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).
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!
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.
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?
Welcome to this week’s Travel Tuesday linkup with A Compass Rose!
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