Belfast hasn’t been immune to the world’s post-pandemic inflation spikes, but it still remains a relatively affordable travel destination by western European standards.

Trendsetting restaurants don’t require breaking the bank, markets and thrift stores offer cheaper shopping alternatives, the city’s compact dimensions invite walking and cycling over public transport, and sightseeing tours can come cheap – if you know where to look. So, here are the top tips and tricks every budget-conscious traveler can use to save some cash when they're visiting Belfast.

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House shares and hostel dorms are cheaper than city center hotels

Hotels in central Belfast typically start at around £100 per night, especially in busier seasons, so you can cut back on costs by looking at alternative options. The best-priced Airbnb apartments and rental rooms might put you outside the city center, but given Belfast’s manageable size, this shouldn’t impact the quality of your trip. On the up-and-coming Ormeau Rd or in the suburbs of south Belfast, both of which have walking and public transportation routes into the city, Airbnb’s are often priced at £50–90 per night (especially if you’re happy to share a house with your host).

Belfast’s most popular hostels are within a mile or so radius of the city center and are as cheap as £10 per night for shared dorms. Belfast International Youth Hostel, Global Village, Lagan Backpackers and Botanical Backpackers are all highly rated.

Save cash by picking your airport and airline wisely

Given it’s located on an island, flying remains the cheapest way of getting to Belfast. Boat journeys are available from Great Britain, but only really make sense if you’re bringing a car, in which case one-way tickets usually cost over £100.

Belfast has two airports: one just outside the city center, the other 15 miles to the west in Aldergrove. The former, George Best Belfast City Airport, is more convenient for inbound travelers, but has more of a focus on pricier premium airlines. The latter, Belfast International Airport, is much larger, welcoming flights from further afield and from a diverse range of air carriers. If booked well in advance, return flights from UK cities with easyJet should cost less than £100. Jet2 and Wizz offer competitive prices from European cities, and there are seasonal direct flights with Virgin Atlantic from Orlando, Florida.

Bikes lined up at stands as part of a bike-sharing scheme in Belfast
The Belfast Bikes sharing scheme is a good budget choice for exlporing the city © adamico / Getty Images

Use bikes, transport cards and day tickets for getting around

The Belfast Bikes sharing service offers cheap two-wheeled transport around Belfast’s central districts: 30 minutes for £1, 3-day usage for £6, or £25 for a yearly membership. 

If you do require public transport, however, you’ll save money by purchasing travel cards and multiple-journey tickets. The 3 Day Flexi Ticket can be used on Translink trains between two stations – ideal for those staying outside of Belfast. Belfast Visitor Passes are available at the Belfast Visitor Welcome Centre on Donegall Square North or via booking online. These give tourists unlimited travel privileges on most Metro, NI Railways, Ulsterbus and Glider services, with one-day (£6), two-day (£11), and three-day (£14.50) options.

For longer stays, you can purchase weekly or monthly travel cards also for use on Metro, Glider, NI Railways and Ulsterbus services. Various money-saving travel card options are available, so check the Translink website to find the one best catered to your needs. 

People walking down a pedestrianised street in front of Belfast City Hall
Belfast's compact city center is easy to explore for free on foot © William Barton / Getty Images

Or explore the city on foot

There’s no better way to cut back on transport costs than by avoiding them altogether. Belfast is built on a fairly flat river basin, so unless you plan on charging up into the surrounding hillsides, spending the day on foot shouldn’t expend too much energy. 

The River Lagan scythes through the city and serves as a guide for walkers: promenades and cycle paths meander alongside its lower reaches, bringing foot traffic from the city center towards south Belfast. If you keep the Lagan in your sights, you’ll be treated to some of Belfast’s most arresting scenery: the Titanic Quarter, where the river meets the sea; the flocks of starlings that sweep across the sky over Albert Bridge at dusk; and the verdant parklands connected to the Lagan Towpath. 

Save on late night taxi fares by staying near nightlife hubs

The base rate of Belfast’s private taxi services saw a recent increase, and while not extortionate, there are ways to avoid the extra expense. If partying into the wee hours is going to feature heavily during your visit, you can avoid costly taxis with a budget hotel within walking distance of the city’s nightlife hubs. ETAP Hotel Belfast has a competitive pricing range, while the Holiday Inn is often cheaper than its city-center competitors. The smart Wellington Park Hotel is another decent option, handily located in south Belfast and known for its generous seasonal offers. Belfast is also much safer than it was a few decades back, so walking home shouldn’t pose much of a risk, especially if you’re in a group.  

