If you’ve ever taken a last minute flight on a discount airline, you know that bringing a carry on bag is a cheapest option to go. You can’t beat paying only $30 in comparison with $70 per checked bag (unless you’re even more lucky and don’t have to pay at all for a carry on!). But let’s not forget the
As someone who has taken many flights with just a backpack as a personal bag, I’ve included everything that I take and use when I’m traveling light. Some of these may not be allowed everywhere, so do keep in mind what your local authority allows you to bring in a personal item or carry on.
***Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase through them, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Items to Bring in Your Personal Bag (TSA Approved!):
A book or magazine to read on the flight: No matter how long the flight is, it is always a good idea to bring some reading material while you are waiting at the gate or are in the air. I’m currently reading The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and I highly recommend it!
Portable Charger: We both know that you will likely be sing your phone while you wait for your flight, maybe even downloading a few episodes of your favorite show before boarding your flight! Either way, you will need a portable charger to keep up with your charging needs. The one that I am currently using has over 30,000 mAhs, which lets me charge my phone for over week without having to recharge it. I am so happy I invested a little bit more for something that lasts so long! You can buy it here.
Sleeping Mask: Personally I like to have a sleeping mask whenever I travel – especially on a long flight or on an early morning flight. I tend to nap a lot while flying so this is very useful for me in order to get a decent rest. Buy a sleeping mask here.
Theft Proof Backpack: While this may not exactly be something you pack while traveling, it is very important to bring along with you whenever you travel. I recently bought my Anti Theft/Theft Proof backpack before my trip to Colombia and it has really come in handy, especially when I travel around my own city! You can find my backpack here or a similar one here.
iPad or Kindle: I know I already mentioned bringing a book, but having an iPad or Kindle is perfect if you want to switch between reading an e-book to watching your favorite show on Netflix that you downloaded. Having either of these is also convenient as you can easily toggle between reading a book and watching TV whenever you want without having to bother your seatmate(s) to get something from the overhead bin or under your seat. This is also a good idea for introverts who occasionally need time to themselves, as mentioned in my earlier blog post.
Reusable Water Bottle: If you don’t already have a reusable bottle I highly recommend getting one and placing in your personal bag. This is incredibly useful in the airport so yo don’y pay $8 for a bottle of water, but also convenient for when you are exploring a new city!
Toiletries: Here is where you need to be really careful as to what you pack. I make sure that whatever liquid products I bring (face wash, moisturizer, etc.) is at or below 3 oz./100mL. I don’t bring a razor with me whenever I travel only with a carry-on or personal bag as it’s not allowed to be brought into the airport (but you can purchase a razor in the airport if you desperately need one). Although, I do bring mini dry shampoos for those days when I’m too busy (let’s be honest – lazy!) to wash my hair while traveling.
Hat: This one greatly depends on the time of year and the location of where you are traveling to. For example, when I went to Switzerland around Christmas time, I wore my winter beanie hat. But when I was in the UK during the spring and summer time, I wore my baseball hat so that the rain wouldn’t get my face (I’d even recommend a baseball hat during winter time and make sure to have your coat’s hood over it too).
Shawl or Blanket: I have had several people swearing by bringing an extra large shawl or a blanket to cover themselves during the chilly flight. I have only recently done this, and now I see why they swear by it! You can honestly use any extra scarf, shawl, or blanket as a way to keep warm during a flight, or you can always use it as a pillow by rolling it up (if you don’t already have a neck pillow).
Extra Purse: I always bring an extra, smaller purse with me for whenever I go on day trips or explore the city. I’ll have this in my personal bag when going through the airport, but once I’m at my destination I will only be carrying the purse around with the bare necessities.
These are all the items you need in your carry-on! As I briefly mentioned, some items may vary depending on where you are going and the time of year. Overall, I think this is a solid basic list of things you need whenever you travel and should always bring on a plane.
Everyone talks about Edinburgh as being the place to be in Scotland. While they aren’t wrong about the many things to do there, majority of people over look the busy city of Glasgow.
Besides the cultural aspect of Glasgow, the city boasts some of the best and liveliest bars and clubs of the country. There are a variety of places for different moods; from casual to glam clubbing.
Below is a list of some of the many places to visit for a night out based on different moods and vibes.
Sloan’s is considered to be one of the oldest pubs in the city. It’s hidden along Argyle St in between some shops, but it’s a definite place to be Thurs-Saturday nights for the locals. Inside is a traditional pub that looks like it hasn’t changed since it’s opening in 1782, while the outside is decorated to fit the modern chic vibes of Glasgow with their outdoor tables.
