If you to decide to do some independent traveling during your time abroad, be sure to do some careful planning ahead of time. Hostels can be a less expensive "no frills" alternative to hotels. Sleeping can be dormitory style (everyone in bunks in one room) or in double or private rooms. Each hostel has different rules and restrictions, from imposing a curfew to establishing strict check-in and check-out times. Some hostels require that you bring your own linen, while others require that you have a Youth Hostel Membership, so be sure to check on regulations in advance. Read reviews of past guests. Early arrival at hostels is recommended as they tend to fill up quickly in popular destinations.
Trains and buses are very convenient for travel outside the U.S. and allow you to see the countryside. Here are some tips that may help you with rail travel.
You may need to purchase a ticket in advance, with a reserved seat, to ensure that you have a place on the train. Busy train lines can fill up quickly.
- Limit the amount of luggage you take. You may have to make a train transfer with a limited amount of time and climb stairs to get to the platform (don't expect elevators or escalators!). Traveling as light as possible will make it easier for you to carry your own luggage and make connections on time.
- Large suitcases can typically be stored in luggage racks at either end of the train car, but will be out of your sight. Luggage racks above your seat will be small and hold carry-on size luggage.
- You may need to purchase a seat reservation, in addition to a ticket - be sure to ask what is required when making your purchase.
- Train Travel in Europe:
- Eurail: Purchase a one-way or return trip ticket to a destination, or purchase a pass that can be used for travel to up to 28 European countries (exception: the United Kingdom).
- BritRail: Purchase train tickets to travel throughout the United Kingdom.
Low Cost Airlines
In Europe, there are low-cost, no frills airlines that offer very cheap flights to major cities all over the continent. Be aware that there are very strict luggage rules and usually no free meal service is provided. Travel as lightly as possible. Read the fine print before booking a ticket and check where the airport is actually located - sometimes low-cost airlines fly into remote airports and you will need to secure transportation to the final destination, which could be costly.
Travel/Study Time Balance
It is very exciting to be abroad and natural to want to explore new locations and visit different countries. While being abroad is a wonderful opportunity to see more new places, it is important to remember that your primary purpose is to attend classes and successfully complete coursework. Be sure to take your school work into consideration when planning your excursions. Remember, all courses taken abroad are for academic credit and will be counted in your CMU GPA. A great way to incorporate travel into your study abroad experience is to visit local sites during the regular term and travel to distant places during school breaks or after your program has ended.