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A vacation to consider? 7 days in Ireland & Northern Ireland UNDER S$1,000!

So, I'm not too sure how many Singaporeans actually bother visiting Ireland, let alone Northern Ireland (which is the probably the least visited among the 4 countries that make up the U.K).

Well, for those who have visited, I'm sure it was eye opening. And as for the rest of you who prefer sticking to just England, read on to find out what you've been missing out on. (Don't get me wrong, I love England, and London is one of my favorite "big cities")

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

The thing is, while 7 full days doesn't do justice to the "Irish Experience", but as far as experiencing some of the "MUSTS" is concerned, a week on this island is certainly comfortable (and most of us Singaporeans can't take too many days of leave anyway). Toward the end of this post, you'll find a breakdown of the costs and rough itinerary for a 1 week trip.

While vacationing in the U.K & Ireland is apparently rumored to be among some of the most expensive destinations to visit in the world, here in this post, I've broken down exactly how you can travel "comfortably", and I mean very comfortably under $1000 SGD for a week or 730 USD (no hostel dorms or dining of bread and water).

If you score cheap tickets with British Airways or Singapore Airlines on one of their many promotions, you'll be vacationing in U.K & Ireland for $2000 SGD!

Key Attractions in Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway is without doubt, Northern Ireland's top attraction. It is the MUST DO attraction in this part of the world.

So, what is the Giant's Causeway and how was it formed? Well, the Giant's Causeway is pretty much a mix of 40,000 basalt columns of varying heights formed apparently after the cooling of successive lava flows into the sea some 60 million years ago.

Not that anyone cares how it was formed.

Everyone just wants a selfie here for "The Gram".

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

From the pictures, it does look kind of difficult to scale but it actually isn't. Because these basalt columns have so many variations in height, it isn't difficult to find an easy way up (as simple as walking up a flight of stairs). When I was there, there were loads of kids and elderly folk clambering about.

So yeah, tourist attraction, no doubt.

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

My trip to the Giant's causeway coincided with "Storm Ali", without doubt the strongest winds I'd ever faced, blowing at speeds of up to 120kph. I weigh 80kg and actually felt myself being "carried" by the winds.

You can't really tell it was a gale from the picture, but you can see my pockets being blown inside out.

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

This is the starting point of the Giant's Causeway walk. The attraction is FREE. Don't be mislead by what you read online saying you have to pay; You DON'T.

For those of have actually visited and paid, what you are paying for is entrance to the visitors center, which is totally necessary. And as for those of you have chanced upon this post and you're planing to go? Just drive to the car park (which is free too), get off, and follow the trail.

There, I've just saved you 10 pounds. You're welcome.

Carrick-a-Red Rope Bridge

This suspension bridge is done together with the Giant's Causeway due to their proximity. The Carrick-a Red rope bridge is just a 20 minute drive from the Giant's Causeway.

The coastal walk to the bridge is free and it's probably one of the most amazing walks anyone can do in their life. Walking across the bridge costs you 7 pounds. When I was there, because of the "Storm Ali", the bridge was closed, so all I could do was climb above the bridge to see it.

Is it worth 7 pounds? Well, I guess that's debatable. But still, this place is a MUST go.

The Dark Hedges (as seen in Game of Thrones)

Of the main natural wonders Northern Ireland has to offer, the Dark Hedges are probably the least impressive.

These 150 beech trees were planted by some guy back in 1775 who built a new house and wanted to create the feel of an "imposing approach" (in 2018 here in Singapore, people spend their money on renovation instead of planting trees).

Thanks to the Game of Thrones, this is now one of the main natural attractions in Northern Ireland.

Reading about the history behind the "Dark Hedges".

The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

Should you visit this?

Well, yes if you're renting your car for a self drive around the country. If you're on a day tour, this is likely covered as part of that. But if you're getting around by public bus? Don't waste your time. I'd rather you go down by the coast for a nice cup of coffee and awesome views.

