Ryanair Survival Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Flying Europe’s Most Infamous Airline

ryanair guide

If you’re a budget backpacker you’ll probably hear about Ryanair sooner or later. Ryanair has become one of the most successful and notorious airlines in Europe. They’re known for no-frills service with rock-bottom prices, but they’re also known for excessive fees and questionable customer service. Although, if you know how to play the game, Ryanair can be a great way to travel for really cheap. The real key to flying cheap is knowing all their rules and regulations. This guide will cover everything you need to know about surviving Europe’s most notorious airline.

ryanair map

Map Of Ryanair’s Destinations

Quick And Dirty Explanation Of Ryanair

Ryanair is Europe’s leading low-cost airline and they routinely offer extremely cheap airline tickets. The average one-way ticket costs about 44€ ($60) but they have frequent sales where you can get a ticket for 1€-10€. Although, be careful because they charge extra fees for just about everything you can imagine, so the price of your tickets can quickly rise if you’re not careful (and that is what they’re counting on). They also have all sorts of other rules, regulations, and quirks that will be described further down.

Important Things To Always Remember When Flying Ryanair

Check-In On Time & Online: It is now required that you check-in online—there is no checking-in at the airport anymore. (You can actually “check-in” at the airport but it will cost 40€ per ticket). You MUST check-in at least 4 hours before your flight departs. You’ll have to pay the 40€ if you’re late . You also have to pay 5€ for the privilege of checking-in online (even though you don’t have a choice).

You should be at the boarding gate at least 30 minutes prior to departure. Boarding closes 20 minutes prior to departure. You’ll not be allowed on the flight if you’re late (and no refunds).

Print Your Own Boarding Pass: You also MUST print your own boarding pass at home—I believe they’ll charge you a 40€ “boarding pass re-issue fee” if they print it for you. This is a bit of a hassle because it isn’t always easy to find a printer while traveling. Check with your hostel if they have a printer or know where the nearest internet cafe is located.

Check Bags On Time: The bag-check desk closes STRICTLY 40 minutes before the flight leaves. Although, it is smart to check you bag in online (4+ hours before the flight is scheduled to leave). You are charged 15€ if you check your bags in online or 35€ if you do it at the airport.

ryanair bag sizeWeigh & Measure Your Bags: Ryanair enforces strict weight & size limits on all checked and carry-on luggage. They will make you prove that your bag fits their guidelines—get ready to watch everyone try to shove their bag into the box with all their might. Going over the limit will result in big fees.

  • Carry-On Bag: Maximum weight per bag is 10kg (22lbs) and maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm.
    • If you go over the weight limit you’re forced to check you bag (35€ fee) or you can throw away extra stuff (or you can put on a bunch of clothes until you get under the weight limit).
  • Checked Luggage: Maximum weight per bag is 15kg (33lbs) and maximum dimensions 81cm x 119cm x 119cm.
    • The first checked bag cost 15€ and the second costs 35€ (the fees raise to 35€ and 70€ if you check the bags in at the airport!).
    • 20€/per kilo (2.2lbs) extra charge if you go over the weight limit.

Single Carry-On: You get ONE carry-on. A purse, a backpack, a laptop bag, a shopping bag, a fanny pack—each of these is considered one bag. I was able to carry-on my 50L backpack because I packed light, but it was a very tight fit. I think my bag weighed in at 9.9kg (the check-in person seemed angry that I was under the weight limit). This is why it is important that your daybag fits inside your main backpack (assuming you want to carry-on all your luggage).

Point-To-Point Only: Ryanair only does point-to-point flights so don’t count on them if you’re making connecting flights. If they are late and you miss your connecting flight, they aren’t responsible for your missed connecting flight (whether your connecting flight is with Ryanair or not).

Secondary Airports: Most Ryanair flights operate out of secondary airports. This means that the airport really isn’t in the city it claims to be. For example, they fly to “Paris” but you really fly into Beauvais (a city that is about a 90 minute bus ride from Paris). This is the same with Frankfurt-Hahn—it takes almost 2 hours by bus to get there. Don’t forget that you have to pay for the bus ride too. Just be sure to research where the airport actually is before you book your ticket.

