Ireland is a beautiful country with a rich and occasionally depressing history. I visited Dublin as a weekend side trip while living abroad in Leeds, UK in 2010.

Being a student at the time the number 1 priority was cutting costs as much as possible. Nothing exemplifies this more than this weekend in Dublin. Actually nothing exemplifies this more than a “big night” consisting of 2 bottles of Frosty Jacks, but that’s a story for another time…

Never let money be the reason you don’t travel somewhere. There will always be a way.

(Except debt – never use debt to travel).
Before coming to Dublin I knew very little about the city. All I had been told is that it is ridiculously expensive so I came expecting the worst. Pub meals were about €10-15, a pint of beer was about €6 whereas back home in England would be about £4-5 and £1.50 respectively.

Not a great opening to a post about being on a budget, right? Wrong. Challenge accepted!

The first thing I did was I brought food from home (which, even my student friends found particularly hilarious). This became my lunch the first day and we also made our own sandwiches for lunch on the second. For dinner we found a special on chicken subs at a local convenience store and had it both nights. Being cheap is never glamorous but you make it work.

St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland
St Patrick’s Cathedral

Saturday started out in a similar fashion that most of our adventures do: a New Europe free tour. For the uninitiated, New Europe are an amazing company that offer walking tours in Europe’s biggest cities on a tips only basis. But before that we walked to St Patrick’s Cathedral and walked through Saint Kevin’s Park.

Although, by the time we were almost there only my mate Josh and I (fearless leaders) had any idea where we were going and how far this place this was. The others duly abandoned us as they thought we would get lost and be late for the tour. Wrong again muchacho. We of course made it back first.

Dublin Castle, Ireland
Part of Dublin Castle: the thing is so vast!

The tour started at City Hall and highlights included Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, Temple Bar (not an actual bar), Trinity College and St Stephen’s Green.

My favourite story of the tour was at Trinity College, a Protestant university founded in 1592. A rule states that if you turn up to your exam on a horse in a suit of armour you will be given a glass of sherry and a meal. In more recent years, one student actually exploited this and was in fact given his sherry and meal but failed to read the fine print, stating that he needed someone to look after the horse during the exam. The horse naturally ran amok, destroyed the cricket pitch and he was expelled. Was it worth it? Totally.

Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Trinity College – now where’s that crossbow?

As it was a Protestant university, another rule stated that you were allowed to shoot a Catholic with a bow and arrow from the centre window of the main building. Catholics were eventually allowed to attend the university, though would you believe this was not until 1970?

After the tour we walked down Grafton St – the main shopping district – and came across a street performer about to begin. We thought we’d stop for a bit and move on in a few minutes if he was crap.

He was. But unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to leave, as in one his first “tricks” he needed myself, and soon friend Kayt, as volunteers. Note I use the word volunteers very loosely.

A fine tactic of retaining your audience I thought, coerce them into participation so they and their friends remain watching. His tricks were not very impressive however he was pretty hilarious. We didn’t pay him though – another excellent way to keep costs down.

The Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness Storehouse

Next stop was the Guinness Storehouse. The storehouse is a 7 level museum which snakes around a giant pint glass in the centre. It was very interesting learning about how the beer is made, especially since this was well before my home brewing days, and at the top we were given a complimentary Guinness in the Gravity Bar. That’s right, also included in the tour was free gravity. From the bar we had a great view of Dublin.

The Guinness Storehouse
It’s surprisingly difficult to get a real photo of all 7 storeys of the pint glass.

After recharging back at the hostel, we headed out to Temple Bar with a bunch of girls we met from Bath, England and Iceland. Temple Bar is the big district loaded with bars and confusingly enough, this also includes a bar called Temple Bar.

We walked around Temple Bar for probably an hour looking for one with “cheap” drinks, something Irish, and as few middle aged people as possible. This was surprisingly difficult given the opening to this story.

The Temple Bar, Dublin Ireland
The Temple Bar in the day

We did in fact eventually find one but to be honest, walking around the district on a Saturday night is fascinating so I was a bit a disappointed when we did find one – not to mention now I had to buy a drink.

If you’re up for a night out, Temple Bar district is most definitely where you want to be. For those on not such a tight budget there is a bar for everything, salsa dancing, karaoke, Irish music. Even the iconic man with an acoustic guitar was fairly common. It is also an incredible place to people watch, out on the streets is just as entertaining as being in a bar as so many people are out. To me this was a good thing because it was 1am and the place was just buzzing.

Temple Bar in the Day, Ireland
More of Temple Bar in the Day

In the morning, the cheap students stopped off at a Tesco and bought some stuff for a picnic and headed off to Phoenix Park and had lunch on the Wellington Monument. Phoenix Park is a fantastic place to relax and bump into some locals. Spend the afternoon in the sun or throw a frisbee like we did. It is a decent walk out there from the centre of the city so if exercise is not your thing, get a cab.

Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park Dublin
Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park

The finale of this tale I think perfectly highlights just how cheap (I prefer the politically correct term ‘budget conscious’) we were. Our flight was at 7 the following morning and rather than throwing money down the drain by staying the night in a hostel or hotel, we just got to the airport about 9 hours early – about 10:30 pm. Thankfully the people in the 24 hour Starbucks didn’t mind us using  their couches to make a fort and taking a nap.

So there we go. Some ways I kept costs in an expensive European city. For more reading on cost cutting around the world, read how much The World Pursuit spent in one year traveling the world.


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