Genevieve – Radboud University, The Netherlands
Semester 2, 2016
On a whim last month a couple of friends and I decided to book flights to Oslo for the weekend. Why? Well, the flights were cheap and I’ve heard great things about Norway.
However, leading up to the trip it started to sink that maybe on a student budget this wasn’t an ideal decision. Particularly as every person I talked to leading up to the trip, had a reaction along the lines of…
‘Oh you’re going to Oslo, Norway? You know that’s one of the most expensive cities in Europe right?!’
I didn’t know this, and neither did the two British girls I was travelling with. I’d always heard Scandinavian countries were expensive yet that didn’t stop us from booking the flight.
Nonetheless, I can report that my budget isn’t completely blown, I’m not broke and I can continue to pay rent for my student accommodation.
So here are some appropriately timed tips on how to survive exchange on a budget, and from my recent trip, how to survive some of the most expensive cities in Europe.
- Don’t be scared to stay in budget Hostels with lots of people.
In Oslo, we stayed in the cheapest hostel we could find which I think was about 27 euro a night. This wasn’t too bad at all considering you’d probably pay more for a hostel in Amsterdam.
The hostel was clean and friendly… so never be afraid to pick the cheapest option, particularly if it has good reviews. In a city like Oslo, where even it’s public transport is well run and clean, its a safe decision.
If you’re travelling by yourself or prefer your privacy you can pick an option like air BnB which in some cities is comparable to hostel prices. This wasn’t the case in Oslo but can be easily done in cities where the cost of living isn’t as high such as those in eastern Europe
- Travel “off-season”.
One of the reasons flights were so cheap to a city like Oslo in October was because this is known as “off-season” in Europe, this means you can usually find cheap tickets like we did.
This is a great way to travel and if you’re doing exchange in the second semester, a great coincidence for you!
There are a few down sides… It’s absolutely freezing in a lot of places and some attractions are closed. In saying this, if you’re already living here (particularly in a country like the Netherlands), it’s going to be cold no matter what you do, so you may as well explore!
All in all, so far the benefits are outweighed the negatives for me in terms of sticking to a budget. The lines are shorter, the hostels are cheaper and it feels a lot less touristy.
- Research you destination
As much as travelling without any pre-prepared ideas or research seems to attract a lot of travellers and especially exchange students – it’s not something you really want to do on a budget.
Firstly, you’ll end up blowing your budget on a 30 euro meal or something stupid… because well, you’re hungry and you’ve have been wandering around for hours trying to find a place to eat.
This doesn’t necessarily mean planning out every meal or every monument you want to go to before you arrive but it does help to talk to other people at your accommodation. They’re usually on the same budget as you. People who work at the hostel generally give great tips on where to go and where not to go as well. If all else fails, TripAdvisor is pretty trustworthy.
This is really important in a city in Oslo, where often the best things to do on a budget are either really expensive or free. The best day we had was when we caught a ferry out of the city and explored a few islands and castle ruins – the only thing we payed for on the trip was the ferry pass. We bought our lunch at the supermarket that morning and took it with us!
All in all, with so many trips and beautiful cities on offer budgeting may seem hard but IS possible!
As much as you can just “go with the flow” on exchange it helps to keep lists.
Keep a budget especially for travel – aside from the living expenses and rent in your own country. Look out for the best flights or trains, and the best times of year to go.
Budgeting can seem daunting, particularly in a place like Europe but don’t let it stop you. I can safely say that so far, in my experience on exchange that almost everyone is in the same boat.
The best thing you can do is travel lightly, be prepared, and share/exchange your ideas and experiences with others!