When you think of travel, your first thought is that it’s probably expensive right? You’ve resigned yourself to staying home or perhaps going on a weekend trip to the beach rather than spend a week abroad. But if you give into intimidation through stories or images on social media that only show expensive travel (or don’t show you how you can get those same travel experiences on a budget), you’ll never know what’s out there! I’m here to tell you that you can have an amazing vacation, holiday or short trip abroad with limited funds. Will it be like some chic getaway to the Swiss Alps with 5 star meals? Probably not but you will have fun! I’m going to tell you about a few money decisions I made on trips out of the country to give you a better sense of how you can spend your money abroad and have a great time!
My first experience managing my money abroad was in Paris. I had decided to study abroad and had to rely on myself (and what money was in my bank account) to get around the city, eat, explore and have fun.
How much money did I have? I believe my school gave me about $5,000 dollars to last me for the 6 months I’d be abroad. That was and is quite a sum but I had never been accustomed to having that much money in my account so I was living like I had $600 to my name. What did I do? Well with my accommodation taken care of, I had to think of the most effective use of spending my money. This meant a monthly transportation card was some thing I needed to purchase. I believe it cost just under $100 which was great because the card would be used at least two times a day (as I had classes to attend) and that meant I would be getting my monies worth. If you don’t have daily travel like that, walking around Paris is an amazing trip.
For food, things were pretty cheap. I was still a relative picky eater at that point so I made my life easy. I would buy cheap baguettes for under 4 euro, or a baguette and some butter for under 3 euro or some sort of pastry like a croissant or pain au chocolate with a drink of chocolat chaud for under 3 euro. Thank you young person metabolism! I was fully filled most days as the quality of bread and ability to easily snack on cheap but quality pastries made. If you were on a vacation, you could still easily eat for cheap in Paris for cheap and love every minute of it. There are cheap cafes and modest restaurants with prix fixe menus that will work with your budget! As a student or young person passing through Paris, you definitely don’t need much. I’d say you can easily spend less than 30 euros a day and feel satisfied. Take advantage of local markets and tabacs for cheaper food!
In Greece, I lived less like a local trying to stretch my budget and more like a person on vacation. What I need to get an idea of spending wise was accommodation, food, excursions and travel. We stayed in a basic but nice looking hotel/hostel that cost a total of about 50 euros for 4 nights. Not too shabby. The place had a pool and relatively nice view. Was I living like I was staying in The Ritz resort? No! But it was pretty, clean, efficient and close to the town of Santorini. My friends and I would walk into town daily and figure out fun things we’d like to do. We booked a trip to ride horses, ride a donkey (I now regret this) and to go to a winery. In total, These three excursions cost under 100 euros. Not bad!
Transportation – not much was spent. Santorini is a small island and our hotel was pretty well located so we just walked everywhere we needed to go and took a very rare cab here or there for those times when it was absolutely necessary. You can avoid cabs if you try and still live the luxury life.
As for food, again I was a young person on a budget so we only really paid for a dinner and ate snacks or quick to-go foods for lunch or breakfast. This means, I’d eat a pastry for breakfast (like a giant Greek sugar donut) for about a euro and then have a gelato for under 2 euro for lunch with a grecque frite or little sandwich for under 3/4 euros. Dinners never really reached more than 20 euros so in total, all that was spent on food was about 90 euros. We ate well and tasted so many different types of food and treats. Things I avoided are obvious touristy restaurants. If prices sound too high for a sandwich or ice cream, chances are they are really high. As long as you’re not ravenous, take the time to walk around a bit and away from tourist central to find some great places to eat at a reasonable price.
This is one of my favorite cities but it is super expensive. You can however spend wisely and have a great time. Transportation is expensive but if you are in central London, definitely walk! You can walk most places and explore more of the city that way. If you need to give your feet a break, you can hop on a bus which only cost 1.50 or you can opt to buy a weekly card if you know which zones you’ll be traveling to and how often you want to travel. But I stress, take advantage of walking, your pockets will be thankful and don’t really bother with cars because the transport is really good and pretty reliable.
For food, the markets are where it’s at. You can get some really good quality food to prepare or just heat up from M&S, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s etc that are common markets you’ll find in the city. If you want to head out, you can grab food at a nice restaurant in Shoreditch, Camden or Brixton and not completely break the bank. You can also pick up pastries that are great snacks here or go to a fast food joint if you need (the taste is better than in America, haha). I’d say a week in London would run you about 140 pounds or less, pending the foodie in you. I’ve had weeks in London where I spent less than 80 pounds a week though but it does require more cooking and less eating out.
So how do you spend money abroad to have fun? It really depends. I’ve highlighted ways where your money can stretch and how I was able to still enjoy myself but the honest truth is, when traveling without an extensive budget, you need to be able to make some compromises with yourself. Know what you want out of your trip, what are your limitations and what you absolutely would be willing to try to make your travels unique. Anything is possible and any budget can be flexible!