Thrifty & Nifty: 10 Cheap Places to Study Abroad

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There seems to be a nasty rumor floating around spreading discouragement that studying abroad is a luxury reserved for the rich. Why even consider studying abroad if your college budget is already stretched thin? Who would be crazy enough to pile on even more student loans? However, the fact of the matter is study abroad just makes cents.

10 Cheap Places to Study Abroad

With careful planning and financial savviness, studying abroad can not only be more affordable than you ever thought possible, sometimes a semester or year abroad may even be cheaper than attending class back home. Swapping your university’s inflated tuition and exorbitant college town housing costs for an affordable study abroad program fee could potentially save you thousands. Saving ahead of time to anticipate a few unavoidable costs such as airfare will also bring you a step closer to achieving the international dream. 

An integral factor to consider in your study abroad budget is location, location, location. If you’re strapped for cash, avoid countries like England and Switzerland like the financial plague, where currency exchange rates will work against you and the cost of living is comparably high to the United States. If you’re studying abroad short-term, chances are you won’t be making an income in the country’s currency, instead you’ll be withdrawing dollars from your personal or scholarship funds from back home. 

What are the Cheapest Places to Study Abroad?

Time Magazine compiled a list of the 50 cheapest countries to live by taking into account four different factors: grocery, rent, local goods and services, and purchasing power with an average salary of each country. New York City was used as a benchmark to compare countries’ living costs around the world. We took popular study abroad destinations with traditionally tons of study abroad program options from the lot to show just how much cheaper life abroad can be. As a reference point, we’ve included the average cost of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant for each country (Hint: In the United States, the average price is $13.00). 

Get more experiences out of the same budget. With these 10 cheap places to study abroad, you’ll be left wondering how you ever afforded living back home!

1. Peru

Woman with a hairy cow
El Dorado may just exist in legends, but you’ll strike gold studying abroad in Peru.

Paying a fraction for food, transportation, and personal expenses means you’ll have a portly bundle of savings left over for exploring the world-renowned jungles and Inca ruins that draw millions of international visitors a year. If you’re looking to spend like a local and save, steer clear of tourist traps, where prices are heavily inflated for naive travelers who prize convenience. Instead ask around for the best deals for locals to make excursions to Machu Picchu or Cusco.

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $3.06 

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in Peru: ISA and CISabroad

2. Morocco

Arched building in Morocco
Find out what deals you can make at a Moroccan bazaar.

In the winding, cluttered alleyways hidden in bustling bazaars of Fez and Rabat, calculating shoppers passionately engage in the ancient art of haggling. The telltale sign of a successful day out in the market is knowing that you got the best possible deal for your treasures. Written prices are just a friendly suggestion, and any student studying abroad learning French or Arabic will delight in the chance to exercise their language skills to barter for their goods. 

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $3.08

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in Morocco: Qalam Center For Arabic Studies and Morocco Off the Beaten Track

3. Portugal

Lit up bridge in Porto, Portugal
Save up some extra Euros to afford more discount flights across Europe.

For those wanting affordable study abroad choices in Western Europe, but not too keen on paying a fortune, Portugal is a match made in budget heaven. Just a train ride or cheap flight away from favorite European destinations, Portugal makes a great home base, where virtually everything is priced lower than its neighbor nations. Did we mention Portugal has amazing beaches, dreamy weather, and savory cuisine? 

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $7.85 

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in Portugal: CIEE and Center for Study Abroad (CSA)

4. Hungary

Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest
The best part of Hungary is that the million dollar views are completely free.

Eastern Europe has developed a reputation for not just being an affordable travel region, but also housing some of the cheapest places to study abroad. The capital city of Budapest in particular evokes images of the ornate Parliament building on the banks of the River Danube and accommodates most of the study abroad programs in Hungary. Packed with history, sprawling, and picturesque, Budapest boasts a very reasonable cost of living, far topping other major European cities. 