Poor Customer Service: There are many stories about Ryanair employees who really don’t care too much about their customers. I don’t know if this is true, but don’t expect them to give you any leeway when it comes to the rules.

Free-For-All Seating: There are no assigned seats. It is a combo of first come, first serve, and a cattle-call. You can get priority boarding for an additional fee (but this isn’t necessary). However, if you have a backpack, I suggest getting toward the front of the line because it can be a hassle finding an overhead bin for your bag if you’re at the end of the line.

No-Frills: There are no free drinks, no free snacks, and they try to sell you lottery tickets. The seats are smaller so they can fit more people on the plane. There has even been talk about charging for the toilets sometime in the future.

Uglyist Website Ever: They have the most ugly website on the internet and it isn’t super user-friendly. This really isn’t a huge deal but it is worth pointing out.


Full Explanation Of Fees (READ CAREFULLY!)

ryanair fees

ryanair fees

How To Get The Best Deals On Ryanair Flights

Book In Advance: Prices start to rise about two weeks before the departure date so you should book early.

Check For Special Deals: Ryanair has special sales every few weeks. I suggest signing up for their newsletter so you’ll be aware of the newest deals. The cheap seats also sell-out quickly, so don’t wait too long.

Be Flexible: The best fares are on the early and late flights on Tuesday-Thursday. You might have to search a little to find the best price.

Travel Light: Don’t check any of your luggage and you’ll save a ton of money.

Know The Fees: Make sure you understand all the fees and terms so you avoid making costly mistakes.

Fun Infographic About Europe’s Low-Cost Airlines

Source: 5wgraphics.com

Final Word About Ryanair

I’ve flown with them about 6-7 times and never had a problem (that wasn’t my own fault). For long distances it is going to be your cheapest form of transportation. As long as you don’t expect anything other than bare-bones service you won’t be disappointed. Just follow this guide and you shouldn’t have any surprises.

Be sure to check out our guide to air travel in Europe for more information about air travel in general.

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  • Pingback: Guide To Air Travel: Advice For Flying Through Europe on a Budget | Independent Guide to Budget Backpacking in Europe | TheSavvyBackpacker()

  • Glenn

    I have flown Ryanair around 4 times myself, and have to say the bad service isn’t really how people say.
    Besides, we can hardly expect the employees to be up to the same standard as Emirates, closer to airborne salesmen than anything. Still, you aren’t forced to buy anything, and the longest possible flight is a few hours, you are there before you know it.
    People don’t like the extra fees, but in the end you know exactly what you’re paying before your card is charged, and the initial low prices like €1-10 are not realistic so don’t cry when you pay €20 more in fees and the airline is actually making a profit!
    The check in times are extremely strict so that the plane can get away on time, it is better to p*** off 1 slacker and leave them behind at the airport than hold up a plane with 100+ people on it, and I’m sure most people agree with this (unless they have been late). I’ve never been late, as I always get to an airport about 3 hours early just in case a bus breaks down or whatever.

    Good article.

    • http://www.jamesfeess.com James

      I was literally 3 minutes late for check-in and they wouldn’t allow me on the plane. I had to pay 50 pounds (about $100 at the time) for a new ticket on a later flight. It sucked but it was my fault for being late. I learned my lesson.

  • http://www.georgeonthego.org George

    Love love love this article. It’s all I’ve ever been saying about Ryanair all these years. I love Ryanair so cheap and they get you there on time what more do you want!

  • Pingback: Why I love Ryanair « George On The Go()

  • mike

    what do you mean by dont check your bags???

    • savvybackpacker

      As in Checked Luggage. It is when the airline puts your bags in the storage area of the plane instead of you taking your bag on the plane with you and storing them in the overhead compartments.

