Ireland is a jewel for tourists. But, as for everywhere, it is advised to come with some basic knowledge. Luckily, we’ve got you covered.
Deeply rooted in ancestral traditions, Ireland is a young country shaped by thousands of years of History. Adjusting to its unfamiliar system, unique culture and different mentality can be a tricky venture. Getting prepared is the insurance of a memorable journey.
Plan your trip, save both money and time, and engage in a stress-free adventure with your guide of “20 Ireland Travel Tips to Make Your Experience Unforgettable”.
#1 Weather Tips
In the Emerald Isles, the weather is unpredictable as it can change every fifteen minutes. When the thermometer hits 17°C (62.6°F), consider the climate balmy.
The highest temperatures reach 19°C (66.2°F) in both July and August. The coldest days average 5°C (41°F) and occur during January and February.
It rains all year long, most of the days, and the driest periods happen in April, May and July. From mid-spring to the early end of summer, the sun breaks through the clouds for an average of 5.5 hours per day.
Most of the wind goes hand in hand with the freshest months, and the northern part suffers from blustery peaks. The Southern side of the island has fewer air currents and remains agreeable throughout the seasons.
#2 Picking the right Season
The peak season takes place in both July and August when most of Europe and other parts of the world are on holidays. Do expect some crowd.
The shoulder season, on its side, goes on a couple of months before and after. It offers mild atmospheric conditions (above 17°C/62.6°F) and a journey away from the horde. The natural light is up at 7AM and down at 8PM.
The rest of the year, the sun rises at 8AM and sets at 4PM on average. Tourism is low and, many touristic places either close down or shorten their opening hours. (It is essential to check to prevent disappointments)
The ocean and seas heat from 15° to 19°C (50° to 66.2°F) in the hottest time of the year. In winter, the salt water barely makes it to the 8th degree (46.4°F).
#3 Do’s and Don’ts
Another vital list to review before visiting any country; no one likes to disrespect the master of the house.
- Don’t blaspheme, it is against the law.
- Do curse but never be offensive or use stereotypes (leprechauns, fairies etc.), it is hurtful and somewhat racist. Irish enjoy the ‘slag,’ so beware that taking the piss out of you is part of the game. Always remain cool. Remember the adage: “spare the rod and spoil the child.”
- Don’t say that Ireland is part of Britain. Politics are always a sensitive subject and history is still fresh in some memories. Avoiding the matter is the insurance of great craic. (it works the same with religion)
- Do always accept a cup of tea, you don’t want to be impolite.
- Don’t express any form of public display of affection. Irish are modest and consider that some actions should remain private.
- Don’t forget/avoid to pay your round. We will not emphasize this enough. It is a significant cultural aspect; failing in this duty is not acceptable.
- Do engage conversation. Everyone likes to chat, and as you know, the craic is an Irish invention.
- Do thank public drivers when leaving.
#4 Visa Tips
Never forget to check the visa modalities of your country of origin. What’s worse than spending the holidays stranded in an airport? Don’t worry, the ensuing insight should get you all ready to land legally on Irish soil*.
All EU/EEA/Swiss citizens can visit or even settle in Ireland for an unlimited period. No visa is requested. Proof of identity is mandatory.
Check if you need a visa by entering your country here.
Anyone else planning to tour Ireland will need to apply here
The fee will cost €60 for a single entry, €100 for a multi-entry journey and €25 for transit.
The following passport holders will not be charged but must request legal permission to enter the Irish soil.
|Bosnia & Herzegovina
|Republic of Macedonia
Schengen and UK Visas are not valid to enter the Republic of Ireland.
*at the time of writing
#5 Gear up for the journey of a lifetime
Any time of the year, pack a rain jacket (umbrella), a pair of waterproof walking shoes/trousers and a hoodie (a lifesaver). As the sun likes to play hide-and-seek, a pair of sunglasses will be as beneficial. A small bag for hikes and long walks might be a practical add up too.
If you plan to dip in any pool, you will be required to wear a swimming cap. Even your hotel might not allow jumping in the water without your head covered.
Sensitive to the cold and still plan to enjoy the Irish waters? You should probably load your wetsuit as well.
