Having the right budget in mind when heading abroad can make or break your study abroad experience. After all, no one wants to be handing over their last euros for u-Bahn fare only three weeks into your semester abroad!
While Germany may not be as affordable as say, Argentina, it is a relatively affordable European destination to study abroad.
There are also a number of ways to decrease your costs abroad, including searching for student travel passes, museum tickets, and more!
During my semester abroad in Hamburg, Germany, I stayed with a host family, which helped me save a lot on costs. They made three meals a day, I was able to borrow their extra bike, and little incidentals (band-aids, cleaning supplies, extra socks, etc.).
I know it can be overwhelming trying to plan a budget months in advance, especially if you’re a student, or haven’t visited the country before, but taking the time to set out a budget and avoid any surprise costs down the road is essential both for your peace of mind, and bank account.
Here I’ll break down the costs of studying abroad in Germany to make it easier to budget for your time abroad.
Average Tuition Cost for a Semester in Germany
You may have heard of Germany’s ‘free’ tuition. Maybe that’s why you’re considering studying abroad there in the first place!
While not necessarily ‘free’ (you may have some fees depending on your country of origin, and you still have to pay student union and semester fees), the cost per semester at TU Munich, for example, is only $160. Yes, you read that right.
On the other hand, some German universities charge non-EU students a fee of €1,500 (~$1,800) to enroll. Even with the added cost, German tuition can still be very affordable compared to many American colleges and universities.
While you’ll save a lot of up-front costs by enrolling directly with a university, there are also many third-party service providers who will manage your study abroad experience and take care of a lot of the details and paperwork for you.
Third-party services tend to be much more expensive, but often include housing, meals, on-the-ground support and orientation activities, academic support, medical insurance, and more. It’s best to click on each option below to see what they offer.
Here are some samples of the costs you might pay for different options to study abroad in Germany:
Tuition for Direct Enrollment for a Semester in Germany:
Fees for a Semester with a Third-Party Study Abroad Provider:
Unsure whether you should study abroad by enrolling directly through a university in Germany, or with a third-party study abroad provider? Learn more about the difference between the two.
Average Cost of Living in Germany
Germany is a great city to live in, with some larger cities, like its metropolis capital Berlin, having a surprisingly affordable cost of living. Munich and Hamburg, large business and tourism centers, tend to be a bit more expensive, and smaller cities like Aachen and Oldenburg are more affordable.
Here’s a breakdown of some average costs in Germany. Remember to budget more if you plan on eating out a lot, and always remember to ask if you can get a student discount.
$327.90 - $900 for a dorm room or a room in a shared apartment in the city center.
$550 - $1,230 for a one bedroom apartment in a big city.
|Utilities||About $290 per month (heat, electricity, cooling, water, garbage, internet)|
|Cell phone||About $30 per month|
|Local transportation||A monthly pass: about $100, but often this is included in your student tuition and will be your ID card.|
|Total||Expect to spend about $3,500 - $4,500 for one semester in Germany after airfare and program fees.|
Source: Numbeo Germany
Another tip to save money on food while in Germany is to find out of any of your American favorites are considered ‘exotic’ (read: expensive) food items.
When I was there peanut butter was basically impossible to find, and always cost an arm and a leg. Stock up with some PB in your suitcase before you leave and save money, or just switch to a European favorite like Nutella instead.
Average Airfare & Travel Costs While in Germany
To get to Germany from the United States, round-trip flights will range from $500-$1,500. If you’re on the east coast near a major flight hub like New York, you’ll have an easier time hitting those lower flight prices than those from the Midwest, West Coast, or the Southern States.
If you’re traveling to a smaller German destination that doesn’t have an international airport, I recommend flying into Frankfurt or Berlin, which usually have the most affordable flights, and then catching a train from there to your destination. You might be able to save some cash.
Try and book your flight 6-8 weeks ahead of your departure for optimal savings, or set up a price alert using a service like Skyscanner with your departure dates.
