Dublin is one of our favourite cities in the world, we bloody love it there and I was fortunate enough to be able visit again for a weekend recently on my sister’s hen do. Obviously weddings are expensive so we were on a mission to keep costs low while still having an amazing time. And that we did, each spending less than £250 ($350 USD). Flights and accommodation all in. Pretty good right?
And so I’m going to share with you all the things that we got upto in Dublin for free, how to get cheap accomodation in Dublin and just generally how to plan a cheap Dublin break.
Getting To Dublin On A Budget
Your first expense when planning a cheap weekend break to Dublin will undoubtedly be how to get there. Because Ireland is an island, unless you already live in the country you are going to need to get there by ferry or plane. From mainland Britain, there are two ports from which you can take a ferry to Dublin. Holyhead in Wales and Liverpool in England.
The crossing from Holyhead to Dublin is around 3 hours and services from Holyhead port are operated by Stena Line and Irish Ferries. The Liverpool to Dublin ferry is operated by P&O ferries and will take around 8 hours. Depending on how far in advance you book, a return passenger ticket will typically cost around £65 GBP ($91USD). You can check prices for specific dates here.
Obviously you also have the added expense of getting to the ferry ports which can be costly if you aren’t nearby. By far the the cheapest way of getting from Britain to Ireland is to take a budget flight which operate out of lots of the airports in Britain including London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Southampton, Leeds, Norwich and Newcastle.
Ryanair typically has the most frequent and cheapest flights but Easyjet, Flybe and Aer Lingus also have flights between Dublin and Britain. We booked our flights around 3 months in advance and found return tickets with Ryanair for just £45 GBP ($63USD) each from East Midlands airport.
The flights times weren’t the best, it was an early 6.30am flight out but that’s the compromise for cheap flights. The flights were also carry on luggage only. You can compare flights from all airports with all airlines here.
Read our guide on How To Book The Cheapest Flights Possible.
From the airport into Dublin city centre there’s a really easy and cost effective public bus called Airlink Express, which costs €12 Euro (£11 GBP/$15 USD) for a return ticket. You can either buy a ticket at the counter in the arrivals area of the airport or just outside the exit at the bus stop. The journey is around half an hour and you’re probably going to want to get off around O’Connell Street or Temple Bar to be right in the centre, but you can grab a map to see which is best for you.
Cheap Accomodation In Dublin
Your purpose for planning a cheap Dublin break and who you are travelling with will have some bearing on your search for cheap accomodation in Dublin. For example if you are planning a romantic weekend break you are unlikely going to want to be staying in multiple bed dorm room. Mind, even with a group of mates you probably don’t because the cheapest I could find a hostel stay for was €45 (£40 GBP/$56 USD) per night per person in a mixed 4 bed dorm room with not so great reviews.
Moving onto hotels or guesthouses and you’re looking at a minimum of $70 (£62 GBP/$87 USD) per night per person for a half decent place. Naturally the further ahead you book, the more options there are and obviously you can nab good deals, but I searched through our trusted accommodation booking sites booking.com and HostelWorld and these were the best I could find over multiple dates.
By far the cheapest accomodation in Dublin that I could find was through AirBnb. The 5 of us stayed in a great private flat just 15 mins walk from all the action that had all the amenities we needed for just €36 Euro (£32 GBP/ $45 USD) per person per night. And it wasn’t a one off, I found loads of deals on Airbnb in Dublin. If you don’t already have an Airbnb account use this link to sign up and you’ll get a £25 ($35USD) travel credit towards your trip.
The other reason that I would recommend booking a place through Airbnb for Dublin on a budget is that you can cook some, or all, of your meals at your accommodation which will massively cut down on your overall expenses. Even if it’s just brekkie.
Read our guide on How To Find The Best Value Accommodation.
Things To Do In Dublin For Free
Okay so you’ve got your cheap flights booked and a great price on your accommodation. Now to plan what to do in Dublin for the weekend. So how expensive is Dublin? Well unfortunately, very, if you don’t go with a plan. I ordered a pint of Guinness in one pub and my jaw nearly hit the bar when I was asked for €8 Euro (£7 GBP/$10 USD). The good news is there are lots of things to do in Dublin for free.
Free Museums in Dublin
Admissions to The Science Museum, which is part of Trinity College Dublin, is completely free and they always have fascinating and interactive exhibitions. The Chester Beatty Library just outside Dublin Castle is described not only as one of the best museums in Ireland but in the whole of Europe. Housing the beguiling collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, it’s definitely worthy of an hour or two of your time.
Another fantastic free museum in Dublin is the National History Museum on Merrion Street. Nicknamed the dead zoo, it’s victorian style glass cabinets house one of the most comprehensive zoological collections in the world. From tiny insects to huge whales, it’s a great Dublin attraction for kids too.
Stroll The Streets
One of the first things you’ll notice about Dublin is that it has a beautiful energy about it, everywhere you turn there’s something going on. Combine that with Dublin being a very walkable city and one of the best things to do in Dublin for free is to simply stroll around the streets.
O’Connell Street is the main street in Dublin, it’s a thoroughfare of activity and also one of the widest streets in Europe. Don’t miss The Spire, or Stiffy in the Liffey as it less affectionately known locally. As a 120m high, pin like monument that waves around in the wind it would be pretty difficult.
Also on O’Connell Street is of Ireland's most famous buildings the General Post Office, where if you look closely you can still spot the odd bullet hole from Ireland's fight for independence in 1916. A walk down Grafton Street is also a must when it comes to free stuff to do in Dublin and one of the many places that you’ll find lots of street performers in Dublin.
