This is the first in a series on how to save money while travelling abroad. Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of Abbey's helpful tips!
By Abbey Canning
People told me that a semester spent studying abroad would be expensive. I always smiled and nodded in agreement, but in reality, I thought I would be fine. I had saved up a hefty sum working the summer before and had worked over the fall semester in preparation for my adventures in the spring. I would be fine! Of course, there was an exchange rate, but I had studied multiplication and fractions. There were hidden fees on those random airlines I would be flying, but I would evade them. I was a smart and able-bodied twenty-year-old setting out into unknown Europe with a good head on my shoulders…right?
While those things may (or may not) be true, one thing I learned while abroad was that first, I could probably use some refreshing in the realm of mathematics and second, that those people were right: studying abroad was indeed expensive. I arrived in Florence, Italy in late January, ready to book trips to explore both the country and the continent I would be living in for four months. At the end of those four months, however, I had resulted in asking my parents to help me out financially (multiple times…) and by the time I landed back in Boston in May, I had $8.62 left in my bank account. So, that being said, what do I wish I had realized before I embarked on my fabulous adventures? Well, let me tell you…
Saving Money on Food…
- Buy food at a local grocery store or market. Italy in particular is full of open-air markets that often have farm-fresh produce, meats and cheese at prices less expensive than the grocery stores. It’s a great way to eat on a budget, saving money and loading up on fresh products! Follow an Italian “nonna” and see what she picks up to eat like a true Italian!
- Don’t eat out for every meal. Store the groceries you bought in the hotel fridge and eat some fruit for breakfast! A great way to spend lunch or even dinner is to pack a picnic (think some bread, prosciutto, cheese, maybe olives or other antipasto veggies) and head to a city park or plaza with a bottle of wine. Italy is of course famous for its wines and many are great quality bottles for great prices. It’s a great way to save money on your vacation while also experiencing the city you’re visiting!
- Be on the lookout for deals. One restaurant in Florence (Osteria il Gatto e le Volpe) had a family style deal. It was 15-euro per person, but included a half liter of wine (either red or white) for each person, bread, three antipasto platters (veggies and a caprese salad, meats such as salami and prosciutto, and two types of bruschetta) and three different types of pasta with enough servings for your entire party. I studied with a group of seven of my closest friends and so if we all wanted to go to dinner as a group we often went to this place so that it was both delicious and economical for everyone!
- If you do go out to dinner, order the house wine, a couple of appetizers and ask for tap water! A lot of times, a restaurant won’t offer tap water as an option but will just unscrew a bottle of still or sparkling. Those bottles are normally 4 euro a piece and if you are in a large party, they’ll often give you two! Ask for tap water to ensure that you will shave money off of the total bill. Italy has fabulous wine and oftentimes the house wine is great and cheap. A liter of the house wine is typically around 3,50 euro, yes, even cheaper than bottled water! By asking for tap water, ordering the house wine and several appetizers (that are often cheaper than entrees), you’ll leave the restaurant with a full stomach and more money in your pocket.
What about you? Did you ever study abroad? How did you manage your budget overseas?
Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of the series on how to save money while travelling abroad!