Backpacking and student travel around Ireland

Nothing spells adventure like strapping on your backpack and setting out to explore a new country

So why would Ireland appeal to backpackers? Let us count the ways. For a start there’s our young population, with almost a third of the population under 25. Cities such as Dublin, Belfast, Derry-Londonderry, Cork and Galway are legendary for their nightlife, music, art and student culture. And getting around is easy, with great public transport infrastructure and specialist tours for intrepid adventurers.

You’ll find an excellent hostel network, with common rooms packed with travellers from all over the world. And did we mention the student discounts?

We’ll let student Julie from Oregon, who spent a summer in Ireland at the tender age of 21, explain:

“One delightful discovery is there are student discounts EVERYWHERE! I loved presenting my international student ID card at clothing stores, at some restaurants, and at bus or train ticket depots for discounts. It’s nice to have that small 10% (or more!) back in your pocket, because eventually that adds up to a nice night out.

Not to mention, most museums here are FREE for everyone! I definitely took advantage of the late-night openings on Thursdays and got a little arts and culture in between my socialising.”

What you need to know about backpacking and student travel around the island:


If you have a student card, bring it everywhere. It’ll give you discounts and special student rates on bus and train journeys. Bus Éireann and Irish Rail in the Republic of Ireland will both offer student rates with a valid student ID card. Translink in Northern Ireland offers savings on bus and rail if you purchase a Translink Student Discount Card, however, you must be on a full-time course or in full-time training in the UK to be eligible. 

The train network doesn’t quite cover the whole island, so if you’re planning to go off the beaten track use the buses. The Open Road bus pass allows unlimited travel on all Bus Éireann scheduled services. Remember that bus and train services on weekends and bank holidays will be less frequent. 

Dedicated backpacker tours are a great way of meeting other travellers, especially if you’re travelling solo. While Ireland is generally a safe place for visitors, hitchhiking is not recommended.


Youth hostels will be your best bet for accommodation, and you’ll find them all over the island. Staying in a dorm is generally the cheapest option but private rooms with shared bathrooms are usually available too. An Óige is the Irish Youth Hostel Association in the Republic of Ireland. Hostelling International Northern Ireland operates hostels across Northern Ireland as part of a global network.

Cities have plenty of hostels, but do book ahead in the peak summer season. Staying in university digs in the summer, such as Dublin’s Trinity College or Queen’s University in Belfast, gives a flavour of Ireland’s campus life and is great value.

Out of the cities and off the beaten track, B&Bs are plentiful and will always provide a warm Irish welcome.