How to Get Around Dublin on a Budget

Photo of Antoinette walking down a cobblestone street in Dublin, Ireland.

Before our trip to Dublin, Ireland, I read so much about people renting cars to traverse the Emerald Isle that I became a bit concerned. As someone who enjoys getting around a new city in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible, and given the number of people searching for car rentals, I wondered : Is Dublin easy to get around? Can I get around Dublin without a car? Thankfully, I did the research and we figured out what was best for our trip! So in today’s blog, I’m sharing how to get around Dublin on a budget!

In this blog, we’ll talk about how Dublin is laid out, the different public transportation methods available, and how to get from Dublin Airport to the City Center of Dublin. In addition, we’ll cover how to get around Dublin on a budget – tickets, prices, what you need to know, and so much more!

Layout of Dublin, Ireland 

Map of Ireland with Dublin marked with a red dot.
Dublin is located on the far east side of the Republic of Ireland.

Dublin is the capital and largest city in the Republic of Ireland, located on the east coast of the country. Roughly about the same size as Boston, Massachusetts, there are 11 Neighborhoods in Dublin. When looking at a Google map, the River Liffey flows through the center of Dublin dividing it in two.

So, is Dublin easy to get around? YES! Most major attractions in Dublin are sandwiched in and around the city center, like:

  • Dublin Castle;
  • Temple Bar;
  • St. Patrick’s cathedral;
  • The Guinness Storehouse; and 
  • Trinity College and the Book of Kells.

Compared to other major European cities, Dublin is relatively small but at the same time, it houses more than 40% of the country’s population! Despite the large concentration of people in such a small area, Dublin is still easy to get around. So let’s get into how to get around Dublin on a budget by looking at the different forms of public transportation available. 

Dublin’s Public Transportation Options

As you’re navigating Dublin, you’ll see many forms of public transportation bearing the green logo of Transport for Ireland (TFI). TFI oversees the delivery of public transport services across Ireland, which includes ALL the services I’m going to list in this section.

Dublin Bus operates 136 routes in the Greater Dublin Area. All buses are low-floor wheelchair accessible and wi-fi enabled. As a supplement to the regular Dublin bus, the Nitelink bus runs 12 routes every Friday and Saturday night from midnight to around 3 or 4 a.m.

Go-Ahead Ireland operates bus lines in the suburbs of Dublin, as well as some routes to Kildare.

Luas is Dublin’s tram service.

DART is a rail line that runs regularly from Malahide/Howth in North Dublin southwards through the city centre and as far as Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Iarnrod Eireann Irish Rail (pronounced EEE-RON ROAD AIR-RAN) is Ireland’s national train operator running city and commuter services in Dublin and Cork, as well as intercity services throughout Ireland.

Bus Eireann is Ireland’s national bus operator running through cities and towns throughout Ireland.

Now that you know the different forms of public transportation that will help you get around Dublin on a budget, now let’s get into the details.

How to Get Around Dublin on a Budget

Photo of people walking in a busy shopping pedestrian only zone in Dublin, Ireland.
Pedestrian friendly zones are quite common in Dublin!

Now that we know how Dublin is laid out and the different public transportation options, let’s take a practical look at how to get around Dublin on a budget. 

1. Walk

Is Dublin easy to get around by foot? YES, it is! Dublin is incredibly pedestrian-friendly and relatively flat, with certain streets closed for pedestrian traffic only. The city center has narrow lanes and plenty of pedestrian zones, which makes driving, and parking, a car difficult. Plus, renting and owning a car in Ireland can be rather expensive, so walking is an EXCELLENT and FREE way to get around Dublin on a budget.

Our hotel was centrally located right next to the River Liffey, so we easily walked 10 minutes to the famous Temple Bar area, and no more than 8-20 minutes from one location to the next. Dublin City is filled with walking people. So, if you are only staying in Dublin with no plans to go outside of the city, pick a centrally located hotel, grab your walking shoes, a coat, and enjoy the scenery – you won’t be alone!

Aside from walking, you can also…

2. Take Public Transportation to get around Dublin on a budget

Photo of a TFI Dublin Bus in Dublin, Ireland.
You’ll see the Dublin Busses everywhere in the city.

Public transportation in Dublin is plentiful, runs often, and is fairly reliable. Choose one of these options to give your feet a rest. 

