Ireland has two cultures: the historical Gaelic culture (including one of the oldest literatures in Western Europe) and the more recent English-speaking culture which largely replaced it. It can be worth your while to dig a little deeper before visiting Ireland to discover something about the older world that lies beneath. It is a world still living, though not always visible.
Some Irish history has been very dark indeed, but it remains a land of poets, story-tellers, and musicians, with marvellous scenery, an advanced knowledge economy, first-rate infrastructures, and leading industries, with a high gross domestic product and standard of living.
|East Coast and Midlands (County Dublin, County Kildare, County Laois, County Longford, County Louth, County Meath, County Offaly, County Westmeath, County Wicklow)|
The Irish heartland, home to the capital and vibrant metropolis of Dublin.
|Shannon Region (County Clare, County Limerick, County Tipperary)|
A region often visited for its castles and the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher.
|Southwest Ireland (County Cork, County Kerry)|
A scenic and rainy section of Ireland with a beautiful coast and popular Ring of Kerry and Blarney Castle.
|West Ireland (County Galway, County Mayo, County Roscommon)|
Ireland's least populous region, home to the Irish "Cultural Capital" of Galway and the beautiful Aran Islands.
|Northwest Ireland and Lakelands (County Cavan, County Donegal, County Leitrim, County Monaghan, County Sligo)|
A region that is growing in tourism activity and has a lot to offer by way of natural beauty.
|Southeast Ireland (County Carlow, County Kilkenny, County Waterford, County Wexford)|
A rather cosmopolitan section of Ireland, famous for its Waterford crystal.
Cities and towns
For cities in Northern Ireland, see the separate article.
- 1 Dublin is the lively capital, the most cosmopolitan city of Ireland, with a great array of sights and visitor facilities.
- 2 Cork — the country's second biggest city — on the banks of the River Lee. Founded c.600 by St Finbarre and known for great food (especially seafood), pubs, shopping and festivals. If you venture outside of the city along the coastline which borders the Atlantic Ocean, you will find long windy beaches, beautiful villages with history, castles and an array of outdoor activities.
- 3 Galway is a colourful party town: lots of great food, trad music and ales. Just west is the haunting mountain scenery of Connemara.
- 4 Killarney — Possibly, the most popular tourist destination in Ireland. A pleasant town in its own right, it is also the start of most Ring of Kerry trips.
- 5 Kilkenny — attractive medieval town, known as the Marble City — home to the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, held annually in early June.
- 6 Letterkenny — Main town in County Donegal, designated gateway status and reputed to be the fastest growing town in Europe. Good base for travelling in Donegal.
- 7 Limerick is a miniature Dublin, with its Georgian street pattern and sombre castle. Nearby are yet more castles, a prehistoric complex, and a museum for the transatlantic flying boats.
- 8 Sligo — the poet WB Yeats was inspired by its landscape of limestone scarps, prehistoric megaliths and ancient legends, and so will you.
- 9 Waterford, Ireland's oldest city, has a rich mix of Viking, medieval and Georgian heritage.
- 1 Brú Na Bóinne in County Meath are impressive neolithic monuments, the oldest dating back to 3100 BC.
- 2 Glendalough in County Wicklow is a remarkable medieval monastic complex in a deep scenic valley.
- 3 The Burren is a haunting, barren limestone upland in County Clare. It ends abruptly in the great Cliffs of Moher.
- 4 Aran Islands are the seaward continuation of the Burren. All three are inhabited, and are dotted with prehistoric and early Christian sites.
- 5 Connemara in County Galway is an Irish-speaking region with stark scenery of granite, bog, and small islands.
- 6 County Donegal — the coastal regions of this county have spectacular scenery and excellent beaches
- 7 Dingle Peninsula — an Irish-speaking region in the southwest corner of Ireland
- 8 Kinsale — gastronomic excellence in Ireland's oldest town
- 9 Ring of Kerry and 10 Skellig Michael — in County Kerry
- 11 West Cork — mountains, coves, islands and beaches at the very south of the country
|Population||4.7 million (2016)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (BS 1363)|
|edit on Wikidata|
The earliest evidence of human presence in Ireland goes back to 10,500 BCE, when the country was inhabited by a handful of hunter gatherers. Some time before 4000 BCE they were followed by Neolithic settlers, who had migrated northwards along the European coastline from Spain. They brought farming with them and a liking for large stone monuments. They established some of the earliest field systems known in Europe, preserved until the 20th century under layers of peat.
