Top tips to visit Ireland on a budget

Mar 8, 2020

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The Emerald Isle has it all. From Coleraine to Kinsale, Ireland takes you on a journey for all the senses. But it can be quite costly.

Though getting there shouldn’t break the bank, many visitors find themselves going over budget during a trip. With St Patrick’s Day on March 17, if you’re planning a low-cost holiday to Ireland, here are some tips on making your Irish experience budget travel friendly.

(Photo by Sina Ettmer/EyeEm/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sina Ettmer/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Flights

There are plenty of options to fly to Ireland using points and miles from more than 20 U.K. airports. You can redeem Avios on British Airways or Aer Lingus. With BA’s  Reward Flight Savers, you can get one-way flights to Dublin from just 7,500 Avios + $0.65 in economy from either London City (LCY) or London Heathrow (LHR).

Read our complete guide about how to get to Ireland on points and miles here.

Driving

A car is the cheapest option to get around Ireland. For car rental, The Platinum Card® from American Express is handy as you automatically receive elite status with Avis and Hertz, which makes renting a car easier and faster. With a car, you are in complete control, and Ireland’s roads traverse the beautiful countryside, which is free and breathtakingly stunning.

Read more: Second Cities: Destinations to add onto a trip to Dublin

View of the Kinsale Harbour during sunset, County Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Eduardo Fonseca Arraes/Getty Images)
View of the Kinsale Harbour during sunset, County Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Eduardo Fonseca Arraes/Getty Images)

Budget accommodation

If you are points savvy, hostels don’t need to be an option if you visit at the right time. Winter months are best if you are on a budget with peak season between June to August. For instance, The Westin in Dublin, an SPG category 7 property, is located in a 19th-century building with a clock tower overlooking the famous Spire and has a great city-centre location. Room rates start at $340 (staying in early April) per night or 50,000 Bonvoy points.

Airbnbs offer a happy medium as they are generally cheaper than a hotel but you can still enjoy proper Irish hospitality and stay in funky accommodation like castles, such as Wilton Castle, which has seven bedrooms.

Heritage Card

Similar to a National Trust membership, an Ireland Heritage Card is valid for an entire year and provides free admission to any site operated by the Office of Public Works (OPW). This includes major attractions including Killarney National Park, Ross Castle, Dublin Castle, Glenveagh National Park, Ennis Friary, the Iveagh Gardens and much more. At $44 for an adult pass (or $102 for a family pass of two adults and five kids aged 12 to 18), it’s well worth the purchase if you plan on visiting more than six attractions when you are in Ireland. Just make sure to bring cash as some places don’t accept cards. If you’re only planning to stay in the Dublin area throughout your trip, consider a Dublin Pass instead.

Read more: Pot of gold: A review of Aer Lingus on the A321neo in business class from Dublin to Philadelphia

A pub in the famous Temple Bar area of Dublin. (Photo by kelvinjay/Getty Images)
A pub in the famous Temple Bar area of Dublin. (Photo by kelvinjay/Getty Images)

Eating and drinking

No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to the pub, but be aware that booze is expensive in Ireland (slightly less so in Northern Ireland). A pint of Guinness could cost you up to $8 in Dublin. A great way to budget is to find a pub with some live music, enjoy a couple of pints and sing along to some Irish trad music.

Supermarket delis stock excellent local Irish produce or go local and make a crisp sandwich in slabs of white bread and lashings of butter. If you are spending some time in Ireland, the SuperValu rewards scheme is a good one with one point for every euro spent, and there are over 200 grocery stores to shop in. You can also double your points at SuperValu when you pay with Visa.

Free things to do in Ireland

In Ireland, it’s not uncommon to charge tourists for the pleasure of seeing some of the great sights, including the Cliffs of Moher. Did you know that two of Ireland’s top attractions, the Hill of Tara and Glendalough, are actually free to visit? The entrance fee applies only to the local heritage center and not the attraction itself. In Belfast, the famous political wall-paintings provide splendid murals of communities living next to but totally isolated from each other. The Ulster Museum nearby is also free.

Dublin

No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to Dublin. There are lots of free things to do in Dublin especially as the weather warms up. Heading up the list of free attractions in Dublin is the National Gallery, which has a wide array of art. Walking tours are a great way to discover Dublin and the Dublin Free Walking Tour offers two free tours.

You could easily spend a day exploring Phoenix Park, Europe’s largest inner-city park. You don’t need to pay for Dublin Zoo to see animals as Phoenix Park is home to a large collection of deer. Staying outdoors, the National Botanical Gardens are a green haven north of the city center.

A herd of fallow deer in Phoenix Park. (Photo by CEZARY ZAREBSKI PHOTOGRPAHY/Getty Images)
A herd of fallow deer in Phoenix Park. (Photo by CEZARY ZAREBSKI PHOTOGRPAHY/Getty Images)

Bottom line

There is something for everyone to discover including castles, coastline, culture and even Michelin-starred restaurants. Ireland caters for every budget and with a little planning, points can come in very handy. A cheap holiday in Ireland is also the best way to immerse yourself in Irish culture and get to know the country and its people.

Featured photo by Pawe Sucho/500px/Getty Images 

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