This is the guide you have been searching for – a detailed guide to how to travel around Ireland on a budget. Be it the food scene in County Cork or exploring the west of Ireland, there are are always cheaper options to explore Ireland. From the best car rental options, to the best budget hostels and hotels, I hope this Ireland guide will help you plan your trip to the emerald isle…without breaking the bank! This should help you work out the average cost to travel to Ireland and feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or need any help.
If you’re planning to travel around Ireland for a few weeks, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have decent travel insurance – as you never know what could go wrong and health care in Ireland is VERY pricey! I always use World Nomads, as they’re known as the best insurer for backpackers and long term travellers.
Part 1: Cheap places to stay in Ireland
Even if you are on a very tight budget for your trip to Ireland, there are still many accommodation options available to you. The catch? You may need to be a little bit more open-minded! From the best backpackers in Ireland to Airbnb or Couchsurfing, here’s how to stay in Ireland on a budget.
Hostels – BOOK AHEAD!!
Ireland has loads of amazing hostels (here are my 15 favourites!) and private backpacker hostels dotted around the country. There is a huge variety of hostels in Dublin, with prices varying depending on location, facilities and type of room wanted. The only catch is…you seriously need to book in advance. Especially during the summer, at Christmas and anytime in March close to St Patrick’s Day.
The cheapest dorm beds in Dublin City include:
- Jacobs Inn – €18.00 – Book now
- Four Courts Hostel – €20.00 – Book now
- Isaacs Hostel – €23.00 – Book now
One of Dublin’s best hostels if you are craving the same atmosphere as hostels across Europe and South East Asia, and you are looking to party, would be the Generator Hostel. The only downside is the price they charge for a room in a dorm could fund a week of travels in Thailand!! I honestly don’t know how anyone could pay €50 for a bed in a dorm….BUT it is rated one of Dublin’s best hostels. So I’ll leave it up to you!!
I think everyone has heard of Airbnb (click the link for €35 free credit) at this stage so I don’t think I need to explain how it works. If you are looking to stay in Dublin, or any other city in Ireland, for a few days or even a few weeks, Airbnb is an excellent option. It’s especially good for couples or 2 friends travelling together. You will get your own private room in someone’s house or apartment, and they may even show you around the city and introduce you to their friends. With prices starting as low as €32 for 2 people in a beautiful city centre bedroom, this might even be cheaper than staying in a hostel!
Cheap hotels (Updated May 2017)
While hostels and Airbnb are normally cheaper, you can get great deals on hotels in Dublin and around the country. For booking hotels in Ireland, most people use Hotels.com or else Booking.com as these offer the most competitive prices. Hotels.com also give you 1 night free for every 10 nights that you book.
For summer 2017, these are some of the best value hotels around Ireland that I could find. Here’s a list of all hotels under €100 per night in Dublin, but I’ve tried to pick out a few of my favourites below – one’s that won’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Oh, and if want to throw the budget out the window – check out these luxury Irish castles you can actually sleep in!!
Cheap hotels in Dublin
- The Louis Fitzgerald Hotel – From €98 per room per night
This hotel is a little outside the city centre but the LUAS (light rail) runs here throughout the day until about 11pm.
- Travelodge Dublin Phoenix Park Hotel – From €98 per room per night
This budget hotel is located next to Europe’s largest city park – which also happens to be where the President of Ireland lives! Not a bad location!
- Clifton Court Hotel – From €100 per room per night
If you want to be in the city centre, walking distance to Temple Bar and all the best pubs, this is a great budget option.
Looking to REALLY do Ireland on a budget? Save hundreds of euro by buying a tent, and camping all around Ireland. You can go free camping in a lot of places or head to some of Ireland’s best camp sites, which will only set you back a couple of euro each night to pitch your tent.
2.Cheapest day tours
Did you know there’s an incredible amount of free tourist attractions and other sites that are free of charge to help your budget when backpacking in Ireland? From remote castles to beaches to stunning cliffs and small villages, there is so much you can do without having to spend a fortune. You should check out my guide to ‘Unique Things To Do in Dublin for Free’ to give you a little taster.
If you don’t have a car, the there are some great day tours from Dublin you can do which cater for travellers on a budget. You can find a pretty wide variety on Viator (a company run by Tripadvisor) – from cheap day tours to week long excursions and the prices are very budget friendly too.
Most popular day tours from Dublin
- Day tour to Cliffs of Moher – From $55
- Day tour to Northern Ireland – From $83
- Day tour to Blarney Castle Cork – From $61
Good Irish companies to check out include Wild Rover tours (the guides are brilliant, all buses and brand new and the day tours are great value)or Paddywagon (this is great for backpackers looking to tour the country for a few days with a fun group.