The Bronze Age began in Ireland around 2500 BCE. During the Iron Age (beginning c. 800 BCE) a Celtic language and culture emerged in Ireland, possibly as a result of cultural diffusion from Britain, since there is no archaeological evidence of a Celtic "invasion".
Ireland was Christianised from the 5th century, and this brought with it literacy and a knowledge of Latin culture. Monastic towns were established, becoming centres of learning and literature. The monks were the first to commit Ireland’s legends to writing, and composed exquisite nature poetry. The monasteries were a prime target for the Norsemen who invaded in the late 8th century and eventually established important settlements in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick. Local military alliances shifted and melded frequently but monastic Christian culture endured and sent successful missionaries to Scotland, England and as far afield as Switzerland.
The Normans invaded in the early 12th century and set in place Ireland's uneasy position within England's sphere of influence. The Gaelic Ireland they entered had a distinctive society which tended to assimilate newcomers linguistically and culturally. An intensively cultivated classical tradition had developed in the Irish language, producing a unique literature which was matched by a rich folk culture. The Normans had brought English-speaking followers with them, but English for a long time remained marginal.
Irish lords retained a great deal of practical independence until the end of the Elizabethan period. The English Crown, in the person of Elizabeth I, made a determined attempt to impose its own power towards the end of the 16th century, with resistance being led by powerful northern lords, especially Red Hugh O'Neill. Their defeat meant the gradually replacement of the native elite by English landlords.
Irish society and culture were most severely disrupted during the Cromwellian period in the 17th century, when native leaders tried to re-establish Irish independence but were weakened by internal dissension. Despite this, Irish language and culture remained strong, with the 18th century seeing a literary flowering. General adoption of the English language did not occur until the second half of the 19th century, largely as a consequence of bilingualism.
The Act of Union that came into force on 1 January 1801 — in which Catholics, 90% of the Irish population, were excluded from Parliament — saw Ireland joining the United Kingdom. While Great Britain was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, Ireland remained a farming country; millions of Irish emigrated to Britain, North America and Australia, where the men often worked as labourers and the women as domestic servants. Initially, they often spoke little English.
Irish nationalism remained strong in the 19th century, often expressed through English. Much attention was drawn to the evils of landlordism, exacerbated by the Great Famine of the 1840s, which left many dead and caused a wave of emigration. At the end of the century there occurred the Gaelic Revival, with influential urban intellectuals insisting on the need to modernise and extend Gaelic culture as a basic principle of Irish nationality. Some of them were later at the fore of armed resistance to British rule. The Catholic Church, which had suffered various degrees of persecution from the 16th century on, had now been reorganised and strengthened. It became a potent element in Irish nationalism and a symbol for many of Irish identity, though its influence was to wane in the later 20th century.
By 1900, institutions of British origin were firmly established in Ireland. English was the language of the vast majority but had a strongly native flavour; this made itself felt in a literature which was to become world famous. Irish was still cultivated by a small minority and produced a distinguished modern literature of its own.
Some bars to non-Anglican civic participation had been removed in the 1820s, but in the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century the subject of Irish home rule was a major debate within the British parliament. After several failed attempts, a Home Rule bill finally passed through parliament in 1914 although the start of the first world war saw its indefinite postponement. A failed rebellion on Easter Monday in 1916 showed a hint of things to come with years of war to follow, beginning with the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and continuing with the Irish Civil War (1922-1923).
Eventually, a somewhat stable situation emerged with the independence of 26 of Ireland's counties known as the Irish Free State; the remaining six, in the north-east of the country and comprising two-thirds of the ancient province of Ulster, remained part of the United Kingdom. In 1949 the Irish Free State became "Ireland", also known as the Republic of Ireland, and withdrew from the British Commonwealth.
Ireland's history post-partition has been marked to some extent by violence. A a period known as "The Troubles", generally regarded as beginning in the late 1960s, saw large scale confrontation between opposing paramilitary groups seeking to either keep Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom or bring it into the Republic. The Troubles saw many ups and downs in intensity of fighting and on occasion were even responsible for terrorist attacks in Britain and continental Europe. The governments of both the UK and the Republic were opposed to all terrorist groups. A peace settlement known as the Good Friday Agreement was finally approved in 1998 and is being implemented. All signs point to this agreement holding.
Though a relatively poor country for much of the 20th century, Ireland joined the European Community in 1973 (at the same time as the United Kingdom). Between the mid 1990s and 2008, Ireland had a massive economic boom (and was called "The Celtic Tiger"), becoming one of the richest countries in Europe. However, the global banking crisis and subsequent recession hit Ireland hard, with high levels of unemployment and emigration. The economy is now recovering and many emigrants are returning.
Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
Historically, the island of Ireland consisted of 32 counties, of which six, collectively known as Northern Ireland, have remained part of the United Kingdom since the rest of Ireland gained independence in 1922. The geographical term "Ireland" applies to the island as a whole, but in English is also the official name of the independent state (i.e. the 26 counties which are not part of the United Kingdom), since 1937. To distinguish the country from the island as a whole, sometimes the description Republic of Ireland (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann) is used. The term "all-Ireland" is also used to unambiguously refer to the entire island, particularly in sports where the entire island is represented internationally by a single unified team. As part of the Good Friday agreement between the Irish and British governments, all Northern Irish citizens are entitled to dual British and Irish citizenship, just as they are entitled to choose to be only British or only Irish citizens.
However, apart from changes to the road surface and road signs, you probably won't notice much of a difference when actually crossing the convoluted and often obscure international boundary between the six counties of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. One key difference, though, is that road signs in Northern Ireland are in miles, while those in the Republic of Ireland are in kilometres. Spot checks excepted, there are no formal border markings or controls.
The currency in the Republic of Ireland is Euro and the currency in Northern Ireland as part of the UK is the UK pound so be sure to exchange your euro into pounds before crossing the border.
Overall, Ireland has a mild but changeable oceanic climate with few extremes. In Ireland you may indeed experience 'four seasons in one day', so pack accordingly and keep up-to-date with the latest weather forecast. No matter the weather, expect it to be a topic of conversation amongst the locals.
You may notice slight differences in temperature between the north and south of the country, and more rain in the west compared with the east.
Mean daily winter temperatures vary from 4 °C to 7 °C, and mean daily summer temperatures vary from 14.5 °C to 16 °C. Temperatures will rarely exceed 25 °C and will rarely fall below -5 °C.
Regardless of when you visit Ireland, even in middle of the summer, you will more than likely experience rain, so if you intend being outdoors, a waterproof coat is recommended.
The Irish names are parenthesised.
- 1 January: New Year's Day (Lá Caille) or (Lá na Bliana Nua)
- 17 March: Saint Patrick's Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig)
- March or April according to the Gregorian calendar: Easter (An Cháisc)
- First Mondays of May, June and August: May holiday, June holiday, August holiday (Lá Saoire i mí Bealtaine, Lá Saoire i mí Mheithimh, Lá Saoire i mí Lúnasa)
- Last Monday of October: October Holiday (Lá Saoire i mí Dheireadh Fómhair) or (Lá Saoire Oíche Shamhna)
- 25 December: Christmas (Lá Nollag)
- 26 December: St Stephen's Day (Lá Fhéile Stiofáin)
If travelling with a pet, check the rules. Some diseases common on the European mainland are absent from Ireland.
|“||Be advised / my passport's green / No glass of ours was ever raised to toast the Queen||”|
—Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) was from Northern Ireland, but identified as Irish not British.
Ireland is a member of the European Union, but not part of the Schengen Area, so it maintains separate immigration controls. The following rules generally apply:
- Citizens of EU and EEA countries and Switzerland only require a valid national identity card or passport and don't need a visa. In most cases, they hold unlimited rights to employment and residence in Ireland.
- Citizens of the "Common Travel Area" in theory don't even need a passport to enter Ireland, but in practice they must show one to board a flight or ferry; there are no routine checks on the land border. The CTA is Ireland, Britain, the Channel Isles and Isle of Man, and the arrangements are reciprocal. But citizens of other countries don't escape their obligations by entering Britain then crossing the unguarded land border - you must still be eligible to enter Ireland, same as if you'd flown in direct. There is a risk that this arrangement may break down in 2021 after the Brexit transitional period, see section below.
- Citizens of many countries may enter without a visa for visits up to 90 days. As of Oct 2020, these countries are Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, El Salvador, Eswatini, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Lesotho, Macao SAR, Malawi, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, the Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tuvalu, the United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, the Vatican City and Venezuela, plus holders of British National (Overseas) passports. The period of admission is determined by the Immigration Officer at the port of entry, but can be extended up to the full 90 days if required. Foreigners who enter without a visa can also extend this stay after entry, but within the initial period of admission and with a valid purpose. Longer stays, employment and citizens of other countries normally require advance visas.
- Citizens of other countries should check the visas lists at the Irish Dept. of Foreign Affairs. The application process for tourist visas is reasonably straightforward and is detailed on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website. Tourist visas cannot be extended past 90 days under any circumstances.