Titanic Belfast (Museum)

Titanic Belfast Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Ah, the Titanic. The movie showed when I was in Primary School. I remember having schoolmates who watched it as many as 6 times!

But I'm betting, even after watching it 6 times, most of them didn't realize where Titanic was built!

Titanic Belfast Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The titanic was built in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland and home of the worlds greatest shipbuilders.

The building of what would be the worlds largest Ocean Liner changed the fortunes of this city. Thousands of jobs were created and hope was buzzing throughout the city.

Titanic Belfast Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Today, the Titanic Belfast is one of Europe's most famous attractions (2nd in N.Ireland after the Giant's Causeway) and without doubt the best Titanic Museum in the world.

It costs 18.5 pounds for entry but if you're your comfortable with speed reading like I am, go just 1 hr before the exhibition closes and you'll get a ticket for 10 pounds.

Read about the history, how the ship was built, the stories of the victims, the crews account of what happened the night of the sinking.

1st Class Cabin....

3rd Class Cabin....

One of the really cool things about this exhibit are the rebuilt cabins on board the Titanic; you'll be able to see the difference in prices and standards between the 1st and 3rd class cabins!

I'm not exactly a museum kind of guy, but the Titanic Belfast, was amazing. Definitely a MUST go.

Rough map of Northern Ireland and where the key attractions can be found.

So if you refer to the map above, most of the key attractions in Northern Ireland can be experienced very comfortably in a day if you're self driving, no rush at all. In fact, we even had time to take the scenic coastal route on the way back!

For a 7 day vacation in Ireland, I would suggest 2 full days in Northern Ireland;

- 1 full day, do self drive and visit the attractions outside Belfast

- 1 full day, for Belfast city itself.

Key Attractions in Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

If Northern Ireland has the Giant's Causeway, Ireland has the Cliffs of Moher, the country's most popular attraction. If you haven't visited the Cliffs of Moher, you haven't been to Ireland. Yes, it's that big an attraction.

The easiest way to reach the Cliffs is by simply renting a car and driving there. From Dublin (Ireland's capital), the Cliffs are around 3 hours drive away. If you were to catch a public bus, it would take as long as 6hrs! If you don't want to drive, day tours departing from Dublin are available from 40 Euros.

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Like Scotland and much of England, the weather is terrible in Ireland, sunny one minute and absolute pouring with rain the next. Regardless, the Cliffs of Moher are magnificent. When I was there, it was both rainy and sunny. You can see the difference in the views in my pictures above.

Like the Giant's Causeway, entrance to the Cliffs is free. The 6 Euro fee you'll be asked to pay is for the visitor center; don't bother with it.

Dublin City

The Temple Bar, Dublin City, Ireland

Now, traveling is not simply about seeing sights or doing things. A great way to enjoy Ireland is simply doing nothing. Soak up the Irish experience by having a pint of beer in the bar or watching football with the locals.

Dublin City itself is way larger and livelier then Belfast (Northern Ireland's capital). In the day, Dublin is a pretty enough city to keep you "ooing & ahhing", and with enough "instaworthy" places to keep most Singaporeans excited. At night, Dublin is as wild as "wild" could possibly be if it were alive. Temple Bar (above) is where all the action is after dark. Watch out for rowdy locals though.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland

Of course, it's not just parties, football, and beers in Ireland. For anyone seeking solace, Dublin, and most of Ireland are home to some of the most magnificent cathedrals in Europe.

Kilkenny, Ireland

Another MUST go attraction in Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse (even if you aren't a beer lover). It isn't cheap at 18.50 Euros. But Guinness is a big part of Ireland/Dublin's history and arguably the key attraction in Dublin. For your 18.50, you do get to wash down your tour with glass of beer at the top of the Guinness storehouse, one of the best viewpoints in the city.

Loads of Castles

Kilkenny Castle, Ireland

Castles, are big attraction in this part of the world (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland). There are close to 30,000 castles in Ireland alone; YES, 30,000!

