Planning a budget vacation to Ireland this year is not only possible, but it's also the best way to get to know the Emerald Isle.
As you might suspect, Dublin is the most expensive place in Ireland for hotels and dining, so travelers on a very strict budget would be wise to spend most of their time outside the capital, but that’s not to say that the capital is not to be experienced. Still, there's plenty to see all around the island of Ireland.
Here are my best budget tips for a vacation to Ireland this year.
1. Getting To Ireland
Budgeting for your vacation begins with your flight over - be sure to take advantage of discounted airfares that require advance booking.
If you are looking for the authentic Irish start to your holiday then why not fly Irish. Aer Lingus offer a wonderful warm Irish welcome to all passengers. For a seven day trip to Ireland during the off season period starting in October, Aer Lingus offers a return trip for a competitive $726 (including taxes) from October 15th to 22th.
2. Getting Around
Car rental after flights may be your biggest single expense.
A great website to check out for renting a car for under $20 a day is rentalcars.com. This website is very fairly priced and offers a range of cars for you to collect at Dublin airport and take off on the vacation of a life time.
Public transportation is a great option for major towns and cities like Cork and Belfast. Train service has improved dramatically in recent years, as has the bus service.
Be sure to have a planned itinerary before arriving in Ireland so you know if you will need a car or not.
Travel by rail or bus becomes even cheaper with the Irish Explorer Pass, good for unlimited travel for 5 or 8 days throughout the Republic. A six day unlimited train/bus pass is about $120
In Northern Ireland, the Freedom of Northern Ireland pass is a recommended money-saver.
For itineraries that encompass both the Republic and Northern Ireland, there's the umbrella Emerald Card, good on both sides of the border.
These passes are available from booking offices of Iarnrod Eireann and the main Dublin Tourism Office.
Try to avoid traveling alone where possible to minimize your costs and, also, to improve your personal safety. Hostels are Ireland's best budget option and they're as diverse as the people who run them. Many have private rooms at about half the rate you'd pay in the average B&B. Many have self-catering kitchens where you can save by preparing your own meals, and an increasing number have their own reasonably priced restaurants.
Another great site to check out is B&B Ireland for insights into a real Irish home. You can get a fine place for about $40 per night per person sharing, including breakfast.
Tourism Ireland publishes an illustrated booklet Discover Ireland Holiday Breaks, which catalogs discount packages that sometimes offer substantial savings. Some apply to low-season months only, and all require stays of more than one day.
Check out this website for the best value on hostels.
4. Reclaim the VAT
Did you know that you can save more than $17 for every hundred dollars you spend on goods in Ireland? If you export these goods to a destination outside the European Union you can reclaim the high Value Added Tax which will save you a fair amount.
5. The Heritage card
Consider investing in the Heritage card if you are planning to visit several of the state-owned sites like Newgrange or Glendalough. This card will give you "free" entry to all sites for one payment!
Now that you have a plan in place for how to budget while exploring Ireland, check out IrishCentral's top ten things to do in Ireland on a budget in 2014.
Watch this amazing video of how a french couple fell in love with the wild Atlantic ways of Ireland on their road trip through Connemara.
Just think this could be you, so get booking that dream vacation to Ireland now!
Trip Total: USD$1,485.97.
*Originally published in May 2014.