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. If you leave Newark on Wednesday on January 17th 5.35pm (on current prices) the flight to Dublin (via Reykjavik) for $200. Book a ticket back on Thursday, January 25th from Dublin to JFK (via Oslo) and you’ll pay $216. So you’d spend a total of $416.
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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.
The Diamond Bar in Béal na Blath, Co. Cork near where Michael Collins - one of Ireland’s most famous heroes - was shot and killed during the Civil War will allow you to pitch a tent for only $10 a night on their land. Certainly, in the Irish winter, this is an option for only the hardiest of travelers.
If you prefer city living there’s a “large cozy single room” yours for only $12 in Limerick City and breakfast is included too.
But there’s also an option to stay in the small village of Castlederg, Co. Tyrone for the same price of $12. That gives you your own room too.
If you fancy traveling back in time perhaps head to Bawnboy, Co. Cavan where a dilapidated farmhouse is yours for only $11 per night. Described as a, “Very basic place!” with only enough electricity to charge phones and rainwater to drink it certainly might give you an idea of how tough growing up in rural Ireland was before the arrival of electricity between 1946 and 1979.
In Dublin, a small room is up for rent in the suburb of Rathmines close to the city center - although the listing is available to women only.
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If you’re traveling in as part of a couple there are cheap listings for two as well. A self-described “fun house” in Athlone in the Midlands has a double bed for rent for only $16 a night.
Just outside the picturesque city of Kilkenny, a studio outhouse can be rented for $19 per 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 rent a Volkswagen from January 18th to January 24th (the day before you depart) for only $23 and a €5 card fee. If 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.
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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!
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* Originally published in March 2015.