Ireland Travel Tips
Do you have questions about visiting Ireland? The information provided here is based on questions many travelers frequently ask. If you can't find the answers you are looking for, please contact us for further inquiries. We would be delighted to hear from you and provide answers to any of your questions!
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Why Visit Ireland?
Mo Chéadsearc has a meaning of my first love and many first time visitors do fall in love with Ireland, returning again and again. While the list of reasons are endless, four big reasons easily come to mind:
- The complexity of history, co-mingled with religious tension
- The unsurpassed natural beauty of the land
- The people - among the friendliest on earth
- The richness or artistic treasures
When is the Best Time to Visit Ireland?
The best time to visit to Ireland is now! However, the second best time will be anytime you can. Seriously, you will love to be in the country from May through September but you can also visit during the other months for a more relaxed atmosphere with less hustle and bustle.
Like most places, Ireland experiences peak seasons and off seasons. Peak season is during July and August so if you are planning your Ireland vacation for those months, expect higher airfares and be prepared to book early. The best hotels, tours, and B&B’s all fill up early and many attractions will be crowded.
The shoulder season of May, June, September, and October can be great times to visit Ireland. Many of the crowds are gone and you can probably find some great Ireland vacation packages. While you won’t have daylight lasting until after 10PM at night during these months, you will still have plenty of daylight hours to enjoy outdoor attractions and activities during your trip to Ireland.
Even the winter months can be enjoyable. With darkness falling earlier, you will find yourself focusing more on indoor activities including enjoying the welcoming atmosphere of Ireland’s many pubs.
What is Ireland’s Weather Like?
The weather in Ireland is mild and temperate with no temperature extremes, and it also rarely snows. However, it is important to note that the weather is very dynamic and at times, you can experience all four seasons within 24 hours. According to the philosophical Irish, ‘if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes as it is bound to change at any time. During your Ireland visit, you can always hope for sunshine, but never forget to bring a rain jacket!
The best source of up to the minute weather information in Ireland can be found at the website for the Irish weather service, Met Eireann.
Can I Take My Kids To Ireland?
Absolutely! While some tours may only be open to children 8 and over, a private itinerary can easily accommodate children of any age. Your kids will have the time of their lives in Ireland. From toddlers to teenagers, there are a plethora of activities that will keep them busy and excited. From puppet shows, train rides, dolphin cruises, petting farms and wildlife parks to quad riding, water parks, wax museums, zoos, time car rides and real medieval castles, there is no limit to family fun in Ireland!
Should I stay at a hotel, B&B or Guesthouse?
The best choice for you is largely dependent on your travel style and the type of accommodation you want. In a hotel, you will find more amenities than B&Bs and Guesthouses like elevator, restaurant, spa or swimming pool, a bar etc. B&Bs and Guesthouses are often run and operated by a family so you definitely do not expect to be catered to 24 hours a day unlike a hotel. However, B&Bs are a great way to meet local people and also economical choice if you are on a tight budget.
B&Bs usually feature a maximum of 6 rooms while a guesthouse typically has more rooms, and ensuite establishments provide you with your own private bathroom as well as a full Irish breakfast. While staying in a B&B or guesthouse, you have a better chance of meeting the genuine Irish people with lots of personalized attention and local insights coming your way.
Passport and Visa Requirements
If you are a citizen of the USA or Canada, you will not need a visa to enter Ireland or the UK. (Northern Ireland is currently part of UK.) Do however, ensure that your passport has at least six months or more until expiration and if not, we suggest that you renew before you leave.
As with travel anywhere, we recommend an RFID Blocking wallet or sleeves for your credit cards and passport to hep prevent identity theft.
When departing for the USA from Dublin or Shannon airports, US Customs and Immigration have pre-clearance in the airport so flights arriving from DUB and SNN arrive in the United States as domestic flights, having already cleared customs and immigration. We recommend allowing plenty of time, at least three hours or more during the busy summer season when departing from Ireland to return home. Guests using our departure services can be assured that our team will schedule your airport transfers with plenty of time to make your flight.
For all other international visitors, please check the DFA website to determine visa requirements.
Airfare is quite variable depending upon the time of year and city of origin. You can search for airfare here.
Airport Arrival and Departures
For tours operated by Ancient Ireland Tourism, please make flight arrangements to arrive at Dublin airport unless otherwise noted in the tour details. When scheduling a tour operated by other operators, please check your travel documents and with your travel advisor for arrival and departure airports in Ireland.
