10 Travel Tips for Exchange

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HI!!!!

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Just spamming some previously blogged trips to show you how gorgeous Europe is! Check more out by clicking on the Exchange and Travel categories at the top of this post!

I’m back with another exchange post. This time it’s about travelling tips for exchange, like when you travel to other countries/places besides your host country. I went to Sweden for exchange and travelled within Europe so these tips are more applicable to that area, and other places would probably work differently.

Read and absorb my friends 🙂

1. Travelling in a group is cheaper and safer

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Read about my Santorini trip here 

I’m starting with a “Duh” tip, because this one is a biggie – it will probably save you tons more money! Personally, Gab and I prefer to stay at reputable hotels in safe neighbourhoods because you never know what might happen! So we’ll opt to pay a little bit extra when it’s just the two of us. What with all the airbnb horror stories, we’d rather pay more for ease of mind. So when we got the chance to travel with our group of friends, we’d book airbnb and really save on accommodations, food and transport because there’s safety in numbers. Besides, when you’re travelling in a group, you’re more likely to be more accomodating and more willing to go with the flow, so you’d probably be willing to be more budget! (If you’re not that kind of friend, that is)

So, try to travel more as a group with your friends!

2. Get an international student card

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A student card is awesome for travelling because you get FREE/REDUCED ENTRY at tons of attractions! You can either get the Erasmus (ESN) card, the local university student card or the STA international student card.

The ESN card, shown above, is meant for international exchange students and provides proof that you are a student in EU. The ESN group in your exchange university may plan and organize several trips (think bar crawls and group tours) to different countries that you can book for an additional discounted price, where accommodations and travel is taken care of. It cost about SEK $50. Unfortunately the dates for the trips in my uni clashed with my exams so we didn’t book any! So I would advise you to check your school’s attendance policy and exam dates before signing up.

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For us, we signed up with the Lund University Student Nations (also cost about 50 sgd if I don’t remember wrongly). We got a “studentkortet” that had a valid end date on it. PLEASE DON’T SHOW YOUR MATRIC CARD ALONE. Those usually do not have any date on it and will be rejected by the museum personnel.

My friends who signed up with STA for the exchange package got issued a STA international student card. However, some museum staff rejected the card alone and required an additional student ID from EU unis. If you don’t want to spend the money to get the local uni or ESN card, the STA card alone would probably be able to grant you reduced entry.

I would say either one of these cards will do so you don’t have to get all, although there is an off chance that they might be rejected when presented by itself. So please bring along additional student identification (like your matric card) just in case!

3. Get FREE entry for museums 

On certain days of the month, usually the first Sunday of the month, most museums offer free entry so you can plan your travel around that. Just go the the museum website and check!

4. Download City Maps 2GO

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City Maps 2GO is an offline map app that allows you to navigate without GPS.

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You can also save locations and find out what’s near you and look at the description of the attractions  so it’s a lifesaver when you skimp on the local data plans.

5. Download local public transport app

Sometimes Google Maps is a bit wonky and doesn’t always give you the most efficient options, so you can use this app to double check. These apps also let you buy tickets from the app itself so it’ll save you the trouble.

6. Save on public transport

The easiest way to save on transport is to… walk. Sometime attractions are only a mere 20 min walk away from each other, so you can really save on public transport! I tried to walk everywhere if possible, and during our last trip we were pretty broke so we walked the near entirety of Nice, Monaco and Spain on foot (and nearly died) but it was worth it!

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Gorgeous view of Monaco! #nofilter #forreal Btw this pair of Primark sandals that I’ve been wearing to death are really hardy and awesome for walking! Shoutout yi xia ~

You get to see so much more of the city/country that way 🙂 Just remember to wear sensible shoes!

 If you’e considering purchasing tourist travel passes, sometimes the bulk trip pass or single trip tickets are more worth it. To decide, please plan your itinerary in advance so you’ll be able to gauge how many times you need to use public transport.

Look out for the train/bus conductors on duty as well, as you’ll be fined for not buying a ticket. However, the system in certain countries are more stringent than others. Due diligence is all I will say.

7. Sign up for free walking tours

TBH we didn’t use free walking tours at all, ’cause the very first one we booked got cancelled last minute when the group was already waiting for our guide at the stated locale for twenty minutes past meeting time. The guide MIA and there was no contingency response, but then again it’s free so we didn’t complain. (We signed up for the Free Original Berlin Walking Tour fyi)

However, I would recommend you to go on at least one or two throughout your trips to get a good understanding of the place’s history, tradition and local secrets that you might not know from just walking and exploring the area by yourselves. I have friends who go on free walking tours in every place they go, so it’s really up to you!

