Ireland was one of the first countries on my travel bucket-list. Maybe it was the hopeless romantic in me thinking I would meet a handsome man like in P.S. I Love You, or maybe it was the sheer amount of beautiful photos that had me captivated from a young age.
Either way, I was deeply drawn to Ireland’s scene-stealing, natural landscapes, and endearing energy. So much so that I was determined to study abroad there. I had a feeling it would be a tad out of my budget as a student, but that still didn’t stop me from hoping on a plane to spend a full semester there.
While I was there, I spent nearly every weekend venturing to nearly every corner of the Emerald Isle. I wanted to see as much as possible and I had to take advantage of being so close to all of the places I had dreamt of seeing.
As expected, living and travelling through Ireland didn’t come cheap. But I wouldn’t say it was overly expensive either (although it easily could have been). I averaged around $130 per day, with most of that money being spent on accommodation and food.
One of the best ways to see Ireland and save money is to rent a car and drive around at your own pace. Due to my inexperience with driving on the left side of the road, I joined many bus tours instead. Taking tours cost more, but in the end, these were honestly some of my favorite weekends. And definitely worth the money.
The best way to explore this enchanting island is by experiencing the postcard worthy, windy cliff roads that feel like you’re on the edge of the world. The Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula are two famous drives; encompassing quaint seaside villages and some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen. These drives definitely made it to the top of my list for my favorite experiences in the country.
And maybe learning how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. Then the famous Irish “craic” (Ifun and entertainment) really begins.
What’s Included in this Post
This budget breakdown covers how much I spent on accommodation, transportation, activities, and food while I travelled around the country.
I’ve not included my flights into and out of Ireland as this is going to vary significantly based on where you’ll be arriving from.
The amounts in this guide are listed in Euro and U.S. dollars, simply because the vast majority of readers are from the U.S.
Okay — let’s get started!
The Cost of Accommodation in Ireland
There’s lots of wonderful places to stay in Ireland — from B&Bs to castles to hotels and hostels.
Even though hostels are synonymous with “cheap”, I found the price range for hostels to be more mid-range in Ireland. Beds in a hostel dorm range around $20-$40 a night. Then private double rooms in hostels can be anywhere from $50-$110. And staying in a private room at guesthouses or B&Bs will typically start you at $100 per night and can go upwards to $200 per night.
If you’re even teasing the idea of staying in Castle (I know, the ultimate fairytale dream) then you’re looking at around $200-$600 a night for the higher end, luxury castles. While I haven’t had the pleasure of living out my princess alter ego, I did learn a lot about how to travel cheaply. But honestly, I think Ireland is a fantastic place to splurge on accommodations if you can afford to.
I always like to share which accommodation I stayed in on my travels, as well as recommend alternatives when mine weren’t so wonderful. Everywhere I recommend below has excellent reviews and offers great value for money.
Here’s my list of my favourite accommodation options in Ireland:
Dublin — Gardiner House ($36 a night): Being the lively capital city that it is, it’s hard to find a price for good value. But Gardiner House is awesome for so many reasons. You’re staying in a 200-year old converted Victorian chapel updated with a modern day, cozy vibe. Imagine sleeping inside Irish history, surrounded by stained glass windows. And if you’re down to be social, then get ready to meet travelers of all ages here. Gardiner House offers a sun terrace, shared kitchen and beer garden where they put on BBQs in the summer. The staff are super accommodating and helpful, not to mention you’re just a 15 minute walk from Dublin’s top attractions! A free, simple continental breakfast is also included.
Killarney — Neptune’s Town Hostel ($65 a night): Even though this is a hostel, that’s the rate for a spacious double private room smack dab in the heart of town. Now that’s seriously a deal! I absolutely love Killarney. It’s one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations and a worthwhile stop before driving The Ring of Kerry. Neptune’s is a family-owned hostel that boasts clean facilities, a comfortable atmosphere and friendly staff. All in all, it’s definitely an above-average hostel and I wouldn’t consider staying anywhere else.
Dingle — Inch Beach House B&B ($85 a night): When you’re experiencing the Dingle Peninsula, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the sparkling ocean waves. So to make the most of your time here, look no further than Inch Beach, a magical 5 km long sandy beach overlooking the Dingle Peninsula. When you stay at Inch Beach House, you have glorious panoramic views overlooking the ocean. But it’s not just the location that gives this place charm, it’s also the owners that go above and beyond to make your stay special. From helping visitors with flat tires to bringing out birthday cake for your special day—it’s easy to feel like royalty when you stay here.