Airport transfers are included in the price of multi-day tours operated by Ancient Ireland Tourism. A representative of Ancient Ireland Tourism will meet you at Dublin airport after you clear customs and transport you to your accommodation starting point. Our representative can be identified holding the Ancient Ireland Tourism sign, and you will be provided with a contact number in your tour package to call in case you cannot find our driver.
Upon arrival at the accommodation, we can usually arrange an early check in, or at least store your luggage if rooms are not yet ready. Unless you are delayed in your arrival, there is often time for a short nap and shower before we start the day's activities. Day 1 activities on tours operated by Ancient Ireland Tourism are usually light to allow time to recover from the jet lag.
On the day of departure, we will arrange transport to Dublin airport in plenty of time to check in, go through airport security, and if flying to the USA, to also clear US customs and immigration.
Should I rent a car on my trip to Ireland?
Renting a car and driving can be a wonderful and rewarding experience on your Ireland vacation. There are a few things to consider before you do:
To begin with, driving in Ireland requires driving on the left. This is not hard to do and is easy to get used to. One word of caution here: if you have never driven on the left before, it may not be the best idea to get off an overnight flight, sleep deprived, and start driving for a couple hours to the west. We recommend taking it easy the first day. Consider staying in Dublin on the first day of your trip to Ireland and enjoying a few sites in the city. After a good night’s sleep, pick up your rental either from an in-city location or head back to the airport to get your rental. Flying into Shannon is another option as the airport is smaller and when driving out, you will not have to contend with urban traffic as you do in Dublin.
Most rental cars in Ireland have a manual transmission. If you never learned to drive a manual transmission vehicle, it may not be the best time to learn while at the same time learning to drive on the left. Car rental companies in Ireland do offer automatic transmission rental vehicles, but they are in high demand and cost substantially more. If you need an automatic, be sure to reserve one when making your car rental booking for your Ireland vacation.
Warning! While many credit cards include insurance for rental cars, make absolutely certain that the excess liability is covered as many specifically exclude coverage in Ireland. Sure, it costs a few dollars more to buy down to zero liability, but it is well worth it considering you may be driving on some roads which are narrower than you may be used to as well as driving left. If you do have one of the few credit cards that will cover car rentals in Ireland, be aware that in the event off any damage, the car rental company will charge your credit card for the excess damage and it will be up to you to file a claim and sort the matter out with your credit card company.
Should you rent a GPS? A GPS is a wonderful tool for navigating and particularly so for places such as some B&B’s without a real street address where you may need to enter actual GPS coordinates. Getting them from the rental car company can be expensive though and there are better ways to spend your Ireland vacation budget. We offer the following suggestions:
- · If you ever plan to visit Ireland or Europe again, it is a worthwhile investment to purchase a GPS with the Western Europe maps and bring it with you. Purchasing probably equals the cost of the rental, but then you have it to use in the future, cost free.
- · Most smartphones these days have GPS functionality. To use them without also using expensive roaming data, you will need to first download offline maps for areas you plan to visit during your trip to Ireland.
- · Another option available from car rental companies is to rent a wireless tethering device. This allows you to use wireless broadband during your trip which besides using your phone for navigation, allows you to use thee wireless for email, uploading photos, and other Internet access without the expense off costly data roaming from your cellular carrier during your trip to Ireland.
Unlike the United States, many cars in Ireland use diesel instead of gasoline. Pay careful attention! When you pull up at the pumps, you will notice that the petrol (gasoline) pump is green handled and the diesel pump is black. THIS IS OPPOSITE OF THE UNITED STATES! We have heard many horror stories of jet lagged tourists filling the tank with the wrong fuel. This is one way to spoil your perfect Irish vacation and expensive as well. You will need to have the tank removed and purged, all while losing precious time during your trip to Ireland.
When renting and returning a rental vehicle at Dublin airport, you most likely will need to traverse the M50 motorway which is like a beltway around the city of Dublin. Tolls on the M50 are all handled photographically by license plate. Failure to pay the toll by the next evening will result in fines which the car rental agency will charge to you. Once you head out away from Dublin, stop at a service area or petrol station to pay the toll and purchase two trips. This way, you will avoid the fine and be covered for your return journey to Dublin airport when leaving Ireland at the end of your Ireland vacation. You can also pay the toll online and can prepay for the return trip for less stress and forgetting at the airport.
