Ireland is a favourite destination of backpackers from around the world. The friendly locals, the night-life and the scenery are just a few of the reasons that backpackers make sure that Ireland is part of their jounrey of discovery. Travellers from any E.U country can freely enter Ireland, with a national identity card or valid passport. Travellers from the U.S can stay for up to 3-months, visa-free, for business and tourism trips. UK citizens do not require a passport to enter Ireland but may be asked by some air or sea carriers to produce some form of photo ID. Certain countries do not require visas when travelling to Ireland, these include Australia, Canada and New Zealand. see here for a full list of counties that do not require a visa to enter Ireland.
The weather, during winter months especially, can be unkind to the backpacker and some of Ireland's best scenery is only accessible on foot, so it definitely pays to plan ahead. Here we have laid out the tips and tricks that we have picked up over the years... along with a few wallet saving tidbits.
A 60-litre backpack is more than big enough. Any larger and the long treks become a struggle. Pack in cubes. Individual bags, one per day if possible, wrapped in your main backpack, can make unpacking and repacking much easier.
Pack your essentials (your passport and other documents), your Irish essentials (a rain poncho and good walking boots) and for everything else think 'do I really need this?'. If the answer is yes, pop it in the bag, otherwise set it aside. Bring a good water bottle, Ireland's tap water is perfectly drinkable and free!
The great thing about backpacking in Ireland is that, on the island of Ireland, there are in fact two countries. The price of alcohol and certain food is lower in one (Northern Ireland), than it is in the other (Republic of Ireland).
This tip really only becomes cost-effective should you be travelling near the Northern Ireland border, but stocking up on certain provisions whilst in Northern Ireland is well worth it.
The quickest and cheapest time to come to Ireland is during the school term. In Ireland, this is from September to June/July. The months of June, July & August will ensure that bus & train stations and ferry ports will be extra busy with families moving in and out. This in-turn will make travel more expensive.
The lowest prices on travelling in and out of Ireland can usually be found mid-week during the school term. To avoid travelling during Ireland's other school holidays, during the school term, see School Holidays in Ireland.
If you have taken your own car to Ireland, be sure to park it only in well visible or secure locations especially if it has foreign registration plates.
Ireland has a relatively low crime rate but valuables such as cameras should not be left in your vehicle.
Hostels are the most common form of accommodation for backpackers. The one thing about backpacking that a lot of people struggle with is sleeping in a room with, what can be, up to 15/20 people. Sometimes these can all be strangers to one another, more often than not they are separate groups of friends. Either way, it pays to be vigilant with your belongings.
Ask the hostel staff if there are any safety deposit boxes available, a lot of Irish hostels will have one included in the price. If not, make sure you have a good lock. In my experience, a u-lock for a bike works best here. Weave it, as best you can, through the straps and folds of your backpack, and attach it to the most stable part of your bed. This will ensure that cases of 'mistaken identity' or straight up theft will be greatly reduced.
Another tip for the hostel experience is ear plugs. While sleeping in a room with multiple strangers, the law of averages states that at least one of them will snore and that some of them will arrive back drunk, at 3 am, on the morning you have to catch a bus a few hours later. Ear plugs can also be given as a peace offering should someone complain about your own snoring.
The cheapest and easiest way to travel in Ireland, outside of walking or cycling, is the public bus. The cities, towns and villages of Ireland are all connected via bus routes. Setting out your day's travel, combining walking routes with connecting bus lines, can be a very rewarding exercise, both in terms of distance travelled and money saved. For a detailed public bus timetable in your region see here.
Hitchhiking is also a great way to get around Ireland. Especially effective when you are alone and not carrying too much luggage, the more luggage and people you have the more a potential ride will see you as a bit too much hassle. 'Thumbing a lift', as it's known in Ireland, is also a great way to have a genuine conversation with the locals.
Most of the cities of Ireland have free walking tours. This is a great way to see a city and have any of your questions answered by a guide. It will also allow you to pick up on some good info that you might have otherwise missed out on. These tours are usually free, however, it is customary to leave a tip. You can drop in and out at any time.
See more on free Irish Walking Tours here. On a side note, a lot of the museums of Ireland are also free and are a great way to spend an afternoon.
A good to get cut down on food costs is to eat where the locals eat. They will ordinarily not eat in the more expensive, touristy type locations. To get a feel for this may take a few nights, especially the larger cities. A great rule of thumb here is to check out where the students eat.
Most supermarkets in Ireland will apply discounts to food that is coming close to its 'sell by date'. Usually, all of these items will then be shelved together. A great way to get some short-term supplies at a discount.
Having a set budget, broken down day by day, can be a real lifesaver. You will thank yourself towards the end of your trip that 90% of your budget wasn't spent on the first 50% of your holiday. The remaining 50% of the holiday will be 0% fun.
If you were to take the same backpacking journey again in years to come, imagine how helpful it would be to have the address your favourite pubs, cheapest laundromats etc, right at your fingertips.
Getting to know other travellers is a great way to pick up tricks and tips, especially when it comes to saving money. Find the backpackers that have been in a given location the longest and ask them for their input. Some backpackers are like old sages, dispensing their wisdom to the gathered masses, others may not so generous.
Another great reason to socialise is that the larger the group the bigger the discount. This goes for most outdoor activities in Ireland and is especially helpful should you be travelling solo in Ireland.
If you like the idea of earning some money as you travel, or at least not going into the minus, you could work on an Irish farm in return for free accommodation. Usually, this will mean picking fruit & vegetables or helping with the harvest, depending on the season. Some Irish hostels will also offer free board in return for work, normally cooking and/or cleaning. For more on working on an Irish farm see Workaway.info
As a hugely popular tourist destination, Ireland has a wealth of accommodation options to suit all budgets. To get the best locations and prices, you're advised to book ahead but, booking late as a backpacker on the fly, you're likely to find something last-minute if you're willing to be flexible. Choose the region you're visiting to see your accommodation options.