10 Student Travel Tips From Someone Who Learned the Hard Way

By Caitlin Flynn on June 16, 2013

For many students time studying abroad is the most memorable part of their college experience. I am no exception. I spent this year’s spring semester in beautiful albeit incessantly rainy Galway, Ireland. My time in Ireland was enhanced by a few weekend trips around Europe where through a series of missteps I gathered these 10 student travel tips. These are by no means foolproof but have held up in my experience and could save you from getting stuck in a cave in Budapest.

Never pay full price for The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini’s book is a great travel read and for some reason I unearthed copies of The Kite Runner in countless thrift stores in multiple countries for a euro or two. The number of The Kite Runner‘s I found was only surpassed by the number of copies of Twilight for sale. I’ll let you make that choice for yourself.

Pack lightly for any RyanAir flight. RyanAir is based out of Ireland and is often the cheapest option for flying to and from most major European cities. The price is a great deal for students traveling on a budget, but be warned if your one allotted bag is larger than RyanAir’s cabin specifications (in my experience a little larger than a filled backpack) you may have to pay more than 100 euro to check your bag depending on the season of your flight! It may be necessary then to wear layer all of your clothes on said flight.

Hostels are a great way to save money. Don’t let the scary movie influence you, as long as you do a little research and use common sense you’ll be fine. My favorite resource is Hostelworld.com. They break down hostels by value for money, security, location, cleanliness, staff, atmosphere and facilities, have reviews from other students and have valuable student travel tips as well.The best way to feel that your things are secure is to bring your own padlock as hostels will usually provide free lockers. Additionally, hostels nearly always will give you a free map and point out the best nightlife in town if they don’t take you there themselves!

Wear comfortable clothes. I was once trapped in an airport for more than 27 hours during a blizzard. One small consolation was that at least I had come prepared with appropriate clothing. In such a time of distress sometimes the only place to turn to is your stretchy pants.

When in doubt, walk towards parks or important looking buildings. These areas are more geared towards tourists and will often have a map posted or an information booth. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask a store clerk to point you in the right direction.

Most places in Europe won’t give you free grocery bags so bring your own. In an effort to save our beloved environment many companies either don’t offer plastic grocery bags or charge a small tax (Ireland’s bag tax is € 0.22).

One euro coins are more valuable than one euro. I always kept one euro coins in my pocket so I could use a grocery cart, use a locker at the gym or pay to use a public bathroom. The value of the one euro coin lies in its ability to keep you from struggling through grocery aisles with arms that are nearly ready to drop that jar of spaghetti sauce you’re holding.

Have country codes and cab numbers readily available. Sure you remembered to bring along your international phone but calling your hostel will do you no good without knowing the country code. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’re lost and it seems impossible to hail a cab – good thing you looked up a cab company’s number beforehand.

Learn to read a map. This invaluable skill will make you more self-reliant and can get you out of that scary part of town that you accidentally wandered into when you weren’t paying attention to your map.

Most importantly listen to your instincts. Your parents will tell you to pay attention to your surroundings and not travel alone. These are very important points. Your instincts will also warn you of your limits. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was caving in Budapest. Our Hungarian guide offered a “normal” way through one section which meant climbing over a large boulder. The “adventurous” way involved shimmying through a small hole on the cave floor. I had a gut feeling that my butt would not fit through. I was right. By not listening to my instincts I was stuck for five minutes with a Hungarian guide alternating between pulling me out by my arms and telling me “Moveh yer bum!” I survived to warn future study abroad students to know your limits!

What student travel tips have you learned?

Caitlin is a Wisconsin Badger studying journalism and international studies in the hopes of one day becoming Anderson Cooper. She's from a small town in northern Wisconsin whose claim to fame is a giant fish statue in the middle of town. She loves to cross country ski, is a Harry Potter enthusiast and has a secret talent for towel origami!

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