Private Chauffeur and Charters
A private chauffeur can be an excellent option for families and smaller groups. Leave the hassle of driving to your own chauffeur and guide who can share intimate local knowledge and allow you to enjoy your vacation. Private charters are available for group sizes ranging from couples to larger groups of 6 to 10 people. Plus, you have got the flexibility to craft your own schedule and experience. A private chauffeur offers the flexibility if a self-directed vacation plus all of the benefits of having a professional guide.
What about using public transportation?
Public transportation is available all over Ireland and it is possible to get to most places using rail or bus. If you plan to use public transportation during your Ireland vacation, Transport for Ireland has both online as well as indispensable apps you can use for journey planning and real-time updates.
See the Transport for Ireland website for more detail and to download the app.
Cell phones, Internet, and Electrical in Ireland
Most cell phones will work in Ireland; be sure to check with your carrier before you leave as your carrier may need to update your PRL or make other changes to your configuration. When you contact your carrier, make sure to clarify international charges and roaming fees as data fees can add up quickly. Unless you have an international data plan at a reasonable rate, we recommend turning off data services on your phone and using Wi-Fi when available for browsing the Internet, checking email, Facebook, and the like.
Country codes for dialing phone numbers in Ireland are:
- Republic of Ireland 353
- Northern Ireland 44
In order to dial from US or Canadian phones, you would dial 011 + Country Code (353 or 44) + the phone number. Note that you will see cell phones listed with area codes in Ireland which have a leading zero. You can drop that zero when dialing.
Dialing to the USA from Ireland, you would dial 011 + 1 + Area Code + Number
Wi-Fi is widely available although as with any public Wi-Fi, we recommend caution and the use of a VPN application if you need to do any banking or other sensitive business over public networks.
Ireland uses 240 volt electrical and requires an adapter. Most devices such as cell phones, laptops, camera chargers, tablets, etc. will handle either 120 or 240 volts although you should check each device to make sure. If your device cannot operate on 240 volts, you will need a power transformer along with the adapter.
Electrical outlets are the same in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Travel is an adventure and flights and other things sometimes may not go as planned. Ancient Ireland Tourism cannot assume any liability for things such as delayed flights, missing the start of the tour, weather, lost luggage and any injuries sustained on the tour or while in Ireland. We highly recommend that each guest purchase travel insurance for these contingencies. Travel insurance is often available from your airline when booking flights, or you can obtain insurance through us. Please ask your travel advisor for a travel insurance quote.
Money/ATM, Credit Cards in Ireland
The currency used in Ireland is the Euro while in Northern Ireland it's the British Pound Sterling. ATM's are widely available so there is no need to convert a large amount of currency prior to your departure. Carrying €200 is a sufficient amount o cast to keep on hand. For tours which go into the Northern Ireland, the same amount in pound sterling is also sufficient. Several ATMs in Dublin Airport arrivals area will dispense both Euro and Pound Sterling.
While many sites and establishments often offer customers the option of paying in their local currency with credit card transactions, this is usually a bad deal for the customer as the exchange rate is unfavorable. By quoting and transacting in Euros, we offer our clients the best exchange rates as banks and credit card companies make the conversion at more favorable rates than a vendor would be able to provide. Get an estimated currency conversion rate.
Likewise, credit cards are widely accepted, although some smaller establishments may prefer cash. Mastercard and Visa are almost universally accepted, but many establishments may not accept American Express. Discover cards are not accepted in Ireland. Please note that some establishments may add a surcharge to transactions when using credit cards.
Be sure to check with your bank or financial institution prior to departure. Most credit cards will need to know the countries you plan to visit and your ATM cards will need to be authorized for international use.
Overnight itineraries include a full Irish breakfast each day. A full and proper Irish breakfast usually includes eggs, rashers, sausage, black and white pudding, beans, mushrooms, potatoes, toast, coffee or tea, and juice. Special dietary needs can easily be accommodated. Please advise your host of any special requirements. Alcoholic beverages are not ordinarily included in pricing.
Meals are generally not expensive in Ireland. Lunch can average €10- €15 with a reasonable dinner in the €20 - €25 range. A pint of Guinness or beer is usually around €5 with glasses of wine starting at €6 and up.
Tipping in Ireland is not the same as in the USA. When ordering meals or drinks at the bar a tip is generally not expected. If you do tip for a meal, 10% - 15% is a completely acceptable amount and be sure to hand it directly to your sever instead of adding to the credit card slip.
