Traveling While Abroad: Tips and Tricks

carmen miller headshot
Carmen Miller
May 6, 2024
Photo of a street corner in Vienna

One of the great things about Granada is that it’s a very convenient city to travel from, both to other cities in Spain and to different European countries. Spain has great bus and train systems, and the Málaga airport is also easy to access via a bus that runs several times a day from Granada to Málaga. As my semester abroad winds down, I’ve been intentionally spending the last several weekends in Granada, but I thought this would also be a good time to reflect on some of the traveling I’ve done. 

In addition to the IES Abroad-sponsored trips, I’ve been to Málaga, Madrid, Ronda, Cartagena, Vienna, and the Canary Islands, and I have more travel planned for after the semester ends. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about traveling, so I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up.

  • Make a plan (but don’t feel too bound to it): It’s good to have a plan, but when I’m traveling I also like to leave room for spontaneity. My favorite way to find this balance is to make a list of a few things I definitely want to do or see, and then deliberately leave time for spontaneous decisions – walking around a pretty neighborhood, having lunch somewhere recommended by a local, ducking into a cute museum or shop… Lots of my favorite things that I’ve done while traveling are things I wasn’t initially planning on doing, so I think that finding a good balance of planned and unplanned activities has made my traveling much more enjoyable overall. 
  • Collect important information in one place: This probably seems obvious, but I’m putting it here because it wasn’t something I consistently did when traveling until this semester. I started keeping a document (downloaded so I can access it offline) with transportation tickets, confirmation numbers, important addresses, etc. for each trip. I also put my list of must-dos in the same document so I have everything in one place. This makes it so much easier to keep myself organized and helps alleviate the stress of wondering whether everything is in order – no more scrambling to find a bus ticket bought a month ago in my inbox while I’m in line to have it scanned. I also used this document to make a short list of German key phrases when I went to Vienna. 
  • Take advantage of free and discounted things: This probably also seems obvious, but there are lots of free and cheap ways to explore a new place. Public spaces like parks are free to visit (and there are tons of gorgeous parks in Spain), and most cities have student discounts for museums and other attractions (and sometimes even public transit). There may also be days where entry to certain museums or monuments is free – even if these days don’t line up with your trip, doing a bit of research beforehand can be a good way to find inexpensive things to do that you might not otherwise have known about. 

    Also, many cities have free walking tours, where there’s no fee to sign up and you tip your tour guide at the end. These are a great way to learn about the general history of a city, and oftentimes there are also tours on more specific topics of interest (for example, I did a tour about famous writers in Madrid). I like to do a free tour on my first day in a city if I’m going to be there for a few days, because it’s an easy and low-cost way to get oriented while also learning about the place. Additionally, the tour guides are usually locals who are passionate about sharing their city, so they’re an excellent source of recommendations for everything from museums to visit to places to eat – my favorite café in Vienna was one my tour guide recommended for its excellent hot chocolate. 

  • Be mindful of transit times: Bus/train/plane tickets are usually cheaper early in the morning or late in the evening, and this has the added bonus of giving you more time in your destination. However, consider the time it will take to get to or from your housing to your transportation. Case in point: on my way to Vienna, I had a 9am plane from Málaga airport, which meant I had to get on the 5am bus from Granada. Not too bad – but the city bus (which is the easiest and cheapest way to get from my homestay to the bus station) doesn’t start running until 6 a.m., meaning I had to wake up at 4:15 a.m. and take a much more expensive Uber to the bus station. This all worked out fine, but I didn’t know when I bought the plane tickets that my morning was going to start quite so early. Similarly, I have friends who’ve arrived in the Málaga airport after the last bus back to Granada leaves, making an otherwise really easy trip back to Granada a bit more tricky. This is one of the situations where it’s worthwhile to do a bit of research beforehand to make sure you won’t end up in a lurch.  
  • Enjoy it! Again, this probably goes without saying. But coming from the Mid-Atlantic region, where traveling to another country requires significant effort, time, and money, I've really enjoyed the accessibility of international travel within Europe (so much so that I've devoted two weeks after my program ends to international travel) and I've also gotten a lot out of exploring various parts of Spain. While there are parts of traveling that can feel stressful or intimidating, I've also gained a lot of self-confidence by going on trips, both with friends and by myself, and really letting the adventure of it sink in.

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs
carmen miller headshot

Carmen Miller

I’m a Comparative Literature major at Haverford College with an interest in how cultures and stories interact with each other. I love baking, writing, hiking, and exploring new places. And I can never resist the siren song of a good library!

2024 Spring
Home University:
Haverford College
Explore Blogs