Loans

Ireland’s cheapest student towns

The cost of being a student is rising. Switcher.ie’s Student Cost of Living Guide reveals the cheapest Irish towns for students, comparing average fees, rent, transport, entertainment and more.

Ireland’s cheapest student towns

The cheapest Irish towns for fee-free students

Cheapest towns for international students

The cheapest student towns for international students

5 ways to save money as a student

From grants, scholarships, discounts, finance and budgeting

According to the latest Higher Education Authority (HEA), 1 in 3 students experienced serious financial problems in 2022.

This year, students eligible for free tuition fees can expect to spend on average €15,096 going to college, while international students could fork out approx €25,766 per annum.

Switcher.ie’s Student Cost of Living Guide includes up-to-date student expenses in the cheapest student towns, plus some useful budgeting tips and resources.

It aims to help students, parents, teachers and third level organisations prepare for the year ahead and determine what they might need to budget, save or borrow.

Rising living costs in Ireland

In 2022, student accommodation costs increased by an average of 13% compared to 2019.

Ahead of term time, fledgling first-years scramble to secure a bed as rental costs are sky-high - over €10,000 per academic year in some private student residencies in Dublin.

The cost of socialising is on the up, too:

  • A pint costs an average of €5.90, a 9% jump from April 2022
  • Nightclub fees are €16.47, an 82% increase from a pre-pandemic €9

Free tuition fees

Generally, most first-time undergraduate students will qualify for free tuition. They will still have to pay a partial fee, known as the student contribution charge.

Last year the government granted a once-off €1,000 reduction in the student contribution rate. This year, the charge will increase to €3,000.

As academic fees contribute a hefty portion of student expenses, we’ve ranked student towns for those who are eligible for free tuition, and also international or non-EU students who are expected to pay fees.

Ireland’s cheapest student towns

Letterkenny, Sligo, Waterford and Dundalk offered some of the lowest accommodation fees in the country.

Students can head out, work out and get around for less too - making budgets stretch further than any other towns on our list. The costliest spots were unsurprisingly the larger, urban hubs with bigger populations - like Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Maynooth.

Rent, as well as the overall cost of living, was notably higher in these areas.

Rank Town Accommodation Utilities Groceries Transport   Entertainment Gym Total monthly Total annual + fees
1 Letterkenny €373 €82 €154 €135 €308 €35 €1,088 €12,791
2 Sligo €424 €82 €144 €135 €307 €44 €1,135 €13,219
3 Waterford €481 €82 €221 €138 €329 €35 €1,286 €14,573
4 Dundalk €552 €82 €164 €132 €307 €50 €1,289 €14,598
5 Athlone €527 €82 €180 €135 €330 €47 €1,301 €14,705
6 Tralee €564 €82 €183 €135 €306 €55 €1,325 €14,928
7 Galway €563 €82 €198 €138 €319 €43 €1,343 €15,088
8 Carlow €584 €82 €205 €139 €308 €35 €1,353 €15,177
9 Limerick €582 €82 €187 €138 €321 €51 €1,362 €15,255
10 Cork €660 €82 €183 €138 €329 €48 €1,441 €15,970
11 Maynooth €679 €82 €202 €135 €339 €39 €1,475 €16,278
12 Dublin €894 €82 €212 €139 €358 €45 €1,730 €18,570

Letterkenny Ireland Student Town

1. Letterkenny

Letterkenny coined the top-spot for overall cheapest student town.

It costs a student on average of €1,088 per month or €12,791 per academic year to attend Letterkenny Atlantic Technological University - 45% less than going to college in Dublin, which could cost approx €18,570 a year.

Donegal’s cathedral town boasts low-cost student accommodation, reasonable taxi and bus fares and cheaper eats.

Students’ well-earned dosh goes further on pints, clubbing, and cinema tickets too.

2. Sligo

Similar to Letterkenny, Sligo also has some of the most budget-friendly accommodation rates in the country, at just €424 per month for the academic year.