Galway — Sleepzone ($42 a night): Galway is a must during your trip to Ireland. Its lively atmosphere, vibrant street busking and brightly colored buildings make it one of my favorite cities. When I went to Galway for a weekend, I loved staying at Sleepzone. It’s a great option for budget travelers who want to have a good night’s rest after a long day of sightseeing and pub crawling. The clean amenities, relaxing vibe and location made for a great respite after a packed weekend of exploring. And it’s just steps away from all the action happening in the city centre.
Cork — Sheilas Tourist Hostel ($23 a night): I loved staying at Sheilas during my night in Cork! If you’re on a budget, this is the best place in the city. It’s an incredible location and the facilities are great. It’s a bit of a busier, more social hostel, so if that’s not your thing then look into staying at Cobh Rooms with a View. For $107 a night, you have a comfortable, clean and quiet double room with sea views. But otherwise, get ready to meet some new friends and go off for a night of pub crawling at Sheilas!
Belfast (Northern Ireland) — Citi North Guesthouse ($57 a night): Belfast is one of the most interesting cities I have been to. It’s deeply cultured, rooted in history and close to some of the most stunning natural landscapes I’ve ever seen. And if you’re planning a stint in Belfast, you need to stay at Citi North. Not only is it one of the most inexpensive guesthouses in town, but it also offers up one of the best breakfasts in the city — included in the price, of course. And it’s the small touches that really make the difference here, whether it’s having your bed made up and linens replaced while you’re busy hitting the streets of Belfast, receiving local recommendations on how to make the most of your vacation, or sleeping on a bed so comfortable that it feels like lounging on a cloud.
The Cost of Transportation in Ireland
Transportation around Ireland isn’t just a way of getting around, it’s an attraction in and of itself. For the most part, I used buses to get around the country.
Bus and Train — The bus will probably be your main way of getting around if you don’t have a driver’s license. I found the bus system in Ireland to be very reliable and easy—they will take you pretty much anywhere. They’re quite comfortable and modern. They leave on time and some even have free WiFi on board! And because Ireland is a pretty small island, the costs are actually quite reasonable.
The main bus companies are Bus Éireann, Citylink, Aircoach and Go Bus. In my opinion, Bus Éireann is the best company in Ireland. As the main coach service, they offer the most cost-effective service for over 22 routes. Plus, WiFi, power sockets and comfy seats!
While I mostly got around by bus or through a tour, trains are also a viable option. If trains are more your thing, they’re great for slow travelers that want good window views, but keep in mind that train tickets will cost more than bus tickets. As well as the trains just don’t run as frequently or as extensively as the busses do.
Here are some of the typical bus and train route cost breakdowns:
- Bus from Dublin to Galway: €13/$16
- Bus from Dublin to Cork: €14/$17
- Bus from Dublin to Belfast: €11.50/$14
- Train from Cork to Killarney: €11.99/$14.53
- Train from Killarney to Galway: €19.99/$24.23
City Travel — This mostly pertains to getting around Dublin. I found the city centre to be compact enough that you could easily walk places (if you’re wearing comfortable shoes of course!). Unlike most European cities, Dublin doesn’t have an underground system so your best bet is to use the public bus network.
I would recommend purchasing a LEAP card, which you can easily top up at most convenience stores. This saves you up to 32% off regular single purchase tickets. With a LEAP card, expect spending around €1.55 ($1.88) – €2.25 ($2.73) per single fare or around €10 ($12) for a day pass. You can also use your LEAP card towards the train, tram or Dublin bike rental. And it’s worth it for travelling around the country because you can use it in other cities like Belfast, Galway and Cork.
Car Rental — Like I said earlier, if you have a driver’s license and you’re comfortable driving on the left side of the road, then this is by far one of the most cost-effective and adventurous options. Renting a car and driving around Ireland is one of the best ways to explore the vast countryside on your own timetable. Prices start at €32 ($38) per day for a simple, economy car. This is a great option if you’re traveling with friends or a partner because you can split both the costs of the rental and gas.
Keep in mind that car rental prices might change depending on the time of year based on how high the demand is. Typically the further you book out, the better prices there will be. I always use Skyscanner to find the best deals for car rentals, as they always seem to find cheaper options than the alternatives.
Bus and Rail Passes — If you’re planning on traveling over the course of several days, then a bus or rail pass may also make sense for you. I don’t think rail passes are as good of value as a bus passes because they often don’t reach much of Ireland’s countryside. You’re likely going to be taking the bus more. And if you do need to take the train on the odd occasion, it’s easy to just pay at the station.
