etc.
- Going-out outfits
Some places really dress up, so find out what they wear to go out. Don't bring too many, because you will buy what others wear there.
Pick your favorites and take a small makeup case. You will notice that a lot of girls from other countries studying abroad don't wear as much makeup, so you will be fine! Bring brand new products, so you don't run out because make-up is expensive abroad.
- Sweatpants (1), shorts (1) for sleeping and around the house
- Towel (1)
Suggest a beach towel or the size of a beach towel.
- Toiletries - if you want to save room and weight, bring travel size and buy regular size when you get there.
For women -- bring feminine products
Examples include ibuprofen/Tylenol; cold/flu; allergy; chloraseptic strips; small Kleenex pouches; chap stick; Band-aids; safety pins; antacid; anti-diarrheal
- Cold Climate: Scarf, Gloves, Hat, Ear Muffs
- DVDs to play in your computer
- Camera/video camera
- Electric Adapters and converters (computers do not need converters)
- Different electric outlets: Buy your curling iron, straightener, and/or hairdryer there
- Some ziplock bags
- Pictures of friends, family, your home, Northwest things to show others
- Extra Contacts
- Copies of your prescriptions and enough medicine to last you through your stay
- Slippers or sandals for around the house/dorm
- Copies of passport, visa, acceptance letter, etc. (leave copies at home, as well)
- Bring extra passport size photos for visa, residence permit, etc.
- Travel alarm clock
- Your favorite foods that may not be provided in that country. ex. ranch, peanut butter
- Memory stick
- Do not bring Traveler's Checks
- Take foreign currency with you
- Take American cash (about $600) from your home bank; when you are waiting at the international airport (i.e. Atlanta, Chicago) go to a Currency Exchange and get whatever money you need
- Credit/debit cards so you can use the ATM
- When withdrawing; take out a lot at a time so you are not charged so much
- Make photo copies of your cards: leave at home and bring with you
- Call the company and tell them you will be gone
- Make sure they don't expire while you are there
- Exchange rates are normally better at the beginning of the week
- Bring calling cards ( http://www.callingcards.com or http://www.skype.com)
Airlines have very specific weight allowances for luggage, that you should always considering when packing for your program abroad.
It is important to note that going over the weight limit will result in the airline charging you for excess, oversize and overweight luggage.
|Type of Baggage
(length + width +height)
||45 in / 114 cm
||40 lbs / 18 kgs
||62 in / 157 cm (each)
||50 lbs/ 23 kgs*
*There is a $25 USD charge for each bag weighing 51-70 lbs.
- Use cash currency of the country you're staying in. Some small towns, owner-operated businesses, and markets may not accept credit cards, debit cards, or traveler's cheques.
- If you don't have time to exchange money into the local currency, the best currency to have is US dollars. However, you can easily exchange money in the airport so you have some cash.
- Debit cards are a good and easy way to get cash.
- The instructions on the machine may be in the language of the country, so you might want to familiarize yourself with some key phrases before you go.
- When using an overseas ATM machine:
- Your card must have access to the Cirrus network. Check to see if the logos on your card match those displayed on the ATM machine
- ATM charges can be costly so minimize your fees by minimizing your transactions. Check with your bank before hand to see if additional fees will be charged for overseas transactions
- Be aware of how much you withdraw. ATMs or your bank may have daily limits on how much you can withdraw regardless of how much money is in your account.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Have some emergency cash in case a problem with your card or a machine arises.
- Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards.
- Don't assume that you can use your card. Some places may not accept them.
- You can use credit cards to get cash from an ATM, but beware that you will most likely be charged interest on what you withdraw.
- Make copies of your credit cards and keep them in a different place than the plastic ones with contact phone numbers for all of them. This will make it easier to cancel or reissue the card should something happen.
- Become familiar with the local currency and accept that it is different.
- Be aware of the exchange rates, $5 is not the same as 5 € or 5 ₤.
- When withdrawing money, know that withdrawing 100 € will withdraw around $117 from your account or that taking out 100 AUD will withdraw around $73.
- Get used to thinking in the local currency instead of converting everything.
- Travelers cheques are insured. This means that if $400 worth of cheques are stolen from your accommodations, $400 worth are replaced.
- Exchange rates for travelers cheques may be a bit lower than for cash, but there is more security.
- When using travelers cheques:
- Sign all of your cheques before you leave the bank
- Keep track of the cheques you use
- Store your cheques in separate places
- Call your provider immediately if you discover any have been stolen.
- Keep some US Dollars currency un-exchanged. Your new friends may be interested in seeing them. Plus, when you get back to the States, you won't have to exchange any money if you want to purchase something right away.
- Don't keep all of your money/cards in one place.
- Consider withdrawing money on a weekly basis to help you stick to a budget.
Communicating Back Home
While you are overseas, you will need to take care of certain civil, financial and legal matters in the United States. Advance planning in these areas will make life easier.
Power of Attorney
Giving a family member or trusted friend power of attorney, while you are abroad, is a good idea. Power of attorney gives that designated person the power to act on your behalf in case a legal document requires your signature while you are away. This is especially important if you receive financial aid. Checks that you receive to cover educational costs must be endorsed by you before they can be deposited. It may also be helpful when completing and signing other financial aid forms, such as your FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid), that must be taken care of while you are gone. Check with the student legal services office on your campus to obtain this document. You can also give someone power of attorney by simply writing what duties that person will be allowed to perform on your behalf and having the paper notarized.
If elections are going to take place in the United States while you are overseas, you can still take part in the election process by completing an absentee ballot. You must, however, register to vote before you leave home. Contact local election officials to obtain information on absentee voting, including whether you need to have your ballot notarized at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Filing Income Tax
If you currently pay income tax and will be out of the United States during spring semester, you can request an extension of the deadline for filing federal, state and local tax returns. If you choose to file from abroad, then you can request your family or friends to send you the necessary paperwork. You can also find out if the closest American embassy or consulate has forms. The embassy and consulate staff may also be able to find someone to help you complete the forms.