Yes, it’s possible to study abroad on a budget – airfare included!
If budget is a concern for you or your students, studying abroad doesn’t have to be out of reach.
Study Abroad Association helps facilitate a variety of affordable study abroad programs that will meet educational goals while staying under budget. We’ve put together a look at eight destinations where it is possible to design very affordable yet in-depth faculty-led programs for under $2,000 including airfare, meals, accommodation, travelers insurance, excursions, cultural activities, classes, on-ground staff and more.
We build itineraries on a daily basis and we have taken the following factors into account while building this list of affordable study abroad destinations:
- knowledge from our professional experience building itineraries budget data from the last 10 years
- the country’s cost of living (transportation, meals, shopping, etc)
- feedback from past students on their expenditures
- cost of roundtrip flights from the United States
- the popularity of the program. Higher attendance often leads to lower costs.
- risk management and costs to make sure arrangements are made properly
- the bureaucracy and the ability to customize programs
With these factors in mind, read on for a list of the best places to organize faculty-led affordable study abroad programs, along with all programs you can organize in all those destinations.
Now you don’t have any excuse but to organize an excellent and affordable program for your students.
Mexico, a large country in Latin America and directly South of the United States, is an obvious destination but not to be overlooked. Although it borders the United States, Mexico has a completely different culture and offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Spanish-speaking world. Given its proximity, flights from the United States are very affordable. Mexico not only has great food and cheap transportation, but also a very in-depth culture with the possibility to develop various study abroad programs here.
Mexico is known for its beaches overlooking the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as for the varied landscapes, which include mountains, deserts, and jungles. Across the nation, there are ancient ruins such as those of Teotihuacán or the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, and towns dating back to the Spanish colonial era. The modern life of Mexico City, the buzzing capital, is characterized by exclusive shops, prestigious museums, and gourmet restaurants.
A program in Mexico will transport you and your students to a magical and unique country and journey through archeology, luxurious nature and white beaches. You can admire the ruins of the mysterious Mayan civilization set in beautiful natural contexts and visit cities that still show the attachment to the traditions of their population.
Spanish, Aztec and Mayan, Caribbean and Arab: a multitude of cultures through the ages have left their mark on its inviting gastronomic traditions. The typical dishes are tortillas and tacos, burritos and guacamole, huevos rancheros and churros: Mexican cuisine is well known and appreciated almost everywhere in the world and has even been awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Let’s not forget how long the tradition of gastronomy is here: Pre-Columbian societies already consumed pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes and corn more than five centuries ago, ingredients that are still omnipresent in kitchens found in every corner of the country. Among the things to eat in Mexico, the most bizarre may be chapulines, fried and flavored grasshoppers, or perhaps ants in mayonnaise that can be found in the best restaurants in Mexico City. In Mexico there is no official language in the legal sense; Spanish is the most common language, but there are also many Amerindian languages spoken by the locals. English is well known especially in the border areas and in those with a greater number of tourists.
Affordable study abroad programs in Mexico:
For affordable study abroad programs in Mexico, Spanish immersion is a top choice. This program is designed to help students learn the Spanish language through immersion. Each level includes grammar, reading, writing, speaking, oral comprehension and socio-cultural aspects such as Mexican history, literature and culture seminars. Most programs also include excursions to different cities.
Education, Social work, Sociology, Music, Other Humanities subjects
Building blocks of a very rich and ancient cuisine that have been a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2010. The basic ingredients of local cuisine have become an integral part of diets all over the world, including the Mediterranean one. Foods such as corn, chili beans, pumpkin, chocolate, but also the relatively new (and now more trendy than ever) avocado, amaranth and chia are all domesticated here. With such a rich gastronomic heritage, Mexico makes for a perfect destination for affordable study abroad programs in the culinary arts.
With many NGOs that focus on a variety of projects, service-learning programs are also another affordable study abroad option. During these programs, students will interact with children with teenagers, work on service projects where necessary and be exposed to all aspects of non-profit organizations. By working with NGO leaders, staff and equal-level volunteers, your students will perform daily administrative tasks and learn how to plan a social project or fundraising campaign to promote public health.
Biodiversity, Sustainability, Agriculture, and Conservation
The environmental policy organization responsible for the conservation of biodiversity in Mexico is made up of protected natural areas. These are land or aquatic areas of the national territory which concern the various ecosystems, in which the original environment has not been altered and which generate ecological benefits that are increasingly used and appreciated. Natural monuments, Area of protection of natural resources and Area of protection of flora and fauna.