- Walk on air against your better judgement - epitaph of Seamus Heaney
Ireland has three major international airports: Dublin (DUB IATA), Shannon (SNN IATA) in County Clare, and Cork (ORK IATA). Dublin is by far the largest and best connected, with flights to many cities in the US, Canada, the UK, continental Europe and the Middle East. Shannon, close to the city of Limerick, also has flights to the US, Canada, Middle East, the UK and Europe. Cork has flights to most UK destinations and a wide variety of European cities. In summer they all have additional flights to holiday destinations around Europe.
There are also three minor airports with less frequent domestic and UK flights: Donegal (CFN IATA), Kerry (KIR IATA), and Ireland West Knock (NOC IATA) in County Mayo. Others such as Sligo and Waterford had a brief flowering then closed.
The three airports of Northern Ireland are close to the border with the Republic. Those are City of Derry Airport (LDY IATA), and the two Belfast airports, City (BHD IATA) and International (BFS IATA).
Ireland's two major airlines are Aer Lingus and Ryanair. Although it's Ryanair that has the budget reputation, their competition has forced traditional flag-carrier Aer Lingus towards similar pricing (eg charges for baggage), especially for short-haul flights. So check suspiciously on booking whether your ostensibly cheap flight will gouge you for petty extras, like looking out the window twice.
The Enterprise Train runs every hour or two from Belfast Lanyon Place (aka Central) via Portadown, Newry, Dundalk and Drogheda to Dublin Connolly, taking 2 hr 15 min, booking essential.
See below for ferry routes; sailings to Rosslare connect with trains to Dublin Connolly.
Buses ply hourly between Belfast, Dublin Airport and Dublin Busáras the main bus station, taking about 3 hours. Other cross-border routes are between Dublin and Derry, Belfast and Monaghan, and Belfast and Enniskillen with connections to Sligo and Galway. See individual cities for local cross-border buses, such as the 7-mile trip from Derry to the splendidly-named village of Muff.
Flixbus are the main operator of long-distance buses across continental Europe. You may be able to buy a through-ticket to Ireland, but it will likely involve changing at London Victoria.
Ferries ply to Ireland from Great Britain, France and Spain. They all take vehicles, as trucking is a major part of their business, and offer cabin accommodation. By public transport, always look for through-tickets by rail / bus and ferry, as these are considerably cheaper than separate tickets, and take care of the connection.
- Dublin has ferries from Holyhead in north Wales by Stena Line and Irish Ferries (3 hr 30 min), from Bootle near Liverpool by P&O (8 hr) and in summer from Douglas, Isle of Man by IOM Steam Packet Company (3 hr 30 min). Direct ferries from Rotterdam and Zeebrugge are only for freight and their truckers.
- Rosslare has ferries from south Wales taking 3 hr 30 min: from Fishguard by Stena Line and from Pembroke by Irish Ferries. Stena also sail from Cherbourg in northwest France (18 hr). In summer, Brittany Ferries sail from Bilbao. Trains and buses to Dublin connect with the ferries at Rosslare.
- Cork has ferries from Cherbourg in summer.
- It might also be convenient to sail to Northern Ireland: Belfast and Larne have ferries from Cairnryan near Stranraer in Scotland.
Common Travel Area
There is a long-standing informal arrangement that citizens of the UK can travel freely without any passport to Ireland and to those islands around Britain that are not in the UK; and vice versa. This was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which meant no controls whatsoever on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. All sides have consistently declared that this must continue even though the Republic is part of the EU and Northern Ireland is not. There is also mutual recognition of some visas. These arrangements are known as the Common Travel Area (CTA) and apply to the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom (which includes Northern Ireland), the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey (which includes Alderney and Sark). It doesn't apply to British overseas territories such as Gibraltar.
In practice, security checks mean that you must show a passport or equivalent national ID to board a flight to Ireland (including to Northern Ireland) even from within the CTA. Ferries are less consistent, but you have to assume it'll be required. Other photo ID such as a driving licence won't do, even though it may be acceptable to Irish immigration - airlines face such stiff fines for landing ineligible passengers that it's safer to bump you off the flight if they're in any doubt. The nub of it is, you have to show your passport to prove that you're eligible to travel without showing your passport - welcome to Ireland!
If you cross the unguarded land border, it's your responsibility to check that you are eligible to do so, and carry any relevant documents with you. (And check that your car insurance / rental agreement is valid.) If you were later found to be ineligible, you risk being fined and deported.
