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Living in Ireland - A Guide for Students

by Mark Bennett

Having been a centre of learning and academic exchange since the middle ages, universities in the Republic of Ireland are ready to say 'fáilte roimh' ('welcome!') to international students - and the country has much to offer them as a postgraduate home away from home.

On this page you can read all about living in Ireland whilst studying a Masters degree, including advice on finding accommodation, looking for part-time work and budgeting for living costs.

For advice on the Irish university system and the requirements for studying in the country, see our separate guide. Or, if you'd prefer to begin browsing postgraduate courses in Ireland, you can use our course search.

Key facts for Masters students in Ireland

  • The academic year in Ireland usually runs from September to May.
  • Irish Masters degrees usually last for one or two years.
  • Around 11,000 international students study at Irish universities.
  • The official language of the Republic of Ireland is Irish, but English is the dominant language and the first language for most of the population.
  • The Irish for a Masters degree is 'céim mháistreachta'.
  • The currency of the Republic of Ireland is the Euro (€).
  • The Republic of Ireland has a population of around 4.5 million.
  • The Irish capital is Dublin.
  • Other significant university cities in Ireland include Cork, Galway and Limerick.
  • The country is governed as a democratic republic, with an elected presidential head of state appointing a Taoiseach (prime minister) as head of government based on a parliamentary majority.
  • Roman Catholicism is the most popular religion, but freedom for all faiths is constitutionally guaranteed.

What’s it like to study abroad in Ireland?

Whatever your interests, you'll have find plenty to see and do whilst studying abroad on 'the emerald isle'. Ireland's landscapes include serene loughs and stunning mountain ranges, with famous natural landmarks such as the Giant's Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher.

Students attracted by the country's cultural history will also find plenty to enjoy, with renowned Irish writers, thinkers and artists including Seamus Heaney, George Berkely and Maeve Binchy, as well as globally famous performers such as Enya, Sinéad O'Connor and U2.

Of course Ireland is also famous for some of its other exports and, as a Masters student in the country, you'll be welcome to unwind from a hard day's study with an authentic pint of 'the black stuff'!

Irish culture and student life

Irish culture is a rich mixture of Gaelic heritage and Anglo-Norman influences from the rest of the British Isles. The country has also attracted visitors from further afield, many of whom have left their own marks; believe it or not, the city of Dublin was originally settled by Vikings! (So, if you ever run out of ideas for a St Patrick's day costume. . .)

Ireland has also had an impact of its own overseas. In the Middle Ages Irish monasteries remained as centres of learning following the retreat of the Roman Empire, and their monks and missionaries played a key role in re-establishing important traditions of scholarship elsewhere in Europe.

Of course, Irish customs and celebrations are now well known around the globe, but, as a Masters student in Ireland you'll have a chance to see many of these in their authentic form.

A wide variety of Irish folk music is popular across the country, and music and dancing are a regular part of the entertainment in more traditional pubs.

Festivals such as St Patrick 's Day are also celebrated on a unique scale - the customary parade in Dublin will be far more impressive than anything you witnessed in student bars during your undergraduate degree!

Food and drink

It's fair to say that Ireland suffers from a few stereotypes when it comes to cuisine. However, if you travel to the country expecting to eat bland fare, based largely on potatoes, then your time studying abroad will be an educational experience in more ways than one!

Popular Irish dishes range from hearty stews based on various meats and vegetables, to a range of different breads such as soda breads (arán sóide) doughy breakfast rolls (blaa) or toasted raisin and sultana barmbrack (bairín breac).

In common with other parts of the British Isles, Ireland also offers its own take on the cooked breakfast, with white pudding and some of the aforementioned breads featuring alongside more familiar components.

One version, the 'ulster fry' is particularly renowned, accompanying a range of fried meats and vegetables with soda bread and potato farls that, as the name suggests, are also fried. Regular consumption of this dish probably isn't to be advised, but it might make an excellent occasional weekend treat after a hard night studying.

Ireland's most famous drink requires little introduction, but, if you're not a fan of Guinness you needn't worry; the country is also renowned for a range of whiskeys and liqueurs. These days Ireland even makes a small amount of wine!

Accommodation for Masters students in Ireland

You'll usually be studying on a Masters program in Ireland for between one and two years, so some form of long-term accommodation will be necessary.

University halls of residence

Universities will have their own student housing and dormitories and these will usually be available to postgraduates (some may even be reserved to assist international students with finding a place to live).

