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12 Great Money Saving Tips For Your Trip To Ireland

A tour guide was showing a tourist around Washington DC. The guide pointed out the place where George Washington supposedly threw a dollar coin across the Potomac River. “That’s impossible,” said the tourist. “No one could throw a coin that far!” “You have to remember,” answered the guide. “A dollar went a lot farther in those days.”(unknown source)

Are you looking for ways to make your dollar go further on your trip to Ireland? Well, you are among friends. Holidaying is expensive so why not try to save a few dollars here and there whenever possible. I hope my list below helps you minimize your expenses.

Money Saving Tips For Your Trip To Ireland

1. Tipping

Tipping in Ireland is not as commonplace as it is in other parts of the world. In the USA leaving a tip at a bar, or after a cab ride has become a standard, and is very much expected. While in Ireland, feel free to tip when you consider it to be appropriate, such as after a waiter or waitress gives you great service, but hold on to your spare change at the bar.

2. Currency

I worked out that withdrawing Euros from an Irish ATM was the cheapest way for me to get Irish currency from my US bank account. You will generally get the best rate, avoid major transaction fees, and you won’t have to carry around large amounts of cash on your trip. Check with your bank though. It worked well for me, but all banks will have their own policies.

3. WIFI

Most decent hotels these days offer free WIFI as part of your room rate. Look into this when booking your hotel because if daily internet access is a priority for you, then this could be a big saving point. If your hotel doesn’t offer free WIFI, then take a look at the cafes and shopping centers nearby to connect to the web.

4. Movies

Being a tourist certainly is not cheap if you’re traveling with your family. One way to save a few dollars while entertaining the kids is to take them to a drive-in movie theater (there’s one in Cork). Not only will you save on admission, but you can also load up the car with whatever sweet treats will be needed. Arm and leg saved : )

5. Coupons

Ireland is keeping up with its big cousin the USA by overloading people with coupons and online discount sites. A great way to get a deal on a restaurant meal is to browse Groupon Ireland.

6. Cellphones

If you’re planning on picking up some ‘disposable’ mobile phones be careful of the associated costs! Ireland can have some very expensive usage charges associated with cellphones. There are many pay-as-you-go type cellphone options available, but be sure to research which one fits your need best. Some offer free text messages or in-network calls, but generally calls to other networks and landlines will eat up your phone credit quite quickly. If you’re considering buying more than one for your family, then stick to the same network to minimize cost.

7. Entertainment

If traditional Irish music sessions are on your “to-do” list, then all you should need is a few Euro for a couple of pints. ‘Trad’ sessions are oftentimes impromptu, or are played by the locals in the pubs, so you probably won’t need to budget for admission tickets. From time to time, there will be special occasions where there may be a door fee, but this shouldn’t happen often.

8. Haggle!

Where possible try to bargain on prices. This will generally work in market-type environments (farmer’s markets etc), but forget about it if you’re in any type of regular retail establishment.

9. Meals

One thing that the Irish love, that’s not so common in the United States, is the multi-course meals. Three, four and even 5 course meals are common, but from my own personal opinion, they include a lot of food/drink items I may not even want. I guess this one’s a personal choice but if you wouldn’t normally have a 5 course meal, don’t feel like you have to just because you’re in Ireland.

10. VAT

Value Added Tax (VAT) is added to most goods and services in Ireland. You can reclaim a lot of this money if you’re a non-EU resident by being prepared when you are doing your shopping. You will pay VAT in most EU countries and it makes simple sense to reclaim what is yours. Rick Steves gives a pretty good explanation on how you can reclaim the VAT you paid, both on his website and in his ever-popular Ireland travel guide book.

11. Book ahead!

If you know for certain that you’ll be taking flights, hotels, tours etc, then generally these will be cheaper when booked in advance. This one probably applies no matter where in the world you’re headed to.

12. Car Rental

If you’re renting a car, my advice is to choose the manual transmission option if you are familiar with how to drive that type of car. Cars with an automatic transmission are not as common in Ireland, and therefore the rentals are much more expensive. It must be some form of informal tourist tax (hate those!).

Now for the ‘Good Karma’ part…

What did you do to keep costs down on your trip? Did you figure something out to save on flights, food, accomodation, tour packages etc? Help your fellow tourist out, by telling us where you have been able to pinch a few pennies while enjoying the beautiful Irish countryside. Please leave your comment below.

26 comments

  1. Hi Liam, Plan your nights out in the smaller towns the Pint price can get a bit much in Dublin and other city pubs. If in the city the pricier places will be where the tourists are drawn to, so maybe find a pub that has less tourists but more character to it.
    Cheers,
    Brian.

