Only you can decide how much you can and want to spend while on exchange. Set a budget for yourself and stick to it. You do not want to be stranded abroad without any money.

Here is a comprehensive budget template provided by NAFSA.

Do research on living costs in your host country. Here are some good resources:

The first few weeks will have a lot of small (and some bigger) expenses. Be sure that you have extra cash for this time, or bridging funding for the first 1 – 2 months.

These expenses can include among other things linen, registration fees for clubs, etc. Try to stretch your money as much as possible, so that you have more left for travelling and gifts at the end of your stay.

Find out from your host coordinator about student jobs (only applicable to semester exchange students). The number of hours you are allowed to work is determined by your visa. A job as a waitress or assistant will help to cover your expenses and give you a little extra to spend on travelling. Sometimes the International Office at your host institution arranges part-time jobs for exchange students. Don’t however rely on these jobs, because it might not be possible at your particular host institution.

Use a combination of different payment methods while abroad. It is a good idea to use a combination of bank cards (local and international) and foreign currency. In this way you are reducing the risk of being without money, because for example your wallet is stolen or you loose your bankcard.

Bank Cards and ATM’s

Take only the cards you will use on the trip. Make sure to take note of emergency replacement procedures in case you loose your card.

Make sure what the applicable limits and bank costs are for your respective debit or credit cards. Also, inform your bank of your period abroad and enquire about specific conditions for using your cards abroad.

It is always important to use 2-factor authorization, but keep in mind that generally you will not be able to use your home phone number when you are abroad (unless you make use of roaming services), and will therefore not be able to receive the required pin code for doing online banking. For this reason also activate other more travel friendly options for authorizations purposes.

Semester exchange students might be required to open a bank account in their host country (in many cases this will be required for the visa or scholarship from the host institution).

Cash Passport / Prepaid Foreign Currency Card

A cash passport is another convenient way of having money available during your period abroad without having to travel with large amounts of cash. Cash passports are prepaid foreign currency cards that can be used to withdraw money or can be used to pay directly for goods or services. Prepaid foreign currency cards are available at most local banks.

Foreign Currency

Check the exchange rate throughout your period abroad and draw extra money when the exchange rate is lower. Also, travelling with large amounts of money is dangerous and in most countries it is easy to draw cash at an ATM when you need it.

There is no need to exchange large amounts of foreign currency before your departure. Exchange a small amount to cover expenses like meals and taxi fare from the airport to your accommodation or hostel.

Tips for making your money go further:

  • Buy where the locals buy – ask your fellow students where to find the best priced markets and shops

  • Draw up a monthly budget and keep track of your spending

  • Share the cost of food by cooking with other other students. (This is also a great way to learn about the local dishes and to make some of your own specialities)

  • Look for the freebies. Many cities and towns have parks, markets and other fun activities that you can take part in without it costing you a lot of money

  • Look for special deals on transportation like a monthly ticket instead of individual rides or get yourself a bike if your host environment allows for it

  • If the cultural norms of your host country allows for it, don’t hesitate to bargain and haggle about the price of items you are buying

  • Avoid spending a lot of money on transport by walking or using a bicycle (this is also a great way to see your new environment)

  • Plan your travels:

    • A night bus or train is cheaper than flying and you can also save on a night’s accommodation

    • Look for midweek specials

    • Use youth hostels and backpackers for affordable accommodation

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