We aren’t called the Economical Excursionists for nothing here folks. What started as a genuine need to be frugal to afford travel quickly became a passion, and to be honest, a game to me. I get some weird thrill out of getting the best bang for my buck no matter where we travel now, and that definitely included figuring out how to budget travel Ireland on our one week trip around the south island.
But, traveling to Ireland on a budget does NOT mean you have to slum it up or even skip important destinations just for the sake of “budget travel.” Nope, it’s important to truly enjoy your trip, but you can totally do so without breaking the bank. The reality is, you just have to know HOW to travel to Ireland on a budget- and that’s exactly what I’ll show you in this article.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to read all our Tips and Tricks For Anyone Traveling to Ireland
Here is our exact 7 Day Ireland Itinerary to help you plan as well.
Planning a Trip to Ireland on a Budget
^Planning a trip to Ireland? Don’t Forget To Pin This!^
Let’s first look at a completely average cost of a trip to Ireland. Just for generalization’s sake, let’s look at some typical prices of things you’d need if you weren’t traveling Ireland on a budget:
- Airfare: $600-800 in high season from major hubs per person
- Daily Accommodation: $100 (standard double occupancy room)
- Daily Meals: $30-$50/Day per person
- Transportation: Varies depending on what you choose within the country
These costs are actually neither expensive nor cheap for what I see in Europe, but rather pretty typical costs. But hey, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to have a cheap Ireland vacation!!!
How To Get Cheap Flights To Ireland
Travel Hack with Credit Cards
If you don’t follow us much, you may not be aware that we’ve traveled literally all over the world for close to free because of travel hacking. You just pay taxes and fees on flights, which to Europe could be as low as about $12. You can read all about what is travel hacking here if that sounds intriguing.
There are a ton of budget airlines now that operate to Ireland. The catch is that the cheapest flights are typically from major hubs (ie New York). You can always hodge podge together an itinerary if you are in a location that the budget airlines don’t service. For example, try to find a cheap flight on Frontier or Southwest to New York and then switch airlines for the cross- Atlantic flight. This isn’t always easy and in some cities even requires a complete airport change. We’ve done this numerous times from JFK to Laguardia as well as Chicago O’Hare to Midway. You’ll obviously need to have PLENTY of time between flights. Maybe more important is you’ll want a “go with the flow” attitude if going that route, as you never know what can come up when traveling!
The other catch to budget airlines is that they are budget for a reason. But hey, for around $300 for a roundtrip flight to/from Ireland, I’ll bring my own food, and do a carry on luggage only!! If you aren’t aware of the quirks of budget airlines, if you see a super cheap price, just be sure to see what “extras” you need to pay for. You might be surprised what they’ll charge you for (anything from seat assignment to oversized hand baggage). Again, as long as you know the rules, you’ll be fine and just saved a ton of money on flights!!
A few main budget airlines to Ireland are:
- Aer Lingus
- Wow Air
- Ryan Air (from Europe)
- Wizz Air (to Belfast)
I still don’t understand how people don’t know to just use Flights.Google.Com . It is one of the best search tools you can find for the average user. I love using this as my first searches because it includes airlines you may not even know exist. For example, I’ve never heard of Tap Air Portugal, but apparently, they fly into Dublin from New York!? Who Knew!?
You can even set alerts on Google Flights to help you snatch up that cheap flight.
Know When To Go
There are plenty of theories in the travel world when the cheapest times to travel are, but the reality is that nowhere is “off the beaten path” anymore and you probably won’t find huge discounts in different seasons.
With that being said, it IS often still cheaper (comparatively) to fly in offseason to Ireland (winter), but with that comes a lot of downsides such as:
- Short daylight hours
- Some things being closed
- Not as good of weather
However, if you are really trying to penny pinch and are really traveling Ireland on a budget, then this is a way to see if you can cut some costs.
Budget Car Rental in Ireland
Many people will wonder if they can make a trip to Ireland cost less if they do public transportation (a totally valid though since that is true in so many locations).
While yes there are buses that you can use, the reality is, for the confusion and time the Ireland buses would add, it is not worth any cost savings. Plus, you can get a budget rental car in Ireland for REALLY affordable prices. I mean, we are talking like $15 a day or less!!! Obviously, if there is more than one of you traveling, this becomes a no brainer, especially when you look at all the amazing places you’ll want to go in the countryside that would be near impossible by public transportation.
For our 7 Days in Ireland, our car rental cost about $100. That’s about $14/Day! Score!
Pro Tip: Often rental companies will give a discount for longer rentals. If you have the time in your itinerary, you might find that you’ll get a cheaper daily rate for a 7 day rental compared to a 3 day tip.
But wait…it gets better (said in my best, cheesiest, infomercial voice….)
