So You Want to Do St. Paddy’s in Dublin

From someone who did everything wrong, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of how everything can go to complete disaster if enough planning wasn’t done. There’s a fine line between spontaneous and dumb that I’ve become quite familiar with throughout my travels. So, for all my people out there that still want to experience being caught up in the spontaneity, this is how not to f*ck it up (because there are probably a lot more comprehensive articles out there).

temple bar st patrick's day dublin ireland

Tip #1: Book accommodation early

On a whim, I booked tickets from Santorini straight into Dublin just in time to celebrate a very local, little-known tradition called St. Paddy’s Day. These I booked before even taking a peek at accommodation prices because I foolishly thought a last-minute Couchsurf request would come through. It did not despite the tens of requests I sent out.

Surprise surprise, the hostel costs were astronomical. Prices that I never even imagined would grace hostels were plastered all over HostelWorld: 50€+ per night, per person, if there were even any beds available—with no cancellation policy. I grit my teeth and clicked, committing to shelling out 50€ for one night, knowing that I’d find some way to figure things out for the next two nights in Dublin.

Tip #2: Use any/all connections you have

There has to be another option, I thought. And then it came to me—a few moments after clicking that button. I met an American girl in Munich who was studying abroad in Dublin. She told me that I was welcome to visit her any time and we exchanged information.

Because I’d only known her for one night where we went to the Haufbrauhaus together, I was hesitant and skirted around a blunt asking of the question. She was non-committal in her answers and time was getting short. Finally, in the Dublin airport while I still had wi-fi, I came out and straight up asked. Is it possible for me to crash on your couch while I’m in Dublin? The hostels are all around 50€ a night! To which she responded: Yeah! Of course!! And you can come out with me and a few college friends who came to visit from the States! 

Done.

temple bar st patrick's day dublin ireland

Tip #3: Know and like your crowd

This is probably the most important one on there. I didn’t have many options because I just planned to be in Dublin on St. Paddy’s day. The girl invited me to hang out with her and her best friends that had flown over from the States and I agreed, happy to not have to wander the drunk streets alone. We later met up with a group of study abroad students that were all from the college my brother currently goes to! Immediately, I knew this wasn’t exactly my crowd because it seemed like they had made few local friends, instead hanging out with the kids that all came over together.

In retrospect, I should’ve been a bit choosier. A few international friends from Grenoble were also in Ireland the same time as me and it would’ve been far too easy to meet up with them instead. Knowing them, I would’ve had a riot. Instead, St. Paddy’s day ended with a punch to the face… literally.

If you’re traveling alone, no worries. Chances are, you’re either in a hostel (best case scenario for finding gem party friends) or with a Couchsurfer (second best case). If you’re in a hostel, where you find friends become clear: the hostel! But another place to find friends is the street; chances are most people are a bit more than tipsy and become more open to talking to strangers. If you’re with a Couchsurfer, your host has probably already done this quite often, but still likes to party if they’re hosting on this day. Follow them, if invited, and you’ll probably have an awesome experience.

It only gets a little more difficult to navigate if you don’t have keys to wherever you’re staying. Things get a little more confusing when you’re partying and you can get lost or separated. Don’t create scenarios where you have no idea where you are and have no way of getting back into your place.

Tip #4: Do at least SOME research

Because I was with someone who had been studying abroad in Dublin for about 3 months, I wasn’t too worried about finding the “hip” places to be on this day. Clue: Temple Bar area was full of internationals, but not so much a local presence. But this is where the typical St. Paddy’s celebrations take place.

If you don’t have a kind near-local to take you under their wing and show you around, then you need to do the usual amount of research you do when traveling in a new place.

Tip #5: Know where to stand for the parade

Obviously, there’s going to be a parade. The hard part is knowing where to stand so you can actually see something. We all gathered to where a lot of people were… only to find a 10-foot fence around the perimeter and a huge black tarp draped over it.

