I travelled to 15 countries last year as a Liverpool Uni student, here’s how you can too
Catch flights, not feelings xoxo
Last year, I promised myself that I would travel more, making up for lost time during the pandemic. With that idea, I made my way to 15 countries across three continents throughout 2022, all whilst trying my hardest to not receive a low attendance email from uni.
I know what you’re thinking. How was this possible as a student? How could you afford to do this? Did you even pass university?
Well, with my student loan and a job on the side, I proved that it was possible to travel within the busy timetable of a University of Liverpool student. I don’t believe in gatekeeping travel tips, so here are my insights to help address your worries about student travel.
Everything begins with flights
If you want to leave this island nation, you’re going to need flights.
For this, there are multiple search engines online that let you browse and compare flight prices. Both Google Flights and Skyscanner are the most reliable sources for this. On these sites, you can see the prices and date combinations that can allow you to escape the country on a student budget. Skyscanner is a little bit more creative with transfers and route planning. However, for students in Liverpool, play around with both Liverpool and Manchester airports. There are direct trains from Lime Street to Manchester Airport so it’s almost as easy to fly from Manchester as it is from Liverpool.
On Google Flights, there’s even an ‘explore’ option where you can browse the map and find out where you can fly to within your budget. For me, this is where some of the trip ideas originate. Flights to Romania are only £12, let’s go!
Ditch the hotel, stay at a hostel
Imagine a room with eight people, card games and light conversation effervescing over a couple of cans of local lager. Well, that’s exactly what a hostel is like.
Hostels have a bad reputation, but they are a lifeline for travellers, particularly if you are going solo. At hostels, you can find plans and make new friends along the way. The price tag is also very reasonable, much less than a hotel. For instance, hostels rarely cost more than £20 per night if you’re staying in a dorm room. Yes, the idea of sharing with eight foreign strangers may be intimidating, but the anecdotes I have collected from hostels are priceless. These dorm rooms are a mosaic of society — I’ve met some real personalities including, but not limited to, a BDSM tourist in Bordeaux and a preacher in Chicago.
How do you find such magical places? Well, Hostelworld is a great place to find hostels across the globe. From Utah to Ljubljana, Hostelworld has been my trusted companion while travelling (#NotSpon). Here, you can see the best hostels for the most reasonable prices as well as reviews so you can filter out the shitholes from the gems.
Public transport is a blessing
If you learn one thing from this article, it’s to stop using taxis and private airport transfers. That’s a surefire way to lose a big share of your holiday budget.
Almost every European airport will have a public transport connection, whether that be a bus, tram or train ride. There is bound to be some form of public transport on offer — just check the airport website or Google Maps. Doing a little bit of research is vital.
Also, prepare to be flexible and use public transport to explore a new country and see as much as possible. Don’t be scared to use local trains and buses. I promise you — they’re not as intimidating as they may seem. Just check Google Maps or Rome2Rio to explore the travel options. Also, see what combinations you can make with flights. Maybe you can make a trip into a multi-city or multi-national adventure.
Supermarkets are your friend
When travelling, it’s always nice to test out the local cuisine. However, eating out at restaurants for each meal makes the budget evaporate very quickly. Instead, make friends with the local supermarkets.
Most supermarkets will have a hot food counter or even a bakery, allowing you to test out the local delicacies on a fine-tuned budget. Also, surveying the lay of the land in a foreign supermarket is always fascinating. Even deciding on a picnic in a park or getting sandwiches from the supermarket will help you stretch out that student loan whilst travelling. Similarly, if you’re staying in a hostel, you can often use the shared kitchen there — it’s just like university halls.
That’s not very cash money of you
This section is the hardest to give advice on — everyone is in a different financial situation.
What I can recommend, in my experience, is to use a specific bank card for travelling. There are a number of online banks that do not have additional international fees. For me, Monzo has worked in every country I’ve visited, from Tunisia to the US and Luxembourg. Monzo also allows you to create spending pots which conveniently puts money aside into a vault. Once my student loan drops or I get paid, I like to save money for travelling, so I can budget elsewhere. There, travel doesn’t feel like a financial afterthought. With the money locked away until the trip comes, you have some sense of security.
When it comes to the cash vs card debate, there’s usually no need to bring copious amounts of cash from a British bureau de change, just take cash out from an ATM once you arrive or use your card. This being said, in some places, ATMs do tend to charge. This is usually in touristic areas, so look to avoid the yellow Euronet ATMs. In some cities, like Athens, they are impossible to avoid but try your hardest to maximise your budget so you don’t lose £5 in banking fees. Similarly, if you’re using your card, be sure to use the exchange rate provided by your own bank — pay in the local currency. This will almost always come out at a lower cost, but always do your own research, too.
Shut up and go!
Quit saying, “yeah, we should go to Amsterdam at some point, that would be cool,” leaving the plan on tenterhooks for years. Just go online and book it! As a student, you’re going to have more freedom now than you will once you graduate and enter the scary adult world of work.
When travelling as a student, you need to accept that you may have to cut corners somewhere, but don’t be afraid to try new things, make new friends and see new places. You might have never thought of going to Katowice in Poland, but the flight prices make it too good of a deal to miss. So, with that, I hope to see you at the departure lounge of Liverpool John Lennon Airport soon!