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How Much Spending Money Should I Bring On My ILP Semester?

Posted by Kayla McGill on 10/29/14 12:25 PM

ILP China volunteers

 While pretty much everything is covered in your ILP program payment (airfare, room and board, training, visas, culture classes, etc.), here's what you'll be using spending money for (and give you a few tips on how to budget, too).

Think money is standing in your way of your dream of traveling and volunteering? Check out these ways to pay less for your ILP semester abroad

Like we mentioned, whether you spend a semester volunteering in Europe, or any of the other ILP countries, your airfare, housing, visa, 3 meals a day and culture classes are all covered. What isn't covered are all your personal expenses, which is why you'll need to bring along some spending money. 

What Are Personal Expenses? 

Here are a few of the most common ones:

Snacks and other food — 

All volunteers get three meals a day as a part of the program, but things like snacks, eating out at restaurants and food on vacations are on you. Volunteers love testing out the local cuisine during the semester, so plan on some extra cash for cool waffle ice creams in China, street tacos and churros in Mexico, these giant shakes in Lithuania and stuffed pretzels in Romania.

ILP China - street food!

Souvenirs!

For most people, these are pretty important, and are such a cool way to remember your trip when you come home after living abroad. Of course, if you don't have much spending money, you may opt to only bring home a couple of souvenirs (like the souvenirs you can't miss out on in Eastern Europe)  How much you spend in this category really is up to you. 

ILP Vacations 

This is one of the main reasons people volunteer with ILP in the first place — the chance to live abroad and travel! Here's how vacations work with ILP

Be prepared to buy train, airplane, and bus tickets as well as hotels/hostels and food while you are traveling on vacation. You'll also need money for museums and cable car rides up to the top of the mountain.  You and your ILP group will get to make all of your travel decisions, so you can make it as cheap or expensive as you want. As a head's up, things in Europe tend to be more similar to prices in America, so if you are looking to not spend as much on vacation (or on things during your semester), you might want to try volunteering in Mexico or Asia.

So ... How Much Should I Bring?

It's really up to you.  It's no fun being in another country and realizing you can't do that fun splurge on the Shanghai Wild Animal Park with your group because you simply didn't budget enough spending money.

We usually recommend people bring anywhere from $1,500-$2,500 on the program (that’s USD by the way) ... but we've actually heard from some volunteers that they spent over $3,000. Wonder why it's such a huge range?

How much you spend is really up to you, what you do, and where you go. Typically, most volunteers spend around $1,500, so you might want to shoot for that if you're tight on a budget.  Again, where you're going might have a pretty big influence. You might be looking at more than $1,500 if you're in Europe, or less if you're in Asia. 

It's pretty helpful to talk to alumni who've been to your country to get a better idea of what they spent and what they did. ILP Groups who went to Europe but traveled to Italy, Greece and France spend more than groups who vacationed in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. You can ask about spending money on your country's Facebook page once you've gotten assigned. 

ILP Europe

How Can I Do It On A Budget?  I Want To Spend Less. 

You'll have a better semester if you aren't worry about money the whole time. Here are some tips to help that happen! 

Plan

After you arrive in country, your head teacher will let you know the vacation dates for the semester. Make sure you know when the trips are so you can plan to have money during each of them. Don't run out of funds before your fun trip to Bangkok!

Book things early! Train tickets and plane tickets get expensive if you book them last minute, so try saving by booking them early. 

Quit eating out

We all want to go out to eat when we travel - it might be my favorite part of it actually! All the treats ... all the yummy local food.  If you're going out to eat instead of eating the food that is already provided to you, that is part of your personal costs and everything adds up quick. Save the eating out for when you're on vacation and have to eat out anyways.

Shop later

Buy things at the END of your semester. Throughout the semester you'll be able to get an idea of how much things should cost and your bargaining skills will also be better.

Spend wisely

Decide what really matters. Would you rather sip on Starbucks, or would you rather take a trip to see the Terracotta Warriors? Little things add up, so if you're on a budget, skipping out on treats, chips and ice means you could enjoy a weekend in Prague. 

The biggest thing that can add to your budget is doing more trips. You'll have a few scheduled vacation times where the bulk of your budget will go towards, but you can also do a shorter day trip every weekend if you wanted to - just know that that's going to increase your costs ... by a lot.


Here's how to save money on food while you travel and things to avoid doing while you're abroad!

ILP Mexico

It's really up to you how cheap or expensive your time living abroad is, so be prepared to budget, plan, and have the time of your life! We've got more money saving tips on our blog but you can also talk to an ILP representative about some discounts and promotions to help you save even more: 

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Topics: ILP Basics, Saving Money

Exploring The World For Over 25 Years

Hi! We are ILP, a non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. Check out our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

ILP Semester Abroad

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