But also… know if you even want to watch the parade. To me, parades are very similar no matter what country you’re in: bright, tight flashy outfits, loud music, a strange reference thrown here and there, a local mascot. There you go! All the components to a parade.
temple bar st patrick's day dublin ireland

Tip #6: DO indulge in fish & chips

Especially after your night out, you’re going to want something battered and fried to stuff in your faces. This is something that you wouldn’t regret at all—bonus points for leaving some leftovers for your hungover ass the next morning. Don’t know where to find fish & chips? Luckily for you, I’ve heard the shop in the Temple Bar area is one of the best that Dublin has to offer.

Even the fast food place that we went to—yes, a fast food place specifically for fish & chips—offered some of the best I’ve ever had in my life.

Tip #7: Stay in town for a few days

You need to explore the real Dublin completely sober and without all of the crowds. I’m sure that the week before and after St. Paddy’s weekend have a higher amount of tourists there than usual, but at least you’ll get to know what the city looks like before taking off.

I could only manage to squeeze a morning in before taking off to Killarney to start the more scenic part of my trip, but I wish I could’ve stayed a few days longer to get to know the Dublin vibe a little more. But this is the complaint of every traveler: to have had more time in all the cities.

Was it worth it?

And now, the ultimate question: was St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin worth it? Yes and no. Despite my complaints and an allover ok trip, I’m quite happy I went. I was there for the vibe, the party atmosphere, for new experiences, and stories. And in Dublin, I found all of that and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

I think any special festival that takes place in a city is worth going to at least once in your life. Even though St. Patrick’s Day happens all over the world (mostly in the US frat scene), spending it in Dublin made it more special. As for the insane amount of tourists… you’re going to get that at any festival you go to regardless of how big it is. Even traveling through Europe during the summers, at the peak of tourist season, isn’t going to give you the local experience no matter how hard you try. I say embrace it and rage on!

What ultimately makes it worth it is tip #7. You have to stay in town for a few days so your only impression of Dublin isn’t the crazy international bar scene there. Take a free walking tour; eat in local pubs where actual locals go. This way, you’ll get the best of both worlds!

As for those that try to avoid any type of festival at all: don’t go.

What local/”local” festivals have you been to? Was it worth it?

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  • http://www.adifferentpieceofsky.com Sara

    These are great tips! Also, I read the “punched in the face” story and all I can say is wtf… I would be so mortified.
    When I went to Oktoberfest I barely saw the rest of Munich. I only had a set amount of time off from au pairing so aside from a bike tour I feel like I hardly saw the city outside the Oktoberfest grounds! Definitely still worth it but I do wish I had more time to explore the city.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha right? I stayed my distance once everything started happening…
      I missed out on Oktoberfest while abroad! Although I did go back later. It’s almost like two different cities! I bet it was so much fun.

  • http://www.californienne.com/ Marianne

    I bet St. Paddy’s day in Dublin was insane. I’ve read your “punched” story and omg. Totally shows that the people you’re with can make or break your experience!! It sucks when accomodation can be astronomically high in certain places. When I went to Cologne for Carnival last month, I originally thought I’d stay in a hostel, but prices were UPWARDS of 50 euros a night and that was just ridiculous. I ended up couchsurfing which ended up being pretty great.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahah it was!! Locals, internationals, students… just everywhere. No rules applied. Definitely—before I joined their group, I was worrying more about group dynamics and if I would be able to hang out with them without feeling a bit weird. Turns out it was the opposite!

      Was this the first time you tried couchsurfing?! How was that experience? Did you party with the host or did the host just do his/her own thing?

  • http://estrellaexplores.com/ Estrella

    I’ve read a lot of great things about Dublin, and I sounds like it was a blast (despite the setbacks) to experience St.Paddy’s day there.

    I went to a Half Moon party in Koh Phangan, Thailand. I’m not big on partying, but since I was there I figured it would be worth it to check it out. It wasn’t my scene at all: the crowd was crazy, lots of drugs and huge buckets of alcohol. What saved the night was that I was with two other girls that were fun to hang out with and we danced the night away.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Yeah, when it was going good, it was definitely a great experience!

