I just returned home from my first solo trip late Sunday night. It’ll take me a bit of time to sort through pictures but I wanted to give you all a quick recap of my trip. It’s definitely one to remember!
I did a few planning posts earlier this year if you want to check them out, but I’ll refer to them again in my upcoming posts.
I was in London, England March 11 to 14, Northern Ireland March 15 and Dublin, Ireland March 16 to 18 (to celebrate my birthday and St. Patrick’s Day).
I stayed in hostels in each place I visited:
- Smart Russell Square Hostel in London, England. The location was north from Central London but not too far. Breakfast (toast, cereal and tea/coffee/juice) was provided in the morning and each bed had their own outlet which was super handy. The bathrooms were teeny tiny and the rooms were cramped but for sleeping it was just fine. The common room was more of a dining room area with tables/benches.
- Global Village in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I drove from Dublin to Belfast late March 14 and the hostel was very easy to find with free street parking overnight. The staff were super friendly, the shower was perfectly hot and the atmosphere of the hostel was very friendly. They had guitars in the common area, TV with netflix, a beer pong table with house rules written on the wall and a huge kitchen/patio. I would definitely stay here again. Breakfast (toast, cereal and tea/coffee/juice) was also provided in the morning and the rooms were large and my bed was comfortable. No outlet for each bed.
- Abigail’s Hostel in Dublin, Ireland. Excellent location right by Temple Bar (the bar district) which is central in Dublin. Breakfast (toast, boiled eggs, cereal, yogurt, tea/coffee/juine) was provided every morning and each bed had their own chargers. Hot water wasn’t very hot but the rooms were spacious. Common room had tables/chairs for dining, couches and a TV (which I didn’t use).
- I walked everywhere so I can’t give much information on public transit. I didn’t even take the underground in London.
- I flew to Europe with WOW air. They boast super cheap flights but watch out for the hidden costs! One personal item is included in airfare, a large carry-on was $60+tax, a checked bag was over $80+tax. When you check in, they make you check that the paid carry-on fits in their size checker and they will give you colour-coded tags for each bag. No complimentary drinks/snacks were available on flight (I really wanted water on the way home but wasn’t paying $2.99 US) and iPads are available for sale for entertainment ($14.99 US). They do one boarding call for the entire flight and in Keflavik I took a bus from the airport to the plane each time. They were very efficient and friendly and I would fly with them again.
- I flew from London to Dublin with Ryanair. They post gate information about 20-30 minutes before boarding so just be sure to watch for that information. Very efficient check-in process for my first time. They were on time for 90% of their flights in 2016!
- I rented a car with Europcar from the Dublin airport. They don’t advertise that there’s an extra fee (€30) if you drive into Northern Ireland, so here’s me telling you! I booked online, so when I got to the airport a shuttle picked me up and took me to the rental office to pick up the car. Very quick and efficient (do you see a theme?). No issues returning the car to Dublin City Centre either. Staff at every location were very friendly and super helpful.
- I used National Express to get to/from Gatwick to Victoria Station in London. Very convenient as they shuttle every hour during the day. When booking, account for traffic! We were about 30 minutes late when I went into London and about 15 minutes late going back to the airport due to traffic along the route. The seats were roomy and I slept pretty much the whole way on both rides.
- I took Air Coach from Dublin to the airport. Also convenient with multiple routes throughout the day. Although I had booked online for a pick-up at 8 AM, I was able to get on a bus at 7:45 AM, that’s how often they run! It was only about a 45 minute bus ride from the bus stop (closest to my hostel) to the airport. The bus driver was so nice which is always a plus!
Alright, with all the boring (but useful) stuff out of the way, here’s the fun stuff!
Everyone says it’s expensive, but only if you pay for all the top tourist attractions. The hostel I stayed at was cheap and all the museums are free/by donation (with a fee for the special exhibitions only). There is so much history in the city you can NOT get bored. If you do want to do any of the attractions, I suggest the London Pass and to go early in the morning to avoid long lines. When I passed by in the afternoons, the lines were so long for places like Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. I personally walked everywhere but the Underground and bus system seems like a fantastic way to get around the City. My favourite places I went to were the British Library (Sir John Ritblat Exhibit), Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross station and the Wallace Collection.
Of course Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey provided excellent photo opportunities for the blog.
Other notable mentions are the Crypt Museum at All Hallows by the Tower Church, Southwark Cathedral and St Dunstan in the East ruins. I recommend looking up opening hours for many of the museums/galleries as some are closed Sundays/Mondays or closed early during the winter seasons.
I stopped at the Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Belfast. I 100% recommend paying for Giant’s Causeway for the audio guide and the Paddy Campbell’s Black Taxi Tour in Belfast. They were both worth it and were an amazing way to see two different sides to Northern Ireland. Sadly, I missed the Titanic Museum in Belfast and didn’t get to do a free tour of City Hall.
As is to be expected, Dublin around St. Patrick’s Day was busy but worth it. There’s actually a festival surrounding the holiday that a lot of people I talked to didn’t realize was happening. There are events around the city between March 16 to 19 and well worth looking into. I got to catch the Festival Ceili (March 16), Parade (March 17), a walking tour (March 17) and enjoying live music on Temple Bar (which is the name of a street as well as the name of a bar). I found many of the attractions in Dublin were available at a cost so by the end of the trip I had some leftover cash and made it into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Little Museum of Dublin. The National Gallery was free, which I also recommend checking out! My personal favourites were Marsh’s Library and Dublin Castle.
I also visited the Guinness Storehouse (it really does taste better in Ireland) and enjoyed the Green Door Market with local vendors. A must-see if you’re there on a Saturday!
And that’s a (quick, very condensed) wrap! Stay tuned for more details on each part of my trip. I have a lot to write about and can’t wait to share it all!