How to Prepare for Your Exchange

Budgeting For Your Exchange

To create your budget, here’s some questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. What country am I going? How much is visa and flights there?
  2. What is the cost of living? How much will meals, transport and accommodation cost?
  3. Do I plan to do any extra activities or travel after my project ends? How much/ long?
  4. What necessities do I need to pay for pre-departure? Travel insurance etc.
  5. How much emergency money should I budget?
  6. By how much should I over budget my expenses?

Here’s a sample budget from a Global Volunteer Exchange Participant who went to Vietnam for a project and travelled to different countries afterwards for an idea of what your budget could look like. 

Travel cards

Travel money cards are specially designed debit cards that you load up with foreign currencies prior to travelling.  The advantage of pre-loading the card with your choice of currency is that you can do so when the exchange rate is at its most favourable.

For the traveller going to one country or several, this is the next best thing to carrying cash or traveller’s cheques. Different cards offer different currencies but they essentially offer American dollars, Yuan, Euros and Thai Baht dollars, amongst others.

You can preload a single currency or several, according to your travel plans. You’ve then got foreign currencies at your fingertips. Once abroad, you can reload your card or change the currencies around via the internet or your mobile phone. You can use your card to withdraw cash from ATMs, shop for souvenirs, pay for restaurant meals or book accommodation online.

A handful of Australian providers offer travel money cards and each varies slightly so it’s a matter of researching which card suits your purpose and we can help you with that. Some banks have schemes for university  (e.g. Free travel money cards for Commbank university students) so make sure to ask your bank whether they have a scheme for you. 

CANSTAR 2016 Travel Money Card Ratings

Want more general advice on travel money? Check out Andy Kollmorgen’s Choice article, Travel Money Guide, with advice on travel cards, cash, travellers  cheques, credit cards & ATM use overseas.

Financial Planning Tips

Pre-Trip Checklist

  1. Online banking: Set up your internet banking. It will make it easier to manage your spending while you’re away.
  2. Check your cards: Check the expiry date on your credit, debit or prepaid card and make sure it’s valid for the whole trip.
  3. Make copies: Photocopy your credit, debit or prepaid card(s) and passport details, and keep the copies in a separate place to the originals.
  4. Inform your bank: Your financial institutions probably have some good security measures in place and may put your accounts on hold when they are unexpectedly  used in a foreign location. Great for preventing theft, not so great when you’re trying to pay for your paella. To avoid getting left in the lurch,  let them know where and when you're travelling before you leave.
  5. Phone numbers: Your financial institution’s customer service number will be different in different countries. Put the numbers for the countries you're visiting in your phone or write them down before you go.
  6. Get a PIN: European merchants prefer PIN transactions, set up a 4-digit PIN with your financial institution for your credit, debit or prepaid card before you go.
  7. Bring USD change on you: Not all money exchange places carry AUD and small USD notes are very commonly accepted by shops in many countries (e.g. Cambodia). Also, remember bring your passport with you when you do money exchange.

Top Travel Money Tips

  1. Carry less cash: Travelling with cash on hand is often a necessity, but what happens if you get pick-pocketed / swindled by a beautiful beach babe / drop your wallet into the Grand Canyon and lose the lot of it? Sadly, you can’t replace lost cash, but you can replace cards. Use your credit, debit or prepaid card for things like hotel bookings and car rentals to avoid carrying large sums of cash. 
  2. Know your numbers: Reservations and rentals usually require a card number, so keep yours handy.
  3. Withdraw with care: When withdrawing cash at ATMs, withdraw odd amounts, large notes can be hard to break. 
  4. Store cards separately: Store your credit, debit, or prepaid cards in separate places, so you have a backup if you lose one.
  5. Download an offline money converter app: Be aware up the most up to date exchange rates by having an offline money converter. Take a look at XE, a smartphone app recommended by some of our returned EPs.
  6. Confirm transaction costs: Golden rule with transactions - confirm the cost and arrangement beforehand, pay afterwards. Make sure there are no misunderstandings or misinterpretations with any transactions. 

Here are some more tips from past exchange participants!

How To Use Your Savings Wisely When Travelling

Whilst you should experience as much as possible - you can definitely do it within a budget. Learn from my mistakes and my last excessive spending trip.