#6 More Packing Tips
Tap water is safe to drink in most of the cities. If you have an upsetting stomach, the rural aqua might not be suitable for you. You can, of course, buy water anywhere, but to save plastic and money, you could kit yourself out with a water bottle filter.
Technology-wise, you might need a power supply adaptor, as Irish sockets are G types (British source). They standardly function at a voltage of 230 V and a frequency of 50 Hz.
No matter the weather, Ireland remains one of the most photogenic countries in the world; so don’t forget to gear up. Load your backpack with your camera charger, at least a couple of batteries and a memory card with loads of space! If you are more of a phone-photographer, a single piece of advice: empty it all! You might want to protect your device with a waterproof pouch in case of rainfall.
#7 Staying Connected in Ireland
Wi-Fi is available and free in most of the restaurants, cafés and hotels. Some long-distance public transportation often offers this service too.
If you need a constant connection, you should invest in a prepaid SIM card. You can either order an international one before your flight or simply buy one on arrival (cheaper).
Many companies have boutiques on airport arrival areas. Trustworthy Irish phone operators include Vodafone, Hutchison 3 and Meteor. Broadband daily (€3 /500MB), weekly (€10 /2GB) or every four weeks (€20 /7.5GB).
In more remote areas, for both Wi-Fi and data, it might be harder to get online.
Coming from Europe, your data might be transferable to other EU state members (at no cost).
#8 Money Tips
If you plan to visit the Republic of Ireland, you will use the € euro currency. Depending on your planning, Ireland can be either cheap or costly.
When/if crossing the border, both nation and money will change. You will reach Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, and use the £ pound sterling (refer to our last tip for more info).
It is good to note that some of Great Britain’s bills are different and can’t be used within the north soils (and reciprocally).
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere (Visa and Master card), Amex can be harder outside big cities.
ATMs are available in most of the Emerald Isle. However, some rural areas such as Galway or Clare, cash machines might be scares. It is always a good call to carry some fresh bucks around.
#9 Public Transports
First advice to a great stay: be patient. Timetables are a general estimation of the bus arrival times. Sometimes they are early, but in most cases, they are late. Do not forget to flag the bus down or it will not stop.
Bus Éireann is the leading company in the republic. It connects small areas as well as big cities and covers every county. For €60, the Open Road Pass will allow you 3-day with unlimited travels out of 6 consecutive days.
Aircoach, Dublin Bus, Irish City Link and 15 other national and regional lines are also available.
If you plan to tour the capital and want to make the most of it, you can purchase the Dublin Pass. For €94, the hop-on-hop-off bus will guide you to 30 of the best attractions in the metropolis. From the Guinness Storehouse to Christ Church Cathedral, enjoy the ride for 3 consecutive days.
From the capital city, the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit), serves every town of the coastal area from Howth to Greystone.
The Local Rail Services head all the way to Belfast in the north, and Rosslare, in the south.
Luas, a light rail system, travels from ‘The Point’ and ‘Connolly’ all the way to Tallaght and Saggart.
From Dublin, the intercity Rail route goes all the way to Sligo, Galway, Tralee and Cork in the west. It also links both the southern Waterford and Rosslare.
The Translink Network crosses border and heads to Belfast up to Portrush and Derry. It is good to know that railways operate through a minimal network.
Discover Ireland by train and get the €160 Explorer Ticket. This pass allows you unlimited travels for 5 days, in a period of 15 consecutive days. For €80, your children can join your adventure.
The Trekker Pass costs €110 and allows you unlimited travel for four days in a row.
National flights include two 40-minute routes only: Dublin – Donegal and Dublin – Kerry.
The only other existing flights will lead you from Connemara Regional Airport to three of the Aran Islands.
From your country, you might have options to land to either Dublin, Cork, Waterford, West Airport Knock, Donegal, Kerry or Shannon.
#10 Rent a Car
Between the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula, road-trips seem to be the greatest way to discover Ireland. Depart anytime you want, stop anywhere you want and sometimes, even sleep wherever you want.
The Europcar Tourism Index states that 98% of travellers recommend hiring personal transportation as it is the guarantee of a hassle-free adventure (let’s just say it is a different type of struggle).
