Sadly my study abroad program is winding down…there is only one week left! Spain is such an amazing country, and studying abroad is such an amazing opportunity. I thought that for today’s post I would talk about traveling while studying abroad. I highly recommend traveling within your study abroad city, country, and even to countries nearby (depending on your location and your length of study). Spain has a fantastic bus, metro, and train system. Here are some tips and notes from my own travels:
- If you’re traveling within your study abroad country, take a bus! Bus rides can be very long but they are truly worth it. As I am writing this, I am on a seven hour bus ride back to Salamanca, Spain from Sevilla, Spain. Buses are very cheap, and they provide a free scenic tour of the country. To get the cheapest tickets, always go directly to the local bus/train station. They are always more expensive online! Also, the major ticketing companies did not accept my credit card (Capital One Venture), and I had to make a PayPal account to buy them online. It is much more convenient to go in person.
- Be over-prepared! Purchase your tickets ahead of time because buses get filled up very quickly (especially for long distance trips). Some of us planned to go to Barcelona, Spain during the first weekend, but tickets had already sold out on Monday of that week. Have your tickets printed or your ticket receipts placed in a specific location. Don’t forget your passport!! Even if you are traveling within one country, many buses will require that foreigners have passports to verify their identity. Also, be aware that the bus ticket is valid only for the specific time that you purchased the ticket. If you are late or your plane is delayed, you will have to buy a new ticket.
- For weekend trips, pack light! You should not need any more than what can fit in a school book bag or a big purse. Purchase a set of empty 100 ml plastic containers so that you can refill bottles of toiletries instead of bringing the entire bottle. Girls, plan your outfits ahead of time and do not bring any other options. Check the weather and pack accordingly! However, even if the weather predicts very warm weather, always pack a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt/cardigan. Rain and wind can easily change the weather forecast.
- If you are on a college student budget, stick with hostels. If you pick the right ones, hostels can be a very nice! We met some really great friends in our Madrid hostel (Way Hostel – I highly recommend), and hostels have a lot of social events to mix and mingle with other travelers. Also, if a big group of your friends is traveling together, you can book a 12-14 mixed room (which can be as cheap as 10-20$ a night depending on the location) and have it all to yourself. We did this in Sevilla, and it worked out great.
- Relax! Traveling can be stressful, especially in a foreign country while on a time crunch. There were some trips that we got back Monday morning at 3 AM and woke up for class at 7 AM. It is part of the experience. However, be sure not to tire yourself out. Sometimes we would walk for five hours straight in an effort to see as much as we could…but take coffee/chocolate breaks! You get to rest your feet and taste delicious local food. BUT..stay away from the Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and McDonalds!! They will call for you, especially when you are missing home, but be strong! I am not a big fast food fan (plus I prefer the cheap local food) so this was not a big problem for me, but many people in our group gave in. I promise that the local food is 100x tastier, fresher, and cheaper.
Anyways, traveling during my time in Spain has made this experience so much more incredible. It is always fun to compare and contrast the different places you will visit. I find it fascinating how similar the architecture is in distant places. For example, we saw a similar river landscape in Porto, Paris, Sevilla, and Prague. I also conducted a very scientific study where I tasted the chocolate croissants in every city we visited to see which city had the best. Easily, the croissants in Salamanca, Spain at Croissanteria Paris are the clear winner. Second place was in Paris, France (however, Paris had amazing croissants and desserts at almost every café so as a whole it is the winner. Also try crepes and gofres in Paris!). Madrid, Spain comes in at third place. I did not like the chocolate croissants in Porto or Sevilla! Stay away!
The pictures below are from some of my travels. 🙂
Exams are coming up so I need to start studying. Bye for now!