Gin71 is a more Instaworthy place to be, and perfect for date/girls night! They are known for their flights of gin (hence the name) but they do serve cocktails without gin if that’s not your thing. I definitely recommend this place for anyone visiting Glasgow as it perfectly encompasses the vibes of Glasgow.
If you visit Glasgow and do not visit Oran Mor during your trip, what are you doing?! One of the many churches turned pubs, Oran Mor is a popular local destination. You will find this place packed almost every night, and more so Thursday-Saturday.
Despite the name, Hillhead Book Club has nothing to do with books (I learned this the hard way lol). A popular night out destination for those between 20-32, this place is filled with character and a fun environment. The bar has a ping pong table, a couple of arcade games and plenty of tables and booths for those in large groups or on a date.
Hummingbird is very much a place you go for cute pics! They have an amazing interior design, filled with swinging chairs, neon lights with cute sayings and an even cooler top floor for private events.
Tip: Most clubs require a £5 cash entry fee so make sure that you have plenty of cash on you (some places even require a minimum amount to put on a card, so if you order a £3 shot and the minimum is £5 then you might as well order another shot). Also, if you do attend school in the UK – or possibly the EU even – you can get a discount on the entry fee (depends on the place), so make sure to keep your Student ID on you!
Kokomo is where all the newly 18 year olds and other Uni students go for a night out. There are 3 different rooms each with a different music theme (Current Pop, 2000s/Pop Rock, and Rap). The DJs are alright. I found that they changed the music too quickly for my taste so it never felt like a blended well into another song.
Bamboo is right next door to Kokomo and is owned by the same people. They have a similar theme and layout as Kokomo, but basically has better DJs. Same 3 different rooms/music, and is typically packed with the same crowd as Kokomo. If given the choice, choose Bamboo and go at 11:30 before the line gets too long.
Lola’s is below Hummingbird, but is another nice club that has good music and a pretty nice environment. This is another place that is popular for the recently legal people, so it can get out of hand fairly quickly. I would mostly recommend this place for those who are 18-24 and enjoy the latest pop and rap music.
Mango is an interesting blend of casual club vibes but glam people. This is definitely for those who want to dance and not be surrounded by a bunch of young Uni students. The basement has two dance floors; Latin music and Pop Rock, while the main floor has Current Pop/Rap. The DJs are usually pretty good, so you can never go wrong with Mango. They usually get pretty busy by 11:45pm, so try to arrive at least 15 minutes earlier.
Garage has a more edgy vibe and they have 3 different rooms (Current Pop/Rap, Rock, and 2000s Pop), but the main dance floor is much bigger than you’ll find at any other club in Glasgow. Still has a very young crowd (17-20) but you can actually move around without bumping into a bunch of people everywhere you go. Drinks are relatively cheap, and they have promos all the time.
Oran Mor Club – This is on the side of the Oran Mor building facing Great Western Rd. The club has one main dance floor and plays mostly 2000s Pop Rock with some new music. It generally doesn’t get too crowded so you have a little more leniency on when you want to go, and is great for those with old school music taste and those who enjoy a relaxing dance club.
Buff Club is hidden down an alley on Bath Lane (behind The Butterfly and The Pig) and typically composes of people from different generations. The main pub on the ground level is very casual and usually is best for just chilling with a pint of beer and chatting with friends. The upstairs level plays a variety of music, from the 70s to current songs, and even has some booths to sit in on above the dance floor (so the 3rd level for Americans, and the 2nd level for others).
Sub Club is near St. Enoch’s Mall and Argyle Street. It primarily plays more EDM/techno music, and there is a £15 entrance fee. This is by far the most expensive entrance fee I’ve ever experience, and the reason why I try to avoid going there. Overall, I’ve heard good things about it from my friends who like that music (Unfortunately I am not one of those people :/). The environment is pretty casual, diverse groups of people, drinks are good, and you’ll likely have a lot of fun!
Tip: Most people do not show up to the clubs until close to 12am, so if you don’t want to be stuck in a long line then I recommend arriving around 11:30pm if not a little earlier. Most places close by 2 or 3am, so I recommend having a back-up or two of places you want to go if your first choice doesn’t work out.
There are obviously other great pubs and clubs in Glasgow, these are the ones that I went to and found to be some of the best personally. The experience may change depending on the environment on the night, but usually you can never go wrong with a Saturday night arriving around 11:30pm.
If you want more ideas on where to go out in Glasgow, check out designmynight.com for all things Glasgow (and the rest of the UK & Ireland)! They identify different places based on mood and price, along with type of environment. This is an essential resource if you plan on going out anywhere in the UK and Ireland, so make sure to check it out!
