13 Tips for Student Travelers to Save Money While Traveling

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As a student myself, I’m always grateful that I had the opportunities to step out of my country’s border and explore what’s outside with my own eyes. Traveling as a student is never easy, and money always plays the biggest role in the equation. Most of our scholarships are barely keeping us alive after paying the tuition fees, and some still have to worry about student loans. Moreover, traveling is not ‘yet’ the mainstream culture when it comes to most of the Asians countries. So, if you’re a student and wanting to travel, here are how student travelers like you can travel with thin pockets!

First of all, I understand that every student in different countries has different issues to consider when it comes to traveling. Some parental issues, money issues, “my semester breaks are not long enough!” issues, and more. For this article, I will solely focus on how a student traveler can save money on the road.

Are you ready to save money while traveling as a student traveler? Let’s dive in!

Two Women With Peace Sign at Golden Gate Bridge

Choosing Your Travel Destinations According to Your Budget

Choosing a travel destination that fits well on your budget is the key to enjoying your trip. The economy varies in every country in the world, for example, you can easily enjoy at less than $25 a day in Kathmandu, but I doubt if you could do so in the Western Europe countries.

Southeast Asia is one of the most popular choices for budget travelers right now. The foods, accommodations, and basically everything is cheap there. Except for Singapore, okay.

I’ve had a great time backpacking in Vietnam without worrying too much about overspending. As long as you don’t spend them on unnecessary stuff, you’ll be all okay. Controlling your expenses is the key. The same goes for my backpacking trip in Laos.

Just hit up Google and check the currency rate in all the potential countries. If you’re visiting Southeast Asia, make sure to check the flight tickets to make sure it doesn’t exceed your budget.

And if you’re really considering a Southeast Asian country, Vietnam is the cheapest to travel as far as I know.

Buy Your Flight Tickets Early

Planning your trip early and book your flight tickets as soon as you made up your mind is vital for saving money as student travelers. The price difference between booking months prior to your trip and the week before is HUGE. This is more obvious when you’re traveling to a popular country.

If you haven’t set your destination yet, consider using the Skyscanner tool to help you find the cheapest deal. Sometimes, people decide on their destination with the price of flight tickets being the main factor.

The mentioned tool also allows you to set a price alert, which will inform you when the price dropped. But for me personally, I like to pick 2-3 destinations, then check on the flight tickets’ price and decide on which one I should go for.

Woman Standing In Front Of Heritage Attraction

See how it’s like managing a travel blog as a university student here!

Staying in Backpacker Hostels

Hotels are never my kind of thing, except when I was in Vietnam because they were so cheap that I wouldn’t mind spending a little more for comfort.

I’m an introvert myself, so I don’t really like the idea of sharing the room with 5 other people. I mean, I still do it a lot because I want to save money, but I love to have my own space. So, for this one, consider what’s more important to you – comfortability or saving money.

In Southeast Asian countries, you can get a bunk bed in backpacker hostels for $5, more or less. That helps you save a lot of money on accommodations as student travelers. Use the widget at the end of the article to find the best deals in Booking.com!

Spend Less Money on Food

Let’s admit it, foods always eat up the biggest part of our travel expenses pie chart. People tend to spend much more money on foods while traveling because, well, who knows when will you be able to taste it again?

But there are a lot of ways to save money while still enjoying great foods. Instead of dining in restaurants and cafés, consider joining the locals in smaller restaurants or even street stalls.

One of the best ways to spot a decent local restaurant is when there is a huge crowd of locals in there. This doesn’t always work though, especially in Penang, where tourists and locals look the same. But it works during my stay in Hanoi.

If you’re not sure of how to find one, download the TripAdvisor app. Use the “Cheap Eats” option and get the list of cheap restaurants at your fingertip!

Laos Vang Vieng Hot Pot Dinner in Vang Vieng Night Market

Book Your Tour Online

Tours aren’t always for the tourists who’re there solely for Instagram photos. Several companies like Klook began to offer group tours at a very affordable price while being able to see more from a local’s perspective.

Booking your tour online will surely help you save money because of the competitiveness. For example, if you have a limited 2-days stay in a particular city and you felt like you have a lot to see. Simply sign up for the city walking tour or whatever tour that offers the experience you sought for.

You can also check the reviews from the previous customers to get a glimpse of how the experience is like. All you need to do is to ditch your “I’m not a tourist, so no tours” mindset.

Taking The Public Transport Instead

Taking public transport is the best way to save money on transportations. We all know Uber, or Grab in Southeast Asia can be expensive, especially when you have to use it multiple times a day.