National Parks & Biosphere Reserves
The journey through Mexican nature is a fascinating journey through a land of unique landscapes and great fauna richness. The biodiversity speaks for itself; in fact in nearly 60 national parks and the numerous animal species that live in Mexico’s waters their natural habitat. Mexican nature, therefore, passes through spectacular natural reserves and unforgettable marine parks but also dedicates a stop to canyons and waterfalls.
History, Millennial Civilizations, Architecture & Arts
Mexico’s history, from the ancient to modern times, has strongly influenced the architecture, art, language, and lifestyle of its inhabitants. Affordable study abroad programs in this discipline focus on teaching students about the region’s varied history through hands-on learning.
Similarly, Mexico is rich in anthropology. Through this program, which includes multi-day excursions, students will interact with the complexity of the local culture and learn how the influence of the Mayans is very different throughout Mexico.
7. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is an overseas territory of the United States, so out of all those on this list, it’s one of the easiest destinations to visit. No passport is needed and Puerto Rico uses the same phone number system, currency, banking system, and even university system as in the United States. Almost everything works the same as back home, even Uber. Flights are very affordable and depending on the departure location, there are lots of direct flights too. The capital of San Juan offers a mix of history and new buildings. In the Old part (Old San Juan) you can find buildings dating from the 16th century, including the San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal fortresses and the old city walls. Brightly colored houses line cobbled streets and shady plazas, alongside small cafes and authentic Caribbean restaurants. In the modern section, Condado, everything changes, new buildings, hotels, and restaurants are the predominant characteristic of this area, of course as well as beautiful beaches.
Puerto Rico also hosts the largest US Rainforest National Park, El Yunque National Forest. Here it is possible to study its fauna and flora at it’s best while listening to the beautiful sound of the coqui frogs.
In terms of the cost of living, Puerto Rico is not the cheapest amongst the Caribbean Islands. Lunch is around $10 and dinner around $20. Also Uber has similar costs as in the continental United States. Accommodation varies from area to area, around the largest city of San Juan it ranges from $80 a night for a simple private room all the way up to $250 or more for a luxury suite.
In Puerto Rico, we collaborate with one of the best local universities on the island as well as with an outstanding on-ground team and guides. This gives us the chance to customize various faculty-led programs for under $2,000 with airfare included.
Affordable study abroad programs in Puerto Rico:
Marketing and advertising, Radio, Photography, Journalism, Design with studio Lab facilities for VR / AR (virtual reality / Augmented reality), Animation and 3D.
Education, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Social work, Sociology
Theatre, Music, Other Humanities subjects
Also good for undocumented students – DACA
Biology, Nursing, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Administration Health, Physiotherapy
All the service projects here are fully vetted. The students will get the chance to conduct various research and get involved with the local community in need. It’s important to complete the entire project by giving a finished product or service to the hosting community.
The Caribbean weather makes Puerto Rico a good place to practice sports all year round. Our sports programs here allow students to get involved in various sports activities, such as swimming, tennis, baseball, basketball, rugby and more. They will also have the chance to have mini on-campus competitions/matches with local students.
Business and Entrepreneurship
Due to the similar economical structure and ties to the United States, there are lots of ex-pats who have relocated to San Juan. That means the city hosts vibrant and interactive Co-working spaces where the students can get involved in interesting case studies. Also, the university that we are collaborating with has an internal student startup hub to support student entrepreneurship fully.
While Puerto Rico is a great choice for an affordable study abroad destination, keep in mind that Puerto Rico is not the cheapest destination on this list. The cost of meals is higher here than in other parts of the Caribbean. Public transportation is almost non-existent, so taxis or minibus are required all the time and accommodation is not cheap.
6. The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is also a very popular destination amongst students and faculty looking for affordable study abroad destinations. To the West, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Its terrain comprises rainforest, savannah, and highlands, including Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s tallest mountain.
Here the cost of living drops even further to reflect the authentic lifestyle of the Caribbean. You can get lunch for $5 and dinner for around $10. Also in terms of accommodation, Santo Domingo offers very affordable solutions, with basic privates starting from $30-$40 per night.
The island is also very accessible in terms of flights. A roundtrip flight from Florida can be as low as $250. Despite its beauty, this destination needs a lot of help, especially local communities outside the capital, Santo Domingo one of the Caribbean’s oldest cities. The historic core of the Capital, the Zona Colonial, has buildings that date to the 1500s, including the cathedral, which was the first built in the New World. The combination of the long last history, nature, and accessibility makes the Dominican Republic, an appealing place for many students.
