Studentbeans.com easy guide
From train travel to insurance, working abroad to mobile phone charges - our comprehensive student travel guide will help you stretch your budget as far as possible for as long as possible.
What's in this guide
- Student Travel: Train travel
- Student Travel: Coach travel
- Student Travel: Budget airlines
- Student Travel: Travel cards
- Student Travel: Safety
- Student Travel: Insurance
- Student Travel: Gap years
- Student Travel: Working abroad on your gap year
- Student Travel: Study abroad
- Student Travel: Mobile phone charges
Last updated September 06 2011
Student Travel: Train travel
Whether you're going home for Reading Week, lugging all of your stuff to your new uni halls, or heading to the airport for a week of sun, sea and sand, train travel is one of the easiest ways to travel in the UK. Providing you don’t get delayed, of course.
But train travel can also be a pain, financially speaking. Be sure to check out these tips for saving on student travel before you book your next trip:
Get a Railcard - The best thing to do to save on student travel is to invest in a 16-25 Railcard, which can save you a third on journeys.
Get your tickets ASAP - Book tickets up to 12 weeks in advance to get cheap tickets - even less expensive when used in conjunction with your 16-25 Railcard.
Think single - Buying two singles can often be cheaper than buying a return. Be sure to check before you make your purchase.
Split your ticket - Split-ticketing is when you buy separate tickets for each part of your journey. Check out the website to see if you can split ticket your way to your next destination.
Student Travel: Coach travel
An even cheaper way to travel is by coach. Check out our deals with National Express deals to see where you can get for less money than a train ticket.
Student Travel: Budget airlines
Budget air travel has made it possible for students to fly further for their money. There are plenty of airlines out there, but the two market leaders are Ryanair and EasyJet. Though they charge significantly less for tickets, budget airlines make their money by charging for other services that would otherwise be free such as in-flight meals, baggage, check-in or seat allocation.
Here are a few useful tips for avoiding (or at least reducing) those annoying additional charges:
Check-in online - In most cases checking-in online is free, though Ryanair usually charge £6.
Try and just take hand luggage - Checking-in a bag can cost up to £70, so take advantage of the free hand luggage allowance, usually set at 10kg.
Shop around - Use a budget flight checker to compare all flights to your chosen destination.
Student Travel: Travel cards
One of the great things about being a student is the fact that you get student cards. And you know what that means? BARGAINS. Being a student makes you entitled to many a student card, including ones designated specifically to student travel:
16-25 Railcard - We’ve already mentioned this one but it’s worth bringing up again due to the amount that you can save.
ISIC - The student card for students abroad. If you’re taking a year out or heading abroad on hols then the ISIC card is the student card for you. ISIC is the only GLOBALLY recognised form of student ID and gives you 40,000 discounts around the world, on everything from museum entry, hotels, restaurants, activities and more.
VIP - Get discounts on travel, accommodation and mobile charges with one of the most recognised student cards for backpackers. Find out more about the VIP Backpackers card.
Student Travelcard (Ireland only) - Calling all students in Ireland! This student travel card is Ireland’s largest national student ID and discount card, giving users up to 40% on Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, DART and LUAS. Keeping up with the discount theme, the student travel card also offers money off at over 200 retailers. And all for just €15. Find out more about the Student Travelcard.
Student Travel: Safety
Take out insurance - Even if you’re travelling in the EU and have your free EHIC card with you at all times, you should still get out insurance to cover you for the likes of repatriation, lost luggage and anything else you might need. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Make copies of your documents - Make two copies of your passport, reservations and flight numbers, leaving one set at home with family or friends who you can get in touch with should you need this information. Keep the other yourself (away from the original docs).
Travel in groups - While it’s common practice to venture out into the gap year wilderness solo, it’s always wise to travel with people in strange countries.
Secure your belongings - Put personal documents into a safe if possible and when carrying important stuff on you (including money), wear a money belt that can be tucked under your clothes.
