A beach in Ireland
A beach in Ireland

Planning a Trip to Ireland A to Z

Are you planning a vacation to Ireland right now? Here are some A to Z tips that will help you with the planning process, especially if you are serious about visiting Ireland on a budget.

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A – Airline Fares

While booking directly with an airline like Aer Lingus isn't necessarily a bad idea, I also suggest that you use a travel search engine to compare fares.

You’ll have much more flexibility in that you’ll be able to check on the prices of a direct flight as well as those that include stopovers.

You may be surprised by the results you get.

Of course, the time of year you’ll be traveling to Ireland also matters.

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Photo: Stock Film Studio.

Fares during the summer months are the highest because most tourists visit Ireland during that time, but going in the spring and the fall can get you some decent deals and there are fewer crowds to deal with.

My suggestion is to take your time and watch the fares for a few weeks before making a decision.

If you plan your vacation a good six months in advance, you’ll be guaranteed to get the best fares.

Explore the Emerald Isle in 2024 with Aer Lingus Vacations

B – Best Time to Visit Ireland

If you’re thinking of really long days coupled with fairly decent weather (we know that’s not always a given in Ireland!), then summer is a great time to see Ireland.

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Cherry blossoms at Dublin Castle in the spring. Photo: Michael Foley Photography, https://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelfoleyphotography/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

But, given the expense involved, it’s not always viable for everyone.

So, in my opinion, when you are planning a trip to Ireland, shoot for either spring or fall. Fares are cheaper and you’ll get better deals on accommodation as well. As for the weather, you can get really lucky, even in April.

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C – Car Rental or Not?

This is a question that many people have. And I totally get it. If you’re not comfortable driving on the left, stick with either a bus tour of Ireland or public transportation.

On the other hand, driving in Ireland is not out of the question. It just takes a few hours to get used to it. If you’re extra anxious, rent a car with an automatic transmission. If you can drive a standard, then go for that. It’s much cheaper.

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Driving on Achill Island. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

To save money, be sure to use the proper credit card.

This will eliminate the need to purchase separate CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) coverage that car rental companies usually require from tourists.

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Photo: Twenty20photos

When you pick up the car, present a letter from your credit card company stating that you are adequately covered under the company’s rules.

If you want to do some comparison shopping, Discover Cars will give you several options.

Read More: Renting a Car to See Ireland: 9 Things You Should Know

D – Destination: Shannon or Dublin?

Where you land in Ireland is entirely up to you.

If you are interested in seeing the southeast of the country, including the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, and the Ring of Kerry, Shannon is a good place to start. It is a smaller airport and easier to exit by car than in Dublin.

airport in Dublin transport from Ireland's airports
Dublin Airport. Photo: Ashley J. Wilson for Getty Images.

If, however, Dublin is on your list of places to visit first, then it makes sense to land there. There are also plenty of buses and trains that will connect you from Dublin to the rest of the country.

E – Events Worth Seeing

A few events come to mind, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, which is part of a 5-day event called the St. Patrick’s Festival.

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A scene from the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland.

Another event worth seeing if you are planning a trip to Ireland is a Gaelic football game in Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland’s largest sports stadium.

Forget getting a ticket to an All-Ireland final game. You’re more likely to grab one for a quarter- or semi-final match to experience this fast and furious sport.

The stadium has a capacity for more than 82,000 people. You can book tickets on the GAA website or through Ticketmaster.

horses in a race planning a trip to Ireland
The annual Galway Races, canceled this year, is a major event that attracts thousands of tourists each year. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

The Galway Races is another, not-to-be-missed event in Ireland. If you are planning a trip to Ireland at the end of July, you won’t want to miss the biggest party in Ireland!

Read More: Music, Arts and Food Festivals in Ireland

F – Food in Ireland: What to Expect

The culinary scene in Ireland has changed a lot over the past decade or so, with much more variety in restaurants all across the country.

The fact that the island is small and that no place is too far from the ocean means that chefs have access to an abundance of fresh seafood.

In addition, farm-to-table dining has really taken off in Ireland, with restaurants offering up a range of delicious fresh fare, including a range of Irish cheese, jams, and jellies.

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Cashel Blue Cheese. Photo: Tony Pleavin for Tourism Ireland.

You can still get the familiar staples of the Irish diet, including the famous Irish breakfast, which many B&Bs serve up daily.