Most visitors eligible to enter Britain are eligible to enter Ireland on the same terms, and in some ways the CTA is a "mini-Schengen". If your 90 days stay is coming to an end, then moving back and forth between the two countries won't re-start the clock. (Indeed, a short trip elsewhere might not do so: immigration are wearily familiar with such tricks, and won't extend your original stay if they reckon that was your game.) Travellers to Ireland can usually transit airside at UK airports without needing UK eligibility, but there are restrictions on who may do so land-side, eg to transfer between Heathrow and Stansted airports (similar to Schengen, you could transit airside in Paris but might need an EU visa to go overland to fly out of Amsterdam). But while a Schengen visa or eligibility applies equally through all those countries, that isn't the case for the CTA. Thus, there is mutual recognition of visas issued to Chinese and Indian nationals, but not comprehensively to others. One key difference from Schengen is that the CTA is an informal collection of political agreements not written into law, so it's difficult to keep track of evolving rules and exceptions, and you have very little recourse if some snippy check-in clerk has a different interpretation.
There are many car hire companies in Ireland and you can pick up in the cities or at the airports, though it may cost more to pick up at an airport. Most Irish car hire agencies will not accept third party collision damage insurance coverage (for example with a credit card) when you rent a car.
There are a large number of roundabouts in Ireland. Traffic already on the roundabout has right of way over traffic entering it, in contrast to 'traffic circles' sometimes employed in the US.
Holidaying using your own wheels is a popular and very enjoyable experience in Ireland. As the weather can change very rapidly, having the benefit of shelter whilst you drive caught on quickly in this corner of Europe. Caravan parks are generally available reasonably close to all tourist attractions. However, many caravan parks are only open during the main tourist season, usually considered to be between the beginning of April and the end of September. Overnighting at the side of the road or other locations that are not caravan parks is generally not tolerated and many locations are signposted to show any relevant by-laws preventing any overnight camping or caravanning. It is worth doing some planning before travelling with a caravan, as many of the non-main roads are not well suited to campervans or caravans due to the narrowness and general condition of these small roads. Main roads and national routes are however well suited to these vehicles. There is a list of approved caravan parks listed on the Camping-Ireland website.
Taxis in Ireland will have green and blue decals on both the driver and passenger doors containing the word "TAXI", the taxi licence number and the transport for Ireland logo. These decals are being phased in since January 2013 and not all taxis will have them yet.
It is highly recommended that you call ahead to book a taxi. The hotel, hostel or bed and breakfast at which you are staying in will usually call the taxi company they work with closely. Taxis should be reasonably easy to pick up on the streets in Dublin, Belfast and Cork but may be harder to find cruising the streets in smaller cities and towns so it is often best to telephone for one. It is recommended to call the taxi company in advance if possible and give them a time to be picked up, no matter if it's 4 hours in advance or 30 minutes in advance. Work with the same taxi company your hotel does and let them know your final destination if there is more than one stop. You will also need to give them a contact phone number over the phone, so if calling from a pay phone, be prepared for them to deny your claim for a taxi. The average waiting time may be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on demand and time of day. All taxis in the Republic of Ireland operate on a National Fare basis, so the price should be relatively easy to calculate. For more information, see the Commission of Taxi Regulation website. Always ensure that the taxi you use has a meter, and that it is used for the duration of your journey.
Rules of the road and road user etiquette
The rules of the road in Ireland are similar to those of the United Kingdom: drive on the left and yield to the right at a roundabout. The most noticeable difference is that distances and speed limits are displayed in kilometres in the Republic. This can be confusing to anyone travelling across the border from Northern Ireland, which, like the rest of the UK, uses miles and miles per hour. The legal blood-alcohol limit is low, although one of the highest by European standards, so it may be best to abstain. It is legal to temporarily use the hard shoulder to allow a faster moving vehicle to overtake you, but this manoeuvre is not allowed on a motorway.
Drivers often 'thank' each other by flashing their hazard lights or waving, but this is purely a convention. In smaller towns and villages, vehicles will often slow or stop to allow other road users and pedestrians to cross or otherwise maneuvre on the road. Again this is a convention based on Irish cordiality rather than a legal requirement. Road signs in the Republic are nominally bilingual, with place names displayed in Irish in italics, with the corresponding English name in capitals immediately below. In the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas, road signs are written in Irish only.
There are four types of road classification in Ireland. They are:
Speed limits are defaults for the road classification only — if a different speed limit is signed, it must be obeyed. Urban areas generally have a 50 km/h speed limit.