8 Simple Ways You Can Save Money (So You Can Travel The World)

We all know that being a student means we must live the frugal life; all those Uni lunches, coffee and transportation really adds up. But what if I told you that saving enough money to go travelling during semester breaks is actually possible? Here are a few tips to get you started!


Most countries will require a visa to enter the country and stay for the duration of your project. You always should check the consulate or embassy website of the country for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements.



Visa Upon Arrival or through the embassy?

Some countries will allow you to obtain an entry visa upon arrival at the border checkpoint (e.g. Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam) Generally, these visas will be cheaper too. Do thorough research into the visa procedure beforehand and talk to your hosting entity to determine the legitimacy of these visas and visa arrangers. In some countries, the paperwork for Visas on Arrival (VOA) need to be processed weeks before your actual arrival!  If VOA, make sure to have the right currency in the exact change, an extra passport photo and in the exact change to smoothen the process.


What type of visa?

Don’t apply for a visa until you’re officially Approved (Matched to a project with contracts signed)! Your hosting entity should send you visa information within 2 weeks of being Approved. 

Generally, Global Citizen Exchange Participants will use a tourist or humanitarian visa and Global Talent Exchange Participants will be using a working visa. Always make sure to check with your hosting entity before arranging your visa as having the wrong visa may lead can lead to fines and some countries have specific AIESEC visas that you can apply for.

Note: Some Local Committees will tell Global Citizen EPs not to mention AIESEC or volunteering on your visa application or at immigration. This is often to simplify the visa processing and limit the chance of immigrations in that country confusing you for an illegal job seeker on the wrong visa.

Important! Make sure your passport has more than 6 months validity and at least 1 blank page left. If not, you will not be allowed to depart Australia until you renew your passport.

Travel Insurance

All AIESEC exchange participants are legally required to purchase travel insurance prior to departure on exchange. Whilst it may seem like a costly investment, buying insurance is essential for ensuring that even in case something goes wrong, you know you’re covered.


Buying travel insurance

Make sure to buy travel insurance that covers all the minimum needs (e.g. emergency medical costs, personal liabilities, flight delays and loss of personal items).

Check peer reviews of the insurer and carefully read over all the terms and conditions, coverage, excess and the claims process for your insurer before finalising your purchase to ensure that your level of cover suits you.


For more advice on which travel insurance to buy, check out the following sites:


Making a claim

Different insurance companies have different claim procedures. All of them would have an excess fee (a fee charged for making a claim) and require thorough documentation to support your claims. Make sure to keep all receipts and ask for official report for an incidents, as according to your insurer. With some insurance companies, you can choose to cancel the excess by paying a bit more during the purchase.



“My airline lost my check in luggage during a transfer between Singapore and Taiwan, meaning that I had nothing on me asides from my passport and a bit of cash. My travel insurer covered delayed and lost luggage so I was able to go and buy all my basic personal necessities (e.g underwear) and claim my money back.

It sucked to begin my trip with a negative experience but because I had travel insurance, I was able to have a peace of mind about it.”


Note: See if you have membership to any clubs or organisations that can provide student or membership discounts. You can trying ask your university’s international office too!

Packing Checklist


  • Toilet paper (hard to get in some places)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shower gel/soap/face wash
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Glasses/Contact lenses
  • Fast drying medium sized towel
  • Roll on deodorant


  • Small mirror – some places don’t have mirrors
  • Razors
  • Medium sized backpack
  • Carry-on purse
  • Ziploc bags
  • Mesh bag for laundry
  • Ear plugs
  • Inflatable pillow
  • Eye mask
  • Thin blanket or sarong


  • iPod or mp3 player
  • Laptop/tablet
  • Noise cancelling earphones
  • Flashlight
  • Universal adapter
  • Powerboard
  • Unlocked phone
  • Camera
  • Portable battery pack

Weather Protection

  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat


  • Padlock for doors
  • Locks for back pack
  • Whistle for night walking
  • Money belt


  • Mosquito net
  • First aid kit – small one is sufficient
  • Insect repellent “After bite”
  • Gravol (for nausea)
  • Codral (for flu and cold)
  • Aspirin/ Tylenol (for headaches)
  • Multivitamins

Reading Material

  • Travel guide
  • Light novel that you don’t mind leaving behind


  • Enclosed shoes with grip
  • Pair of thongs
  • EP shirt/s
  • 3-4 shirts
  • 3 pairs of shorts OR long pants
  • 5-7 pairs of underwear
  • 2-3 pairs of socks
  • Pajamas
  • Thin jacket
  • Thick overcoat


