You are on a budget, and you want to travel in Ireland? It can be done, even though Ireland has long held on to the unsavory nickname of "Rip-Off Republic", reflecting the impression that prices are not low. And they aren't by any standard (unless you are a Scandinavian flying in for beer and whiskey). But the traveler forewarned is a traveler forearmed ... with good advice, vouchers and a keen eye for a bargain. Here are some tips to help you keep within your budget.
By booking ahead you can be on a tight budget and survive. Yes, you will not be able to get last minute bargains this way. But you will be able to find the most suitable combination of purchases without too much stress. And also be safe from sudden price increases (though beware of fluctuations in the exchange rate, which also can be a killer). Plus you are certainly able to budget better once the costs for flights, accommodation and a rental car are out of the way.
Drop the Extras
Not every bargain is as good as it sounds - a German travel agency advertises the cheapest car hire in Ireland but includes extras such as a second driver and baby seat. If you do not need these extras you can get a rental car much cheaper. Also try to book the rental car suitable for your needs, not a huge model stuffed with extras you will not need.
Focus on Essentials
Try to determine what you actually want to see and where to go, then analyze this rough plan. Are you mainly focused on indoor attractions or unfazed by frequently changing the weather? Then travel outside the tourist season. Are you planning to stay a few days in Dublin? Then do not rent a car for these days.
Shop Around for Bargains
On the Internet and in tourist offices you will find loads of offers for cheaper entry or other reductions - printing out the free Cultural Explorer Discount Pass, for instance, can save you up to € 400!
Do Not Dine Out
It is easy to spend € 30 or more for an evening meal in Ireland's restaurants. If you are traveling on a budget, simply avoid evening meals - most restaurants offer cheaper lunchtime menus, some also have an "early bird special" in the late afternoon. Also, consider "carveries" in pubs or "family restaurants" (often glorified takeaways with a no-frills interior and a simple menu). Take-out menus are available from many fish and chip shops, Chinese and Indian restaurants or takeaways.
Use Your Plastic
If possible use your credit card for larger purchases and insist on being billed in Euro (or Pound in Northern Ireland). This will normally secure a much more favorable rate of exchange than changing money or even leaving the seller to apply his or her own rates. Note that some small businesses (such as bed & breakfast houses) may want to apply a surcharge for credit card use.
Use an ATM
Getting cash from an ATM (or "hole in the wall") usually has the advantage of a good rate of exchange, though your bank or credit card provider may raise a charge for every transaction.
Reclaim the VAT
Hit the Supermarket
For all your daily needs and even some souvenirs, large supermarkets like Tesco, Dunnes Stores or (in Northern Ireland) Asda and Sainsbury's are the places to go - prices are much lower and you may even buy some Irish whiskey to take home with you. Investing in bulk at the start if your journey pays dividends - six 2-liter-bottles of spring water will set you back by € 2.10, the same quantity bought in smaller bottles in convenience stores will cost roughly € 30, at tourist shops even € 40 or more!