A lot of pubs offer what are known as carvery-style meals that include cooked meat in addition to all the trimmings that come with it, all for a reduced price.

Read More: Food in Ireland

G – Getting Away from It All

Ireland is the perfect place to do this. Several places come to mind.

They include Donegal, an unspoiled county with a truly fabulous coastline, perfect if you want to rent a cottage in a remote place and explore the natural environment.

rocks in a field near the ocean planning a trip to Ireland
Inishmaan, one of the Aran Islands. Photo: James Stringer, Flickr.

Two other destinations where you can get away from it all include the Aran Islands off the coast of County Galway and the Great Blasket Island off the coast of Co. Kerry.

The last residents of the Great Blasket island left in the 1950s and today there are no permanent residents there, only the tourists who rent out cottages during the summer months.



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H – Healthy Activities to Indulge In

people cycling near the ocean planning a trip to Ireland
Biking in Co. Donegal. Photo: Martin Fleming, Failte Ireland.

Planning a trip to Ireland is all about deciding what attractions to see, but what if you could enjoy those attractions while still getting a healthy dose of exercise?

If you don’t mind ditching the rental car for a few hours or eliminating a bus ride, you could rent a bike instead, go kayaking off the coast or go horseriding on any one of Ireland’s beautiful beaches, all sustainable activities that are doable in Ireland.

I – Interior Parts of the Country

Most people who visit Ireland, at least for the first time, want to see as many attractions as possible.

More often than not, those attractions are on the coasts, which means that the interior of Ireland is often forgotten.

There are many hidden gems in Ireland’s Midlands, also known as Ireland's Hidden Heartlands.

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The Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre. Photo: Justin Ronan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74386768

Some that I would recommend include a day cruise on the River Shannon, a stop at the Tullamore DEW distillery, the Athlone Whiskey Walking Tour, the Donaghmore Workhouse & Agricultural Museum in Co. Galway, and a visit to the Rock of Dunamase in Co. Laois (pronounced “Leesh”).

Read more: Dublin to Galway in Three Days: 8 Attractions You’ll Love

J – Journeys Worth Taking

Whether you’re planning a trip to Ireland for the first time or you’ve been there umpteen times before, a drive on the Wild Atlantic Way is a must.

Some noteworthy discovery attractions worth seeing along the 1,500-mile route include Sliabh Liag in Co. Donegal, the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare and the Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry, just to name a few.

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The Giant's Causeway in Co. Antrim. Photo: Northern Ireland Tourism.

Another journey worth taking is the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland.

If the Giant’s Causeway is on your must-see list, there’s plenty more to see on this 200-mile stretch of road. Popular attractions include the Downhill Demesne/Mussenden Temple in Co. Derry, Dunluce Castle in Co. Antrim, and The Gobbins Cliff Path walk, also in Antrim.

Read More: Unique Things to Do in Ireland: 10 Adventures for Your Bucket List

K – Keepsakes to Remind You of Your Vacation to Ireland

Forget the silly leprechaun trinkets. There are many more gifts and souvenirs to purchase in Ireland that will forever remind you of your time there.

How about a Claddagh ring, made in Co. Galway? This traditional piece of Irish jewelry represents love, loyalty, and friendship and can be worn by both men and women.

Other popular souvenirs include Irish crystal and pottery. Most of the popular Waterford Crystal is now manufactured in Eastern Europe, but you can take a tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory to learn about the process.

You can purchase Waterford Crystal, Tipperary Crystal, or Galway Crystal online at the Irish Store.

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A Claddagh ring. Photo: TorriPhoto for Getty Images.

Irish pottery is also a popular choice among visitors to Ireland. There are several companies that come to mind that produce high-quality products. One of them is the beautifully crafted Belleek Pottery, based in Co. Fermanagh.

Other popular Irish pottery makers can be found on Etsy.

L – Learning a New Skill While on Vacation in Ireland

While vacations are about getting away from everyday tasks, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new while you're in a new destination.

There are many authentic experiences to consider when planning a trip to Ireland.

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Photo: Radnatt, Getty Images.

Fancy a class in baking Irish soda bread or traditional Irish scones or a basket-making course at the Spiddal Craft Village?

Or perhaps you’d like to learn a few steps of the Irish reel? Outdoor activities like rock climbing and scuba diving are also available for the more adventurous.

M – Money: How Much Do You Need for a Vacation in Ireland?

