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Finances and budgeting for studying English abroad

In an ideal world you wouldn't have to worry about money while you were studying English, however most people the cost will play a part in the decision of where to study. If you plan a little before you leave you can make setting up bank accounts and budgeting much easier.

Opening a bank account

If you are studying for long periods of time it makes sense to open a bank account in the country where you are studying. There are several reasons for doing this. It makes it easier to pay bills. It reduces the cost of currency transfers and bank fees. It allows you to maintain a budget in the local currency. It is easier to document transactions if you have to make a complaint against your landlord or school.

In some countries (e.g. the US, the UK and Ireland) opening a bank account is very difficult. If you are using your home banking facilities such as credit card or debit card you will have to pay the exchange rates on transactions (this doesn't apply if you are coming from the euro zone to the Republic of Ireland). The easiest way to avoid this is to open a bank account before you leave home.

There are several ways to open a bank account. Probably the simplest is to see if your bank has an agreement with a bank in the country where you are going to study. Your bank may be able to assist in opening an account for you in a foreign country and transferring funds when requested.

If your local bank cannot open an account overseas you should find a bank who can. This is quite a simple process for banks in Australia and New Zealand as you can apply directly on the banks websites. In other cases it is easier to open a bank that has a global presence, such as HSBC, which will allow you to set up a bank account from one country and activate it once you arrive in another once you show valid ID such as a passport.

If you have no other option but to open a bank account after leaving your home country make sure you bring as much information with you as possible. Articles that can asssit you opening a bank account include proof of address (e.g. a bill or official letter addressed to you), identity cards and a letter from your school. In some cases a letter of reference from your home bank can help.

Services like traveltowork.co.uk enable you to open a bank account from most countries before you leave home. Similar services can be found in the Finance section of the individual country pages.


It is a good idea to have some local currency when you arrive in the airport to pay for taxis and for a couple of days until you can get to an ATM. Foreign currency is easily changed on arrival at exchange facilities located in international airports, but these may be closed if you arrive late at night. Travelers cheques are not widely accepted but can be changed in banks and authorised agents.

After a few days you will have a better idea of how much you will need on a daily basis for food, transportation etc. and where to find the closest ATM. Until you adjust to your new environment it is not a good idea to carry around large amounts of cash. It is much safer to carry a credit card in case of emergencies but remember it may not be accepted everywhere. Do not assume that you will be able to use your credit card in any country. Check before you go that it is accepted everywhere.


Some countries are more expensive than others to study and some cities are more expensive in these countries. Before you choose a school it is important to consider how much money you have and what kind of lifestyle you would like while you study. There might be more to do in big cities but these will be the most expensive places to live with much more temptation. If you study in a university town or campus there will be more budget options as well as activities which cost much less.

The tables below are merely a guideline to demonstrate the difference in costs for different countries. The money required will depend on the individual.

United KingdomIrelandAustraliaNew ZealandUnited StatesCanada
€300 / £250 / $490 €200 / £150 / $310€150 / £175 / $240 €120 / £95 / $190 €160 / £125 / $250 €155 / £125 / $245

  Rent of flat Bus/tube ticket Music CD Intnl paper Cup of coffee Burger meal
London (UK) €2,952/
Dublin (Ireland) €1,200
NewYork (US) €3,037/
Sydney (Australia) €1,547/£1,048 €1.48
Vancouver (Canada) €1,033
Johannesburg (SouthAfrica) €723
N/A €16.52
Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting 2006

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