  • Visa and visa photocopies
  • Passport and passport photocopies (one stays at home and bring one copy with you, same with visa and work permit)
  • Work permit and work permit photocopies
  • Purchased plane ticket
  • Send arrival information to host LC
  • Purchased travel insurance
  • Medical Check-up
  • Extra prescription drugs
  • Contact information for the host LC
  • Contact information for the home LC
  • Contact information for the embassy in host country
  • Have adequate money for six-eight weeks
  • Cash, credit card, travel cards


  • Journal and pens
  • Photos of family and friends to show people
  • Souvenirs from your home country to give to your host LC and family
  • Presentation materials of Australia for your host LC and company

Consider doing some research of Host Country before packing, like these areas for example:

  • Weather
  • Dress code
  • Customs
  • Languages
  • Religion
  • Food
  • Politics
  • Map of country and city
  • Cost of Living

Packing Hacks

We asked our returned EP for their packing tips and hacks. Here's some of the best ones:

Do your research on what clothing items are acceptable in the country

"Make sure to ask your hosting entity on your country’s customs and even the place of stay and do research to avoid embarrassing yourself and offending the locals."

Roll! Don’t fold.

"Rolling your clothes is a really great way to prevent having wrinkles and saves space!" 

Learn how to do it here.

Bring travel sized toiletries

"Protip: Ask your dentist for sample toothpaste and floss & local hotel for mini toiletries bottles"

Due to international airport security restrictions, you can only bring bottles of maximum 100mL in an 80cm max clear bag. Chuck anything bigger into your check in luggage.


Bring a pillow case

"A pillow case is handy for not only protecting you from dirty pillows, but you can also use as a bag for dirty laundry or general storage."


Pack light!

"Believe it or not, it is possible to travel for 8 weeks out of only a hand carry bag (especially in South-East Asia where you can easily buy new clothes). The bigger your luggage, the more you have to lug around when travelling after your exchange and the less room you have to bring items back to Australia! "

Your travel insurance will only cover your essentials if anything is stolen anyways.


Carry a pack of cards

"Card games can fill up long travel time, break down cultural and language barriers and act as a doorway to new friendships. You might even learn some new games along the way!"


Bring two wallets

"Bring two wallets, fill up a wallet for everyday use with fake or useless cards and minimal cash so that in the worst-case scenario you are come across trouble, you won’t mind losing this wallet."


Bring small gifts and souvenirs

“Bring a stuff toy (or two), kids go crazy for them.”

Buy a bunch of clip on koalas and kangaroos to give as gifts to new friends. Make sure to have a present prepared for your host family as well!


General meds are a must!

“Bring your medication and some commonly used ones just incase. You never know when you might need it or when it might be hard to find.”

Off the counter medication we’re familiar with (e.g. Panadol or Codral) may not be readily available overseas or the pharmacists and packaging may be in a foreign language.


Make your luggage easily identifiable

"Try buying a bright fluro orange luggage bag, putting stickers on or typing a colourful ribbon on the handle. Making your luggage easy to spot will save you so much time at the luggage carousel!"

Find ways to use items in more than one way

"Whenever I travel, I bring a shawl/large scarf. That way it can double up as a light blanket when the air conditioning is too high or when you're taking a sneaky nap on the bus. You can even use it as a sling bag or a way to protect and wrap up precious items for the journey back home."

Flights & Arrival

Buying tickets

  • Sign up for email alerts from air carrier on low-fare deals. Most will have weekly promotions that are bound to save you a bit of money.
  • Where possible, purchase your ticket at least 3 months before departure. Research shows that the cheapest international flights are sold 3-5 months in advance. However, there is variation between different regions.
  • Buying your tickets in the middle of the week as tickets are usually cheaper between Tuesdays to Thursdays.
  • Clear cookies and browser cache between searching flights. Sometimes airlines charge extra the more times you visit their site because they know you are more ready/desperate to buy.
  • Buying separate one way tickets with different air carriers may save you money.
  • Catch the red eye flights (overnight flights) and flights on holidays. For example flights out of Vietnam are the cheapest over their Lunar New Year. Unless you have plans to celebrate Tet with them, make the most out of the occasion and fly somewhere else.
Remember: you shouldn't buy your flights until you’re officially Approved (matched) to a program! As according to your rights and responsibilities, costs associated with flight changes or cancellation due to breach of the contract by the EP will need to be covered the EP themselves.

