Getting ready for that trip of a lifetime, or perhaps another journey to a favorite destination? Here are some ways to avoid paying more than you have to for the experience.
Tipping has become part of the retail process in the service industry in the US, but not so much in Ireland. A tip is a nice thank you for excellent service, but may mark you as a naive American tourist if done too flagrantly. Feel free to be generous with your server in the restaurant, but if you serve yourself at the bar, it's not customary.
Check with your bank about their specific policies, but in general, the best way to pay for daily expenses in Ireland is to withdraw money from a cash machine. Get enough for a few days at a time; there's probably a transaction fee, but in general the exchange rate will be better than you'll get from the money changers.And you don't have to carry enough for the entire trip, so the possibility of loss or theft is not so ominous. You can still pay for larger purchases with a credit card, which will also carry some fees, so check with your card issuer on rates and policies. And remember, there are still a number of B&Bs and guesthouses where they don't take plastic.
See Plastic Still Your Best Bet for more details.
Many hotels offer WIFI as part of their room package, but some may charge extra, so check when you book if internet access is important to you. B&Bs or smaller facilities may not offer this amenity at all, but internet cafes are fairly plentiful around the island.
Drive-in cinema is become more and more common in Ireland, even while disappearing from the US landscape. Often cheaper than a standard theatre for a family, and you can bring in your own treats, saving even more.
Couponing is getting more and more popular, with most of the big travel sites, tourist associations and travel-related companies willing to inundate you with special offers. You can often get special rates for attractions, and be sure to look out for package deals for multiple admissions to museums, historic sites and the like. One good place to find some deals is Groupon Ireland.
Some US cell phones have global capability, but the charges may be significant. Check with your carrier for details before you leave. You can also buy a "disposable" phone at kiosks, shops and even Tesco, and load it with credits, but be careful. Some "out of network" calls, or data usage, may use up a lot of your credits. See Tips for Cell Phone Use for more information.
Some of the best entertainment requires only the price of a pint at the local pub, where musicians will gather for some TRAD (Irish traditional) music. Sometimes there are paid performers and a cover charge, but often, it's just a group of friends who gather in the local to share some tunes. Ask a few residents where the best TRAD can be found in the area, or check The Session for some listings (some can be out of date).
It won't work in a standard retail store, but if you happen upon street vendors, or a farmer's market type business, they'll rather expect you to try for a better price than their first offer.
If you want to treat yourself to a five-course meal, that's certainly an option, but not a cheap one. For regular meals, pub food is far more economical. For lunch, stop by a grocer or convenience store and stock up on picnic items to take along when you go out.
VAT (Value Added Tax) is a primary source of revenue for European governments. Technically, tourists are not required to pay it on many types of merchandise. The trick is, you have to pay it at the register and then apply for a refund. See Rick Steves' explanation of how to do that.
11. Book ahead!
This is especially important for air fares, but can also save you money on car rental, accommodations, and many tourist attractions.Ask your travel agent or tour operator for help.
12. Car Rental
This deserves a spot of its own on the list, and can be a major expense if not done right. Budget Rent-a-Car or Dan Dooley's are very popular, but not the only options. Book in advance, and be sure to check with your insurance agent on whether your policy will cover you in Ireland, or whether you can get a rider. Otherwise, you'll need to pay for the collision damage waiver from the rental company.
If you have additional tips or suggestions for saving money on an Irish holiday, please use the comment box to share them with others.