  2. We did several things to save money on our first trip. We did rent the manual transmission car, but we also brought our own GPS. They take up so little space! I went on ebay and bought a used Ireland map card to put in it. After people travel they often put these on ebay. We used it, then put it back on ebay when we got back home. Beats renting a GPS there. We also booked our tour far in advance, which gave us a better rate and a night in a castle. They have specials when you can book months in advance. Also, our tour included a buffet breakfast and since we were so amazed at Ireland, we weren’t ready to eat until late afternoon, so we just bought one meal each day. We also stopped by a local grocery store and bought some fruit and crackers for when we did get the “munchies” but didn’t want a meal. And, we fell in love with the seafood chowder and the brown bread, which is much cheaper than a large meal and very satisfying (but then, everything we ate in Ireland was great). Lastly, take lots of pictures. I have made collages and enlargements, which were very inexpensive, of my pictures, bought cheap frames, and used them for gifts. Also, we packed everything in one suitcase but brought an extra for the purchases we would be bringing home, that way we stayed within the allotted luggage quota. And I printed off websites of every place we planned to visit with directions, cost of admission if that applied, and contact info. That way, if our GPS did go down, we had directions, and we were able to stay within our budget by having all of the costs in print with us. And check with your hotel, they have many discount coupons and codes for local attractions.

  3. Just a few corrections to your list. There are no Drive in Movie theatres in Ireland,Most phone networks in Ireland have free same network calls and texts,Most if not all car rental companys have automatic cars at no extra cost, And the best way to experience Ireland is in the country not the cities,I know all this because I live here but the rest of your list is very good advice,regards Gary

    • Thanks for that Gary. I’m pretty sure the drive-in movie theater in Cork is still open for business though. I just checked the listings, and Men-in-Black 3 is showing :)
      I definitely agree that the best way to see Ireland is to get outside the cities. There’s something to be said for a wander around Dublin and a night out or 2 in Cork, Galway etc, but most people coming to Ireland want to see old-Ireland. They better hurry though – it’s quickly disappearing.

      Best wishes
      Liam

    • I recently booked a rental car for our upcoming trip to Ireland and I can tell you that automatic transmission cars are significantly more expensive than manual. We thought driving on the other side of the road (which are much narrower than American roads) was enough to contend with without trying to shift with the opposite hand. It cost us about 25% more for the automatic. Now maybe there are car rental companies that rent automatics for the same price as a manual, but after getting quotes from at least 7 different companies, I couldn’t find one.

      • Jen
        Thanks for your comment. The last time I rented I had the same problem. I even called a few and tried to convince them to give me the car for the same price :) I still have my Irish accent and I thought that might help sway it haha, no such luck! I suppose I’ve gotten lazy driving an automatic in the US, and didn’t really want to drive the manual. But after a day or 2 it was fine.
        Enjoy your upcoming trip to Ireland – lucky you! If you want to share something about a place you loved after you get back, we’d love to hear from you on the guest post section gotireland.com/reviews-by-you/

        Best wishes,
        Liam

  4. I like your point of booking ahead. If you go onto our website http://www.clarevirtually.ie you can then look at 60 second virtual tours of the various tourist products in County Clare. These tours are different from the normal ones because they are video tours. You see the exterior of the product including any scenic views, then the interior which helps if you are looking at accommodation, pubs or restaurants. The most important part of the tour though is the Céad Míle Fáilte from the owner or manager. You will then see who will answer the door to you when you get there. The tag line for the site is “Look Then Book”. When you have watched the video tour you can then book the said product through a link from the video page. Perfect for visitors who maybe haven’t stayed in a B&B before. What you see on the video IS what you will get ! Check it out http://www.clarevirtually.ie “Look Then Book”

  5. Great points. A few suggestions to go with the above

    Tipping
    Unless the service is truly bad, you are expected to leave a tip. Roughly 10%, or more if service was excellent. As a general rule, you don’t tip for alcohol – so you can knock the price of the wine bottle off the bill before you calculate your tip.

    Coupons
    Groupon is only one site. Try dealpages.ie which covers a multitude of deal sites – including Groupon.

    Cellphones
    I’d disagree with you that cell phone charges on ‘disposable’ phones are ‘very expensive’. A couple of recommendations would be to get your phone ‘unlocked’ for international travel. Contact your service provider to get it done – but there may be a charge – then simply pick up a SIM card when you get here. Alternativel – with smartphones – I’d recommend Viber. It’s Skype for cell phones, but both parties need to have 3G/WiFi connectivity… and be Viber enabled, obviously. Failing that, your cheapest bet is to use text messaging.