When you hear the words “Scotland”, most people will conjure up images of the Highlands, the rollings hills, countryside and of course, the gloomy weather. Others will ask if you’re visiting Edinburgh, Loch Ness, and maybe Inverness since those seem to be the only places that are mentioned in Pop Culture these days.
Edinburgh may be the capital of Scotland, but it is only the second largest city in Scotland. The metropolitan area of Glasgow is home to half a million people, and once you arrive you can quickly see why. Consistently overshadowed by its sister city and only a 45 minute train ride from Edinburgh, Glasgow somehow combines the Victorian architecture of its early Industrial era with modern buildings sprouting up on every corner.
Glasgow is a hidden gem to tourists, showcasing museums filled with art and enriched with the fascinating history of the Scottish people. It is the cultural center of Scotland as it hosts famous artists like Post Malone, Ed Sheeran and now boasts of the locally grown Lewis Capaldi. There is not a single day where live music is not being played somewhere in the city.
Besides music, Glasgow is known for its eccentric people – as their motto goes – “People Make Glasgow”. This is due to their friendly nature, and some of their eccentric behaviors that you may see at night.
One of the first places you must visit is Ashton Lane, located in the West End near the Hillhead subway stop. This area is extremely ‘Gramable, as it is the most photographed place in Glasgow and you will easily see why. It is easy to miss since you have to walk down a small alley less than 100 meters from the subway station, right before you reach the Ubiquitous Chip pub. Soon after you will reach the Ashton alley and will understand why so many people venture to this spot to take a photo.
Not too far away is the Glasgow Botanical Gardens, one of the largest parks in the city. One of the first places to check out in the Gardens is the Kibble Palace, a Victorian era glass palace that feels like you have been transported to another time. Inside there is a small koi pond right when you walk in, and a small room to the left which houses poisonous plants. The center of the building showcases classic Victorian statues mixed in with tropical plants and trees. It is great for those interested in taking some artsy Insta pics or natural photography, as there is a lot of beautiful plant life throughout the garden.
If museums are your thing, not too far away is another popular location for locals – the Kelvingrove Museum and Park. This museum includes paintings from famous artists like Salvador Dali and pieces from famous Scottish designers like Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It also includes dinosaur bones and other natural history exhibits. It definitely has a more traditional museum feel, similar to that of the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. if you’ve ever been. Since this is a free museum it is recommended to donate £5 or more when you visit.
Behind the museum is Kelvingrove Park, which has lots of lovely paths for those who like to take long walks or runs. Many locals will walk their dogs through the park, and don’t be worried if they are not on a leash, the majority of dogs are well trained where they follow closely to their owner. On a nice sunny day, you will see the lawn filled with locals laying on the grass getting as much sun as they can. You may even hear the locals say “Taps Aff” and see guys walking around shirtless whenever the sun is out, no matter the weather – the Scots definitely do not miss an opportunity to soak up the sun!
Another popular museum is The Lighthouse, which has a breathtaking view of the city from the heart of Glasgow. Lots of architectural and contemporary art is showcased in the building, although the majority of people primarily go for the view of the city.
For general entertainment, a walk down Buchanan Street is always a good idea. You will see at least 3 different performances ranging from singers, drummers, a bagpiper or a random performance act at any time of day – even at 2am! Besides street entertainment, this is the main place people shop and hang out. It is typically busy after 4pm, and especially from Thurs – Sunday. Either way, Buchanan Street is an amazing place just to walk around and really get a sense of the culture of Glasgow.
Near St. Enoch’s Mall, there is a nice hidden bar called Sloan’s along Argyle Street. They claim that it is the oldest pub in Glasgow, but it is also one of the best local hot spots to visit. Inside has the old pub feel practically transporting you to early Industrial Glasgow, and solidifies it when you listen to a live performance of folk music if you’re lucky.
As part of the city centre, Merchant City offers lots of cool places to eat, drink and enjoy the amazing murals all over the city. The first place to check out is the Merchant Square building. It holds over 7 restaurants and regularly hosts craft markets on Saturday mornings. In terms of food and drinks, there are several great places to visit in Merchant Square.
Bar Soba is a chain in the UK, but has amazing Thai street food style cuisine and even better drinks. O’Neills has decent food and beers, but is best when a football match is on the big screens with fans cheering them on. Metropolitan has the best drink menu and is the go-to spot before a night out. I recommend heading to the upstairs during this time so you can hear your friend as the downstairs can get pretty loud.
