Mr. Let’s Go on How to Go on Little Cash

Mark Warren, managing editor of the student travel guides Let’s Go and a Harvard senior, is all too familiar with this predicament. Which is why he recommends taking cheap flights with multiple layovers or mixing travel with stretches of volunteering or work. “There’s a diversity of opportunities,” he said, “everything from teaching English to volunteering on archaeological digs.”

Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Warren on how students can travel the globe cheaply. 

Q. How can students find ways to work or volunteer abroad?

A. Of course, my first recourse would be to look at the “Beyond Tourism” section of any Let’s Go book, but the Internet is also pretty reliable. UnitedPlanet.org has a lot of volunteer opportunities, especially in the developing world, as does VolunteerAbroad.ca and GlobalVolunteers.org. The British-based site GapYear.com has information on internships, au-pair jobs and volunteering.

Teaching English is the most popular thing to do. For that, I’d suggest LanguageCourse.net, which lists programs all over the world. It also takes you through the steps toward getting your TESOL or TEFL certification, which you’ll need to teach English in any official capacity. It’s also pretty easy to be an English tutor in an unofficial capacity. A friend of mine in Korea said students there will pay you to just sit and speak to them in English, not even teach it.

Q. Any particular programs that mix well with travel?

A. Some friends of mine worked on organic farms in Europe through Wwoof for a couple of weeks and then traveled around. Friends I know who are eligible for sponsorship from Taglit-Birthright Israel went to Israel, and they tacked on a jaunt through the Middle East or Europe afterward. A pretty common thing to do is find a hostel where you can work at the reception desk in exchange for a room. I’d suggest researching a few hostels and contacting them ahead of time to see if an arrangement could be worked out.

Q. Any tips for picking a region to explore?

A. I’d recommend a place that has cheap ground transportation. That’s a tough matrix to pin down: how much it costs to get there versus the costs once on the ground. It’s much cheaper to fly to Europe than, say, Vietnam, but if train tickets cost $200 each, those add up. So look up regional train lines and bus companies to get a sense of their prices before deciding where to go.

What’s easiest, especially in Europe, is to book the cheapest international flight you can find near your destination and then take a regional carrier like Ryanair or EasyJet to the final place.

Q. Any flight-booking sites you like?

A. For students, I like TravelCuts.com and S.T.A. Travel, which both factor student discounts into the airfare’s price. If you don’t have a destination in mind, SkyScanner.com gives you a list of all the places you can go from your home city and how much it would cost. Matrix.ITASoftware.com is a straight-up search engine, very comprehensive. And on Hipmunk.com, you can sort by price, duration, departure and arrival. I particularly like their agony index, which is a combination of duration, price and layovers.

Nov 23rd, 2012 | Posted in Web Resources
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