Basic Packing List for Study Abroad

22 Jul

I’ve studied abroad several times and this is a basic list of what you should bring for a semester of studying abroad, but of course, remember that each location will require specific things.

What to Pack:

The Essentials

  • Important documents (passport, visa, itinerary, plane tickets, etc.)
  • $100 in local currency (make sure you have enough cash for a few days until you can find an ATM) [I recommend waiting to get this until you land in your host country, the exchange rate is almost always more favorable.
  • Extra eye glasses/contacts
  • Enough prescription drugs for the length of your stay (You will need to check to make sure you can bring them into the country and that you have proper documentation, i.e. a doctor’s note)
  • Backpack (for day trips and daily use) – You should use this as your carry-on so you’ll have less luggage.
  • Gifts for your host family and others (try to get ones that are specific to the region where you live)
  • Computer w/charger
  • Camera w/cords and charger
  • Adapters (changes the shape of the electrical plug) /converter (reduces or increases the current’s voltage)

Clothing/Shoes  (In general pack a week’s worth of clothing)

  • Jeans (2-3 pairs) [can substitute a pair or two with skirts or khakis if going to warmer climates]
  • Sweaters/Hoodies (2-3)
  • T-shirts
  • Long sleeve shirts (Make sure they are good for layering)
  • Underwear (one week’s worth)
  • Pajamas (2 pair)
  • Warm slippers
  • Socks (a week’s worth) (you should include a few pairs of wool socks if you’re going to colder climates)
  • Swimsuit
  • One set of workout clothes (if you plan to)
  • Thermal underwear (silk preferably for colder climates or the adventurous sort)
  • Coat/Jacket (water resistant with zip pockets and removable lining)
  • One nice outfit (dress pants/skirt/dress) for special/formal occasions
  • Decent walking shoes
  • Flip flops (especially for showering at hostels)
  • Warm hat, gloves and scarf (for colder climates)

Toiletries (If you aren’t picky, a lot of these items can be found in your host country)

  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Disposable razors (and other shaving supplies)
  • Brush/Comb (and hair ties if you have long hair)
  • Tissues (highly recommended as many countries don’t keep toilet paper in stock in the bathrooms)
  • Feminine Products (one month’s worth)  [nothing beats arriving in Egypt and realizing how impossible to find Tampons are]
  • Contraceptives
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Over-the-counter medicines (aspirin, anti-diarrhea, anti-nausea, etc.)
  • Nail clippers and nail file
  • Suntan lotion (if going somewhere sunny) [This can be really expensive or hard to find in other countries. I recommend packing at least a small bottle.]
  • Makeup


  • Alarm clock (though a cell phone works well too)
  • Small plastic bottles for toiletries for use in your carry-on or while traveling
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Purse
  • MP3 Player (especially for long plane/train rides)
  • Travel books for the region(s) you will visit (these can be found at the places you plan to visit too if you don’t want to haul them around)
  • Umbrella or rain coat
  • Watch
  • Sunglasses
  • Playing Cards (good for long train rides and lighter than a pile of books)
  • Journal (to write your memories in – journaling really helps students deal with culture shock – some people suggest writing online, but generally you won’t be able to do that/might not have internet access daily while you’re traveling so having something you can physically write in every day or night is a good idea)
  • Thin lightweight towel (preferably microfiber so that it will dry fast when you’re traveling)
  • Linens, bedsheets, and towels (Check with your program to see if these are provided, otherwise you may just want to buy them abroad because they tend to be heavy and take up a lot of room)
  • Sleepsack/sleeping bag (if you’re planning to do a lot of traveling you may want one, but most hostels either have sheets or let you rent a sleepsack for the night which is better than carrying one around constantly)

How to Pack It:

DO NOT bring more than two normal-size suitcases and a carry-on. If you’re only going for one semester, you only need one normal-size suitcase.  Most students pack more than they need.  You will be able to buy many of these things in your host country so you should pack just enough to get you through until you can go shopping.

Bring clothes that are easily layered for various climate conditions, do not need ironing, can be drip-dried, and are comfortable and durable. Also, remember that dark clothing does not show stains and dirt as much as light-colored clothing does.  Most importantly make sure that all of your clothes are interchangeable, i.e. any of your shirts can go with any of your skirts/pants, etc.  This will provide you with many more “outfits” on a daily basis even with limited clothing items.

Put tape over the tops of containers with liquids to prevent them from opening and place them in plastic storage bags to prevent them from leaking onto other items in your luggage.

A lot of the toiletries mentioned can usually be found in your host country.  But they might not have a specific brand if you’re picky.  Also, some things just don’t work the same (deodorant  in Japan, toothpaste in Korea) or aren’t used as prevalently (Tampons in Egypt).