Prices will vary along with the facilities on offer:

  • A basic room in a university hall of residence will probably cost between €3,500 and €4,500 per year.
  • Accommodation with en suite utilities and facilities will probably cost more - perhaps between €5,000 and €6,000 per year - depending on what is included along with your room.

Of course prices will vary between individual universities and some will offer a wider range of options. You should investigate what is available at your prospective university - most will have lots of information available on their websites and will be happy to help you with any enquiries by email.

Private student accommodation

Private rental options are readily available in Ireland. Popular university cities such as Dublin and Cork are well served with landlords offering student flats or shared houses.

Prices for these will vary extensively depending on facilities and location, and it's difficult to give an accurate cost.

As a very rough guide, average rent for a room in Dublin is estimated at around €6,500 per calendar year. Costs in other cities may be slightly lower.

Living costs for Masters students in Ireland

On the whole, Ireland is a relatively affordable place to live, with a large student population driving demand for appropriate accommodation and other services in major cities. Living costs in Dublin will usually be slightly higher than elsewhere in the country, but prices will generally be on a par with elsewhere in the British Isles.

Student living costs in Ireland - official estimates

The Irish Department of Education and Skills estimates typical living costs of between €5,000 and €11,000 per year. This is a very broad range, but takes into account the variety of accommodation and other costs faced by different students, with different lifestyles in different parts of the country.

Typical student prices in Ireland

The following tables give rough estimates for the cost of basic groceries, utilities and leisure activities for Masters students in the Republic of Ireland:

Item Price (€)
Milk (1 litre) 1.04
Loaf of bread (500g) 1.48
Potatoes (1kg) 1.55
Chicken breasts (1kg) 8.65
Rice (1kg) 1.76
Entertainment and leisure
Item Price (€)
Cinema ticket 10.00
Mid-price bottle of wine 10.00
Cup of coffee 2.76
Draught beer (0.5 litre) 4.50
Inexpensive restaurant meal 14.50
Monthly utilities
Item Price (€)
Monthly travel pass 100.00
Broadband internet (10mbps, uncapped) 37.15
Domestic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water and Waste) 152.97

Note Information in the above tables is based on crowd-sourced data collected by Numbeo. Figures are approximate and provided for comparative purposes only. They do not take account of student discounts and may vary over time or between cities.

Working whilst studying a Masters in Ireland

International postgraduates usually only require a permit to work in Ireland if their programs of study run for less than one year.

Because most Irish Masters degrees take between one and two years to complete, this shouldn't be a problem. (Even if your course runs for a single year, the dissertation component will usually mean your registration covers the requisite minimum period.)

The number of hours you can work whilst studying in Ireland varies during the year:

  • During term time (approximately September to mid-December and mid-January to May) you will only be able to work up to 20 hours per week.
  • During holiday periods (May, June, July and August and mid-December to mid-January) you may work up to 40 hours per week (the equivalent of a full-time employment in Ireland).

Major cities should offer plenty of opportunities to find work as an international student, with vacancies in hospitality, as well as leisure and tourism.

Your university's international office may be able to advise as to good local employers and you can also ask other students for tips once you arrive.

Other useful information for Masters students in Ireland

By now you should have a good idea of what life might be like for you whilst studying a Masters in Ireland. You'll be able to search for accommodation, get started with any immigration requirements and budget for your living costs (perhaps leaving a little spare for that pint of Guinness).

There are a couple of other details you'll need to be aware of as a postgraduate studying abroad in Ireland though.

Travel and transportation

Ireland's largest international airports are Dublin Airport, Shannon Airport (near the city of Limerick) and Cork Airport. Between them these provide access to most of Ireland's major cities.

A number of ferry companies also offer services running between Ireland and the British mainland, as well as other destinations, such as France.

Within Ireland itself you will be able to travel between cities by rail and within cities using bus and taxi services. Dublin also offers a tram service, known as the Luas (Irish for 'speed').

You can find out more about Irish public transport at the website of Transport for Ireland.

Money and banking

Banking in Ireland is similar to elsewhere in Great Britain and accounts are readily available to international students. High street branches will be open during the working week and you will also find plenty of ATM machines in convenient locations.

If you would like to open an account in Ireland you will be able to do so by showing two documents proving your identity and Irish address. Foreign currency can be exchanged at most banks, or at specialist bureau de change in other locations.

Last updated - 23/10/2015

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