I already shared my 1 week itinerary for a road trip around Ireland and Northern Ireland, but now the big question:
How much did it actually cost?
I recently got a message from a reader asking if I could start doing more budget breakdowns for the destinations I visit so that people can have a better idea of what it’ll cost them to go there. (Thanks for the prompt!) So today I thought I would share what it cost me to spend a full week driving the circumference of the Emerald Isle.
Spoiler alert: it was a lot more affordable than you might think!
Car rental and insurance
$ 657 USD / € 577 for 5 people
For this trip, we rented a car that would be comfortable enough for 5 people, so we chose a vehicle that was in the VW Jetta / Renault Fluence / or a similar category. Each passenger was allowed to bring a carry-on suitcase and a backpack to ensure there would be enough room (thought I’ll admit I managed to fit my giant 80L backpack because that’s what I’ve been travelling with all along).
After accommodations, our car was the biggest expense, but there are ways to keep the price lower than what we paid. The first thing you can do to save costs on the rental is to rent a car with standard/manual transmission rather than automatic…if you know how to drive one. This cuts down the price of a rental car by as much as half!
The reason we went with the pricier automatic for our trip is that only one person in our group regularly drives a standard car back home and we didn’t feel like putting everyone else’s rusty skills to the test. Trust me, narrow winding lanes that weave up and down hills are not the best place for a refresher lesson.
You can also cut down costs by having less drivers on the rental agreement. Even though there were 5 of us, we chose to have 2 people driving on this trip and that was enough for the distances we were covering. Keep in mind that for every additional driver you have, the price of the rental car goes up.
After browsing through several car rental websites, we chose Sixt because it had some of the best rates out there.
$ 114 USD / € 100 for 5 people
I was pretty pleased with how little we spent on fuel, and this is because we went with a Diesel car instead of petrol. We only had to fuel up twice the whole week we were there – not bad considering we roughly drove the whole circumference of Ireland and Northern Ireland in one week’s time.
When it comes to accommodations we were looking for comfort at a reasonable price. We knew that we would have long days of driving and sightseeing, so at the end of the day, we wanted a place where we could unwind and have our own space. Hostel dorms were out of the question; instead, we opted for a mix of AirBnB apartment rentals, Bed and Breakfasts, and cottage stays.
Here’s how much we paid in each destination:
Dublin – $ 148 USD / € 130
What we got: A luxurious AirBnB apartment in the heart of Dublin, just a few steps away from Temple Bar. The apartment had 2 bedrooms and a huge living area where you could roll out 2 additional foldable beds.
Glen of Aherlow – $ 178 USD / € 156
What we got: A wooden A-frame cottage with beautiful views of the rolling hills below. The cottage had 3 bedrooms, a spacious kitchen where we could prepare our own meals, and it was very cozy.
Killarney – $ 171 USD / € 150
What we got: A family-sized room for 5 in a Bed and Breakfast which was just a short walk from Killarney’s city centre. The room wasn’t outstanding, but it was good enough for 1 night plus breakfast was included in the price.
Scarriff – $ 166 USD / € 146
What we got: We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast run in a woman’s home. We got 2 private rooms with our own private bathrooms. Our host prepared us a snack when we arrived and she also prepared us an outstanding full breakfast the following morning.
Donegal – $ 97 USD / € 85
What we got: A cute cottage at the foot of an ever imposing manor home. The cottage had 4 bedrooms, a cozy living area, and a nice kitchen where we could cook.
Bushmills – $ 158 USD/ € 139
What we got: A 4-bedroom cottage, a spacious kitchen, and a living area that came stocked with puzzles and board games. However, what won me over was that this place was just a 10 minute walk from Giant’s Causeway. Not a bad price considering the location.
Outside Belfast – $ 107 USD/ € 94
What we got: I wasn’t around to see this place since I stayed back in Belfast while the girls drove back to catch their flight out of Dublin, but I know that they booked another cottage that was just outside of Belfast (much cheaper than staying in the city).
Our total for 1 week’s worth of accommodations came to $1025 USD / € 900 for 5 people.
$ 170 USD / € 150 for 5 people
When it came to meals, we only ate one meal out per day – usually lunch or dinner depending on where we were. The rest of the time we prepared our own meals.
I know this sounds like a pretty low sum to feed 5 people, so what were we eating?
Breakfast: eggs for omelettes, granola, yogourt, and fresh fruits
Lunch: Baguette sandwiches with cheese and deli meats, and raw veggies like carrots, peppers and sweet snaps
Dinner: Pasta with tomato sauce and veggies, or pesto pasta, or a meat and veggie stir-fry with noodles
We also purposely chose to stay in some Bed and Breakfasts where the cost of breakfast was already included in our accommodations.
Eating in restaurants
$120 USD / € 105 per person
The cost of eating out in restaurants is going to depend on what you order and whether or not you drink alcohol, but I’m going to put the price at an average of 15 Euros /$ 17 USD per meal. This will usually get you some good pub food like Fish and Chips, Irish Stew, Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, or something of the sort as well as a beverage.
Sightseeing and miscellaneous
$114 USD/ € 100 per person
I didn’t keep my receipts for sightseeing and miscellaneous attractions, but I know I didn’t spend very much in this regard.
A lot of places that we visited were free of charge, so we really only paid admission for a handful of castles and to visit the Cliffs of Moher. We found that most attractions ranged between €5 to €20 at most, and we probably only paid admission at 3 or 4 places the whole week we were there.
The rest of the money in the miscellaneous category I’m using to account for things like picking up postcards, and buying the odd snack at the gas station.
Total cost for a 1 week road trip around Ireland and Northern Ireland?
$ 627 USD / € 550 per person!
I didn’t include any flight costs because that will obviously depend on where you are flying from, and you may also need to factor in visa costs depending on the passport you hold. (I was fine as a Canadian.)
So just to refresh, here are a few ways to save money on a road trip around Ireland and Northern Ireland, or really any road trip:
- Travel with a group of friends so you can split costs evenly. This is key!
- Rent a standard/manual car instead of an automatic (if you know how to drive one).
- Keep the number of drivers to a minimum.
- Choose a car that takes diesel instead of petrol.
- Rent cottages or family rooms.
- Stay in the outskirts of town rather than in the heart of the city.
- Do groceries and cook some of your own meals.
- Choose accommodations that offer breakfast.
Do you have any other tips for doing a road trip around Ireland and Northern Ireland on a budget?
Feel free to share them below.