If you’re travelling to Ireland on a budget, you need to have a plan of attack from the beginning.
You need to understand how to minimize the unavoidable costs (like flights) and how to limit or completely dodge the avoidable costs (like eating out).
Ireland is expensive, there are no two ways about it. However, a trip to the Emerald Isle doesn’t have to obliterate your bank account. You just need to spend thoughtfully and deliberately.
In the guide below, we’ll tell you how to go about planning your trip to Ireland on a budget, without the stress.
How to do Ireland on a budget
If you’re looking to do Ireland on a budget, there are two things that you need to consider right from the get-go: the unavoidable costs and the avoidable costs.
When you’re planning a trip to Ireland, you need to assess how you can minimize the unavoidable costs and limit (or remove entirely) the avoidable costs.
Unavoidable costs are things like flights, transportation, food, water and any other costs that are necessary to make your time in Ireland possible and enjoyable.
Now, unavoidable costs can be reduced. The price of your flight and car rental can be made cheaper if you book in advance or visit outside of peak-season (more info below).
Other costs, like fee-paying tourist attractions e.g. the Guinness Storehouse, can be dramatically reduced if you avail of certain sight-seeing cards, like the Dublin Pass.
There are certain costs that you don’t have to get hit with if you’re visiting the Emerald Isle on a budget. One of the biggest avoidable costs revolves around food and drink.
Pubs, pints, whiskey, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the day add up VERY quickly. Now, I’d argue that it’s well worth soaking up some of Ireland’s buzz pub atmosphere, but it isn’t a necessity.
Below, you’ll find some tips that’ll help you save money on the avoidable costs without having to scrimp too much.
Ireland on the cheap: 10 tips to reduce your spending with ease
- Tip 1: Be realistic about how long you can visit for (and then hit that ‘book now’ button)
- Tip 2: Be tactful about when you take your vacation to Ireland
- Tip 3: Decide how you’re going to get around well in advance
- Tip 4: Book your flights as soon as possible
- Tip 5: Be organised – plan your route, be realistic and prioritise
- Tip 6: Find pocket-friendly places to stay
- Tip 7: Be prepared when it comes to food – eating out can skyrocket your budget
- Tip 8: Visiting historical sites? Buy a Heritage Card
- Tip 9: Pubs are great, but they can pretty damn expensive. Setting an ‘entertainment budget’ is key
- Tip 10: If you’re organised, you can get a VAT refund on some of your purchases
- Tip 11: Pick up a Dublin Pass and save on the top fee-paying attractions
Tip 1: Be realistic about how long you can visit for
The first thing you need to do to visit Ireland on a budget is to decide how long you’re going to visit for, as this is going to have the biggest impact on how much you’ll need to spend.
Do you have the cash to visit for ten days? Or would it stretch you too thin? Would you be better visiting for five days with a healthy budget that won’t limit what you see and do?
Tip 2: Be tactful about when you take your vacation to Ireland
When you visit Ireland will determine how much you end up paying for everything from flights and car rental to accommodation and more.
If you read our guide to the best time to visit Ireland, you’ll see that some months (the peak season) are far more expensive than others.
If you’re looking to do Ireland on a budget, you’re better off visiting in the shoulder season (the period between the off-season and the peak season) or during the off-season.
Tip 3: Book your flights as soon as possible
As soon as you’ve decided how long you’re going to visit for and when you’re going to visit, get booking your flights to ensure that you avail of the best price.
Before you book flights, drop into our guide to planning the perfect Ireland itinerary. Where you fly into is going to determine the route you take during your Irish adventure.
For example, if you fly into Shannon, will you explore Clare and Limerick before moving down to Kerry? Or will you move up to Galway, Mayo and Sligo?
If you’re confused about the different places to fly into, hop into our guide to Airports in Ireland.
Tip 4: Decide how you’re going to get around well in advance
Deciding how you’re going to get around Ireland is another factor that can confuse and stress people out. Are you better off taking a guided tour or going it alone?!
Often, the amount of money that you have to spend is the decider here. If there’s a group of your travelling, renting a car can work out pretty cheaply, as you spread the costs.
If you’re on a tight budget, some group tours (not all) are likely going to be too expensive. Hop into our guide to getting around Ireland to discover the pros and cons to each type of transport.
Tip 5: Be organised – plan your route, be realistic and prioritise
OK, so you’ve decided when you’re going to travel to Ireland and you’ve decided how you’re going to get around – next up is mapping out a route.
Now, if you’re taking an organised tour, you can ignore this step as this part will be taken care of for you. If you’re driving or taking public transport, you need to map out a route in advance.
