Ireland Travel Tips
Ireland is a beautiful country filled with rolling green hills, castles, beautiful sheer cliffs, Guinness beer, and ultra-friendly locals. Dublin is a lively city with great pubs and history while the country is filled with beautiful landscapes and castles, so it’s hard not to have a good time here. The country’s small size makes it easy to explore regardless of the length of your trip. And despite being on the Euro, the recent economic crisis has made the country much cheaper than it used to be, making it a good value destination.
Destination Guides for Ireland
- Accommodation – Prices average $15-18 USD a night for a hostel dorm room, $50 USD for a single room in a hostel, and starting at $45 USD for a single or double in a budget hotel with a private bathroom. In the bigger cities, especially Dublin, expect to pay a bit more.
- Food – Casual meals like pub food and fast food costs around $10 USD for a meal. A restaurant main dish with a drink will cost about $20 USD. Grocery shopping and cooking your own food will be around $45 USD per week.
- Transportation – Public transportation is first rate in Ireland, whether you’re on a bus or train, expect free wifi, friendly drivers and timely departures. The network of options makes it easy and affordable to traverse the country during your stay. Bus trips around Dublin cost about $2 USD for a single journey. Longer bus journeys, such as Dublin to Belfast will cost around $14 USD. Taxis are expensive, starting at $7 USD for a very short trip, and most cities are extremely walkable, so I suggest you avoid them.
- Activities – Most museums throughout the country cost about $10-15 USD. The Guinness Brewery is one of the few I would recommend, but the most expensive, $23 USD at the door. Save 10% by booking online in advance (added bonus – you also get a fast pass to skip to the front during busy season). Day trips around the countryside will set you back $40 USD or more.
Money Saving Tips
- Fly budget – Ireland is extremely well-served by budget airlines traveling throughout the UK and Europe. By booking in advance with the likes of Ryanair, Easyjet, and BMIBaby, you can get cheap flights from Ireland to elsewhere in the world.
- Student discounts – A valid student ID will get you discounts (up to 50%) to many attractions, museums, and buses throughout the country.
- Drink less – Ireland’s strong pub culture will hit your wallet hard. Temper the cost by visiting happy hours, drinking at home, or skipping drinks all together.
- Eat the pub food – Eat at the pubs for good, hearty local Irish food that won’t destroy your wallet.
- Get a OPW Heritage Card – For those of you that love to tour heritage sites, you should definitely pick up one of these. It guarantees access to main attractions, including most of the castles throughout the country. The card costs $28 USD for adults.
Top Things to See and Do
- Get down in Dublin – Most people who visit Ireland spend time in its capital city, Dublin. Dublin is synonymous with fun. Fans of Ireland’s most famous export (Guinness) will find no shortage of pubs that claim to pour the city’s best pint. The city’s Georgian architecture, music, and “craic” have made Dublin one of Europe’s most popular locations.
- Wander around Galway – Famous for its horse racing festival every July, Galway is popular with tourists from all over the world. Connemara, where ‘The Quiet Man’ was filmed is a must see, along with Kylemore Abbey, a beautiful Benedictine monastery. Galway City itself is a hub for students, writers, and musicians.
- Spot whales in Cork – Cork is a bustling city nestled on Ireland’s south coast. Originally a maritime hub, Cork is now a cosmopolitan university city filled with cheap eats and a lively nightlife. Surfing and whale watching are also popular here.
- Drive along the Ring of Kerry – Also known as the Iveragh Peninsula, this is one of the most well-trodden tourist trails in Ireland. The Ring of Kerry is filled with winding coast roads, lakes, mountainous terrain, and historical forts. Photogenic is an understatement for this area.
- Scramble across the Giant’s Causeway – Cross the border in to Northern Ireland to visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Giant’s Causeway. Myth surrounds this geological wonder of interlocking basalt columns that make you think they might actually be the stairs of giants (ok, not really but it’s still beautiful). I recommend combining this with a visit to Bushmills Distillery to taste one of the finest whiskeys Ireland has to offer.
- Party on St. Patrick’s Day – March 17th is probably the best day of the year to be in Ireland. St. Patrick is Ireland’s patron Saint and, as legend goes, he drove all the snakes out of the country. To celebrate, everyone gets incredibly drunk. Whether you believe the legend or not, this is the biggest party of the year in which everyone is Irish. The biggest parade takes place in Dublin.
- Kiss the Blarney Stone – Home to the famous Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle sits just outside Cork. Visitors flock to see the Stone which is said to bestow eloquence on all those who kiss it.
- Admire the Cliffs of Moher – The magnificent Cliffs of Moher are a must-see for fans of outstanding natural beauty. The view from the rugged cliff tops attract close to a million visitors every year.
- Visit a castle – Ireland is steeped in history and the entire country is covered in castles, all in various states of (dis)repair. From the crumbling ruins of Dunluce Castle to the impeccably preserved Cahir Castle in Tipperary, it’s hard to miss these historical beauties. You can kiss the Blarney stone at the castle that bears the same name. It’s supposed to bring good luck.
- Hike in Connemara – This national park is an awe-inspiring area. Many people come here for hiking and forest bike riding. There are a few castles within the park as well as an old mining area and a heritage and history center.
- Walk through the John F Kennedy Arboretum – Located in County Wexford, this garden is home to over 4,500 species of trees and shrubs. There are several tea rooms, a visitors’ center, and a picnic area. During the summer, there is also a little train that runs through the park.
- Visit the Aran islands – Less than an hour off of the mainland lies the wild beauty of these non-contemporary islands. Here you can get around by bus, bike, or pony trap, whilst you see the various heritage sights, ruins, castles, and more. Tobar Einne and O’Briens Castle are the two major attractions to see.
- Go back in time at Ulster Museum – Just a stone throw away from the Botanical Gardens in Belfast, this museum is host to an odd collection of artifacts and reveals the interesting history of Northern Ireland. There is even an exhibit on local wildlife. It is nice to have tea in the café as well.
- Be Entranced by Newgrange — Newgrange is a prehistoric burial mound that dates back over 5000 years, even older than Stonehenge. Every year, on the date of the Winter Solstice, a beam of light streams down the perfectly aligned entrance passage to illuminate the interior of the burial chamber. Newgrange has been designed to offer a very interesting, informative visit.
- Return to the Middle Ages in Killarney — Killarney is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations, mostly for its undeniable medieval charm. Visit Muckross Abbey (a 15th-century Franciscan friary), Ross Castle, or just wander around the town itself. This is also the traditional starting point for exploring the Ring of Kerry.