Save 50% on food with First Table

Money-conscious foodies should take note of First Table, a restaurant discovery platform that shaves 50% off the cost of diners' meals if they book the first table of service at participating restaurants. Coppi, a cicchetti (Italian tapas) restaurant in the collonaded St Anne’s Square; Buba, a quirky Mediterranean food and cocktail spot; and Home, a city-center bistro that celebrates local ingredients, all feature on the list. The deal is currently applicable for groups of two to four people, but does not apply to drinks.

Make use of happy hours

Happy hours aren’t particularly common in Belfast, but several bars dotted around the city lure in punters with unique deals. On Monday to Thursday at Franklins Sports Bar all beers are £2 until the first goal is scored on the big screen. The Perch Rooftop Bar runs a happy hour from 5pm to 7pm, Monday through Thursday, including a two-cocktails-for-£12 deal. The Revolucion de Cuba bar and cantina runs a similar deal daily. And don’t miss out on a weekend session in Rita’s, a plush bar offering £15 bottles of prosecco all day on Sundays.

An overview of the many stalls selling wares under the Victorian facade of St George's Market in Belfast
St George's Market is popular with locals who want to pick up some bargains after enjoying the delicious food on offer © K Marsh / Shutterstock

Bargain hunt at the markets

From vintage clothing to vinyl CDs, items shaded by nostalgia have seen a boom in popularity in recent years. Unfortunately, prices have often boomed in lock-step with the fad – but if you’ve a keen eye for a bargain, Belfast’s markets and thrifty haunts are worth a look. 

Set within a squat, red-brick Victorian building, St George’s Market (open Friday through Sunday) combines a vintage feast of artwork, bric-a-brac trinkets and snazzy garments with new-wave food stalls and locally produced handicrafts. The Belfast Continental Christmas Market, selling food and produce from the European mainland, is seasonal and a little pricer, but most of the food and drinks on offer are reasonable if visitors exercise restraint – plus, its location on the doorstep of Belfast City Hall sets the scene for a gorgeous after-dark stroll. Octopus’s Garden is more thrift shop than market, but has an eclectic mix of retro outfits and vinyl LPs, and has been known to do occasional 50-percent-off-all-items sales.

For the best deals head to the flea market just outside Belfast in Nutt’s Corner. With around 300 stalls and car boot pitches operating every Sunday, thrifty shoppers should set aside a half a day to fully explore the treasure trove of second-hand goods and fresh produce on sale. 

Make use of affordable city tours

Belfast’s turbulent history saw it evolve from an 18th-century trading town to a Victorian-era industrial titan before it was consumed by the dark days of the Troubles and sectarian strife in the late 1900s. These intermingling forces have layered Belfast with historical complexity – even confounding locals at times – so there is much to be gained by experiencing the story of Belfast via guided tour. 

The Belfast Free Walking Tour – at 11am and 2.30pm every Friday and Saturday – is technically free, though guides also accept donations if you feel the service merits one. On the sojourn, you'll visit some of Belfast's most historic sites, including the Titanic Quarter, the tilted Albert Clock, and Belfast’s Baroque-domed City Hall. 

If you’d rather see the city on wheels, consider the guided Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour at £18 per head (family deals are also available). The extensive open-top bus tour highlights 19 iconic Belfast locations and is accessible from any of the public stops in the city.  

Cheap things to do in Belfast for around £10

Due to inflation, activities for less than £10 (a tenner) are becoming fewer and further between. But there are a few options around Belfast that might appeal to budget-conscious travelers. 

The first stone of the Romanesque St Anne’s Cathedral was laid in 1899, and it remains a significant place of worship within the Church of Ireland Christian denomination. If you want to admire the cathedral’s rounded arches, intricate stained-glass mosaics and vaulted prayer hall from within, it'll only cost you a fiver (£5). 

Closing in 1996 after 150 years of detaining convicts, the Crumlin Road Gaol has been renovated to educate visitors on its gloomy past. For £10.80 (if booked online), you can wander through its cavernous tunnels, peek into its once-infamous cells, and feel the palpable weight of its cold and brooding intensity.  

For more kid-friendly budget excursions, head to Pirates Adventure Golf and the adjacent Dundonald International Ice Bowl. Themed around seafaring bounty hunters, shipwrecked brigantines, and palm-fringed beaches, the adventure golf course is a great sunny afternoon activity – and only costs between £2 and £7.50 for 18 holes. A visit to the Olympic-sized ice rink next door is £7 per head, with public skating sessions daily. Or you can send younger kids into Indiana Land, a jungle-inspired indoor play area with a freefall slide and ball pits, from £4.50 per child.

Guide to average daily costs

Hostel room: £10–15 per night
Basic room for two: £100–150 per night
Self-catering apartment or Airbnb: £50–100 per night
Public transportation ticket: £6 for one day, £11 for two days, £14.50 for three days
Coffee: £2–3
Sandwich: £5–7
Dinner for two: £40–100
Beer/pint at the bar: £4.50

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