Students of All Ages: Save on Travel Expenses with the ISIC Card
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, you are missing out.
College may not be cheap, but taking advantage of your “student” status can be a small win. When I was an undergraduate and again as a graduate student, the ISIC card was one of my thrifty travel secrets. This card helps identify you as a student in nearly every country, unlocking discounts on pretty much anything you do while traveling.
That means you can save big money on admission fees, transportation, dining, and more.
What is an ISIC Card?
ISIC stands for International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which helps identify you as a student in over 130 countries. This card provides over 160,000 benefits and discounts on travel, shopping, accommodation, food, entertainment, excursions, transportation, and more. Check out the full list of countries.
This card is the only student ID that is internationally recognized for student discounts around the world.
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 looking to travel and take advantage of student discounts.
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 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 travelers are still considered “youth!” That’s got to make you feel good.
These cards cost $20, and 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.
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!
But it’s safe to say the discounts you can get with an ISIC card will easily outweigh the cost of the 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 and services.
This is my favorite way to use my ISIC card. Most attractions and sites 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 gotten me 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.
Dining bills always add up quick while traveling abroad – especially in Europe. To save some “dough” while out eating pastries, ask the barista or server if they have a student discount. Many 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.
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, always ask for a student discount when purchasing tickets for any activity, excursion, or attraction.
You can even save money on shopping for souvenirs abroad! This is the perfect excuse to pick up a few trinkets. Again, you can search for these specific discounts on the ISIC website, or you can do what I do: Just pull out the ISIC card every time you pay for something to see if you can get an extra student discount.
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.
I saved 25% on my Busabout Hop-On Hop-Off month pass for bus travel throughout Europe last summer. Oftentimes, you can also get discounted public transit tickets with an ISIC card.
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 U.S. For more details on discounts and benefits within the US, see ISIC’s discount list here.
Is the ISIC Card Worth It?
If you travel internationally and do any of the above (buy admission tickets, eat at restaurants, use transportation, and go on tours), then yes! I’ve saved hundreds over the years by using my ISIC card and asking for a student discount. See how I saved over $100 on a recent trip with the ISIC card.
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.
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.