Ireland has an extensive motorway network centred on Dublin. Most motorways in the Republic have some tolled sections. Tolls are low by French or Italian standards, and vary from €1.40 (M3) to €3.10 (M50), depending on which motorway you are travelling on. Tolls are displayed a few kilometres from the plaza. The only tolled road that accepts credit cards is the M4 between Kilcock and Kinnegad. All others (except the M50) are Euro cash only, so take care if you're arriving from the North via the M1. The M50 is barrier free and accepts no cash. Cameras are on overhead gantries between Junctions 6 & 7 which read your number plate. If you have registered before online or by phone €2.60 will be taken from your credit card. If you have not registered, you must go to a Payzone branded outlet and pay the toll there. This option costs €3.10.
The main motorways are as below (with toll charges being relevant for private cars only):
There are numerous routes of high quality dual carriageway, which are very near motorway standard; Dublin-Wicklow, Sligo-Collooney (Sligo), Mullingar-Athlone, and Cork-Middleton (Waterford).
Lesser roads are in many parts poorly signposted, the only indication of what route to take often being a finger-sign at the junction itself. The road surfaces can be very poor on the lesser used R & L numbered routes.
Driving on regional and local roads in Ireland requires etiquette, courtesy and nerves of steel. Roads are generally narrow with little to no shoulder or room for error. Sight lines can be limited or non-existent until you are partway into the road. Caution should be taken when entering onto the roadway as well as when driving along it, with the understanding that around the next turn may be another motorist partway into the road. This is especially true in rural areas. Parking along the road, farm animals, as well as large lorries or machinery may also appear around the bend and be the cause for quick thinking or braking. It is not unusual for oncoming cars to navigate to a wide spot in the road to pass each other. On the other hand, when driving slower than following cars, it is common for drivers to allow others to pass or signal if the way is clear. Calculating driving time can be slower than expectations, due to the large increase in motorists and road conditions/hazards.
As mentioned above, speed limits in Ireland are in kilometres per hour. When crossing the border from Northern Ireland into into the Republic of Ireland, on main roads, you can expect to see a large sign announcing that speed limits are given in kilometres per hour and all speed limit signs have the text "km/h" on them to remind drivers. Northern Ireland, as well as the rest of the UK has speed limits in miles per hour.
Local Councils may apply other limits in specific areas as required. Also, when roads are being maintained or worked upon in some way, the limit may be temporarily changed.
Car rental companies
Car hire companies are plentiful, with all major airports and cities well catered for. The ports of Rosslare and Dún Laoghaire are served by Hertz and Dan Dooley respectively. As elsewhere, the main driver needs a credit card in their own name and a full driver's licence for a minimum of two years without endorsement. Most rental companies apply a minimum age of 25; many require you be 28 to rent a full-size car. Rentals include minimum insurance which covers the car, leaving a deductible owed in the case of an accident. At additional cost, Super Damage Waiver (SDW) can reduce this deductible to zero.
If renting a vehicle registered before 2008, the car may have a speedometer in miles per hour, as kilometres per hour were only introduced in Ireland in 2008.
Quite a number of companies offer campervans for hire.
- See also: Rail travel in Ireland
With the exception of the Enterprise service to Belfast, all trains in Ireland are operated by the state-run Irish Rail, usually known by its Irish name, Iarnród Éireann. Most trains run to and from Dublin. Enormous expenditure on modernising the state-owned Irish Rail system is ongoing, including the introduction of many new trains. The frequency and speed of services is being considerably increased, especially on the Dublin-Cork line. If you book on-line for Intercity travel, be aware that there may be a cheaper fare option available to you at the office in the station itself. Not all special rates, e.g. for families, are available on line. The Irish network is less dense than elsewhere in Europe, and speeds are slower, with few lines being electrified, but where trains do go, they are a good option.
Advance booking can result in big savings and booking can be made a month in advance, e.g. an adult return between Kerry and Dublin can cost €75 if booked for the next day but can cost as little as €20 - 30 if booked well in advance. Trains nearly always book out for major sporting events in Dublin such as the GAA Semi-finals and Finals and major rugby and football Internationals. Pay notice to this if planning to travel on weekends during August and September. The 1st and 3rd Sunday of September see both All-Ireland finals held and buses and trains see a massive upsurge in travel as well as the main roads to the counties participating.
There are two main stations in Dublin - Connolly Station (for trains to Belfast, Sligo and Rosslare) and Heuston Station (for trains to Cork, Limerick, Ennis, Tralee, Killarney, Galway, Westport, Kilkenny and Waterford.)