A realistic route. If you’re struggling to map out the best road trip route, drop into our guide to planning the perfect Ireland itinerary – you’ll find a step-by-step guide that’ll help you decide where to visit and how to plan your route.
Tip 6: Find pocket-friendly places to stay
OK, so, you’ve decided on the route you’re going to take, happy days! The next step is to find places to stay that aren’t going to break the bank.
Hotels in Ireland, especially in cities and busy towns, can be insanely expensive. For example, I’d never stay in a hotel in Dublin as the prices are through the roof.
Now, if you don’t fancy using hostels, Airbnbs are going to give you the best bang for your buck, especially if travel to Ireland with a group of four or more.
You’ll find that you can pick up a house or an apartment that comfortably sleeps a large group for next to nothing when the cost is divided out amongst you.
With that being said, in many of the quieter towns and villages in Ireland, B&Bs and guesthouses can work out very reasonable. When it comes to booking a place to stay, shop around!
Tip: if you see a guesthouse or a B&B on a price comparison website, give them a call directly or fire them off an email. The chances are you’ll get a cheaper rate if you book direct.
Tip 7: Be prepared when it comes to food – eating out can skyrocket your budget
If you’re taking a trip to Ireland on a budget, you need to be prepared when it comes to food. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner will obliterate your bank account, so you need to plan.
One of the easiest ways to save money on eating out is to stay in self-catering accommodation. Let’s say, for example, you’re in Belfast for two nights, Limerick for one and Galway for two.
You could easily visit a shop (like Dunne Stores, Lidl or Aldi) and buy supplies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let’s take, for example, if you bought breakfast supplies from Lidl.
Breakfast: Porridge with a banana
- Oatilicious oats: €1.79 (this is for a big tub that’ll last weeks depending on the number of people eating)
- Irish Organic Whole Milk: €0.99
- Bunch of 5 Fairtrade Bananas: €1.25
- Rounded up total: €4.50
Not bad for a breakfast that’ll keep you going for hours! For lunch, you could easily make sandwiches and bring them with you. You could also buy snacks, like fruit or energy bars to eat throughout the day.
Tip 8: Visiting historical sites? Buy a Heritage Card
The Heritage Card is a handy way to save a decent chunk of money on admissions to Heritage Sites in Ireland, like Kilmainham Gaol, the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Cahir Castle and loads more.
The Heritage Card is pretty decent price-wise. Here’s how much a ticket costs (note: families are likely to make the biggest savings with one of these):
- Adult: €40.00.
- Senior: €30.00 (60 years and over)
- Student/Child €10.00 (Valid student ID required / Child (12-18 years)
- Family €90.00 (2 adults & 5 eligible children aged from 12 to 18 years)
Find out more about how much you could save and which places are included in our guide to the Heritage Card.
Tip 9: Pubs are great, but they can pretty damn expensive. Setting an ‘entertainment budget’ is key
Another way to do Ireland on a budget is to limit the amount that you drink in pubs. If like me, you tend to have five or six pints on a night out, you’ll find that the €€€’s add up very quickly.
The price of a pint in Ireland can range from €4.20 to €8 (Temple Bar…) depending on where you are. If you’re in Ireland for a week and you drink 20 pints over the week at, say, €5 a go, that’s €100.
Now, it could be argued that you’re on holiday and that there’s nothing like rounding off a day of exploring with a post-adventure pint, but you need to be careful if you’re trying to keep your spending to a minimum.
Set yourself an entertainment budget and stick to it. If it’s €50 for the week, so be it. But stick to it. Also, ignore any websites that tell you happy hour is a thing in Ireland. Happy hours are illegal here.
Tip 10: If you’re organised, you can get a VAT refund on some of your purchases
If you’re travelling to Ireland from outside of the EU, you may be entitled to a VAT refund on some purchases. Yep, you read correctly.
In a nutshell, you can claim money back on some of the purchases that you make in Ireland. Read more about what the refund applies to and how to claim it in our guide to the VAT refund.
Tip 11: Pick up a Dublin Pass and save on the top fee-paying attractions
The Dublin Pass is another handy money-saving tool to have in your arsenal. If you’re visiting the Dublin City and planning on visiting the likes of the Guinness Storehouse and Dublin Castle, it’s worth getting.
It also gives you fast track entry to many of the busier attractions, which is useful if you’re visiting during peak season. Find out how much you can save and what attractions are included in our guide to the Dublin Pass.
Have a question about taking an Irish vacation that won’t break the bank?
If you’re still struggling, feel free to ask any questions about travelling in Ireland for less/budget travel in Ireland in the comments section below.
If you’re visiting Ireland or Northern Ireland for the first time and you’re struggling to plan your trip, visit our tourist information hub – it’s packed with information you’ll find useful.