Planning Your Ireland Vacation Budget

Ireland has a reputation for being an expensive destination.  And it can be, if you travel in the high season and expect 5 star luxury.  But it is possible to travel in Ireland for much less, if you carefully plan an Ireland vacation budget.

I'm often asked, “How much does an Ireland vacation cost?” And the answer is… it depends.

There is no ‘one size fits all' answer. Everything from your airfare and accommodation choices down to the things you see and do play into your Ireland trip cost.

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Instead of asking “How much does a trip to Ireland cost?” turn the question around – ask “How much can I spend on my Ireland vacation?”, and then break it down to see if you can plan you dream vacation to Ireland on the amount you have to spend.

Listen to the podcast:

Creating a Simple Ireland Vacation Budget

Laying out a budget for your Ireland vacation doesn't have to be difficult or take all the fun out of planning your dream vacation.

But it is necessary to be realistic about how much money you can afford to spend.

The Trilogy of Ireland Vacation Expenses: Airfare, Car Rental and Lodging

The first expense of your Irish holiday is actually getting to and from your destination.  My article about booking your flight to Ireland will help you find the best deals and offers tips for booking your airfare. No travel hacking needed!

Your second expense is accommodation, which I discuss in A Quick Guide to Lodging in Ireland. I guide you through the different accommodation types you'll find in Ireland, along with tips for each to assist you with your choice.

The third most obvious expense is transportation, usually car rental.  Rental fees vary wildly and only a few are all inclusive.  You'll want to study my extensive article about renting a car in Ireland closely and do your homework.

Another thing to remember when renting a car: petrol is paid for by the liter in Ireland.  A gallon of gas is easily $8-$10.  Rent the smallest vehicle you can comfortably use.

How Much Spending Money Should You Bring to Ireland?

Now that your three big expenses are budgeted- and possibly even paid for before you arrive in Ireland – it's time to move on to the fun stuff!

The first thing to remember is that Ireland uses the Euro (€), which is usually a bit stronger than the US dollar.  In other words, if an item costs $1 in the US and €1 in Ireland, the Irish item would cost you a bit less, depending on the currency exchange rates that day.

If you plan to venture into the six counties of Northern Ireland you'll be paying for things with the Great British Pound (£) which fluctuates a bit, but can often be found hovering about 50% higher than the dollar, meaning £1 equals $1.50.

Be sure to read my article on how and when to get Euros to help you decide if you will need cash prior to your trip.

Budgeting Your Meals

Taste of the Wild Atlantic Way at Eala Bhan Restaurant in Sligo
You will eat really well in Ireland!

It's easy to see price differences in your meal costs; especially if the place you are dining translates the bill into US dollars.  A perfectly nice, but completely average, pub dinner can easily cost upwards of $100.  If you were to dine out nightly that would add up quite quickly. So, how do you save money on food?

  1. Choose accommodations that provide breakfast.  Yes, the ‘Full Irish' can be a lot of food but a hearty breakfast can fuel you through mid-afternoon.
  2. Purchase local breads and cheese for a yummy afternoon snack. 
  3. Eat your evening meal unfashionably early. Early bird specials usually end around 7pm but can save you up to 25% on your meal.
  4. Take advantage of local deals. You'll find both Groupon Ireland and LivingSocial – Ireland to have loads of tasty deals. Tip: be sure to check all locations you will be visiting for deals!
  5. Plan a few picnics.  You'll find plenty of grocery stores as you travel.  Grocery shopping is fun in Ireland- so many different items and brands!
  6. If you have a self-catering cottage plan breakfast and dinner ‘in' and pack lunch or snacks to take with you, leaving room in your budget for pub evenings and a few nice meals.

Budgeting Your Attractions

Ruins of Hore Abbey with Rock of Cashel in the Distance. Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland
The Rock of Cashel is just one site included in the OPW Heritage Pass program.

Knowing where you want to go and the sites you wish to see comes in really handy as you plan your budget.  Now is the time to look for discount cards and free events & attractions.

  1. If you plan for 2.5 days (or more) in Dublin, the Dublin Pass offers entry into the most popular attractions- including the Dublin Zoo and Guinness Storehouse, queue bypassing in other locations, as well as free gifts and discounts and 24 hour transportation on the fun hop on/ hop off bus.  Check out my tips for saving time and money with the Dublin Pass.
  2. The OPW Heritage Pass can be a great money saver if you plan to visit sites owned by the Office of Public Works.  The OPW card does not include sites in Northern Ireland, but does have some Dublin sites (so check it against the Dublin Pass if you are considering both).
  3. The Cliffs of Moher are not included in the OPW program but do offer a discount if you book your ticket online at least one day in advance.
  4. Bunratty Castle & Folk Park is one of the most popular attractions in western Ireland. Shannon Heritage manages this site- and many others. Check the Shannon Heritage website for attractions, special offers and to purchase tickets online.
  5. For independently owned and managed locations be sure to check their websites for any special offers.
  6. If you are planning to stay in a single location for a few days find the village or county website to check for festivals and small local attractions.  This is a great way to get the real flavor of Ireland and hang out with the locals!