      That’s the party that I wanted to hit up next! But I was also a bit hesitant because it sounds like the fratty spring break experience that I never had, haha. But the dancing part definitely sounds amazing. I love dancing, regardless of where I am! Sounds like you’re the same ;)

  • http://www.clemandmarcella.wordpress.com/ Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld

    Oh wowww, what an adventure. I wouldn’t think to have to book so far ahead. Having said that, when I went to Rio carnival I requested my CS host four months ahead and she had another five CSers staying with her too. Hostel prices were astronomical, they sure know how to make their money!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Me neither! But I guess I should’ve expected it…

      WHAT. FOUR MONTHS AHEAD AND THEY’RE ALREADY BOOKED?? That surprises me because I feel like Couchsurfers HATE when people ask that early. That’s why I didn’t! But apparently, you need to have prepared 5 months in advance??

      Hostels LIVE for moments like this, haha. That one week was probably enough to keep them going for another year!

      • http://www.clemandmarcella.wordpress.com/ Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld

        I know right. I think it’s known, amongst CS hosts, that for carnival you HAVE to contact hosts well before. I guess if the hosts know they are going to be there then they don’t mind. I’m soooo glad as my CS carnival experience was unforgettable!

        • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

          Yeah, apparently I didn’t read the memo ;) I’m glad that you had an amazing CS experience as well as an affordable experience at the carnival!

  • http://www.adventurings.com Cynthia

    Wow- this looks insane! After surviving two full days at Oktoberfest (like seriously, have no idea how I made it out alive), I think I’m totally good on the huuuge international party for a long time. (maybe I’m getting old?) I came to Oktoberfest with NO accommodations in mind and was able to bunk up (actually I had my own bed at a hotel if you can believe it) with a friend of a friend we met there…. my guy friends, however, slept in a park :/

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahah! From the stories my friends told me, I don’t know how you did it either! Agreed… recently my friend came over for SXSW, basically a huge festival in Austin for 1 week, 2 weekends, and we both agreed to be in bed by midnight, haha. Old.

      HAHAH. I think the guys get the brunt of things sometimes. People are less likely to welcome some girl into their home on a whim vs. a guy. But also, it would definitely be more risky for us to accept!

  • http://www.thriftygypsytravels.com Katrina Elisabet

    Wow, that sounds like quite a whirlwind adventure! You should do a St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin 2.0 next year. :) The best local festivals I’ve been to thus far were the Kinderzeche festival in Dinkelsbuehl, Germany (just wrote about it last week) and being in Stuttgart, Germany, when they won the 2014 World Cup. Although that’s not really a festival, you really can’t beat being in the country of the winning World Cup team. They go BONKERS! Raving in the streets, climbing light poles, setting off firecrackers in the streets (you’d think that’d be illegal in Europe by now, lol) – it was beyond awesome!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha will you be there? ;) Yeah, I read that! It looked so cute… and reminded me of the Civil War reenactments of the US, haha. OMG. That world cup victory must’ve been INSANE!! Knowing how the Germans and Europeans in general party in regards to a football match, I know taht must’ve been crazy.

  • http://prettythingandco.com/ Madaline

    Wow. I’m kind of at a loss for words! You are true traveler to just throw it all to the wind. I think that’s the best thing about travel – it’s both good and bad and you can never really sure what will happen no matter how much planning you put into it.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Aw, Madaline! Haha, that is the best compliment ever :) Yeah, it teaches you how to react to all these scenarios and it teaches you to trust your instincts when everything goes wrong :)

  • http://abbyroads.com/ Abby | abbyroads.com

    Well, worth it or not, the pictures speak a thousand words and memories :) I try to stay away from big events like that because I just cant handle the crowds and lines, but then I tend to regret missing out! Ive gotta learn to go with the flow a bit more. We recently ventured into the Sydney Mardi Gras parade, and while insanely busy, Ill never forget the sights – I am glad I went! Happy St Paddy’s Day!!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Exactly. I guess there’s no such thing as regretting a trip like this because you gain so much in memories :) Haha, I completely understand! I usually weigh how big the party is against how much I would regret not going, haha.

