Italy is one of the best countries to study abroad and travel can be affordable with these tips.
Many people will agree that Italy is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in all of Europe. Studying abroad during college there can be a study in historical art, architecture, religion, the Renaissance, food and wine, and fashion. Because of Italy’s unique regions, traveling throughout the country can be a little pricey. Here are some tips to keep costs to a minimum.
- Italy’s regional trains vs. high-speed trains
Zoom from city to city, get in a few power naps, and much needed studying
Everybody loves a high-speed train. They get you from place to place in minutes, butcan also cost more than a regional train. Depending on which time of day you travel, Italy’s high-speed trains can cost you more than $60 one way. That’s a little steep for a student’s budget. The other option is looking at Italy’s regional trains. Although a little older and more crowded, the fares are far more affordable, costing you as little as four euros for a one-way trip. What would take you hours by car, can take you less than an hour by train saving you time and money (gas is pretty pricey in Italy) when traveling from city to city.
- Affordable Accommodations
If you’re not careful you can get stuck overpaying for a night’s stay
Italy can be an expensive place to stay especially since most of the major cities are luxury cities catering to affluent travelers who stay in expensive 5-star hotels and private villas. Don’t let the Prada storefront windows discourage you from finding an affordable place to crash for a night or two while traveling throughout Italy. There are plenty of hostels that cater to students in the major Italian cities. You can find shared rooms for as little as 25 euros a night or a private room for a little over 75 euros. Research sites like www.hostels.com and www.hostelworld.com to find availability with the best rates. Plan ahead to find homestay options where families will open their homes to students for a low rate, this can come with home-cooked meals, laundry, and discussions over meals to help with your conversational Italian. Check out sites like www.homestayin.com to find rooms for rent. Tip: travel with a buddy to split the costs and save even more money.
- Travel Outside the Tourist Zone
Don’t fall into the trap. You’ll pay for it!
Most of the major cities in Italy – Venice, Rome, Florence come with plenty of tourist traps. Places (especially places to eat) where you can pay a higher rate because of the location to the city center. The further you are away from the museums and other attractions, the less you will pay. Ask locals and check online where the best and most affordable places to eat, drink, tour, and stay so you don’t end of paying the price for being a visitor. Beware: larger Italian cities are often home to more scammers on the street. Watch out for people trying to sell you stuff you don’t need by placing it in your hands or overcharging you for taxis (don’t get into one without a meter.).
- Learn the tricks to save money when dining out in Italy
Shop and eat local to save money
Referring to Tip #3, eating and drinking in Italy can be pricey if you don’t know where to go. You may not only get a subpar meal, but pay the price of a three-unit class for it. Prepare before you embark by researching best restaurants on a budget or by asking locals which restaurants have good food at a great cost. The best way to save money on food in drink in Italy is looking for the best deals, eating small meals, and sharing. My favorite thing to do is kind of save myself for a bigger lunch or dinner. I have an espresso or cappuccino at the counter for breakfast (you can pretty much find a cafe on every corner in Italy). For lunch I usually try to find a casual eatery or even street food which can be more affordable. You can buy pizzas by the slice or can share a full pizza with friends. For dinner I usually indulge in Pasta which is the biggest expense, but you can also check out Happy Hours (yes, Italy has adopted this favorite American pastime) and get deals on entrees, appetizers, and drinks. The great thing about Italy is that most every restaurant serves complimentary starters with every order (even if you are just having drinks. I’ve gotten full plenty of times on chips, olives, cheeses, and nuts. The same goes for wine. You can find very affordable glasses of wine off the tourist grid. However, the best way to save on wine is to go to a wine store and fill an empty wine bottle (you can refill it too) – this can be done for as low as 4 euros.
If you’re traveling long distance in Italy by train or other form of transportation and are on a tight budget or don’t have time to stop for food, it’s a good idea to pack your own meals that you can eat en-route to your destination. There are plenty of local markets in Italy where you can get delicious and fresh ingredients for sandwiches and salads.
- Find Ways to Enjoy Italy for Free
Yes, there are free things to do in Italy
One of the perks of studying abroad in a country rich in history and art is the amount of churches, museums, and architectural delights at your fingertips. Museums can be quite pricey, especially ones that hold the most valuable and recognized works of art. Italy has twenty free museum days per year including a week of free admission to state museums during Museum Week (check museum websites for updated schedule). In addition, Italy has six free Sundays between October and March during the off season. The Italian government may announce additional free days throughout the year per their discretion. Also, many museums offer student discounts in case you are traveling during non-free admission days.
I love to check the event calendars when I’m traveling throughout Italy because, depending on the season, there are so many festivals to attend and most of them are absolutely free. Whether it’s a Christmas Market in Florence or the Carnavale in Venice, festivals are a great way to soak up the culture, find unique souvenirs and native foods, and practice your Italian with each of the vendors.
Tiffany Carter is a food and travel writer for magazines, businesses and colleges like Patrick Henry College. She has studied abroad at England’s Cambridge University. She has traveled to over 15 countries across the globe with her favorites being Italy and Germany. Studying abroad gave her the education and cultural experience as well as knowing which shoppehas the best gelato and which souvenirs not to waste your money on.
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