Budgeting Your Souvenirs

Shopping at Burren Perfumery. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |
The Burren Perfumery is one of my favorite spots for gifts and souvenirs

Of course you want to bring back something fabulous.  But think about what you really want.  So many souvenirs are broken or lost so quickly.  Make purchases that will be enjoyed longer than a few weeks. Unless it's food. Food is never a bad souvenir!

  1. A nice Aran Sweater runs about €100-200.  I consider this completely worth the cost as, well cared for, it will last for years.
  2. Bunratty Mead in a stoneware jug is a terrific souvenir.  After the mead is gone, the jug looks great on a shelf.  
  3. Hand blown glass shops are great for big and little one-of-a-kind trinkets.  Costs vary by item but you can find a beautiful vase for under $50.
  4. My daughters' favorite souvenirs are the faerie coins we brought back from Ireland– and the pewter faeries who came home with us to guard them.  Pewter boxes can be found for under $10 each.
  5. A really popular gift for family and friends are Butler's Chocolates.  Especially the Irish Cream or Whiskey laced varieties.  A plus: they travel quite well.  A box of chocolates can be found for about $15- and you can pick these up at Duty Free in the airport!
  6. If you happen to visit Galway, a claddagh ring is meaningful and beautiful. (You can get them all over Ireland, but legend says they originated in the village of Claddagh in Galway.)  Silver rings or necklaces will cost less than gold and costs will range from high to low depending on size and quality.
  7. Your favorite souvenirs will be your photos.  Most mobile phones take quite good photo now, but for higher quality I recommend a good quality point & shoot or a handy micro 4/3 camera like the Olympus PEN. When you return home create a brilliant photo book or larger prints to remember your amazing trip!

Check out more great souvenir ideas for everyone in your family!

Sample Ireland Vacation Budget

This is a very simple budget form created with my family of 4 in mind for an average trip of 10 days.

Determine out how much you can spend on your trip and work your way down the rows, like this:

Ireland Vacation Budget
Car Rental + CDW$350
Gas/ petrol$175
Activities $200
Gifts/ Souvenirs$200
Total Spent$6125

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Jody Halsted
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  1. Hi! My fiance and I are looking to go to Ireland for about 8 days. What should our budget be? Is 8000$ enough?

    1. Hi Makayla. Is $8000 enough? That depends…
      Is that before or after flights? Those could be $800-$2000 depending on where you fly from and class of seat.
      How will you get around Ireland? Car rental could be $800 or more.
      Accommodations vary widely. You could stay in a $75/ night hostel or a $700/ night castle.
      Food can average $100/ day/ person, if you dine out and go to pubs.

      The budget article on which you asked this question has a free download to assist you in planning your budget, as well as many links to help you plan your trip. The FAQs page on Ireland Family Vacations will also provide a lot of helpful information to help you plan your trip.

      I hope that helps.

  2. Pingback: Money Saving Tips for Ireland Vacations | Traveling in Ireland Podcast Episode 55
  3. This is such a great website with such helpful information! My fiancé and I are traveling to Ireland in June and we are clueless how much Euros we should bring with us and how we should deal with spending while over there. Can you provide any insight for us? We’ll be in Ireland for 11 days and taking a road trip through Southern Ireland. Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Laura- thanks so much for your question!

      If you will be leaving straight from the airport to begin your roadtrip you will find it helpful to have a few Euros with you. I know my bank won’t allow me to purchase less than E300, so that’s what I usually take if I think I will need money before I get to an ATM. (some banks can 10 days to 2 weeks to get Euros, so don’t put this off too long.)

      If you will be heading straight into Dublin and won’t need cash before hand you can wait and make withdrawls from an ATM. Be sure you have a 4 digit PIN (and don’t forget to tell your bank and credit cards that you are traveling!)

      You can use Visa and Mastercard nearly everywhere; American Express less so, and Discover card not at all. When you are asked if you want to pay in dollars or Euros, choose Euros- you’ll almost always get a better exchange rate than the ‘dynamic currency’ rate.

      A couple other articles that may help you: How & When to get Euros
      and Understanding the VAT .

      Hope that helps!

  4. My wife and I are doing an 11 day starting May 1st we are doing a six-day guided and a five-day independent transportation is covered…. air and land and all lodging is included breakfast everyday and one pub meal….my question is about having enough money to survive… we have eight hundred euros between the two of us and $1,600 US on two chip cards…. should that be enough for 11 days? Thank you in advance for all of your help

    1. Hi Sully, and thank you so much for your question!

      On the ‘independent transportation’ portion of your trip… does that mean a rental car? If so, it’s unlikely that insurance has been paid for, which will cost between E200-300, approximately. You might enquire with the company you booked your car through to be sure. You likely have basic CDW covered, but you need to add Excess. Learn more in this article.