Another popular destination is the Gallery of Modern Art in the center of Merchant City. This museum has a new exhibition every few months, and is definitely a must see when you go to Glasgow. One of the highlights of this building is the Duke of Wellington statue in front of it which has a traffic cone on its head! The tradition started decades ago, where local Glaswegians thought it would be funny to place a traffic cone on its head. The city repeatedly took down the cone, but it would always end up back on until finally the city gave up as it cost too much to keep removing the cone. Now whenever there is a protest or a particular holiday coming up, you might see a different coloured traffic cone on its head or a second cone on the horse’s head.
Near the GoMA, The Social is a popular bar for locals to meet up or listen to live music. It is a little pricier than other places, but the drinks are really good and is open until 3am. This is definitely a good place to gain a young, local feel to Glasgow.
If you’re looking to relax, George’s Square is a popular place for locals to go and lay in the grass on a sunny day. During the summer and winter months, you will see the Square filled with business shops for a special event or the Christmas market. It is right next to the Queen Street Station, so pop on by on your way to/from the train!
Technically still in Merchant City, the Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis are must-sees in the city. The Cathedral is believed to have St. Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, buried inside. The Necropolis has one of the best overall view of the city, capturing the sprawling city below with a backdrop of the rolling hillsides behind the city. It is the perfect place to be during either the sunrise or sunset (although technically it is illegal to be there while it is dark out).
If there is one thing that you must do in Glasgow, it is to go to Glasgow Green to walk along all the different paths and visit the People’s Palace. There is a lovely path along the Clyde River which circles back directly to the Palace. As is typical to any sunny day, you will see TONS of Glaswegians laying around or playing football in the park and likely with their shirts off. In terms of the People’s Palace, this is a free museum located in the center of the park and has a lovely set-up on the complex history of Glasgow and Scotland itself. While this is a free museum, it is highly recommended to donate £5 or more when you visit.
Obviously there are a lot of amazing things to see and do in Glasgow, so this list is just to gain a small insight and a local’s personal guide to the city. If you are interested in learning more about Glasgow, let me know what kind of stuff you want to know more about!
Travelling solo can already be a little nerve-racking, especially when doing it the first time, but it can be even more scary when you are an introvert. While you are excited to see a new place and have these new experiences, it can also be pretty nerve-racking and makes you second guess yourself. Once you arrive to your new destination you feel much better about your decision, but then you come to a new realization – I want to do these things but I feel unsure because I don’t have anyone to go with, now what do I do?
While you may see plenty of people travelling with their friends, that doesn’t mean there aren’t people travelling alone and also looking to meet other people. Most of the time, your best memories may be with someone you met on your travels. Now how to meet and make friends with a random traveler is the important part, and is outlined below.
6 Ways to Make Friends as an Introverted Solo Traveler:
1. Stay in a hostel: by staying at a hostel you will meet other likeminded people who are open to travel and adventures, whether that’s going to museums or hiking on a trail. Most hostels have activities during the week where you can meet other hostel goers and make friends! It can feel scary and nerve racking at first, but usually a friendly extrovert will come up to you and chat. Or if you see someone look nervous too then feel free to go up to them and start some small talk. You never know who you’ll meet on your travels if you don’t try to make yourself get out of your comfort zone.
2. Go on a free walking tour: This is probably one of the best ways to meet new people! Many solo travelers go on walking tours to get the feel of a new place and experience the culture. What is nice about the tours is that you can meet others who are from a bunch of different hostels that you otherwise may not have met. Once I went on a tour in Dublin when I was solo traveling, and I saw another girl sitting very isolated from the group and I debated for 10 minutes on whether to go up to her or not. Eventually I did introduce myself to her and we started chatting and exchanged numbers so we could hang out during our stay in the city. I’m so glad that I did end up going up and talking to her because I think that otherwise both of our trips may not have been as fun, and it eased both of us to meet another introverted person.
3. Sit in the communal area in your hostel: Several times I sat in the communal area in my hostel and met several people who I needed up having a blast with. My typical move is to sit and read a book at a table, and usually someone might come up to me and chat about the book or I might overhear some one speaking English and I would interject asking where they were from. Usually this has ended up with me grabbing a drink or two with some of my new friends at a local pub, and generally having a good time!
4. Join a Facebook travel group: Since I moved abroad, I found it a little difficult to make friends outside of my school program, especially since I can be very introverted and shy. One of my friends who also moved abroad (to Madrid, as mentioned in my previous post here) told me about Girl Gone International, which is primarily for women who are expats but have been used by women who enjoy travelling and travel a lot. The group also has “sub-groups” based in different major cities, like the Berlin GGI group. If that doesn’t interest you, then there are other groups from “Travel Bucket List” (both genders welcome), “Girls Who Travel”, and “Travel Meet Ups” (sub group of The Solo Female Traveler Network). These can be great resources to meet others (as an introvert or not!), or even to ask your main questions with some primary sources!
