It always seems to be the way, your lust for travel is much bigger than your bank balance, you feel like you deserve a holiday but your budget says more ‘camping weekend in the back garden’ than it does ‘trip abroad’.
But there are so many ways you can still get your holiday fix without breaking the bank, my first example, Dublin. Granted this won’t be your standard getting a tan, sipping on margaritas style holiday, however if you are up for a bit of culture, a little adventure, and lot of Guinness, Dublin is a great place to spend a few days and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. So here is my guide to Dublin, what to see, what to do and all on a student budget.
Being from the South West, travel is sometimes a bit of a nightmare, and crucially, extremely pricey. However, flights to Dublin are pretty cheap.
From Bristol to Dublin the flight is almost under an hour and by booking only a couple months in advance, a return ticket cost us £59. Having a quick search online this price seems pretty standard and even when I looked to book for as early as next week the prices seem to stay the same, only varying by £10 or so.
So flights are relatively cheap, but use price comparison sites like SkyScanner or Kayak and you can keep an eye on flights and buy them at the best price. Another massive tip is to try and book flights which mean you arrive to your destination early, and depart late, that way you can make the most of your trip by having a good proportion of the day on your arrival and departure to play with.
From the airport
Fortunately, Dublin airport is pretty close to the city centre and we found it worked out quite well to hop on a coach which took us directly onto O’Connell Street. For a small €12 we had a return ticket which we could use at any time to get us back and it took us straight to the heart of Dublin within 25 minutes.
Day to day
So, if you really want to save money and you are staying in somewhere pretty central then there is no better way to experience the city for free than walking from place to place. In general, much of the tourist attractions in Dublin are fairly close together and so walking shouldn’t be a problem.
Although we stayed pretty central, (if we knew which way to walk it would have only taken us about 20 minutes to walk to the centre), Dublin has a super easy and fast tram system that I would encourage you all to take advantage of. For less than €5 we had a return which got us to the centre in 5-10 minutes and once there, we walked the rest. Taking the tram made life so much easier, it’s really simple to understand and felt a lot safer when we were coming home after dinner and drinks out. They also run stupidly regularly. If you’re staying for longer than a couple of days it also might be worth investing in a ‘leapcard’, they sort of work like oyster cards where you can top them up with money and scan it at the tram stop.
Warning: It is super easy to fall into a false sense of security and think that it is not worth buying a tram ticket because there are no barriers or officials on the trams 24/7. However, ‘tram security’ do regularly hop on and check your tickets and issue fines for not having one, which is seriously not worth it when a return costs next to nothing.
Airbnb have it pretty sorted. For a whole flat only a 5-minute walk to the Guinness Factory and a 10-minute tram ride into the main centre between 3 of us we found a place for £64 each for 2 nights. Airbnb was super handy as by talking to our host we could check in early and check out late and had the entire flat to ourselves. Because Dublin is a major city, there are literally so many places listed on the site so you can go mega cheap and just hire a room in a house, or splash out more and get an entire apartment. But I would look at these as early as possible as all of the good ones can get booked up quickly.
Another cheaper alternative are hostels which are dotted all around the centre at the fraction of the price of a hotel.
Food and drink
Food and drink is probably the only thing I would say requires a bit more of a ‘splurge’, but that still doesn’t mean you can’t save a few pennies here and there.
If you do what we did and get yourself an Airbnb, you are already setting yourself up to save some money since you will normally have a kitchen in an apartment. If you’re in even more luck like we were, your host might provide some tea or coffee and smaller bits like cereal, and then your breakfast is sorted. If not, it will cost you much less to buy some bread and some cereal than it will to eat breakfast out, and if you are in mega saving mode you could even make packed lunches.
But in general we found it quite easy to have a bit of early morning breakfast at the apartment, head into the city and start sightseeing and then grab some brunch/lunch from a local café. Dublin is full of hundreds of restaurants so grab a couple of guides or just wonder round and there is something for everyone. On our first night we had some really reasonably priced tapas right in the centre of temple bar, and on the second we knew we wanted to have some traditional Irish Stew so went fully traditional and had it in the Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub.
