Studying abroad is on almost every student’s bucket list. But there’s one big thing that comes to mind when you think of studying abroad: the high costs. Luckily, the question of affordability is a pesky misconception of studying abroad. If you’re one of the many students wondering how to study abroad for cheap, we’ve got you covered! There are plenty of ways to have the experience without going into debt—especially if you’re strategic while being price conscious, and aim to find a low-cost program in one of the best and cheapest places to study abroad. Who knows, you might even end up saving money compared to studying at home.
So how do you study abroad cheaper? The most important thing: location, location, location. Choose to study in countries that have cheaper costs of living than your home country, or major perks such as free tuition. By looking for places where you can stretch your dollar, studying abroad can end up being cheaper than many people realize. Here’s our list of the 12 best and cheapest places to study abroad!
Where can you study abroad for cheap?
Mexico is a country of vivid landscapes, and full of culture and history. Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, has a population of over 8 million and is a city brimming with… just about everything! Many students study abroad in Mexico to brush up on their Spanish skills, but the beaches and delicious street food are also a pretty nice perk. Your study breaks can be spent in the hustle and bustle of the cities, or on the beach, where you can relax or learn how to scuba dive. Fuel up on tacos, tamales, sopes, tostadas, and churros—you won’t be disappointed!
Mexico is known for reasonably low living costs. You can rent an apartment for around ~$300, eat out for ~$5 or less ($1 tacos anyone?), and expect overall living costs of under ~$1000 per month. For Canadian or U.S. students, one perk of studying abroad in Mexico is that you can experience a whole different culture, but for reasonably cheap flight away!
2. Costa Rica
Lush rainforests and limitless opportunities to appreciate nature makes Costa Rica an adventure traveller’s dream. The country is home to incredible biodiversity that they make a huge effort to protect: 25% off the land is protective parks and reserves. They have come up as a world leader in environmental tourism. If you are studying anything environmental related, then Costa Rica is the place for you! Costa Ricans are known for a peaceful and relaxed (“Pura Vida”) lifestyle. As a student, sometimes you just need some time to relax—and there is plenty of that in Costa Rica.
It’s not the cheapest country on our list, but it offers an excellent quality of life for a reasonable price. With overall living costs of about ~$1500 a month, you can expect to rent an apartment for about ~$400 a month, and eat out for an inexpensive meal for about ~$7.
Peru is not only a bucket list destination for many travelers, but it’s also one of the best and cheapest places to study abroad! The country is filled with intriguing displays of human history and natural beauty. Visitors and students must spend time exploring the jungles and ruins that make this country famous. You might as well hike the Inca Trail or float down the Amazon while you’re there! It is perfect for students looking to study famous ancient civilizations. Religious and cultural festivals will fill your free time with a cacophony of noise and color. And there’s nothing more unique than seeing an alpaca in traditional garb!
As one of the cheapest countries in the world, you can definitely make your dollar go far in Peru.
Rent can be as low as ~$250 for a one bedroom apartment, and meals for ~$1—$3. Of course, price of rent hikes up for major cities to around ~$500 for a small apartment, but with other costs of living being so cheap, it is definitely doable on a student budget!
Argentina is a sizzling melting pot, with the liveliness of South American culture and a European flair. As the eighth largest country in the world, you will definitely your choice of where to live and what school to attend. The country is known for being fun-loving and vibrant, and is also home to some beautiful nature. Studying abroad in Argentina opens your eyes to interesting new experiences: you can learn more about the unique gaucho culture, while munching on some delicious grilled meats and veg. Two things you will learn to be passionate about as a student in Argentina: futbol and tango!
You can eat out in Argentina for ~$7 or less per meal. Public transit comes in super cheap, with fares under ~$1. Rent for a one bedroom apartment can be ~$300 or less, which puts living costs under ~$800 a month for a savvy student.
A mix of Asian cultures find themselves in Malaysia—and it shows. One outlet of the melting pot culture is the abundance of delicious, cross-cultural food options, which are all super affordable. Kuala Lumpur is the capital city, and a major hub for expats and students. It is busy and modern, with a new festival or event always around the corner. There are plenty more traditional cities and towns that give students a chance to explore Malaysian culture. As with many of the Southeast Asian islands, Malaysia has some stunning beaches, and little-known rainforests.
Malaysia offers students a low cost of living. You can eat out for around ~$5, and eat at a hawker centre for under ~$2. Rent for a small apartment sits around ~$350, and groceries (especially produce) is fresh, cheap, and plentiful.
Vietnam is pretty much on every budget backpacker’s bucket list. There are multiple lavish and dynamic modern cities, and a bustling urban scene. You can also take weekends to disappear to the countryside, where traditions are upheld and where natural wonders are steps away. Vietnam is home to diverse landscapes: rice terraces, beaches, sand dunes, and limestone rock formations are scattered across the country. Whether you are peacefully observing surreal landscapes, or weaving through crowds of scooters in the major cities—there’s always something new for your senses!
Once again, low costs of living is where you will save in Vietnam. You can rent a small apartment for ~$400 a month in major cities, and expect to spend under ~$5 per meal (many times significantly less, especially if you choose local food).
It wouldn’t be an article about budget travel without mentioning Thailand! You’ve probably heard endless stories about all the things to see, do, and eat in Thailand—and all on the cheap. You will experience a sense of frenetic energy and adventure when you set foot in Thailand. The country isn’t named the “land of smiles” for nothing: locals are friendly, and you will fit right into the thriving expat and international student community! Thailand lures travelers in with their picture-perfect world famous beaches—seriously, some feel like paradise. Modern cities, such as Bangkok, have all of the amenities you would ever need. To top it all off, Thai cuisine is absolutely mouthwatering.
