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Travel Tips to Ireland
Ireland has the perfect combination of culture, natural beauty, city life, and some of the most welcoming people in the world to make traveling throughout the country one of the most enjoyable trips you might ever take. However, with so much to do, it is often hard to sort it out and come up with the perfect itinerary (here’s ours).
Before you even begin to decide on your destinations, here are some Traveling to Ireland Tips and Tricks to help give you an understanding of a few things to know when visiting Ireland.
In our Tips on Traveling to Ireland, we’ll cover driving, the best way to travel Ireland, how to tip at restaurants, what to pack, and so much more.
^Pin It To Your Ireland Board!^
Take a Look At A Map
Ireland looks like a small country on a map, but it’s slightly deceiving. Don’t get me wrong, you can drive to most touristy places in a matter of numerous hours, making it perfect for a road trip, but you also need to plan accordingly so that you have time to actually ENJOY your destinations, not just be in the car your whole trip.
North and South Ireland
Remember, there is North Ireland, which is actually a seperate country and a part of the UK. This includes Belfast. North Ireland uses the pound for currency.
Southern Ireland is what many tourists associate with some of the most famous tourist sites in Ireland (Cliffs of Moher, Dublin, etc). Southern Ireland uses the Euro.
Getting To Ireland (On a Budget)
Getting to Ireland is actually quite easy and now, with so many budget airlines, can be quite affordable!
Flying to Ireland Tips
If you are looking to travel to Ireland on a budget, consider booking a budget airline such as WOW Air or Aer Lingus (if already within Europe, Ryan Air is another great choice- Here’s our Everything You Need To Know Before Booking Ryan Air). WizzAir will also fly to Belfast
Granted, if you’ve never flown a budget airline, just know that they are pretty bare bones. Typically no in-flight food, charging for any luggage and baggage, etc.
Of course, we always use points and miles for Travel Hacking to get free flights.
Where to Fly Into In Ireland
This is probably more based on prices as well as what you intend to do. We booked a roundtrip flight in/out of Dublin because open-jaw flights are typically more expensive. We also rented a car in Dublin and it would have been more expensive to have had a different drop off location than doing a round trip car rental.
There are actually airports all over Ireland (Dublin, Shannon, Cork, Kerry, Belfast….just to name a few), so again, if you are planning your own trip to Ireland, the best place to fly into will probably depend on what you want on your own itinerary.
Tips For Driving In Ireland
One of the most common things people want to know is tips for driving in Ireland and tips for renting a car in Ireland.
When most people think about driving in Ireland, the stress and fear immediately overtake them.
- Is it true that it can take over double the amount of time to drive somewhere if you get stuck behind a herd of sheep?
- Are the roads actually so small that barely one car can fit through them?
- How many cars are returned with missing pieces from scraping against walls?
- Is it terrifying driving on the “wrong” side of the road?
While most of these are legitimate concerns, they are nothing to keep you from driving in Ireland. Spend a few minutes on some side streets getting used to the other side. After a short period of time, you’ll only rarely use the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal (ask me how I know this), and driving will become a cinch.
Other Driving in Ireland Tips To Know
- If you don’t want to drive a manual car, be willing to pay extra and let the rental company know beforehand; most cars in Europe will be manual, not standard.
- Take it slow. The roads can become extremely narrow, so it is better to drive slowly and just enjoy your scenery than to zoom to your next destination without appreciating the beauty around you.
- It WILL take you longer than you expected to get somewhere. Therefore, don’t cram too much into a day if you are planning on a lot of driving.
- Get old school and make sure you have a map. GPS isn’t always reliable or correct in Ireland. Alternatively, I LOVE the Maps.ME app. You can download it to be offline (it won’t give you step by step directions, but you WILL have GPS to show you exactly where you are. If you have pinned locations in your map prior to leaving, then you can navigate based on that. Believe me, we’ve needed this on SO many trips we’ve taken!)
Do not let these fears stop you from driving. Renting a car in Ireland is one of the best ways to see the country and the smaller villages that would be missed by flying or doing a bus. GypsyWithADayJob really shows off some of the amazingly beautiful countryside here (with all it’s nuances!)
Car Rental in Ireland Tips and Driving Logistics
Considering the number of cars returned without mirrors due to a bump with a neighbor because of the small roads, most car rentals in Ireland will require you to pay a hefty insurance fee. Most countries use the Collision Damage Waiver as part of their rental agreement for insurance. However, Ireland is one of the few countries that does not.
To avoid this extra, EXPENSIVE fee, check out the perks of your credit card. Many cards actually offer fantastic car rental insurance policies already included. All you have to do is get a letter from your credit card company ahead of time to confirm your coverage and take it with you when you rent your car. (If this does apply to you, you may have to be very adamant as the rental companies would prefer for you to pay through them)
Expert Tip: If your trip is taking you to Northern Ireland, be sure to inform your car rental company. You will get an extra charge, but you can also get in big trouble for not including this information.