    Eating
    5 course meals are only going to hit you in the posher restaurants. And you’ll find plenty of ‘early bird’ deals (e.g. 2 or three courses for a set amount) around the place. Our food has improved dramatically, but you’ll still find the occasional dodgy place so ask in the hotel etc., where you’re staying

    Entertainment
    Gary mentions that there are no drive-in movie theatres. If there’s one in Cork, good luck to it, but I haven’t heard of any, and they’re likely only to be open over weekends and during the summer.

    Car Rentals
    Yep, getting an automatic will cost you extra but if you’re not used to driving on the roads here (narrower roads in the country and left-hand drive), I suggest you get a car you feel comfortable with – it’ll be worth the extra money.

    Driving
    Not included in the original list but addressed by Deborah above, Irish road signage still leaves something to be desired in the countryside so a GPS is highly recommended, or get yourself a detailed map. I used the general Ordnance Survey ‘Ireland’ map when I travelled the country by camper van for a year – and I got lost every week!

    • Kevin

      Thanks for the extra long comment :) You added some valuable info thanks.

      Just to comment on the mobile phone costs again…having lived in Ireland most of my life, I can be sure some people (from the US anyway) would be surprised at calling costs, especially some mobile to landline/other networks charges. There are “disposable” phones here (USA) too, but hardly anyone uses them. That’s probably why they call them disposable. Most people expect the same monthly bill every month and don’t pay per minute.

      Love your addition of having your phone ‘unlocked’ for international travel.
      Definitely agree with the comment on renting a car your comfortable with. Again, it was just to make people aware. If they can drive a manual, I’d say go for it. Otherwise, factor in an extra few quid to enjoy the holiday more by ditching the stress of shifting gears.

      Been browsing your blog for a while this morning too – what an experience it must have been driving around Ireland playing every 18 hole golf course. Best of luck with the book.

      Cheers,
      Liam

      P.S here’s the link to the drive-in cinema in Cork http://www.moviejunction.ie/

      • We bought a Ireland Cell phone in 09 in a 02 shop. By 2011 the sim card had expired. We then got an unlock code to unlock the cell phone in order to accept most any type of sim card. We had been advised to get a Tesco sim card since it was only 2 cents a minute to call back to the USA. We bought a 10 Euro sim card, and got 20 Euros worth of time due to a special promotion. It worked great, with 4 of us all calling numerous family members back home. Returned to Ireland this Oct, and this sim card was still active with 3 euros time, so just went to a Tesco Store, bought a 10 Euro top up, and we were good to go. Very inexpensive, and great coverage. This time we spent 5 days in Northern Ireland, so purchased a UK sim card to use in NI. It worked great too.

  6. Liam,
    I know most travelers from the US prefer driving themselves, but I’ll add in a word for traveling by bus. Bus Eireann (Republic) and Translink/Ulsterbus (NI), as well as several smaller regional services in the northwest, are often good value for point to point trips. Multi day passes are often good value as well.

  7. renting a car can be a costly affair for you as said in the 12th money saving tips but if you are smart enough to book your rental car on off season then it will surely cost you less and after deciding your favorite car agency you must take care of announcing discount offers which are common activities for these rental car hiring agencies. if you want to make your car rental Ireland easy and cheap then search for the cheapest car hiring agency on the web.

  8. If I could add to what you said about WiFi and cellphones, for getting online while on the go.

    If you need to connect while traveling around, you may even like to purchase a mobile broadband modem from O2, Meteor or Vodafone mobile phone networks. It’s a little USB device that plugs into your laptop. You might need to pay €30 to get the modem and SIM card, but once you’re set up, it’s quite useful to have.

    • Great addition Eoin. Is there a pay-as-you-go option for this type of service? Tourists obviously wouldn’t want to sign up to a contract or anything like that, so a pay per use service might be the best option.

  9. Viber is a great way to use your cellphone via wifi and avoid charges. My trip roommate in Italy turned me on to this. She lives in Canada with family in India & the US and uses this service. I can call and text her with no additional fees!! It’s a free app and who doesn’t like free?!

  10. If you’re old enough, you can ask if there is a Senior Discount (I think it’s called Concession). We got it in several places we asked.

  11. Ferris Égoïste

    These are such great tips!

  12. For lunches on the go and a cheap meal, we had soup and bread almost every day. Unlike here in America, we found fresh cooked, (not fast food or frozen) food everywhere. The soups are wonderful and automatically come with fresh baked scones or bread. A delightful meal for about 7 US dollars!