Packing, Money, & Communications
Pack lightly! Remember that you will be carrying your things around airports, train stations, subways, stairs, and cobblestone walkways, for example. Be sure you can handle your own bag(s).
Consider bringing fewer clothing items with the intent of washing and reusing clothing more frequently as laundry facilities and methods may be different in your host community. Additionally, most other items you need will be available in your host destination, and you can purchase them after you arrive.
Review advice on packing medications and assemble a small first aid kit with medicine for pain and digestive issues, a few bandaids for blisters, and other items for minor problems.
- Packing Sustainably
- Ultimate Study Abroad Packing Guide
- How to Pack Light for Your Study Abroad Experience
- Make a budget. This is primary advice from returnees. Most students tell us that they wish they had worked harder on this. Check out Budgeting for Study Abroad for tips and resources on creating a tentative financial plan.
- Arrange for any monthly bills (e.g., cell phone, credit cards) to still be paid while abroad.
- Become familiar with the local currency & exchange rates. Some websites and phone apps that may be helpful are My Currency Converter, Oanda, and XE.
- Most countries now use “PIN & chip” cards; request a card with a chip from your debit/credit card company if you do not already have one. Understand that it may be necessary to enter the PIN to complete a credit card transaction abroad. Be sure to have set a PIN or know what it is for your card before leaving. Some financial institutions require you to request this weeks in advance.
- Contact your credit and debit card companies prior to departure to notify them of your international travel dates and locations. Without travel notifications, the card fraud services may freeze your account(s) due to unusual transactions. Be sure to write down an international customer service number for your debit and credit cards.
- Check with your bank and debit/credit card providers about international transaction fees as these can add up quickly. Using ATMs at banks that have international partnership with your bank can greatly reduce or eliminate fees; find out if your bank has international partners before you go and be aware of daily withdrawal limits. When using your card at an ATM for the first time, be sure to do so during business hours in case there is an issue with the machine taking your card.
- Keep a list of your credit card numbers or make photocopies in case your cards are lost or stolen. Give one copy to someone in the U.S. and keep a copy with you in a safe place (not in your wallet).
- Depending on which country you are in, you may need carry more cash than you would at home. ATMs tend to offer the best exchange rates for getting cash, but get advice on this from your program host and current travel guides before departure. In some places, cash is used less frequently, and debit cards are necessary for most transactions.
- A prepaid Visa travel debit card can serve as a back-up to debit/credit cards and is available through AAA.
- Arrive with the equivalent of $100.00 – $150.00 in local currency. This will be helpful for buses, taxis, phone calls, tips (depending on the culture) and other incidentals when you first arrive. You can “buy” foreign currency from major banks (better exchange rate) or at the airport before leaving the U.S. (higher commission fees). If you are unable to get local currency before you depart, you may need to withdraw some upon arrival at your destination airport ATM so that you will be prepared to cover immediate needs. Be vigilant of your surroundings and belongings at all times when using ATMs.
- Depending on your host country and the duration of your stay, you may want to open an account at a local bank. However, this may be quite bureaucratic and arduous, both with opening as well as closing the account. Ask your program director whether they recommend opening a local bank account.
- Establish a communication plan with your family before you leave the U.S. Discuss how frequently you plan to contact home and which methods are most affordable and convenient. Remind your family that that it may take a few hours after you arrive in your host city for you to get situated and have a chance to contact home. Remember that overly frequent communication with your family and friends at home can make adjustment to the local culture more challenging.
- Research your cell phone carrier’s international calling and data options. In case of emergencies, you might be able to use your cell phone, but it might not be economical for daily use unless you are calling from WiFi areas with apps as WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, or Signal. You and your family should download these cost-saving, free apps before you depart after learning from program hosts which work best at that location. As a back-up, and for security, students are often able to rent or purchase a local phone and SIM card for a very affordable price. Many phone companies abroad have a "pay-as-you-go" phone that often has free incoming calls and/or texts. Alternatively, you may be able to rent an international SIM card to use in your own cell phone if it is unlocked or is equipped to take second SIM card. If your phone is locked, talk to your cell phone carrier about the possibility of unlocking your phone well in advance of departure and if it will work on international networks.
- Take an international calling card pre-loaded with some value just in case.
- In some countries, internet connections are much slower than in the United States, but in others, it is speedier. Check with your program director about internet availability on your host campus, in your residence hall/host family's house and around your host city. As an alternative, internet cafes are common in many overseas cities. Most Davidson IT services will be available to you regardless of where you travel in the world. You might consider a personal VPN service for extra privacy or data security, particularly on unknown or untrusted internet connections.
- Davidson participates in Eduroam, a secure, world-wide roaming access service that allows students, faculty, and staff to get internet connectivity easily when visiting other participating institutions. By using your Davidson network credentials, you can access Eduroam at more than 400 U.S. locations and hundreds more abroad. Eduroam locations and additional information are available on their website.
- Best International SIM deals
- Links to major carriers' international phone plans
- One SimCard
- What to Do if You Lose Your Phone
- Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Apps that may be useful (some require a fee, and others are free):
Please note that the Davidson College Office of Education Abroad does not endorse any of these items. We are providing these for informational purposes only and using any of them is at the sole discretion of each individual.