Budget Travel

How to see Dublin on a budget (and have change for any pint of Guinness)

Whatever your financial allowance, it's simple to find methods to experience everything Dublin provides. What does that mean? Well, choose from fine dining and historic hotel stays or international street food, live music sessions and sociable hostels.

Of course, Dublin, like every other major European capital, can be expensive, however the city provides a lot of free and low-cost activities. One thing that you're certain to find free of charge is hospitality, great craic, and perhaps a little rain!

Look for cheap boat, train and airfares to Ireland

Ireland's main international airport is in Dublin, therefore the city benefits from global connectivity. With Dublin being the home and hub of budget carrier Ryanair, there will always be cheap methods for getting here by air from Europe. Aer Lingus often offers deals and flash sales on its many transatlantic routes.

Being a tropical, Ireland has no direct connections by rail to mainland Europe or the UK, but train travel can be combined with a ferry crossing around the Irish Sea. Irish Ferries provide a special 'Sail Rail' fare around the Dublin -Holyhead route including onward train travel, from as little as 45 (US$48) per person. Stena Line also operates on the Dublin to Holyhead route, while Irish Ferries connect Dublin to Cherbourg in France for foot and car passengers. Look for deals on carriers.

Consider spring or late summer for Dublin trips

The shoulder season in Dublin, from late August to October, can also be the optimum time to visit, weather-wise. September, once the schools resume after the summer break, usually provides the cost effective for tourists. Peak times to visit the town include St Patrick's Day in mid-March and also the lead-up to Christmas in December; come either before or after these holidays (so in February, April, November or January) to locate better value for your euro.

The best views come for free

Sometimes the easiest method to see a city is to get out into nature and see it externally. There are lots of classic views around (for example, in the bridges over the Liffey), however the best views are from outside the city, available for the price of a ticket on the DART train service. From atop Killiney Hill or Howth Head, you can drink within the outdoors and appear out toward the Irish Sea somewhere, and also the sprawling expanse of Dublin to the other, and have the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains as a moody backdrop.

Being close to both coast and mountains, there are great hikes and walks within striking distance of Dublin, and you may always choose a sea swim if you're brave enough! Though not technically in Dublin, the Bray to Greystones walk in the neighboring county of Wicklow is among the most widely used routes, particularly at weekends, and it's easy to reach from Dublin.

Plan ahead to obtain free entry and guided tours to many Dublin museums

Many of the city's top museums are ticketed but Dublin has lots of museums offering free admission, such as the National Museum of Ireland, which documents the Emerald Isle's decorative arts, country life and archaeology.

Art lovers must take a visit to the Hugh Lane Gallery, the National Gallery of Ireland or even the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Kilmainham. For fans of photography, the National Photographic Archive and also the Gallery of Photography are both found on Meeting House Square in Temple Bar.

Even better, some institutions offer free guided tours, led by expert staff – perfect for enhancing your visit. The resplendent Chester Beatty Library and its collection of books, manuscripts and tablets from across world cultures and religions, and the Hugh Lane Gallery with its many artistic masterpieces, both offer free tours on particular days of the week.

Prefer to follow the footsteps of Irish presidents instead? The official residence and office of the President of Ireland, ras an Uachtaráin offers free tours nearly every Saturday of the season on the first-come-first-served basis.

Order your pints having a side of live music

Dublin has music in its blood, and buskers provide a constant soundtrack towards the streets in most areas of the town, with Temple Bar and Grafton St being particularly popular spots. If you prefer your music indoors, one of the best, cheapest ways to experience proper live “trad” (traditional) Irish music is in the corners of Dublin's pubs.

There are dozens of public houses where one can order a pint and obtain lost in the music, unless of course the entire room erupts into a spontaneous sing-song. Notable music spots range from the Celt around the Northside of the Liffey, O'Donoghue's around the Southside, That old Storehouse in Temple Bar and the popular Sunday sessions at the Dame Tavern, Walshs, Devitt's and Doheny & Nesbitt.

For good value eats in Dublin, go global

Dublin is really a multicultural city with global influences, and sometimes international flavors offer the tastiest value. A hearty, generous bowl of piping hot ramen noodles will definitely cost around 14 (US$15) and satiate for a whole afternoon; find some of the best at Ramen Co in Stoneybatter, Soup 2 in Smithfield and The Ramen Bar on South William St.

