Unexpected Study Abroad Expenses to Prepare For

By Brittany Loeffler on July 21, 2018

Studying abroad is one of the best opportunities you can take advantage of while attending college. Study abroad expenses can be pretty high, which is why you should take advantage of scholarships and plan your finances appropriately. However, unexpected study abroad expenses can really add up and leave you feeling nervous when you come home with a decreased amount in your bank account.

You may think you have a budget worked out for when you study abroad, but there will always be unexpected expenses when you travel, even if you’re studying abroad. We’ve created a list of some unexpected study abroad expenses that you should prepare for before you leave.

study abroad expenses

Infographic by Brittany Loeffler


Unfortunately, you can’t just pack up your things and live in another country for a semester. While some countries will allow Americans to stay without a visa for up to 90 days, such as Italy, France, and England, there are some countries that require you to pay for a visa.

For example, Australia requires you to apply for a visa. This unexpected study abroad expense is $575! However, this study visa will allow you to study and work in Australia, which is important because the cost of living there can be high so a part-time job may be a smart idea.

Phone Bill

One travel hack that will save you a ton of money is purchasing a phone plan in the country you are staying. Most phones will accept international SIM cards. It’s as easy as going to a phone service in the country where you are studying abroad and replacing your SIM card.

However, this can be one of the study abroad expenses you weren’t planning for. We suggest you purchase the unlimited plan so you can call your friends and family back home as much as you want and share your adventures on Snapchat and Instagram without worrying about going over.


You probably spent a lot of time thinking about what clothes you will bring with you when you study abroad. You want to look good and fit in with the locals. The best way to do that, though, is by buying clothes in the country where you are staying.

If the seasons are expected to change during the semester, you will most likely want to buy clothing there. If the country is known for its cold weather, then you will probably want to buy a coat there because they are made for that country’s weather.

Household Items

It’s important to remember that you will be living in a foreign country for a semester. Remember when you packed for your first semester in college? You brought a lot of things with you. You’ll need to bring the same things for your dorm while studying abroad too.

Now, you won’t want to pack your bedding, sheets, shower curtains, and kitchen supplies and travel with them from America. Instead, you should purchase these necessities while studying abroad. These unexpected study abroad expenses can add up though. Be careful not to spend too much on these items because you will probably just throw them away at the end of the semester.


You’re going to want to explore your new home and visit as many places as possible. Take into consideration how much you will spend on transportation to get around your city, your country, and the continent.

You may be required to take public transportation every day just to get to your classroom from your apartment or dorm. Make sure to ask your study abroad program how far away your residence is and if you should plan on taking a metro or bus each day.

There may also be times where you need to take a cab because you got lost or the public transportation has stopped running. You never know what can happen when in another country. These unexpected study abroad expenses are just part of the experience.

Day Trips

There is no such thing as relaxing on the weekends when you study abroad. Any free time that you have will be spent exploring and experiencing new things. Expect to take a lot of day trips with your friends. These trips can add up with your study abroad expenses because you’ll have to pay for transportation, food, and any attractions you may want to see.

Winter/Spring Break Trips

What would you do with a free week in another country? Travel, of course! If you are studying abroad in Europe, you can travel to a number of different countries just by riding a bus or train. You and your friends will plan out a busy trip. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even though you are already abroad, this trip is still a vacation that will rack up your study abroad expenses.

There are ways to save money while traveling. Rather than staying in a hotel or Airbnb, stay in a hostel and make friends with people from around the world. Go to free tourist attractions or walking tours and check for overnight bus trips to your destination so you don’t have to pay for lodging that night.

study abroad expenses

via Pixabay


Food is one of the top study abroad expenses. Of course, you are going to want to eat out and try everything in the country you are staying. We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t indulge in the culture’s food and go to restaurants and eat street food, but it’s important to keep track of how much money you are spending.

When you eat out for all three meals every day, the bills can add up. Eat out once every other day or find an affordable food vendor or cafe. Take a cooking class and learn how to make the most famous dishes the country has to offer. This way, you can cook for yourself and still experience the culture.

Tourist Attractions

It’s okay to be a tourist and do touristy things while studying abroad. You can’t live in Rome for a semester without visiting the Colosseum or the Vatican. Before you leave for the semester, factor the top tourist attractions and their ticket prices into your study abroad expenses.

