If you’re in the stages of planning a trip to Ireland we’ve prepared a few Ireland travel tips to help you out! If you’re looking for one of the friendliest, greenest, and naturally beautiful countries on earth, then look no further than Ireland.
There must be something to the rolling green hills, castles, whiskey, rain, Guinness beer, and rugged coastline as it draws millions of visitors to book a trip to Ireland every year. The country’s small size and accessibility make it easy for travelers. However, there are a few things to know before you head to the Emerald Isle.
Planning a Trip to Ireland? Here are my Best Ireland Travel Tips
1. Which Ireland?
The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is on the island of Ireland. To clarify, The Republic of Ireland is its own country – while Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. It’s been like this since the 1920s, and I think people would appreciate it if the world knew the difference.
Ireland is the British Isles, but that does not make it British. Great Britain refers to the largest islands of the British Isles and represents the majority of the United Kingdom. The UK is made up of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It can be confusing to foreigners – so watch this video to clear it up.
You can travel freely between the two countries. We traveled freely between the two countries many times and were never stopped at a border post or had to produce a passport to get stamped.
Here’s some more detailed information – granted this may all change thanks to the Brexit, but they say there will still be an open border. Citizens of The Republic of Ireland are referred to as Irish, while citizens of Northern Ireland are Northern Irish. Got it?
2. You May Need Both the Euro and the Pound
Ireland uses the Euro note, and Northern Ireland uses the British Pound. I wouldn’t suggest changing currencies at a currency exchange, but an ATM to pull out the money you need. You can read more about our travel banking tips here before traveling to Ireland.
3. Rain With a Chance of Sun
I’m sure you weren’t planning on traveling to Ireland for a suntan. The country is known for being very green, and that means plenty of rain! Rainfall has become a part of Irish life, especially in the west. The average number of “wet days” ranges from about 150 days to 225 days a year. Your best chance of sun and warmth in Ireland is in the summer months of June and July.
We went in late October and still had a few nice days of sunshine! I guess what I’m trying to say is be prepared for all sorts of weather when you’re planning your trip to Ireland. No matter what, remember to pack a packable rain jacket.
4. There Are Plenty of Rainbows, but no Leprechauns
With all that rain in Ireland, you will no doubt see a few rainbows. But I wouldn’t go chasing them to the end in search of a leprechaun with some lucky gold charms. Although leprechauns are part of modern Irish folklore, there aren’t any real leprechauns in Ireland – sadly.
Although apparently, there are leprechauns in Mobile, Alabama
5. A Pint Should Cost No More Than €5
If you have traveled to Ireland, you are probably going to want to get at least one pint of Guinness in an Irish pub. A pint of Guinness should cost no more than €5, and if it does, you are more than likely in a tourist pub that is ripping you off.
We do, however, recommend visiting the Guinness Store House. At €17 a ticket it may be the most expensive Guinness you’ll ever pay for, but the whole experience and tour is well worth it when you are visiting Dublin. You can pick up priority access tickets here and skip the line!
6. Chase Your Family Ancestry!
I think we were asked at least ten times what we made us plan a trip to Ireland. Were we chasing our ancestry? Did we have relatives in Ireland? Do we have Irish blood? Truth is we just came for the beautiful countryside, history, and friendly locals. (And I really love PS I Love You).
So, we always had to tell our new friends that we weren’t Irish and neither of us had Irish ancestors – at least not that we knew. The reason for the question so often is that there are a lot of tourists in Ireland – specifically a lot of American tourists like us who are tracking down their ancestors.
Between 1820 and 1930, 4.5 million Irish immigrated to America. At one point they made up over 1/3 of the immigrants in the country. So, that means there are a lot of Irish Americans floating around today, and many of them want to chase their heritage!
7. The Ship of Dreams
Do you remember that quote in Titanic where Tommy O’ Ryan tells Fabrizio that “It was an Irish ship,” and “15,000 Irishmen built the ship.” It’s okay if you don’t, I have just seen the movie a hundred too many times. The grand Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland. Which back at the turn of the century was a part of Ireland (which was all still part of Britain).
The ship was built on Queen’s Island, now known as the Titanic Quarter, in Belfast Harbour by the shipbuilders Harland & Wolff. If you know anything about the Titanic, you know that it was the largest ship of its time. SPOILER: On the night of April 14th. 1912 the ship hit an iceberg and sank.
However, her legacy has lived on in movies, books, music, and marine time safety regulations. The latest iteration is the new Titanic Belfast museum. It’s located exactly where the ship was constructed. I’ve been back to the museum twice and have loved it both times. It’s definitely worth a half day if you find yourself in Belfast.
8. You Can Stay at the Most Bombed Hotel in Europe!
On Great Victoria Street in Belfast, you can find a hotel with a fantastic history. Europa Belfast Hotel is a beautiful hotel, which you can quickly see from the outside. But we were shocked to find out that is the most bombed hotel in not only all of Europe but the entire world!
During The Troubles, the Europa suffered 36 whopping bomb attacks. The most damaging was in 1993, and it closed for refurbishments. Nowadays it’s the best hotel to stay at in the city. It’s an iconic part of Belfast with plenty of character. We knew we just had to stay on our visit to Belfast. We found the hotel to be charming, comfortable, and beautifully decorated. Make sure to check out the piano bar even if you aren’t staying overnight!
9. Love Game of Thrones?
Do you watch Game of Thrones? I don’t, but Cameron does so he had a field day reliving certain scenes that are on the hit HBO show. Much of the show films in Northern Ireland, and if you are a GOT geek I suggest renting a car and driving to all the locations in Northern Ireland to see for yourself.