Don’t want to make your own flight arrangements? Travengers, founded by AIESEC alumnus, can arrange your flights for just 10 euros.


  • Planes can be awfully dry. Most airports have water fountains after immigrations and customs, bring an empty bottle for you to fill up before your flight.
  • Take the queue/s on your left. Research has shown that people tend to line up on right so cut the queue time and take the left.
  • Bring ear plugs and an eye mask and catch a snooze. Time your sleeping carefully to minimise jet-lag (e.g. change your phone clock to the local time of your final destination and stay awake, sleep earlier, or nap accordingly!)
  • On a budget airline? Invest in a battery pack and charge it up pre-flight so you can watch more movies on your flight on your phone.
  • Take a thin jacket or sarong with you as airplanes tend to get very cold mid-flight. Some budget airlines even turn down the temperature so customers buy their blankets.


Airport arrival

  • Print all the documents before departure, including your Acceptance Note, Opportunity Description (TN Note), flight itinerary and ask for the invitation letter prepared by the host LC.
  • Make sure either someone from the hosting entity is picking you up from the airport OR your hosting entity provides you with clear details on how to arrive at a meeting place prior to your departure.
  • If you have a stop-over where you are exiting the airport, make sure you know how to leave and re-enter the airport. For example if you're going to a hotel or into the city, which mode of transport it will take, how much it will cost, and if it is a safe way to travel. Some countries also have exit visas which have hidden costs - check in advance.
  • Get contact details of your AIESEC representative/EP manager (from your Local Committee in Australia), Project manager/TN Manager (from the Hosting Local Committee overseas), and whoever is scheduled to pick you up prior to departure. Make sure all your emergency contacts have this information - your parents/guardians and your EP Manager especially. You can also contact in the case of an emergency.

Starting Your Project

About to arrive in your host country and excited to start your project? We’re excited for you too!

Here’s a checklist of things that need to be completed in the first few weeks of your exchange:


Preparing for your project (select the right one for you!)

Tips and tricks to prepare for a Global Volunteer Project

  • Research about the Sustainable Development Goal your Project is working for in that country 
  • Research and ask about he NGO/School or institution that you’re currently working in 
  • Read, develop and work on communication skills
  • Understand your working hours and plan your trips around them

Tips and tricks to prepare for a Global Entrepreneur Project

  • Read Up About Start Ups 
  • Research about the start up that you will be working at 
  • Understand how to use a Business Canvas Model
  • Understand how to use a Customer Empathy Map 
  • Read and understand basic business skills that will be able to help you 
  • Understand different working cultures. Read through your job description and understand what your current skill and strength level is at to execute those tasks. Do research and set goals accordingly 

Tips and tricks to prepare for a Global Talent Project

  • Research on the company and/or school that you will be working at 
  • Read up about the working culture in that country 
  • Understand the value proposition that your company offers
  • Understand the role you play in your company 
  • Read through your job description and understand what your current skill and strength level is at to execute those tasks. Do research and set goals accordingly 

Moving to a new country

  • Attend the AIESEC Incoming Preparation Seminar arranged by your host local committee. This seminar will cover essential local information including cultural preparation, project logistics and personal/skills development.  It will also provide you a chance to meet local AIESECers and other EPs
  • Exchange your money to the local currency
  • Register with local police if needed
  • Get local sim card. Learn how to add credit and check your balance. Send the number to your hosting and sending EP buddies, family and friends
  • Get a map and mark your address, where you are working, and other key locations. This way you can always ask around or direct your uber/cab driver if you ever get lost
  • Learn which public transport routes to take, and get a pre-loaded bus/train card if possible
  • Learn basic phrases in the native language
  • Locate the nearest ATM
  • Locate the nearest supermarket/markets where you can buy your own food/groceries and basic supplies
  • Check with your insurance provider for coverage
  • Locate the Australian embassy in your destination country
  • Familiarise yourself with transportation means there
  • If possible, get a local travel city guide at first
  • Secure all of your personal belongings and important documents in one safe area.

