What You Need to Know Before Studying Abroad

It can be quite overwhelming to plan your study abroad. You’ll likely have tons of questions about everything from money to packing to how to set up your cell phone for international service. We’ve broken down some of the most useful tips to know before you embark on your study abroad program.

Packing and Luggage

What to use for packing

Bring a big suitcase to check, a backpack or secure bag for day excursions and either a small role on or duffle bag for weekend adventures. Most cheap country hopper flights in Europe only allow a bag that fits underneath the seat in front of you. That’s why having a backpack or small duffle is nice for cheap travel. 

Pack lightly

Europe is filled with fashion and I guarantee you’ll be traveling home with more than you came with. 

Bring good walking shoes, unlike the states people walk everywhere in Europe, sometimes it’s easier than getting a taxi so make sure your feet feel comfortable. 

International Phone Service

There are two options for phone plans. Usually, abroad programs are three to four months so I would recommend options A. 

  • Make sure that your phone is unlocked. This way you can buy a SIM card in the country you’re studying and get a new number. I found this to be the most productive phone plan because using a number from your study country will allow you to receive important texts such as verification codes from apps whereas your OG number will take days for texts to come through if it works at all. 

You can only swap SIM cards with an unlocked phone or be sure to call your provider to make sure. This is a cheap alternative to an international plan.

  • Contact phone provider before leaving for an international plan. If you’re going abroad for less than a month, definitely look into an international plan. This allows you to have service just about everywhere you go, although I can’t guarantee how good the reception will be. 

Money, Money, Money

First things first be aware that the exchange rate is horrible overseas. It’s not worth it to bring cash to exchange at all. Either exchange some cash before leaving or what I highly recommend, have a couple different credit/debit cards on you and take cash out via your card. Visa or mastercards work just about everywhere. Be sure to ask your bank what type of fees are attached to your card because there are international fees attached per transaction and each bank rates a different. 

ATM Tips

To avoid any mishaps with your card make sure that when taking out cash go to an ATM attached to a bank rather than free standing. This will ensure that if anything is to happen to your card you A) have a backup (safely stashed at your residence) and B) you’re more likely to recover a swallowed card AND there is less risk of getting scammed. It’s always good to carry a little cash on you because some small stores do not accept cards. Although European countries are very used to international students and tourists and are well aquipt with contactless payment methods. DO NOT carry around a lot of cash, pick pocketing, especially within touristy cities is very high and tourists and international students are targets. 

Cards to keep on you (and what not to)

You should always have a form of identification on you but DO NOT carry your passport around with you. Make a copy to keep in your wallet.

Make sure you have more than one credit card, keep one on you and keep one at home. 

Best Apps To Use

Revolute banking app

This is an online banking service that allows you to pay with either a physical card that you order through them or an online card attached to apple pay. This banking account allows you to add money when needed onto the card from any bank account or card number. You can also send money to friends directly through the app. It’s safe and secure to use with verification required. NOTE: Venmo does not exist within Europe so if you need to send money to friends revolute, paypal or apple pay transfers will be your best bet. 

Transportation Apps … such as Cabify (Spain) ittaxi (Italy) Taxi G7 (France) Uber (UK) 

Look up the best transportation apps for your destination. In some places, like Italy for example, you cannot flag down a taxi and Uber does not exist, so ordering a taxi or going to a taxi stand is your best bet to hitch a ride. 

For buses, trains, and all things public transportation, download the Omio app to book tickets. Omio is a hub that collects travel prices, times, and dates from multiple sites but sometimes it’s cheaper to book directly through the site so be sure to do your research. Other good websites and apps are Hooper (to compare flights) Skyscanner (for cheap flights).  


Because it always helps to learn the local language of where you’re going, even just the basics!

Ula Camastro studies graphic design at Santa Rosa junior college and is currently traveling around Europe. She loves the smell of the outdoors and is always on an adventure for good food, beautiful views, and even better company. Enter Ula’s code “ulajosephina” when booking a trip with us to receive special perks on your trip!

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