Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And, if you're like me, while you are studying abroad in whatever country sparked your fancy, you want to travel to other places as they will be within easier and cheaper reach than in America. Now, these tips may be limited to where I am in Canterbury, England, but here's what I've learned so far in my month abroad.
1. Buses are cheaper
While a train or a plane may get you to where you want to go a lot faster, buses are much cheaper. We're talking a 15 pound roundtrip bus to London compared to 200 pound train. And, while planes can be priced very nicely, there's the additional cost of getting to the airport. Uber ranges in the 100s to 200s, buses are usually from 15 to 30 pounds, and don't get me started on trains. However, I'm not saying you should never take a train or a bus. Sometimes you can find good deals. So, basically, make sure you check all your options before booking travel.
2. Long bus rides are not fun
While I do recommend buses for shorter travel, I would not recommend them for all travel. Or, maybe I just wouldn't recommend Eurolines. I took a National Express bus from Canterbury to Cardiff and it was a nice, comfortable ride. I also took a bus from Canterbury to Paris and it was the worst experience I've had with travel. The bus driver was very rude and the bus was packed. And the man I was forced to sit next to snored like a garbage truck. Also, if people on your bus get delayed by border control, you will be delayed. I ended up getting delayed for two hours on my way back from Paris.
3. Being a tourist is expensive
I like to stick to doing free things for the most part, but my travel buddies and I made a deal that we would spend money on one thing to do each trip (not counting eating) and so far it's working out very well. However, going some place like Paris, I realized that food can be expensive. Like really expensive. I'm talking over 8 euro for a nine piece chicken nuggets and small fries at McDonalds. (In America or the UK, the same meal would have cost around 4 dollars or 4 pounds). Also, you have to pay to do many of the touristy things, but only if you want to go inside. You can ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or you can just look at it. Personally, the second option was good enough for me. Budget well and make sure you do the things you have to do, not just want to do.
4. Travel with people you like
This may sound like a no brainer, but if you go to study abroad on a program with no one you knew before, finding travel buddies can be difficult. You may want to attach yourself to the first person that shows any interest in you, but its best to find someone who you actually enjoy being around. The idea of traveling with someone you only kind of like may sound like a good plan when it seems to be your only option, but I advise you to do a good search for your friends while you are traveling. You won't regret it.
5. The UK does landing cards
For experienced travelers, this is obvious. For someone who had never been out of the country before, this was a surprise. I had no idea what a landing card was when I landed in Heathrow. I also needed one when I came back into England from France, even though I was on a bus. Fill it out and fill it out correctly. It will make going through border control a lot easier. Also, on that. If you are going to be studying in the UK, bring your sponsor support letter that will be sent to you by your host institution whenever you leave the country. Even if you already have your visa stamp, you will need to get another one.
6. Don't be afraid to talk to strangers
As long as they seem like safe, normal people, that is. When I was in Cardiff, I met these two really awesome people from Germany and ended up going to get a drink with them and another equally awesome man from Romania. It was one of the best nights I had had while studying abroad at that point. Especially when your at a hostel, there will be people traveling alone who are just looking for people to experience the country your in with.
These are the travel tips I have learned so far. As I have two more months left in England, I am sure I will come up with more, so stay tuned.