Dublin on a Budget

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There is one reason why being a student and an avid traveller is fantastic, and it is because you have more time now than you’ll ever have later in life to visit places all across the globe. However, the problem is that being a student also usually coincides with being super broke, so although you have the time to travel, you don’t tend to have the budget. Should this mean we shouldn’t travel? Of course not, we just have to be savvy. 

So if you’re incredibly broke but still want to leave the UK for a holiday, then Dublin is a prime choice. Flight prices to Dublin are cheaper than train tickets across the country (I think that says a lot about the ridiculous train prices we face but that’s another article in itself). I left from Birmingham with a return ticket of £30 for an easy hour-long flight. To be savvy about not spending money unnecessarily, I picked plane times on Skyscanner that gave me the most time in the country possible without having to pay for accommodation either side of our arrival and departure. So although it was an early morning because we had to wake up at 5:00 am to be at the airport two hours before, the flight took off at 8:00 am and we arrived around 9:00 am ready to make the most of our first day in Dublin without needing to pay for a bed the night before just to sleep there. Similarly, we left Dublin at 10:00 pm on the final day so we could make the most of the final day without having to pay to sleep there just to catch the flight the next morning.

Temple Bar Pub
Credit: Freya Millard

Our accommodation was far from glamorous but my God, was it ideal. It was central Dublin right on Temple Bar which was the most perfect location to be in. Not once did we need to pay for transport once we had entered the city because everything is incredibly close in Dublin, especially all the touristy sights. On top of that, it was cheap and cheerful just how I like it, costing us £140 for a double room for three nights. Of course, you could actually do this even cheaper if you’re willing to just share in hostel accommodation but that’s entirely up to you. You can find such a good selection of potential accommodations on booking.com or hostelworld so you have plenty of options. The downside of staying in the heart of Dublin’s pub scene is, of course, the noise throughout the entire night. Lucky for me I’m a heavy sleeper anyway, but also after a few Guinnesses, I didn’t wake to any of the commotion outside.

Once you account for flights and accommodation, the actual important part of travelling is finding the money to enjoy a place. Before going to Dublin we spent hours scrolling through blogs and websites to find fun things to do that would keep us entertained. We made a big list from high to low priority and we roughly filled in the gaps in our holiday with things we would like to do. Of course, nothing goes entirely to plan when travelling and we didn’t strictly follow our itinerary but it was really helpful to have a list of things we wanted to do on hand. This meant we could pick, swap and choose things without having to constantly research and find things to do and waste what little time we had across those four days.

Dublin Castle
Credit: Freya Millard

Whilst looking for things to do we quickly realised the biggest perk about Dublin is that so much is free! Even some big tourist attractions are free, and if you like art, museums, culture and history like I do then you could do so much for absolutely nothing. The Chester Beatley Library, parts of Dublin Castle, Phoenix Park, National Museum of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland, Trinity College Science Gallery and Irish Museum of Modern Art – all have free entry. So between drinking Guinness and exploring the city we also filled a few hours or so every day just going around these really incredible attractions. The best free thing we did throughout the whole trip was walking the South Wall and visiting Poolbeg Lighthouse. This made for an incredible photo opportunity and plenty of great memories as we also took a picnic and ate it on the random beach that appeared out of nowhere.

Of course, not everything in life is free and we did have to actually spend money for some entertainment, for example, we chose to go to Dublin Zoo which was €14 on a student ticket. Unfortunately, it was pouring it down and most of the animals were hiding away inside, so I would advise picking a day with decent weather to make the most of it. We also went for a walking history tour around Dublin for €15 one night, which was actually a lot of fun and we even got to hear a lot of ghost tales and old legends. We did the tour around the Irish Whiskey Museum (€15) which was really interesting, and our host, Eoin, was brilliant and so informative. The price included being given tasters of three very different whiskeys which really made it worthwhile. So even when we did spend money for activities and tourist attractions, the pricing in Dublin is actually very good and they all offered student discount, so just bring your ID cards along and the trip won’t break your bank.

Credit: Freya Millard
Irish Whiskey Museum
Credit: Freya Millard
Christ Church Cathedral
Credit: Freya Millard

The most expensive thing is drink prices in Dublin. You’re looking at €6 average for a pint but this is to be expected in a capital city and especially one that is so famous for its pub scenes. Like in your daily student lives, the thing that will put you in your overdraft whilst in Dublin would most likely be your nights out. Saying that though, it is absolutely worth going and enjoying the pubs in Dublin and spending a little extra for this. There is live music everywhere, usually playing your pop/indie favourites with a wonderful Irish twist and the atmosphere is phenomenal. Everyone is drinking happily, dancing and singing with a pint in their hand – you just can’t beat it. Also, I found the rumours to be true, the Guinness in Ireland is incredible and nothing like what we are used to here, it’s fresh and just perfect. Plus I didn’t once get a single hangover after spending my nights drinking Guinness which was great for me, a Masters student, way past her drinking prime of Freshers.

Overall I spent £250 for an incredible four day holiday in Dublin and I could not recommend the trip enough. If you’re yearning to travel but struggling to find the funds, then I really suggest you consider a trip across to Ireland. Then again, even if you’re not struggling for cash, I’d also take a trip to Ireland, but instead, you can just buy even more Guinness and eat like a king.

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Former English Student | Travel Editor 2016-17 |Current MSc. International Politics | Editor at Wessex Scene for 2017-18.

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