Do You Need Extra Insurance To Drive In Ireland?
Many rental companies worldwide have a CDW waiver. This waiver is NOT insurance. Instead, it says that the rental company will greatly reduce (notice I didn’t say eliminate) an outrageously high deductible if you are in an accident or if the car is damaged (something that is NOT uncommon on those teeny tiny Irish roads!)
Most countries use the Collision Damage Waiver as part of their rental agreement for insurance. However, Ireland is one of the few countries that does not. (We have found that many countries where you have to drive on the left side does not include CDW….I’m going to go ahead and assume that’s because too many people get into accidents because they momentarily forgot they were driving on the left!)
So, in Ireland, car rental companies will “require” you to add the CDW to your rental agreement. However, that can cost upwards of $30…..A DAY!
Yeah, you read that right. The insurance can be more than the car rental itself!
So I know what you are thinking. “Ok, that’s fine, I’ll just deny the coverage.”
Sorry friends, not possible. You actually MUST have CDW coverage in order to drive in Ireland. So what’s a budget traveler to do!?
Check Your Credit Card Policy
Depending on your credit card, they may actually cover CDW as part of their services on the card. Just call your credit card and ask if they include this and if so, request a written letter from the credit card company stating the policy. You’ll obviously want to do this well before your trip so that you have a physical copy to give the rental company.
You might find that the rental company gives a ton of push back on this or even tries to then get you to agree to different additional insurance. This is why a written, physical copy (preferably one copy for yourself) is important.
Don’t Get an International Driver’s Licence
You actually don’t need an international permit (not that they are terribly expensive) if you are just going to Ireland and are there for a short trip. However, if you are a frequent traveler, I still advise always having one.
Also, your car rental company may ask or even require one. Therefore, double-check before arriving just to make sure you have all your ducks in a row.
You do need a current/ valid driver’s license as well as your own insurance before driving in Ireland, so don’t forget your wallet!
Get A Heritage Card…..Maybe
If you are only going to be in Ireland (IE Dublin) for a few days, then the Heritage Card may not be worth it.
However, if you are going to be traveling in Ireland for 5 days or more and/or are planning on hitting up as many tourist sites as you can, then the Heritage Card can make it worth it.
The Way It Works: You buy a Heritage Card, which is actually good for a whole year, and you now have free access to any tourist attraction on the Office of Public Works (OPW) list. So, for example, you can get into a lot of popular sites such as:
- Burren National Park
- Killarney National Park
- Muckross House and Farms
- Cahir Castle
- Trim Castle
- Ok….a TON of castles. Just look at this list
- Ennis Friary
Basically, if you were already planning on visiting about 6 sites on the list (depending on the sight), then it pays for itself. But, what I really liked about the Heritage Card was since there were SO many places on the list, we decided to randomly make some pit stops that we wouldn’t have otherwise. Since they didn’t cost us any extra to get into because we already had the card, it was a great way to see more than what we would have otherwise.
You can easily buy the cards at most of the locations, but only a small handful will accept cards, so just have cash on hand.
On the first Wednesday of the month, there is a small list of places that the Office of Public Works (OPW) allows for a limited number of free visitors. While I wouldn’t say that anything on the list particularly stands out as a fantastic steal, if all your stars align (you are there on the first Wednesday and you were planning on going to one of the listed locations) then hey, every penny saved counts when doing budget travel!
Go Grocery Shopping
If you have already read my Easiest Ways to Penny Pinch WHILE Traveling, then you know I am a HUGE fan of finding local grocery stores for regular meals.
If you are staying at a wonderful Irish B&B (more on this below), then an insanely large, traditional Irish breakfast is usually included. We are talking numerous eggs, bacon, several types of sausages, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, and sometimes potatoes…..ALL on one (ok, maybe numerous) plates.
Depending on what kind of eater you are, you can fill up on this and just have a snack in your day bag (granola bars and fruit are my go-tos) to tide me over until a big dinner.
Alternatively, I love finding local grocery stores and getting things like sandwich supplies, fruit, or anything locally fun (Irish soda bread from the bakery, hand pies to go, etc)
By doing this, you then are only looking at needing to eat out once a day, which can greatly reduce costs. Or, you know, spend that saved money on an extra Guinness or 3 😉
Some grocery chains that are common in Ireland are:
Choose Accommodation Wisely
Authentic Irish B&Bs
We stayed at traditional B&Bs during our week in Ireland, and this actually was more expensive than our typical budget accommodation. However, we really wanted to get more info on that authentic Irish Hospitality experience. While you can get some really fantastic B&Bs for around $80/night, that still isn’t what I consider “Budget Travel.”
