In my first “Travel on Minimum Wage” experiment, I successfully cruised around Sweden and surrounding countries for well under minimum wage. I asserted that it was possible to do the same thing in other “expensive” countries as well, such as Ireland, and a couple weeks ago I set out to prove it.
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You might say I failed miserably. I would say, instead, that I showed that it was possible by discovering all the mistakes along the way.
The plan was to rent a car with some friends and drive around Ireland. In fact, the plan was a sound one. Renting a car is not cheap, but when split between several people it becomes manageable. Cars rental costs vary a lot, but it is entirely possible to find a car that will hold 4 people comfortably (without too much luggage) for 30 EUR / day. B&Bs in Ireland also range a bit, but there are lots of them (lots and lots), so it is not hard to find one that will fit 2 people per room (king bed) for 25 EUR / night. This means that the “base cost” per-person should be 20 EUR / day (assuming 4 people).
Of course, there is gas and food to consider. During my 9-day trip I filled the tank twice at about 70 EUR per tank, which works out to an added cost of 35 EUR per person, or 4 EUR / day. There’s no need for cell phones or public transit when your whole group is sharing a car, and in my experience if you’re paying for a B&B you do not need to pay for parking as well (they usually have spots).
This leaves only food, which of course varies upon the person and his/her tastes. A decent full meal at a restaurant will run 15-30 EUR easily, but I tend to prefer my own food. I carried my groceries with me in the car and, on average, ate for about 6 EUR / day. Then again, even though I have simple tastes, a restaurant can be nice from time to time – so let’s call it 12 EUR / day instead.
This bring our grand total to 36 EUR / day, or $51 USD… which is well under minimum wage. The only thing that this price tag does not include is actually getting to Ireland, but assuming you used the tricks from last time it should not be an issue.
For this price, four friends could travel the country for 1-2 weeks and live quite well – staying at quaint little out-of-the-way bed & breakfasts and eating at a good restaurant every other day or so (or a cheaper restaurant every day). If you start adding on bar tabs and other luxuries the price would grow quickly, of course, but those are far from necessary.
Where It Went Wrong
My friends were busy and could not join me for the grand Irish adventure, so I footed the bill for the car and gas myself. I could have simply waited for a more opportune time, but I had been looking forward to this trip and would not have the chance to do it for some time (I was headed back to the Americas, and I had already bought my ticket out of Dublin).
That was just the start, though. The car was mislabeled as a diesel engine (when, in fact, it accepted gas/petrol). After the gas station mishap, it ended costing me 250 EUR to drain and fix the car, plus a fresh tank of gas. Then I got clamped in Cork and had to pay another 80 EUR to free the car (this one was my fault, though in my defense, the signs indicating the parking rules were so far away as to not even be visible from where I parked – and many others were parked there, too).
Ouch. To counter-weigh these costs, I ended up sleeping in the car all but a couple of the nights. I ate even more cheaply than usual and cut back on luxuries, but still ended up paying far more than I had intended to.
Putting It in Perspective
I’m still glad I did this trip. At no time was I despairing. Granted, I owe this to the fact that I am able to work and travel at the same time, so while I did not enjoy these financial set-backs they did not destroy me either.
As ever, I learned to be prepared for the worst while traveling – and to still enjoy myself, regardless. I’ll leave you with some more of my photos from the trip – which are still unedited! I’ve barely even begun to work my way through the hundreds I took along the way.