Once you’re in-country, domestic travel is excellent, with German cities having well-developed transit systems that interlink. Germany’s train system is an especially beautiful and efficient way to get from city to city within the country.
If you’re a student or under 27 years old, you can also receive good deals with ‘Youth’ tickets. You can usually find deals for around $250 that let you travel for seven consecutive days on the railways within the country. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to plan a trip at the end of your semester!
Other Costs to Keep in Mind While Studying in Germany
Even if your university doesn’t require it, medical insurance is essential for any traveler. You never know what might happen. When we’re abroad especially we’re trying all kinds of new experiences and adventures, so it’s good to know that whether it’s para-gliding or trying a strange new food, you’ll be taken care of if anything happens.
It’s worth checking with your current service provider to see whether you’re already covered abroad. Some universities will also offer students the option to buy insurance while they’re there. Be sure to ask your university.
If you need to buy travel insurance, you can use a service like World Nomads, where a semester abroad in Germany will cost you $300-$450.
Language Learning Expenses
Another potential cost to consider is German language classes. While not mandatory, you might want to explore your options while in country! Sprechen a bit of Deutsch, ja?
Many universities offer free Germany language study classes for their students, but there are also companies in most major cities that offer private classes.
When I went for my semester abroad in Germany I could speak a laughably little amount of German. Maybe one complete sentence, and a bunch of floating nouns, ‘house,’ ‘supper,’ etc. My courses at the DeutschAkademie in Hamburg were invaluable in integrating me into German culture.
To give you an idea, the DeutschAkademie course runs for 4 weeks, is 3 hours a day, and costs $360. The Goethe Institut is another popular German language school located in cities across the country. It has similar intensive programs running 2, 4, or 8 weeks in length, and ranges in price from $990-$2,824.
Alternatively, try to find a local German language class, language swap, or ‘Stammtisch’ (friendly get-togethers held in German, usually free save for the cost of beer and nibbles).
Entertainment & Travel
Now, the fun stuff!
How much you spend on entertainment and personal purchases overseas will depend on your preferences. I recommend keeping track of all your spending for a couple months at home to discover your spending habits—do you need Netflix? How much do you spend on clothes? Eating out? Gym memberships?
Some people will be happy backpacking from class to class in the same three t-shirts and favourite pair of jeans for a semester abroad. Others will want to funnel their cash towards fitting into the local fashion scene, or taking advantage of the upscale offerings of the city.
Are you happy with local draft beer, or prefer artisan pints? I mean, you’re in Germany, so no matter what the beer options will be good -- but still! Consider your spending habits and try to come up with a reasonable budget to sample new experiences without running out of money before the end of the semester.
When I lived in Germany I saved a lot of money on public transport by biking everywhere using the spare bike my host family was able to loan me. Maybe see if you can purchase an affordable second-hand bike while you’re there. Germany is a famously bike-able place to live, and biking everywhere will not only be good for your health, it can be a great way to explore the city.
I also saved a lot of money by eating breakfast and dinner with my host family almost every day, and always making a sandwich or something to take for lunch at school. Most of my euros went to purchasing second-hand clothing at thrift stores in Hamburg, and also towards weekend adventures to Berlin, Munich, and more European cities. Holland, Belgium, and France are so close!
Depending on your experience, you may be able to find opportunities to tutor in English or be a conversation partner to earn some extra cash, but I wouldn’t plan on relying on extra income while you’re there. You’re better off preparing funds before you go, then any extra income you find while there is a bonus.
If you’re the type to study abroad on a budget (hello, me!), try learning how to study abroad on a budget and still have a blast. You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good time.
It’s important to consider all possible costs so you won’t be surprised by costs while studying abroad, as it can cause a lot of stress, both for you and your family.
Even though it can feel overwhelming, budgeting for your trip is a step towards your unforgettable study abroad experience! Plus, knowing how to draw up a killer budget will help you save up money for your next trip to Germany after your study abroad experience.
Trust me, you’ll want to come back.