In Northern Ireland, almost all services are operated by (Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) the only mainline railway in the United Kingdom not privatized in the 1990s.
In the Dublin city area the electrified DART (acronym for Dublin Area Rapid Transit) coastal railway travels from Malahide and the Howth peninsula in the North to Bray and Greystones in Co. Wicklow via Dún Laoghaire and Dublin city centre. An interchange with main line services and the Luas Red line is available at Dublin Connolly.
Dublin has a tram system known as the Luas (the Irish word for 'speed'). There are two main lines with 54 stations between them. The red-line operates from Dublin's Docklands starting at The Point (beside the O2 Arena) and the city centre (Connolly Station) to a large suburb south-west of the City (Tallaght). The green line runs south-north, via the city centre, from Bride's Glen to Broombridge (where it connects with the Maynooth suburban railway line).
- Monday to Friday — 05:30 to 00:30
- Saturday — 06:15 (Green Line), 06:30 (Red Line) to 00:30
- Sunday — 06:45 to 23:30 (Green Line), 07:00 to 23:30 (Red Line)
- Bank holidays — same as Sundays, except trams run until 00:30
Tickets must be purchased from machines before boarding the tram. Tickets are checked in the Luas at random by inspectors but generally ticketing works on a trust system. Thus free rides are possible, although not advisable, as the fines for fare-dodging can be quite high. The Luas tram provides a very useful link between Dublin's Connolly and Heuston railway stations.
Bus is the predominant form of public transport across Ireland. Urban bus networks operate within the five cities and ten of the larger towns, while a comprehensive network of regional, commuter and rural services provide service to most parts of the country. Express intercity services connect the main cities and towns with each other, while tour operators run buses from the cities to most large tourist attractions away from the cities.
Cities and towns
Urban bus networks operate in the following cities:
- Dublin - An extensive urban bus network with over 100 routes operates across the city and its surrounding suburbs. All cross-city and city centre-bound routes are operated by Dublin Bus, while local routes in suburban areas are operated by Go-Ahead Ireland, although both operators share a common fare structure and ticketing system. Buses run every 10 to 15 minutes along all main routes, and less frequently on other routes. Two routes (15 and 41) operate a 24 hour service, while a number of late night routes also run at the weekends.
- Cork - Bus Éireann operate a city network with over 20 routes. The busiest cross-city routes run every 10 to 15 minutes, while one cross-city route (220) operates a 24 hour service. 
- Galway - Bus Éireann operate a city network of six routes, with the busiest running every 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day. 
- Limerick - Bus Éireann operate a city network of nine routes, with the busiest running every 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day. 
- Waterford - Bus Éireann operate a city network of five routes (W1 to W5), as well as route 360 to Tramore. All routes run every 20 or 30 minutes throughout the day. 
Town bus services operate in the following towns:
- Athlone - Bus Éireann operate two cross-town routes, A1 and A2, every 30 minutes. 
- Balbriggan - Bus Éireann operate the town service route B1 every 20 minutes. 
- Cavan - Local Link operate three cross-town routes, C1, C2 and C3. 
- Drogheda - Bus Éireann operate three town service routes. Routes D1 and D2 operate every 15 minutes between Drogheda, Bettystown and Laytown, while route 173 operates every hour around the northside and southside of the town. 
- Dundalk - Bus Éireann operate town service route 174, every 30 minutes. 
- Monaghan - Local Link operate two cross-town routes, M1 and M2. 
- Kilkenny - City Direct operate two cross town routes, KK1 and KK2, every 30 minutes. 
- Navan - Bus Éireann operate three town service routes, 110A, 110B and 110C. 
- Sligo - Bus Éireann operate two town service routes. Route S1 runs north-south across the town every 30 minutes, while route S2 runs to Strandhill and Rosses Point every hour. 
- Wexford - Wexford Bus operate two town loop routes, WX1 and WX2, every 30-40 minutes. 
Regional, commuter and rural
An extensive network of regional bus services operate across Ireland, serving nearly all corners of the island. However, the frequency of routes can vary significantly, from high frequency routes between nearby towns, to rural services running only once a week. The majority of services are public funded and operated by Bus Èireann, Go-Ahead Ireland and Local Link, although in some areas commercial services also play a large role in providing transport.
The main regional bus networks are:
- Bus Éireann operate an extensive network of regional bus services across Ireland. Commuter services are provided along routes into the main cities and towns, while in rural areas there are routes connecting many villages and small towns into their nearest large town or city. Most routes are shown on the Bus Éireann network map. Routes are numbered by region, with the 100's in the east, 200's in the south, 300's in the midwest and southeast, and 400's in the west and northwest.
