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An Expat's Guide to Living in Dublin, Ireland

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Ireland: the land of the green. All jokes aside, the grass is literally greener here!

Dublin, Ireland’s capital city, is located on the east coast of this green, green land. It has 580,000 inhabitants and is the economical and cultural center of the country. Depending on where you come from, this could seem like a big city, but to most standards it feels more like a small town than the capital of a country.

For me, Dublin feels like home. I'm from France but lived here for a few years as a kid. The moment I had the chance to move back here as an adult, I grabbed it.

Don't let the size fool you, there's still plenty of fun things to do in Dublin to keep you entertained.

Yes, it does rain often, but when the sun comes out, which can be a few times during the day, get ready to spot the rainbow, enjoy the light, and do your best to get outside and really soak up the sunshine.

If you're thinking about moving to Dublin or are still debating where in the world you'd like to go, here's what you'll want to know to decide if living in Dublin is right for you!

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

💭Dublin is a great place to live thanks to friendly locals, a large expat community, and a vibrant city with plenty to see and do.

🏠The city is divided into 2: north side and south side. Although expensive, I recommend living in Ballsbridge D4 or Ranelagh D6.

🛏️Start off by booking somewhere centrally located and easy to get around, like Zanzibar Locke in the city center until you find your long-term stay.

🤑Dublin is an expensive city and rent can be a huge cost. Finding affordable housing can be time consuming and tricky.

💻Most expats living in Dublin work in the tech industry in sales. If you're interested in working in this career path, there are a lot of job opportunities.

Best Districts to Live in Dublin

Many people new to Dublin might be surprised to learn that Dublin is a divided city, just like Ireland is a divided country. This divide is historical, cultural and economical.

The city is separated by the Liffey River, and talked about in terms of the "north side," with odd number districts, and the "south side," with even number districts.

People tend to use the divide as an identifier. It's common for people to use the terminology "northsider" and "southsider" when referring to themselves and others. In general, southsiders are seen as spoiled and ritzy, whereas northsiders are considered rougher and rundown.

The south side definitely is a posher side and more residential with larger Victorian houses and the high rent that goes along with it. The trend for the wealthier residents to move to the southside of the city started long ago and continues even today.

According to Crown Relocations, most expats live in the following districts:

  • Ballsbridge
  • Donnybrook
  • Ranelagh
  • Blackrock
  • Dalkey
  • Killiney
  • Malahide
  • Howth
  • Castleknock

Personally, my top 2 recommendations for places to live in Dublin are Ballsbridge and Ranelagh, if they fit within your budget.

Ballsbridge D4

If you can afford the price tag, Ballsbridge is a great area to live. Here you can expect to have a high quality of life.

There are plenty of pubs, restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and green spaces within walking distance. For families or teachers, there are a number of schools in the area, too.

You're outside of the city center living in Ballsbridge but there is public transportation to get you there. If you have some more time on your hands, you can walk to the southern edge of the city center in 20-30 minutes or to the sea at Sandymount.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Ballsbridge is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Roxford Lodge Hotel: This luxury hotel is still one of the most affordable hotels in the area (with great reviews). Here you'll be on the northern side of Ballsbridge, closer to the center.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Herbert Park Hotel and Park Residence: Enjoy Ballsbridge biggest park by staying right at this elegant hotel.
  • Luxury Stay: Schoolhouse Hotel: Want something incredibly charming? This recently renovated 1859 schoolhouse will welcome you to the Ireland of your dreams.

Typically I recommend booking a vacation rental home via Vrbo (because you get reward credits towards future stays, unlike on Airbnb where you get nada) but giving the high cost of living, it's actually much more affordable to start off at a hotel instead.

Ranelagh D6

Directly south of the center of Dublin is another great area to live in, Ranelagh. Ranelagh in particular has a lot of cafes, restaurants, and brunch places, which makes it a fun spot for day-to-day living.

Living in Ranelagh, you'll get a great "village" feel while still being a walk into the heart of Dublin. Since it's so well-connected, it's not really necessary to have a car here.

There's a nice mix of young professionals and families, making it a vibrant and fun area to live.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Ranelagh is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Clayton Hotel Burlington Road: This hotel offers larger than standard hotel rooms, a fitness center, and a bar and restaurant.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: The Devlin Dublin: This trendy hotel is a super chic place to stay while you look for long-term housing, just steps from the main village of Ranelagh.
  • Luxury Stay: Oakwood House: Moving to Dublin with your family? This vacation rental home is ideal for 5, with all the comforts of home.

City Center

While this isn't one of my recommended places to live in Dublin for the long-haul, it can be a helpful place to start. By living in the city center, you'll have easy access to the entire city and surrounding suburbs so you can spend your weekends scoping out the area you'd like to live in.

To give you a good foot in the door to living in Dublin, book a stay at one of these centrally located hotels.

