Which Countries are the Cheapest to Study Abroad?

Contents

Studying abroad during your undergraduate or postgraduate years is a life changing experience that attracts more American students every year. Unfortunately, it is not free, and can actually be quite expensive in many cases. Not every country carries the same price tag however. We took the 48 most popular countries in which American students study and determined how cheap (or expensive) those countries were.

Highlights

  • Mexico, India and Guatemala are the cheapest overall countries to study abroad; Singapore, Switzerland, and Norway are the most expensive.
  • Of the ten cheapest, there are zero European countries, while in the ten most expensive there are six European countries.
  • Latin American countries make up 50% of the ten cheapest countries to study abroad.

The Rankings

48 Countries to Study Abroad chart

Cheapest Countries

In the table below you may see how each country ranks within the major factors we used to shape our simulated per semester cost. A "1" means the cheapest for that category while a "48" means the most expensive.

CountryRent+UtilitiesFlightGroceriesNightlife / Dining OutClothes ShoppingRecreationalMonthly TransportationMobileStudent Visa
1Mexico21475137286

2

India13115222121

3

Guatemala105161329203331

4

Peru1479612306251

5

Vietnam717152341343

6

Dominican Republic1131720242915826

7

Morocco3213241085478

8

Kenya418102612217641

9

Brazil622612159234233

10

Thailand5242117192818432

11

Ecuador881211382643847

12

South Africa15342106316309

13

Hungary1812831615221616

14

Cuba17111349147247

15

Russia2095161811102033

16

Turkey9191418419333242

17

Chile19131814717272933

18

Taiwan121440152731191230

19

Poland213878145141016

20

Costa Rica2262523283231221

21

Czech Republic24431111779361

22

Greece162823282314214338

23

Jordan13282036424025739

24

China25323193321111831

The Cheapest Overview

The top ten cheapest countries have representations from all over the world, though Latin America is certainly the most present. In fact, out of the 10 Latin American countries in our study, five are in the top 10 cheapest places to study abroad. The only Latin American country in our study that is outside of the 24 cheapest countries list is Argentina who is the 25th cheapest (24th most expensive) meaning overall, Latin America is a fantastic place to study while still saving money.

Europe, which draws over 50% of American students, has zero representatives in the top ten. Hungary, which got less than 1,000 American students in 2013-14 is the cheapest European country at #13 in our ranking. This neglected central European nation has one of the cheapest capitals of Europe in Budapest, where students can reap the benefits of a very cheap nightlife and affordable rents. For those who want Europe, but not the European prices, Hungary can be a great option. There are only four more countries from Europe within the top 24 countries: Russia, Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic who only received a total of 2.89% of students between them in 2013-14. Interestingly, the Czech Republic, which usually ranks towards the middle of the list in most categories, has the cheapest nightlife of any country. Yet perhaps the most surprising statistic about the top ten cheapest countries, is that only 12.8% of students studied in any of them. Nearly as many students studied in the U.K. alone than in all of those countries.

Costliest Countries

As we did with the cheapest countries, below you may see how the costliest countries rank within each major factor.

CountryRent+UtilitiesFlightGroceriesNightlife/Dining OutClothes ShoppingRecreationalMonthly TransportationMobileStudent Visa

1

Singapore48334548264735522

2

Switzerland473948464848374416

3

Norway441547474537394046

4

Australia464734403233432348

5

Ireland451029453035484124

6

United Kingdom422030393136401429

7

Netherlands414628343710413745

8

Bahamas4324643404420261

9

Denmark392639374612324844

10

New Zealand384035382523443540

11

Belgium40273844416303116

12

Israel363636414443343410

13

Japan354144292046424513

14

Sweden302542424324451927

15

France343041333934362014

16

Ghana37353319841461122

17

Italy294832353438241528

18

Germany333727253516381314

19

Austria32163730361829225

20

Tanzania284219321145121720

21

South Korea27444322213926911

22

Panama3142631134282711

23

Spain262322212227283933

24

Argentina234524274725134633

The Costliest Overview

The most expensive side of our rankings tells a very different story. Whereas there were zero European countries amongst the 10 cheapest, there are six amongst the 10 costliest. The common theme between them is they are all mostly from Northern Europe. With Sweden and Belgium also within the top 15, it makes this region the most expensive in the world to study. We should also note, although the U.K. sits in our 6th position, if we were to take into account just London, and not other cities such as Manchester, and Edinburgh, the U.K. would actually be the most expensive on the list.

Furthermore, of the “Big Five” of Europe: Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the U.K, who attract 40.62% of all Americans abroad, are all in the costliest list, but only the U.K sits in the top ten. France, Italy and Germany are the 15th, 17th and 18th most expensive while Spain is the 23rd. Spain is also the cheapest country of those that attract over 5% of all students, being about 16% and 33% cheaper than the equally popular Italy and France.

Also on the costliest list are the two major Oceania countries, Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand has similar costs to Australia, as both require expensive flights from the U.S, have expensive nightlife and costly public transportation. Nonetheless, New Zealand is still 25% cheaper than Australia.

There are no Asian nations in the top ten. The most popular Asian countries, Japan and China occupy the 13th and 26th costliest positions on our list, with the island nation being about 35.4% more expensive than China. Students studying in Japan will not experience any one particular expense to be extremely high, rather all categories are slightly more expensive.

Methodology

To compile the list of countries, we started with the Institute of International Education's data portal, which lists the number of American students that studied in each country around the world. We selected countries that had at least 500 students study there in the most recent year; the average number of students per country was 5,340. We then determined nine major factors we felt best reflected a college student's spending habits in a foreign country. The factors include the cost of rent and utilities, flights from the U.S, grocery costs, shopping for clothing, nightlife, recreational spending on a gym membership and movie ticket, a mobile phone plan and the cost of a student visa.

The data for rent, utilities, groceries, nightlife, shopping, and recreation were obtained through numbeo.com. The average cost of a flight was acquired through momondo.com's "flight insight" tool. The cost of a mobile data plan was obtained by numbeo.com for the cost of a minute, in addition to a study by the International Telecommunication Union who lists the cost of mobile data plans in different countries. Finally, we compiled a budget, which emphasized certain factors over the other to reflect the college student budget. For example, the nightlife budget we made larger than what a typical, non-student, would spend in that category. We then added the estimated totals and used those sums to rank each country.

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