10 student travel tips you wish you'd known earlier

PHOTO: Isabel Leong

The turquoise waters in Maldives. The Tower Bridge in London. The colourful shophouses in Burano. The picturesque landscapes in New Zealand. Or the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland.

As students, we often catch ourselves wishing to be in far-flung places to escape the humdrum of life and recharge for the coming semester. The sky's the limit, they say? A pity we are bound by the limits of our student budget.

However, even as students, we can still travel within our limits and make the best use of our "student" occupation while we can. Student years provide some of the best opportunities for travel - exchange programs, volunteering, study tours, etc.

Here are 10 student hacks to help you afford your travels:

1. Integrate travel with an overseas internship

Peruse your school's student portals for overseas internships and apply early. Alternatively, speak to your school's career counsellor. Share with them what you want to achieve out of an overseas internship.

Is it the enriched exposure from working in a foreign company? Is it the opportunity to understand a culture deeper? Or does it provide you the chance to practise their local language?

2. Jump at the opportunity of overseas trips organised by your school

There are all sorts of overseas opportunities organized by schools, so keep a look out for them. At my school, they call it a study mission. It's often a subsidised educational trip to a country for you to immerse yourself in it and develop a greater understanding of world issues or learn from real-life case studies.

They range from entrepreneurship to accountancy- or sociology-focused trips, to places such as New York, South Korea, Taiwan and even Silicon Valley.

3. Volunteer in a developing country or join your church's mission trip

If you're looking for a more meaningful way to travel, or create greater awareness about the less privileged in developing countries, give volunteer programs a go!

Having such experiences might even enhance your employability when you graduate. I grabbed a hold at this overseas volunteering opportunity in the summer of my first year in university, building toilets, constructing water filters and teaching school children in a far-flung village of Gia Bac in Vietnam.

The pure unadulterated act of service for the less privileged is an experience quite like no other.

4. Engage in student-focused tour agencies

There are numerous tour agencies like STA and Contiki that specialize in student-focused travel tours. If you opt out of planned tours, you can still go to them for flight or transport deals as they have special rates.

I can vouch for this as I personally received a considerable discount when I booked with STA for my flight out to Paris from Singapore during my Spring exchange in 2015, as compared to if I did it with the airline direct.

Another travel company, Peterpans, specializes in adventure travel in Australia and New Zealand for students and backpackers, so if you're heading there this summer, don't miss them out.

5. Get discounted student tickets to major tourist attractions

With a student card, you may get discounted student prices for things such as air fare, accommodation, museums, and sometimes even food.

Almost all museums, tourist attractions and even transport options have discounted prices for students around the world. For instance, in Versailles, France, admission is free for students upon showing a valid student card. Otherwise you'll be charged full price for the ticket.

Certain trains in Europe offer lower prices for those who are under 25 years of age. It doesn't take much to ask a shop or merchant if they offer student discounts, even if they don't blatantly advertise it.

So remember to bring along a valid student card, or get hold of an ISIC Card if you are embarking on a trip to Europe!

6. Use discount codes to look for cheaper transport and accommodation options

For accommodation, Airbnb hosts are provided codes that offer guests $25 off your first booking.

Other accommodation websites I frequent include HotelsCombined or HostelCulture. Both websites have a comprehensive list of accommodation options at the lowest cost.

The last I checked, HostelCulture has 2,236 hostels in 874 places.

HotelsCombined, on the other hand, compare top accommodation sites (such as Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com and Agoda) and present the best offers with just a click of a search button. They also offer a best-price guarantee, which means they promise to return the difference to you if you find a lower rate somewhere else. It sure makes my search for accommodation less time-consuming now.

Websites such as ShopBack gives you a cashback for every transaction you make through their wide variety of merchants that range from hotels to flights and travel products. .

7. Use social websites to exchange travel tips

Meet Up, Travel Buddies and the Thorn Tree forum by Lonely Planet are established websites you can go to to meet locals in the area. A word of advice: Always remember to double check the identity of your new friends.

My Couchsurfing experience had been my primary way of meeting the locals while I was travelling in Europe last year. It helped to cut my accommodation costs as well so it's a perfect solution for student travellers.

8. Utilise off-peak periods

University summer breaks (May-July) can extend for up to 3 months, and that's more downtime than any full-time employee. What better way to use them than to travel? Work your holiday plans around the local school holidays.

In Singapore, the standard school holidays are in the months of June and December. In Europe, prices skyrocket in late July and August.

With this knowledge, you can plan your adventures (or at least your flights) to take place before or after peak periods and coincide with your own holiday break.

9. Opt for free walking tours

Freetour.com offers free walking tours in almost all the popular countries. Walking tours are fuss-free ways of getting to know the ins and outs of a city without having to go through the hassle of booking through large travel companies.

Each tour lasts 2-3 hours, with plenty of interaction time with the leader. It also gives you the chance to befriend other global travellers on the same tour as you!

10. Lastly, let loose

While you travel on a budget as a student, don't let it drag you down. Is there an incredible Michelin-star restaurant in a city you're visiting that you've always wanted to try? Or a wine tasting tour or an adventure tour you would love to do? If you think it will truly enhance your experience, go for it!

Don't be afraid to splurge every once in awhile. You can make up for it somewhere else along your travels, like scrimping on meals.

With this tip in mind, I've had unforgettable moments around the world. I got to try Michelin-starred restaurants in Budapest, did a bungee jump in Phuket, went canyoneering in Philippines and took a helicopter up to walk on glaciers in New Zealand.

At the end of it all, you know you don't want to leave the country with regret for not truly making the best of your travel.

Travelling as a student need not be as daunting as you imagine. It's an excellent way to release your inhibitions, widen your perspectives, try something new and live life to the fullest before real work gets to you!

Bel Around The World is a blog dedicated to travel inspiration, travel guides, budget hacks and survival tips from around the world by a 20-something, for the 20-somethings.

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