Travel Cost Breakdown From Our Time in the UK and Ireland

People say to us all the time “Wow, how can you afford to travel for six months?” Travel can be expensive and, as long-term travelers, we are always very aware of our costs. Since we finished traveling in the United Kingdom and Ireland some time ago we are going to share actual numbers from our trip so you can get an idea about long-term travel costs in these generally expensive areas.

Our travel budget has one simple strategy. Write it down! If you write down every single purchase and expense while traveling – and know your spending limits – you will always know where you stand.

Molly examining trip expenses in our travel notebook

Molly calculating trip expenses in our travel notebook

Writing it down will keep you from forgetting that $2.00 coffee or falling into the ‘How much was lunch last Thursday?‘ trap. Keeping track will also allow you to do one of my favorite things: Data analysis! I broke down all of our expenses for the 32 days we spent in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland into five cost categories. These categories are lodging, food, entertainment, transportation, and miscellaneous. We use the Currency app by Jeffrey Grossman on our iPhone to convert all of our costs to USD.

Lets lay out the big number first. Our average total cost of travelling in the UK and Ireland turned out to be $131.43 per day (or, just under $66 per person per day). We have each made our $66 dollars go pretty far. In most cases we have had our own private room, eat out for lunch, pay for museums/entertainment and travel to a new location about every 4-5 days. The one expense not factored into the UK/Ireland numbers above are our flights from New York to London via Iceland. We budgeted intercontinental flights separately and will talk about these costs at the end of our trip. Travel costs for this post reflect all local travel throughout Ireland and the UK including one flight, two train trips and numerous bus trips. Every item adds up and the chart below shows how our daily costs were divided, percentage-wise, among our categories:

For our ‘once in a lifetime’ around-the-world trip we are not looking to set any records for traveling inexpensively. If you enjoy couch surfing and eating ramen noodles i’m sure you could spend less. We happen to be spending a significant amount of our budget on awesome vegan food. (Vegans – go to London, you won’t be disappointed!) We are personally traveling to see all of the great sights and experience all of the wonderful (vegan) cuisine. The occasional $15.00 entree does not have to break your entire budget if you leave room elsewhere.

It should be noted that Molly and I aren’t big drinkers. We did seek out local brews/wines/ciders wherever we were, but we purchased them from grocery stores. I think we only went out to a bar once (to watch the Chelsea vs. Manchester United soccer game while we were in London), but they happened to be pouring the cheapest cider and beer I’ve ever seen. In other words, if you plan to go out drinking all over Europe, you should adjust your budget accordingly.

Our ‘miscellaneous’ category is almost non-existent. As long-term travelers, we do not have much extra real estate in our backpacks or our budget. This means that we almost always say no to souvenirs. We have a week of clothing which we wash and only replace when needed. Our few miscellaneous purchases have been things like a beard trimmer, stamps and postcards, batteries, etc. And we are not carrying any solar-powered waving Queen Elizabeth figurines home with us in our bags.

As a result we have made our money go far. We spend almost two entire weeks in London which is one of the most expensive cities you can travel to. Dublin can be costly as well. There are places in the UK and Ireland which are more budget-friendly that we also traveled to such as Liverpool, Glasgow, and Derry. If you are willing to venture away from Dublin and London to some smaller cities you can find some great deals.  AirBnB has been one of our favorite resources to find an affordable place to stay. In most places we found that $50.00-$60.00 per day is a reasonable target for a private room.

Eating, sleeping and traveling will encompass the vast majority of your expenses. This is especially true for vegans who want to experience all of the great food in London (parts #1, #2, and #3), and Dublin, and Glasgow! Entertainment costs may actually be lower in the UK and Ireland when compared to other countries. Most major museums in the UK are free and there are a ton of affordable options. Check out our post on affordable activities in London, or our post on affordable options in Dublin, or our post on an affordable and different day in Glasgow.

