Consortium for International Education & Multicultural Studies
When preparing a budget for your learning vacation abroad, use your budget at home as a guide - and then prepare for things to cost even more than you expect. Do some research on costs and seek out someone who has knowledge of day-to-day costs in the country you'll be visiting. Remember that at least for the first few weeks you may not know where to find the "best" value and you shouldn't let this stress you out.
Start with the trip costs you know, i.e., airfare, tuition, housing, etc. Then make a list of things you know you'll need additional money for. Include estimates for local and regional transportation (bus fare to/from school, plus just getting around), meals outside of the home, books and materials (required or optional) at the school, sightseeing and entertainment, laundry and clothing purchases, souvenirs, phone calls, snacks, tips, newspapers, beverages, airport taxes, medical expenses, and emergency money.
Finally, list the costs of items you may need to purchase before you leave. This category is the easiest to budget, because making sensible purchases prior to departure may leave you more money to spend on things you want abroad.
Don't buy a new travel wardrobe or new luggage (unless you need it). You're not going on vacation . . . you're going to a foreign country to live and learn with the people, so you'll want to dress appropriately and blend in. Fancy clothes and expensive luggage may target you for crime. Only buy things that will add to your comfort.
Your "Emergency" budgetary amount should be substantial and flexible. If all goes well and you don't dip into it, you can either spend it lavishly on yourself, or save it for next time. It should be based on the fact that something can go wrong and you should be prepared for it. This could mean you need it for an emergency night's lodging, a medical bill, something to wear if your luggage gets lost, or anything else that could and might happen.
Sitting down with your personal banker and discussing your plans to travel abroad may be smartest thing you do. By planning ahead, both for enjoyment and emergencies, you'll travel with a lighter conscience and have a great trip. Your personal banker should be able to answer almost every financial question you may have, covering a wide spectrum of topics: conversion and exchange rates, traveler's checks, using your ATM card abroad, credit card use, wiring funds, amenities provided by credit cards and various traveler's checks, and much more. They may even be able to set up a plan of action for a financial emergency. If something does happen, a long distance phone call to your banker could set the plan in motion for you and you'll be better off.