One of the classic college experiences is backpacking around Europe. It refers to the big hiking backpacks students would bring on these multi-week long treks around Europe where you could get a ton of culture without spending a ton of money. Frugality was the name of the game because students, in general, don’t have much money but what they do have in abundance is a thirst for culture (and beer!).
Fortunately, many places in Europe offer student discounts! We visited dozens of museums, churches, and other assorted attractions on our trip and at nearly each location we found that a sizable discount was offered to students. If the entrance fee to visit an attraction was €5 for an adult, the student price would probably be around €2. €10 tickets could be had for around €5-6. It was a pretty good discount.
International Student Identity Card
When we went on our vacation this summer, I wasn’t a student anymore (I graduated from my MBA program last May) and Martha wasn’t yet a student (she wouldn’t start classes until September). I still had my student ID from Johns Hopkins and it had no expiration date, but I felt that the best strategy would be to get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) to validate my student status. The process was easy, there was little validation that I was even a student, and the fees were a mere $20-$25 (I forget how much exactly) to get the card.
The benefit of getting the card is that it’s recognized throughout Europe as a student identification card. In many place, they required a student ID card with an expiration date. My JHU ID card would not have applied but the ISIC did.
Was It Worth It?
The funny thing about Europe is that half the time we said we were students, the clerk didn’t ask for identification. I think part of it was that we looked young enough to be students and part of the reason was because they didn’t really care.
Had we been checked at every location, we would’ve come out ahead by maybe $20-25 per person for the trip. We went to Europe for nearly a month and saw at least one attraction a day. It doesn’t take long for a $20 card to pay for itself if you’re saving a couple euros or pounds a day.
Overall, I was pleased we got the cards because it saved us some cash but if you have a regular student ID card with an expiration date, you can use that instead.