5. Go on a bus tour: Now I don’t mean going on those city bus tours that just drive you around a major city. I mean a tour that takes you out to another part of the country and exploring a different side of the country. On a bus tour from Dublin, I sat next to a girl from Quebec and we chatted a bit. I never would have thought to talk to my seat neighbor until she started the conversation with me and we casually talked for a bit. I discovered that she was traveling with a friend, but they decided that this day each of them would do their own thing as the friend had already visited the Cliffs of Moher before and didn’t want to see it again. Our conversations never lasted long as I believe that both of us were introverts and it was pretty early in the morning and both of us were pretty tired all day. While we didn’t exchange numbers or anything, it was nice to talk to someone for a bit so it didn’t feel so lonely.
6. Go on a bar/pub crawl: This may seem counter-intuitive as going to a bar alone is more or less a society faux pas, but if you can muster the courage to go to the bar crawl that your hostel is hosting or a part of, then you can meet so many people that are in the same situation as you! When I went to a pub crawl in Dublin when I traveled solo, I was really nervous that I wouldn’t meet anyone that I connected with or even find people who were there for the pub crawl. It was so nerve-racking showing up alone, not knowing anyone and not knowing who was part of the tour. It wasn’t until I started walking towards the bar when a group of friends went up to me and said “Wow going to a pub crawl alone, very ballsy!”. While this may not have been a big deal for an extrovert, it felt like this was the right move for me after hearing that. I am a bold, independent introvert, and just because I can be shy due to being introverted, does not mean that I can’t take risks and be strong.
These are just a few recommendations, and everyone is different so feel free to try one or two of these to see how comfortable you are. The main point is to try to push yourself out of your comfort zone and possibly make a few new friends, whether you’re an introvert or not. You may meet someone similar to you that you wouldn’t have gotten to know until you put yourself out there!
I found that whenever I traveled solo as an introvert, I tended to repeat the same behaviors each time. The more self reflection I did and when discussing with my other introverted traveler friends, I discovered that we had similar reactions. When I first started traveling solo, I had no idea how to speak to random people and start an engaging conversation. I’ve worked in retail before so I was comfortable in that setting and knew how to be a social butterfly then, but being in a completely different setting and trying to find ways to entertain myself was not my forte. Therefore, I decided to make a list of all the things that I have done that can help you feel more comfortable and make memorable experiences.
This is a simple list of things that any introvert can do to feel more comfortable on their trip and even to assist in meeting new friends!
***Some of the links in this posts are affiliate links. If you purchase from them, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Bring a (physical) book: There is something about having an actual book in your hands can feel so therapeutic. I personally recommend a physical book due to some travelers’ concerns about their electronics (phone, Kindle, etc.) being stolen while abroad, and the potential of damaging one’s eyes due to the screen light. Most likely there will be a bookstore or even a second-hand store that sell books – even English books if you’re in a non-English speaking country! These tend to be the most affordable option, especially if your hostel doesn’t have a book exchange area.
Listen to a Podcast: One of my favorite things to do while in a new location is to listen to my favorite podcast Missed in History‘s episode about said location. This worked out perfectly when I traveled to Dublin and went to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College while listening to an episode of the podcast by the same name. It provided a lot of context to the artifacts that were not fully discussed during the tour.
Do Something That Scares You: I know that everyone knows this and it has become cliche, but pushing yourself out of your comfort zone does not always mean going to the extreme like bungee jumping. It could simply be walking up to a stranger and striking a conversation may be enough or going to a restaurant on your own and having dinner by yourself (which I did during my trip in Switzerland and it was definitely nerve-racking, albeit worthwhile on expanding my comfort zone so I know its okay to do things on my own).
Talk to the Front Desk: No matter how much research you do on things to see and do in whichever place you are going to, you will likely not know where to find a great affordable cup of coffee but the hostel’s front desk workers might! They are there to help you enjoy their city and are happy to help you find the hidden secrets that only the locals know about. So to my introvert friends – take a deep breath and talk to the front desk!
Parks: There are practically parks everywhere in each city that I have been to during my travels. While in Madrid, I visited the Plaza de Oriente in front of the Palacio Real de Madrid where everyone, especially tourists, went to lay out in the sun and enjoy the beautiful weather. These places can be great ways to meet others, like when you hear others speaking your language or a language you know, then you have a reason to start a conversation with them. If chatting to strangers is not your thing, then parks can be nice places to relax and read that book you brought along!