Contact your AIESEC EP manager from home upon arrival and at least once a week! Not only do we want to check in with how your experience is going, but a quick check in will also help us check your safety and welfare :)


Starting your project

  • Seek your AIESEC Project Manager (TN Manager) or EP Buddy for support
  • Familiarise yourself with your project site location and surroundings
  • Check with your project coordinator from the organisation about the workload requirements
  • Seek the most convenient transportation method from your accommodation to your project site
  • Locate the nearest grocery shopping store in your area
  • Make sure you are prepared to fulfil your project activity. If you are teaching a class, make sure your lesson fully is planned out before hand. It’s best to create a brief education plan before your project starts and bring some props from Australia to assist you with teaching.
  • Complete the Goal Planning journal to track your own development.
  • Check that your project and activities, accommodation, food and travel detail are aligned with your signed job description. If there’s a discrepancy, immediately follow the complaint structure and talk to your hosting organisation or OC about it!
  • Take photos and videos to remember your time and experience!  This project won’t last forever so make sure to capture those unforgettable moments.

Travel Safety

Regularly check Smart Traveler and register your travel plans with the government in case of an international crisis so the government can also assist you.


General Safety Tips:

  • Make sure you always have credit on your phone (local sim card is best). Know the local emergency numbers.
  • Avoid PDAs (Public Displays of Affluence)
  • Read up on the local culture and customs and try as best as you can to blend in - avoid looking or acting like a tourist. Don’t wear expensive clothes or visibly carry expensive objects or devices, especially if no one else is.
  • Only catch official taxis: Check that it is registered, take down the number plate and text it to a friend (especially if you are going alone). Sit in the back seat.
  • Avoid travelling alone at night or in areas you feel unsafe. Walk like you’ve got a purpose, even if you’re not sure where you’re going. Try to walk in well-lit, populated areas and if you are concerned, call a friend. If you forgot Rule One, pretend to call a friend. 
  • If you are mugged, don’t fight back. You got insurance for a reason.
  • Separate your sources of money - don’t keep everything in the same place.
  • Scan all major documents in case they get lost.
  • Avoid petting stray animals - rabies isn’t fun.
  • Check if there are fire alarms where you live. Know where the exits are in your building. 

What to do if there is a natural disaster or conflict:

  • Contact the Australian Embassy ASAP (plus your family & Australian AIESEC committee)
  • Stay with people you trust (the AIESECers will be there for you!)
  • If there is conflict, especially avoid tourist spots.
  • Have a worse-case scenario evacuation plan: If you can’t catch a flight, which surrounding countries can you easily enter (hopefully without a visa) by train/bus/car if something happens? Know your geography!

Ethical Tourism

Ethical tourism is geared towards encouraging both the consumer and industry to avoid participation in activities that contribute or support negative ethical issues, such as social injustice, human rights, animal welfare or environmental issues.

‘Mindful travel’ brings both personal and global rewards. 

Where we choose to go and what we choose to do has economic, political, social, and environmental reverberations that reach far beyond our personal experience. Travel and tourism is the world’s largest industry, and many countries rely on tourism as a crucial source of income. 

By “voting with our wings” - choosing our destinations well, and cultivating our roles as citizen diplomats, we can act as a positive force upon the world by promoting international goodwill and helping to change the world for the better.


How to be an Ethical Traveler

  • Before you arrive, research the social, political, and environmental issues faced by the people you are visiting.
  • Be aware where your money is going. By spending locally, you’re giving back to the community and getting a better sense of the country and the people who live there.
  • Be wary of the environmental and social footprint that you leave whilst travelling and on exchange. It is better to hold onto your rubbish and preserve the beautiful places you visit for the future or refrain from supporting certain animal entertainment acts.
  • Take time to learn your pleases and thank-yous (and as much of the language you can handle). Courtesy can go along way and helps to break down barriers :)
  • Remember the economic realities of your new currency. Don’t get all bent out of shape that a foreigner who earns 100 times a local’s salary might be expected to pay a few more pesos, bahat or rupees - it’s not going to break your bank.
  • Learn and respect the traditions and taboos of your host country

Find at more at:

Tips from past exchange participants!

6 Weeks Until My Exchange. I’m Not Ready! HELP!

Are you travelling overseas this break? If these are your thoughts right now. Don’t worry, we’re here to help and guide you. It’s a daunting time with exams and studying to think about. Yet you’re going overseas right after it!

Read more