A year ago, I got on a flight bound for Ireland, both excited and anxious about studying abroad in Dublin. I had spent years carefully saving for my semester abroad, and all of my hard work and planning paid off over the course of my time at University College Dublin.
I ended up loving my time in Dublin so much that I applied for graduate school at UCD. I accepted my place a few weeks ago, and since then, I’ve been trying to persuade all my friends and family to come visit me-or spend a semester there if they can! Dublin is the “youngest” city in Europe, and it’s a city where students can thrive. With multiple big universities, free cultural attractions around every corner, adorable cafes and casual pubs, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful natural landscapes just a step outside of the city, international students will never run out of things to do or places to explore.
However, all of this does come at a price-the cost of living in Dublin can be quite expensive if you’re not prepared. It’s important for study abroad students to do their research and be savvy about spending,
BEFORE YOU GO
Make a budget. Figure out what you can realistically spend during your time in Dublin and plan out your necessary expenses, such as food and transportation. Keep in mind the euro-to-dollar exchange rate when planning, and call your bank to check if there are any international fees attached to your credit or debit card that you need to account for-you don’t want any surprises on your bills while abroad!
Book your flight well in advance. It’s usually cheapest to book flights on a Tuesday, and flying mid-week is almost always cheaper than flying on a weekend. Being flexible with your dates can open you up to cheaper options. Start searching now for your study abroad flight.
Get a Student Leap Card as soon as you arrive! Load it with euros to get discount rates on the Dublin Bus, the Luas rail system, and the DART train. You’ll save a lot of money with the Leap Card, and every student has one. Although public transport is (usually) reliable and affordable, I walked whenever possible to save a little cash and get some exercise. Some of my friends purchased used bikes to get around quickly. If you’re in a pinch and must take a cab somewhere, try to split the cost with friends-fares can be very pricey!
I used Bus Eireann and GoBus for longer trips outside of the greater Dublin area. GoBus was especially cheap and convenient. Trains are generally more expensive, but it never hurts to compare fares just in case!
First, stock up on cookware from EuroGiant-it’s essentially Dublin’s version of a dollar store, and you’ll find everything you need for one semester. I did almost all of my grocery shopping at Tesco. There are Tesco stores all over the city, and they sell any cheap staples you might need-one bag of Tesco pasta costs about 50 cents (in euros) and was enough to feed two friends and me! Just remember to BYOB (bring your own bags). Ireland is very environmentally friendly, and grocery stores will charge a little extra for using their plastic bags. If you’re pressed for time, the convenience store chain Centra is perfect for hot meals on the go, like personal pizzas and chicken fillet rolls, for well under 5 euro.
Eating in definitely helps save money, but there is so much amazing food in Dublin that you’ll need to treat yourself once in a while! Trip Advisor and Yelp were my best friends when it came to finding affordable restaurants. Just search your location and price range to check out all the options that fit in your budget. It’s entirely possible to get a delicious, filling meal for under 10 euro: check out The Bakehouse for a yummy breakfast, Queen of Tarts for sandwiches and (in my humble opinion) the world’s best baked goods, and Tolteca for burritos if you’re missing Chipotle! Many restaurants also offer student discounts.
Dublin is a great city for students because so many attractions are free, and countless others offer student discounts. Check out any of the national museums, the national library, and the science gallery without spending a euro, or spend an afternoon relaxing in one of Dublin’s many parks, such as St. Stephen’s Green or Merrion Square. And if you can resist temptation, window-shopping while strolling down Grafton Street is always free! Before checking out any attraction, browse their website for student rates, or bring your student ID and ask when you arrive.
TRAVELING IN IRELAND
There are many great day trip destinations just outside of Dublin! The adorable seaside towns of Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire are a quick bus ride away, and you can hop on the DART for a short train ride to my favorite hiking spot, the Howth cliff walks.
Check if your school has an International Students Society that runs trips around Ireland. By joining the ISS at UCD for only 2 euro, I was able to sign up for discounted day trips to the Cliffs of Moher and Northern Ireland. The International Office at UCD also offered free trips to Glendalough, Powerscourt, and the Dublin Zoo-find out if your school’s study abroad office has similar offers! For other excursions, I used Paddywagon Tours for reasonable rates on trips to Cork and Kerry.
I’m going to be honest with you-nightlife is Dublin can be very expensive if you’re not careful, so I rarely went clubbing. But there are a few ways to lessen the cost. Pre-drinks with friends won’t break the bank-you can pick up a bottle of wine for around 5 euro. Look for drink deals when you arrive, and if you can, leave your jacket at home to avoid coat check charges. Stay away from pricier mixed drinks, which can easily run you 9 or 10 euro. Split a cab on the way home, and try to keep clubbing to a minimum overall. It can be very tempting in a city like Dublin, but I found it more rewarding to save my money for traveling.
Living in Dublin on a student’s budget doesn’t have to drain your bank account: just make sure to take advantage of all the budget-friendly options the city has to offer! And, if you want to live in Dublin and make money at the same time, learn more about working abroad in Dublin.