Alternatively, you can try the AirBnB route. I personally love staying at AirBnBs now that we have kids, because we select the “Entire Place” option and get, well, an entire home! It’s perfect for extra space, a kitchen to save money on meals and not be cramped into a small hotel room with two toddlers. However, if you go the “Entire Place” route, you will miss out on that fantastic Irish B&B experience.
You can also choose to filter just by renting out 1 room of a home and staying with a host. This way, you’ll get a much more authentic B&B experience (but probably without those amazing breakfasts!)
Both of these options are much less expensive than the traditional B&B route. There are double occupancy rooms for only about $45 last I checked in Dingle, for example, and only around $60 for a small 1 bedroom loft.
If you are wanting to stay in an AirBnB, here is up to $30 off your first booking.
Yup, you read that right. Spend the night in a castle!!! Ok, so again, this is not what I would call “Budget Travel” but you can actually find some pretty reasonably priced stays at actual castles! On AirBnB, there are a few that are around the $150/night mark. Not “cheap” but definitely unique and not insanely expensive!
STOP!!! I know I know, “Hostels.” You are thinking, “Thanks, LeAnna, but I am well past my hostel days. I don’t care to share a bunk bed in a room with 6-12 other people.”
But here’s the thing if you are trying to travel Ireland on a budget: Many hostels in Ireland are NOT what you think of in a traditional sense.
Just to entertain me for a moment, look at HostelWorld and see what they have for options. You’ll see that more often than not, you get a private, double occupancy room, some even with it’s own ensuite bathroom (gasp! I know, unheard of in traditional hostels!)
If you are truly looking for cheap places to stay in Ireland, don’t write off hostels quite yet.
Dublin on a Budget
If you are looking for cheap trips to Ireland, a quick jaunt to just Dublin might be an answer. You’ll miss out on so much of what Ireland has to offer, but considering that getting around Ireland is one of the most costly budget items (outside of the flight), then just staying in and near Dublin may not be a horrible idea.
All of the above is still true if you are just staying in Dublin, but here are a few more things you can do.
Free Things To Do in Dublin
I’m such a sucker for finding free things to do when traveling. Here are a few things you can do in Dublin for free:
- Take a Free Walking Tour: This was honestly one of the best things we did while in Dublin. We hopped on the Sandeman’s Europe Free Walking Tour it was one of the best ones we’ve done (we do free walking tours almost everywhere we go when offered!) It is a LONG day and very long walking tour, but they seriously hit up so many sights and give such great context to the history of Dublin and Ireland as a whole. I don’t do star ratings, but if I did, this would definitely get 5 Star!
- Dublin Castle: So, not ALL of the Dublin Castle is free, and it might be hard to get in (book ahead!) for even the free stuff, but you can still see the Chapel Royal and a few of its museums for free.
- Art Galleries and the Chester Beatty Library: Dublin has numerous art galleries that are actually free and the Chester Beatty Library is a great choice for a free or rainy day activity
- National Museum of Ireland: If you are wanting to start your trip with really learning about the fascinating (and tumultuous) history of Ireland, this is a great place to start. I always feel things like this really give a trip much more meaning and bonus points that this one is free!
- Weekly Markets: Hit up the Saturday Temple Bar food market for great eats or go to the Designer Mart for a craft market
- Free Music: One of my favorite free things to do in Ireland was to listen to the locals play music. It is so beautiful and soulful! Grafton or Henry Street both provide great places to find local musicians playing and of course just ask the locals where a great pub for free music is and they’ll point you in the right direction!
- Phoneix Park: If you are getting out into the gorgeous countryside, I don’t know if I would put this at the top of my list, but if you are just staying in Dublin and want a bit of a reprise, this is one of the largest urban parks in Europe to enjoy at no cost.Dublin is going to be a little bit more expensive than other locations in Ireland but you can still find Dublin Budget Hotels.
Where To Stay in Dublin on a Budget
I obviously like using Booking.com as my first line of defense in saving some cash when traveling and booking hotels. I use the filters like crazy (I usually select the $0-55 and $55-111 options, select high rated properties, and even compare things like hotels to entire apartment rentals)
Hostels, again, are a great choice in Dublin if you are really wanting to save money for cheap Ireland trips.
Pro Tip: Stay Outside the City Center
We chose to stay just outside the city center and we saved a ton of money. Ironically, this was actually one of our favorite B&Bs during our entire stay in Ireland!
The key to this is ensuring that there is a bus line near your accommodation. We had one literally across the street from our B&B, so it made the 20 minute drive into the city center a cinch.
There you have it. Are cheap Ireland vacations possible? I’m not sure I would say CHEAP, but I definitely believe you can do Ireland budget travel if you know where to look! If you’ve been there, do you have any other cheap Ireland travel tips?
Planning your trip? What other areas can I help you figure out ways to travel cheap in Ireland?
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