Budgeting for your elective

Consider your personal finances and plan an initial budget as early as possible. Try to be conservative with your estimate and note down everything that you can think of in terms of cost, together with minimum and maximum limits so you can build in some flexibility. Don’t forget that you might be charged for some vaccinations, so these would count as a cost to your elective budget, and transfers to remote clinics can cost a lot of extra cash, so you need to budget for them.

Starting out by making an overview of your budget is always helpful, as it gives you a solid base from which to work on building a more detailed plan and budget. This layered approach to planning your elective has several advantages:

  • It shows potential sponsors that you are organised.
  • It lets you get a greater depth of understanding, and thus preparation, for the elective you want to undertake.
  • You can start seeing clearly what elective opportunities are within your budget.

It is also a good idea to set up a savings account as soon as possible, so that you can keep any funds you receive in advance separate from your student loans and earnings. This way you can see how much money you have available, how much you need to save, whether you need to change your plans, and most importantly, ensure that you don’t spend your elective money on anything else.

Things to include in your budget

Here are the main things you’ll probably need to budget for when planning an elective:


Flights and also in-country travel. Shop around for cheap flights and international bus and rail passes; the Student Universe site is a good place to start. You can also find regular deals and top tips on Save the Student.


See the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office website which gives comprehensive travel advice by country and links for all international embassies in the UK. If you are not a UK national it is normally faster and cheaper to apply for non-UK visas in your home country, so plan ahead.

Travel insurance

This is essential as it covers not only your belongings but also emergency medical treatment and retrieval.

Professional indemnity insurance

You will need this in addition to travel insurance, as the latter won’t cover you if you’re sued by a patient or their family. If you are already a member of one of the medical indemnity and defense organisations, check if they offer free indemnity provision for your elective. The main ones do, but you need to be a member and to contact them before you travel. Some have exclusions e.g. won’t provide free cover for electives in Australia or the USA, so make sure you check.


This could be a home-stay with a local family; a room at the university or hospital where the elective is taking place; a B&B, a hotel or a hostel. For costs of budget tourist accommodation, check out travel guides such as the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.


For organised electives, these may include the costs of in-country travel, accommodation, language classes, some clinical teaching and insurance depending on the organisation arranging the elective. Make sure that you carefully check exactly what is and is not included.

Day-to-day living costs

What will you need for any food and drink, toiletries, clothing and entertainment while away.

Medical supplies

As well as a medical pack for your own needs, students who travel to developing countries sometimes take supplies to donate to the local hospital / health centre

Pre-travel immunisations

Most GP practices now charge for these. Check whether the hospital attached to your medical school offers students free travel jabs via Occupational Health.

Malaria prophylaxis

Costs vary depending on which tablets you take

Personal spending money

How much you need depends on how much vacation travel you’re planning and what part of the world you’ll be in.

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