Popular Turkish spot Reyna offers filling dishes around the 11 (US$12) mark, or grab a tasty Palestinian falafel wrap for six.50 (US$7) at Umi. Trendy Mexican joint 777 sells every dish for 7.77 (US$8.30) on Sundays, while nearby Masa slings fresh tacos, quesadillas and other Mexican small plates seven days per week, and nothing on the food menu goes beyond 8 (US$8.60). Vegetarian spots Cornucopia and Govinda's focus on healthy, hearty plates at good prices.

Some of Dublin's best burgers will also be affordable; you find them for under a tenner at Bunsen, Dash Burger and WOWBURGER. Iconic chip shop takeaways (“chippers” in local parlance) such as Leo Burdock and Beshoff Bros offer substantial servings of battered fish and chips for under 15 (US$16). Pizza lovers can grab a larger-than-life slice at DiFontaine's for approximately 5.50 (US$6), whilst nearby sit-in spot Sano Pizza serves among the best value 12″ pizzas you'll find anywhere in Dublin.

Save on accommodations on weekdays, or stay in hostels

Dublin is renowned for becoming an expensive capital to stay in, but the city includes a huge number of hotels – a few of which have popped up in the last decade. Try to visit earlier in the week (Sunday -Tuesday) permanently deals, special offers and also the best value nightly rates.

When it comes to picking a place to be based, hotels in Dublin 1 and Dublin 2 carry higher costs, but being located in the heart of the city will help you to save money on public transport as you can walk everywhere. Consider private rooms in hostels too – these may be slightly better value than rooms in hotels if you're searching to explore Dublin on a tight budget and don't require the extra frills. Some notable options include Generator, Kinlay House and Jacob's Inn.

If you would like really warm, local service and a hot breakfast, consider a family-run guesthouse or B&B. Note, however, that lots of take presctiption the arterial roads leading out of the city, so bear this in mind in terms of the costs and ease of getting to and out of your accommodations.

See the entirety of the city by public transport

Taxis and car rentals could be expensive in Dublin, and you'll have to element in overnight parking rates and longer journey times within the city sometimes congested traffic. In order to save, walk or use public transport instead. The city center is flat, compact and walkable, and you can hop onto one of the inexpensive bikes around the Dublin Bikes bike-share scheme to snappily go around.

If you prefer to take public transport, with the LUAS tram, the Dublin Bus network and DARTsuburban trains, you can easily get to the suburbs or head further afield for easy day trips. Automobile hire a car unless you wish to explore the remainder of Ireland.

Enjoy public art for free

A fantastic way to create a fun-filled itinerary in Dublin is to visit as numerous from the statues dotted over the city as you can. The most famous local icons are Molly Malone, Oscar Wilde, Phil Lynott and James Joyce, but you may have tributes to Charles Stewart Parnell, Luke Kelly, Wolfe Tone, Brendan Behan, Daniel O'Connell, Patrick Kavanagh, James Larkin and more.

Must-see bits of public art range from the Children of Lír sculpture within the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square, and the Famine Memorial installation on Customs House Quay. More statues are found in and around Trinity College, Ireland's oldest university, so have time to stroll round the beautiful historic campus in the heart of the town.

Get cheap tickets for that theatre

You may take inside a show in the Abbey Theatre (which also offers backstage and behind-the-scenes tours) for as little as 15 (US$16) for matinee performances. Keenly-priced tickets can be found at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, while other more intimate theatres such as the Gate Theatre and Gaiety Theatre offer tickets with prices beginning around 20 (US$21.40).

Pack an open-air picnic and go people-watching

Dublin's green spaces are perfect for staking out a bench for a spot of people-watching or finding a picture-perfect picnic spot. One of the most beautiful parks in Dublin would be the city's Georgian squares: Merrion Square, Mountjoy Square, St Stephen's Green and, of course, Phoenix Park.

The George's St Arcade near St Stephen's Green is a handy spot to grab some delicious bites – bread and pastries at Pepper Pot, pre-made sandwiches at Simon's Place, mezze bits from Umi, and nuts, snacks and sweet bites from Nutty Delights. For additional gourmet finds, try Toon's Bridge Dairy and the deli in the Dunnes Stores supermarket on the edge of the arcade.

Dublin by average price:

  • Hostel room: 25 -40 (US$27 -43) per dorm bed per night
  • Basic room for two: 100 -130 (US$107 -140) per night
  • Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): 250 (US$268) per night
  • Public transport ticket: 2.30 (US$2.50)
  • Coffee: 3 (US$3.20)
  • Takeaway sandwich: 7 (US$7.50)
  • Dinner for 2: 50 -60 (US$53 -64)
  • Beer/pint in the bar: 5.50 (US$6)

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