3. Cheap flights to Ireland
Cheap Flights to Ireland
I highly recommend you checking out my ‘Ultimate Guide To Booking Cheap Flights’ to help you find some cheap flight deals to Ireland. If you are flying from anywhere in Europe, Ryanair is definitely your best bet. Use flight search engine Skyscanner to check when the cheapest dates to fly are or else checkout my post about booking cheap flights on Skyscanner. You can find flights from Europe to Ireland for as little as €10 each way!!
If flying from the US, you should check out Wow Air’s new flight deals that fly from Washington DC, Boston, Oakland (San Francisco) and a few other US cities to Ireland via Iceland for about 300 euro return. I always think the trick to cheap flights to Ireland is thinking outside the box. If this means flying from the US to Ireland via Iceland or from Bangkok to Ireland via Norway (Norwegian Air does super cheap flights!) then so be it.
To avoid extra baggage charges, do your best to bring hand luggage only as Ryanair charge a whooping €35 to check in a single bag. BE WARNED. The good news on this front is that Ryanair now allow you to bring 2 carry on bags; a backpack or mini suitcase up to 10kg and one handbag/satchel.
One alternate way to get to Ireland is on a ferry. There are 4 ports along the Irish coast that you can arrive into, depending on where your departure point is. Ferries leave for Scotland from Belfast, to the UK from Dublin and Rosslare and to France from both Cork and Rosslare. Sailings on Irish Ferries from Holyhead to Dublin only take 1 hour and 50 minutes and are pretty cheap if you are a foot passenger or there is a group of you in 1 car.
Part 4: Transport within Ireland
From the airport
Forget about taxis and forget about trains if arriving at the airport. Not even Irish people can deal with their ridiculous prices. The only exception to this is the DART line within County Dublin which is great for seeing the coast or inter city trains when there is some sort of special deal on. Also, if there are 4 of you, a taxi from the airport can be quite reasonable, but if you are just 1 or 2 people, take the bus instead
Your best bet in Dublin is taking the bus from the airport to the city centre. When you arrive at Dublin airport, you will be overwhelmed with options. The Aircoach – 6 euro one way, the ‘Airport Express’ – 6 euro one way, 10 euro return, taxis (around 20-25 euro), inter city buses and last but definitely not least Dublin bus number 16. This is your cheapest option to get to the city centre, charging only 3.30 euro for a single journey. Important note: You must have correct change and they don’t accept notes!
DISCOUNT: You can get a 10% discount off bus travel from Dublin Airport with JJ Kavanagh buses to any of their destinations with promo code: JJKav10
If you arrive into other cities (Cork, Belfast etc) and want to explore Ireland, buses will still be your cheapest option. Make sure you compare the different private companies such as JJ Kavanagh (great for day trips from Dublin to nearby towns and cities like Kilkenny), Air Coach (great for Cork – Dublin and Dublin-Belfast), GoBus, CityLink (great for direct buses from Dublin – Galway) with Bus Eireann (the national bus company) to ensure you are getting best deal.
Hitchhiking is also a great option. I think Ireland is one of the last places in Europe where you will find it really easy to get a lift. This is especially true in the more rural areas in the middle and the West of Ireland, where some people (not very many, but a few) can no longer rely on regular bus services on thus rely on the kindness of strangers instead. Be sure to check out the HitchWiki Guide to Ireland for good places to catch a ride. You could also try cycling – won’t get much cheaper than that!
Best Car Rental
If you are not travelling alone, and you are over 25, you have your full drivers license, and you are not afraid to drive on the wrong side of the road…renting a car is in fact the best way to see Ireland from the eyes of a local. If you really want to see areas of untouched beauty, stunning beaches, mountains hills, dead ends and get off the tourist trail, renting a car is the only way to go. It’s not too pricey if you opt for a smaller model. The only catch is the big down payment/deposit and the insurance but if you can pay on your credit card and share the price with a friend, it’s not too bad. In Ireland, I recommend booking with Europcar although in truth I believe every car rental company in the world is out to get us backpackers!! Prices normally start from as little as €25 per day for a small economy car (but insurance etc will be extra.)
One thing that should be noted here: don’t buy car rental insurance through the Car Rental people if you already have decent travel insurance or if you’re booking with an AMEX card as you should already be covered for damage to the car or injury to yourself. Third party insurance is the only thing to worry about. Just a little travel tip.
Part 5: Food and Drink
Food and drink will probably be your biggest expense in Dublin. If you are planning on coming to Dublin, or even Ireland, simply to party, taste copious amounts of Guinness and eat gourmet food, good luck sticking to that budget! There are a few insider tricks and places to avoid, but I think you might find it difficult to stick to. You’ll go in search of ‘the craic’ and you’ll find a lot of it in the most expensive of places. You only live once, I guess, so it’s okay to splash out sometimes.
