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Exploring the Beauty of Ireland as an International Student

Belfast's proximity to popular Irish cities allows students to plan day trips and weekends away, jam-packed with plenty of scenic hot spots and historical points of interest. Postgraduate student Sami Koitz details a recent trip to Galway and Dublin.

Kylemore Abbey

As an international student, I knew that I wanted to experience as many countries, cultures, and opportunities as possible. Luckily for me, Ireland has a wealth of different cities that I’ve been able to visit during my time abroad. Read on to find out how I spent the past couple of weekends exploring the Republic of Ireland as I visited Galway and Dublin!

Galway river

Galway, Ireland

How to get from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have an open border which makes it surprisingly easy to travel. There are a few different bus services that leave/return to Belfast and go to Dublin. I’ve used Translink, but I tend to use Aircoach since they have a student discount and point system for booking online which allows you to qualify for free tickets. Each ticket costs between 10-15 euros depending on how far you book ahead and if it is a popular time to travel.  With Aircoach, I’ve been able to get to and from Dublin since they offer a range of bus services throughout the Republic.

Galway landscape

Day Trip to Galway, Ireland

Why did I decide to go to Dublin and Galway?

I have classes and work on Monday – Thursday which leaves me with Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to explore. A friend from home visited me in Belfast and wanted to go to Dublin. A friend from my programme and I decided to go to Galway since neither of us had been there. We bussed to both places which took a couple of hours for Dublin and around half a day for Galway. Travelling Friday morning and leaving Sunday afternoon gave us a full two days to explore.

Front of GPO Museum, Dublin

GPO Museum, Dublin

Where did we stay?

We had decided to stay in hostels in both Dublin and Galway. Although I’ve stayed in a variety of accommodations, from hotel rooms to Airbnbs, I have found that hostels are the least expensive option.  I was able to stay for about 40-50 euros a night at both locations in a shared female dorm.

When staying in a hostel, I recommend using HostelWorld or to help choose the accommodation that is best for you. I also recommend reading reviews from travellers who share their insights about the accommodation such as prices for extra amenities (sleep masks, ear plugs, adapters, etc.) as well as what’s included (such as breakfast or drapery for privacy). 

What did we do? Did we book it ahead of time or in the moment?

It depends! I like doing some research beforehand to have an idea of what to do, but it’s also fun not to have everything booked and to truly explore.

In Dublin, I used Go City which is a bundled deal where you pay a set price for dozens of accommodations around the city. That was perfect for my friend and I, as everything we wanted to do was included in the pass and buying the pass cost us less money than buying individual tickets.

The Go City four day pass included: the Guinness Storehouse, the hop-on hop-off tour, the Game of Thrones Studio Tour, the Christ Church Cathedral, the GPO Museum, the National Wax Museum, and the Dublin Castle. The retail price for all of these attractions is 155.43 euros, yet my friend and I were able to see it all (in addition to having access to tons of other attractions) for 109 euros.  

Entrance to Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

In Galway, my friend and I utilised Friday and Sunday to explore the city and on Saturday we signed up for a day trip to Connemara & Kylemore Abbey. This gave us time to explore the different quarters as we found fun things to do (such as riding a sightseeing train around the streets) and we still had a day of structured activities.

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey, Galway

What did we pack?

For both trips, I took a small bag (think school backpack). I find that this is the perfect size since it is easy to carry around the city before/after checked in accommodation, yet it has enough room to carry all belongings for the weekend. I recommend packing light since you never know when you might need to carry your bag around! Even so, there are many hostels that will allow you to leave your bags for a small fee.

Any advice?

Go out and enjoy it! The Republic of Ireland is a beautiful place. Being an international student, I don’t know the next time I’ll visit these places, so go out and enjoy them when you can!

Galway landscape with rainbow

Galway, Ireland

My one big piece of advice is to bring an umbrella and rain jacket along. It does get really rainy throughout all of Ireland and I wish I had remembered to take my rain jacket out of my school bag to put it in my travel bag!

Would I do it again?

Yes! Both Galway and Dublin were beautiful cities that were vastly different from each other. While Dublin is a large city, Galway is a smaller sea-side town. I can’t wait to go back to both cities (hopefully when it’s a little bit warmer) to explore further!

Dublin bridge at night time

Bridge over River Liffey, Dublin

Find out more

International Students: Studying at Queen's

USA Admissions Information

Also from Sami: Sightseeing Tour of Belfast


Sami Koitz

Conflict Transformation & Social Justice | Postgraduate Student | Maryland USA

I've always been interested in the Middle East, specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and non-profits that work towards building bridges between divided societies.

I am from Maryland, USA (about a nine-hour flight from Queens) and graduated in 2022 from Susquehanna University with a double major in Communication Studies & International Studies.

Outside of academics, I am a member of the equestrian team, Jewish Society, and wakeboarding club. I love meeting new people and I look forward to chatting with you.

Sami Koitz