Admission fees to most sites and attractions are included in the price of your tour if operated by Ancient Ireland Tourism. On some tours which have allotted free time for you to explore, optional activities are often suggested which are an additional cost if you choose to participate. Recommended optional activities and attractions will be clearly identified on your tour schedule and documents along with current admission fees.
Fitness and Accessibility
Guests should be reasonably fit and able to walk moderate distances, in most cases 30 minutes or less Some attractions may require walking over turf, uneven and rocky terrain, which may include some uphill climbing.
Ireland is also famous for many spectacular cliffs and in many cases, you can walk right up to the edge of these cliffs. We advise that you exercise due care near cliffs and decline all liability for accidents such as falling off cliffs.
Safety and Emergencies
Ireland is a safe country although you should take reasonable precautions as with traveling anywhere or even walking about in your home country.
Make copies of your ID, passport and travel documents. Take printed copies with you, and either leave copies with family or friends back home, or store copies on Google Drive, Dropbox, or One Drive.
In emergencies, please advise your guide. The Garda Síochána (National Police) and other emergency services can be reached by dialing 112. (Dialing 112 works anywhere in Europe)
For reaching the police for non emergency reasons such as filing a police report, you should contact the local Garda station.
Other tips for staying safe and secure when traveling:
- Never carry large amounts of case and divide your cash. Store excess cash in hotel safe deposit boxes.
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket when walking in cities and crowded areas.
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and consider leaving these at home.
- Carry backpacks, fanny packs and purses in front of you when in a crowded area such as cities.
- Carry only enough money on your person for the day.
- When using an ATM, use only in a well lit area and be suspicious of strangers lingering around the area. Take a companion with you.
- Be alert to your surroundings and enjoy your trip!
Irish Facts and Culture
You will find people in Ireland friendly, welcoming and hospitable. We enjoy the craic (conversations)! Many strangers you may meet will engage you in stimulating conversation.
The Irish Republic was declared in 1916 with the Easter Uprising which left Dublin in ruins. A subsequent war was fought with England which resulted in the declaration of the Irish Free State in 1922 which included 26 counties, leaving six counties in the North under British rule. Ireland was officially declared a Republic in 1949.
Ireland is part of the European Union and also has special travel arrangements with Britain as part of the CTA (Common Travel Area). There is currently no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the Northern counties, although many are concerned that the Brexit situation may result in a hard border which would have detrimental impact to the people and the economies of both areas. As it stands today, the only ways one notices that the border is crossed is that the speed limit and road signs change from kilometers to miles, the colors on the road markings change, and road signs are in English only instead of both English and Irish.
The North of Ireland, once mired in sectarian violence, has been peaceful on account of the Good Friday Peace Agreement signed in 1998. Belfast in County Antrim, Derry and the rest of the Northern counties are wonderful to visit and besides having treasures of their own to explore, are just as beautiful as the rest of Ireland.
Ireland has two official languages: Irish and English. Street signs and government documents are bilingual and you will notice the Irish language. Outside of the designated Gaeltacht on the far western coasts, people speak English every day although most people also understand the Irish language since it is taught in schools. When in the Gaeltacht, people speak Irish everyday and we encourage you to learn a few phrases. (Your guides will be more than happy to help you with Irish phrases.)
If you would like a great language app for your Android or iPhone, try Nemo Irish Gaelic which can be found in the app store. The app has plenty of useful phrases.
You will not find corned beef and cabbage in Ireland as it is not a traditional Irish dish. It was adopted by Irish immigrants to the USA, most likely living in close proximity to other immigrants. Corned beef was cheap and plentiful which is the reason Irish immigrants adopted the dish. In Ireland, the closest thing you will find is bacon and cabbage.
Guinness might as well be the national drink and you will find it everywhere. You can be the judge, but many will tell you that it really does taste better in Ireland. Be sure to ask the proper way to draw and drink Guinness as the way it is served in many American bars is not correct.
Ireland is not a huge tipping culture. In many pubs, you order food and drinks at the bar and they will bring it out to you. Tips are not expected when ordering at the bar. For food ordered at the table, 10% is an appropriate amount to tip.
In crowded pubs, it is not advisable for each member of the party to go up to the bar and order drinks. We follow the "rules of rounds" which means one person will usually order the drinks for the group and pay for them. It is proper etiquette to take turns purchasing the drinks for your group.
Click here for more information on tipping in Ireland.
Your guide is an excellent resource on Irish culture and customs so be sure to ask; we love to talk about Ireland!