For better rates, we highly advise you to pre-book your rental. Sometimes, the prices can go as low as €6 per 24hours. Choose a small car as Irish roads tend to be very narrow sometimes. Pick up it from the city or straight on arrival at the airport and hit the road.
If you fly back from another airport, most of the car leasing companies offer the ‘one-way drop-off’ option. It gives you the possibility to pick-up your vehicle at point A and drop-it-off at point B.
Because some companies must cut some costs off to offer competitive fares, your insurance contract might not include complete coverage. If so, check your credit card insurance policy, banks often cover against collision damages and theft. Occasionally, they even protect the entire car.
The gasoline expenses average the €1.35 per litre (1/4 of a gallon), with a minimum price at €1.30, and a maximum at €1.40. Diesel on its side charges between €1.29 and €1.35.
Good to Know:
- In Ireland, you drive on the left side of the road.
- Usually, cars have manual gear; if you prefer automatic, make sure to request it.
- Keep your eyes open! Due to regular rainfall, roads are left with many potholes.
- To hire an auto, UK, USA, Canada, Australia and EU citizens will only need their national driving license. United Kingdom drivers will be asked their DVLA code. Other visitors will also have to provide their international authorization.
- The credit card and the main driver must be under the same name.
- In case you are traveling with an infant, do not forget to book you’re babysitter in advance.
#11 Useful Traveling Apps
Maps.Me is a detailed offline map. You can use this free GPS without any internet connection. To do so, download the data of the Irish counties you will visit before departing and voilà! Viewpoints, lodging, gas stations, city guides, health and so many more indexes are included. You can also bookmark your favourite places, define the unnamed location and rate the places you went to. Maps.Me works worldwide.
In Ireland, no one really uses Uber; MyTaxi is the most popular APP to hire a cab. Only registered taxis can operate within Ireland. It probably explains Uber’s lack of fame on the island. MyTaxi is easy to adopt as it works pretty much like its competitor (prepayment, registration and fair price).
Rome2Rio works in 160 nations and is another excellent travel app. It gives you distances between places, lists the public transports available and the prices to your destination. It indexes schedules, websites and booking links to transportation, alongside complimentary travel guides.
Booking.com and Agoda offer great deals on accommodations. Those options are practical as they allow last-minute arrangements. For those seeking for quirky lodging: castles, lighthouses and much more are available.
Although making a reservation through Airbnb requires more planning, it is a great way to contribute as well as connect with locals. The engine also proposes activity deals in most of the cities and touristic areas.
Couchsurfing requires as much preparation and is completely free of charge. Locals open their home to travelers at no cost. You’ll learn about the different potential hosts reading through their profile and the many reviews left by previous couchsurfers (and vice-versa). A great way for budget travelers to have an immersing cultural experience. The platform also offers travelers to meet for a drink, a ride or have a run together.
#12 A bit of History
To understand a nation, you need to dig into its past. Those few historical key dates will help you comprehend modern Ireland:
|St Patrick steps in Ireland and King Laoghaire authorizes the propagation of Christianity.
|Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, triumphs against the Vikings.
|Henry II of England stated Feudal Lord of Eire by the pope, forces his legal recognition.
|Henry, King of England, follow the path of his ancestor. He obligates the Irish Parliament to declare him ‘King of Ireland.’
|Revolts start in Ulster
|Cromwell, English campaign commander of Eire, defeats rebels and occupies the lands.
|Only Protestants can be members of the parliament.
|Ireland becomes part of the United Kingdom.
|Thanks to Daniel O’Connell, Catholics are part of the parliament again.
|The Great Famine occurs and exterminates over 1 million lives. Another million flees to the United States.
|Easter Rebellion, versus British, erupts in Dublin.
|Ireland becomes the Irish Free State, a dominion of Great Britain
|The Irish Free State advocates itself as a Republic.
Northern Ireland evolves into an independent entity.
|The Republic of Ireland becomes a member of the European Union.
#13 A Glimpse of Traditions, What to Expect
Despite the evolution and dissolution of many Irish traditions, the rooted culture survived through time.
In puritan weddings, the beautiful ceremony has the broom dressed in his clan kilt and the bride in an angelic white attire. Additionally to something blue, old, borrowed and new; the spouse also has to put a penny in her shoe.