Drinking: It will likely be common knowledge to some of you but new for others – be aware of how much you drink if you are going out with people you just met or on your own. This can simply be so you do not lose important items (phone, passport, money, etc.) or even get taken advantage of while intoxicated. I am not saying that you should not drink – alone or in a group, only to be careful when drinking with people you have recently met.
Find Group activities: I know this may sound counter-intuitive for Introverts, but joining an activity that includes solo travelers and pairs can make a new adventure feel less daunting (if this is their first time traveling alone and they are nervous) or to assist in meeting new people who are in the new boat. Personally, I like joining guided history tours like Sandeman’s New Europe Tours – especially because they are FREE.
Transportation: You would not believe how many times I have taken a bus or train and overheard someone speak English only to start chatting it up with them on where they are from or what they plan on seeing. For me, this was a way to begin feeling more comfortable to start conversations with strangers, and it especially felt more comforting to chat to someone who I knew I had something in common with. Similarly, when my dad lived in Germany and traveled around Europe, he would sit in the Coach section of the train to meet new people and at least hear some fun stories or chat with others. Some of his crazy stories started with meeting someone on the train and then doing an activity with them later on!
Museums: It is always a smart idea to research what museums are near where you will be visiting – if you are someone that enjoys museums, whether about art or history, then you likely already do this. I found out the hard way that not doing some prior research, I was in Zurich for a two days and was unaware that the FIFA Museum was there until two hours before I had to catch my train. As an avid soccer fan this was especially upsetting that I had not done any previous research and discovered information on the museum.
Google Maps: I’m sure many of you do this already, but download the map of the city you are visiting so you know where you are going at all times (especially if you only use WiFi). This can be additionally beneficial if someone comes up to you and asks for directions! I like doing this for when I wander around to get the vibe of a new city and explore great hidden shops, but do not know how to get back to my hostel.
Is there anything that you can think of that I may have missed? Or is there anything that you specifically do as an introvert to make new friends on your trips? I’d love to know more so feel free to leave a comment below!
During the summer I went to Dublin twice; the first time alone and the second time with my flatmate. The first time was great as I could experience a new city as I pleased, and really take my time exploring because I didn’t have to worry about entertaining a travel partner as well and trying to fill my day to the last second. One of my favorite things to do is get lost in a city and just explore the different side streets, or stop by a tourist shop and see the different tours and museums to visit. The second trip with my friend was also enjoyable as we got to experience and make so many memories together while in a (relatively) new place! We visited some museums that’s our mutual friends recommended and other new areas that we stumbled upon.
Before you start planning your trip to Dublin, you need to know that Ireland, and Dublin in particular, are EXPENSIVE! This is something that my friends had not warned me about and I really wish they had told me before I went. While I greatly enjoyed Ireland and its lovely people and even lovelier scenery, the cost to stay there was just astounding. I learned that the cost of a pint of beer increases steadily throughout the night, especially in Temple Bar (the area, not just the tourist-trap bar itself).
***Some of the links in this posts are affiliate links. If you purchase from them, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Museums, Tours and Sites to See
Book of Kells and Trinity College: If you visit Dublin you MUST visit Trinity College and see the Book of Kells! The price to see only the Book of Kells is €14, but for €15 there is an additional 30-minute tour of the campus which is really lovely. They offer this tour in 4 different languages; English, German, French and Italian. At the end of the tour you can stand in line to go into the Kells exhibit. The amount of time it takes to enter the exhibit depends on the time of day you go, but typically it is quicker from 12:30-2pm. There is a lot to see in the exhibit but if you don’t like to read a lot of signs then I recommend heading directly towards the Book of Kells. It is important to note that the Book of Kells is made up of 4 manuscripts, aka 4 separate books which comprise the Books of Kells. From what I could tell there were 2 manuscripts on the first floor of the exhibit, and one more on the second level which is also the old library! I definitely recommend staying for about 1-1.5 hours if possible. During summer time the exhibit does get very busy and congested, so try to plan accordingly and ensure to see the things you want to see in the building. There is a gift shop at the end which does have a book with all of the information mentioned in the exhibit that you can purchase.
EPIC Museum: The EPIC museum is by far my favorite museum that I have ever been to! It depicts the struggles and stories of Irish migrants through amazing technological imagery and interactive games. The exhibit itself flows similarly to an IKEA store, so you have to go through several rooms which tell a fascinating overall story. If you claim any Irish heritage then I highly recommend going to this museum (even if you don’t, it is really cool to see!). The tickets cost €16.50 Adults/€15 students and you can purchase tickets here. *Note: If you plan on going to other paying museums (e.g. Whiskey Museum), then you might want to purchase a package of both tickets to reduce the cost. This can be done at any Tourist store or with Sandeman’s during a tour.