Take the Dublin Bus

The Dublin Bus generally runs every 16 minutes, everyday, from 6am – 11:30pm. As mentioned before, there is also the Nitelink bus that will connect you to various stops between midnight and 3 or 4am. To identify the Nitelink bus service, all routes have an “n” after the bus number. There are 10 Nitelink bus routes that run 24-hours (including Routes 15, 39a, 41, C1, C2, C5, C6, G1, G2 and the N4). You will see busses zipping along everywhere, which is why it is a great way to get around Dublin on a budget.

Take the Luas Tram

The Luas operates two lines within Dublin – the Red Line and Green Line – Monday to Friday from 5:30am to 12:30am (midnight). On Saturdays, it runs from 6:30am to 12:30am. Finally, on Sundays and Public Holidays Luas operated from 7:00am to 11:00pm. Where does Luas stop within the city? Consult the map of Luas stops for specific routes. 

Prices for Public Transportation in Dublin

What makes Dublin a wonderful place to get around in a budget is the prices for public transportation are the same for Dublin Bus and Luas! There’s no need to figure out a different fare system or fumble with separate tickets. However, fares are based on age and distance.

Single Ride Fares

Single trips cost €1.30 for a short fare (2-3km or less), €2 for a long fare, and €2.40 for an Xpresso fare for adults. 

Older kids ages 6-18yrs must have their own card tickets/passes, but in Dublin there are 1/2 price discounts for young adults/students (ages 19-25) and children (5-18yrs) are often a mere €0.65! Kids under 5 years old are free with fare paying adult.

You can pay with cash on bus, but you must use EURO COINS ONLY, exact change! Drivers don’t accept euro notes and DO NOT give change! Not sure of how much to pay? Just tell the driver your destination and they will communicate how much the fare is.

TFI 90 Minute Fare

In Dublin, there is also the wonderful TFI 90 minute fare. This product offers reduced price fares if your entire trip (including transfers) is within a 90 minute window of first entry. €2 Adult, €1 Young Adult, €0.65 child. Since Dublin is east to navigate, leveraging the TFI 90 minute fare is one of the cheapest ways to get around Dublin on a budget.

Price Caps

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a price cap, let me help break it down. Price caps allow you to not overpay for transportation services by setting a maximum fare that you will pay for any given amount of time. Once you reach the price cap dollar “limit”, all subsequent rides are free until the price cap time period ends.

In Dublin, there are daily and weekly price caps starting from 4:30am Monday to 4:29am following Monday. The daily price cap for riding the bus or Luas tram is €5.60 for Adults, €2.80 students, and €2.10 for children. The weekly price cap is €22⁄€11/€6.80, respectively.

If you find yourself taking multiple forms of public transportation (Bus, Luas, DART, or Rail), the daily price caps are €8 adult, €4 young adult, and €2,80 child or €32/€16/€11.20, respectively, for the week. Price caps are not valid for Nitelink, Tours and Go-Ahead Ireland Commuter services.

Unlimited Rambler Pass

Finally, there is an unlimited pass! The Rambler pass offers unlimited travel for adults, students, and families at various price points.

  • Rambler 5 Day Adult = €26
  • Rambler 30 Day Adult = €132
  • Rambler 5 Day Student = €19
  • Rambler 30 Day Student = €96
  • Rambler 1 Day Family = €12

No matter which pass or ticket you choose, be sure to validate your tickets on entry for bus; and validate on entry AND exit for DART, train, and tram or face a €100 fine for not paying. All in all, the Rambler pass is a god way to get around Dublin on a budget if you’re staying for 5 days, have a family, and will take public transport often.

All About Dublin’s TFI Leap Card

Photo of the River Liffey at sunrise in Dublin, Ireland.
The River Liffey is beautiful at sunrise in Dublin.

If you’d rather not carry pockets full of change around the city, you can purchase a TFI Leap card, which is a reliable public transport fare card that can be used to pay for travel around Dublin on all TFI public transport services.

By definition, “all” services include: Dublin Bus, Go-Ahead Ireland, Luas, DART and commuter rail within the Dublin area “Short-Hop zone” in addition to all commuter & rural services operated by Bus Éireann,  the  TFI Local Link Louth Meath Fingal services in Dublin, and on selected commercial bus operators. Purchasing a Leap card for your trip saves 30% from cash fares, which is exactly how to get around Dublin on a budget

You can pay fares without worrying about cash by simply touching your card against a validator. On Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead Ireland, touch your card on the right side as you enter. If taking the Luas, touch on before getting on and off when getting off. For DART and Commuter Rail rides, touch on before your journey and off after. This applies within the Short Hop Zone.