Low cost of living keeps Thailand at the top of many traveller’s bucket lists. Living costs can be much higher in the major cities and tourist destinations—but still affordable. An apartment in Bangkok can be ~$600—not the most budget friendly, but you can find much cheaper ($200—$300) for a small apartment in other cities. Regardless of rent, food and transport is cheap. You can find street meals for ~$2 and take public transit for under ~$1, which keeps living costs low.
Taiwan is a hidden gem, with all the complexities of East Asian culture, but with much cheaper living costs. “Have you eaten?” is one question you can always expect to hear in Taiwan—there is a huge foodie culture. A plethora of delicious things to nibble on means you will never not be full. Bubble tea anyone? How about stinky tofu, soup dumplings, hot pot, or shaved iced desserts? Bustling night markets will keep you busy after your classes, and national parks and gorgeous scenery are a well-kept secret. It is also a great place for you to brush up on your Mandarin skills!
In Taiwan, you can expect rent to be around ~$400—$500 for a one bedroom apartment. Find local dishes for ~$3 or ~$4 (there will be plenty to try!), and expect to spend ~$1 to hop on public transit to get to class.
India is completely overwhelming to all of your senses. With a population of over 1.3 billion people, it’s hard not to be overwhelming! Studying abroad in India can be challenging, but you’ll be met with many rewards. The country is totally compelling, with immense cultural and natural artifacts to explore. India is a huge country filled with varied landscapes—from the Himalayan peaks and glamorous beaches to its sprawling, chaotic cities. You can find fragrant and delicious food in India, and it is a vegetarians galore!
Many international students are drawn to India for the unique culture and low living costs. There is a huge range of possibly costs in India, but it is definitely easy to live on a student budget. You can find meals for ~$2-$4, and take public transport for ~$0.30. A one bedroom apartment can come in for ~$200 (although bigger cities can be triple that cost). Plentiful markets mean groceries are cheap.
It’s easy to fall in love with Portugal. It’s a country that radiates warmth, with beautiful beaches and coasts, and charming cities. Portugal is often skipped in the Europe backpacking trail—but it is actually an extremely budget friendly country! In Portugal, you can get the experience of a European study abroad adventure for half the price (even tuition is budget friendly). With a rich history colored by its surrounding countries, and simple and delicious cuisine, you will spend most of your time feeling captivated
Students can usually get by on ~$800 a month, with rent taking up about half of that at ~$400 a month. Rent is higher in bigger cities such as Lisbon. Many cities have traditional markets (as well as big supermarkets) where you can buy groceries for cheap, and you can spend under ~$10 for a sit down lunch. To top it all off, how does a ~$4 bottle of wine sound?
Germany is considered to be relatively cheap compared to neighboring countries in Europe. Most schools in Germany have little to no tuition fees for undergrad and Phd level students at public universities. Germany is home to idyllic scenery: rolling meadows and fields of flowers, medieval churches and castles, along with modern cities, magnificent museums, and some of the best beer in the world. With a vibrant arts and culture scene, it is a top study abroad destination for arts students.
Cost of living may be comparable to your home country, but you can save big bucks from not paying tuition. You can find a cheap meal out at around ~$12. Rent will be your biggest expense, sitting at around ~$900 for an apartment in the major cities, but rent can be significantly lower outside of these major hubs.
History comes to life in Greece—half of your education here will come from exploring ancient sites. Greece has some absolutely dreamy scenery and jaw dropping beaches. Students love the Mediterranean lifestyle; it is lively, and yet laid back, and there is plenty of time to relax from your studies. Mediterranean food is absolutely mouthwatering: savory gyros, tangy tzatziki, hearty moussaka, sugary sweet baklava will make up your student diet.
Greece has a low cost of living compared to neighboring European countries. You can pay rent from ~$200—$500, depending on location and age of your apartment. Eat out for some delicious Greek eats for ~$10 for a meal, and take a ride on transit for under ~$2.
Quick tips for affording study abroad
Now that we’ve listed some of the best and cheapest places to study abroad, here are some quick tips to make sure you can afford to study abroad:
- Look for scholarships and grants: Hello? Free money? Sign us up. This is tip #1 for how to study abroad for cheap.
- Currency exchange rates make a difference—you can study abroad cheaper by choosing a country where you can stretch your currency further
- Even if you study abroad in a budget, you will definitely still have to save ahead of time! Some expenses, such as flights and health insurance, will cost the same regardless of where you choose to study. Also keep in mind that you may not be working during your time abroad
- Make a budget—and stick to it! It’s easy to get carried away in the moment when you are studying abroad.
- Fundraise! This is one effective way to offset the costs of studying abroad. The best and easiest way to fundraise is through a fundraising platform (this is where FundMyTravel can come in!).
Study abroad—but cheaper!
Your study abroad adventure doesn’t have to break the bank—especially when you choose programs in one of the best and cheapest places to study abroad. It’s time to start debunking the myth that studying abroad is expensive—it really doesn’t have to be! With careful planning and a little bit of budgeting savviness, you can figure out how to study abroad for cheap. The most effective first step you can take is to choose one of the cheapest countries to study abroad, and the rest will follow!
Once you figure out the perfect location, you may even find that studying abroad is totally affordable! The best part is, many of the cheapest countries to study abroad offer just as much (if not more!) excitement and learning experiences as more expensive study abroad locations.
Jasmine recently graduated from Western University with a degree in Media, Information and Technoculture. She lived in 5 different countries before she turned 7 years old, but she claims that none of them “count” since she doesn’t remember them. She can’t wait to actually live in 5 different countries. In her spare time, you can find her playing with cats or watching food documentaries on Netflix.