If I were honest, you'll just need to visit a couple and you'll have seen them all. But, they're certainly worth a visit. Don't go to Ireland and not check out some of their castles.

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is Ireland's most beautiful coastal route and it's "the other" thing you'll want to experience besides the Cliffs of Moher (still No.1). Here, you can cycle/drive around, or simply just have a picnic by the coast. The views are different at each part of the "Ring", and its recommended to spend a few hours here at least.

You'll want a car for this, not a bus tour.

Rough map of Ireland. Look how far apart the key attractions are. You'll want a car!

The trouble with Ireland, is that the key attractions are really far a part (see map above). From Dublin, Kilkenny is worth a visit. And if you carry on driving down toward the Ring of Kerry, you'll hit the town of Killarney, the place you'll likely stay after your back from your drive around the Ring of Kerry. From Killarney, you can proceed toward the Cliffs of Moher and Galway.

However, if you don't have 5 days in Ireland at least, you'll have to skip the Ring of Kerry. Singaporeans don't usually spend a lot of time in each country (because we have to get back to work). If you have just 3 full days in Ireland, all I would recommend are the Cliffs of Moher, Dublin, and Galway (skip the Ring of Kerry).

Food & Costs (Is it THAT expensive?)

The Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland

Unfortunately yes. Ireland IS expensive; that is, if you're a Singaporean who insists on restaurants for your entire trip.

Now, I'm not suggesting instant noodles or handmade sandwiches, that's certainly not what I did. But what I'm saying, is that there are a few "food hacks" when it comes to the U.K and Ireland.

Washing down a hot Irish Stew with an ice cold Kilkenny beer in Kilkenny, Ireland.

As far as the English or Irish are concerned when it comes to eating out, the locals, dine at pubs, and tourists, at restaurants. And no, the pubs in Ireland aren't like those in Singapore. In fact, their standards are comparable to our "restaurant standards".

So yeah, why dine at restaurants when you can get great food at pubs at 50% lesser?

Menu of one of the Wetherspoon's chain of pubs.

Look at the menu's I'm holding up; a burger + beer for 6 pounds in Northern Ireland. That's $11 SGD! How much would you pay for that in Singapore? Your beer alone would likely be $11 SGD and likely another $20 SGD for a burger.

An 8'oz steak + beer costs just 8.35 pounds! The equivalent dinning experience would cost you close to $50 SGD in Singapore. Now, who says the U.K is expensive? (In case your confused why i'm talking about the U.K in an Ireland post, that's because Northern Ireland is part of the U.K).

Breakfast or lunch for 2 pounds. Who says the U.K needs to be expensive?

For breakfast or even lunch, a coffee and bacon roll cost just 2 pounds at Greggs, the U.K's most popular bakery chain found easily anywhere across Northern Ireland & the U.K. In case you didn't read it right, it's 2 pounds! And they taste great!

If you want another option for food, go for what is called a "meal deal". You can get 1 drink (huge variety) + 1 side (usually chips) + 1 main (usually a sandwich) for 3.99 pounds in Northern Ireland and in Ireland, 3.99 Euros, even cheaper!

And just so we are clear, this isn't living like a beggar, it's living like a local. Loads of locals get meal deals and have them in the parks or by the coast.

Having a "meal deal" in Northern Ireland. Great value to be found here. If you were at a restaurant, you would likely be ordering a sandwich and a drink and 5 times the price.

Anyway, this chain of pubs in the pictures above is called "Wetherspoons". And yes, they are all over the U.K. You know what that means? Your vacation to England doesn't have to be expensive either. Because even in London, Wetherspoon and Greggs prices are pretty much the same.

Now, for those of you who've visited the U.K before. Anyone starting to feel a little silly paying 20 pounds for a meal? Enjoy your 20 pounds at a restaurant, i'm sticking with my 8 pound Steak and beer in a pub (and yes they are smoke free inside even though they're called pubs).

Transport (Bus, train or self drive?)

My rental car. I paid for something smaller but got an upgrade because they didn't have anything else on that day. Lucky me.