National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology: I am a huge history nerd so when I found out that there was a history museum nearby, I made a beeline to it! What is nice about this museum is that it focuses primarily on the Neolithic up to the Medieval time period of Ireland, meaning that you can see what life was like in the early civilization era of Ireland to the more modern times that we associate with Ireland. If you are interested in Vikings and Medieval society, then this is the place to visit (Also, if you’re a fan of the Vikings series on History channel then you have to visit NMI). One thing that was really interesting and yet totally unnerving to see was the bog bodies. If you are very squeamish then I highly recommend NOT going into this area. The museum was FREE – which was perfect for my student budget – and is located next several other free museums if you are interested. More information about the museum can be found here.
Sandeman’s New Dublin Tour: I have taken several Sandeman’s tours before and I will swear by them until I get a bad tour (so far all have been great!). This tour company offers 2.5 – 3 hour walking tours around Dublin, and is FREE! Yes, you read right. Now the way that this program goes is that the tour is free, but the tour guide requests a tip at the end. You determine the tip amount based on how well you enjoyed it. I always go for €5/person if it is decent, and then max €10 if I thought the guide was GREAT! I went on this tour twice (once on both trips), and had Ciaran as my tour guide. He was great and so entertaining; I would definitely go on another tour with him. He was very resourceful in terms of the overall history of the city and where to eat or visit while you are in town. All in all, I highly recommend taking this tour and any of the other ones they offer. If you’re interested in this, you can register for a tour here.
Sandeman’s Dublin Pub Crawl: I know I just mentioned Sandeman’s but I have to also note their Pub Crawls. Unlike the walking tour, this is one that you do have to pay for. It costs €12 for a wristband, but you can use it every night that you are in Dublin for up to a year! The tour starts at 7:30pm at Bad Bobs and then takes you to three other bars and ending at a club. Each location has their own discount drinks for the tour and offers a free shot to the group. The first time I went was when I was solo traveling, meaning that I was really pushing myself out of the comfort zone as I had never gone to a bar alone not knowing anyone. I was extremely fortunate to meet two extroverts from California who made me feel comfortable and got to know as the night went on. Since they are so friendly, our group slowly increased with two girls from Brazil! The pub crawl was a great way for everyone to meet people from different countries and learn new things which I don’t think I would have been able to if I hadn’t taken that leap to try something new and out of my comfort zone. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, you can sign up here.
One of the best things to do in Dublin (let alone Ireland) if you are there for only a few days is to go on a day tour! This is one of the easiest (and funnest IMO) ways to see Ireland, as you can just sit on a bus and hear stories about Ireland’s history or their mythology until you reach your destination and can explore on your own.
Wild Rover – Cliffs of Moher: This tour was recommended to me by the hostel I was staying at, and they did not let me down. I really enjoyed the tour itself, along with the guide. He was amazing as he told stories about Ireland and the mythology that the people still skeptically believe. The tour started really early (I had to be there at 6:50am), but I didn’t feel bored or too tired as the guide kept the group entertained which was greatly appreciated. Besides the Cliffs, we also stopped at Galway which was so cool to see! I’m such a huge fan of Ed Sheeran’s Divide album, and especially the “Galway Girl” song. Of course, I had to stop by the pub O’Connell’s Bar where they filmed most of the music video and had a pint, which felt awkward for me since I went on the tour alone and so I was at the pub alone having a pint. The pub has a large beer garden that looked lovely, but was busy when I was there as it was sunny in Galway at the time. The stay at Galway was very short, about 1.5 hours max. It was nice to see the city as it was very colorful and charming. If you want to go on this tour, you can sign up here. It is €55 adult/€45 student.
Ireland Day Tours – Cliffs of Moher: My friend found this tour when we went to Dublin together. It also required getting up early at 6am and walking to the Molly Malone statue to meet with the tour company. The meeting point for this company was much closer to my hostel than the Wild Rover tour company, which I greatly appreciated (because I’m lazy and it was chilly lol). This was also a good tour, but I did prefer having a tour guide that was not the bus driver as they had with Wild Rover. The guide for this tour was good, but there were long silent periods of time where both my friend and I fell asleep. I really enjoy being constantly engaged with during a tour (if we’re not walking around) because I will get tired and will fall asleep. The guide did sing several lovely Irish folk songs that I think really encapsulates the Irish culture and their history. The nice thing about this tour was that they offered a stop at a restaurant. An issue arose when my friend looked at the menu and realized that only one item was within her price range since she was on a strict budget. If you are trying to stay within a budget then I DO NOT recommend this tour company. Honestly, this tour guide was almost identical with the other, but you can grab food at a McDonald’s or a local cafe in Galway if you get hungry or at a gas station whenever the bus stops during the other tour. The prices are roughly the same, €50 adult/€45 student. If this tour sounds interesting to you then you can book here.
