The pink backpack Toronto tourism - CN tower



6 Ways to Travel as a Student for FREE

Many students don’t travel because they can’t afford to.

With rising tuition and textbook fees and the cost of living, how is it possible to travel on a student budget?

Plot twistMy university years have been some of my most travelled! 

In the last two years as a PhD student, I visited 13 countries (and nearly 40 all together)!

Through my 9 years of post-secondary education, I have learned that there are so many opportunities to get financial assistance to travel internationally while still in school!

I want you to take advantage of them so I’ve compiled a list of 6 ways you can travel abroad for free while in uni or college!


Participate in an Exchange program:

An exchange program is the perfect option for those who may be considering traveling or leaving home for the first time because you can go for just one semester. I went to Australia during my undergrad and it was the experience that started my wanderlust! Most universities and colleges offer exchange programs with their international universities they have partnered with. Through participating in these programs, you can study for a semester or an entire year abroad while a foreign exchange student comes to your school in your place.

Many schools feel that international exchange programs are an excellent way to develop young global citizens, therefore they often provide funding to assist with travel and living costs. For example, you may receive a scholarship from the school’s international studies department to pay for your flight, and the receiving school may put you up in a dorm or shared housing with other international students.

Look to your faculty and your student body representatives for information on scholarships; check for bursaries (loans you do not have to pay back) from the student finances office or from your student union. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors; eventually something will turn up!


Study Abroad:

For a more long-term experience, you could apply to study at a university abroad as an international student. In attempts to build a diverse student body, most educational institutions have a set number of international students they must accept. As tuition is higher for international students, there is often significant scholarships and housing assistance to offset these costs, particularly if your grades are academically competitive.

There are usually scholarships available by your government as well. For example, for Canadian students there are scholarships on the federal government’s website for international study because the government recognizes the importance of global citizens and has invested in supporting those keen to study abroad. Check what your government offers!


Apply for an Internship:

Internships abroad are a great way to travel while gaining relevant work experience. For new grads, the job market has become more competitive, so having an international internship on the resume is a leg up on your competitors. Having completed an internship abroad demonstrates initiative, a willingness to learn and grow as a person, and an open attitude to try new things.

Most universities have internship opportunities with their affiliates or partners overseas in various areas of study. If you are successful in receiving one of these opportunities, there is typically no payment for the time you spend at work. However as mentioned above, often housing and travel costs are reimbursed by either your school or the program.

I interned in Tanzania in 2016 through my university. As a PhD student, I was able to secure funding for the internship as it directly relates to my thesis research. As a result, I was sponsored to travel to/from and live in East-Africa for 3 months.


Complete clinical or practical hours abroad

Some programs require students to complete placements with a mentor to gain a set number of hours in a clinical or practical setting. For example, students in health care programs (i.e. nursing, medical, allied health), must complete hands-on, supervised hours of relevant work in the field. These hours are required to graduate from the program, however there is usually no stipulation as to where they are completed.

Most Universities attempt to expand their reach with collaborative partners for research and academic purposes, which means that they will likely support students in their pursuits of international placements because it positively reflects their institution and helps to solidify organizational bonds.

For example, when I was in university for my Masters in Occupational Therapy, I completed one of my clinical placements in Northern Canada and one in England! The government of Ontario had a monetary initiative to bring clinicians up to the North, so I was able to receive funding to cover a return bus ticket and my living costs. I was also lucky enough to receive some funds from my faculty to support me in going to England (enough to cover my flights).



Most students typically have the summer semester off (aside from some graduate students whose research programs go straight through). This block of time off serves as a great opportunity to go abroad to volunteer. Many programs and organizations out there offer varying levels of financial support for their volunteers.

For example, often your accommodation and meals are provided to you in exchange for your volunteer work, meaning you can essentially live for free. What typically is not provided, is your transportation, visa and immunization costs. However, depending on your country/province/state, you can deduct the time you spent volunteering as a charitable donation on your income tax return (meaning that the following year, you could get the dollars spent on your transportation reimbursed back to you by your government). Keep all your receipts/e-tickets/boarding passes and check the rules of your national income tax!


Attend a conference:

This one usually applies to graduate students (masters/ PhD), or undergrads keen on applying to a Masters or Medical program. Conference travel is a great way to kill two birds with one stone: not only do you get to travel to a new place, but also you are actively engaged in a learning environment that positively contributes to your resume and academic CV!

Often conferences require you to register online and the registration fee depends on the prestige of the organization – this can be pricey! However, your educational institution often has a pool of funds for graduate students to attend conferences at least once per year. Depending on your academic supervisor’s funding, he/she may be able to support your request to attend the conference by reimbursing your registration fee.

Further, your faculty typically has a travel fund designated to support scholars attending and presenting at conferences; this is a great way to access funds to pay for your flight or ground transportation. Once you get to the conference, food and beverages are usually provided free of charge and often accommodation is discounted. If you are presenting at a conference, the organizing committee will likely waive the registration fee and arrange for your accommodation.


I hope these strategies have shown you that it’s possible to travel on a student budget! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions!


– Happy Travels!



student travel for free


You may also enjoy:

Ultimate Packing Guide for 3 Months Abroad

5 Tips for Packing Light

10 Ways to Avoid Culture Shock

The 10 Commandments of Hostel Etiquette 

What are your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No comments found.