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. I absolutely love this country. It’s a magical land full of wonder, history, and fun and I can’t recommend visiting here enough. No one ever walks away unhappy from Ireland and, by using this travel guide, you’ll know all the best things to do so you don’t either. Visit Ireland. It’s phenomenal.
Accommodation – Prices average 10-20 EUR a night for a hostel dorm room. You can find private rooms that sleep two ranging from 35-60 EUR. Hostels typically offer free linens, free WiFi, and a lot offer free breakfast. Budget hotels average around 50 and will include a private bathroom and some include an Irish breakfast (read, scone). In the bigger cities, especially Dublin, expect to pay a bit more. You could also try Airbnb, which has shared rooms for as low as 16 EUR per night and entire homes averaging about 50 EUR a night.
Food – Fast food items start at around 4 EUR, while a simple meal at a pub will set you back 9-14 EUR. A nicer meal, with a drink, will be upwards of 18 EUR. If you go out early to lunch or dinner, you’ll find many restaurants offer “early bird” specials where you can get good deals. If you cook your meals, expect to pay 50-60 EUR per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods. For the best value food, visit the pubs! Local meal, with local people, at local prices!
Transportation – Public transportation is first-rate in Ireland! Whether you’re on a bus or train, expect free WiFi, friendly drivers, and timely departures. Bus trips around Dublin cost about 2 EUR for a single journey. Longer bus journeys, such as Dublin to Belfast will cost around 17 EUR. It costs about 45-65 EUR to get to Cork from Dublin by train and takes about 2.5 hours. It costs about 35-55 EUR to get to Galway from Dublin by train and takes about 3 hours. Buses take about the same amount of time but will save you about 10 EUR. Taxis are expensive and, since most cities are extremely walkable, I suggest you avoid them.
Activities – Most museums throughout the country cost about 9-14 EUR. The Guinness Brewery is one of the few I would recommend, but the most expensive, costing 21 EUR 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 36 EUR or more.
Suggested daily budget – 40-60 EUR / $42-63 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- 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 altogether.
- Eat the pub food – Eat at the pubs for good, hearty local Irish food that won’t destroy your wallet.
- Get an 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 25 EUR for adults. This is a must for people visiting multiple cities in the counry!
- Rideshare – If you’re flexible in your schedule, use the ridesharing service BlaBlaCar and catch rides with locals between cities (or countries). When I used this service, not only did I save a lot of money, but I got to meet interesting people to and learn about local culture and life. Drivers are verified and it’s perfectly safe (though sometimes rides don’t show up, which is why you need to be flexible).
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see. I love this service a lot and highly recommend you try to use it (at least to meet people) while in the country! Plus, free accommodation helps the wallet!
Top Things to See and Do in Ireland
- 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 into Northern Ireland to visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Giant’s Causeway. It’s open daily from 9am-5pm with some extended hours depending on the month and it costs 10 EUR. I recommend combining this with a visit to Bushmills Distillery to taste one of the best whiskeys Ireland has to offer (entrance costs 9 EUR and it’s open 10am-4:45pm Monday-Saturday and it opens at 12pm on Sundays).
- Party on St. Patrick’s Day – St. Patrick is Ireland’s patron Saint, and as the legend goes, he drove all the snakes out of the country. To celebrate, everyone gets incredibly drunk (though not as drunk as we get in the US). 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. Admission is 13 EUR and it’s open daily from 9am to at least 5pm
- Admire the Cliffs of Moher – The Cliffs of Moher stretch for eight kilometers along the Atlantic coast and reach a height of 214 meters. They are home to a wide variety of birds and offer fantastic views that many have seen on postcards and paintings. Beware of the fog! When I went it was too cloudy to even see the cliffs! Save this activity for a nice day.
- 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. It’s open daily from 10am until at least 5pm and costs 4 EUR.
- 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. Admission is free and the museum is open daily (except Mondays) from 10am-5pm.
- 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. Admission is 6-11 EUR and it’s open from 9:30am-5pm with some extended hours depending on the season.
- 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.