On most programs, you are responsible for purchasing your own airfare. Your program’s budget sheet will denote whether airfare is included in your program fee.
Booking a flight may seem intimidating if you haven’t done it before (or even if you have!). Don’t hesitate to reach out to your Education Abroad Advisor for help booking your flight. If you, your parents or guardians, or other friends or family have frequent flyer miles, don’t forget to use them to bring down the cost of your travel.
Access to Money Overseas
We strongly recommend that you consider taking some local cash currency (equivalent to about $100 U.S. dollars) with you as you travel abroad. You may need cash soon after you arrive at your host country. Note that, wherever you travel, carrying too much cash is very risky!
ATMs and Debit Cards
ATMs are often the best way to access local cash while abroad. We strongly discourage you from using currency exchanges at airports, bus stops, or train stations, as they often charge high commission fees for that service. If you use an ATM, be careful, as many ATMs abroad may be fake or have card skimmers equipped on their card input slots. Always examine an ATM (even in the U.S.) for security before you use it.
A debit card is excellent for international travel because it allows you to withdraw money from your bank account in the currency of the host country using an ATM. If you use a debit card at an ATM, or purchase anything abroad with a credit card, be sure to pay in the local currency, not U.S., as that vendor may charge you a high commission rate on the exchange.
If you decide to take a debit card with you abroad, be sure to ask your bank for a Visa or MasterCard debit card with a chip and pin number. The debit card may used in most ATMs abroad that post a Visa or MasterCard symbol. The transaction will debit the money directly from your checking account at that day’s exchange rate. Although commission is rarely charged with a debit card, check with your bank to see if there are any user transaction fees.
Most debit cards can also be used to make purchases abroad just like a credit card. Again, make sure that the debit card is not just an ATM card.
Having a debit card is also a good way to help you budget. You can decide on a weekly spending amount that you can withdraw in the currency of the host country at the beginning of the week. This may help you to better understand how much you should be spending versus what you are actually spending.
It’s wise for your parent or guardian to keep copies of your credit and debit card numbers in case of loss or theft. You may need their help if your card doesn’t work for any reason. You should also keep with you your bank’s international phone number in case you need to contact them at a moment’s notice.
Finally, don’t forget to call your bank and credit card companies before you leave and let them know that you will be traveling and living abroad. Without this information, banks may freeze your account to prevent fraudulent, unusual, or suspicious activity.
Credit cards are valuable for big purchases, emergencies and cash advances, although there are usually higher interest charges for cash advances. Most major credit cards are honored abroad (e.g., American Express, MasterCard or Visa). Credit cards are particularly useful for hotels, restaurants, shops, airline tickets and car rental agencies. When you use a credit card the company makes the exchange rate purchase, reflecting the exchange rate on the day the credit card transaction is processed. This amount may be more or less than what you thought you were paying at the time of the purchase. You will be billed in dollars on the credit card statement, and sometimes the foreign exchange conversion is listed as well. We recommend that you appoint someone of trust (most likely a parent/guardian) to be in charge of paying your monthly credit card purchases (as well as other bills) since most credit card companies will not send bills to international addresses (including Canada). Make sure to check with your credit card company to see if they charge fees for international transactions. You should shop around for credit cards that offer the most perks and protections for international travelers.
Power of Attorney
You may want to consider completion of a Power of Attorney form, which will allow a designated person to deposit any financial aid checks or refund checks on your behalf.
Everyone travels differently, but everyone has to pack to do so! Here are some hints and tips for how to get ready for your adventure:
Economy: We’ve never heard of any student who has complained about taking too little with them abroad. You probably won’t need three pairs of jeans, even for a semester program. You are likely to accumulate additional possessions while abroad, and can always buy clothes abroad, so pack light! A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to carry all of your possessions in luggage around one (city-sized) block comfortably. Test your baggage before you go!
Weather: Keep in mind the climate of your program’s location when packing. Check with students who have recently returned or look at a guidebook to see what kind of weather you might expect.
Luggage: Don’t forget that, in many cases, you’ll have to carry your own luggage. Confirm your airline’s luggage allowances to avoid costly fees at the airport. Remember that you may have to get from the airport to a bus or train station, and then on to your program’s site or meeting point by yourself. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to carry all of your possessions in luggage around one (city-sized) block comfortably. Test your baggage before you go!
Backpacking: You should consider independent travel on weekends or holidays, but if you do, we recommend small day packs big enough for a change of clothes and a few necessities. Keep in mind the strict carry-on restrictions of some budget airlines when choosing a day pack, packing, and traveling. Be sure to purchase TSA-approved combination locks (no keys to lose!) to secure the many compartments on such packs.