Student Travel: Insurance
Whether you’re heading off for a long weekend in the sun or two years living and working on the other side of the world, it’s vital that you organise appropriate student travel insurance. Whether it’s to cover all your possessions that you’d be lost without or just to make sure that should you come down with a tropical disease that you’ll get medical care, you really shouldn’t leave home without it. Here are a few things you should look out for when searching for student travel insurance:
Student specialists - Go to an insurance company that has policies aimed specifically at students. Endsleigh offer dedicated student travel insurance policies, while STA Travel are aimed solely at students and young people.
Consider policy length - Don’t pay for a year-long policy if you think you’ll get homesick and come home within a few weeks - but if you’re sure you’ll be away for a while the longer term policies definitely provide the best cover as well as value for money.
Keep things flexible - When travelling it’s very easy to fall in love with a place (or even person) and change your mind about where you’re going to go for the rest of the trip. Make sure that your policy accounts for certain amounts of flexibility.
Cover for working abroad - If you’re planning on working while abroad it’s important that your student travel insurance policy accounts for this as there are additional hazards involved that some plans may not cover.
Get your EHIC card - If you’re planning on travelling around Europe the first thing you should do is apply for your free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC entitles the holder to medical treatment in state run hospitals in every EU country as well as Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein at the some cost as the locals. So if they don’t pay for medical care, you won’t pay for medical care. For more information on the EHIC card and to apply for yours today, visit the EHIC website.
Student Travel: Gap years
Gap years are a rite of passage - whether you’re planning to work, volunteer, or just relax for 12 months (or moe) there’s every chance it’ll be a trip you’ll never forget. Organising such a trip can, however, be a very daunting prospect - this is why we recommend booking most of your trip at once through a travel agent who specialise in such trips such as STA Travel. Through them you can book flights, accommodation, adventure trips, volunteering - the whole lot.
Great for the CV - Chances are when you get back from your trip and start looking for work or further education you’ll have to sit through an interview, in which you’ll probably be asked ‘Have you ever worked as part of a team?’. Volunteering is a great way of ensuring that you have a positive answer to this question, and you can also make a real difference in the process.
Something for everyone - There are thousands of projects all over the world looking for students to come and give them a hand - from conservation work to building projects, there is something for everyone, in almost every environment you could think of. Visit STA or gapyear.com for specific details about volunteering opportunities for students.
Cheap and cheerful - Hostels are a vital part of student travel. When going on long-term trips such as gap years staying in hotels all year round is out of the question - hostels provide a cheap but safe environment where you meet people from all over the world.
Make friends with your neighbours - If you’re travelling with a small group, the chances are you’ll have to share a hostel dorm with other people - this can be great for meeting new people. We’re always coming across student travel stories of people who met people in hostels and ended up staying with them for the rest of the trip. But equally it’s important to be vigilant, especially with your money and valuables - make sure you keep them somewhere secure, many hostel rooms come with safes.
Consider becoming a member of YHA - As well as offering you access to hostels all over England and Wales, YHA membership is valid internationally, meaning you can enjoy over 4000 hostels in 80 different countries.
Get all the paperwork you need - If you’re planning on visiting a number of countries during your trip it’s important to make sure you have all the required visas for any countries you visit - your travel agent should be able to help you organise these.
An essential student experience - A must for all student travellers, an InterRail Global Train Pass allows for unlimited cheap train travel in 30 European countries within a set amount of time. As well as tickets which cover train travel for every day of your trip, you can also choose to travel for a certain amount of days within a set time - such as 10 days within 22 day. The latter option is significantly cheaper, and the fact that you can’t travel every day means you have more time to explore when you come across a town that you like.
One country passes - If you’re looking to just visit one country, you can also purchase a £31 One Country Pass, which allows for 3 days travel within a month providing you stay in one country.
