How to Travel Like a Pro on a Student Budget

Keen for a little overseas inspo over the summer break? (Yeah, you and everyone else). 2017 is already luring us in with its tantalising array of international bucket list possibilities. All well and good, of course – but what about the financial practicalities?

Limited funds can make for a tight squeeze overseas, but it’s still well within reach. For those about to globe-trot on a student budget, it’s all about spending sensibly, being in the know, and making a few wise moves. Do the academic off-season right and turn that summertime sojourn into an effortlessly dollar-conscious one: here’s our skinny on how to save your bucks and travel like a pro on a budget.

Destination is everything

The difference between a smooth ride and a total bank-buster all comes down to the place you choose. Destination is king – got the French Riviera and Monaco waterline on your radar? Maybe shelve that one for a post-degree blowout. In the meantime, the world is full of incredible, life-changing and seriously affordable student-friendly destinations. South East Asia (including Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Laos) remains a hotbed of back pocket-friendly experience that’s conveniently close to Australian shores. Failing that, consider India and the sub-continent of Eastern Europe, or perhaps even South America – wherever you decide to head, crunch a few numbers beforehand, check the exchange rates, do a little research on costs involved, and cater your getaway the smart way.

Know your savings

When travelling on a shoestring, every little bit adds up. 10% savings on accom? Half price meals? Cheaper plane tickets and half price tour rates? That’s the good stuff. Thankfully, there’s a tried and tested way of maximising these types of savings: the hallowed ISIC card. ISIC – aka the International Student Identity Card – is the holy grail of travel discount cards, offering a suite of travel, insurance other discount benefits for full-time students when they head off overseas. Better still, you can ditch the $30 card fee when you open up an equally useful Westpac Choice savings account. As a student there are no monthly account keeping fees to pay and your bonus ISIC card will keep you well-insulated from an unnecessary blowout, saving you big bucks on flights, hostels, tours, dinners and a whole bunch more.

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Be in the know on the ground

One of the perils of international travel is finding yourself stuck in the sticky web of tourist traps. No one wants to fork out for inflated tourist prices, though It can be tricky to know where to go for all the best budget-friendly spots when you’re thrust outside your comfort zone. Remedy: plan out your ride, do a little research beforehand, and make a list of where all the awesome, off-the-beaten track locales are lurking – bars, restaurants, cafes, you name it. Take in a few expert travel blogs, talk to people on the ground, and live and spend like a thrifty, in-the-know local.

Hostel it up

Lodging can be one of the biggest travel budget busters, so choose your nights’ rest sensibly. Since the international backpacker circuit unfurled in the late ‘60s and ’70s, hostels have been par for the course for the student-friendly travel odyssey – it’s a rite of passage as much as the trip itself. This typically made for a pretty rudimentary (read: ramshackle/lurid/cockroachy) affair. But in the age of AirBnB, backpacker hostels have lifted their game quality-wise, with most still offering an affordable mix of unisex dorm-style accom and good old fashioned communal vibes – a great way to meet new faces from all over the world, while helping you save your spondooli along the way. Of course, for those who like to shave it down further, AirBnB room shares, or even couchsurfing adventures, might make for an even cheaper, and possibly more invigorating, channel to tread.


Take the night train

Shuffling about from hub to hub? Save on a few nights’ accom by booking overnight transit connections. There’s nothing like being rocked and cradled to sleep on an intercity express as you make your way from one end of a foreign hub to the next. Travel and lodging in one hit – it’s a fiscal win-win.

Lock in some unforgettable work-holiday and volunteer experiences

Travel might be all fun and games, but for some, a little work and purpose makes it all the more sweet. Volunteering your time to help local communities on the ground, or perhaps even a short-term internship, can be an amazing way to experience a foreign culture while keeping your costs down. Granted, the raft of ‘voluntourism’ programs currently available can be a bit hit or miss in terms of their desired function (and a bit pricey). However, there are a bunch of really great grassroots organisations out there, as well a host of fish-out-of-water work challenges and language immersion opportunities on offer. Check out WWOOF, Volunteer Forever, Projects Abroad and Workaway for a few ideas to get you started.


Plotting your grand trip overseas, but battling to keep it in budget? Opening a Westpac Student Choice account lets access your own money via a Debit MasterCcard and Android Pay and while there are still currency conversion fees, there are no withdrawal fees on a global network of 50,000 ATMs, and an abundance of travel, accommodation and attraction discounts with a free ISIC student card when you open a Westpac Student Choice account. Find out more here. Always read the terms and condition and ensure the bank account is suitable for you.