Toasts of Irish sayings are spoken one after the other such as “May your troubles be less, and your blessings be more. And nothing but happiness, come in your door.” Sláintes and stories last a while, the dance starts and the cake arrives. If you are invited, your turn will come, you better be ready (crib sheets allowed).
The single women traditionally take the pastry leftovers home. They place it under their beds in the faith to dream of their future husband. Pick a slice if you’re eligible, the worse that can happen is having a cake for breakfast.
As part of traditions, brides receive at least one piece of Waterford Crystal as a wedding gift.
Don’t expect any keening, the custom has dissolved. Instead, during the wake, friends and family share stories about the departed. Despite Church’s unsuccessful tentative to prohibit alcohol, liquors and barley never missed the rite. Before retiring, everyone together recites the mourning rosary.
Good to know
Driving or walking, always give way to the funeral cortege; it shows certain respect to the late.
Halloween in Ireland
Halloween is native to Ireland and is the evolution of the customary seasonal Samhain. For over 2,000 years, from sunset to sunset (24 hours), Irish celebrated the end of the harvest and the beginning of the winter days. Giant bonfires and pagan rituals were on. Children and poor would become mummers and would sing for a piece of Barmbrack. Guising, on its side, was worn as protection to trick the spirit.
Good to know:
Lambswool, a milked and spiced cider (or wine) with crushed apple is the drink to get for the night. Food-wise: potato bread, colcannon, apple pie and Irish stew fill-up the table.
Saint Patrick’s Day
Before anything, never shorten Saint Patrick’s Day to “Saint Patty’s,” Irish hate it. The festivity celebrates religion, the nation and its people. Green is the colour that represents Ireland’s balance and peace.
The 17th of March is both a Holy Day and National Irish Day. Christian families go to church, dress up all and pin a shamrock by their heart. The later would be blessed during the mass. They return home to a conventional roast dinner and either watch or head to the parade.
Saint Patrick procession crossed oceans in the 18th century, and the earliest street demonstration happened in New York. Until the 1970’s, waterholes were not allowed to open during the ceremonial night. In Ireland, the first parade took place in Dublin in 1995 (unexpectedly recent right?), a way for Ireland to lift the number of visitors. Since then, Saint Patrick Festival turned into the worldwide celebration that we all know.
Easter Sunday in Ireland
40 days before Easter Sunday, Lent officially starts, and meat (amongst other cherished things) is off the table. Follows what we commonly know as a ‘spring cleaning.’ For Irish religious, it is a way to purify the house as the priest comes to give his blessings.
Prior to Easter Sunday is Good Friday, a self-cleansing and self-rewarding day. On this rest day, farming and any outdoor jobs cannot be undertaken. The painted and chocolate eggs see the light for the first time in days. The degustation, however, will take place on Easter Sunday.
Holy Saturday is a silent day dedicated to both God and the church. The diurnal ritual includes a sacred water blessing, and the nocturnal mass celebrates the Easter Vigil.
On Easter Sunday, the mass gathers people to honour Jesus’ resurrection. They return home to a proper Irish feast. After dinner, it is time to savour the chocolate. Customarily, only the children who did not break the lent should earn the treat.
Christmas in Ireland
Like anywhere in the world, Christmas is a time for gathering. Lights, stars and tinsels invade the streets and the houses and Santas clones proliferates from every corner. Christians attend the midnight Vigil Mass where everyone lights a candle. The dinner feast includes minced pie, ham, slow-cooked turkey, pudding and vegetables.
The ‘Twelve Pubs of Christmas’ is a new storming trend that starts a few days before the Holy festivity. The concept combines booze, mates and rules.
Head to a different pub with a group of friends every night of the 12-days celebration.
Over 15 Tricky regulations, as well as punishments for breaking them, have been set up. Every night, apply one or more:
- Wear a sweater with festive season motifs or dress as an elf or as Santa Claus. The more stereotypical, the better.
- Phones are prohibited.
- Forget everyone’s names.
- Sing a carol by yourself.
- Interdiction to use the toilets of the establishments.
- As a right-handed person, you will become left-handed (and reciprocally). A principle known as ‘Buffalo’ by connoisseurs.
- Down on your knees, you will carry at least one round of drinks.