There are two types of Leap cards available for visitors: the regular Leap Card and the Leap Visitors Card.

Regular LEAP Card

The regular LEAP card comes in many forms:

  • Adult (26+ years old)
  • Adult Personalized – includes a photo and is typically used for longer stays in the city greater than 30 days
  • Child (5-15 years old)
  • Child (16-18 year old)
  • Young Adult (19-25 years old)
  • Student (16-18 year old or 26+ who are full time students)

In addition to the standard €3-5 for the card and €5 mandatory minimum load balance (meaning you will pay at least €8 for a child card and €10 for an adult/young adult/student card), you can add money to your card to pay as you go or buy an unlimited pass to get around Dublin on a budget.

I recommend a regular LEAP card if you rarely plan to use public transportation or if you plan to stay in Ireland longer than a week and take public transportation often. Otherwise, you may get more value from the LEAP visitor pass.

LEAP Visitor Pass

The Leap Visitors Pass allows you to have unlimited travel on Dublin Bus, Go Ahead Ireland, Luas, DART and Commuter Rail in the Dublin area. That’s right, we LOVE a good unlimited pass that will help you to get around Dublin on a budget! There are three passes available based on the length of your trip:

  • 24 hrs = €8
  • 72 hrs = €16
  • 7 days = €32

To choose the right Leap card for your trip, I suggest mapping out your itinerary in google maps. If you find that you want to take public transportation often, consider a visitor pass for unlimited travel. If not, then a regular Leap card may be more suited for you (here’s looking at you, 90 minute fares and price caps!)

Where to Buy Leap Cards

Purchase online or at one of the leap card agents located on the TFI site. Some places may run out of cards, so if that happens to you find another station.

Dublin Airport

  • Wrights Airport Convenience Store (T1 Arrivals)
  • WH Smith (T1 Arrivals)
  • Spar Shop (Terminal 2)

If available, you can purchase Leap cards after security at T1 – WH Smith Convenience store by Ryanair checkin and boots beauty supply from 4am-9pm.  In T2, after security, purchase a card at the SPAR convenience store near the flight info screens from 6am-10pm.

Dublin City Center

Outside those hours you can also purchase leap cards in Dublin City Centre at any number of locations:

  • Dublin Bus, 59 Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin 1
  • Spar, 63 Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin 1
  • Mullins Newsagent, Unit 1B Heuston Station, Dublin 8
  • Spar, 50 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
  • Spar, 70/72 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
  • GPO, O’Connell Street, Dublin
  • Trinity College Dublin Student Union, 6 Trinity College, Dublin 2
  • Easons, Unit 2, Connolly Station, Dublin 1


In addition to in-person sales, you can order a Leap card online at least 14 days before your trip and have it mailed to your home before your trip! The Leap card is not valid until you use it, so this is a fabulous way for my advanced planners to save time on their trip. You can have the Leap card delivered in less than 14 days if you live in Ireland, the UK, or in Europe, but for the rest of the world (including the U.S.), shipping takes around 14 days. 

Finally, you can top up, or add funds to your Leap card balance online, at Irish Rail and Luas ticket machines, Leap agents, through the Leap Top Up app, and at Post Offices in Dublin.

3. Ride a Bike Around Dublin

NOW Dublin Bikes is a bike-share program that offers bike rentals throughout the city. Offered to locals and visitors 14 yrs and older, bikes are available from 5am – 12:30am everyday. No matter what time you rent a bike, they can be turned into a docking station 24/7. Consult the map of bike locations and stations to see availability.

The first 30 min of every ride is free, but thereafter you can pay €35 for an annual subscription. Not interested in a yearly pass? You can purchase a 1-day pass for €3.50 or 3-day pass for €5 using your Leap card. In the alternative, you can purchase passes online and download the app to use in the city.

For short trips during good weather, riding a bike is a great way to get around Dublin on a budget.

4. Take a Taxi in Dublin

Taxi’s are everywhere, aren’t they? There are an abundance of taxi’s in Dublin. The typical cost of a taxi, generally speaking, from Monday – Saturday starts at €3.80 with a MAX of €4.20 for an initial charge and €1.14-1.8/km or €0.46/minute thereafter. Prices increase based on distance or time.