Students from the Atlantic Technological University Sligo can expect to spend approx €144 a month on food shopping for an academic year, and also pay less for taxis, nightclub entry and meals.

3. Waterford

The capital of the sunny southeast, Waterford offers more value for money than other places on our list, costing around €1,286 in total per month for those attending the South East Technological University.

4. Dundalk

Dundalk students will see their monthly budgets stretch further, with the price of a food shop, taxis and a night on the town much less than other spots in the country. It will cost you around €1,289 in total per month to go to Dundalk IT.

5. Athlone

A fantastic student hotspot full of bustling nightlife along the river Shannon, Athlone sits as the fifth most affordable student town. Although it is one of the more pricier places to socialise as a student, the cost of groceries and rent are on the lower end of the scale.

6. Tralee

If you’re lucky enough to go to college in beautiful Co. Kerry, you can expect your money to go further for entertainment too - things like drinks, eating out and clubbing are approx €306 per month for an academic year.

At €564 per month, student accommodation is reasonable compared to other places on our list.

student town Galway ireland

7. Galway

Long hailed as one of the best college towns in Ireland, Galway earned seventh most affordable place in our guide.

Students make up almost 20% of the population in Galway, and although it costs around €1,343 per month to go to college there - with its thriving art scene, rich culture and coastline, it truly a great place to go to university.

8. Carlow

Although Carlow is reasonably priced when it comes to socialising and food, student accommodation was the fifth most expensive in Ireland, driven by the high cost of some private student accommodation hubs in the town.

9. Limerick

The University of Limerick has 5-star rankings for graduate employability and innovation and the city is a hub of popular bars and food spots.

The price of entertainment, transport fares and food is steeper here though, while the cost of accommodation jumped by 17.7% in 2022 vs 2021 - making Limerick the sixth most expensive student town for rent prices.

10. Cork

On the outskirts of one of the most dynamic and exciting student cities, UCC is one of Ireland’s top universities, known for its beautiful buildings and rich history.

As one of Ireland’s biggest cities, Cork is the third most expensive place for students, costing approx €1,441 a month.

11. Maynooth

Maynooth University is an idyllic place for Irish and international students. With its proximity to the capital, at approx €679 per month, Maynooth’s student accommodation fees are second highest in the country, while socialising and food expenses are costly too.

In total, it would cost around €16,278 per year for a Maynooth student.

12. Dublin

Unsurprisingly Dublin is the most expensive place for students, costing an average of €18,570 for an academic year.

This is driven by private student accommodation prices, as well as the ever-rising costs of food and entertainment. Students can expect to fork out around €358 a month on socialising, and €894 on accommodation.

Dublin is home to some of Ireland’s top universities, where on-campus accommodation costs are also higher than on-campus costs in other student towns. Some higher-end private student housing can fetch up to €10,000 for one academic year.

Cheapest student accommodation

Letterkenny has the most affordable student accommodation of all the towns in our guide, at €373 per month - €521 less than Dublin, which costs €894.

The other towns with low-cost accommodation were:

  1. Sligo: €424 per month
  2. Waterford: €481 per month
  3. Athlone: €527 per month
  4. Galway: €563 per month

On campus accommodation is done on a lottery basis, and if students are lucky enough to nab a bed on-campus they can expect to pay an average of €5,175 for the school year - around 10% more than most off-campus halls, which cost approx €4,639.

The exceptions are places like Dublin, where some private rental fees can reach up to €10,000 for an academic term - 35% higher than on-campus.

Cheapest town for a night out

Tralee was crowned cheapest student town for entertainment; with cinema visits, meals, drinks and nightclubs costing just €306 a month.

The other most affordable towns for socialising were:

  1. Sligo: €307 per month
  2. Dundalk: €307 per month
  3. Carlow: €308 per month
  4. Letterkenny: €308 per month

The cheapest towns for international students

If you’re not eligible for free fees or EU fees in Ireland, you will be subject to hefty Non-EU or international fees.

