Let’s talk money. We all want to travel, but our bank accounts may seem to suggest otherwise. I financed my trip by living with my parents and saving money while working during and after college. If you’re concerned about budgeting for CIEE’s volunteer in Spain program, this post will help you figure out money matters before jumping on that airplane.
The Up-Front Expenses
Let’s start with the most obvious expenses: the program fee and airfare. As you may already know, the program fee is $900. While it’s true that you can find cheaper programs or even those that don’t charge a fee, it’s also true that CIEE will work for you for this fee. When considering that this money goes towards pre-departure and in-country assistance, travel insurance, airport transportation, orientation and its associated accommodations, as well as school and host family placements, the program fee is pretty reasonable.
However, the next big expense is airfare. Unfortunately, with CIEE, your placement will not be guaranteed until 2-3 months before your departure, which means that airfare will be a bit more expensive. My round-trip flight cost $884 and I bought it about a month and a half before departure. In all, my program fee and airfare came to a total of $1,784. As a result, I’d suggest having about $2,000 saved for these up-front expenses.
Beyond up-front expenses, don’t forget about costs such as your background check and purchasing travel necessities. My background check was $62, which brings my total up to $1,846. I also bought a small gift for my host family and teaching materials for my school. These materials all cost under $50. You may also need to purchase items such as international electronic adapters and converters, luggage locks, and other miscellaneous items, if you don’t already have them. Ideally, these necessities will be minor expenses and can be covered under the $2,000 that you have saved for up-front costs.
Personal Travel Costs
Living with a host family is extremely economical, as they take care of your living expenses. You won’t have to worry about groceries or rent. In fact, the most extra money I spent was on two personal trips and souvenirs. Consequently, the amount you’ll spend from here on out is more or less up to you. Obviously, the more independent travel you plan, the more you will spend. However, in general, I suggest having about $1,000-$2,000 to put towards emergencies, personal travel, and foreign currency exchange, which can be quite expensive.
My Personal Spending Break-Down
In all, I spent a few hundred Euros on each of my personal trips and about 40 or 50 Euros on souvenirs. My first trip in Asturias was more expensive because I booked my lodging late. Consequently, I spent 181€ on 2 hotels for 5 nights. I then spent an estimated 160€ on attractions, bus fare, and food. My travel buddy and I also splurged on a spa at one point, which was a substantial expense. Without that indulgence, I probably would’ve spent a little under 100€ on attractions. Overall, for my first trip, I spent about 340€.
On my second trip, I spent about 60€ on hostels for three nights in Bilbao and one night in Madrid. My bus tickets between cities cost about 60€ (for 4 different buses) all together. On my second trip, I went grocery shopping and ate cheaply at delis, supermarkets, and cafes, as I was traveling solo. I estimate that I spent 45-55€ on food for this trip. I also did a lot more free sight-seeing instead of spending on attractions. For this reason, the cost of my second trip comes to about 135€. Overall, the combined cost of both my trips is an estimated 475€. Add the 40-50€ for souvenirs and my personal spending comes to about 515-525€. According to Google, this amount is $583.77-$595.11 in USD.
Overall, my total estimated trip cost (between up-front expenses and personal expenses) was a little over $2,441.11. Consequently, you should have at least $2,500- $3,000 saved up to travel abroad on CIEE’s volunteer teach in Spain program. It may also be wise to have an extra $500-$1,000 saved for emergencies, like missing your flight, just in case. Basically, I suggest having $3,000-$4,000 saved up, though, depending on how much you travel, you will probably only spend about $2,500-$3,000.
My Parting Advice
My last bit of advice is to use your Visa or Mastercard to get Euros at ATMs while abroad. While ATM fees can be high, they should be significantly cheaper than going to bank. Also, putting currency on a money travel card isn’t as good a deal as it may sound, as you still have to pay the currency exchange rate and it’s not much cheaper than using your Visa card. The money card can be convenient if you don’t want to stop at ATMs, but be careful not to put too much on it at once, as buying and exchanging currency is expensive. (I made the mistake of putting too much money on a money card and spent $300 that I didn’t need to spend!) Finally, it is wise to carry cash and credit cards, as Spaniards use more cash than credit.
Overall, while the amounts I’ve listed can give you a ballpark idea of travel expenses in Spain, there is no one specific amount that you should have saved before volunteering abroad through CIEE. As long as you have about $2,500 to pay for up-front fees and other necessities, the rest is mostly up to you and your personal spending and travel habits. Only you know your habits best. Remember that travel within Europe is generally cheaper than within the United States, and booking hostels can save you a lot of money. With this, I bid you a safe and rewarding travel abroad experience and may your bank account grant you many more!