Travel Resources

UW-Platteville STFL Students in France
UW-Platteville Education Abroad Students in Spain

Booking a flight, securing your travel documents, packing, and planning your additional travel are some the most exciting parts of planning for an education abroad experience, but it can all be a little intimidating at the same time.  UW-Platteville Education Abroad offers some resources and suggestions to make planning a little easier:

Apply for a U.S. Passport

A U.S. Passport is required to apply for any education abroad program and, more importantly, to leave the country and enter another.  Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website for more information on applying for a U.S. Passport.

Apply for a Visa

Many countries require that students obtain a visa prior to their arrival in that country, and it is the student’s responsibility to secure their own visa.  A visa is an official document affixed in an U.S. Passport by the country’s consulate, granting the student permission to live and study in that country for the duration that the visa is valid.  If necessary, students will be given additional visa information and application instructions upon application.  For the most up to date information on visa requirements, students can also visit the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Flights

Most education abroad programs will not require a “group flight” but will rather allow students to book their flight independently as long as certain arrival and departure requirements are met.  Students have the flexibility to book through a travel agent or through any number of online travel search engines or agencies.  Some tips from UW-Platteville Education Abroad include:

TIMING

1. Flights are usually cheaper during mid-week travel.
2. Check alternative itineraries by altering the leave and return dates, departing on a few days earlier can save students money.

ONLINE SEARCH ENGINES AND AGENCIES

Use an online search engine or agency to find the cheapest departure date/time and then go to the airline’s website to book the ticket.  Airlines may match or beat the price listed on the online search engine.

1. AirfareWatchdog.com offers additional tips on finding the cheapest flights
2. Student Universe offers discounted flights and deals for students

Packing

A suggested packing list will be provided to students upon acceptance.  However, it is also important to keep in mind that students often purchase additional items (local fashion, souvenirs, etc.) while abroad, so students should leave extra space in their luggage or bring an extra bag in their luggage for the return flight.  Most basic items (toiletries, school supplies, etc.) can be purchased worldwide, so students can bring a small supply to get them started and buy more in-country as needed.

Watch this video for some helpful packing tips!

Money

In most cases, setting up a bank account abroad is not advantageous or permitted for study abroad students.  Instead:

1. Take a small amount of U.S. Dollars to exchange into the local currency upon arrival.  Exchanging money in the host country will get students a better exchange rate and will give them enough cash to get them started as they are orientating themselves in the new location.
2. Use a U.S. debit card to withdraw local currency.  Withdrawing local currency through an ATM will often offer the best exchange rate and is very easy in most locations.  Students should confirm their U.S. bank’s international transaction fee and alert the bank that they will be traveling, so the card does not get cut off.  In addition, swiping debit cards at shops, cafes, grocery stores, etc. is not as common or accepted abroad, so it is important to have cash on hand.
3. Get a credit card just in case.  Having a credit card in case of emergency offers piece of mind for students and their parents.

Xe.com lists up-to-the-minute currency exchange rates for currencies worldwide.

Online Travel Resources

It is important for students to learn a little about their host country’s culture, history, and current events prior to departure, and some recommended resources include:

CountryReports.org: Country-specific cultural, historical, and statistical information.
ISEP Country Handbooks: Country-specific education, visa and residency, culture, daily life, money matters, health and safety, and packing information.
ThePaperBoy.com: Newspaper links from around the globe.
U.S. Department of State Country Specific Information: Country-specific safety and security, visas and residency, country facts sheets, and travel information.
U.S. Department of State Students Abroad: Information on everything from health to smart travel and from news and alerts to voting abroad.

Researching accommodations and must-see sites prior to traveling can save students a lot of time, money, and headaches.  Some recommended resources include:
HostelWorld.com: Read reviews on and book hostels world wide.
Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum: Travelers from around the world use this forum to see and give advice on everything from accommodation to culture.

Electricity, Converters, and Adapters

Step 1 Determine the plug configuration and voltage of your location abroad: The two-parallel-prong plugs and a 110 volt electrical system is standard in the United States, but not abroad.  Converters or adaptors, devices that students can plug their electronic device into and plug into the outlet, can help to bridge the gaps.  A converter will adapt to the outlet abroad and convert the voltage (typically 220 volts abroad) so not to “burn out” our U.S. electronics.  Adaptors will not convert the voltage but will adapt to the outlet.  These devices should be purchased before the student departs and can be typically found in most large retailers or online as buying them stateside will be much more economical.

Step 2 Only take the essentials: Hairdryers, irons, electric shavers, etc. can be easily purchased worldwide and then students don’t run the risk of ruining any expensive U.S. electronics.  Most new laptops convert voltage automatically, and if so, the power cord should have a label saying "Input 100V-240V/50Hz or 60Hz".  In that case, an adaptor will do the trick and a converter is not required.

Internet

Americans are very accustomed to quick, easy, and wide-spread access to the internet, but adjustments with regard to the speed, availability, and cost of Internet abroad must be anticipated.  Free Wi-Fi is not the norm in most countries, but internet cafes are very common and popular and will allow students to easily and reasonably connect to the internet.  Internet may or may not be available in the accommodation, but Internet can be easily accessed at most academic institutions once the student is registered.  More than anything, it is important to remember that every moment spent online is a moment that is not spent exploring the host country, meeting new people, etc.  Students should plan to limit their Internet usage and adjust to the availability in their host country and while traveling.

Cell Phones and Calling Home

Most U.S. phone providers do offer international plans, but they are not typically economical.  In addition, most cell phones sold in the U.S. have a software "lock" that prevents them from working on other networks.   If students do have an “unlocked” phone that uses a simcard, students can take their phone abroad and purchase a Sim Card and pay-as-you-go plan.

Most students will forgo all of the hassle and expense of using their U.S. phone abroad and will purchase an inexpensive phone abroad to connect with friends and their roommates or host family in-country.  Cell phones, comparable to U.S. track phones, can be purchased inexpensively in most countries and students can choose to purchase minutes and pay-as-they go instead of committing to a plan.  Recommendations on where to purchase a phone will be made during the on-site orientation at students’ program sites. 

As for calling the U.S., using a local cell phone can be very costly, but texting can be affordable.  More often than not, students choose to use Skype to connect with home.  Skype allows students to call other Skype users for free or to put money on their Skype account to call any landline or cell phone worldwide.