The cost of living abroad will inevitably vary from student to student, based upon individual living styles, budgetary habits, personal resources, and the fluctuating currency exchange rates. Taking these factors into account, students may find it difficult to actually estimate expenditures in preparation for a program. Students should be prepared to adapt their standards of living to their surroundings, and approach the experience with a sense of financial responsibility.
Here are some financial tips to remember, in preparation for your time abroad:
Before You Go
Contact your bank and credit/debit card companies to let them know you will be abroad, so that your withdrawals are not denied or your credit card cancelled. The credit card and/or debit card you plan to use while abroad must be in your name, not your parents'. (Most major lenders will, at the request of the cardholder, provide an additional card in the name of a dependent authorized to use the account.)
Check with your bank for information about daily/weekly limits on withdrawals, and about fees charged for the use of foreign ATM's. When withdrawing money from an ATM abroad, you will likely be charged a fee at the foreign bank, in addition to your own bank's fee. Ask your bank before you go if they have a partnership bank in the country where you will be living; if so, you might be able to avoid ATM fees.
Buy some currency to have when you arrive. You may need money to get from the airport to your accommodation or school, and changing money in airports is often more expensive than at a bank. Communication with your bank prior to departure is important. Check with your financial institution regarding the exchange of currency. It is also helpful to inform your bank of your travel days for leaving and returning to the United States.
Be aware that traveler's checks are becoming increasingly difficult to cash, especially in Europe. They are not highly recommended as a primary or secondary source of cash on most programs.
Be careful with purses, wallets, and backpacks, as they are easier targets for pickpockets. Do not carry all of your money in one place, and if possible, have a secure place to store these items in your dormitory or host family, while you are not intending to use them.
Always carry your student ID and International Student Identity Card with you, as many places offer students discounts or even free admission. Keep an eye out for student rates, and remember it never hurts to ask! Try to avoid eating out during the week; cooking for yourself and/or eating with your host family will save a lot of money for weekends, travel, souvenirs, etc.
When you arrive, consider buying a long-term bus or train pass; a monthly or multiple trip pass is likely a better value than daily passes. Make a budget for travel in addition to your weekly expense budget. Be aware of the current exchange rates in the countries you plan to travel to- this can greatly affect your travel budget.