Making the Most of Ireland

Photo provided by Sam Maslak

I’ve already seen so much cool stuff in the past month—castles, mountainsides, pubs, and  delicious pastries (Manning’s Bakery on Thomas St. = yum)–but there is sill much to see. For the past few weeks, my friends and I have been planning our spring break: a few days in Nice, bus to Barcelona, and 4 days in Spain before we head back to Dublin. We know that spending 6 days touring France and Spain isn’t going to be cheap, but since this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we’ve come up with some simple ways to save money before our big trips, so we can enjoy ourselves while we’re there.

Most of the money we spend goes into food, drink, and sightseeing, but we’ve already discovered that there are a few loopholes that make living in an expensive city a little cheaper:

1. Food:

During the first week here, we splurged on meals out, but now that things have settled down, we’ve gotten into the routine of going grocery shopping and planning meals.

My roommates and I have discovered that the best way to save money is to cook our own meals. Once or twice a week we buy minced meat and rashers at the butcher’s, veggies at the produce market, and staples like butter and pasta at the grocery stores for about 15 Euros each.  

Of course, it would be a sin to miss out on the pub culture while in Dublin and it can’t hurt to eat out every once and a while. In fact, a cheap way that my friends and I experience the nightlife here is to eat dinner in and then head out to the pubs for a “dessert” of Guinness or Smithwick’s.

The third trick we learned is to pack a lunch during the school week. Monday through Thursday, the Academic Center is a second home for us students. Besides going to class there, we watch movies in the lounge; chat with Lilly, Stephen, and Claire about our upcoming trips; and each breakfast, lunch, and dinner between classes. Grabbing a sandwich and drink to go can easily add up, so packing a water bottle, bagel with peanut butter, and a bag of crisps is definitely the way to go.

2. Drink:

We discovered that just like in the U.S., it costs much more to order a drink at a bar or pub in Ireland than it does to buy from a liquor store. That especially goes for pubs in tourist areas, where a pint of Guinness can cost 5 Euro. However, once we ventured away from the tourist pubs, and found the places where locals tend to go, we found better prices and a more authentic Irish pub setting.

3. Travel and Sight Seeing:

There’s plenty to see right here in Dublin, and a great aspect of many of our courses here is that they take us straight into the city with field trips to cultural or historical sites, meaning we get free entry into tons of places just by going to class.

When we want to venture a little further on our day trips, the DART can get us to the much quieter seaside villages of Northern and Southern Dublin for only a few Euros. Last weekend I went with three friends to Malahide Castle on the DART and with a coupon we printed out from the castle website, our transportation and entry tickets cost us each only about 12 Euro.

Of course, spring break and other overnight trips will be a bit pricier, but my friends and I have managed to get deals on plane tickets by planning in advance. (We got our tickets by signing up for the RyanAir weekly deals email, which alerted us to deals they were having to France and Spain over spring break.)

We’re also doing a bit of research before we leave to make sure we spend our money on museums, bars, and hostels that we think we’ll enjoy.

We’ve realized that it doesn’t take much extra time to shop around for plane tickets or research free events in downtown Dublin, so that we can make our study abroad experience here as fun and worry-free as possible. 

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