Remember that most electrical appliances will not work because of the different electrical current.  Generally, laptop computers will work but you will probably need an adapter. It is usually better to just buy small electrical appliances (like hair dryers, curling irons, etc.) in the host country.

Lastly, you should keep your money, important documents, valuables, prescription medications, a change of clothing and some toiletries in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost. (I’ve had this happen several times so it is not unlikely).

Good luck!  You can see my photographs taken abroad here: . Or check out more of my travel/study abroad blog posts here: .

63 Responses to “Basic Packing List for Study Abroad”

  1. dmsteffe4705 Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 1:05 am #

    I see 10+ locations in your sidebar. Have you been all those places? That’s amazing!

  2. Michelle Saturday, 2 August 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    Yes, I have visited all of those places and they were all amazing experiences. I highly suggest that everyone go abroad if they are able to, even if only for a short visit.

  3. ToveSetedut Wednesday, 27 May 2009 at 9:44 am #

    Как всегда грамотная новость на полезном блоге – !! Вы давно в закладках

  4. D. Thursday, 30 July 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    Thanks for this! I’m prepping to take a group of students to Europe in January, and am adapting your list. Incredibly helpful.

  5. Shaza Wednesday, 5 August 2009 at 12:56 am #

    I’m studying abroad for a year and this was a really helpful post. Thank you so much!

  6. I, Flavia Monday, 10 August 2009 at 11:05 pm #

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us! I’m just gearing up to go to Europe for two semesters, and your comprehensive list has been most helpful.

  7. Clare Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    Thank you so much. I’ve been putting off thinking about packing and your list has given me the little push I needed to just get on with this fairly daunting task.

  8. Harper Monday, 17 August 2009 at 1:08 am #

    My best friend just went to study abroad in China. When she’s home, we talk everyday and its hard keeping in touch while shes away.I told her that she should blog when she got a chance and upload pictures so we could see them! But I still feel like there’s something missing. I didnt know of any cell phone company that could help me stay in contact with her. I did some research to see if I was wrong. In doing my research, I came across Tracfone. They have a plan that’s their international calling plan. I went on their website and found out how to call her. Once she responds to my email with her phone number, we can talk and talk!

    I just checked on the website and here’s how you do it:
    1. Dial 1.800.706.3839, the access number for TRACFONE International Long Distance (From Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands please dial 305-938-5673 instead).
    2. Choose the desired language (1. English 2. Spanish) Listen to the instructions. After selecting language dialing instructions can be interrupted any time and you can skip to sep 3.
    3. Dial 011 + city code + telephone number (For Canada just dial: 1+city code + telephone number)
    Please note that if you use our FREE TRACFONE Frequent Numbers service, you will not be required to dial the International Long Distance access number. Please refer to the TRACFONE Frequent Numbers section in this web site for more information.
    it’s awesome! And they offer this for over 100 countries outside the U.S. It’s amazing how they came up with this concept.

    • Annie Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 10:11 pm #


      I started crying while I was reading your comment (a sad going-away song was also simultaneously playing on my itunes..go figure lol) I’m leaving in 9 days to study abroad in HK for a sememster and I can’t imagine how different it will be not talking to my bffls. Butt after I stopped crying (haha..the ‘there’s something missing’ part really hit me hard) I read the rest of your comment. so I will check that outtt. Thanks for mentioning it! (:

    • Momo Saturday, 11 December 2010 at 2:11 am #

      Obvious spam. Can’t believe someone is getting emotional over this post.

  9. erin Sunday, 6 September 2009 at 11:50 am #

    i am from malaysia..i’m goin to study at University of Mansoura in Egypt on 29th September..less than a month away but i dont have any idea on what to bring..can u do me a specific list?please please please..i’m really blank here..

    • Michelle Sunday, 6 September 2009 at 9:23 pm #

      @erin, I packed exactly what I wrote above when I went to Egypt for four months and didn’t feel like I left out anything important. Hope that helps. 🙂

  10. Amaru Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 7:52 am #

    thanks a lot! this really helps since I’ll be studying abroad after I finish high school..
    This is my senior year btw..
    I’m kind of freaking out about what to get and what to not get and how to plan a budget..

  11. Haileigh Friday, 26 August 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I’ve been travelling all my life, and have only one suggestion. When you cary important documents, keep them in an under-the-clothes carrier. We’ve been pick-pocketed before in Kenya and my dad’s credit card was stolen. My mom always tells me to keep a small amount of cash available, but never your passport, plane ticket, and cards.

    • Haileigh Bones Friday, 26 August 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      You are the only person I have ever seen on the internet with the same name spelling as me. I wish I were as interesting a Haileigh as you.

