15 Surprisingly Budget-Friendly Sites for Your Custom Program

ISA’s Custom Programs division is celebrating its 15th year in service to U.S. universities for their faculty-led and partnerships study abroad programming. Join us for this series of 15 things as you imagine, develop, and implement your own custom programs abroad.

1. Barranquilla, Colombia

Photo: Eduardo Zárate

Every Sunday, spend the day with friends and locals by participating in Ciclovía: five hours when city streets nationwide are closed to cars but open to bicyclists, pedestrians, and joggers nationwide.

2. Belfast, Northern Ireland

Photo: klndonnelly

As a host to many literary and film festivals and events, take the road less traveled by most tourists to Belfast, which provides an incredible and affordable setting for your study abroad programming.

3. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Photo: ISA staff Dr. Lisette Montoto
Photo: longhorndave

Spend your time, but not much money, to experience the vibrant art scene and intellectual nightlife in Buenos Aires. Check out street musicians, neighborhood tango shows, and the Ateneo – a concert hall come bookstore open until 3am.

4. Dublin, Galway, & Maynooth, Ireland

Photo: ISA student Emma Golebiewski

Éirinn go Brách [or abroad!]. A travel-intensive itinerary is welcome in Ireland, where you can see lots of sites on a budget. Experience the verdant countryside and easily integrate history into your global curriculum.

5. Florence, Italy

Photo: ISA student Haley Johnston

With the museum passport, Amici degli Uffizi, you can be a friend of Florence and explore the works of the masters as a part of your course or independently.

6. Florianópolis, Brazil

Photo: Mike Vondran

In this island metropolis, you’re in a big city while also a part of a tight-knit Brazilian community. With a neighborly attitude, Floripa [as it is affectionately known by locals] is dependably welcoming and safe.

7. Hyderabad, India

Photo: ISA student Audrey Rattay

On-campus living is the way to go in India, where students can simultaneously feel at home and be immersed among local and international Hyderbadi people. The Tagore International House on campus provides the opportunity to make Indian friends, opening the doors to traditional ceremonies and festivities.

8. Lima, Perú

Photo: ISA student Daniel Fink
Photo: Oskari Kettunen

Did you know Peru gave the world the potato? In addition to this dietary staple, and due to the rich Peruvian history and expansive coastline, the cuisine in Lima has evolved from a fusion of local products and influences from Spain, China, Japan, the Caribbean, Italy, and West Africa.

9. Málaga, Spain

Photo: ISA student Caitlin Dodds

Get in, out, and around with ease in Málaga. With direct flights from New York to Spain’s fourth busiest airport, traveling from the States hasn’t been easier; and, the city is extremely well-connected throughout Spain thanks to the local high-speed train and bus station. With over 100 days of sunshine per year, pack your walking shoes and save on ground transportation.

10. Meknès, Morocco

Photo: ISA student Abigail Krusemark

Generous and frequent shows of local hospitality in Morocco affords the opportunity for intercultural engagement and delicious meals and tea.

11. Prague, Czech Republic

Photo: ISA student Danielle Meyer

Eastern Europe is truly worlds away. Outside of the Euro-zone, the Czech Republic operates in the koruna or crown, and remained untouched by the destruction of World War II.

12. Reading, England

Photo: Chase Coffield

With a town built around a university, the local economy revolves around the student community and is appropriately affordable. Just a quick train ride from bustling and multi-cultural London, Reading exhibits a quintessentially English town.

13. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Photo: ISA staff Eliesset Sepúlveda

The mellow attitude and welcoming people on this Caribbean island affords your students the opportunity to dig in and experience daily interactions with locals. Consider serving to learn in the Dominican Republic, where your lasting impact will be invaluable.

14. Shanghai, China

Photo: ISA student Ben Olmstead

Shanghai represents the development model for how China plans to continue to grow. With a progressive mindset, and high-efficiency in housing and public transportation, students have said how Shanghai allowed them to feel “a part of something big.”

15. Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile

Photo: ISA student Kelsie Pace
Photo: ISA student Alexis Geurink

In these Chilean twin cities, experience the best of both worlds. Valparaíso is best described as eclectic, while Viña del Mar exudes elegance. Take the metro along the coast to travel between the two, and you will be transported figuratively as well.


Melissa Stone is a Program Manager for ISA Custom Programs. Melissa works with programs in Belgium, France, and Jordan.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.