I'm not saying rent a car to drive in the big cities of Belfast and Dublin. I'm saying rent a car to get out of the city and around the rest of the country.

This way, you'll get a lot more flexibility, you can drive wherever you want, and stop to take photos whenever you wish. Even if it does cost the same price as a tour (it's definitely cheaper if you rent with at least 3 people), the flexibility is priceless.

And, they drive on the same side as we do, so it's easy enough.

If you take a look at the prices, renting a car is really cheap as long as you book way in advance. You can get a rental car for as low as $26 SGD a day excluding comprehensive insurance (but I factored that in for the total budget cost anyway). As far as fuel is concerned, it's around the same price as in Singapore.

Accommodation (Hostel, Hotel, or B&B?)

B&B in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Accommodation standards are really high in the U.K & Ireland, you'd have to be crazy to book a hotel. If you want something cheap, stick to hostels. If you want privacy yet at an affordable enough cost, stick to hostel private rooms or B&B's.

Our room in Belfast, in the picture above cost just $49 SGD for TWO of us. That's $24.5 SGD per person per night! That's really good value, way cheaper than most parts of Europe, nowhere near expensive.

Hotel on our last night in Kilkenny, Ireland.

Here's a hotel we stayed at in Kilkenny, Ireland, for 30 Euros per person. The location was fantastic (right in the heart of the city), the quality was more than decent, and again, it wasn't expensive.

You see, I'm not suggesting your sleep in hostels just so you can keep the cost under $1,000 SGD. I'm saying, sleep in hotels, please, go ahead. Just book smart, and book early.

Above are some examples of how cheap private rooms can be even in the city center (it's even cheaper further out). Prices are for the room not per person, so travel as a couple for half the cost.

So tell me again, is this expensive?

Travel Passes (do you need them?)

This is a repeated point also found in a couple of my previous posts.

In most cases, travel passes are only worth it if you plan to visit ALL (or most) of the attractions it entitles you for. With reference to this particular post on a 7 day vacation in Ireland, you would probably enjoy your vacation more if you decided on the few MUST see/do's that you really want. While it does give you entry to over 30 attractions, both Dublin and Belfast are certainly very "walkable".

And would you really want to cram your day going for 30 attractions? I'd much rather have a pint of beer and watch the world go by while seeing and doing the few MUST's that i've shortlisted at my own pace. Perhaps, add the the cost of all your MUST's and see if it comes close to the price of the pass. If they do, go for it, but that's pretty unlikely though.

Budget Summary

Detailed table of cost breakdown

So there you have it. 7 full days, an Irish experience and "both Ireland's" covered comfortably under $1,000 SGD (730 USD). Well, $982.50 to be precise (you might need to read this post with a tablet or computer to view the breakdown clearly).

Of course, the above itinerary is assuming you travel with a partner, so you can share the cost of rooms and car rental. Also, it would certainly cost significantly lesser if you travel in a group of 3 because it's possible to book a double room and pay to add in an extra bed. Oh, and it's one more person to share the cost of the car rental and running costs.

The costs allocated for the attraction will allow you to visit most of the MUST's (remember, the Giant's Causeway and Cliffs of Moher are FREE, don't pay for them), ensure you have the privacy of having your own rooms, include transport costs, and are more than enough for you to eat out for 3 meals a day (no cooking required) comfortably.

Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland

In fact, the costs in the table above include EVERYTHING but the air-tickets which I have excluded as some readers use miles, some are already in Europe, some don't like to fly budget, and because I'm also trying to accommodate my growing base of international readers as well, not just Singaporeans, so factor in your own air travel costs.

If you'd like to do it cheaper, there's still plenty of room to cut from. You could stay in hostel dorms, not rent a car and take public transport instead, cook your own meals, not have beers, not eat out, couch surf, hitchhike, and whatever, the list goes on.

But if you've just 7 days, would like a very comfortable vacation, and have a budget of $1,000 SGD, I daresay this post should prove helpful enough. Cheers!

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