All in all, food can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it, the only thing you might need to give on, is if you’re partial to a cheeky pint. Now granted, since we were only staying for a couple of nights we didn’t take the time to branch out and try and find some cheaper places to drink and stuck to the good old Temple Bar area. But you can imagine my face when I asked the bar tender for two glasses of red wine and he replied ‘€15 please’. This is coming from a girl who wouldn’t pay anymore than £7 for a whole bottle back at home, though. That being said, even a pint of Dublin’s world famous Guinness set us back €6.80, and my poor housemate paid €6.30 for the pleasure of a traditionally cheap and cheerful Bulmers.
So if you’re planning on drinking on your trip my advice would either be bite the bullet, or if your stay is a little bit longer than ours was, have an explore outside of the main tourist traps, prices might be a little cheaper!
Top tip: If you are a student TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE, most of the places we went to offered a student discount (so make sure you bring your student card with you), and it makes a lot of difference.
Trinity College: Dublin’s famous university is free to enter and have wonder round, it’s a really impressive building and has some beautiful grounds. You can also pay for a guided tour which if you’re interested in its history might be a good idea.
Temple Bar: A vibrant and bustling section of the city filled with traditional Irish pubs, restaurants and gift shops. Enjoyed best in the evening where you can drop into one of the many pubs and listen to some live music.
Grafton Street: If shopping is your thing, then head down to Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping area. Filled with well known brands and independent stores it would be quite easy to spend a whole afternoon there. We also visited just to feel like we were part of the Ed Sheeran song.
Guinness Factory: So worth the tour if not only for the fact the brewery is AMAZING. The tour is self guided and not only offers a student discount but you can also get cheaper tickets if you book at certain ‘off peak times’. You work your way through 6 floors of the history of Guinness from how its made, to their advertising. Your ticket also buys you a sample and lesson in how best to ‘experience’ Guinness as well as a free pint at the end in their impressive skybar which gives you views across the whole of Dublin. Student ticket: €18 Adult Ticket: Anything from €14-€20 depending on the time you book for and how early in advance you book!
Top tip: So we might have just been lucky, but stick around the skybar for a bit, quite often people get to the top and don’t want their free pint, or are under aged and so hand their free coupon to people who want it – in the 45 minutes we were up there we got offered an extra 4 free pints (but maybe we just looked like poor students who needed it).
Christ Church Dublin Cathedral:
Founded in 1028 this beautiful cathedral is worth an explore. At ground level the building boasts stunning stain glass windows and an impressive organ. But explore further and you can take a walk through the medieval crypt featuring a mummified cat and rat discovered in the cathedral’s organ and Ireland’s first copy the Magna Carta.
€6.50, Adults, €5, Students
Yet another remarkable building, and a place you can save some money on too! Dublin’s castle is a great opportunity to see how ‘the other half’ lived as you walk around drawing rooms with beautiful ceilings and great halls bigger than your house. You have the option to take a guided or self-guided tour, with the guided you get to see the Viking Excavation and Chapel Royal, so if that is something that peaks your interest it might be worth spending the extra €3. However, for just a peak round the state apartments and exhibitions, it’s a little cheaper to go with a self guided tour. The castle also has some lovely grounds where you can sit and enjoy a bit of lunch.
Top tip: You can actually download a free app which gives you an audio tour of the state apartments, saving you spending the extra for a guided tour.
Guided: €10 Adults, €8 Students
Self Guided: €7 Adults, €6 Students
Kilmainham Gaol Museum:
This was one of my favourite attractions we visited over the three days. Open from 1796-1924, the Gaol is now open to the public to take a tour round and witness the place where many prisoners of the Irish Civil War and leaders of many rebellions were held. Holding everyone from political prisoners, child thieves and murders, the well informed tour guide shows you some of the most harrowing and impressive features of the building. Getting to actually walk into the cells prisoners spent years of their lives and stand in the room some men and women spent their last nights’ in was such a weird and interesting experience and I fully recommend you take the trip over.
They do recommend that you book your tickets in advance, not only because the tickets are slightly cheaper but also because it gets extremely busy, we were very lucky to get there first thing and squeeze in on an early morning tour, but booking online would be a good idea.
Online: €8 Adults, €4 Student
Walk-in: €9 Adults, €5 Student
So in 3 short days we managed to do a lot, but Dublin is filled with so many more wonderful museums and boasts a lot of fascinating tours. Dublin is a great cheap get-away for culture lovers and guinness drinkers alike, and I hope my lengthy post also saves you a euro or two!