In Dublin, premium rates are charged at night between 8pm-8am Monday-Saturday, all day Sundays, and on public holidays. premium rates are up to €4.80 for the initial charge and €2/km or €0.71/min. Extra charges may apply for additional passengers.

Overall, Taxi’s are the most expensive way to get around Dublin (other than renting a car). A single ride within the city center can cost between €8-15. Taxis accept credit cards and cash, always ask the driver before jumping in. To get a better idea of how much a taxi will cost for your trip, consult TFI’s Taxi Fare estimator.

Is there Uber in Dublin? Yes, but just like in Athens, Greece, Uber will only connect you with official taxi’s. More popular than Uber, I recommend using the FREENOW app to order taxi rides. Download it before your trip to have it ready to go!

How to Get from the Dublin Airport to the City Center of Dublin (and back)

Photo of a parked Dublin Express bus at Dublin Airport.
Zone 21 is where we found the Dublin Express from Dublin airport terminal T2.

There are many ways to get to (and from) the Dublin Airport to downtown Dublin. You can take an Express Coach bus, regular Dublin Bus, or taxi. One important thing to note is that each transportation method (bus, taxi, coach, car rental, etc.) is located in a particular zone at the airport (more on that later). The airport is about 9 miles or 30-45 minutes from the Airport, so let’s get into it!

Hire a Coach Service

There are number of coach bus services that will take you from the airport to the city center of Dublin and beyond from around €5-25 per adult with discounts for children and students. Aircoach and Dublin Express are the two major operators. Making a few stops in the city center and back to the airport, these express busses are comfortable, can fit larger pieces of luggage, and are incredible convenient.

I personally took the…

Dublin Express

The Dublin Express is a privately owned couch bus service that will quickly wish you from both Airport Terminals 1 & 2 to 16 different stops in the city center and Belfast. All buses have air conditioning, free wifi, and allow up to two, 40lb bags to store and one Cary-on to bring onboard. It’s comfortable, convenient, and fast – plus there is a place to store luggage underneath the coach and smaller items above your head. Dublin Express buses run from around 2:00am-12:30am (a little past midnight), which was great for our early morning flight that dropped us off around 4:30am!

Photo of three red seats on the Dublin Express airport coach.
The seats on the Dublin Express are comfortable.

Buses 782, 783, and 784 run between Dublin airport terminals 1 & 2 and the city center. Located in Zone 21 of the airport, The bus runs every 10-15 minutes and the total trip to the city center takes around 30-35 minutes. The Dublin Express Bus even makes return trips from the city center to the airport in around 45 mins. Bus 785 runs to/from Belfast and the airport, but in this blog we will only focus on getting to/from Dublin to the city center.

The cost for tickets from the Airport to the city center of Dublin is €8/per person one-way or €10/pp round trip for Adults ages 16+. Infants 0-2yrs old are free when accompanied by an adult with a ticket, but if you have more infants than adults you will need to purchase a child’s ticket for the remaining infants. Children ages 3-15yrs are €2.50 one-way and €3.50 round trip. If purchased same day price increases by €0.50.

Where to buy Dublin Express tickets

Purchase Dublin Express tickets in person from 8am-9pm at T2 and 7am-11pm at T1. You can also purchase tickets from the bus driver pending availability.

Next, you can purchase tickets online. Once on the website, pick a time slot, enter your starting and ending point, and number of passengers. I used google maps to tell me the closest stop, but you can also consult the hotel list on the website to find the stop closes to your hotel.

If purchasing tickets online in advance, your ticket is valid for the time slot you select and 12hrs before and after your time slot to accommodate late schedules. For example, if you purchase a 1pm ticket, you can ride the bus as early as 1am earlier that morning or 1am the next day on standby.

If purchasing online, the system accepts apple or Google pay, debit, and credit cards. Cash on the bus is NOT accepted. The good news? Changes and cancellations are accepted no later than 24hrs before departure. Once purchased, you will receive an email with a QR code PDF & digital card (ie- Apple wallet). There is no need to print a physical ticket, woohoo!

What did we do? Since we arrived to the stop around 5am, I purchased round trip tickets on my phone after we passed through immigration. It cost us mere €10/pp, so €20 round trip for both of us!

How to take a Coach Bus from Dublin Airport Terminals T1 & T2

After immigration, follow direction of signs that point to “Buses” past customs. Walk straight through to follow signs. There is a bus timetable showing when the next bus will leave. 