I can recap the entirety of this post for you in three sentences (for those who aren’t interested in the numbers): Don’t let the strength of the Pound and Euro against the dollar scare you off from traveling to the United Kingdom and Ireland. There is plenty to do and see and eat for a budget traveler. Just be aware of the numbers and you’ll be fine!

Now get to traveling!

Dublin Vegan Food Post

Dublin has many options for vegan diners. We spent 6 days there and tasted some standout vegan options. Below are some of our highlights.

Govinda’s Vegetarian Restaurant

Govinda's Restaurant (one of three Dublin locations)

Govinda’s Restaurant (one of three Dublin locations)

Govinda’s restaurants can be found in various cities around the globe. It is a Hare Krishna chain of vegetarian restaurants. I only hope that the other locations serve food of the same quality (and volume) as we experienced in Dublin. There are three locations in Dublin and we ate at two of them. The restaurants offer small plates for €6.95 and large plates for €10.45.  This price may seem like a lot but the large plate did feed both of us for two full meals.  Below is what you can expect from large plate:

Govinda's large plate

Govinda’s large plate

In addition to the plates being almost comically overloaded with food, the food was genuinely excellent. There are new items each day and you are able to pick and chose from about a half dozen dishes each day. Just ask which options contain dairy products, as usually one or two of the dishes do. This was the first restaurant we visited in Dublin and I was reluctant to even try another place with the value and quality of food provided at Govinda’s. Sadly, not all restaurants in Dublin take a page out of Govinda’s ‘wallet-friendly’ approach.

Cornucopia Wholefood and Vegetarian Restaurant

Cornucopia

Cornucopia

Cornucopia Vegetarian Restaurant in Dublin is considered the top of the line in regards to veggie cuisine. Let me start by saying that I really wanted to like the the restaurant.  The Cornucopia cookbook is on sale online and in the store for a price of just under €40.00 (which is about $53.00 US).  In my mind this sets the bar quite high. One concerning trend I noticed while waiting in line was that several plates being bused had a substantial amount of food remaining. Conversely, there were positive trends such as the lengthy line and number of patrons in the restaurant. We chose one entree and also the soup of the day – with extra bread!

Cornucopia pastry with salads

Cornucopia pastry with salads

Cornucopia soup with extra bread

Cornucopia soup with extra bread

In the end the food was not all that memorable. The pastry was outstanding but the soup and salads did not match that level of quality. If you do order soup and want try more than just one variety ask for the ends of the loafs! Our server indicated to us that no one wanted them and additional bread is always a welcome addition to soup.

One item I will point out is that the chefs at Cornucopia compose new menu items each and every day. This certainly provides a lot of variety for the local vegan community but some of the dishes may miss the mark with such a quick turnover.

Beirut Express

Beirut Express

Beirut Express

Beirut Express is a Lebanese restaurant in Dublin that serves meat and also offers several vegetarian and vegan options. It is just a few minutes walk from the middle of the Temple Bar district across the street from City Hall and Dublin Castle. We chose this location after we were unable to successfully locate Lurve – a vegan cafe located in the Temple Bar district. We later learned that Lurve is only open Thursday through Sunday and is located in Lucy’s Lounge.

Beirut Express offered a diverse menu and we shared three smaller dishes.

Beirut Express salad

Beirut Express fatoosh salad

Beruit Express hummus

Beirut Express baba ganoush

Beirut Express platter

Beirut Express falafel platter with hummus and pickles

The food stood out and you could tell that great care was taken in both preparation and presentation. We observed that the portions on entrees were generous if you choose to skip appetizers and dive right in. It is in a prime location and is a worthy stop after spending a few hours touring sights such as Dublin Castle.

Bubblicity

Bublicity, Dublin

Bublicity, Dublin

Bubblicity is Ireland first bubble tea shop. We happened upon it totally by accident. It is quite vegan friendly while also offering fresh-squeezed juices. Bubblicity is located in a small indoor shopping center at 26, George’s Street Arcade. If you are looking for a dessert option downtown it is a wonderful place to check out. Pro-tip: go for a mix! They will let you mix and match any of the bubble tea flavors. A large strawberry/pineapple combo comes highly recommended. And all the flavors are vegan if they use soy milk powder instead of cow’s milk powder!

