Travelling in the US on a student’s budget

Image courtesy: sxc,hu/gokoroko

More and more Indian college students are attending universities the US. If you’re one of them, take advantage of the opportunity you have to see as much as you can. “But I’ve spent all my money just paying for college,” you cry. Use some of these tips to travel cheap and still keep the money for your next semester intact:

  • Find a friend, or friends: Spend a break with a friend from college. You may have to contribute money for petrol (if you’re driving there), or buy your own flight ticket, but you’ll get free accommodation and insider knowledge on the best places to visit. You might even get to celebrate a holiday with the family – a real American cultural experience.

But, if you’re travelling on your own…

  • Research, research, research your transport options: Travel will probably be one of the most expensive parts of your trip, so compare different modes of transport – buses, flights, anything else you might find – to find the best price. Also, be ready to put up with some discomfort. If you find a cheaper ticket with a four-hour layover, take it. You might lose some time, but you’ll save money.
  • Get in touch with relatives: If one of your parents has a distant third cousin living where you want to go, reach out and see if you can stay with them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never met them (or heard of them) before, if they’re willing to give you a bed and a bathroom, take advantage of it. They could be really nice people. Or they could insist on chaperoning you everywhere or telling embarrassing family stories. But you’ll have to take the risk!
  • Always carry your student ID: Museums, aquariums, planetariums, even movie theatres often have discount days and/or tickets for students. Public transport also often offers discounted tickets or passes for students. Make sure you check out your options beforehand if you can, but keep your student ID with you in any case and ask if you can use it to save some dollars!
  • Drinking: Alcohol can be expensive, and if you’re travelling in the summer, you might have to go into a supermarket and find the cheapest thing available (make sure you carry proof of age). But if you’re travelling during the school year, the best idea is to make some friends and get invited to a college party. You might not get the finest wines and craft beers, but you’ll get some music, fun and new friends. Remember to be extra-social, so that the hosts don’t regret letting you in.
  • Eating: If you’re really strapped for cash, buy some bread and sandwich ingredients from a supermarket and carry your own meals around. The next level up is a fast-food restaurant. However, you’re likely to find some reasonably priced food that isn’t fast-food as long as you look hard enough. Try and research online beforehand. Remember that it’s okay to walk out of a place if you look at the menu and see that it’s out of your budget.


Rukmini Girish is an avid traveller and writer, currently located near Chicago, Illinois. She is in her third year at Augustana College, studying Creative Writing and Sociology. When she is not busy studying, she swallows books, blogs for the college website, follows the  NBA and dreams about future travel.