Student Travel: Working abroad on your gap year
Fund your fun - Working whilst your on holiday is not only a great way to stay afloat while you splurge on day-to-day living, sky diving and boozing but it’s also a brilliant way to meet new people, whether it’s locals or fellow travellers.
If you are planning on earning while you are on your gap year, then you’ll need to look into a working visa. Find out more about the countries that require a working visa before planning your trip:
At the time of writing, Working Holiday Visas are available for British citizens in the following countries:
The Australian Working Holiday Visa is for people aged from 18 to 30 and is valid for 12 months. The visa will allow you to work for up to six months for any employer.
Don’t want to leave? You can always apply to extend your Working Holiday Visa if you undertake three months of specified work in regional Australia during your years’ work. Fruit picking is a popular one but if you fancy yourself as a cattle herder or a fisherman, then you might just be in luck. Find out more about what ‘specified work’ means exactly, from the Australian Government themselves.
- Apply - Start your application for a Working Holiday Visa in Australia, here. Alternatively you can use snail mail or courier.
Anyone aged between 18 and 30 can apply for International Experience Canada’s Working Holiday Program, which will allow you to work anywhere in the country for up to one year.
- Apply - The only way to apply is to download the International Experience Canada application kit.
The Japanese Working Holiday Visa is for people aged from 18 to 30 and is valid for 12 months.
- Apply - You’ll need to go to the Consulate-General of Japan in London and the Consulate-General of Japan in Edinburgh to pick up the necessary forms for application. You will also have to hand deliver the completed submission in person and may be interviewed. For more information, head to the Embassy of Japan website.
The New Zealand Working Holiday Visa is for people aged from 18 to 30 and is valid for 12 months. You can work for the duration of that period. Similarly to the Australian visa, you can extend your stay to 23 months in total. You’ll need to submit a manual application at an Immigration New Zealand branch before your visa expires.
- Apply - You can apply for this visa electronically. Just register for the online services on the Working Holiday Schemes page to start your application or apply the old school way.
The Singapore Work Holiday Visa is for people aged from 18 to 30 and is valid for 12 months.
- Apply - You must already be enrolled at university to get hold of this visa. You don’t need to have started your course yet but you will need a confirmation letter from your uni. Download the application form from this page. (Hint: It’s that Microsoft Word doc, tucked away on the right-hand side of the page.)
As part of the European Union, UK citizens can plan a working holiday in Europe with ease - there is no need for a visa!
Here’s a reminder of all of the other countries in the EU: Austria; Belgium; Bulgaria; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Netherlands; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden.
Student travel work placements
Earn and travel - Lots of people choose to embark upon a gap year adventure with a company who offer work placements. Some of these options may cost you in the planning stages, (flights and actual project costs may not be included) but you’ll earn on the job and potentially get your living expenses covered.
Make yourself stand out - Getting a work placement is a great way to see the world and get experience in your industry of choice. Similarly, employers recognise the transferable skills developed under this type of work experience. Student travel placements are also a brilliant way to meet like-minded people whom you can share these experience with.
Camp America - Camp America is a popular choice for those who want to immerse themselves in a bit of the USA culture. Applicants can choose from acting as counsellor (not the therapy kind) to kids aged 6 - 16 on their camp or as behind-the-scenes support staff, in kitchen staff or housekeeping-based roles - a potential option for those looking to work in hospitality later on in life.
Ski season - A ski season can offer a range of work placements, including chalet staff, instructing, hotel staff and guides. Check out Season Workers for more information on job opportunities in the mountains.
TEFL - Fancy yourself as a teacher? Why not go on a course to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). Click here to find out more about TEFL courses available to you.
Gain relevant experience - With the world wide web at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to find out about the latest paid work placements available to you whilst on your travels. Similarly, you might stumble across websites for companies who offer fantastic experience, unpaid. This is often in the shape of volunteer work but can also involve work experience relevant to your degree choice. Projects Abroad have a great range of (paid for) placements in fields such as law, medicine and journalism.
