Planning a trip to Ireland on a budget? It’ll be trickier than you think!
I’ve lived in Ireland for 34+ years and things seem to get more expensive by the year (for example, the cost of a 5-day budget trip comes in at €1,261/$1,340 per person).
The biggest expense, after your flights, is accommodation, with even beds in a hostel dorm coming in at €78+ per night.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom – there are ways of travelling Ireland cheaply, as you’ll discover below.
Some quick need-to-knows about doing Ireland on a budget
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland on a budget, take 15 seconds to scan the points below, first, as they’ll get you up-to-speed quickly:
1. Ireland is expensive
Some parts of Ireland are more expensive than others (e.g. Dublin City vs rural West Cork) but, for the most part, it’s getting harder and harder to get value-for-money when it comes to accommodation, in particular.
2. You need to learn how to lower your unavoidable costs
You have avoidable and unavoidable costs. It’s possible to dramatically reduce your unavoidable costs, like your flights, accommodation and how you get around, by planning ahead (info below).
3. And you need to be clear about your avoidable costs
The likes of souvenirs, drinks in the pub, breakfast (it’ll be included in your accommodation if you plan properly!) and certain paid tours/attractions are all avoidable costs. Being clear on what isn’t an absolutely necessity is key to doing Ireland on a budget.
Travelling Ireland cheaply: 9 handy tips
If you’re planning on doing some cheap travel in Ireland, the tips below will hopefully come in handy.
In particular, for those of you visiting the capital, pay attention to the tips for doing Dublin on a budget.
Tip 1: Travel when prices are lower
Arguably the most important factor in travelling Ireland cheaply is to only visit when the price of flights and accommodation are at their lowest point.
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 or during the off-season. The one trade-off is the the weather in Ireland can be worse during these months.
Cost comparison: Return flights from the US in early March cost from €415/$440 vs €585/$621 in June – that’s a saving of €170/$172!
Tip 2: Monitor flight prices and book as early as possible
OK, so you’ve decided you’re visiting during the off-season. The next step in visiting Ireland on a budget is to check the flight prices.
Now, if you check them and see that they are within your budget, book them asap – there’s no need to wait.
However, if they’re outside of your budget, it’s always worth setting up a price alert with the likes of Skyscanner. More often than not you’ll find they’ll go up and down.
Tip 3: Weigh up the different ways of getting around Ireland
The cheapest way of getting around Ireland on a budget is to use public transport.
For example, if you were to rent a car for 5 days in June it’d cost from €403/$428 (not including insurance, fuel, etc.).
When you compare this to using buses (e.g. €21/$22.30 to go from Dublin to Galway) and trains (e.g. €21/$22.30 to go from Dublin to Cork), the saving is clear.
Our 2 cents: In our guide to Ireland without a car, you’ll find why combining public transport with organised day tours is a very handy way of getting around.
Tip 4: Find pocket-friendly places to stay (warning: it ain’t easy!)
Arguably one of the most important Ireland travel tips when it comes to doing Ireland on a budget revolves around finding pocket-friendly accommodation.
Hotels in Ireland, especially in cities and busy towns, can be insanely expensive. You’ll find, 9 times out of 10 that B&Bs and Airbnbs are cheaper.
You tend to get the best deals in towns and villages that lay a little off-the-beaten-path. In the photo above, you’ll see Shearwater in West Cork – the best value place I’ve stayed in years!
Traveller beware: The problem that can arise when booking lodging off-the-beaten-path is that its sometimes impossible to reach by public transport.
Tip 5: Be prepared when it comes to food – eating out can skyrocket your budget
If you’re planning 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 where you can cook your own meals.
However, that’s not always possible. A good approach is to try and book B&Bs where your breakfast will be included.
If that’s not possible, go to a store like Dunnes or Lidl and buy supplies to make breakfast and lunch (e.g. oatmeal pots, fruit and sandwich fillings).
For perspective: Breakfast in a cafe will cost from €10/$10.60 to €15/$15.92 while dinner will cost €15/$15.92 to €25/$26.53.
Tip 6: Pubs can be great, but 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 €5.50/$5.79 to €9/$9.48 (Temple Bar…) depending on where you are.
If you’re spending one week in Ireland and you drink 20 pints over the week at, say, €5/$5.27 a go, that’s €100/$105.36.
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 an entertainment budget: And stick to it! If it’s €50/$52.68 for the week, so be it. It’ll make doing Ireland on a budget that bit easier!
Tip 7: If you’re organised, you can get a VAT refund on some purchases
If you’re travelling to Ireland from outside of the EU, you may be entitled to a VAT refund on some purchases.
Now, you might think that this isn’t worth doing, but the standard VAT rate is 23%… yes, 23% (just keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to everything you buy!).
Read more about what the refund applies to and how to claim it in our guide to the VAT refund.
Tip 8: Visiting Dublin? Get a Leap Visitor Card and a Dublin Pass
The Leap Visitor Card gives you unlimited travel on Dublin City Bus, Luas, DART, and Commuter Rail and it’s only €16 for a 3-day pass.
The Dublin Pass is another handy money-saving tool to have in your arsenal and you can save between €24.50 and €54.50 on visiting Dublin’s top attractions.
You pay a set price and it gives you access to many of Dublin’s main attractions, like the Guinness Storehouse and the EPIC Museum.
Tip 9: Visiting lots of 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
- Senior: €30 (60 years and over)
- Student/Child €10.00
- Family €90.00 (2 adults & 5 eligible children)
Find out more about how much you could save and which places are included in our guide to the Heritage Card.
FAQs about how to travel Ireland cheap
If you’re still struggling, feel free to ask any questions about how to travel Ireland cheap 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.
Can you visit Ireland on a budget?
You can, but it is by no means easy. The biggest expense, after your flights, is accommodation, with even beds in a hostel dorm coming in at €78+ per night. Travelling to Ireland on a budget is getting harder and harder.
Can you go to Ireland on the cheap?
The honest answer is that it depends on 1, when you are visiting from (e.g. it’ll be more expensive to fly from the US than it will to get a ferry from the UK) and 2, how flexible your dates are (i.e. it’s expensive to fly during peak season).
What is a low Ireland travel budget?
Based on our calculations, a low Ireland travel budget for two people travelling from JFK in the US in June of 2024 comes in at €2,523/$2,679 (or €1,261/$1,340 per person).
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.