Travel Advice While Studying Abroad

By Livia Sinani, University of Virginia | ISI Florence Spring 2024

One of the main drawing forces for studying abroad in Europe is to travel. In Italy, where there are a variety of culturally significant destinations, exploring these places while abroad is a must. Fortunately, the academic schedule at ISI allows students to travel on weekends. Moreover, long break periods such as Spring Break, Fall Break, and extended weekends due to holidays offer opportunities for traveling to multiple cities. If you are interested in traveling while abroad, there are a few different things to consider: destinations; stays; transportation; finances; travel buddies; etc. Being informed on travel options may help you determine which path is right for you.

Traveling with Others
Having friends with you may relieve the stress of planning trips and being on your own. The presence of others not only provides companionship but also offers a support system when problems arise. Additionally, traveling in pairs or a group increases your safety. However, it’s also important to determine if you and your travel companions are compatible, as conflicts can come up. These disagreements may ultimately impact your ability to have an enjoyable experience at a new place.
There are several ways to avoid these conflicts. The easiest way to overcome them is to describe, in advance, what you wish to accomplish from your trips, to determine who has similar interests as you.

Traveling Alone
Another option is to take a trip alone. This approach offers a great way to promote independence and self-discovery, as people are pushed out of their comfort zone and forced to grow. You may have decided to study abroad to show yourself that you are capable of taking on a demanding yet rewarding endeavor. You can expand on being more adaptable, efficient, resourceful, responsible, and organized. If you are looking to do something new and exciting that will end up bettering you as a person, taking a solo trip may be for you.

General Traveling Tips

  • Make sure you bring your passport.
    Your passport is your only source of identity while abroad. Legally, you must carry your passport or a photocopied version of your passport while in Florence. Your passport will be scanned upon check-in if you are spending the night anywhere other than Florence and are staying at a hostel or hotel. Please be aware that forgetting your physical passport will prevent you from being accommodated, even if you have a digital or photocopied version.
  • Be aware of your surroundings!
    Europe has a high rate of pickpocketing. Be cautious of the location of your belongings (i.e.: phone, wallet, and passports). Avoid keeping your items in accessible places, such as open pockets or unzipped bags. Sometimes in packed areas, it’s beneficial to wear your backpack on your front or hold your purse close to your body to maintain awareness. Investing in a crossbody fanny pack may be beneficial if you tend to get easily distracted.
  • Be mindful of your transportation ticket times and the transportation companies you are traveling with.
    Some arrivals or departures for transportation may occur late at night, which can be daunting. To avoid the stress, ensure you have a safe way to your destination, such as taking a taxi or an Uber. Additionally, regarding taking trains within Italy, pay close attention to the specific train and transportation company your ticket is for. Multiple trains heading to the same destination may depart around the same time. If you accidentally board the wrong train, you may be required to pay a hefty fine.
  • Make sure you validate your train and tram tickets.
    While traveling on trains or trams in Europe, many require that your ticket is validated. Failure to validate your tickets can result in fines.
  • Create itineraries for your travel journeys in advance.
    Making a list of places to explore in new locations will help alleviate the pressures of traveling and being unprepared. Itineraries are also helpful for planning out which activities work best for your traveling, especially during weekend trips where there is little time to waste.              
  • Be sure to buy your tickets to tours, museums, or events online in advance.
    You can save time and money if you purchase your tickets in advance. At some tourist attractions and museums, discounts are also available to students. You may be able to identify the most cost-effective manner to buy tickets if you reserve them in advance.
  • Purchase plane tickets directly from the airlines to avoid conflicts with third-party retailers.
    The companies who offer airline tickets through websites like Skyscanner are third-party retailers, even if it could be less expensive to find them online. As third-party sellers have no direct connection to the airlines, it’s difficult to get in touch with the right people in the event of an issue. A more reliable option is to search on websites for the most affordable and efficient plane tickets, and then directly purchase the plane tickets from the airlines indicated on the tickets. This ensures better accountability and easier communication in case of any problems.
  • Manage your budget while abroad to be able to spend money on traveling.
    Keeping track of your finances, through a weekly or daily spreadsheet, can be a rewarding experience while studying abroad. It enables you to gain insights into your available funds and allocate them effectively to various priorities. I have used Excel to track my money and develop a budget during my time in Florence. This proactive approach to budgeting allows me to spend more money on memorable experiences and travel opportunities.

Resources for taking the train within Italy:

  • Italo
    Seats are provided with your tickets; therefore validation is not needed. 
  • Trenitalia
    Tickets need to be validated when checking in.

Other Resources and Links:

  • Airbnb: a website allowing you to book a stay at a home near your destination. The presence of reviews and information on each place allows you to choose the perfect home for your trip.
  • Booking: a website dedicated to finding multiple options for stays (hostel, hotels, villa, apartments) in the locations you are traveling to. It also includes options for discovering flights and renting cars.
  • Hostelworld: a website to find affordable hostels within the area you are interested in traveling to along with the time. There are multiple reviews and information available on different hostels that aid in determining the best place to pick for your stay.
  • Skyscanner: a website used to book cost-efficient plane tickets. There is also a feature that announces the times to travel that are least expensive.
  • Pink Taxi (Taxi Rosa): Taxi service operated to help women traveling at night. Runs from 22:00 (10:00 pm) till 4:00 (4:00 am). Number to call service in Italy: +39 055-4361904
  • BlaBlaCar: online marketplace for buses, ridesharing, and carpooling. Operating in 21 countries: Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, UK, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, India, Turkey, Mexico, and Brazil.