      Now that is out of the way… Yes, you should still have enough money as long as you spend frugally.
      A few tips:
      Fill up on Irish breakfast and you won’t be hungry until mid-afternoon. Carry snacks to tide you through until dinner or eat an inexpensive late lunch. Dinners- even in pubs- can be expensive. Food will likely be your largest cost.
      Choose souvenirs and gifts carefully and be sure to take advantage of the VAT return. More info here.
      Don’t forget to notify your bank and credit cards that you are traveling in Ireland! It’s no fun when a fraud protection lock has to be unlocked from overseas!
      Be sure your credit cards have a 4 digit PIN to withdraw money.
      Also be sure the credit cards you use are accepted in Ireland – for example, Discover card is not accepted anywhere in Ireland (that I am aware of) and AMEX is declined as often as it is accepted.

      I hope that helps! Have a wonderful trip!

  5. Hi! My husband and I are planning a trip to Ireland in June 2016. We had budgeted about $1500 for spending money including, entertainment, food,gas and souvenirs. Do you think this is sufficient?

    1. Also, we are driving from dublin to shannon along the southern coast for 6 nights, 7 days staying in bed & breakfasts

      1. Hi Fawn. Yes, if you spend wisely that should be plenty for spending money.
        A few tips:
        Look for ways to save money on attractions you visit – the OPW Heritage Card and the Dublin Pass both offer incredible savings if you visit included attractions.
        Don’t sit down in a restaurant for every meal. Pick up easy to fix items for lunches and have wonderful picnics in beautiful areas.
        Don’t be blindsided by ‘extra’ car rental fees! Insurance may or may not be included in your car rental and CDW Excess (which I highly recommend) is not. That is usually paid upon arrival at the airport and can be a few hundred dollars. If this is the first time you’ve heard about CDW Excess, read about it here.

        I hope that helps a bit! Have a wonderful trip!

  6. I enjoyed this very much. My fiancé and I are traveling to Dublin this June, staying for 3 days, and going to Wales for 7 days. He is a former Rugby player and has mates in Wales!

    Our plan while in Ireland is to visit the Cliffs of Moher and I really want to spend the night in a castle. We will be renting a vehicle and driving ourselves so no organized tours. I guess my questions to you are: Are there any castles reasonably priced that are decent? What is your favorite pub? B&B or hotel?

    Thank your or your reply.

    1. A reasonably priced castle that is, mostly, on your way from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher – check out Kinnity Castle in County Offaly. It’s in a beautiful spot, rates are fair, and the restaurant (at least the bar) is quite good.

      Favorite pub: I love Gus O’Connor’s in Doolin (just north of the Cliffs of Moher. For nearby lodging (so you can walk) consider Doolin Hostel. It’s quite nice & I highly recommend.

      If you’ve a mind to visit Bunratty Castle (and maybe stay for the Medieval Banquet) you can end your evening at Durty Nelly’s, just next to the castle. Always a good time to be had there. And plenty of lodging in walking distance.

      Further south, past Limerick, I highly recommend The Old Bank B&B. Clancy’s Pub, just down the street is good fun and nearby Lough Gur is really a special place.

      I hope that helps give you a few ideas. If I can assist further, please let me know!

      1. Curious on the cost of fuel.
        Looking at traveling from Dublin to Cliffs to Kinnitty Castle and back to Dublin.

        1. Hi Kristal. That is a tricky question as I don’t know what type of car you plan to get or what the price of fuel will be when you are there. But, here is my best estimation:

          A ‘Class A’ economy car (Ford Fiesta or similar) will average about 35 mpg. The route you are suggesting is 360 miles.

          Now, Ireland, in Ireland you are on the metric system, so that is 571 km.
          And fuel is in liters – and there are 3.785 liters per gallon, with petrol at a price of €1.26 ltr today.

          So, by my estimation, you will cover 14.87 km per liter of gas, using 38.4 liters for the trip. So, appx €48.40 in fuel.

          I hope that makes sense? I know it was a long answer, but I wanted to share how I figured it. (Hopefully I did it right!)

          Tip: Diesel fuel is averaging 12-15 cents less per litre, so opt for a diesel car if possible.

  7. Hi I am taken my mom on a trip this June were looking to go for a month. As of right now I have 2000 euros saved so far. How much do you think we will need. We’re going to be taken the train a lot and walking so won’t be needing a rentel car.