Look at all of those bubbles!

Look at all of those bubbles!

If you are visiting the United Kingdom and Ireland, make sure you check out our previous posts on vegan options in London!

London Vegan Food Part 1 

London Vegan Food Part 2

London Vegan Food Part 3

A round up of the amazing vegan options in Glasgow will be coming up soon!

Our day off in Derry, Northern Ireland

If you, dear reader, ever decide to go on a trip like Dan and I are on, after a few weeks you might notice something. It’s just a general fatigue. Your legs are tired all the time from walking an average of about 8 miles a day. People keep you up at night at your hostel by coming in at 3:30 in the morning and chatting for an hour (rude…). The day tours keep adding up. You simply cannot see another church as they all begin to look the same and are all very old. What should be the greatest thing ever at all times is starting to feel a little, well, tired. How do you get the spark back in the trip?

You take a day off. Think about it. Working a full time job is exhausting even though most people generally aren’t really doing anything physical at all. You need the weekend, both for practical reasons like running errands, and also to recuperate from an exhausting work week. Well, when you are traveling long term, there are no weekends. Every day you are somewhere new and exciting so “taking a day off” would feel like wasting your precious time at whatever location you are in. Dan and I have gone over 3 weeks without a day off. I’m certainly not asking for pity (that would be crazy), I’m just explaining how travel can become exhausting when it is supposed to be awesome.

So we decided to take today and not overexert ourselves. We are lucky, Derry is a small town and we walked a lot of it yesterday. We felt like we wouldn’t be missing too much by taking it easy today.

So, what does one do on a day off? I decided that I needed a hair cut. I don’t know if you can tell from the pictures in the other posts, but my hair is long. Way too long to be anything but annoying to me. Plus traveling has damaged the crap out of it. The problem is that hair cuts are expensive! And I personally don’t think my hair is worth $50 or more… So with the help of a guy who works at the hostel we are staying at we found a hair and beauty school here. This morning, after breakfast, Dan and I walked over there. Unfortunately, they are out of class for summer so the long hair will remain until further notice. Much to my chagrin…

Then we continued our day off by checking out the Guildhall here in Derry, going to the Centre for Contemporary Arts inside the walled city, and finally we went to hear an organ concert at St. Columb’s Cathedral. (yes, I recognize that the last one is yet another church, but the recital was part of Fleadh Cheoil, an event to promote Irish culture, not just we went to the church to see the church.) I know it sounds like a lot, but really these events took place over 4 hours and none of them took up even an hour of time. It was a leisurely mid-day.

We had lunch back at the hostel, with groceries we picked up at Mark and Spencers (vegan options in Derry are slim, fyi. Best bet is to cook for yourself!), then we went out for our real Day Off activity! We went to the movies!

Minions in arcade game at Derry movie theater

Minions in the arcade game at the Derry movie theater

Things you should know about the movies in Derry: 1) It costs 4.50 pounds. For an adult ticket. That’s only $6.75!! Our movie tickets added together cost less than one ticket to a movie in NYC right now. 2) there are 20 minutes of commercials – not previews, but commercials – before the movie and then only 2 previews. A bit of a disappointment. 3) the movie times were weird. We went to a 4pm movie on a Wednesday. Who goes to a 4pm movie on a Wednesday?! The answer: No one. We had the entire theater to ourselves. Which meant we chatted and laughed very very loudly during the film. Fun!

We saw The Heat. Dan loved it, I liked it. Action movies really aren’t my thing, but at least it was funny! Regardless, it served its purpose. Our day off was a success. Plus the beauty of movies is that they are the same everywhere. We could have been at the Regal in Union Square, NYC for all we could tell once that movie was rolling. My scientific opinion is that this helps stave off home sickness as well, but who knows?