Some iconic locations include the Antrim plateau, the Dark Hedges, Cushendun Caves, Murlough Bay, Ballintoy Harbour, Larrybane, Castle Ward, Inch Abbey, and Downhill Strand. If you’re not keen on driving or don’t have a car rental in your budget, consider booking a tour.
10. You Can Travel Ireland On a Budget
Ireland is not the cheapest country to travel; however, it is possible to plan a trip to Ireland while staying on a budget. Hostel dorm rooms will cost anywhere from €10 to €20 a night, while you can also find a mid-range hotel room for €100. We opted to stay in Airbnb’s and had our apartment for €60 a night. Here is a coupon off your next Airbnb booking so you can do the same!
The good news is that food at the grocery store is cheap. We were able to go to Lidl and spend €25 for three days worth of food for the two of us (granted we don’t eat meat). Ireland produces a lot of its food, so the food is not only affordable but excellent quality. Expect to pay between €7-10 for a cheap fish n chips meal. Irish cuisine is very hearty with some of the staple dishes being Irish stew and seafood pie.
11. You Don’t NEED a Car
I’ve traveled to Ireland three times now. The first time I was backpacking Europe and took public buses everywhere. The bus and train system in Ireland is efficient, affordable, and reliable, with most of the transport options featuring free WiFi. On our most recent trip, we rented a car in Ireland to get around the island, which is also affordable and reliable.
Having a car is always the more comfortable and convenient option, but if you are just one person, the cost of the rental and fuel may break your budget. I would suggest checking Ireland’s bus timetables to make sure you can get where you want to go by public transport. If you are a group of two or more, consider renting a car.
Just note that in both Ireland and Northern Ireland drivers drive on the left side of the road and you should know how to drive a manual car as automatics are expensive.
Speed limits are in kilometers per hour in Ireland and miles per hour in Northern Ireland – confusing. We were able to get a car from Dublin airport for two weeks for €150, and we paid €1.20/liter for fuel. You can drive the vehicle in and out of Northern Ireland as much as you like without border checks.
12. Ah, Ryan Air
If you’re wondering how to plan a trip to Ireland, the first step is to purchase a flight. That’s where you may see the budget carrier Ryan Air pop up. The notorious Ryan Air is an Irish company. If you plan to fly around Europe from Ireland, you may have to fly with the low-cost carrier.
I know they’ve received quite a lot of bad and justified press in the past. But we have flown them at least ten times around Europe and have never had an issue with them. Just lower your expectations, abide by all their rules to avoid extra fees, and enjoy your cheap flight – most meals out cost more than their flights!
13. Pack Accordingly
Remember when I said that it rains a lot in Ireland? That means you should pack a rain jacket and travel umbrella in your carry on luggage. I would also recommend packing a nice wool sweater,scarf, and a hat for those windy days.
We enjoyed going on long walks and hiking in Ireland, so it’s a good idea to pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
14. Practice Your Language Skills
Both times that I traveled to Ireland, I was surprised that many people were still reading and speaking Irish Gaelic. I found this most prevalent near Galway, but even the road signs around the country are in both English and Gaelic. That’s because Irish Gaelic is the first official language followed by English.
According to 2016 Irish census, more than 70,000 people speak Irish Gaelic daily, and about 55% (c. 2,500,000) of people in the Republic claim to understand and speak the language. Of course, everyone will know English, but it doesn’t hurt to learn a few phrases before your trip, you’ll probably even impress the locals!
15. When is the Best Time to Visit Ireland?
When is the best time to visit Ireland, you ask? Although most countries have ‘ideal’ times of year where visiting is optimal, the best time to travel anywhere isn’t as dependant on the state of the weather as you might assume. Instead, a trip is only as good as what you make of it; there are always a ton of things to do in any city, no matter the season. This means that even cold or blustery weather can, for many, be the preferred travel conditions.
That being said m favorite time to travel Ireland is in September, when the leaves are changing color, the air is cool, and tourism is slowing down. I have a month by month Ireland travel section here!
16. Ireland Has Plenty of Castles to Visit!
It’s pretty hard to visit Ireland and not wind up visiting a castle at least once during your travels. But with so many (over 30,000!) how do you know which ones are worth the trip? We’ve broken it down for you with a list of the best castles to visit in Ireland so that you can select from some of the best-known and most-loved options.
Whether you want to explore the ruins of a once magnificent fort or get a taste of medieval life in a well-maintained relic, you can get a little glimpse into the past during your trip to Ireland. From reenacted scenes featuring knights and royalty to elaborate banquet dinners in your very own castle, you may want to stay forever and never return to the present!
Quick Ireland Travel Tips
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Gaelic: “Dia dhuit” and “Go raibh maith agat”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: The Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland are separate countries on the island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland known as ‘Ireland’ grants 90-day visas. Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom also grants 90 days.
- Weather: Expect lots of weather! Ireland is known for having rapid shifts in and lots of rain – it’s only the only reason a country like Ireland remains so green and fertile. See our full packing list here.
- When is the best time to visit Ireland? Ireland is a fantastic country to visit year round. Though you’ll find crowds during the summer. My favorite time to visit Ireland is in September when the weather is cool and the crowds are low. You can read all about the weather in Ireland here.
What to Pack for Ireland
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
The fleece sweater is a perfect layer when combined with an outer shell to keep you warm. We purchased wool sweaters from independent retailers in Ireland, but good ones weren’t easy to find. For those with less time a little bit of online shopping for wool sweaters will suffice. Start here!
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. It can always rain in Ireland, so it’s best to be prepared. Rain jackets are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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