Best Time To Go: Summertime will provide you with the best weather and the most attractions, but it will also be costly and crowded. I recommend visiting in the fall or spring, when the weather is still moderate but the crowds and prices die down. I was there in the dead of winter and actually had a GREAT time, but be prepared for freezing cold weather! If you are looking for country wide excitement, travel during St. Patricks day in March!
Daily Spending: Ireland is not great for those of you seeking extreme budget prices, but it is reasonably cheaper than many other European countries. And if you stay in the Republic of Ireland (Southern) you will be using the euro, which is about even with the U.S. dollar right now. I lived comfortably on $29 per day. Eating out and drinking out will bust your budget very quickly!
What To Pack: Ireland is a lot like the pacific northwest in the United States. It has seasons but is likely to be overcast and rainy at least a few time during your stay, even in the summer. If traveling in the winter months, the weather is quite frigid so you will want to bring plenty of warm layers. This includes a down jacket, gloves and a beanie. If you plan on going out to the pubs at night, bring a couple dressier warm outfits. I found that most women in the country dress up A LOT more than the men.
* Dublin has a good selection of department stores where you can pick up cheap clothing items! I recommend Penny’s.
Transportation: Buses will be your cheapest option when traveling domestically in Ireland. Expect to pay between $15-$30 depending on how far you are going. Citylink and Bus Eireann are the biggest companies. You can also rent a car, but this is a pricier option unless you can split the costs with multiple friends. If you are serious about saving those precious buckaroos, you should consider hitchhiking. Loads of people do it, you just need to have the time and patience.
- Street Music and Pubs in Dublin– I fell in love with the streets of Dublin. Every corner has a musician with a guitar, and let me tell ya, they can sing. All of them. I could easily have spent hours listening to their powerful vocals and impressive instrumental talent. If that’s not enough to make Dublin fill your heart with joy, try walking into a pub. They aren’t hard to find, as they outnumber restaurants, but they all have their own special charm. Temple Bar is cool, but I recommend you ask around for the best local spots if you want a truly authentic experience.
- Killarney National Park– Oh my… this place is gorgeous. Meander down the dirt trails through creekside forests and expansive mountain views. The further in you go, the more astonished you will be. There’s even a castle!
- St. Patricks Day in Galway– If you are a good planner, or just plain lucky (luck of the Irish?), you might find yourself in Ireland during the St. Patricks Day celebrations. Most tourists flock to Dublin, but why not hang out with the locals instead? Galway is perfect because it is a college town and boasts a young hip vibe while still staying true to Irish culture. There are tons of great pubs and the streets are one giant party all day long.
- Fish n’ Chips everyday, everyway- I’m not sure if fish n’ chips can qualify as a national dish, but they sure know how to cook up those scaly salt water swimmers! You can order them at most every restaurant/pub and they tend to be quite cheap, which is heaven to every backpackers ears. Furthermore, you’ve got options. Pick your fish; cod, hake, haddock, swordfish etc… Then choose your side; chips (fries), mashed peas, curried chips. Whatever you order, I recommend sprinkling a little salt and vinegar on top!
- Dingle Pennisula Tour– First of all, how cute is that name? Secondly, this tour is GREAT. Lesser known than the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry, Dingle offers some truly beautiful views of seaside cliffs. For $18 you’ve got yourself a full day bus tour with an informative and comedic guide. You will make numerous stops through the Irish countryside and coast line, finishing with a late lunch in the town of Dingle.
My Favorite Places:
This quaint little town isn’t as popular as Dublin or Galway but it deserves some serious love. It gives off an outdoorsy mountain town vibe and offers some pretty spectacular scenery. Everything is within walking distance and the town comes alive at night!
THINGS TO DO:
National Park- This beautiful park is everything that Irish dreams are made of. Rolling green grass pastures, mountains in the distance, multi-colored sunsets and ancient castles. It’s expansive, but very easy to access and mostly flat. I recommend renting a bike to make the most of your time!
Night Life- The main street of this town is home to numerous pubs and restaurants. Grab some dinner then hit the cobblestone streets to pub hop the night away! I really enjoyed O’Connors and Tatler Jacks.
Bike Rental- If you are looking for a little adventure, you can rent a bike and hit the trails of the National Park. The dirt trails are easy to ride on and having two wheels will allow you to see much more if you are short on time.