Euro notes money planning a trip to Ireland
Photo by Dom J for Getty Images.

Ireland uses the Euro currency. A good rule of thumb is to set aside approximately €150 a day if you want to splurge a little or €100 a day if you’re watching your Euros more closely. These numbers are also dependent on what kind of accommodation you choose while in Ireland.

Are you interested in staying in self-catering accommodation, a good choice if you are intending to stay in one region for a week or so, or will you be moving around? If so, my suggestion is to choose Ireland’s trusted B&Bs.

N – Noteworthy Attractions You Shouldn’t Miss

There are many great attractions to see in Ireland. There are, however, a couple of noteworthy ones I wouldn’t miss, especially if this is your first time planning a trip to Ireland.

The Rock of Cashel is an iconic attraction and is located in the lush County Tipperary countryside.

castle
The Rock of Cashel in Co. Tipperary. This site is not on the list of free attractions. Photo: Mike Kenneally on Unsplash.

When in Dublin, don’t forget to visit Trinity College, where you can view the Book of Kells in the college’s Old Library building. Witness the exquisite work of monks from between the 6th and 8th centuries. Note that many of the books are currently being removed for a years'-long restoration project.

O – Outdoor Activities to Enjoy

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Kayaking in the dark in West Cork. Photo: Brian Morrison, Tourism Ireland.

Ireland is the ideal country to enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities. How about surfing in Co. Sligo, kayaking off the Connemara coastline or in the dark in West Cork, walking in the Wicklow National Park, or boating on the River Shannon? There’s an outdoor activity to suit everyone.

P – Passport and Visa Requirements

If you are traveling from the United States, the U.K., mainland Europe, New Zealand, or Australia, all you need to show when landing in Ireland is your passport. It should be valid for 6 months after your arrival date.

camera and passport
Photo: Jonathan Miksanek

If you are traveling from other countries on this list, you must apply for a travel visa. This applies to tourists coming from the likes of Albania, China, Egypt, Georgia, and India, among others.

Q – Quirky Attractions to See in Ireland

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The town of Carlingford in Co. Louth. Photo: Tom Archer for Tourism Ireland.

Ireland has several quirky attractions. Some of them include the Leprechaun and Fairy Cavern in Carlingford in Co. Louth, the Irish Sky Garden in Skibbereen in Co. Cork, as well as the haunted Duckett’s Grove in Co. Carlow.

Read more: Ireland’s Must-See Attractions that You May Know About (And Most of Them are Free!)

R – Riding on Public Transportation: Is It a Good Idea?

If you’re spending any length of time in Dublin, you’ll definitely want to use that city’s public transportation system.

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A Bus Eireann bus parked at the company headquarters in Dublin. Photo: By D464-Darren Hall – Broadstone July 2008, coaches awaiting wash and fuel, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26498937

That includes Dublin Bus, the Luas, and DART lines.

If you’re thinking of using public transportation to get around Ireland, Irish Rail is definitely worth using. It will get you to all of Ireland’s major cities, including Belfast, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, among others. If you’re heading to the more remote parts of Ireland, Bus Eireann will take you there.


S – Splurging for a Night or Two

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A table setting in the Pullman Restaurant in County Galway. Photo courtesy of the Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate.

Even on a budget, it’s ok to splurge every now and again.

If that’s what you intend to do, I suggest that you plan ahead. How about an overnight stay at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel, complete with a 4-course gourmet evening meal in the Pullman Restaurant, which contains two original carriages from the Orient Express?

The hotel is in the process of adding a brand new kitchen to the restaurant and expect to have it up and running in 2024.

T – Travel Insurance

a tag on a suitcase planning a trip to Ireland
Photo: William Potter

Travel insurance may not have been something you paid much attention to before this pandemic, but it is something that is hugely important when planning a trip to Ireland or anywhere abroad for that matter.

As we all know, life can be unpredictable so it’s best to be prepared in case you or a family member gets sick and needs to return to your home country or in the event of flight cancelations, disasters, or other scenarios.

U – Universal Power Adaptors

Tourists traveling from other countries (except residents of the UK, Cyprus, Malta, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, where the voltage is the same as in Ireland) must bring a universal power adaptor with them when planning a trip to Ireland. They are generally easy to find, but you can also order one on Amazon below.

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Photo: Vladdeep

By clicking on the Amazon links below, I may earn a small commission from the Amazon Associates Program. However, you will not incur any additional costs by doing so. 


