Study Abroad

Budgeting and Money While Abroad


Planning a budget for your spending abroad begins with a close look at your program and what is already included with the Program Fee - How many meals a day are included? Are excursions included?  Many students find it effective to look at the entire financial picture of study abroad.  For that, try using a budget worksheet to account for all expenses and funding sources.


The actual amount you should budget for your time overseas varies greatly and depends on your spending habits and priorities. The best ways to plan are to talk with returnees about their experience, consult guidebooks, and research specific costs by looking at public transportation and restaurant prices before you go. During planning we recommend you consider the following factors: 


    • Banking - Understand the fees associated with using your debit/credit cards abroad.
    • Meals - Consider if you prefer to eat out a lot, or save your money for travel, entertainment, and other exciting opportunities that will come your way.
    • Travel - Your program will keep you quite busy. Will you use your free time to relax and enjoy your foreign home, or will you be paying extra for your own travel?
    • Incidental Items - laundry, toiletries (these can be much more expensive in some countries) and phone/internet.
    • Local transportation – Can you save money and walk? Or will you need to buy a public transportation pass and use taxis?
    • Gifts and Souvenirs – Everyone wants to share their experience with family and friends. Many get caught up in the excitement and spend a lot on things to bring home.  If you create a budget it will help you make smarter purchases.


After you create your budget you will have to decide how to access your money abroad.  Everyone should have at least 2 ways to access money and have at least $100 in cash so that you can exchange money or have cash available in case your cards don’t work.


ATM and Credit Cards

ATMs are the best way to access money abroad. ATMs usually offer the best exchange rates and are available almost everywhere.  Ask your bank about fees and if they have a partner bank in your country – sometimes you can use the partner bank to avoid fees! Also ask your bank if your card and PIN are compatible with the system abroad.


You should have at least one credit card that is widely accepted internationally, such as Visa or Mastercard.  Fees and interest rates can make it very expensive to access cash, so make sure you check with you bank so you know the costs associated with using your card abroad. Credit cards are great for large purchases (train tickets) and online purchases (plane tickets), just make sure you are set up to pay your bill online from abroad. Credit cards are less widely accepted than at home, so ask your faculty director or program coordinator about whether it is wise to rely on a credit card at your host site.



It’s recommended to carry a small amount of local currency with you at all times. In most countries it’s still the easiest and safest way to make purchases. It is important to be cautious with your cash at all times, and always keep some cash tucked away in another pocket or bag in case your main source gets lost or stolen.


Traveler’s Checks and Personal Checks

While traveler’s checks are a safer way to carry cash, they are increasingly harder to cash abroad.  They are a good option for back-up, but be aware that you will receive a lower exchange rate, or higher fee when you cash them.  It is almost impossible to cash a personal check abroad.


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