The thought of studying abroad can be both exciting and terrifying for tons of people. I was the first option, choosing to spend the spring of my sophomore semester in Florence, Italy. The most important thing about studying abroad was arriving prepared so I started reading blogs and tips on the best ways to travel.
After being here for a bit, I've learned my own tips on the do's and don't's of traveling around Italy and Europe as a whole. If you're currently studying abroad or even just thinking about it, I recommend you keep these things in mind!
1. If you're studying in Europe, GoEuro will be your best friend
GoEuro is a website/app that shows cheap flights, buses, and trains to different European cities. It's super easy to use and you can download all the tickets right to your phone!
2. Do your research!!! Read reviews, find pins on Pinterest, etc.
Read blogs upon blogs and use websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp for restaurant reviews.
3. Check out different airports one way tickets
Google Flights is great for this sort of thing. Especially in Italy, the train system is super easy to get from city to city so if you find a cheap flight leaving Pisa then you can turn around and buy a returning flight to Rome.
4. Stay in Hostels or Airbnb's
Locals always have great restaurant recommendations and hostels are a great way to meet new people from all over the world. You can use hostelworld.com to find great hostels to stay in.
5. Check for student discounts or student tickets
Tons of places have discounts they won't advertise, but it never hurts to ask!
6. Try to make a 'lose' itinerary, knowing that things will change
Try to see where everything is and keep distances in mind, a great way to do this is to use Google Maps and create your own with pins of places you want to visit.
7. Keep in mind that there will be constant delays and changes
Travelling can be expensive, but it's easy to find cheap flights if you only take a backpack. However, these airlines are going to book flights on top of flights so keep in mind that things happen so you might not always get there on time.
8. READ READ READ
I know I mentioned this earlier but seriously read as many blogs as you possibly can because that's where you'll learn the most, and the tips and tricks of the city your visiting.
9. Invest in a travel backpack, and learn to pack light
I invested in an EBags backpack which I highly recommend purchasing. Learn not to overpack and using packing cubes can be super helpful when trying to fit a bunch of stuff in one tiny backpack.
10. Wear sneakers or comfortable shoes because you will walk so much
It doesn't matter how ugly they are, trust me, it will be worth it
11. Have the International SOS app
This is an app you can get on your phone and it will keep you up to date with strikes and protests happening, and can even connect you with doctors that speak your first language all over Europe.
12. Airports have restrictions on the amounts of liquids you can have
Unlike the US, you can only have a tiny clear plastic bag full of liquids so pack accordingly!
13. Always carry a small amount of cash because most local restaurants don't accept cards
14. Bring a Visa or Mastercard credit card with you because most other brands aren't accepted.
15. Buy a good lock if you plan on staying in hostels
Your room will have a locker and its super important to lock up your stuff!!!
16. Use public transportation
Don't be afraid to ask locals how to use public transportation in the city because it's always cheaper and pretty simple to use. Some places even have 24-hour passes that work for the bus, metro, and all that. Most countries also won't have Uber either. They also have public bike apps like Mobike that you can rent and use all over the city for as little as 20 cents a minute.
17. Carry hand sanitizer always
Trust me, you won't regret it.
18. Don't be afraid to stay in sometimes, traveling is exhausting
Recognize that if you're cramming all of your sightseeing in just 2 short days, you will most likely be waking up early and walking all day long. This is going to exhaust you, and remember you'll have class Monday morning because this is study abroad.
19. Take advantage of free walking tours!
Tons and tons of major cities offer free informative walking tours which are great if you want to learn the history of the city while hitting all the major spots without the planning!
20. Carry headphones
Headphones come in handy for the obvious reasons, but many museums have free audio tours you can play on your phone as you walk!
21. Keep a journal or a document on your computer to write down all of your travels
This is a great way to reflect on where you've gone, and you'll also be thankful to have it to look back on later
22. Take pictures of everything, but remember to actually experience things without a screen in front of you.
Yes, everyone loves a perfect picture, myself included, but these are once in a lifetime experiences that you should take in and appreciate away from the screen as much as you can. There's plenty of time for pictures.