How to Save on Travel Expenses with the ISIC Card


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Calling all students, teachers, and young adults under 30. If you haven’t heard of the ISIC card and the discounts it will get you abroad, it’s time to change that. Although college isn’t cheap, taking advantage of your “student” status can be a small win.

I’m currently a graduate student, and one of my thrifty traveling secrets since my undergraduate years has been the ISIC card. This is the best way to identify yourself as a student in nearly every country around the world. It also provides discounts on pretty much anything you do while traveling. The money you save by cutting admission fees, transportation, and dining in half will add up quickly.


What is an ISIC Card?

An ISIC card is an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) that recognizes you as a student in 133 countries. This card provides over 160,000 benefits and discounts on travel, shopping, accommodation, food, entertainment, excursions, transportation, and more. For a full list of countries, visit the following link.


Am I Eligible for an ISIC Card?

Any student, age 12 or over, can apply for this identification card. This is particularly handy for students in high school, college, or doctoral students.

To apply for an ISIC card, you need to provide a valid driver’s license and one of a few options that show you are a student: course schedule, tuition receipt, or student ID. If you’ve still got your student ID from your college years, you’re in luck.

If you are a full-time teacher, the ISIC company also offers an International Teachers Identity Card (ITIC) that provides similar benefits. You can find more information on that here.

If you’re none of the above, but under 30 years old, you can also get these benefits by getting the International Youth Travel Card (IYTC). Yes, you 29-year-old Thrifty Travelers are still considered “youth”! That’s got to make you feel good.



Example ISIC Card


What Discounts Can I Get With an ISIC Card?

The Global ISIC card benefits include 2,800 museums and cultural sites, 2,400 hostels and hotels, 1,200 airlines, buses, coaches, trains, and ferries, 2,700 attractions, and 21,000 restaurants, bars, and entertainment events all around the world.

I have used my ISIC card to get half off or free admission to the Summer Palace in Beijing, got an instant 25% off Busabout transportation for my backpacking trip this summer, and have saved hundreds of euros on cathedral and palace admission tickets in Europe. Here are some of the best ways to use your ISIC (or ITIC and IYTC) card discounts.


Admission Tickets

This is my favorite way to use my ISIC card. Most attractions and sights around the world give a discount for students. However, if you don’t have a student ID to prove you’re a student, you’ll be out of luck. Simply show the admission ticketing booths your student card and ask for the student discount. This has saved me up to 50% off (and sometimes free admission) on so many entrance tickets.

My favorite places to get student discounts include the numerous cathedrals in Western Europe and the Great Wall of China. Make sure to have your card with you to get the discount wherever your travels take you.



Discounts on Admission Tickets Worldwide



Dining bills always add up quick while traveling abroad, especially in European countries. To save some “dough” while out eating pastries, ask the barista or server if they have a student discount. Most places will honor a 20% off discount on student tabs.

If you’re a planner, you can also check out the list of restaurants, cafes, and bars that provide student discounts in the city you’re visiting. When you get all your meals for 20% off, the food just tastes better.



Discounts at Restaurants Worldwide



Looking for fun things to do during your trip abroad, but tight on funds? Check out the discounted activities in your destination city you have access to with an ISIC card. Even if you don’t plan ahead and look at all the discounts ISIC provides in your destination, you can ask for a student discount when purchasing tickets for any activity, excursion, or attraction. The Chances are they will give you one, even if it’s not listed on the ISIC site. Show them your ISIC card and give them your best poor student puppy eyes.



Example of Activity / Excursion Discounts



This one came as a shock to me. You can save money on shopping for souvenirs abroad. This is a perfect excuse to pick up a few trinkets for family and friends that couldn’t come along. Again, you can search for these specific discounts on the ISIC website, or you can do what I do and pull out my ISIC card every time I pay for something to see if I can get an extra student discount.



Example of Shopping Discounts



You’ve got to make sure you ask if there are any student or youth discounts when you book and purchase transportation abroad, especially in Europe and Asia. For most sightseeing tours like the Hop-On Hop-Off City buses, you can save 25-50% off the regular fare. This is a great way to see the city you’re in for cheap.

I saved 25% on my Busabout Hop-On Hop-Off bus month pass for travel throughout Eastern Europe this summer. Oftentimes, you can also get discounted public transit tickets with an ISIC card. Transportation costs add up quickly so make sure you ask for a student discount.

Oh, and ISIC cards work domestically, too. Keep your ISIC card in your wallet to get discounts on transportation, attractions, restaurants, and more within the US. For more details on discounts and benefits within the US, see ISIC’s discount list here.



Discounts on Transportation Worldwide



Example of Discounts on Excursions / Sightseeing


How Do I Apply for an ISIC Card?

You can apply for any of the above-mentioned cards (ISIC, IYIC, and ITIC) online here. Make sure you have a valid driver’s license and a high school, college, or university course schedule, tuition receipt, or student ID to prove that you are or were recently a student. For the teacher and youth card options, requirements are less strict.

Cost of the ISIC card is $20. You can pay to have it shipped to you, or get it made and picked up at a local ISIC printing office (typically study abroad college offices). This small price will quickly pay for itself with savings abroad!


Bottom Line

I am a huge fan of the ISIC card as it has saved me a ton of cash during my travels. Applying for the card is easy, so long as you are a student or under the age of 30. Grab your card and start keeping more of your hard earned cash while you travel.


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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.


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