Now we will play board games and surf the web for the rest of the night and then tomorrow, back to the grind. Another long travel day as we head out of Derry by bus, bus, ferry, and a bus to Glasgow, Scotland. Thanks, Derry, for being small enough to give us a day off. We needed it!

Ireland Day Tours in Pictures

Day tours are a fantastic way to see a wide area in a limited amount of time. An Ireland day tour will offer you the opportunity to see just about anything. We personally took tours that visited the Wicklow Mountains (near Dublin), Inishmore in the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher (both near Galway).  

Modern vacations often include high-stress moments and frantic running as tourists flock from place to place to see every destination in their tour book. There really isn’t anything in this world that compares to the spectacle of 60 people clawing to be the first one off of a coach bus.

Ireland Day Tour of Inishmore, Aran Islands

I realized that the reason people rush is that they want to spend as much time as possible looking at sights like this:

Inishmoor - the largest Aran Island

Inishmore – the largest Aran Island

Inishmore is the largest of the Aran Islands and is located just a few miles off the West Coast of Ireland. It is by no means a populous island with only 800 human inhabitants. There are also a few cows and sheep scattered on the landscape.

Molly with a particularly friendly cow. There are more cows than people in Ireland.

Molly with a particularly friendly cow. There are more cows than people in Ireland.

Fewer travelers take the ferry ride to the island than head to most other big Irish tour destinations so you can take advantage and enjoy peaceful vistas. It is hard to believe that the photogenic island of Inishmore looks out upon another impressive Ireland landmark; the Cliffs of Moher.

Ireland Day Tour of The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are a huge tourist attraction for good reason. They are both giant and beautiful. I discovered the ‘panorama’ function on our Lumix DMC-ZS19 just in time to sufficiently capture the Cliffs in digital format. The only cameras that can capture all 8km of the Cliffs in one frame are likely located in a well-positioned helicopter. You really could spend an entire day walking the trail along the coast. Watch out for strong winds!

Extreme Danger at Cliffs of Moher

Extreme Danger at Cliffs of Moher

More cliffs of Moher

More cliffs of Moher

I can see why the color green is so closely associated with Ireland after traveling here for a week. The glacial valley of Glendalough in Wicklow Mountains National Park is one of countless examples of Ireland’s dynamic landscape.

Ireland Day Tour of Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough and Kilkenny

Wicklow Gap, Wicklow Mountains National Park

Wicklow Gap, Wicklow Mountains National Park

There are an astounding amount of archaeological sights in addition to the glacial lakes in the Wicklow Mountains. Glendalough is a long abandoned monastery overlooking the lake which remains remarkably preserved.

Glendalough Monastery

Glendalough Monastery

The monastery was once was a thriving town and the tower in the distance has held up quite well for a 30 meter structure built in the 11th century.

We booked out tour through Collins Day Tours which also included a stop in Kilkenny after the Wicklow Gap and Glendalough. The tour also included a stop in Kilkenny for lunch. The big draw in Kilkenny? A giant castle!

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

The Kilkenny Castle is a structure worth seeing. It has been beautifully restored piece by piece for about the past 40 years. Sadly, photographs are not allowed inside. Admission to the castle is €6.00 for adults and only €2.50 for students. The Collins tour is a great deal at €30 (€20 for students) to see Wicklow. The stop at Kilkenny is simply a bonus. It covers a significant amount of ground for a day trip out of Dublin and really helps to drive home the diverse landscape of the country.

Day tours cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time but the constant motion will leave you exhausted. We completed three different day tours to the  major sights above over the course of five days. If you choose to travel on day tours in Ireland make sure that you space them out or include lighter days in between. Otherwise, you may need a vacation from your vacation!

Stay tuned for more updates from Ireland. Make sure you check out Molly’s post about affordable sights to see in Dublin!

Molly likes living on the edge

Molly likes living on the edge at Inishmore

Affordable Activities in Dublin

So, I’m not claiming that Dan and I are Dublin experts, but we did spend 6 days in Dublin searching the nooks and crannies for affordable things to do.