Affordable study abroad programs in the Dominican Republic:
We personally support a local community called Las Piedras, The Rocks. This community is only located 20 minutes by bus from Santo Domingo and it is in need of help in various areas including Community Development and Leadership, Early childhood education, healthcare, business, and engineering.
Students are able to work at a local mini-hospital in Las Piedras. Here many forms of medical students including general assistants, nurses, optometrists, physiologists and lots of other health-related students will have the chance to either shadow doctors or get hands-on experience helping local children and family from the village.
There is a plan to develop a sports and business center in the community of Las Piedras. This will not only attract additional athletes and sports students but will allow local entrepreneurs to create sustainable opportunities for themself and the community. Hence, all sorts of STEM students will be needed to help the community in various activities: Agriculture, Gardening, Construction, and Renewable Energy and other important areas.
Other interesting programs to be developed here are:
Biology, Sustainability, Agriculture and Conservation, History, Literature, and Business.
Located 90 miles off the coast of Key West, Florida, Cuba is the largest Caribbean island nation. Its neighbors are the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Haiti. Its varied geography includes rolling farmland, rugged mountains, urban metropolises, quaint Colonial villages, and white-sand beaches. Cuba’s population is richly diverse, with 11.2 million residents. Despite its Native roots, the most profound effects on Cuban culture are the result of European, African and North American influences.
The Capital, Havana, was founded in 1519 by the Spanish. By the 17th century, it had become one of the Caribbean’s main centers for ship-building. Although it is today a sprawling metropolis of 2 million inhabitants, its old Centre retains an interesting mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments, and a homogeneous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates, and internal courtyards.
Life here is very affordable compared to the United States. You can easily have lunch for $5 and dinner for less than $10. Despite its closed structure, the country’s main health and education system is taken as an example by many.
For United States citizens, getting into Cuba is not as easy as it might seem due to travel restrictions, but with enough preparation, the process can be smooth and various in-depth student programs can be organized.
Affordable study abroad programs in Cuba:
Social – Political – Economic Subjects
Here the students will have the chance to walk around Havana accompanied by a University professor to discover how real life is in Cuba. Get introduced to Cuban history while sharing breakfast at a Cafe Close to the University. Hit the streets to discuss the education and health systems, the relationship between wages and cost of living, the dual currency system and to more fully understand the “Cuban phenomenon”.
It is an exhilarating time in US-Cuba relations. Recent changes in political policy are generating substantial interest from the business and legal communities in America. As the process of normalized relations continues to move forward irrespective of a new administration in Washington D.C., Americans are visiting Cuba to learn and experience with their own eyes the quickly evolving society, a complex island nation inextricably linked to the United States in historic, geographic and economic terms. Together with a local university we have customized itineraries for numerous educational tours to the island to get an in-depth look at the Cuban legal system while also experiencing a rich assortment of cultural attractions.
Discovering religious syncretism of Cuba. Students will travel to the township of Guanabacoa, the cradle of Afro-Cuban culture, visit a local museum to learn about the history of the African religions that have survived up to the present day. Then, they will meet Damian, a “Babalawo” of Santeria, at his altar. Damian will explain how he looks into people’s future and gives advice based on what he sees. We’ll end the day listening to emblematic music, played by Damian ́s family and enjoying some typical snacks cooked by neighbors of the community. This is just a day highlight of what you can do with religion-focused programs.
Students will start the day sharing breakfast with a University professor. Then they will visit San Diego de Los Baños, a town located in Pinar del Río province. A family of “campesinos” will receive them in their farm as old friends. Here, they will get in touch with their daily endeavors, visiting the self-consumption crops and feeding the animals. Then with the students, we will go to explore the forest, to get inside a cave and a river. Again, this is just a 1-day highlight of what the students can experience while on an Agriculture program in Cuba.
Sustainability and Environmental programs
Cuba is a world leader in sustainable ecological practices and has begun making the transition from agricultural imports to low-footprint, sustainable farming. It’s also one of the first countries to ban the sale of incandescent lighting, having replaced bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescents.
Cuba needs support and that’s no secret. We work with various projects that support different local realities where students will be able to assist in various projects. Including the promotion of Afro-Cuban culture from different perspectives, a sociocultural experience for the inclusion of young people and adults with Down Syndrome. Psychoballet workshops, traditional dances, theater, music, sports, crafts, and other life preparation topics are all aimed to facilitate social transformation and environmental-social-economic sustainability.