People either love or hate Dublin. Yes, it’s touristy and crowded and overpriced but it also has a ton of charm and history. I found myself really falling in love with this city. The street music was out of this world and I thoroughly enjoyed the numerous sites and activities.
THINGS TO DO:
Drink- Of course. Home to the Guinness Storehouse and the famous Temple Bar, you’d be a fool to not partake in the beer guzzling shenanigans. This could be in the form of pub crawling, daytime drinking or Guinness pouring lessons. Wether your poison is whiskey or beer, you won’t be let down by the pub culture!
Shopping- Shopping is rarely on my itinerary while traveling, but if you are in need of warm clothing or an outfit for hitting the town you are in luck! Just across the river you will find a slew of department stores offering great deals on the latest fashion. Penny’s is my favorite!
Exploring- There are all sorts of things to see in Dublin. One of my most memorable days involved attending a church service at St. Patricks Cathedral, followed by fish n’ chips at Leo Burdocks. I then made my way over to Grafton St. to indulge my ears with some AMAZING street music. The rest of my day was spent exploring the numerous parks in the area and checking out the Trinity College Library. I wrapped up my night by grabbing a bite to eat at Govinda’s vegetarian restaurant before knocking back some Guinness at The Mezz.
What’s not charming about this place? The people were gregarious and uber friendly, the culture was rich and the scenery was awe-inspiring. I felt at home the second I stepped foot into the country. I love the laid-back lifestyle and the cultural pride. I also love that just 20 minutes outside of most major cities there are rolling green hills and forests if you need to escape the craziness.
Ireland is a country like no other, and because of this tourists are flocking. They are everywhere. It was hard for me to differentiate authentic experiences with contrived ones. Virtually every town, big and small, is on the tourist trail. I can only hope that Ireland will maintain its rich culture and history in the years to come.
My Tips & Tricks Specific to Ireland:
1) Find a local and follow them into a pub. Pubs are more abundant than any other business in Ireland. Even the smallest towns with cobblestone streets will have numerous pubs. However, many of these bars are focused on catering to tourists by creating a fake Irish atmosphere. Odds are, not a single local is in sight. So I suggest making friends with someone on the street and asking them where they go for a brewski. And then invite them to join you!
2) Give yourself plenty of time. I was only in Ireland for 2 weeks, which was a pathetic amount of time. I only got a small taste of what the country had to offer. Heck, I didn’t even see Northern Ireland. I’d say you would want at least a month, if the time allows. The irish are incredibly friendly, especially when drunk, but I found it hard to make lasting connections when you only had a day or two in each location.
3) Bring fancy clothes. I’m not one to travel with makeup or heels, but I have to admit that I wish I had brought some dressier outfits for Ireland. If you plan on going out at night, you will stick out like a sore thumb if you show up in tennis shoes and your patagonia puffy. I brought my nicest flannel and even combed my hair, but I still felt like a goober. I ended up buying a few items to spruce up my wardrobe, which is a great option if you don’t want to lug heels and dresses with you for the rest of the travels.
4) Explore the countryside. The cities are a blast and definitely the place to be if you want to meet fellow travelers and partake in the wild pub scene. However, this is not all that the country is about. Make sure to allocate ample time to take in the views of the countryside. There are all sorts of tours, but I recommend either renting a car or hitchhiking to allow for some true exploration.
5) Cook in the hostel kitchen. Eating out is incredibly expensive and Ireland doesn’t offer much in the way of cheap street food. Head to a supermarket to pick up groceries for lunch and dinner. Your cheapest options will be found at Lidl, SPAR, Tesco, SuperValu and Dunnes.
6) Limit your alcohol consumption. Odds are you are going to drink more in Ireland than at any other point in your life. I know I sure did… However, this can be detrimental to your budget. With a pint costing around $4, it’s easy to rack up a HUGE bill by the end of the night. How about choosing 2 nights a week to go “hard” at the pubs? I did not follow this advice, but I imagine it would beneficial. You could also buy booze at the store and pre-game before going out so you don’t have to spend as much at the pubs.
My Ratings for Ireland:
Activities: 7 out of 10
Food: 5 out of 10
People: 8 out of 10
Cultural Experience: 8 out of 10