We’ve ranked the towns from most affordable to least for international students. The most affordable towns were mainly the ones with lower fees and accommodation costs, while the places with high-fee universities were the most expensive.

Rank Town Accommodation Utilities Groceries Transport   Entertainment Gym Total monthly Annual fees Total annual + fees
1 Sligo €424 €82 €144 €135 €307 €44 €1,135 €10,500 €20,719
2 Waterford €481 €82 €221 €138 €329 €35 €1,286 €10,250 €21,823
3 Carlow €584 €82 €205 €139 €308 €35 €1,353 €10,250 €22,427
4 Dundalk €552 €82 €164 €132 €307 €50 €1,289 €10,950 €22,548
5 Letterkenny €373 €82 €154 €135 €308 €35 €1,088 €13,500 €23,291
6 Athlone €527 €82 €180 €135 €330 €47 €1,301 €12,500 €24,205
7 Tralee €564 €82 €183 €135 €306 €55 €1,325 €13,500 €25,428
8 Limerick €582 €82 €187 €138 €321 €51 €1,362 €13,590 €25,844
9 Galway €563 €82 €198 €138 €319 €43 €1,343 €14,167 €26,255
10 Maynooth €679 €82 €202 €135 €339 €39 €1,475 €17,417 €30,694
11 Cork €660 €82 €183 €138 €329 €48 €1,441 €18,250 €31,220
12 Dublin €894 €82 €212 €139 €358 €45 €1,730 €19,16 5 €34,735

How much do international students pay?

On average, international students pay around €11,966 more per year on fees than those eligible for free fees.

Universities charge around €16,489 in annual fees - approx €5,629, or 52% higher - than institutes of education, who charge approx €10,860 per annum.

Cheapest towns

Sligo is the cheapest student town for international students, costing around €20,719 per year: 68% less than Dublin, which could cost an international student €34,735 for one academic year.

The institutes of education in Waterford, Carlow, Letterkenny and Dundalk followed with reasonable fees, while the towns themselves were overall cheaper places to live.

Priciest towns

Dublin, Cork, Maynooth and Galway were the most expensive spots for non-EU undergraduates, with fees ranging from €14,167 to €19,165 per year.

Five ways to save money as a student or parent

If embarking on the college journey wasn’t overwhelming enough, students and parents must also face escalating living costs.

Before seeking financial support like a loan, it’s important to review things like tax relief, grants and scholarships first to see if you’re eligible.

Student grants

  • SUSI Grant: Student Universal Support Ireland awards the main student grant. The grant is means tested, and divided into maintenance (living expenses) and fee support. Depending on how far you live from college, you can get up to €3,677, while disadvantaged students can get up to €6,971. Find out more here.
  • The Student Assistance Fund: Helps full-time higher education students who are struggling to cover expenses. It’s for things like books, heating, rent, food, medical expenses, and childcare. Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.
  • Laptop access: Many colleges and universities have an allocation of laptops to loan students who can’t afford one. You can apply through the school’s access office.
  • The Fund for Students with Disabilities: If you have a disability, this can cover things like technology and training, assistants/notetakers, learning and transport supports. Find out more here.

Tax relief

  • Rent: Students who pay rent in a tenancy registered with the Residential Tenancies Board can receive a €500 tax credit per year. Since October 2022, parents who pay rent for their children are now entitled to the renter’s tax credit too.
  • Fees: Unfortunately, there is no tax relief on the first €3,000 spent on tuition fees (including the Student Contribution) for each year. The maximum amount you can apply for is €7,000 per course, per year.

Scholarships

There are a wealth of bursary and scholarship schemes in Ireland, offered by government departments, third level institutions, private organisations, charities or financial institutions like the credit union.

