by Sarah Donoghue

Travelling is seen as a rite of passage for college students, however, travelling on a budget is a lot less glamourous than the magazines would have you believe. Despite this, my cheap trips away have provided me with some of my favourite memories that are endlessly fun to reminisce about.  

In January 2023, fresh off the stress of exams and the haze of Christmas I booked a last-minute trip to Belfast with my friend and travel companion, Aifric. We set off early Monday morning, determined to get the most out of our night away from home. Our train from Conolly cost €16 each and took 2 hours. After a nap on the train, we arrived in Belfast to pouring rain and freezing temperatures. 

We headed straight for Victoria Square for a cheap lunch in Wagamama and to go to all the shops we don’t have down south. After not finishing her ramen, travel companion Aifric decided to ask the staff for a takeaway container. They handed her a plastic bowl with a lid which we due to the shape of the lid, had a tendency to collect rainwater as she carried it around.  After pottering around the shops, and periodically spilling rainwater everywhere, we made our way to the accommodation we had booked for the night.  

The 20-minute walk in the rain had us less than cheery when we arrived at Lwr Ormeau Guesthouse, however, we soon realised for £70 (€82) a night, this place was a steal. Our private room was basic, but spacious. It was equipped with all the basic amenities, Wi-Fi, a kettle, teabags, etc., as well as a TV; which I had never seen in such a cheap room. The bathroom was shared but it was exceptionally clean and modern. There was a kitchen which was fully stocked with cereals, bread and snacks by the owners, and we had complete access to. As well as that, included in the €41 it cost each was a breakfast at the café below the guesthouse.  

After we settled into our room, we made our plan for the evening. We cooked up a plan to head to the nearest Wetherspoons for dinner and drinks then head to the club Limelight. It was only a short walk to Wetherspoons, the rain had cleared up, and we had a renewed sense of confidence it would be a good night. Trying to save money, as soon as we sat down, we posted out location and table number on Instagram to see what free drinks we could score. This plan worked too well. Soon, far too much drink for two people showed up at our table. 

By the time we had finished our dinner we had barely made a dent in the countless number of pitchers sitting beside us. I became determined to finish all the drinks sent to us. This was the biggest mistake of the trip. I had only jugged half a pitcher when then nausea set in. I made a feeble attempt at persevering before we left. The realisation soon set in that we were both far too ill to go to a club. We walked home with our tails between our legs and tucked ourselves into bed at 9pm to spend the night watching Four in a Bed with very sore stomachs.   

We rolled out of bed at 11am the next day with a renewed sense of optimism. Before checking out, I stole a day’s worth of snacks from the kitchen, and we headed down to get our free brunch. The clientele of the café mainly consisted of over 65s, however, this did not stop the owner only playing Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion. We got a fry up and French toast, both were underwhelming and overshadowed by Super Freaky Girl playing around us.  

At brunch we encountered another problem. While planning our day we realised that this particular week, half of Belfast was closed. The Titanic quarter was shut down, W5 was closed, and it was still raining so everything outside was off limits. We found some rain-friendly activities and headed into the city centre.  

Our first stop of the day was a Game of Thrones themed escape room called GoT to Escape. Neither of us have watched Game of Thrones but it was cheap and in the centre of the city. I would highly recommend this escape room. We did a room called ‘the Assessment’ which was €25 (£20) each. It was enthralling and difficult but not too hard we didn’t have a fair shot at escaping. The Game Master was an extremely helpful Swedish man in a Game of Thrones Christmas jumper.  

After our valiant escape, we went to a local pub called the Morning Star for lunch. Unlike the escape room, I cannot say I would recommend this pub. I’m not entirely sure we didn’t enter another dimension when we walked in. There was a “pub buffet” with very dry roast ham, lasagne, chicken wings, vegetables boiled to mush, and much more. Along with the buffet, there was an entire table dedicated to ketchup and mayo, and a plate with four slices of bread so stale it could break a tooth. To add to the atmosphere, the huge pub was empty except of one woman standing in the middle of the pub yelling at the TV and the bar tender who never spoke, barely moved or made any facial expressions of any kind.  

After exiting the alternate realm of the Morning Star, we browsed the shops again before going to Lost City Adventure golf. 36 holes cost €13 (£11.50) for students. It was incredibly similar to Rainforest Adventure Golf in Dundrum just on steroids. It was huge, with two courses, holes spanning two floors and a restaurant/bar in the middle of it. We managed to draw both courses thus concluding our budget trip away.