First off, if you really want to save money I recommend buying food in the supermarket and cooking in your hostel. bIt boring, but certainly cheapest option. If you don’t want to do that, check out the CheapEats website and Twitter feed for all the best restaurant deals. You could also look up Groupon and GrabOne as they always have cheap restaurant deals for two. I also found this article on 10 of Dublin’s Cheap Restaurants which could be useful. Yelp reviews are pretty handy too!
In general, everything outside of Dublin is cheaper. Food, drink, accommodation etc. The further from Dublin you go, the better deals you will get and you will also find some fantastic restaurants serving delicious fresh food.
Step 1: Pre drink in your hostel or buy some cans and go to The Pav, Trinity College’s student bar. Everyone here just sits out on the grass during the summer drinking from cans and enjoying the limited sunshine.
Step 2: Stay away from Temple Bar. I mean it, that place will suck every last cent out of your wallet and you’ll be left sitting on the curb crying because you can’t even afford your bus back to the airport.
Step 3: Work out the bars that have special drinks deals, depending on the day of the week. If it’s a Tuesday, head to Diceys on Harcourt street for 2 euro drinks. Thursday? Head to the South William for ‘Flippy Thursdays’ (they flip a coin, you guess heads or tails, and if you’re guess is correct you get the drink for free!!). O’ Reillys bar under Tara street DART station also does some great drinks deals mid week. Dublin’s only Aussie bar, located on Parnell street, also does some mean drinks deals such as pitchers of Fosters beer for 1 euro.
Step 4: Pretend you are actually in the UK instead of Ireland, and head to a Wetherspoons pub in Blackrock or Dun Laoghaire. They have the cheapest pints in Dublin, and the prices stay the same regardless of day of the week or how late at night it is. Pints as cheap as 2 euro!!
Part 6: What to pack for Backpacking Ireland
TRAVEL TIP: Always pack a reusable water bottle with you when backpacking, it will save you a lot of money on buying bottles of water on a daily basis and is much better for the environment.
You can read my detailed Ireland Packing List here, but here’s a brief summary:
A waterproof tent
If you’re planning to travel Ireland on a budget, camping is a great cheap option for accommodation as mentioned above. This is Ireland, so forget your flimsy festival test and be sure to pack a decent waterproof tent with extra rain cover!
Planning to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights off the west coast of Ireland or up for some midnight exploring in search of one of the clearest night skies in the world? Be sure to pack a decent torch!
A waterproof jacket
Depending on how much you feel the cold will help you decide what type of jacket to bring. It can reach highs of 25 degrees in the summer, so I always find layering is best under a light waterproof jacket.
Patagonia is a really great brand, and while more expensive than others, the quality really shows and their jackets are more of an investment. Great if you have a few trips to colder climates planned. I personally love this Torrentshell Rain Jacket for Women or this red Torrentshell Jacket for Men.
Granted, it’s pretty easy to pick one of these up at pretty much any shop in Ireland, but you’ll thank me when you arrive in Dublin Airport in the pouring rain and have to queue for a taxi without one! Again, you won’t need it always, so try get one of those travel-sized ones where you press the button and POP the umbrella pops up like this one!
Decent walking shoes
No need to break the bank when working through your Ireland packing list, just pick up a basic pair of walking boots like the Columbia Waterproof boots that start from just $50.
Thermal tops if visiting in Winter
If you are planning to visit Ireland in the height of winter, expect sub-zero temperatures, rain every hour and a horrible wind chill. Believe me, you will want those thermal tops, and you can always hide them under a funky Christmas jumper or your nice winter coat! They start from just $10 so you can’t go wrong…
A swimsuit, in Ireland? Are you crazy?! Trust me, if visiting during the summer and you see how beautiful our beaches and lakes are, you will definitely want to go swimming. Is it cold? Of course it is, but it’s not quite as bad as you might think. Many hotels in Ireland have excellent spa facilities, gyms and swimming pools so even if you don’t plan to brave the Atlantic Ocean, I still suggest packing a swimsuit. Nothing too fancy needed for Ireland ladies! ;-)
A wash / face cloth
My American friends tipped me off on this. Hotels and guesthouses in Ireland often don’t include a wash cloth or face cloth (sounds weird, but it’s not really that common here!) so if you’re used to showering with one bring your own, or buy a small travel wash set like this one. If you’re travelling on a budget and staying in hostels, you’ll need your own towel so pick up a compact travel towel.
Budget breakdown / costs
Cheap hostel dorm – between €16 – 25 per night
Cheap dinner in Dublin – possible for under €10
Day trips start at €30 and go up to €80 for longer distances
A pint can cost as little as €2 in Diceys or as much as €8 in Temple Bar!
Car rental starts from just $25 per day (plus insurance etc).
I think that’s it…so HAPPY TRAVELS!
I’ve probably forgotten lots, so leave a comment if you want to ask any questions or need help planning a route or itinerary! :-)