If you will be in Ireland for a short period of time, your current, valid and up-to-date driver’s license will suffice. While you are not required to have an International Driver’s Licence in Ireland, it never hurts to have one when driving abroad. Also, some companies still may ask for one; check with your car rental company prior to arriving to avoid any confusion and stress.
What is the cheapest car rental company in Ireland?
At our time of travel, Payless Car Rental was by far the cheapest option for renting a small car. For one full week, we paid only $115 (not including gas). I typically find that using a search engine like Kayak is a good way to compare prices, but Payless always seems to be one of the cheapest car rentals in Ireland.
When Is the Best Time to Go To Ireland?
As with most travel, I prefer shoulder seasons to travel. In Ireland, this would be around May and October (give or take). We personally went in October and had fantastic weather and fewer crowds than the high tourist times of June- September.
Do know that summer months offer extremely long daylight hours, which is particularly fantastic for people wanting to cram in as much as they can. Alternatively, the opposite is true in winter. If going during the winter months, the daylight hours are awfully short and weather also not as ideal (but with that, comes cheaper prices for things like accommodations). However, not everything may be open in winter months if you are wanting to go to more remote, countryside locations.
How Many Days to Spend in Ireland
This all boils down to YOU. You can spend as little as three days in Ireland or do what we did and have a week in Ireland.
There is so much to do that most people try to pack everything in. When I travel, I like to spend a few days in each location. For Ireland, there was so much to do that most places we only spent about a day. While we didn’t feel rushed, I’m absolutely sure we could have easily spent more time in each town. I also wanted to hit some of Northern Ireland, but looking at everything else we wanted to hit, I just knew it would have been too much for the time we had. (Some people DO do Northern Ireland in their 7 days in Ireland, but for me, that would have been too rushed).
One of my biggest tips for traveling in Ireland is to plan accordingly and realistically. Consider your transportation options as well when planning what towns to see or how you’ll get there. After all, you don’t want to be spending more time sitting in a car or airport than enjoying what Ireland has to offer.
Don’t Worry About Speaking Gaelic
While all the road signs will be in Gaelic, they’ll also be in English. You might find that in some very rural and remote countryside towns that Irish Gaelic is the main language but that they will also (most likely) speak English as well. But if you can sit next to someone speaking Gaelic in a pub, it’s fascinating to just listen to (Don’t worry- you aren’t an eavesdropper…unless you know how to speak it as well!)
So while you shouldn’t get hung up on communicating in English, you should know that they still use British words quite often and use different words than we do in the US occasionally. For example, don’t get excited when you see that you can have “bangers” for breakfast (it’s just sausage) and instead of asking where the nearest ATM is, you’ll want to ask for a “Cash Point” and if you are getting back into the fanny pack craze, don’t be offended when someone asks about your bum bag! It can get quite humorous, but also confusing if you don’t stay on your toes!
Bring The Right Electrical Plugs
Unless you are from the UK, you’ll probably need an electrical adaptor for your electronics while in Ireland, as they use 230v/50hz (those are the 3 pronged plugs). Where it gets tricky is if you even need a converter. You don’t need a converter if your device is “dual-voltage” (if it is, it will say something like “120/240v, 50/60Hz.”)
I like using a “Global Adapter” like this one. That way you don’t have to have a collection of adapters depending on where you are traveling to! However, if there are a couple of you traveling, or if you tend to have multiple electrical devices (phone, hair straightener, etc) then I recommend getting a few. You can also get the UK adapter here.
Know About Money in Ireland
Again, if you are planning on spending most of your time in the South of Ireland, then you’ll be using Euros. I get asked ALL THE TIME if you should take out money (Euros) before your trip. Whether you are going to Germany or if I’m giving you tips for traveling to Ireland, I always recommend the same thing.
NO. You can easily (and for cheaper) get it when you arrive. Make sure you have an ATM card that has no foreign fees (or if yours does, just plan accordingly so you only have to remove cash a few times, at most, during your trip to avoid unnecessary fees) and find an ATM (or Cash Point!) at the airport- there WILL be one there, I promise.
Prepare For Weather in Ireland (AKA RAIN!)
The weather in Ireland is a finicky thing! One moment it may be sunny and bright and the next, you are getting rained on.
Know that it is not a matter of IF you will get rained on in Ireland, but instead WHEN you’ll get rained on! They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing. How do you think it got so green and beautiful??
Just take it for what it is and pack accordingly.
Alternatively, I made the mistake during my first backpacking trip to Europe in the summer thinking, “It’s July, it will be hot!” And that isn’t really the case. Can it get warm? Yes. But will you also want pants, long-sleeved shirts, and rainwear? YUP!
Top Travel Tips for Ireland: Layers, my friends. LAYERS!!! Layers will be your best friend while traveling in Ireland! To me, the key is to pack clothes that are going to function both in and out of the rain.