Leave some extra money for local attractions that you won’t discover until you wander around the country some more. The Internet sometimes misses the best unknown tourist attractions.


Almost every country’s drinking age is 18. So, no matter what year of college you are in, you’ll be able to go out to the bars when you study abroad. If you are underage in the States, then you may be surprised at how much you may spend in a night at bars and clubs. Cocktails and beer can be expensive if you have more than one or two.

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and spend more than you have, especially if you’ve had a drink or two already. Don’t forget the late night snack on your way home either. Make sure you have nightlife budget when going over your study abroad expenses.


Spontaneous concerts are the best concerts. If one of your favorite musicians stops in the country where you’re staying on their tour, you should buy a ticket. It’s an entirely different experience seeing a beloved artist in a foreign country.

Medical Expenses

Accidents happen. People get sick. Medical expenses will definitely a part of your study abroad expenses. You may not think about it when planning for your study abroad expenses, but anything can happen.

Depending on where you are studying abroad, you may be required to get vaccinations, like Typhoid, that aren’t covered by your medical insurance. You may also experience food poisoning while studying abroad and need to see a doctor. Or you may just catch a common cold and need to run to the pharmacy for some relief.

study abroad expenses

via Pixabay


It’s easy to go overboard on the souvenirs for friends, family, and yourself. In the moment, you just want to buy something for everyone and feel that you’ll never have another chance to buy the souvenir. Keep track of how much you are spending on souvenirs and if it is worth cutting into your study abroad expenses. Consider if it will hold up on the flight home and if your friend or family member will actually use it before purchasing it.

International Driver’s Permit

You may want to consider applying for an international driver’s permit before leaving to study abroad. This will allow you to skip taking the bus or train and travel on your own time during day trips and vacations over breaks. This can cost from $20 to $120, depending on where you apply for the permit and how long it needs to be valid.

On top of the international driver’s permit, you’ll have to factor a rental car, gas, and insurance into your study abroad expenses. It helps if you are traveling with a group of people and can split this cost.

It may be worth it to rent a car because you can pull over and venture wherever you want!

Shipping and Postage Costs

We all hate the feeling while you’re in the car or on the plane and you suddenly remember something important that you forgot to bring. When traveling abroad, this can cause a major problem, especially if you forgot something extremely important that can’t be replaced.

The moment you land, you’ll want to call your parents or friend and have them ship the item to you. If you’ve ever ordered something from overseas, you know that the shipping costs can be hefty.

You may also have to pay shipping and postage costs if you find that you brought too many items with you and do not want to throw anything out. If the weather isn’t as cold as you thought it would be, you may want to ship your heavy winter coat home. Or if you bought too many souvenirs, you could send them back home too.


It is better to be safe than sorry. No matter where you travel, as a foreigner, you are more likely to be robbed than a local would. You look different and are unsure of where you are or where to go. This is a sign that you are an easy target to someone who is looking to steal money.

While it almost never happens, it’s always good to be aware of your surroundings and never to carry a large amount of cash on you.

Keep extra money in an emergency fund when portioning out your study abroad expenses just in case are robbed or someone steals your wallet. This money shouldn’t be touched unless in an emergency.

Return Flight

Some students who are studying abroad only book a one-way ticket and wait to book their return flight in hopes that it may be cheaper. They also don’t want to be held down to a specific return date in case they find an internship or decide to travel a little longer than planned.

To plan for a return flight in your study abroad expenses, research different airlines and their prices throughout the year. You should also look into when the country’s tourist season is because tickets will be more expensive then.

Plan for Unexpected Study Abroad Expenses

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of living in another country for a semester and forget about how study abroad expenses can add up, especially when they are unexpected.

After your acceptance into a study abroad program, go over your study abroad expenses with an advisor or your parents to help budget what you have to spend to get to the country, including tuition, visas, flights, and other costs. Next, go over how much you should expect to spend while studying abroad. Research the cost of living and tourist attractions you’ll want to go to. Plan for medical expenses, souvenirs, trips, clothing, events, and eating out in your study abroad expenses.

Hopefully, now that you are aware of just some of the unexpected study abroad expenses you may experience, it will help you plan better and have a healthy bank account when you return.

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