- Open Road Tourist Travel Pass: Three days of unlimited travel in the Republic of Ireland, within a period six consecutive days on Bus Éireann for €60 EUR ($72 USD).
- Trekker Four Day: Unlimited travel on Irish Rail within a four-day consecutive period, for €110 EUR ($125 USD).
- Explorer: This is for 5 days of unlimited travel out of 15 consecutive days on all Iarnród Éireann services in the Republic of Ireland for only €160 ($193).
The Cost of Food in Ireland
Irish food feels like coming home. It just invites a feeling of sitting by the fireplace in a cozy cottage on the water, surrounded by friends and family. Whether it’s Irish stew, seafood chowder, cottage pie or classic fish and chips, these are some of the most common dishes that you’ll see at a typical restaurant. Though, if you’re eating out for all your meals, you’re definitely going to notice a dent in your budget.
Fast food items start around €4 EUR ($5 USD). If you’re looking for a rich Irish stew or hearty fish and chips, you’re looking at around €10-15 ($12-18) per person. Sometimes even more if you are in the popular tourist hubs. But pub fare, in my opinion, is the best value food. If you can find pubs beyond the tourist hot spots, you can easily find a delicious, hearty meal at a reasonable price. A meal at a more upscale restaurant, with a drink, will be upwards of €18 EUR ($21 USD).
Or you can always look out for restaurants that offer “early bird” specials. Sometimes during the middle of the week, from certain times before the rush hour, some restaurants will offer full meals at a discounted rate.
If you’re staying at accommodations with shared kitchens, this is a fantastic way to save money on food. When I spent money on groceries, I usually paid around €50 ($60) per week, which would be around €7 ($8) per day for basic things like pasta and vegetables.
If the place you’re staying at includes a free continental breakfast, I would suggest taking advantage of that, having a light fare lunch while you’re exploring or sightseeing and then opt to cook dinner in the evenings. Then you’ll average around €20 ($24) per day.
Fancy a pint of Guinness or my personal favorite, Smithwick’s Irish Red? You’re looking at around €5 for every additional bevvy that you tack on (which you’ll be tempted to do at many points).
The Cost of Activities and Entrance Fees in Ireland
The activities in Ireland are so much fun! The rich history, incredible landscapes and quirky attractions will make memories to last a lifetime. I found most activities and entrance fees to be reasonably priced.
Without a doubt, my favorite experiences were taking a tour of the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula Tour (if you don’t have a car). These are spectacular drives with insanely lush mountains and ocean views that constantly had my jaw drop. I went through Paddywagon for my tours and felt very taken care of. All I needed to do was sit back and enjoy the drive. They also make sure to stop frequently for you to get out, take pictures and see everything up close.
I also enjoyed seeing the Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, experiencing the Guinness Storehouse and kissing the Blarney Stone. When I think about my time in Ireland, these are always the first activities that come to mind.
Unless you’re a huge history buff, I personally thought that seeing The Book of Kells was overrated and overpriced. But everything else is worth it!
Here’s a breakdown of some of the costs you might expect for the top attractions in Ireland:
- Blarney Castle and Stone: €16 (online discount)
- Guinness Storehouse: €15 (online only)
- Cliffs of Moher: €7 – €10
- The Book of Kells and Trinity College Dublin: €16
- Giant’s Causeway: €14.9
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: €6.5
- Connemara National Park: FREE
- 3 Day Tour of Southern Ireland (Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher, and Galway): €249 (Includes accommodations, entrance fees and breakfasts)
If you’re like me, and love to make the most of time, then tours are really a great way to experience a country. I recommend hoping over to Viator for a range of activities and tours, like the Wild Wicklow Day Tour from Dublin ($44), Tour of Connemara National Park ($43), Aran Islands & Cliffs of Moher Cruise ($74), or a Game of Thrones Filming Location Tour ($86).
How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Ireland?
It’s time to tally up all of my expenses to see my total travel costs!
Accommodation: $50 per day
Transportation: $20 per day
Food: $24 per day
Activities/Entrance Fees: $18 per day
Average amount spent in Ireland: $112 a day!
Not bad at all! Especially if you’re going to be travelling on a tight budget. What do you think? Is Ireland as inexpensive as you expected?
Author bio: Born and raised in Toronto, Lydia has found “home” throughout her travels around the world. She’s a passionate storyteller and writer and you can usually find her dreaming about new adventures or having a deep conversation with a friend. Read more of Lydia’s writing here.[Images via: Romrodphoto/Shutterstock; JeniFoto/Shutterstock; MichaelThaler/Shutterstock; SharkShock/Shutterstock; Mirelaro/Shutterstock]