Other subjects and lectures worth having while in Cuba are :
“The Cuban tourism industry and its economic relevance”
“The historical differences between Cuba and the United States”
“Cuban’s health care system: experiences and perspectives”
‘’Political System in Cuba: keeping the consensus’’
“The Cuban’s economic relations with Latin American and Caribbean”
“The economic dynamic and transformation process in Cuba”
Located on the Pacific coast of South America, Peru is a vast country with a lot to offer. It also happens to be an affordable study abroad destination. With a large coastline, lush jungles in the Amazon, deserts in the south and stunning peaks in the Andes, Peru has everything you could imagine (watch our short video about Perù).
Additionally, Peru offers some of the oldest archaeological sites in the Americas with Caral, the oldest city dating back to 2600 BCE. Peru’s vast history and rich, thriving culture, makes it one of the most unique destinations on the planet.
The cost of living in Peru is very affordable. On average if you eat in local restaurants you can expect to pay between $2-$5 for a wholesome meal including soup, a main dish, and a drink. Accommodation can range between $15 – $20 for a private room in a hotel and public transportation is extremely affordable often costing less than $1. Peru is world-renowned for its cuisine and fusion dishes. Traditional recipes from the Andes, Amazon, and seafood from the coast provide a wide variety of recipes, ingredients, and diversity in the cuisine. Often you can find flights to Lima, Peru for $700 – $1,000 roundtrip.
With so much to offer, it’s easy to develop a wide variety of affordable and accessible faculty-led programs in Peru.
Affordable study abroad programs in Perù:
With affordable homestays and university classroom space, Peru is an excellent destination for Spanish Immersion programs. What better way to practice the language than to be completely immersed in it?
Anthropology / Archaeology
Offering countless protected archaeological sites and a rich culture that is still prevalent, students studying anthropology, sociology, and archaeology will have endless educational opportunities. Unique cultural activities including making adobe bricks, potato blessing ceremonies, visiting remote communities to learn about textiles and traditional backstrap weaving, preparing a traditional Pachamanca (earth oven) and picking and roasting your own coffee, provide unique, hands-on cultural experiences with a ton of wow factor!
Sustainability / Global Climate Change
Peru is home to 92% of the glaciated areas in the tropics. With a rapidly changing climate, students can witness climate change first hand in Peru by observing the melting glaciers with experts. Additionally, students can communicate with local farmers and experts in the field to understand the effect that climate change is having on their livelihood and better understand Peru’s plan for protecting their environment and citizens.
With around 24% of the population living in poverty, there are countless ways to give back and engage with Peruvian communities in meaningful ways. From teaching English at local schools and directly supporting traditional backstrap weaving communities to providing medical mobile clinics and dental hygiene services to understanding community needs, with a little bit of creativity and empathy the sky’s the limit in terms of what can be done. Service-learning programs are essential, as students are able to give back to Peruvians and show their appreciation and gratefulness for sharing their culture and country.
3. Costa Rica
In many aspects, Costa Rica is a success story in terms of development. It is considered an upper-middle-income country, which has shown steady economic growth over the past 25 years. Costa Rica boasts a literacy rate of 96 percent making it the most literate population in Central America. Costa Rica is also a global leader for its environmental policies and accomplishments making it the perfect destination for Biology, Biodiversity Conservation, Sustainability, Education, Language and Culture students. Our local ‘tico’ guides have been working with us for almost ten years now and are very experienced with leading student groups.
Some of our most affordable study abroad programs take place in Costa Rica. As a result of long-term collaborations with local institutions and organizations, we are able to provide in-depth programs based on your academic needs.
Fuel your body with some of the most nutritious and fresh meals you can find in the Americas for approximately $7 for lunch and $10 for dinner. For a better experience, we can also include all meals into the program, meaning that travelers will explore the happiest country on Earth carefree. Pura Vida!
Affordable study abroad programs in Costa Rica:
Here biology programs provide an extensive introduction to the diverse Costa Rican ecosystem, during which students can study biology in the field and participate in research station projects in this rich, tropical environment. Students will have a special opportunity to take part in research station activities at Monteverde Cloud Forest. The station lies at the highest point of the Tilarán Mountain Range, which creates a distinctive microclimate in a lush, dense, and windy cloud forest. It’s here that students will study and inspect the flora and fauna of Monteverde.
Language and Culture
There’s no better way to study a language than by traveling to the country of origin and conversing with and learning directly from local native speakers. Costa Rica language immersion programs do just that, and our programs cater to your students’ language skill level, from beginner to advanced.
