Ireland is an amazing country for travellers backpacking through Europe. I’ve already shared why I love to recommend the emerald isle for solo travel, but whether you are solo or part of a group, backpacking Ireland is pretty awesome and easy too. Here are my top tips for travellers looking to experience Ireland on a budget.
Finding Cheap Flights to Ireland
Finding cheap flights to Ireland isn’t too hard; especially if you are coming from Europe or the west coast of North America. Ryanair and Easyjet are probably the best known budget airlines for travel in Europe. When I lived in Ireland I’d travel based on finding cheap airfare and managed to find plenty of tickets for under $50CAD. Just keep in mind that baggage comes with additional fees- so pack light!
Coming from the west coast of North America, I’ve started to take advantage of WOW Air. They frequently have seat sales and although the flights are not direct (quick layover in Iceland), don’t offer food or entertainment, and have very limited luggage allowance (unless you pay), they are comfortable enough. During a recent sale I found return tickets from Montreal to Dublin for $375CAD- and that included paying for luggage each way.
A final tip for those looking for cheap flights to Ireland is to consider airports outside of Dublin; Cork, Shannon, and Belfast are also good options to look at.
Getting Around Ireland
Ireland is small, which is awesome for those looking to explore. There are lots of ways to get around Ireland, but they won’t all be friendly for your wallet. Unless you are travelling as a group, rule out renting a car. It’s pricey; especially if you need to rent automatic as most cars are standard. Trains are another pricey option (unless you book well in advance). Your best bet is definitely to use buses. Bus Eireann is a good choice; they have a great network of busses throughout the country, many of which offer free Wi-Fi. Plus, if you are a student, bring your international student card for extra savings.
Choose Budget Accommodation
Ireland has no shortage of accommodation choices, and there are some great options for those exploring Ireland on a budget. The most obvious choice is to stay in a hostel; they are common across the country and offer a cheap place to stay and also serve as a good way to meet other travellers. Even if you aren’t too keen on the idea of sleeping in a dorm-style room, the private rooms tend to still be at least half the price of hotels.
I love booking.com for finding accommodation because they have a cancellation fee (with no additional charges) if my plans change or I find something better. Check out Irish hostels at booking.com here.
Another great option is Airbnb, though keep in mind they might not always be in a very central location and you may have to budget for additional public transportation.
Food and Drink
One of the best things about Ireland is the pubs; the social aspect, the music, the overall atmosphere. Oh, and the fact that they serve good food for fair prices. Trust me, anyone backpacking Ireland will learn to love Irish pubs; not just the nightlife, but also as a place to grab a good and affordable meal. Typical Irish food including soup and soda bread, fish and chips, or stews usually offer the best deals, meaning you get to try the local fare and save some money. Keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily apply to the popular tourist pubs (ahem, Temple Bar). Try to pick smaller, more local spots.
Of course, to save on money you can also shop and prepare your own food (many hostels and airbnbs offer kitchens). Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, and Dunnes are popular grocery stores. Making your own food might be a bit more work, but it will absolutely help you save some cash.
When it comes to drinks, tap water in Ireland is perfectly healthy so don’t waste your money on fancy bottled water. Beers are, unsurprisingly, cheaper than hard liquor and cocktails, and draft is a better deal than anything in a bottle. Like with the food, choose local when it comes time to grab a pint.
While I’m a big fan of DIY tours when possible, fact is if you are relying on public transportation to explore Ireland, you’ll want to do a couple day trips. It’s not so bad though, group sizes aren’t too big and Ireland has lots of great myths and legends that are worth hearing and learning about along the way.
There is no shortage of tour providers throughout Ireland, and because of that competition, most day trips come with really affordable price tags; many of them costing around $50CAD. While it may seem pricey at first glance, remember that by being able to see some of Ireland’s coolest sites ie: Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway, with a group is probably a better deal than trying to make your own way out there. Especially if you are only going to see one or two things in the area.
I recommend using Get Your Guide for booking your day trips. They promote all local companies and you can compare prices and tours to ensure that you get the most for your money. Check out Get Your Guide’s Ireland tour options here.
Get Out of Dublin
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Dublin. It’s a fun place to explore but it’s also super expensive. Did you know, Dublin is actually one of the 50 most expensive cities in the world? So while I definitely suggest checking it out- be smart about it. My biggest word of advice for those backpacking Ireland is to try to avoid being in Dublin on a weekend as prices for accommodation skyrocket. Make your time in the capital short and sweet; you can do and see a lot in a day or two. Again, Ireland is small so it’s easy to get out and explore other cities and towns that will be much kinder to your wallet.
Backpacking Ireland is amazing; there is so much to see and do. Plus, if you follow my tips above, you can experience the best of Ireland on a budget. Something your wallet will definitely thank you for!
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