    • Michelle Tuesday, 13 September 2011 at 6:53 am #

      Thanks, Haileigh. I think the most important thing is to be aware of yourself and your surroundings at all times. I never had the misfortune of being pick-pocketed or robbed, but I know others who were. You have to be especially careful as a female to pay attention no matter where you are and never put yourself in a potentially bad situation.

  12. 關鍵字行銷 Wednesday, 21 September 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I find myself coming back to your web-site only because you have lots of awesome insights and also you happen to be at this a while, which is very impressive and tells me you know your stuff.

  13. 關鍵字 Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 7:45 am #

    About time! Someone with some information on this. You’d think considering how popular Comic Book Adaptations are nowadays, some information would actually be pretty easy to find. Apparently not. Anyway, thanks for this! I appreciate it!

  14. Julie Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Flip flops are a great call. I forgot those on my first European trip and had to borrow my friend’s every time I wanted to shower while we were traveling. I would also suggest bringing an electrical converter in addition to the adapter. The voltage is different in Europe than in the US and without one you’ll probably fry your electronics. I got my here: before my trip.

    • Michelle Friday, 23 September 2011 at 7:51 am #

      If you’re going to bring extra electronics like hair dryers, etc. you definitely need a converter. My suggestion is to only bring a computer and items with a USB plug that you can connect to your computer. Though admittedly I never use a hair dryer/curling iron/etc.

  15. Chelsea Monday, 21 May 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Generally I agree with the “pack about a weeks worth of clothes” for a short-term study abroad (2 months or so), but preparing to go abroad for over a calender year, I don’t want to wear the same clothes all the time nor do I want to spend a lot of money on clothes once I arrive. I definitely would say go through each item very carefully and more than once. I always have to stop and thing, “How often do I REALLY wear this”. Maybe making packing decisions is just a bit more difficult for me than for others.

  16. jlkmathis Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 1:43 am #

    Reblogged this on Aventuras Españolas and commented:
    I’ve only just started creating my packing list for Spain and this has been beyond helpful in the process. I would recommend this to anyone who is struggling with ideas for what to pack.

  17. joelijam Saturday, 23 June 2012 at 1:19 am #

    Reblogged this on Joelijam's Id.

  18. Comet Sale Monday, 25 March 2013 at 5:41 am #

    Love the flow in your post, simple and clear. Interested in guest posting at my blog?

    My blog /

  19. travelingadventuress Monday, 25 March 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Reblogged this on Tales of a 20-something adventuress.

  20. blog Network Thursday, 9 May 2013 at 5:22 am #

    I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information.
    Your article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to bookmark your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.

  21. Private Tours Of Jerusalem Thursday, 30 May 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after going through a few of the posts I realized it’s
    new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

  22. movers Nebraska Monday, 11 November 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Wow, this is certainly a very thorough list. I am pretty sure several readers will benefit from this post especially that not everyone, myself included, is good at packing! Thank you so much for sharing. Keep your posts coming!

  23. Wonderful post! We will be linking to this great content on
    our website. Keep up the great writing.

  24. Megan Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on Megan in Ireland and commented:
    The most helpful thing I am finding now that I am ATTEMPTING to fit my life into one suitcase…

  25. Venus Chow Thursday, 10 July 2014 at 3:47 am #

    Thank for this! It’s really helpful cus I’m going to study abroad in England, and Im was confusing in what to bring.

  26. Katie Wednesday, 30 July 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    Awesome post! Definitely all great tips. When I studied abroad this past year in Norway my biggest concern was budgeting properly. I ended up deciding to get a phone plan here in the states before leaving, and it worked out amazingly! I used the service provider G3 Wireless. They specialize in abroad plans. The plan was pay as you go, not prepaid, so I didn’t have to worry about running out of minutes or using too many minutes and getting a big bill at the end of my trip. I definitely recommend it to anyone else concerned about roaming costs!

  27. hollygg93 Monday, 25 August 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    Reblogged this on blackblueandscarlet and commented:
    the usefulness is pointless yet surprisingly relevant

  28. Shelia Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 2:34 am #

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board
    and I find It really useful & it helped me out much. I
    hope to give something back and help others like you helped

  29. jai chaturvedi Thursday, 23 October 2014 at 6:52 am #

    helo i am an indian much total cost is to be taken for apply the student visa in spain.??or can i get part time job in there while studying.

  30. neha Tuesday, 20 January 2015 at 9:10 am #

    Thanks for this … I found this very helpful. …

  31. Jeannie Barrett Friday, 11 September 2015 at 8:18 am #

    You need adapter everywhere in Europe. The electrical current is different. First time when I was in Paris I didn`t know and I had to buy one from there.Don`t do my mistake. Best regards!

  32. Antonia Rose Tuesday, 3 November 2015 at 8:29 am #

    I can`t believe you have been in all these places! Amazing!


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