Traveling on a low budget is not easy in Ireland. But it is doable. Don't pay attention to the news, it can discourage you from doing this. During our visit, the papers were in a fit over the high cost of food in Ireland, apparently the highest in the EU. I don't disagree with this, but we found our ways around it. I want to share with you what I learned about how to travel on a budget in this gorgeous place.
Buy groceries. Eating in is a huge way to decrease travel costs. We bought the bulk of our food at supermarkets such as Dunnes, then picked up fresh things at Farmer's Markets. We kept a couple wine boxes of food in our backseat, so that we'd always have something to go to when hunger struck. We'd eat out occasionally, but the majority of our meals were eaten in.
About food - it doesn't really need to be refrigerated. Or cooked, for that matter. If you choose the right things. When purchased fresh, most dairy should and will be consumed in less than 24 hours. If eating meat isn't a priority, you can survive just fine on raw veggies, tofu, fruits, cold fresh soups, and salads. Supplemented with nuts, peanut butter, honey, grains, and breads, it is a very healthy diet. Occasional splurging is necessary to keep up the spirits - such as eating something cooked and rich that you can't get from the kitchen in your car - but not doing this every day will allow you to stay within a budget.
Refill your water bottles. We kept several big, plastic jugs and refilled them with water from the tap - we had no issues. We then filled our smaller, personal water bottles from these. Tap water is typically okay to drink in Ireland, but pay attention to the local news, to hear about what is currently safe and unsafe to consume.
Cut your cost of accommodations by camping. It is doable - see my article other article entitled Camping in Ireland for some tips on how to do this.
Don't let the rain scare you or dampen your spirits. At first, it scared me, but once I properly prepared myself for it, I grew accustomed to it. I bought some rain boots, or wellies, as they're called in Ireland. I had a good coat. And I learned to appreciate it for its huge contribution to the green landscape. Of course, I still did a sun dance or two.
Get out of doors. The country just calls for it. There are mountains to climb, woodlands to explore, seas to swim, and nature galore all over the place. These places demand less out of your pocket, and more out of your body and spirit.
Don't get stuck in the tourist traps - they are designed to reel you in. Realize this, and choose wisely. Leave those that don't appeal to you in your wake.
And, when you are feeling cold, lost, disheveled, and at your wit's end - when you are in your lowest state - this is when you attract the most help from the universe. Irish people are friendly and generous. Ask if you truly need help. They will response, often with open arms.
Ask questions in general - talk to people. This is how you will uncover the best information that will guide you along the way. Ask other campers where to camp. Ask other swimmers where to swim. Often the most beauty is off the beaten path.
And have sense of adventure and a sense of humor. The flavor of rice cakes covered with mustard is wild and weird. You will not die from dining on it for a night. It only makes the decadent meal that is up around the corner taste that much better.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007