Food and Drinks
As I learned from my tour guide while sightseeing Dublin, Temple Bar was an area of the city long before some capitalized on it by naming a bar by the same name. This is the most expensive area to eat or drink, so if you are looking to save money then do not go to this area.
That being said, I really enjoyed a food chain called Chopped that I found all over Dublin. It is a healthy chain that focuses on salads, wraps, and smoothies and they chop (no pun intended) your food in front of you. It was on the pricier side, but I’ve found that everything is expensive in Dublin but the food was pretty filling!
Another place that I enjoyed was WOK IN Noodle Bar, which has two locations in Dublin, and was the few places where I felt the food was very filling and affordable. They have a student discount so make sure you have your student ID card if you have one! Warning: their food can be fairly spicy so if you can’t handle heat then make sure you choose an alternative or go to a different restaurant.
Traditional Irish pubs are a dime a dozen in Dublin, but O’Neill’s Pub has the additional perk of having two floors with three areas to order a pint from. They typically have classic Irish folk music and Irish dancers perform from 9pm-11pm every night, so make sure to visit then as well! Their schedule is listed here. Also, the pub does offer lunch and dinner but if you are interested in trying traditional Irish dishes then I recommend going to a restaurant for it. I was not that impressed with their food offerings, and neither was the person I was with. So, I highly recommend going for the music and dancing, but avoid the food.
A girl that I met at my hostel invited me to go to a bar at the Arlington Hotel as she heard that they have good live music on Friday nights, and I can attest that the bands they have are pretty good! The price for a pint wasn’t too bad, compared to the prices to those in the Temple Bar area. There is plenty of space, but tables and seats do fill up quickly so I recommend getting there a little earlier – probably between 6pm to 7pm. Overall, I would come back here again to listen to music and have a pint with someone.
If you prefer the more casual and younger vibe then The Grand Social is perfect for you! Downstairs they offer multiple areas where you can it and chat with friends, but offer a beer garden upstairs. The way to the beer garden looks kinda sketchy (aka creepy af) as you have to turned right into a dark painted hallway until you reach the stairs going up, and then walk up about 2 flights of stairs until there is a door on the left to the garden. I was in Dublin during the summer so it was perfect when the sun was out and it wasn’t raining (that VERY rare occasion). It was a really cool spot and I would definitely try to go visit again and recommend to all my friends.
Lastly, let’s discuss where to stay. I typically use Hostel World to book all my stays, as hostels tend to be 3-4x cheaper than an Airbnb or hotel room in Dublin. I do recommend looking at individual hostels’ websites as well since the price may be lower through their website instead of booking through Hostel World, who include a service fee.
If you’re a female traveler, and especially traveling solo, I highly recommend booking an all-female room. Usually these rooms cost a little bit more, but are definitely worthwhile if you want to meet other female travelers like yourself. In one of the hostels I stayed at, I booked an 18-person room for a few nights to save some money but that was probably the worst thing I could have done. Majority of the time I was the only girl in the room with 10-15+ guys, and sometimes it felt uneasy. Overall, it wasn’t the most comfortable experience but I did feel relatively safe. So, if you’re traveling solo and are somewhat introverted like myself, then I recommend staying in an all-female room if possible.
I stayed at two hostels near the city center and Temple Bar area, Abigail’s Hostel and Ashfield Hostel. Out of either of them, I would recommend Ashfield Hostel a hundred times more than Abigail’s. When determining which hostel to stay at, make sure you read the bad reviews as well. This is important because if something goes wrong, you want to make sure the hostel you are staying at handles it appropriately and is helpful. I experienced two different issues during my stays at each hostel. I can honestly say that Ashfield Hostel handled my issue considerably and was very kind, while Abigail’s Hostel was more along the lines of a nightmare. The only nice thing I’ll say about Abigail’s is that the one woman who helped me was very kind and helpful, but the boys were the rudest and unaccommodating even though I made several complaints about the same issue arising.
While Ashfield Hostel was much better overall, there were still some issues. Depending on how sensitive you are to noise, I wouldn’t recommend Ashfield due to its location next to a club where you can hear the music at 2am and the drunk party-goers outside.
Comment below if you have some other recommendations that I didn’t mention! I’m always looking for new things to do and see 🙂