      I bet the Mardi Gras parade in Sydney was amazing!! I’m so happy you got to experience that! Now it’s my turn ;) Happy St. Paddy’s Day Abby! :)

      • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

        The longer I was on the road, the less sense I had :p hahaha. I know! Before that I had only great experiences with the people I hung out with and met on the road—this one clearly proved me wrong. Hehe, I’m starting to feel that way too. Currently hiding out, house-sitting for a friend while SXSW is happening. Mostly because I’m heading to SF tomorrow. But I think as we get older, we start to balance and know what would be good for ourselves :)

  • http://www.slightlyastray.com/ Anna | slightly astray

    Wow, you are crazy for just booking a flight at the last second for such a huge holiday! And wow, I read the story of what happened, and I am so mortified for you. I can’t believe how some people act. They really give Americans a bad name, huh. What whiny, entitled princesses! I’m sorry that ruined your experience! I don’t think I would go to Dublin for St. Patty’s. I’m getting boring in my old age and heavy drinking/party events are so not my scene anymore!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      The longer I was on the road, the less sense I had :p hahaha. I know! Before that I had only great experiences with the people I hung out with and met on the road—this one clearly proved me wrong. Hehe, I’m starting to feel that way too. Currently hiding out, house-sitting for a friend while SXSW is happening. Mostly because I’m heading to SF tomorrow. But I think as we get older, we start to balance and know what would be good for ourselves :))

  • http://www.crumbsinthebed.com/ Kerri

    Sometimes it’s best to just come out and ask people. I find that the other person is usually hesitant because they think you might ask but they don’t want to force you into the situation, and then you also think the same and no one gets a bed! But since they turned out to be such strange people, maybe it’s better not to ask in the end ;)

    I don’t really join in with many huge festivals and things, the crowds are always a bit too much for my liking. Although, just once, for the experience can’t be that bad!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Yeah, there’s no use it tip-toeing around it! And people are usually kind enough to accept when you risk wandering the streets, homeless!

      Haha yeah, I was glad to have done it so that I don’t have to do it ever again! Unless I have a group of my closest friends along :)

  • http://www.world-walk-about.com/ Andrea Sherrodd

    I went to Dublin for St. Patty’s Day several years ago and it was pretty much exactly how you described it — Temple Bar was full of foreigners, the Irish had basically run for the hills :) It was totally overhyped and not my scene…but overall, still kind of fun because now you can always have the story of going to Dublin for St. Patty’s Day :)

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha exactly! I feel like that’s how it is for all of the festivals, usually, but what better way to celebrate than being in the original country? :) Thanks Andrea!

  • http://www.fullofbeansandsausages.com/ Holly Hollyson

    Wow – the ultimate Irish experience I reckon! I would love to do this. I don’t like Guinness though!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha I didn’t drink ANY guinness while I was there—I’m not a fan of stouts or overly dark beer!

  • http://www.adelanteblog.com/ Courtney @ Adelante

    I know I say this every time, but you seriously have the best stories! I’m going to go read the “punched in the face” one right now :)

    It sounds like St. Patty’s in Dublin was a riot, but at least you left with some memorable experiences! As much as I hate crowds, I definitely think some festivals are worth dealing with the extra tourists.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahaha, thanks Courtney ;) That’s exactly what it was! (Or how anything ever goes for me) I would love going to Carnaval in Rio or the Full Moon Festival in Thailand… just once!

  • http://www.tothedayslikethis.com/ Sammy @ Days Like This

    I was in Dubs for St Paddys this year. We had a great time!!! We started in Cork though and hired a car and drove all around and I loved being out in the country more. I think with festivals, you just have to take them as they are… a lot of the time they won’t live up to your expectations, so you just need to drink all the wine and have as much fun as you can ;)

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      I wanted to badly to rent a car and drive throughout Ireland! But it would’ve been so expensive for a solo traveler. Agreed—any festival has the potential to flop like all New Years’ plans :p

  • http://www.twofeet-oneworld.com/ Jessi @2feet1world

    Great tips! I think I would like to do St Paddy’s in Ireland at some point, just for the experience :)

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      You should do it! Shit would happen, but it makes a good story :)

      • http://www.twofeet-oneworld.com/ Jessi @2feet1world

        You would know, story Queen ;)