Ryanair is a popular airline in Europe that may remind Americans of low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier.

The fares that you see in Google Flights are unbeatable, but there’s a catch!

7 things to know before you fly Ryanair 

I recently flew Ryanair for the first time on a trip from Dublin to Brussels. Here are seven things you need to know before you book a flight…

1. Everything costs extra 

Similar to Spirit and Frontier, Ryanair’s base fares don’t include seat selection, checked or carry-on baggage and even beverage service — those are all extras.

When I was looking for deals on roundtrip tickets from Dublin to Brussels, Ryanair was half the price of the cheapest competitor. My base fare was $85 USD.

I upgraded to Priority Boarding & 2 Cabin Bags, which brought the total to $110 USD.

With Ryanair’s base fare, you don’t get to choose a seat and don’t have access to overhead bins. You can only bring a personal item that fits under your seat.

Even with the upgrade, my Ryanair flight was cheaper than the other options.

However, the fees can quickly get out of control if you start paying for beverage and food service. That can easily add an extra $15 USD to your fare, each way.

2. Check in online and print your own boarding pass 

Before you head off to the airport, you want to check in online at least two hours before your flight and print your boarding pass.

Otherwise, Ryanair charges an airport check-in fee and a boarding card re-issue fee.

To avoid these surcharges, I set a reminder when it was time to check in for my flight and asked the front desk at my hotel to print the boarding pass.

3. Get your boarding pass stamped 

When you get to the airport, you may have to take an additional step before going to security with your boarding pass.

As an American traveling in Europe, I had to have my boarding pass stamped.

Ryanair stamped boarding pass

Stamped Ryanair boarding pass

If you’re a non-EU/EEA citizen, you MUST have your travel documents checked and stamped at the Ryanair Visa/Document Check Desk before going through security.

There were signs at the airports in Dublin and Brussels directing me to this area.

The lines were pretty long, but they moved quickly. The Ryanair employee just looked at my U.S. passport and boarding pass, then stamped it.

Your boarding pass will say at the top if you need to have it stamped before security.

4. Priority vs. Non Priority boarding

Once get through security and find your gate, you’ll see a sign like the one in the picture below that explains Ryanair’s boarding process.

There’s one line for Priority and another line for Non Priority passengers.

Ryanair Priority vs. Non Priority boarding and bag policies

Ryanair Non Priority and Priority boarding lanes

For both of my flights, passengers lined up when the gate agent told them to. There is no boarding by zones like on many other airlines.

Since I paid for Priority & 2 Cabin Bags, I was able to get on the plane earlier.

Beneath the sign about boarding is a bag sizer for cabin bags and small bags. Both of mine fit, but other passengers appeared to have oversized bags.

Small bags (personal item) include handbags, laptop bags and small backpacks. They must fit under the seat in front of you.

  • Non-Priority: Small bag only
  • Priority: Small bag and cabin bag

According to Ryanair’s website, small bags can measure up to 40cm x 20cm x 25cm. In inches, that’s 15.7in x 7.9x x 9.8in. 

Keep in mind, that’s even smaller than the personal item size that Spirit and Frontier allow.

I was happy that I paid for the Priority & 2 Cabin Bags upgrade because I was among the first to board the plane and easily found overhead bin space.

5. You may board using the plane’s stairs 

After the gate agent scanned my boarding pass, I didn’t go through the normal jet bridge to board the plane.

Instead, passengers stood at the bottom of a stairwell for about 10 minutes until it was time to get on the Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Ryanair no jet bridge

No jet bridge! Board using the plane’s front and back stairs

A friend of mine said that Ryanair typically doesn’t use jet bridges because they cost extra and extend the time it takes to board.

With my first Ryanair flight, we boarded the plane using the aircraft’s front and back stairs.

6. Standard seats are not comfortable 

Although I upgraded to Priority & 2 Cabin Bags, I decided to save some money and not pay extra to choose my seat.

As I expected, I ended up in a cramped middle seat. Take a look:

Ryanair's narrow seats

Ryanair’s seats are narrow and uncomfortable

Ryanair’s standard seats are narrow and uncomfortable. My flight was quick, so it wasn’t a big deal. I wouldn’t want to sit that way for more than three hours.

For an additional fee, Ryanair offers the following seating options:

  • Extra legroom seats: Rows 1 A,B,C, 2 D,E,F and 16-17
  • Front seats: Rows 2-5
  • Standard seats: Pick a window or aisle seat

I also noticed that Ryanair doesn’t have seat pockets. The safety information card is printed on the back of the seats, and magazines are handed out during the flight.

Ryanair safety information card on back of seat

Safety information card is not an actual card

7. The sales pitches never stop

The magazines are about the only thing that’s free with Ryanair. During the flight, be prepared for constant sales pitches from the flight attendants.

For my flight, it started with coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Perfumes were sold next. Then, scratch card tickets were pushed.

Ryanair will also email you frequently leading up to your trip to pre-pay for upgrades.

If you know the way Ryanair works in advance, you can avoid all of these extra fees. Just buy something to eat at the terminal and bring it on the plane.

Would I fly Ryanair again? My personal review 

I researched Ryanair before booking my roundtrip ticket from Dublin to Brussels, so I knew what to expect and beat most of the fees.

My first flight was perfect and it arrived several minutes early to my destination.

The return trip didn’t go quite as smoothly. The flight was delayed by more than an hour, but it was for something out of Ryanair’s control, not related to safety or maintenance.

Since Ryanair’s ticket was so much cheaper, I would definitely fly them again in the future.

Ryanair doesn’t provide a luxurious or fancy experience, but I was happy to pocket the savings and spend that money on things that are more important to me.

Have you flown Ryanair? Share your experience and add your review below!