The very first thing we did in Dublin was FREE. We actually came to Dublin to support my friend Sarah and her sister C.J. while they ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin half marathon.

That's Sarah in the middle. Go Sarah, go!

That’s Sarah in the middle of the picture, at the start of the race. Go Sarah, go!

Sarah is actually planning on running another half marathon right around Halloween this year to benefit the ASPCA! What a do-gooder! Help her out by supporting her and and the ASPCA HERE.

While they exerted themselves, we walked around a very quiet Dublin as this was relatively early on a bank holiday.

We went to St. Stevens Green which was right next to the race start, and like all of the parks in Dublin, free. We had breakfast while watching the birds.

This cutie sat next to us at St. Stevens Green. Looking for a snack, perhaps?

This cutie sat next to us at St. Stevens Green. Looking for a snack, perhaps?

According to our AirBnB hosts, Claudia and Kevin, Phoenix Park in Dublin has lots of cool animals to see including rabbits and deer! We didn’t have time to go check, but it is free and the biggest city park in Europe, so maybe you can go check for us. Also, while you are there you can go to the free Irish Museum of Modern Art, right nearby. We obviously didn’t get their either, but if we had had one more day, we would have gone to Phoenix Park and the art museum.

Now on to cheap and free things in Dublin that we actually did do. My number one recommendation would be Dublin Castle.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Don’t get over-excited, it isn’t really a castle. Well, it was at one point in history, but most of the castle part is now gone. It is, however, an extremely historic and important site in Irish history (and present). Every Irish president since the state became independent has been sworn in here.

Where every Irish President gets sworn in.

Where every Irish President gets sworn in.

Our guide was great. He answered all of my inane historical questions and entertained the group. The cost of the hour or so long tour of Dublin Castle is 4.50 Euros. Honestly, I was really under-informed about Ireland when I got to Dublin. This tour on my second day there helped me feel a little more knowledgeable and informed.

Two free things to do in the main tourist area in Dublin (at or right near Trinity College) are the Science Gallery, and the National Gallery of Ireland. There is currently an exhibit about illusion at the Science Gallery which was fun, and it’s free so you really have nothing to lose be spending some time there. The National Gallery had some lovely paintings by Irish painters, but it wasn’t my favorite national gallery ever. I did appreciate that it was well organized, though, and small enough that you didn’t feel guilty for only spending an hour there.

Also, all of the National Museums of Ireland (3 of the 4 are in Dublin) are free!

Finally, Dublin is home to many churches. Let me help you navigate which are worth the cost and which aren’t (in my opinion, obviously). Dublin’s two most famous churches are St. Patrick’s Catherdral and Christ Church Cathedral. St. Patrick’s is 5.50 Euros and Christ Church is 6 Euros. We reviewed the reviews on Trip Advisor (since I can see those without internet access. Again, I highly recommend the Trip Advisor app!) and took a peak into each church and decided that the church we were going to pay for was Christ Church. They both have fabulous history (and you can get into both for free for services), but Christ Church has a crypt full of cool things (and a cafe in the crypt. What??).

Christ Church interior

Christ Church interior

But then, as we were walking down the street from Christ Church, we spotted another church which looked mighty old. We walked down the steps of St. Audoen’s Church just to see what the deal was and it turns out it is run by the state and free to get into and view.

St. Audoen's Church

St. Audoen’s Church

We just walked around and read some of the info ourselves (we had had a long day at that point. I believe I told Dan that I was all read-out at some point), but apparently the staff will tour you for free if you ask. It really is a beautiful and interesting place.

St. Audoen's from the inside - kind of...

St. Audoen’s from the inside – kind of…

So, those are my recommendations. I’m sure I only touched on a few of the affordable things to do in Dublin (for instance, there is a ton of free outdoor stuff happening in the summertime in Dublin, plus it stays light out until after 9pm!), but I just wanted to give you a glimpse into the activities we chose to do on our limited budget. Did we miss anything big that you, dear reader, would recommend to future budget visitors?