Enjoy Dublin's Famous Craic on a Budget

Published on November 17th, 2005 at AssociatedContent.com
By Nithin Coca

Eight Easy Tips for Living it Up with the Irish, While Not Letting Your Wallet Feel the Pain

If you haven't been to Dublin recently, be prepared for a big surprise.

With the Irish economy - the Celtic Tiger - the strongest in Europe, and Dublin quickly becoming one of Europe's premier luxury (that's right, luxury) destinations, much has changed in Dublin over the last few years. What was once primarily a city to stop by, relax with the laid back locals, and have a good pint of Guinness, now Dublin has become of the top European tourist destinations, with thriving businesses and numerous five star restaurants.

Whereas previously, the Irish used to go to Spain, France, and Germany for a taste of the high life, now, it's the Germans, Italians, and French who flock to Dublin to work and play in one of modern Europe's most vibrant cities. With all that growth, though, came the end of Dublin as one of the budget destinations of Europe. In a recent ranking, Dublin placed as the third most expensive city to live in all of Europe, only behind Paris and London. This is including real estate, which is still relatively low in Dublin, so unless you are prepared, you will be in for a surprise. Eating out, and getting drinks in Dublin can be a frightening experience for your wallet.

That being said, as with any big European city, there is a way to survive in Dublin and still have enough cash left for a return trip home. Below are the eight ways I survived on a very very tight budget during en entire summer living, breathing, and working in Dublin and still enjoying the famous Irish craic.

1) Learn to Walk - You might be thinking to yourself, "What do you mean, learn to walk? I learned to walk when I was 2!" That might be true, but, walking among the Irish is completely different from walking to your car in America. Dublin is a very compact, walkable city - if you know how to walk. When I was there, I was fine, having lived in Los Angeles where I frequently walked long distances back and forth from school. My friend lived in a typical suburb, and for him, Dublin walking completely wore him out. The buses and taxis are for the elderly, walking to and from your destination can save you a lot of money.

2) Grocery Stores Are Your Friends - You know the Schwarma stands in Amsterdam, the petit boulangeries of Paris, or the Samosa carts of London? The staples of a budget diet? Well, they haven't yet crossed the English channel into Dublin quite yet. Even fast food in Dublin seems airport priced, with everything else borderline gourmet, while the food is often mediocre and rarely worth it. Meanwhile, the frozen pizzas in Irish grocery stores such as Aldi, Dunnes Stores, and Iceland, are without a doubt the best frozen pizzas I have ever had in my life. Give them a try!

3) Not so Happy Hours - When Guinness is the cheapest drink in town, you know you ain't getting off easy. When in Ireland, drink as the Irish do. Whether you come in at Noon, or midnight, a pint is a pint, and its gonna cost the safe. 4-5 Euros for a Guinness or other domestic drafts, even more for Bud, Heineken, or Carlsberg. So stick to the local brews, why would you drink anything else? And if the price scares you, remember, an Irish pint is pretty hefty, slightly larger than the British version. Two pints is more than one liter. Not so bad then, is it?

4) Museums, not Cathedrals - an unintended result of colonialism, in Ireland, all the Cathedrals charge admissions, while the Museums are all free. Why is this? Well, most of the famous Cathedrals, like Christ Church or St. Patrick's Cathedral, in Dublin are Protestant, built during the British occupation (others were destroyed). The only problem? Ireland is 98% Catholic. As a result, these Churches have been forced to become tourist attractions just to survive. Notice a lot of churchlike buildings in Dublin that hotels, restaurants, or even tourist offices? Those are the ones that didn't make it. You can see Cathedrals for free anywhere else in Europe, but Irish museums are fantastic - not too crowded, full of great historical artifacts, and best of all, FREE!

5) Long Term Housing is Cheaper than Short Term Housing - A hostel the first two nights in Dublin cost us about 20 Euros a night. But the apartment that we got after that only cost us 10 Euros a night, and that included our own bathroom! Rent is the one thing in Dublin significantly cheaper than in other European capitals, and listings are readily available online, and at the USIT office near Ha'penny Bridge - you can't miss it!

6) Create Good Karma - So what if no one offered you a free place to stay? Don't let the negativity spread! If you have an apartment with a spare bed, or even some extra floor place, there will be other backpackers, as cheap as you, who would love to take that place. And please, don't be a greedy American and charge people - if they buy you a pint at the pub, that should be payment enough. And this is a great way to meet people, and, indirectly, reduce demand at the local hostels, which equals a reduction in price. And who knows, maybe that Italian backpacker will let you chill at his chic Milan apartment when you head down to Italy. You never know.

7) Get a job - Just like what you parents always told you. Though easier said than done, Ireland is one of the easiest countries in Europe for Americans to get work permits (though many work illegally too). Finding a job is another story, as we found out, but, after some searching, my firend got a job in a classy Dublin pub, and I, at a overpriced Dublin restaurant. The money, while not enough to sustain us, was enough to make the trip affordable, and help us pay for a mini voyage to the mainland afterwards.

8) Stay Positive - At times, especially in the early days, money got really tight. But we didn't let this make us homeboys, buying the cheapest generic foods, refusing to keep the lights on to save a dime. There's cheap, and then there's smart. Be smart. Haggling for a half hour over 50 cents is not worth it. Neither is travelling across the Atlantic to live on peanuts and leftovers. Sometimes it's worth it to go into a little debt, to spend a little more than you have.

Don't let cost deter you. While London and Paris can sometimes seem like masoleums, Dublin has modern vibracy and sprit, unique in Western Europe. The Irish, who have suffered through famine, colonialism, and rampant emigration, are finally emerging as an economic force, and, boy, are they having a ball doing it. That pint may be five euros, but where else can you find old wooden pubs with flat panel televisions in every corner? Dublin may be expensive, it may take a bite out of your wallet, but it certaily is not a ripoff.

Additional Resources
For more information about Dublin and Ireland, check out the following websites.
Dublin Tourism
The Irish Times
Ryanair - Cheap Flights to Dublin


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