My PhD advisor recently agreed to fund my research visit for a conference. What is the etiquette for submitting expense bills for reimbursement? Should I submit bills for all the ubers taken, meals eaten, etc? Or should I mainly just ask for reimbursement for the flight and accommodation? I am comfortable spending a couple of hundred dollars for meals and ubers, and don't want to come across as "cheap".

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    This completely depends on your institution, their policies, and where your supervisor is funding you from.
    – Eletie
    Mar 24, 2022 at 1:22
  • @Eletie- He's funding me from his grant. Mar 24, 2022 at 1:47
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    What part of the world are you in?
    – cag51
    Mar 24, 2022 at 8:20
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    Ask your advisor this question. Your institute should have a policy covering this and you should be aware of this policy. E.g., I know that I absolutely cannot get an uber reimbursed and get a taxi only reimbursed under specific conditions and I know that I get a flat amount for meals. If you are not aware of the rules, there is a high chance that you choose an option that cannot be reimbursed over an option that can be reimbursed. You also need to know the rules regarding receipts etc.
    – user9482
    Mar 24, 2022 at 9:19
  • @Roland ...and in many places, for meals it's an upper limit supported by receipts, not a flat rate.
    – Chris H
    Mar 24, 2022 at 10:58

5 Answers 5


You should ask your advisor what does the grant cover. Some grants cover more than others. You certainly do not want to submit everything without asking first.

  • This. Students usually have a regular communication channel with their professor [citation needed]. I feel it's weird that some other answers are proposing just to send everything without asking, when we can easily ask them first what's covered. Even usually I believe there are documents describing this already.
    – justhalf
    Mar 24, 2022 at 11:01
  • @justhalf: There cannot be documents applicable to every grant. In my case NSF grants allow certain reimbursements and the University grants allow others. As for regular communication channel. I often use my grants to support other people's students. So e-mail is the only option for them. If the OP cannot contact the Professor, one can contact the secretary responsible for the reimbursement. The secretary knows for sure. But it is better to contact the Professor because only the Professor knows how much money he/she can give.
    – markvs
    Mar 24, 2022 at 11:52
  • Sorry I wasn't clear. By document, I mean document in the grant that the professor has access to or know who has it, which can be referred to to the student to read. That's what I did. So it's a specific document in each case, but which I believe is accessible.
    – justhalf
    Mar 24, 2022 at 12:46

Most universities have some kind of online administrative system to handle reimbursement of work expenses. Typically, this would involve you submitting a request into one of the online systems and attaching relevant receipts. Things might be different if your supervisor is funding out of a grant, but there is usually still a system for this. So in this situation, a good first step would be to email your supervisor to ask where/how you should submit your reimbursement request.

Usually reimbursement for work-related trips would include payment for the flights, accommodation, taxis/buses/etc., and meals. Sometimes there is a per diem rate payable for meals and daily expenses in lieu of cost-reimbursement, to alleviate the need to keep receipts for small expenses. Your supervisor should be able to give you guidance on the process and the items that are reimbursed.


You should find out what the rules are from your advisor/institution, get receipts for everything, and preferably avoid spending a penny of your own money. Conferences are work and should be paid for by the grant/institution; you are not being cheap by ensuring that you are not doing this out of your own pocket.

The important thing to do is to find out exactly what the rules are before you go so that you know the score rather than being surprised later or missing out on money you should have claimed back.

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    I second this. Get as much as possible paid directly by the university, flights, accommodation, transfers... That is the bulk done. You then need only worry about food. It's a work trip. Work should pay for it.
    – masher
    Mar 24, 2022 at 13:40

Submit them all. Your advisor is a grown-up and can figure out how to break the news if only some of your expenses can be reimbursed.

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    I'd say ask first. If some things aren't reimbursable, this just creates extra work, both for the OP to copy and submit receipts needlessly, and for the advisor to comb through the expenses and reject some of them. If only some expenses are covered, the advisor can just as easily break that news without doing the paperwork, but only if the OP asks. Mar 24, 2022 at 12:52
  • @NuclearHoagie How do you ask? Do you say, I have some unspecified expenses and I don't know if they can be reimbursed? Or do you think the advisor would prefer if you said, here they are with receipts, let me know if any are a problem. Mar 24, 2022 at 17:11
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    Just ask if there are any types of non-reimbursable expenses you should be aware of, or if there's a written policy you can consult. Most expense reimbursements I've gone through are a bit more tedious than just handing over a pile of receipts. It also may help to know the rules beforehand in case you need an itemized receipt, or if you can't get an alcoholic beverage with a meal reimbursed, or anything else that might affect what you pay for, how you pay for it, or how you document it. Submitting only reimbursable expenses with correct documentation makes everyone's life easier. Mar 24, 2022 at 19:14
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    @NuclearHoagie Can we assume a PhD candidate is smart enough to ask if there's a form for submitting expenses? Mar 24, 2022 at 19:39

As long as you think that the costs are well justified and they are within the rules of your institution I would submit everything. Ideally, we joy attending conferences and meeting colleagues and it may not feel like work but ultimately it is part of our job and should be treated as such. If you worked for a company you would not ask twice but simply assume that your business trip is covered. The same should apply to academic conferences. At least this is what I tell my PhD students and I would reimburse everything without hesitation as long as they can justify it and it is within the official limits.

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