- For an entire night, you will take a vow of silence (good luck with that!).
Penalties for outlaws consist of sipping a shot, drinking down a pint in one go, (try to) doing a headstand or swallowing a full cup of salty snacks without sipping any liquids.
#14 Learn a few words in Gaelic
Before travelling to a new place, it is always nice to learn some local words. Although English is widely spoken throughout the country, Irish remains the first language. Those few sentences can literally save your life in Gaeltacht areas and, are also engaging ways to start a conversation with someone.
|Oíche mhaith agat
|Ee-hah wah agut
|What’s your name?
|Cad is ainm duit?
|Kad iss annyim ditch?
|Nice to meet you
|Tá sé deas bualadh leat
|Taw shay sjay jass boola lyat
|Le do thoil
|Leh duh hull
|Go raibh maith agat
|Guh row mah agut
|I don’t speak Irish
|Níl Gaeilge agam
|Nyeel Gayle-ga agum
|Where is the toilet?
|Cá bhfuil an leithreas
|Kaw will un lyeh-riss
|Two beers, please
|Dhá bheoir, le do thoil
|Gaw vyore leh duh hull
|The food was excellent
|Bhí an béile ar fheabhas
|Vee un bayla air owwass
|Tá mé ar strae
|Taw may er stray
Communication in Ireland is a sweet mix of kind words and curses. Don’t worry, it is all part of history.
Check our article here, learn a few Irish insults and understand the symbolism behind swearing.
#15 Know your Breads
Irish people love their baked goods and tasting them all is a must. The traditional soda bread is undoubtedly the most popular one. It contains bicarbonate of soda, both wholemeal and plain flour, buttermilk and salt.
However, contrarily to what most believes, it is not a national creation. For centuries, Native American used soda wood ashes to leaven their bread. The imported recipe, alongside the introduction of cornmeal (aka Indian meal), reached the isle of Eire, at the time of the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s and, revolutionised daily feeding habits.
Wheaten, Veda and Potato bread alongside Brambrack and Waterford Blaa, are also amongst the favourite.
#16 Know your Cuisine
To survive Irish winters back in the days: fat, feculent and proteins were essential to everyone’s diet.
Black Pudding is a sausage made of both pork blood and fat, beef lard, oatmeal (sometimes with barley or oat hulled grains) and, herbs. Drisheen, very well-liked in Cork, is a jellied version that mixes both cow and pork/sheep blood with dairy and fat. The dish usually comes with tripe.
Coddle, a meal made of leftovers, does not follow any specific recipe. This Dubliner treasure commonly contains multiple types of sausages, salt-cured bacon, barley, seasoning, herbs and, you guessed it, potatoes.
Bacon and cabbage is a serve of back bacon slivers previously boiled with potato and cabbage. A white dressing, prepared with flour, dairies and parsley, generally accompanies the course.
As everything has its use, other pork eats include Crubeens (pettitoes), and Skirts and Kidneys (pork stew).
Boxty is a northern fried potato pancake mixed with buttermilk, flour and baking soda. As an old proverb says “Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan, If you can’t make boxty, You’ll never get your man.“
Colcannon and Brúitín (also known as ‘Champ’) are two types of mash potato dishes that originated in Ireland. One blends with either kale or cabbage and the other with spring onion. Both recipes contain cheese, milk and butter.
The Shepherd Pie is a lamb and vegetable pie covered with potato puree grilled on top. The Cottage Pie has the same ingredients, except for the meat (minced beef instead).
Other National Irish Dishes:
Although Lamb or mutton is more common, Irish stew can be a combination of any type of meat and vegetables.
Like any first meal, the Irish Breakfast, also called ‘Fry,’ is the most important feed of the day. The components slightly alter from one region to another, but there are some fundamentals. On the menu: bacon rashers, pork sausage, black pudding, eggs (scrambled or fried), soda bread and sizzled tomatoes. If you are in a hurry, you can have it all in a roll!
A lighter morning porridge, made of rolled oats, can be another option. Irish Breakfast Tea is a compulsory side.
For an island, Ireland is not so much into seafood consumption. Some places, such as Galway or Dublin, still cultivate their sea hunter heritage. ‘Cockles and Mussels,’ the officious anthem of the capital city, is a hymn to the fishmonger: Molly Malone. Grafton Street displays a statue of her effigy. Galway, on its side, celebrates oysters every September.
