By Lindsey Straga
Travelling on a budget is no easy feat for anyone, let alone a student with no form of income, traveling in a foreign country. My parents and family members helped me a lot in terms of saving before going abroad, giving me spending money as a Christmas gift. On top of the money I had saved working over the fall semester and Christmas break, I was prepared and ready to live on my own.
Travelling from airport to airport is expensive, something people fail to realize. From Philadelphia to Cairns, Australia, I travelled through a total of six airports, purchasing countless packs of gum, coffees, waters, snacks, and breakfast bagels along the way. Next time you go through an airport, take a look at the price of a water bottle; those prices are way more expense than the ones you buy in a convenient store! After that initial jolt to my bank account, I knew I needed to calm down with the unnecessary purchases, especially since I had only been on my own for 48 hours. My first taxi encounter was a reality check. I was travelling to my hotel alone, clueless, and in a foreign city for the first time. I hailed a cab, jumped in, told the driver the address, and finally sat back. Luckily I was paying attention; he was driving in circles and taking the long way to get to my hotel (he had a GPS but kept ignoring the directions). I was too shy to approach him about the cab fee, and after I tipped him 20%, the concierge informed me that tipping rarely occurs in Australia. I was clearly uninformed of Australian cultures and upset that I fell for the cab drivers tricks. Therefore, make sure you ask how much it will cost to get back to your destination; this way, the cab driver can’t drive aimlessly trying to raise his cab fare.
Now gets to the fun part: travelling! Once you get to Australia, there are smaller airlines run by large, “mother” airlines that are much cheaper and economically savvy when you fly domestically. For example, we were frequent passengers at Tiger Airlines. Flights ranged from $50 to $125 and take you up and down the East Coast. Travelling with a group is also cost efficient; the added cost of a taxi is split up when you’re going/coming from the airport. While planning your trips, don’t look at hotels! Instead, look into hostels. Australian hostels are typically designed for backpackers and students traveling while abroad, so the prices are reasonable (and often offer free breakfast!). In addition to flying, a lot of times there will be advertisements around your host school about bus trips to destinations within driving distance. Do this! As I said before, traveling in a group will lower the overall expenses.
Towards the end of my trip, a group of us decided to go to Bali and Fiji. My parents helped me some, but because I had budgeted well throughout the trip (only eating in the dining hall, buying very few clothes or trinkets in stores) I was able to splurge a bit. We did a lot of research and found relatively inexpensive hostels in both places. The only expensive parts were the international flights. However, if you book the flights far enough in advance, you won’t run into this problem.
It may seem hard at first, living on a budget constraint abroad, but after you get over the initial shock, it becomes game. Research will become your best friend; it will pay off when you have some money to spend at the end of your trip to go to some tropical island or far off country that most people never get a chance to see. You can even put aside a set amount of money each week you are giving yourself to spend: be it on drinks, clothes, splurging on a night out to dinner, etc. Don’t let yourself go over this budget! Keep in mind that shopping in Australia is more expensive that shopping in America (a tube of Maybelline mascara once cost me $15!). Pack these extra cosmetics in your bag so you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg. Budgeting is a life lesson, one you will utilize when living on your own and paying for everything. But above all, have fun, go out and explore the world!