  • Budget Stay: Shared Flat: Get all the amenities of a house, without the big price tag that it'd usually come with in the center of Dublin.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: O'Regans: How often do you get to stay in a place that looks like a castle, right in the heart of the hustle and bustle? For something totally unique, O'Regans is a good choice.
  • Luxury Stay: Zanzibar Locke: This beautifully decorated studio apartment will give you the amenities to stay longer while you search for your long-term stay.

House Hunting in Dublin

The house hunt here can be daunting. Rent is really expensive in Dublin and one of the biggest costs of living in this fantastic city.

To be completely honest: there is a major housing crisis in Dublin. This isn't to say it's impossible to move here, it's just to say it might take longer than expected to find affordable housing.

The general cost of rent is 1000€/month in a house share and more around 1400€ in the posh areas. Also, so you know, your rent will most likely go up 4% every year.

Luckily, if you’re working in tech like most expats there, your salary will match this. Most expats don't have an issue affording the steep rent prices unless you're looking for something super nice in one of the nicest areas of town.

But then again, that can be hard to accomplish in most big cities around the world.

Finding a house or apartment abroad always comes with some struggles. It's hard to understand how renting works, where the best places to live are, and even how to find available flats or houses. The easiest way to find a place is to browse through Daft.ie and set up alerts on new listings to be among the first to answer. In this market, you have to move fast to find a good deal.

Your network will also be very valuable when it comes to house hunting, so let your colleagues know you are on the house hunt. There may even be a board with postings at your office.

Remember, finding an apartment or house is an important part to getting settled and having Dublin feel like your home away from home so you won't want to put it off for too long.

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Finding Job Opportunities in Dublin

If you're attracted to the tech industry and want to get into sales, Dublin is the place to be as there are ample job opportunities! Just be sure to start your job search well in advance.

All the top tech companies are here (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, IBM, AirBnB, Pinterest, HubSpot, etc.) and are constantly looking for salespeople with all types of experience and backgrounds.

Referrals are widely used so be proactive and connect with people from the company on LinkedIn when you see a job opening! This is the best way to get your foot in the door at a company that interests you.

Another bonus to finding a job in Dublin is if you speak a second language, especially one spoken in Europe, since most companies have their European headquarters in Dublin but market to all of Europe from here.

Interested in working at Apple? Find out how to get hired at Apple's European headquarters in Cork, Ireland.

Getting a Visa to Live in Ireland

Ireland is in Europe after all, so if you’re European it’s easy, as there's no requirement to move here legally. You'll be able to live in Dublin and get a job with no issue.

If you're not European though, you can stay 3 months as a tourist but will need a visa to stay longer and to work there.

For more information about how to get a visa for Ireland, as a non-European citizen, check out this article.

The Dublin Lifestyle

The great thing about living in Dublin is that there are many expats also living here. Locals are accustomed to expats moving to Dublin and other expats understand the changes you're going through when you move abroad.

You'll be welcomed by this melting pot of cultures and the people are quite open, festive, and chilled. 

There's so many well-known tourist spots throughout the country and even more hidden gems just waiting to be explored.

The Work-Life Balance

The work-life balance is good in Ireland, giving you time for activities, to explore the city and the beautiful countryside.

If you're moving here from the U.S., you'll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of paid leave you get, national holidays, and the fact that your boss wants you to take advantage of the balance as much as you will.

Within just a couple of hours you can be in a lovely cottage by the sea, lighting a fireplace, or hopping on a flight to explore the rest of Europe. Dublin is a great starting point to explore major European cities over a weekend with cheap flights and only a few hours journey.

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‍Nights Out Are Plentiful

There's a reason that the Irish people have such a well-known reputation for being outgoing, friendly, and, well, drinkers. With so many great bars to visit in Dublin, the perfect spot for a night out isn't hard to find.

The Irish are welcoming and lively people. Go into a pub, order a Guinness, and you'll most likely be chatting to your neighbor within minutes. Because of this, it's easy to make friends as an expat in Dublin.

Live music is all over the city, and not only trad music. Search online for gigs in pubs and intimate concert halls such as the Olympia or Vicar Street. If you're a fan of pubs and music, it'll always be a fun night out.

Beat your hangover the next day by taking a walk by the sea in Howth or Bray, hiking in the Wicklows for beautiful scenery or by visiting some of Ireland's famous landmarks.

Dublin's High Cost of Living

The cost of living in Dublin is quite high. Luckily, as I mentioned earlier, if you're working for one of the big tech companies, your salary should compensate for the cost of living.

Housing, food, restaurants and transport are expensive, but at least beer is pretty cheap, and you most likely won’t need transportation if you live inside the city as distances are quite walkable or bikeable.

My biggest tip: get a bike if you don’t mind the rain and wind. Most companies will even refund 50% of its cost.

Will You Try Living in Dublin?

All in all, expat life in Dublin is really wonderful.

Dublin is definitely a lively city that needs exploring outside of touristy Temple Bar.

Talk with the locals who always seem happy and content, take the time to travel across the country and enjoy the melting pot of cultures.

For more about living in Dublin, you can listen to this podcast episode where Marieke tells you all about her experience living abroad here.

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