Anywhere else, salmon and cod will be part of the menu.
Most restaurants offer vegetarian options and will be happy to remove any allergen from your dish when pre-requested.
#17 Drinking Tips
In Ireland, it is illegal to drink if you are under 18-year-old. Off-licence premises are allowed to sell liquors from 10:30AM until 10PM, from Monday to Saturday.
On Sundays though, the shops can only open from 12:30PM.
Pubs close between 11:30PM on weekdays and extend to 1AM on weekends.
Irish people are nice (you already know that) and extremely social! As stated earlier, when meeting new people, don’t forget to pay your round of drinks. It is common practice in the isle, and everyone does so.
Sláinte, pronounced ‘sla nche,’ is the word to toast and translates as ‘health.’ When you enter a pub, it is not common to require a menu. Also, no one drinks “Irish Car Bombs,” and asking for the cocktail is seen as distasteful. To order a Guinness, no need to specify, simply ask for ‘a pint.’ It will take at least five minutes to enjoy a beer at its best (three to pour it and 2 to let it settle). Forbear a little; perfection needs time.
Enjoy your time, know your limits and do not get wasted. It might sound surprising, but it is considered rude and disrespectful.
Except for Beer and Jameson, Ireland is the land of delicious liqueurs. Bertha’s Revenge and Glendalough gin, Kalak Vodka, Dunville’s Whiskey or Kinsale Mead are all worth a tasting.
#18 Tipping Tips
When working in restaurants, bars and lodging in Ireland, service charges are already included in the salary. Staff do not expect a tip from customers, but the gesture is, of course, always appreciated. If you had a great experience, and insist on expressing your gratitude, the average donation is about 10% of the bill. Again, no one will neither blame you nor judge you if you leave nothing.
Taxis work the same as the hospitality industry.
In small towns and villages, cafés and tavern usually have a charity contribution box by their cashier. Simple coins will fit the purpose.
#19 Site seeing tips (Ireland heritage card)
If you are on your way to a historical journey in the Emerald Isles, we highly advise you to take the Heritage Card. Depending on the number of sites you plan to tour, this card can be a big money saver. For €40, adults will have access to all OPW Heritage sites for an entire year (Who knows, you might come back!).
Over 60-year-old, you will get a €10 discount. Students and children yearly ticket will cost €10. A €90 family package is for sale for two adults and a maximum of five children.
For anything else, book everything online. You will pay much cheaper and avoid long and exhausting lines. Museums, theatre, cinema, bus etc. all have a website.
#20 Ireland Versus Northern Ireland What’s the Difference?
The island of Ireland has two countries: The Republic of Ireland, an independent nation, also known as Ireland and Northern Ireland, part of the British Isles. (I would put this one in 2 bullet points to make it clearer).
As stated earlier, the money is different but not only. Over in Ireland addressed the issue and has dedicated a full article here
What to expect on a Sunday in Ireland
Sunday in Ireland is either dedicated to sports, hangovers, god or outdoors. The land is 84.6% Christian, and many believers head to the early morning mass.
The other key to a perfect end of the week is laziness. Isn’t Sunday called rest day? Irish commonly start their morning with an endless battle with themselves. As wonted, it is the price of a healthy Saturday night. Swallowing a bunch of fermented cereals and water can hit you hard. The body craves for protein and fat; it is time for a sweet Irish tea and a proper ‘Fry.’
When a race is on, the hippodromes are packed. Horseracing is one of the most prevalent live watching sports. There are 26 fields spread across the Emerald Isle. Due to the illustrious Thoroughbred races, The Curragh has the most acclaimed tracks.
Surrounded by some of the greenest lands on the planet, golf is another beloved national entertainment. There are over 300 courses to watch players or exercise your swing.
GAA (Gaelic Football), hurling, soccer and rugby are the remaining favourite sports. When big games are on, supporters dress with their team colours and head to either the stadium or the pub.
To assist in any live sporting events, you can purchase your tickets online.
At night, like anywhere in the world, the thought of starting a new week strikes. If you are on holidays, Sláinte!