You have decided to apply abroad to pursue your higher education; congratulations! Being an international student is a journey full of new experiences and greater learning – but before you make any final decisions, you need to know - what is this all going to cost you?

As travel expenses, tuition fees and accommodation costs vary widely between different parts of the world, the answer to this question is not a straight-forward one and a fair amount of research is required to obtain specific answers. However, to aid you in this endeavour, we have compiled this useful list of some of the most common expenses you will encounter as an international student along with some useful tips on how to minimise your costs.   

Travel Expenses

Plane tickets are expensive and they vary in cost; book your tickets as early as possible, as rates shoot up closer to term start dates. To minimise this expense you should consider booking flights on budget airlines that offer fewer services but still get you to your destination. Having said this, some major airlines such as Lufthansa and American Airlines offer special discounted rates for students. Keep in mind that if you plan your journey with one or more layovers, the cost will significantly decrease. This results in longer travel time, but a cheaper price tag.

Student discounts are often available on airline tickets; search online for student travel agencies such as Student Universe or STA Travel or sign up for a student discount card such as the International Student Identity Card. Also, research the benefits of joining a frequent-flyer programme if you plan on travelling home often.

Visa Costs

Visa costs will vary country by country and cannot be discounted. The cost of a student visa to the United States is USD160. To attain a student visa to the UK will cost you GBP328 plus the additional mandatory health care surcharge of GBP150 per year.  

Tuition Fees

The average cost for tuition in the United States for an out-of-state student at a four-year college ranges from about USD20,000 to USD35,000 per year. In the UK, annual tuition fees for International students can range from GBP13,000 to GBP19,000. Many countries, universities and organizations offer financial aid, scholarships and student loans to help you finance your education make sure you research the eligibility requirements for these cost-cutting options.


Student housing on campus is usually the most economical way to live while studying abroad; however, many students eventually opt to move off-campus. Find a flatmate if you choose to rent an apartment sharing the cost of rent, utilities and groceries will save the both of you money!


Living on campus will significantly reduce your commuting costs. Alternatively, if you live off-campus it is important to know that student discounts on public transportation and free college shuttle buses are often available.


If you live on-campus, students are usually offered a range of university meal plans to choose from; those who live off-campus, however, have to fend for themselves for basic sustenance! Find out whether there are discount or wholesale supermarkets in your area where you can purchase food and household items at a lower cost.  

School Supplies

Every student needs school supplies! Check to see if there are student discounts offered at bookstores and supermarkets where you can purchase stationery and other school-related items.


It is imperative that you obtain health insurance to cover the cost of any illness, injuries or medical condition that you may incur while studying abroad. Many health insurance companies have specialised international student health plans that cater to the specific needs of students living away from home. Universities also often offer student health insurance plans at affordable rates.  

Personal Expenses

There are a few personal expenses that you definitely want to budget for furnishing your living space is one of them! There is a huge second-hand market in college towns, and you should take advantage of this when looking to furnish your dorm room or apartment on a budget. Check bulletin boards, the school newspaper and local online forums someone is bound to be selling exactly what you need.

If you are in need of some proper winter clothing or any clothing for that matter head to your local thrift store or search for garage/yard sales around your area. They are they perfect places to purchase not only clothes, but also decoration pieces, furniture and appliances on the cheap.  

Do not forget about entertainment expenses! Set aside some money for you to head to the movie theater, eat out or catch a live concert. Costs will vary, especially between a small town and a big city. Research the average prices online so you can budget this amount into your monthly expenses and remember to look for student discounts!

Studying abroad is not cheap, however, expenses can be curtailed if you utilise the options mentioned here. Be smart with your finances - remain aware of your budget and keep track of your expenses!

About the Author: Muneeza Kizilbash grew up in the United States and Pakistan and was active in her university’s International Student Council. Now settled in Dubai, she loves to inform, educate and entertain her readers through her writing.