For many, a vacation to Ireland is the trip of a lifetime, but it need not be ruinously expensive if you pick the right time to fly, visit places off the beaten tourist track, and budget carefully.
January may not seem like the ideal time to visit the Emerald Isle but it’s certainly the cheapest time to fly. And no matter what time of year you visit Ireland the people are still friendly, the craic is still mighty and there are places to explore.
Accommodation in January is also cheaper than it would be in the summer - although a number of places shut entirely in the winter months. AirBnB’s price filter allows you to look for places to stay at absolutely rock bottom prices.
Those fond of the great outdoors may be tempted by these "camping pods" at the foot of Ireland's tallest mountain in County Kerry. Available for $25 per night, the huts sleep four people and are located at the base of Carrauntoohil, making them perfect for anyone interested in hiking and walking. Certainly, in the Irish winter, this is an option for only the hardiest of travelers.
If you prefer city living, there’s a cozy single room available in Cork City for $30 a night that would be the perfect base for those keen on exploring Ireland's second-largest city.
If you’re traveling in as part of a couple there are cheap listings for two as well. A seaside bungalow in Enniscrone, County Sligo, offers beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and is within walking distance of the local pier and miles of sandy beaches. The bungalow caters to three people and is available from just under $35 per night.
In Dublin, a cozy studio apartment in the heart of Dublin's docklands is available for less than $60 per night.
Just outside the Clare town of Ennis, a comfortable two-person private room is available for $40 a night.
Renting a car
Renting a car from Dublin Airport is usually more expensive than elsewhere in the country. If you can jump on a train or bus to either Kerry, Cork or Shannon airport, you can find much cheaper deals. f you can’t drive, then Bus Éireann is the cheapest way to travel around Ireland. Alternatively, if you’re staying only in Dublin the first 30 minutes you rent a Dublinbike for are completely free.
And if you’re looking for other free things to do, Ireland does not disappoint. The whole island aches with magnificent scenery and abounds with hikes and walks that can satisfy experienced hikers or casual adventurists.
If you’re in Dublin there are plenty of free things you can be done indoors too. The tiny Jewish Museum on South Circular Road tells the story of the small but highly resilient community of Jews in Ireland.
Áras an Uachtaráin is the official residence of Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins. Tours of his magnificent 266-year-old home free on Saturday and is set in the impressive Phoenix Park.
If history’s your thing you could also catch one of the several free daily tours of the historic Glasnevin cemetery where many of Ireland’s most important historical figures, such as Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera, lie buried there.
Eating and drinking
Eating and drinking in Ireland on a budget can be a challenge. Boojum in Dublin is a cheap Mexican place in the city center that is also popular with locals. The Fish Wife in Cork is a cheap place to get Fish and Chips and Ard Bia Cafe in Galway is nestled under the city’s historic arch.
Despite the country’s reputation as home to the world’s biggest boozers, the price of drink in Ireland is actually amongst the most expensive in Europe. If you’re trying to keep things as cheap as you possibly can then buying alcohol in a supermarket and drinking at home is your best bet. Having said that, if you’re going all the way to Ireland, it really would be a shame to miss out on the experience of a real Irish pub.
In Galway McSwiggan’s caused local outrage after hiking the price of their €3 pints of Guinness to €3.50. Perhaps they should take their business across the city to The Hole in The Wall pub which has been known to charge only €3 for a pint of Carling and €2 for a bottle of Budweiser.
Or if you don’t plan on leaving beautiful Tipperary, Thurles Golf Club have been known for charging €2 for a pint of Caledonia Ale.
So there you have it, Ireland has a reputation as one of the most expensive countries in Europe to visit but with a little research and planning it can actually be a very affordable place to take a vacation in!
* Originally published in March 2015. Updated in June 2021.