PRESTON: Study abroad travel tips

As the Easter break continues and many of my friends also studying abroad continue their trips around Europe, I thought I’d share a list of travel tips I’ve picked up during my time abroad.

First of all, be aware of any student discounts. Whether you’re traveling by trains or buses or ferries, most forms of public transportation can offer you a cheaper deal if you have proof of enrollment at a university. If you know about a possible deal such as a rail pass, get it. Chances are it will all balance out in the end even if it costs you a little extra money initially. Most of the time, if you’re in the area for any substantial amount of town or plan on traveling a lot, it’ll save you money.

Always, always, always have your ID with you. Usually it’s best to have your passport with you, but if you’re staying within one country and you’re worried about losing it, you can get away with bringing along a different form of ID. It’s usually a good idea to carry your study abroad acceptance letter as well if you travel internationally.

Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. You’re in a foreign country – if there were ever a time to stop and ask for help, this would be it! Most locals are very understanding and more than happy to help. It can save you a lot of time and help you avoid mishaps. Sometimes, it even allows you to make new friends or get great insider advice you wouldn’t have had otherwise. That being said, don’t be afraid to get a little lost and fully explore a city. Of course you should be safe and make sure you’ll be able to find your way back eventually, but venture off the beaten path. Some of the coolest places I’ve discovered I found when I wandered away from some of the more congested, touristy streets. It can be rewarding.

Be aware of your surroundings. This can keep you from missing a train or it can keep you from getting your wallet stolen. Yes, a lot of times when you travel to new places you feel like you’re living in a dream or a bubble, but remember that it is real and that the car speeding towards you won’t necessarily stop just because you’re an exchange student. 

Make your plans sooner to save on money. If you plan in advance you can get a better deal on tickets and have guaranteed availability for hostels. It’s true that plans sometimes change, but if there’s something you can coordinate in advance, do it. It’s easy to procrastinate (trust me, I know) but a little planning is nicer to your wallet (again, trust me). 

Travel alone. I’m not the first person to recommend this, I know, but it really can be one of the best times for you to develop as an adult. Whether it simply forces you to be a little more responsible or it pushes you out of your comfort zone or it allows you to discover something new about yourself, it’s absolutely worth it to do at least once. Again, just remember to be safe.

Don’t travel alone. Contradictory? Yes. While it’s true everyone should travel alone at least once, it’s terrible to do all of the time. Having a travel companion provides you with entertainment and a little more security, so coordinate with other exchange students and see if any of the places on their bucket list match up with yours. It can also save you money sometimes.  

Enjoy the travel time. Often, especially if you cover a lot of ground in a little time, you spend a good portion of your vacation just getting from one place to another. Therefore, you should make the most of it. If that means catching up on some much needed sleep, great. Otherwise, look around at the scenery. Some of the most unique sights and most breathtaking views I’ve seen looking out the widow of my train carriage. Just because you’re anxious to get somewhere doesn’t mean you should get tunnel vision and miss the world around you. Try to appreciate all the little things along the way. After all, it’s not about the destination, but the journey.