STEM and Sustainability
Take an intimate look at nature conservation, as well as sustainable practices in energy production, farming, and more. Students will learn about unique methods to solve the challenging natural and ecological problems humanity faces today by touring plants, companies, and farms that are leading the way in innovation in these sectors. In addition to the educational portion of the program, travelers will have the opportunity to explore Costa Rica’s amazing tropical landscapes and learn how locals care for the land in a sustainable manner.
Belize is the perfect mix of education, history, and culture. The guides we’ve chosen in Belize are top in their field and will be able to answer nearly any question you throw at them. They are truly passionate about the country they teach in and for good reason; Belize is a beautiful mix of rainforests, rivers, and ocean. Packaging all of this, of course, is the affordability. Not only is Belize a hot destination for inexpensive round trip airfare, but it also won’t hurt your wallet once you get there. Easily get large home-cooked breakfasts for just $5 every day.
Affordable study abroad programs in Belize:
Nursing and Allied Health
During our Allied Health program in Belize, students will get an overview of the Ministry of Health and Social Medicine in Belize in addition to a look at traditional natural Maya Medicine and Remedies. Participants will have the opportunity to shadow medical professionals in diverse medical areas and assist local communities.
The tropical world of Central America is a learning opportunity and exploring it with our local guides who have a lifetime experience living and working in the environment makes a huge difference in interpreting and understanding the world around you. Some of the activities include visits to the Belize Zoo to learn about native species from zoologists. Visit rescue centers for green iguanas and medicinal gardens. Hike through dense rainforest and snorkel along the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Archaeology and Anthropology
Archaeologists believe that Belize was at one time the center of the ancient Mayan world. Students will visit some of the most famous Belizean archaeological sites while also interacting intimately with locals to learn the customs and traditions that shaped ancient civilizations that are sometimes still practiced today.
A common social understanding in Belize is that each individual is entitled to an equitable and moral education. Therefore, it is interesting to examine how special education policies and practices in this country have developed over time, particularly in the area of inclusive education. Our programs allow students to learn more about the teaching techniques adopted by local schools to provide education to Belizean individuals with special needs. Critical factors that have shaped educational practices are discussed and questions influencing future practices and research in the country are covered.
Our Service Learning program takes students to three cities in Belize, providing the opportunity to give back to local communities through volunteering and taking part in community projects. The mission is to develop and empower the community by improving the lives of children and adults. Highlights of projects and activities travelers will assist with include tutoring and homework assistance, practicing extracurricular activities such as singing and sports, going on outings with the children, assisting in maintaining the yard of the facility, and much more.
The winner of our shortlist for the most affordable study abroad destinations is Guatemala!
Located south of Mexico, Guatemala is home to volcanoes, rainforests, and ancient Mayan sites.
Guatemala City, the Capital, is home to the stately National Palace of Culture and the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Antigua, west of the capital, contains preserved Spanish colonial buildings. Further to the West, there is Lake Atitlán, formed in a massive volcanic crater, surrounded by coffee fields and villages.
The cost of living in Guatemala is amongst the most affordable in all Central and South America. With 10$ you can have both lunch and dinner. In terms of accommodation, it’s easy to find good and clean places for around $20 per night.
With this cost of living plus affordable airfare is possible to build incredible programs from around $1,600 – $1,700.
Affordable study abroad programs in Guatemala:
Group help is very much welcomed in Guatemala. Therefore anything related to service-learning is going to end up in a win-win situation for both the local communities and students. The students will have meaningful engagement and enhancement in personal and professional development, by offering you time and talents to serve the local children and community.
Childhood and Secondary Education
Here we collaborate with a local association that provides underprivileged children with an education. During the year they have managed to build two primary schools and a secondary school which houses over 500 Guatemalan children who would otherwise lack sufficient resources to attend Guatemala ́s public schools.
Social Businesses and Entrepreneurship
We have joined various initiatives called: Impact Experiences, Impact coffee and Impact language redefines doing business; using social enterprise as a self-sustaining model while maximizing social tourism operations.
Spanish Language Immersion
We run a Spanish School combined with sustainable tours. In fact, while learning Spanish your students will also have the chance to immerse themself in authentic experiences and excursions that give back to the community. On top of that, you will have the chance to stay in Guatemalan homestays, artisan mothers, and local tour guides creating additional opportunities and income for community members.
Working with Study Abroad Association
And there you have it – eight destinations for affordable study abroad that will result in a total program cost of less than $2,000. Looking for assistance in getting your study abroad program off the ground? Here at Study Abroad Association, our passion revolves around designing and conducting programs focused in the areas of faculty-led and service-learning educational opportunities. Request a proposal for a custom program of your own today on our website.