V – Villages and Towns to Explore

a clock monument planning a trip to Ireland
The Westport Town clock in Westport, Co. Mayo, a popular tourist town where you'll find An Port Mor. Photo courtesy of Pawel Sadowski for Tourism Ireland.

Ireland is full of cute little villages and towns to explore.

When planning a trip to Ireland, be sure to explore the countryside so you can see one for yourself. A few come to mind.

They include the pretty village of Adare in Limerick, Kinsale in Co. Cork, Westport in Co. Mayo, and Dunmore East in Co. Waterford.

Read more: The Best Towns and Villages in Ireland: 10 to Explore in 2024

WiFi – How to Access it in Ireland

WiFi in most parts of Ireland is quite good, although there are pockets of the country, particularly rural areas, where it’s not great.

If you purchase an international plan through your mobile carrier, you will be able to access the local mobile provider and operate as you would normally do at home. These plans can be expensive though.

Another alternative is to turn your data off once you get to Ireland so you can access Wifi in public areas where it is available and in cafes, restaurants, and pubs where the service is free.

a cell phone in a hand planning a trip to Ireland
Photo: Vector Fusion Art, Getty Images.

Another alternative is to purchase a device from Wifi Candy for as little as three days or for as long as two weeks. Once you pick up the device at designated areas at both Dublin or Shannon airports, or other locations in Dublin, all you need to do is sync the device with your mobile phone. To get 10 percent off your order with Wifi Candy, use the coupon code irelandonabudget.

When you’re leaving, simply drop the device in the pre-postage package that the company provides and mail it back or return it to a designated location at the airport.

And finally, if your phone is unlocked you can either purchase a local SIM card in Ireland or sign up for this nifty service called Airalo.

Read More: Top Ireland Travel Questions Answered

X – Xmas in Ireland

Have you ever thought about spending Christmas in Ireland? It’s a magical time of year for sure. Flights can be expensive, though, so take this into consideration if you’re thinking of planning a trip to Ireland around this time.

a Christmas tree planning a trip to Ireland
Christmas lights on O'Connell Street. Photo: Ruth Medjber for Failte Ireland.

There are a few Christmas traditions that are worth experiencing in Ireland. They include the day after Christmas called St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day in Northern Ireland) when people parade the streets in straw suits while dancing and singing for money.

The tradition is based on the old practice of “hunting” a fake wren and then putting it on top of a decorated pole. The “wren boys” then parade around the village or town dressed in masks and colorful clothing, performing as they go along.

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A wren boy parade. Photo: National Library of Ireland on The Commons – December 26Uploaded by oaktree_b, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17816307

While the practice is hundreds of years old, it is alive and well in certain areas of Ireland, such as Dingle, Co. Kerry.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, there are plenty of markets in Ireland’s cities to enjoy, the most notable ones being in Dublin, Belfast, and Galway.

Dublin’s pantomimes are a firm favorite around Christmas, with the city’s Gaiety and Olympia theaters putting on hilarious performances based on well-known fairytales.

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Y – Youth Hostels

Youth hostels are considered the accommodation of choice for young people, but tourists over 30 are looking at youth hostels as a viable alternative to the more expensive hotels.

In fact, the international organization that was once known as the “Youth Hostel Federation” has since changed its name to “Hosteling International.”

a large building planning a trip to Ireland
The Generator hostel in Dublin. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

There are hostels throughout Ireland, including Dublin. If you’re a solo traveler, hosteling is ideal. You can book a single room and eliminate the worry of sharing a common space with others.

For families on a tight budget, hosteling can be perfect, especially in cities like Dublin where hotel rates are higher than in other parts of Ireland.

Z – Zero Fees on Foreign Credit Card Transactions

Using bank cards while on vacation can be expensive. That’s why it’s important to know which cards to bring and which ones to leave at home.

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Consumers are charged between 2 and 3 percent of the purchase price of every item they buy with their credit cards abroad. Some of the best ones to consider include the Charles Schwab Debit Card and the Capital One 360 card.

Read more: Saving Money in Ireland: The Best Bank Cards to Use

Are you planning a trip to Ireland in 2023? If so, let me know what things are most important to you in the comments section below.

And as always, feel free to sign up for my regular e-newsletter providing you with additional tips and strategies for getting to Ireland on a budget.

colette

Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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