Dublin, along with Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm, are European destinations that frequently go on sale from the United States. Dublin is a very good starting point to the rest of Europe due to the ultra low cost carrier, RyanAir, being based there. If you do use RyanAir, be mindful of their additional fees. If you collect miles and points, you can redeem British Airways Avios for Aer Lingus to the rest of Europe and avoid the whole low-cost carrier thing.
Richard Ro, a New York based traveler, recently took advantage of a good deal to Dublin. Here are his practical tips. Follow his travels on instagram.
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When it comes to a European vacation, many Americans think of Paris, London, and Rome. While Dublin may not have famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, it does have its small city charm. One of the main things that intrigued me about Ireland was its history and affinity with America. But another reason that brought me to Dublin was the lower airfare and being a cost-effective way to see other parts of Europe as well. I would like to argue that Dublin is underrated when compared with other European cities. Here are some practical tips:
The euro is used in Ireland, making it easy for travelers who are coming or going to other parts of Europe. Although the airport is not connected to the city center by rail, there is convenient bus service. There are several buses running to the city center, but Aircoach provides direct service to the central parts of town (€7 O/W, €12 R/T). If you stay by the city center, all the major sights are within a 20-minute walk. The Luas light rail system provides convenient service within the city center and to the outskirts of town as well. Dublinbikes is an affordable way to get around, with a 3 day ticket costing €5, but avoid biking on the cobblestone streets.
If you want an easier time getting around town, I would suggest buying a SIM card with data and have a salesperson install it for you. I got a Vodafone SIM card the last time I went and it worked great for me. I was even able to use it for my day trip to London. Some plans allow you to use data in other countries, which will be useful for your Euro trip. There is WiFi connectivity at the airport and other establishments across the city. Most of the hotels I stayed at had WiFi. For cash, I suggest using the ATM to withdraw money as they will give you the best exchange rate rather than currency exchange kiosks. When doing so, make sure your ATM card charges a low foreign exchange fee.
Although parts of the city seem empty and unsafe, Dublin is a safe city to be a tourist. The people are very friendly and upbeat. The first time I went, I was trying to find my hostel with my luggage in tow, when two random pedestrians asked me if I needed help. Living in New York, this was a very pleasant surprise for me. This one woman even took out her phone and took the time to help me find my hostel.
Where to go:
- Ireland is known for their alcohol, from beers to whiskey. I would highly recommend visiting the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery on Bow Street. Both cost €16. The Guinness Storehouse is a self-tour, where they have fun things to see, do, and taste. Go to the Gravity Bar, where you can get a 360-degree view of Dublin. At Jameson, it’s a guided tour where they tell you how whiskey is made and why Irish whiskey is the best. If you’re looking to grab a bite before or after visiting the Distillery, stop by Third Space Cafe in Smithfield. Also, while you’re in town, have a pint of Guinness.
- Temple Bar is the hotspot area to go to in Dublin, a place where all the locals gather. There are many bars to choose from, but The Temple Bar itself is the most popular one. Established in 1840, the bar has different rooms and areas where you can grab a pint. Quay Bar, in front of the square, is also popular. You can see it jam-packed from the outside. If you’re looking for something quieter, Merchant’s Arch by the river provides a classic atmosphere and a loft area where you can look down onto the bar. Another great thing about Temple Bar is that many of the bars provide live music. Musicians will play classic modern-day hits as well as some Irish folk songs. And with alcohol in the mix, it can turn into a really fun crowd! If you’re looking for food, any place with four stars on Yelp is a good bet. If you want something more authentically Irish, try Gallaghers Boxty House. They serve boxty, which is a traditional Irish potato pancake that comes from the northern part of the country. If you’re looking for seafood, Klaw offers fresh seafood at a reasonable price. Although the place may seem a little cramped, it provides a cozy atmosphere where you can see the chefs at work towards the back. I highly recommend trying the Irish breakfast while you’re in town as well.
- If you want a history lesson, check out Dublin Castle. I suggest paying a little extra for the guided tour (€8.50), as the guide will show you so much history. You will see paintings and historical artifacts, but the tour will also take you down below where the moat used to be. Dublin Castle is a great way to learn about medieval and modern day Irish history. Also stop by Christ Church Cathedral to see ancient architecture and sculptures. After filling your head with all that knowledge, you can fill your stomach at Bobos Burger on Dame Street. The restaurant is decorated like a diner and has specials (a burger with chips and soda costs €10).
- Stephen’s Green and Trinity College is the busy and central part of the city with many shops and stores in the area. You can catch performers in the streets as well. Take a walk through St. Stephen’s Green for some greenery. You can also walk across the river up O’Connell St. to see The Spire, which is a very tall, pin-like monument . You can also walk along the River Liffey and enjoy the views of the city from any of the bridges.
When I booked my first Europe trip, I saw how much cheaper it was to fly to Dublin than other European cities, like Paris or London. Flying out of New York helps as there is a lot of competition on European routes. There is also a lot of competition within Europe due to low-cost carriers. Ryanair, which is one of Europe’s leading low-cost carrier, has a hub in Dublin. From Dublin, many of the major European cities are no more than a three-hour flight. London is under one hour, Paris and Amsterdam are about one and half hours each, and Barcelona is a two and half hour flight. People have had horrible experiences flying low-cost carriers; however, I did not have a bad experience flying on Ryanair. Make sure to follow their baggage rules and to have your boarding pass printed out beforehand. If you’re looking to see more of Europe on a budget, then this strategy may work.
The one thing that many people don’t know about Dublin is that it has a U.S. immigration and customs pre-clearance site at the airport. Before you board your flight back to the U.S., you will go through immigration and customs first. When you arrive, your flight lands as if it’s a domestic flight, so you will not have to wait on the long lines to go through immigration and customs and instead can go straight to baggage claim to pick up your luggage. They are not as strict as U.S. airports with trying to check your bags. They will bring up a picture of your bag and you just confirm that it is yours. That is customs. The last time I was there, I didn’t give myself enough time to go through pre-clearance and saw a long line to get through. [Editor’s Note: Other international destinations with U.S. pre-clearance include some Canadian, Caribbean and Abu Dhabi airports]. They were starting to board my flight and I was worried that I would miss it. I heard someone calling for my flight and when I showed them my boarding pass, they brought me to the front of the line to get my passport checked. I was able to make my flight during the final boarding call.
So the next time you plan your next trip to Europe, think about visiting Dublin.
About The Author:
Richard Ro is a data analyst and enjoys living in New York City. Whether it’s an event or trying out new restaurants, there is always something new to explore in the city. His passion for travel started after spending summers in Korea from an early age. After working several stressful years in finance, Richard lived in Shanghai for four months before starting his graduate program. He has been to a handful of countries across Asia, Africa and Europe and is always on the lookout for a great travel deal. Follow Richard on his Instagram.
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