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $5.45

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in Hungary: Youth For Understanding (YFU) and API Study Abroad

5. Germany

Rooftops of houses in Germany
Live in an adorable home resembling a gingerbread house for a steal.

While eating out is comparable to in the United States, Germany’s average rents and discount grocers are the country’s most attractive budgeting feature. Rents are estimated to be on average a third less than in the United States, and a weekly trip to the supermarket for healthy, quality ingredients is satisfyingly cheap. Not only are student discounts commonplace, if you attend a public university, you may get a free regional train and bus transportation card thrown in. 

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $11.21 

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in Germany: Wayne State University and European Study Center (ESC) Heidelberg

6. Mexico

Mountaintop village in Mexico
Studying abroad in Mexico is a piñata of savings.

Hola, street food! Mouthwater tacos, aguas frescas, fruit cocktails, and essentially any spicy delicacy your mind can conjure are available for dirt cheap prices on virtually any street corner in  Mexico. The Mexico’s close proximity to both Canada and the United States means that airfare (a huge fraction of your study abroad budget) will be less than a day-long flight to Japan. With a low cost of living and endless opportunities to learn about a rich, complex history, Mexico is a prime affordable study abroad destination that’s often overlooked for being too close to home. 

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $4.81 

Recommended psychology study abroad program in Mexico: Sol Education Abroad

7. Greece

Blue door on a white painted building in Santorini
Lie under the Mediterranean sun while thinking about all the money you haven’t spent.

Greece’s dreamy coastlines and ancient ruins will give you more to think about than Aristotle and Socrates would have imagined possible. Greece’s financial nightmare has severely crippled the economy and has made tourism and visitors an essential source of income for the top destinations across the country. The dollar is eagerly welcomed and in the countryside food and everyday expenses are incredibly low. 

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $11.21

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in Greece: College Year in Athens and Hellenic International Studies in the Arts

8. Chile

Woman lying on a boulder
Some of Chile’s best activities take place in mother nature, which is by the way free.

The living costs for study abroad students in Chile might just be hotter than the country’s chili pepper shape. With tons of nature-loving activities, affordable eats and hotels, Chile offers a diverse mix of travel choices for when you pop out of class on the weekend. Visiting the remote Easter Island 2,000 miles from the Chilean coast or launching off on an expedition to Antarctica are naturally much more expensive than trips to nearby cities and national parks. 

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $7.48

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in Chile: USAC and AIFS

9. Poland

Krakow city center with pedestrians and a carriage
An endless supply of affordable pierogis await in Poland.

The standard of living in Poland’s large cities like Warsaw and Krakow are on par with those of Western Europe, but for a fraction of the cost. Rents are even cheaper than in Poland’s neighbor, Germany, with one-bedroom apartments costing around 300 Euro a month in Krakow, and a bit more in Warsaw. If you’re feeling lazy or live far from campus, public transportation cards are available to students for a discount.

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $5.35 

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in Poland: Carleton-Antioch Global Engagement and Syracuse University

10. South Africa

Hiker on top of a mountain
Say hello to bargains in South Africa.

Although purchasing the flight to this rather out of the way corner of the Earth may sting, you’ll recover while going about your daily life here. A large portion of the country remains underdeveloped and correspondingly quite affordable by western standards, yet the prosperous cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town will cost a bit more. Another important factor to consider in South Africa is that although it’s one of the cheap places to study abroad, its currency has slowly been strengthening, meaning the posh parts of town may be unsurprisingly pricy.  

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant in USD: $7.56

Recommended psychology study abroad programs in South Africa: IES Abroad and Good Hope Studies

Program fees typically already include tuition and housing, so the most important factors to consider when deciding on cheap places to study abroad should be local transportation and meals. Even in the cheapest places to study abroad, larger cities and tourist destinations will be higher priced, so don’t expect to find the best bargains at a restaurant at the base of Machu Picchu. Follow some expert advice on how to save money during your study abroad program, and you’ll close your experience with cherished memories rather than credit card debt.

Find a Cheap Study Abroad Program now!