Students studying abroad obviously want to travel as much as possible, but are always limited by their budgets. By using simple tricks it’s possible to save some money and extend your trips. Here are the top 10 budget travel tips for the backpacking student.
1) Don’t book a hostel just because it’s the cheapest in town
The first time I embarked on a backpacking adventure it seemed like a good idea to go on Hostelbookers or Hostelworld and simply choose the cheapest option available. This is not a good idea. For one thing it’s likely you’ll end up being so uncomfortable and feel so gross the next morning from staying in said hostel that you’ll blow your budget drinking in a bar so you’re drunk enough to fall asleep in a “bed” that is little more than a piece of plywood with a very suspiciously stained sheet on top. More importantly, the cheapest hostels are usually not in the part of town you came to see. So, you’ll end up spending money on public transportation that will just about make up the difference of staying in a nicer hostel in the town’s center, historic district, etc.
2) Don’t pack heavier just because certain necessities are cheaper at home
Again, the more uncomfortable you are the more money you’ll spend getting comfortable. Backpacking ain’t easy and anyone with any sense will tell you so. So you brought a gigantic bottle of shampoo because the mammoth economy size was cheaper at home? That extra weight will kill you, maybe literally, but certainly emotionally. You’ll be sobbing alone in Prague with a fifty-pound pack wondering how you got yourself to this place. Then you’ll spend a hundred dollars drinking yourself into oblivion in a bar and will wake up hung-over and feeling pretty stupid for the three dollars you saved with the gargantuan shampoo bottle that you’ve lost by now anyway.
3) Don’t assume you’ll be able to walk everywhere—figure out the public transportation system
So you’re a young, tough college athlete who isn’t going to spend any money on public transportation because you can walk everywhere? This is unrealistic. You’ll make friends who will take you to a random part of town and you’ll forget how to get back to your hostel. And guess what, you didn’t learn the public transport system. So you spent twice as much on a cab.
4) When there is a battle between utility and style, utility should always win.
Remember the economy-sized bottle of shampoo that added weight to your luggage? So does that extra pair of shoes. Here I will share a personal anecdote from my early days of budget travel. Two summers ago, my boyfriend and I were going on a romantic month-long backpacking tour of Europe. One of our first stops was Venice—a city everyone dreams of going with a significant other. Because I wanted to look perfect and appropriately fashionable in this city, I packed an extra pair of boots solely for the Italy section of our trip. This was an incredibly stupid decision. No one looks sexy backpacking, no one. There is nothing you can do to look like anything but the dirty, plebian, beatnik student that you are. And again, just to drive home this point a little more, extra weight equals less comfort and the more uncomfortable you are, the more money you will spend.
5) Use the hostel kitchen
Eating out is one of the greatest expenses traveling. Most hostels have kitchens—use them. Plus, shopping in foreign grocery stores can be really fun and it’s a good way to get a sense of the local culture outside of touristy areas.