Just remember to go for the recommended ones that have loads of good reviews on travelling sites and forums like Tripadvisor.

8. Airbnb isn’t always as great as you think

Is anyone else as annoyed as I am by the cleaning fee? Also, you never know if the Airbnb apartment is located in a sleazy neighbourhood or tucked away in some obscure street so it’s quite dangerous at night. So please go through the reviews and check out the neighbourhood online before you make your reservations! Also, sometimes, for $20 more you can get a decent hotel at a great locale and it comes with the usual housekeeping, so keep your options open!

For some apartments we went to, they claim to have Wi-Fi but it “wasn’t working” but in actuality we knew for undisclosed reasons that they didn’t pay for the dial-up service so we were stranded. Luckily we bought SIM cards!

Of course I did have some enjoyable Airbnb experiences but I think that’s largely because I’m always very careful with bookings! If you need recommendations, check out my exchange travelouge posts (more will be on the way) or you can leave a comment or FB msg me!

9. For the shopaholic out there, plan your trips during the sale season

For instance, I went to Paris during the winter sale, and Germany during the mid season sale! You can really get good bargains, so do plan wisely, especially for countries where your favourite brands originate.

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If that’s not possible, fret not. Outlet villages are always an option! I scored a Furla bag in Fidenza for only 150 Euros, but then I don’t give a hoot about seasons so if you’re like me you’ll be happily shopping away.

For tax refund, the maximum time allowed to claim is three months from DOP. So it’d be wise to slot in a few non – EU countries in the middle of exchange so you can claim tax!

10. Be careful. ALWAYS.

I’m very proud to say that both Gab and I didn’t lost any of our personal belongings during the entire exchange! We were very wary of pickpockets and robbers so we were always guarding our stuff. PLEASE ZIP YOUR BAG!! And choose a safe and practical bag for travelling, don’t fashion statement please. Even if my bag is a small one, I would choose a sling bag that I can put in front of me so I can keep an eye on it.  Always keep your phone and wallet in your bag or in your front pocket, NEVER put it on the table. Trust me, people will take.

We’re so used to the safety and silent social contract in Singapore that we take it for granted… Please kick this habit during exchange!

For us, we had a system. I would hold the bookings papers and passport etc in a file in my bag, and he’d help me keep my handphone because I always lose it! We’d request for two hotel keys as well.

NEVER TRUST ANYONE. 

We almost got duped onto the wrong bus to Milan central because a guy at the airport bus station standing in front of a big bus looked at us and kept directing us towards him and shouting “to Milan central”. We were moving towards him before we realised that the bus we were ALREADY queuing for, was the correct one (which had only a little signage that is easy to miss).

My friend told me a scary story. Her friend was travelling alone in Italy. A fake policeman came up to her with a lanyard and all demanding that she followed him. She got into his car, and he immediately locked her up and drove off to an unknown destination. She survived and escaped only because he stopped shortly in a crowded area and people noticed her banging on the window. THIS IS SO TAKEN, I DON’T KNOW WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED TO HER IF NOBODY HEARD/SAW HER!!! So please, BE VERY CAREFUL AND TRUST NO-ONE.

Always walk away from situations you’re not comfortable with. Please don’t blur blur follow strangers ah!!!! AND DON’T FALL ASLEEP ANYWHERE IF YOU’RE ALONE. Warn you all first.

You might think Europe is a very nice place, but in actuality there’s danger everywhere. Scam artists, kidnappers, pickpockets etc etc. The list in endless. Avoid sleazy areas and avoid getting back to your hotel late. We usually stay out till 9pm max if we’re travelling on our own.

This post is ending on a very wary note, but trust me it’s for your own good! I’m also planning to write a post on how to be budget/save during exchange, so keep a look out for that! Okay, till next time!

XOXO,
HuiMin

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3 comments

  1. Ok, Keep It Real · July 28, 2015

    That’s definitely a gorgeous shot in Monaco. Speaking of airbnb horror stories…we rented an apt in Barcelona “with Air conditioning” only to find out they meant fans. My fiance still gave the owner a good rating because it wasn’t his fault that the city was unseasonably warm when we went…but it was hell trying to fall asleep those nights.

    Like

    • huiminxoxo · July 28, 2015

      Totally know what you mean…. Slept in an extremely old apartment that was pretty dusty and dirty in Athens and it was not fun!

      Like

  2. Pingback: How-to: Save Money on Exchange |

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