    1. Hi Krista. Where are you traveling from and what will your transport to Ireland cost? Figure that in first.
      Next, choose your lodging. To make your money go farther, consider a self-catering property. With a month stay you could easily do a week in 4 places and day trip from there. June is considered ‘high season’ so you’ll spend from E500-1000 in each place, depending on the property and where it is. But, that is less than you would spend on nightly B&Bs.
      Figure E100/day for food. If you self cater it will likely be less most days, but do splurge on a couple nights out.
      And then look at your transport costs in advance. Note that the train doesn’t go everywhere, so to explore further you’ll be taking a bus or day tours. I do recommend at least having the itinerary in mind before you go and knowing the transport you will need to arrange.
      So, at the low end, E3500 at the very least, not including your costs to get to Ireland.
      Have a great trip!

  8. Thank you for this wealth of information. I am planning a trip for my family and I (there are 4 of us). To Ireland, north & south and also London and maybe a day or two in Paris. We definitely need to stay on a budget and Im just not sure of the cost of things over there. We are planning to go for about 21/2 weeks maybe 3. We have family to stay with in both London and Northern Ireland so will save a bit there. We will only need lodging in Southern Ireland. Do you have any other tips or suggestion that might help me in my planning? Thank you!

    1. Hi Lisa. You might find benefit in this Ireland travel series:

      Ireland will cost you less than London; right now the Euro is nearly equal to the dollar. If you watch your spending on meals you can keep to $100/ day on meals.

      If you know where in the southern part of the country I can offer recommendations. I have a self catering place in south Tipperary that we loved.

  9. Hi, this is really helping me with planning my trip to Ireland. I wanna go to Mullingar Westmeath, Ireland and I am the only one traveling unless my boyfriend decides to go. Will it be cheaper if only one person goes or will it be around the same price above.? How is Ireland.? Are their any laws that I should be worried about.?
    Thanks please reply back.

    1. Hi Bryana. You don’t say where you are traveling from, so I’ll do my best to assist.
      Your flights will obviously be less expensive if only buying for one person. If your destination is Westmeath, fly into Dublin.
      Car cost will not change based on the number of people.
      Lodging, especially at B&Bs, is often per person, but if you are a single person in a double room, you may have a ‘single supplement’ charge as the income for 2 people is not being produced. This can change by establishment.
      Food costs for a single person will obviously be less.
      Ireland is wonderful- my favorite place in the world. I would highly recommend reading through the Ireland Travel Planning series as well as the FAQs here on Ireland Family vacations. Those should help you with many of your questions.
      There are no special laws that you need to worry about – just be a good visitor, abide by speed limits and don’t be obnoxious and you will be just fine.

  10. This is really helpful! But I am planning a vacation for two for a week. Would your estimate differ a lot as far as plane tickets, meal cost, and lodging?

    1. Great question! It really depends on when you are flying, and what you plan to do.
      My advice is to begin with a number in mind of how much you can spend on your trip. And work from that.
      Where you fly from/ to, and the type of lodging you choose have a huge impact on your trip cost.
      I hope that help!
      If not, feel free to email me directly – with a bit more information I can help you with some more solid numbers for your trip.

  11. How many people are included in the above budget? I am planning a “double date” trip to Ireland; my boyfriend and I and two of our friends that are a couple. I’m trying to figure out how much it will cost for the four of us to go. Right now I have it budgeted at $10,910. That includes airfare, car rental, B&B’s, heritage pass and some spending money. Also, I’m planning this about 15 months out. Any suggestions on where I can go for planning the trip, as far as visiting places goes?

    1. @casswill91 The numbers above are just examples; when we travel to Ireland, it is usually 4 people.  Flights can cost anywhere from 2400-3500, car rental is about $800 for a week in shoulder season (including the CDW with excess which you pay when you pick up the car).  
      You can pick up lots of tips on what to see here.  You might want to check out the Ireland Family Vacations pinterest boards- loads of pins from lots of different resources.

    1. @jbennett53 That is really dependent on where in the country you are.  The closer to the Northern Ireland border, the higher likelihood you’ll find a merchant willing to take GBP.  Of course, it is all dependent on the individual merchant, as well.

  12. I am so thankful I found this. I am planning a trip for two next year to Ireland for a very special occasion. My grandparents died 10 years ago next year and my grandmother was very found of Ireland and they both have Irish heritage, so next year to honor their memory I wanted to go to Ireland. My boyfriend is going with me just so I don’t have to travel alone and we are on a tight budget but this trip is so important to me it is something I really need to do. The only reason my father is in my life is because of them and they are the ones who welcomed me and my mother with open arms so they are the reason I know my family. I spent many weeks at their house growing up and they became more then just grandparents to me they became like my parents and my friends we were so close and this is a well needed trip. Now just to get the funds to get there. Thank you so much for creating this for others to see.

    1. I’m glad you are finding the information helpful! Please let me know if I can assist in any way!

  13. Pingback: Planning a Budget for Your Ireland Vacation

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