Taking public transport not only helps you save money but also allows you to experience the way of life of the locals. I’m pretty sure during my backpacking trip in Nepal, public transport helped me save a huge ton of money.

The biggest concern when it comes to taking public transport is the need for research and the safety of your belongings. Since tourists and travelers are often targetted for pickpocketing, it’s important to always keep an eye on your belongings. There are plenty of articles that teach how to take public transport, like this one.

Well, we all know research is the most boring part of a trip.

Go For Lesser-Known Attractions

There are always some overrated places and some underrated destinations in a country. Visiting those overrated places will give you solid proof of your visit to your friends. However, planning a visit to lesser-known attractions will surely give you an authentic yet special experience.

Instead of visiting Christchurch in New Zealand South Island only, consider a trip to Akaroa. Maybe a trip to Pantai Kerachut in Penang National Park will give you a more unforgettable memory than the heritage site in Penang.

You never know what you might find, but whichever path you take, there will always be some experiences you’ll remember for life.

More importantly, lesser-known attractions often have a free or cheaper entrance fee, which is perfect for student travelers!

Embrace Slow Travel & Experience More With Less Money

Other than the foods, transportation also contributes a lot to the thinning of your wallet. Flight tickets, long journey buses, cabs, all of them are expensive. And the only way to minimize those expenses is to use them less often.

Now it might sound stupid to you but “slow travels” is now making its way to the modern travel landscape. Everyone is tired of the fast-paced travel, where nobody has the time to truly appreciate the culture and authenticity a certain attraction has to offer.

Of course, slow travels are not for everyone. Most of the adults around the world have a full-time job to attend to. But as a student traveler, we could use the advantage of long semester breaks to explore more while spending less.

For tertiary education students, consider joining the Work & Travel USA Program to experience the American culture! I have a guide for the program for Malaysians here.

Man Sitting on Edge with Panoramic View

Traveling With Your Friends

Traveling with a partner of a small group of friends always help you save a lot, especially on accommodations. Double rooms are always cheap when split between two people, and you can have total privacy.

Foods and private transportation can also be split between you and your friend(s) to further save more money.

However, it’s important that you find a like-minded partner, or else you’ll end up with an unpleasant trip. 

Extroverts, Go Make Some Local Friends!

The best way to get a free tour around the city or town is to make some local friends and ask them to bring you around!

Maybe you joined a program years ago, and you had a friend in the country you’re visiting. Contact them and ask if they could bring you around! It’s a great way to reconnect with your old friend as well. Just make sure that they enjoy the process as much as you did.

Take the Overnight Buses

In some countries, you can find overnight buses, also known as sleeper buses. These long-distance buses bring you to another city or country while you enjoy your sleep in your seat.

I understand that this option is not for everyone. I personally couldn’t sleep well in strange places, but I had to compensate to save the money on accommodation.

Spending a night in the bus not only allows you to save money on hostels, but you also wake up to a new destination. This trick is particularly useful if you have a limited stay in the region.

Catch a glimpse of how sleeper buses in Laos are like here!

Man Standing on Huge Rock in Beach

Take Photographs Home Instead of Buying Souvenirs

A picture is worth a thousand words, they said. People often buy souvenirs back home for various reasons, most of the time, it’s for friends and family.

Now, I understand that part because if you didn’t do that, you’ll probably be the topic of their next gossip. However, for yourself, maybe substituting souvenirs with photographs instead.

Shoot your own photos, make some postcards and keep them in your travel journal. Sounds pretty cool too, right?

Bringing Your Travel Gears From Home

Let’s take trekking in Annapurna Circuit in Nepal for example. Instead of buying your trekking gears in Thamel of Kathmandu, consider bringing them from home! It could also be water bottle, waist bags, Swiss Army Knife, or whatever.

Bringing your gears from home definitely saves you from buying a new one. And that could really be a game-changer if you got everything well-prepared.

Maps and Camera on table

Alright, Student Travelers, Ready to Save Money on Your Next Trip?

I hope these tips and tricks help you, as a student traveler saves money. Traveling as a student isn’t always easy, but stepping out of your comfort zone will really change your perspective on the world. As a teenager or young adult, traveling can surely help you learn independence much quicker. If you find this article useful, I’d appreciate if you would share it with your friends. Have a great trip ahead! Check out these 10 legit ways to save money on the road too!

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Written by

Yen is a university student from Malaysia and a huge fan of Blues music and photography. His passion for travel can be traced back to 2016 when he spent 6 months traveling New Zealand. By blending into the locals and traveling long-term, he shares all the comprehensive and detailed travel ideas and guides for the countries with his footprints.

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