Working at your hostel
Earn your keep - You might not necessarily be paid but the likelihood is you won’t need to pay for accommodation or food and drink while you’re there. This can be a fantastic deal, particularly in pricier places like Sydney or Tokyo where the more lively hostels can end up fairly expensive should you want to kip there for a decent amount of time.
Ask around - In general, tourist areas are a great place to look so ask around at hostels, hotels, restaurants, bars and campsites to see if there is anything going.
Working as an Au Pair
Use the web to find families - Most countries don't require you to go through an agency to work as an Au Pair, although in a few countries (eg. the USA), you are legally obliged to use this method. AuPair World is an international database, linking Au Pairs to host families. You can read up about families, see photos and apply for the position directly through the website.
Student Travel: Study abroad
There are many reasons you might want to take your university study abroad. Aside from an alternative educational experience and those useful transferable skills, there are heaps of lifestyle-orientated benefits. What could be better than learning whilst embarking upon once-in-a-lifetime student travel?
Full degree study
All the info you need is online - For those looking at uni places in Europe, Your Europe is probably the best place to start, giving browsers links to university systems in different countries. For those looking to go further afield, check out UKCISA. From these websites you can access information on everything from entry requirements to whether you’re going to need to take a language exam before submitting an application.
Part degree study
- Erasmus - The Erasmus scheme (part of the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme), gives students the chance to study for part of their degree in one of 30 other countries across Europe. Use the The UK Course Guide to find out what institutions offer in terms of the scheme.
If you’re already at uni and want to find out about potential Erasmus schemes available to you, arrange a time to meet with your local Erasmus co-ordinator, who will be able to direct you further.
IAESTE - Students can also take advantage of those long summer holidays but enrolling in work experience schemes such as the IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) programme. Undergraduates in science, engineering, technology and architecture can apply for PAID, course-related programmes which normally last about six to 12 weeks.
Universitas 21 - Universitas 21 is an international network of 23 unis in 15 different countries. The aim of the initiative is to bring together research-intensive unis across the world to collaborate and research.
Four UK unis are currently members of the U21 network: Birmingham, Nottingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Students at these unis can look into taking part in exchanges, summer schools, research conferences, joint PhDs and other research projects.
Find out more about what each university offers via their individual websites or read up on undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities with U21, here.
- Uni-specific programmes - Don’t forget to ask at the International Office of your university - you might be able to take advantage of an exchange that your uni has arranged with a particular institution!
Student Travel: Mobile phone charges
Surprisingly pricey - Mobile phone roaming charges are often a forgotten expense when planning a trip, but if you’re not careful you can come back to a bill of hundreds of pounds. Earlier this month the EU ordered phone companies to halve the cost of using mobile internet abroad and cut the costs of calls and texts, which is great, but we want to save you money now.
Student travel can be expensive enough, so here are some bill-busting roaming tips:
Global SIMs - If you’re doing a gap year it might be worth investing in a global SIM before you travel - STA Travel are currently offering a £6 SIM which comes with £10 call time and can be used in 160 countries.
Make free calls online - Use free internet phonecall services such as Skype or FaceTime to contact your friends at family at home - if you only use your phone to make local calls in the country you’re in (for taxis, hotels etc.) you’ll save a fortune.
Texts are best - It’s free to receive texts when roaming and much cheaper to send texts than to make calls - so as long as you’re frugal with your texts and don’t send 25 when one would do, texting will significantly cut costs.
Do you research before you leave - Many mobile phone networks have hidden packages that they will only tell you about if you ask for them - often in the form of add-ons to your existing tariff, they will usually offer cheap rates on international calls for a set fee.
Never data roam - Data roaming - using mobile internet when abroad - is how most people get stuck with huge charges once they get back from holiday. Updating your Facebook status is not THAT important - give yourself a few weeks off and your wallet will thank you.