Each provides a lump sum ranging from €1,000 to €5,000 or €10,000 a year on the basis of things like exam merit, sporting ability, and language proficiency. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of scholarships in Ireland.

Student discounts

Although some student discounts may encourage splurging on items you may not need - like beauty products or new clothes - student cards can also help cover helpful things like free newspaper subscriptions, or discounted travel on buses and trains.

If you’re buying a laptop, keep an eye out for discounts of up to 20% on certain brands.

Budgeting

With nearly all students spending €218 more than they earn each month, most rely on overstretched parents to fill the gap.

Take control - account for all expenses ahead of your first year and set a budget each month for peace of mind and no nasty surprises.

For more ways to save and for budgeting advice at home and on the go, read Switcher.ie’s best money saving tips.

Student finance

Although it’s a good idea to apply for student grants and scholarships wherever possible, if you are considering financial support in the form of a personal loan, it’s important to shop around, find the lowest rate and the right loan for your budget.

  • Use a personal loan calculator, a loan comparison tool or a broker to help you work out the best deal, so you don’t pay more than you have to.
  • Make sure you only borrow what you need, keep the repayment term as short as possible, check you’re getting the lowest interest rate, and check overall cost of the loan including any extra fees or charges.

For more information, read our complete guide to loans in Ireland.

Methodology

To work out the cheapest student towns we took price data from a range of sources for each student town, then averaged and ranked them from lowest to highest. The metrics included;

  • Third level academic fees
  • Student accommodation costs
  • Entertainment costs (Pint price, night club entry, cinema ticket, eating out, takeaway)
  • Transport (Taxi and bus ticket)
  • Gym membership fee
  • Groceries

The data was collected and analysed in May 2023.

Things of note

Including:

  • Data is based on 28 of the main universities and ITs in Ireland.
  • Academic fees are for one year/per annum and based on full-time, undergraduate courses (BA honours, level 8.) Total fees for each institution are based on an average across all listed courses.
  • Where possible, fees were taken for the year 2023/24 and are approximate, up-to-date quotes from each college, based on available data. They are all subject to change and review from each college.
  • Accommodation type varies across each college. Where possible, accommodation costs are based on-campus university halls of residence, as well as privately-owned student residencies as listed on the institution’s website. Where on-campus and/or student accommodation was not an option, an average price across all locally advertised student accommodation as listed on Daft.ie was used.
  • Accommodation is based on available data and prices in May 2023.
  • When a university or college institution’s updated accommodation costs for 2023/24 were not yet published, the rates were based on the institution’s guidelines (e.g. an increase of 2-3% from the previous year).
  • Accommodation costs were taken as an average across all Iisted room types (single, double, ensuite, share bathroom).
  • Where accommodation fees were set for a stipulated period (e.g. 41 weeks/9 months) the total cost for that time was recorded. Where there was no exact time listed, the academic year of 8.75 months was used.
  • All accommodation costs are listed excluding utility fees.
  • Utility fees were calculated separately by taking an average from all advertised utilities fees across each third level institution and private student accommodation. Fees include broadband, waste, water and electricity.