  • jayathirtha

    thanks for your guide it was very use full

  • Robert

    I’m going to have a backpack carry-on, you mentioned about getting on the plane to put it in the overhead bin… Do they not allow you to put it under the seat?

    Thanks, BTW, this whole site is amazing 😉

    • savvybackpacker

      Hi Robert. My backpack was too large to fit under the seat. You would need a pretty small bag if you wanted it to go under the seat.

  • Izad

    I was looking for an answer for my doubt as i’m attempting my virgin flight on Ryanair.

    I notice that your backpack, the Osprey Atmos 50 specification is 74cm x 17cm x 36cm which is more than Ryanair limit for carry on maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm and you had no problem with it?
    Does it mean that if my backpack with a dimensions of 61cm x 42cm x 31cm, i gonna bring it to the plane with no problem as long i keep the weight is under 10KG? or this dimention rule only apply for luggages?

    • Ashley

      I am also wondering this! Do you know the answer? Thank you.

  • Mike and Tara at kissingtour

    Thanks for the great tips on Ryanair….We’ll be flying them next week through three different countries.

  • Ashley

    Do you know if you are able to check in on your I-phone or do you actually need to access a computer? Thank you! Your site is extremely helpful :)

    • Laura

      You can check in on your iPhone, but you still have to have a printed boarding pass.

  • chrisheljans

    They must have changed the rule for one bag per person for carry-on (whether purse, backpack, laptop bag, etc.) since this article was written. On the Ryanair website under the FAQ about carry on luggage it says “One cabin bag per passenger weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, plus 1 small bag up to 35 x 20 x 20 cms” is allowed.

  • latzie

    Hey, I’m a little confused. If you purchase checked baggage whist in the booking process for Ryan air do you then have to pay 15€ to “check in” said bags online?

    • savvybackpacker

      You’ll have to check the Ryanair website. But I think you do have to pay. If you do it at the airport it costs even more.

    • maxine

      Hi ths is what im also wondering now & i already paid £60 sterling wen purchased at time of booking :-(

  • Sarah

    The size limits for carry-on bags – are these linear or not? So instead of 55 x 40 x 20, what if it’s 55 x 30 x 30 ? that’s still 115cm total.

  • Mariet Grouwels

    Some things have changed: you can now have a carry-on-bag ànd a purse. And they made the checking-in a bit more difficult: you can do it from two weeks in advance up to a few hours.. but then you have to pay for a chosen seat. If you wait untill a week in advance, you can just have a random (“free”) seat.
    (or that’s what i understood..)

  • Vince

    So did your bag didn’t fit within the specs of the dimensions of carry on luggage, how did you get around that? I just picked up a North Face 50L bag but it is bigger than what they allow. And as I read, it looks like your Osprey bag was outside the limitations.

    • savvybackpacker

      backpacks don’t have ridged sides so you can kinda cram them into the “template” if they check. It won’t won’t with a huge bag but if it sized close to the max size you can probably make it fit.

  • Narayanan Subramanian

    Hello Savvy Backpacker,

    Have couple of queries here. I would be having a big backpack that would by far go into checkin and also would be carrying a smaller backpack for day to day travel purposes. Apart from this, I would be wearing a waist pouch that would hold all my important documents and a suit bag since I would be travelling post attending a wedding.

    1. Would my waist pouch that adds no weight nor would need to be stuffed into cabin area, be considered as a separate hand baggage? I would be wearing the waist pouch at all times.

    2. If my actual checkin baggage is weighing less than the mandatory 20kgs, would my suit bag which is a separate piece of baggage but weighs only 1-1.5kgs, the total is under 20 kgs for example, would they charge my suit bag to be an extra checkin bag and charge me for it or would they allow me to go through considering the weight of my checkin bag and suit bag is within the allowed 20kgs in total?

    The second query applies to Aegean airlines too whereby I would be buying the checkin baggage of 23kgs for my checkin baggage.

    3. Also, the biz plus option says free airport checkin. In this case, the mandatory 5 euro charge (or whatever the current rate is) would not be applicable, right?