Turn left or right (depending on which bus you take). We took Dublin Express and turned left down escalator stairs. Stop 21 is Dublin Express and it arrived on time. If the bus number is not displayed on the bus, simply ask the driver which bus number it is. There is also a map with hotels on signage outside of the stop- find your hotel and it shows which bus you should take. 

From T1, walk out the sliding glass doors, turn left. Follow the Blue Dublin Express signs. 

When taking the Coach busses, all luggage is stored underneath. There is a baggage allotment on your ticket. One thing to note is the busses make stops at the “Quays”, which are centrally located areas in Dublin. On my trip, I learned that “Quay” is pronounced “Key”, not “Qway”. If riding the coach busses, don’t get confused while waiting to hear “Qway” instead of “Key”. Onboard, the bus driver will yell each stop out loud – don’t fall asleep and don’t miss your stop due to pronunciation!

Other Alternatives to get from the Dublin Airport to City Center

Dublin Bus from the Airport to the City Center

Dublin Bus no. 16 makes multiple stops from the Dublin Airport to O’Connell Street in the centre of Dublin (Coming from T1).

Likewise, Dublin Bus no. 41 will take you from the Dublin Airport to from T1 to Lower Abbey Street, right on the River Liffey. Other city center stops throughout Dublin include: Parnell Square, O’Connel Street, The Quays, Trinity College, Dame Street, Nassau St., and St. Stephen’s.

Both the 16 and 41 buses operate from Zone 15 and are wheelchair accessible with onboard ramps. The 16 bus operates from 6:00am to 11:30pm Monday to Saturday and from 8:00am to 11:30pm on Sundays, while the 41 bus runs 24/7, including weekends.

Remember, these are city buses and may have limited capacity to carry luggage, but it is an affordable way to get from the Dublin Airport to city center in about 40 minutes (pending traffic). The cost for a single ride on the Dublin Bus is just €2/adult. Seriously, €2 is how you get around Dublin on a budget to/from the Airport! Just like I mentioned before, if you’re going to take the Dublin bus you must pay with EXACT CHANGE, coins ONLY or LEAP card

Taxi from Dublin Airport to the City Center

Taxi’s are an option, too! From the Dublin airport, they cost around €25-30. Prices depend on traffic, number of passengers, and time of pickup. Taxis are easy to find and are located in Terminal 1, Zone 3 or Terminal 2, Zone 20.

Helpful Information to Share

Which airport terminal will my international flight arrive in Dublin?

I arrived in T2 after Are Lingus flight from U.S. However, both terminals have international flights. Aer Lingus, Emirates,  American and United use T2. T1 is everybody else including Ryanair and British airways.

What About renting a car? Do you need a car in Dublin as a tourist? Should I rent a Car in Dublin?

Car rentals are available, with the most convenient options at the Airport. The minimum age is 21yrs old, but most rental agencies require you to be older than 23-25 years old (more like 25+) and younger than 75 years old to rent a car without any extra fees or restrictions. Insurance can be a nightmare to deal with, but if it’s something you want to do to explore the country, go for it!

If you plan to only stay in Dublin I don’t recommend renting a car. Dublin is a walkable city and parking is difficult. If you plan to take a trip outside of Dublin, go for it! We spent our time walking in the city You can walk the major sites in about 45 min or less! For a day trip, we avoided the logistical hassle and booked a tour to the Cliffs of Moher and Gallway. 

I didn’t personally rent a car, but I’ll link a really helpful guide from The Irish Road Trip blog that breaks down what you need to know before renting a car in Ireland.

Do you go through U.S. Customs in Ireland? What is “U.S. Customs pre clearance?”

When traveling back through to the U.S., you will go through U.S. customs and border parol IN DUBLIN! When you arrive in the U.S., you don’t have to stop through customs again – just get off the plane like you normally wold a domestic flight. Saves time and is convenient, but you will go through two security screenings – one for Ireland and another for the U.S., so allow extra time when returning to the airport – at least 2-3 hours before your flight.

Whether you choose to ride a coach bus, Dublin Bus, taxi, or rent a car – here’s a helpful map of the where to locate each transportation stop at the Airport.

This blog is by no means exhaustive, so if you know of great ways to get around Dublin on a budget or want to share your experience navigating the city (walking, bus, tram, taxi, driving) share in the comments below!

You can watch us navigate the city, see the major sites, visit the Cliffs of Moher, and eat all the Irish food in my Dublin vlog , but if you have any questions let me know in the comments below!

Antoinette | Frolic & Courage

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