I’ll cover exactly what to pack for an Ireland trip down below, but here is what I recommend for rain gear (click on item to see what I pack):
- Lightweight Water Resistant Jacket with hood (layer fleece underneath if cold)
- Waterproof Shoes: I love my Merril’s (but be sure to get waterproof, as not all Merril’s are). You’ll also want shoes that will hold up to a lot of walking, which is another reason I like Merrill’s.
- Travel/ Compact Umbrella. You can obviously bring a normal one, but I like the compact ones to fit into my day bags easily.
- Quick Dry or Waterproof Pants. I personally like quick dry pants bc they dry out incredibly fast and are often really lightweight (perfect for packing). However, waterproof hiking pants can also be fantastic, too.
- Boots. I wouldn’t take rain boots (wellies) unless you know you are going during rainy season (Oct- Jan), but if that is your travel time, it is something to consider.
Get The Heritage Card
Another one of my top Ireland travel tips is depending on your length of stay, it may be worth looking into the HeritageCard. Once you pay the upfront fee (see website for current prices) you can gain free entry to many of the popular sites in Ireland. What is nice about this card is that you may even find yourself going to a few great sites that you may not have gone to if you had to pay, but could be worth it on a shortstop with the card! (We enjoyed stopping at the “Swiss House” which we wouldn’t have otherwise have included on our itinerary, but since it didn’t cost us anything extra because we already had the heritage card, it was a wonderful addition to our day)
Where To Stay In Ireland
As with most cases, this will most likely be determined by your budget. However, B&Bs in Ireland are extremely well known and for good reason. The Irish people, in general, have been some of the most friendly we have met to date while traveling, so their hospitality in their own home comes naturally. You are awakened each morning with a traditional Irish Breakfast (Eggs, bacon, tomatoes, sausage, black pudding, beans and more) to fuel you for the day and nothing beats having a “home” to come back to at the end of a full, busy day of site-seeing.
I also liked staying at the B&Bs because you then were right there with a local, who were always happy to share their own personal tips for traveling to Ireland.
If traditional B&Bs are out of your budget, AirB&B is always a good choice. However, if you choose an entire home (rather than just a room), you’ll miss out on that special personal connection (and the great breakfast!). Here is up to $30 Off your first AirBnB rental to save you some cash though.
I found Booking.com to be a fantastic place to compare B&Bs as well as read reviews. This is my usual go-to method for doing price comparisons on accommodation wherever we go.
Know The Tipping Culture
One of my other common Ireland tips for tourists is to understand tipping.
Tipping in Europe is NOT the same as in the US! In Ireland, it is pretty common to find a “service charge” on your bill. Even if there wasn’t one, a small tip (often just rounding) is customary. The typical 10-20% tip that is normal in the US is not expected in Europe and Ireland. So, for example, if you’re bill was €27.36, it’s normal to just round to €30.
What To Pack For Ireland
No matter where you go, I always think you can travel and pack light. This may be somewhat more tough in Ireland since you may need to be prepared for all types of weather. However, I was still able to manage both warm weather clothing with fall-type temperatures and of course, plenty of rain gear into a carry on only bag for 1 week! If you don’t have a good raincoat, now may be the time to get one, or at least a good poncho! Here are some of my other “must packs” for Ireland in addition to my above rain suggestions
- The Usuals: I won’t spell out all the items, but you know the drill (underwear, deodorant, contact lenses/ glasses, passport, phone, charger, etc)
- Hat, gloves, and scarf. Maybe you don’t need this in July, but you’ll definitely want them even in those shoulder seasons
- Power Adapter: At least one universal one and then minimum of 1 plug adapter per person.
- Clothing: LAYERS!
- 1-2 Light Sweaters
- Rain Jacket
- Fleece Jacket
- 1-3 Lightweight Shirts (that can be worn under sweaters preferably, or at least under the Fleece)
- Extra socks! Nothing says uncomfortable like wet, cold socks! Throw an extra pair in your day bag. You’ll thank me later!
- 1-3 Pairs of pants, including at least 1 quick dry pants
- 1 Pair of waterproof (not water resistant!) shoes, like these as well as 1 backup pair or comfortable shoes.
- All of the above rain gear in the Weather section
- Letter from Credit Card for car insurance.
- Camera with plenty of backup SD cards and batteries
Drink The Beer!
There is absolutely no shortage of beers while in Ireland. Of course, almost everyone will go straight for the Guinness. However, you are definitely going to want to try the other “not so famous” brews. Our favorite, even over the classic Guinness? Murphy’s. If you are a lover of ciders as well, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you give everything an equal opportunity for taste testing!
A trip to Ireland can be tough to plan out due to all your options. What “Traveling to Ireland Tips” would you give to fellow travelers wanting to head to the Green Isle?
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