Just don’t be one of those dicks thats stands there enjoying the performances for ages and taking photos then walks off without giving a contribution. There are a number of bridges that cross the River Liffey which runs through the centre of the city, but the most picturesque has to be the Victorian Ha’penny Bridge.
There’s an ongoing battle between Dublin council and tourists trying to claim it as a love lock bridge, so depending on when you visit you may find a varying number of padlocks fastened on it.
Check Out The Architecture
An elaborate and ornate collection of beautiful buildings, Trinity College is part of a trilogy of prestigious universities that include the University of Cambridge and The University of Oxford in England and you can just go in and wander around the grounds. The Campanile of Trinity College is one of Ireland's most famous landmarks.
It’s not free to go inside (€12 Euro/ £10.60 GBP/ $14.80 USD) but the Book of Kells is here in the gorgeous Trinity College Library. If you visit you can book tickets here.
Also impressive to view from the outside is the Dublin Castle complex and Dubh Linn Garden, just off Dame Street. The buildings, which were all added at different times, range from medieval to Georgian and are a mismatch of natural stonework and brightly coloured render.
The grand Medieval Christ Church Cathedral is another of Dublin’s signature must see buildings.
Wander Through The Parks
Depending on when you go, there’s a very good chance it’s going to be cold and probably raining. It’s Ireland. However, there are are some stunning outdoor spaces in the city which are all free to enter if you can brave the elements.
My favourites are Phoenix Park, St Stephens Green, Merrion Square and the National Botanic Gardens which are a little further out but worth the half hour walk or 10 minute bus journey. The guided tours are €5 Euro (£4.40 GBP/$6.20 USD) per person but free on Sunday at 12pm or 2.30pm.
Things To Do In Dublin On A Budget
Go To A Comedy Show
One of the best things to do in Dublin on a budget is go to a comedy show. I can recommend Chaplins Comedy Club, for a €10 Euro (£9 GBP / $12.50 USD) two hour show it’s an excellent price and the compere is seriously hilarious. A quick google search will bring up a tonne of alternative comedy clubs though. If there’s one thing that Dublin loves as much as its live music, it’s comedy.
Listen To Live Music
Speaking of live music you’ll be hard pushed to avoid it in Dublin. It. Is. Everywhere. And. It. Is. The. Best. It’s a toss up between the music and the Guinness as to what is my favourite thing about Dublin. It’s probably a combination of both at the same time to be fair.
Here’s some recommendations to start you off, The Porterhouse on Parliament Street, BadAss and The Old Storehouse on Crown Alley, The Brazen Head on Lower Bridge Street and Whelan’s on Merrion Row. They are all fantastic.
Do A Sandemans Walking Tour
This is kind of free, but not really. There’s no fee upfront, but the tour guides work on a tip basis so you’ve got to be pretty rude not to give something at the end. Unless you do think it’s crap of course, but because that’s how they earn their money they’re pretty good. I’ve been on two now and really enjoyed them because they give you a much deeper insight to the city than you’ll get from just wandering around on your own.
I gave a tip of €10 Euro (£9 GBP/ $12 USD) which I think is more than reasonable for a good quality 3 hour tour. You can reserve your spot here.
I didn’t get to go here while I was last in Dublin, basically because I f’ed up and didn’t book tickets far enough in advance. However I’m assured on very good authority that it is worth the affordable €8 Euro (£7 GBP/ £10 USD) entrance and tour fee. If you want to learn about the intense and turbulent and quite frankly violent history between Ireland and England, this is the place to be, with much of the history written within these walls.
Just make sure you book ahead because it is the number one thing to do in Dublin on Tripadvisor right now and everyone and their dog wants to experience it. You can book your tickets online here.
More Tips For A Cheap Dublin Break
Avoid Temple Bar
It’s such good craic, but it’s also where you’re going to find the most expensive pints in Ireland because it is the most touristy area. Just to confuse you, the main bar area is called Temple Bar, but also has a bar called Temple Bar - that’s where I paid €8 Euro for a pint. I’m not saying don’t go in, it’s a great pub. Just maybe have a half and don’t let that be your benchmark for how expensive drinks are in Dublin.
Meander through some of the quieter streets and you’ll find pints for a few euro cheaper. J Grogan’s on William Street South is more affordable and they do a mean Irish coffee too.
Buy Your Irish Hats In Pennys
Let’s face it, no trip to Dublin would be complete without some green sparkly leprechaun-esque paraphernalia. Especially if you are on a hen do or the like. But instead of buying it in the airport or at one of the expensive novelty gift shops, head to Penny’s, the equivalent of the British Primark. There’s one on O’Connell street and one on Henry Street and both have a good range of Irish clad sparkly green headdresses and the like for wayyyyy cheaper.
Buy A Dublin Pass
The Dublin Pass isn’t cheap which is why I haven’t recommended it until now. However there are certain circumstances when it will absolutely save you money if you get one. For example, if you are wanting to visit some of the pricier Dublin attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse or The Jameson’s Distillery, it will probably be worth your while getting one.
They do them over 1, 2 or 3 days. But just check the list of included attractions before you purchase one because they don’t cover everything and as I’ve already said there are lots of things to do in Dublin for free so you want to be getting your money’s worth.
Last but not least, a handy tip for anyone heading to Dublin on Budget is that if you have early flights arriving before you can check into your accommodation, or late flights leaving after your check out time, you can safely store your luggage at the Dublin Visitor Centre on College Green for €6 Euro (£5.30 GBP/$7.40 USD).
Let us know if you have anymore helpful tips for other travellers visiting Dublin on a budget. And also what your favourite pub was and where you found the cheapest pint of Guinness!