Sources

Accommodation and utility prices

  • https://www.ucd.ie/residences/bookinginfo/finance/
  • https://www.dcuaccommodation.ie
  • https://www.ucc.ie/en/campusaccom/student-accom/
  • https://www.tcd.ie/accommodation/
  • https://www.maynoothuniversity.ie/student-residences/money-matters
  • https://www.campusaccommodation.ie/students/rates/
  • https://www.mic.ul.ie/sites/default/files/uploads/443/Courtbrack%20Info%202324_9.pdf
  • https://www.wit.ie/current_students/student-accommodation/wit-residences-fee
  • https://studentliving.ul.ie/index.jsp?p=116&n=124
  • https://www.parchmentsquarecork.com/student-accommodation-cork/accommodation/rates-2023
  • https://www.abbeyville.org/rates
  • https://www.deanshall.com/academic-accommodation/deans-hall-crosses-green/deanshall-crosses-green-rates-availability/
  • https://www.collegeaccommodationcork.ie/farranlea-hall-quality-student-accommodation-for-ucc-and-cit/pricing-and-availability/
  • https://hatchstudents.ie/carlow-student-accommodation/
  • https://carraigabhainn.ie/price-table/
  • https://www.daft.ie/for-rent/
  • https://www.limerickstudentrooms.com
  • https://www.groodystudentpark.ie/112-2/
  • https://citycampus.ie/rates-2-2/
  • https://www.thomondvillage.com/terms-conditions/
  • https://www.brookfieldhall.com/pricing/
  • http://www.cuirtnarasai.com
  • https://kingscourtapartments.com/rates.php
  • https://kerrylee.ie/rates/
  • https://www.dkit.ie/student-life/student-services/accommodation.html
  • https://www.riverwalkwaterford.com/wit-accommodation-tariffs/
  • https://www.mezzino.com/locations/dublin/brickworks/
  • https://livstudent.com/dublin/
  • https://ballyrainecampus.com/rates
  • https://croioigeathlone.com/?page_id=50
  • https://www.heatherviewcourt.com/student-accommodation-rates/
  • https://buckleyapartments.com
  • https://clarionvillagesligo.com/academic-term/
  • https://winterspm.com/gateway/rates/
  • https://lila.ie/Student-Accommodation

Academic Fees

  • https://www.ucd.ie/students/fees/eucoursefees/
  • https://www.itsligo.ie/admissions-2/fees-grants/
  • https://www.dcu.ie/fees/undergraduate-fees-2022-2023
  • https://www.ucc.ie/en/financeoffice/fees/schedules/euundergraduatefees202324/
  • https://lit.ie/grants-and-fees/schedule
  • https://www.ul.ie/gps/about/fees-information
  • https://www.maynoothuniversity.ie/sites/default/files/assets/document//2023.24%20International%20Undergraduate%20Fees%20List%20%2823.3.23%29.pdf
  • https://www.mic.ul.ie/study-at-mic/fees-charges-grants?index=0
  • https://www.ait.ie/uploads/downloads/Non_EU_Fee_Payment_Information_2022_2023.pdf
  • https://www.lyit.ie/Study-at-ATU-Donegal/Fees-Grants-Scholarships/Full-Time-Undergraduate-Fees
  • https://www.wit.ie/current_students/student_affairs/wit-fees/wit-undergraduate-fees
  • https://www.cit.ie/fees/students/fulltime-undergraduate-new
  • https://www.tudublin.ie/for-students/student-services-and-support/fees-grants/full-time-undergraduate-fees/
  • https://www.itcarlow.ie/public/userfiles/files/Composite_Fee_Schedule_202223.pdf
  • https://www.gmit.ie/sites/default/files/2022-11/ATU%20Fees%20Schedule%202022-23%20Version%201%20%281%29.pdf
  • https://www.dkit.ie/study/student-fees-grants-scholarships/fees.html#undergraduate
  • https://www.ittralee.ie/en/InformationFor/International/NonEUStudents/TuitionFees/

Entertainment

  • Transport fees: https://about.leapcard.ie/dublin-bus / https://www.transportforireland.ie/fares/taxi-fare-estimator/
  • National nightclub, pint, cinema prices (2023): https://data.cso.ie/table/CPM01
  • Pint, groceries, gym membership per town: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/

Survey on student financial situation and sentiment

  • https://hea.ie/statistics/data-for-download-and-visualisations/institutes-performance/eurostudent-survey/
Warning: The cost of your monthly repayments may increase. Warning: you may have to pay charges if you pay off a fixed rate loan early. Warning: If you do not keep up your repayments you may lose your home. Warning: If you do not meet the repayments on your loan, your account will go into arrears. This may affect your credit rating, which may limit your ability to access credit in the future. Information provided and Interest rates quoted valid at 28/02/2024