- Go-Ahead Ireland operate commuter routes between towns in Kildare and Dublin City. These are numbered routes 120 to 130, and use the same fare structure and ticketing system as the Bus Éireann Dublin commuter services.
- Local Link is the brand name for all services funded under the rural transport programme. There are over 1,000 rural bus routes serving nearly all corners of the country. These range from regular scheduled routes running several times a day between nearby towns, to door to door routes running only one day per week. The regular scheduled routes operate like normal bus routes, with fixed routes and timetables, however the door to door routes can vary and may require advance booking, so it's best to inquire with your nearest Local Link office the day beforehand.
Other standalone public funded routes include:
- JJ Kavanagh operate route 139 from Naas to Blanchardstown
- Go-Ahead Ireland operate route 197 from Swords to Ashbourne
- Bernard Kavanagh operate route 817 from Kilkenny to Dublin
- M&A Coaches operate route 828 from Cashel to Portlaoise
- Andrew Wharton operate route 975 from Cavan to Longford
A good network of intercity routes operates between the main cities and towns in Ireland. Most intercity routes are fast with very few stops, and take advantage of Ireland's extensive motorway network. Intercity routes are all operated commercially, and many routes have competition along them, with more than one operator serving them, so fares are often good value. Bus Éireann Expressway are the largest operator, with over 20 intercity routes. Other operators include Dublin Coach, Aircoach, GoBus, Citylink, JJ Kavanagh and Wexford Bus.
The main intercity routes from Dublin (listed anti-clockwise) are:
- Dublin - Newry - Belfast: Bus Éireann Expressway routes X1/X2a/X5, Aircoach route 705X, Dublin Coach route 400
- Dublin - Omagh - Derry/Letterkenny: Bus Éireann Expressway route 32, Goldline Express routes X3/X4, John McGinley Coaches routes 932/933
- Dublin - Cavan - Donegal: Bus Éireann Expressway route 30
- Dublin - Longford - Sligo: Bus Éireann Expressway route 23
- Dublin - Longford - Ballina: Bus Éireann Expressway route 22
- Dublin - Athlone - Galway: Bus Éireann Expressway routes 20/X20, GoBus route 720, Citylink routes 760/761/763
- Dublin - Limerick: Bus Éireann Expressway route X12, Dublin Coach route 300, JJ Kavanagh route 735, Eireagle route  [dead link]
- Dublin - Cork: Bus Éireann Expressway route X8, Aircoach route 704X, GoBus route 707
- Dublin - Kilkenny - Clonmel: JJ Kavanagh route 717
- Dublin - Carlow - Waterford: Bus Éireann Expressway route 4/X4, Dublin Coach route 600, JJ Kavanagh route 736
- Dublin - Wexford: Bus Éireann Expressway routes 2/X2, Wexford Bus route 740
Other intercity routes include:
- Derry/Letterkenny - Sligo - Galway: Bus Éireann Expressway route 64, Bus Feda route 964
- Ballina - Castlebar - Galway: Bus Éireann Expressway route 52
- Galway - Limerick - Cork: Bus Éireann Expressway routes 51/X51, Citylink route 251
- Limerick - Tralee/Killarney: Bus Éireann Expressway routes 13 & 14, Dublin Coach route 300
- Limerick - Waterford: Bus Éireann Expressway route 55
- Tralee - Cork - Waterford - Rosslare: Bus Éireann Expressway route 40
- Shannon cruises are a leisurely way of travelling from one town to another. Dromineer and Carrick on Shannon are good bases.
- There are many canals in Ireland, and it is possible to travel by barge on some of them. The Grand and Royal canals are fully navigable from Dublin to the River Shannon, leading to the cities of Limerick and Waterford. Information can be obtained from Waterways Ireland, the managing body for inland waterways.
Ireland is beautiful for biking, but use a good touring bike with solid tyres as road conditions are not always excellent. Biking along the south and west coasts you should be prepared for variable terrain, lots of hills and frequent strong headwinds. There are plenty of camp grounds along the way for long distance cyclists.
The planned Eurovelo cycle route in Ireland will connect Belfast to Dublin via Galway, and Dublin to Rosslare via Galway and Cork. Visit their website for updates on the status of the path.
Dublin has some marked bicycle lanes and a few non-road cycle tracks. Traffic is fairly busy, but a cyclist confident with road cycling in other countries should have no special difficulties (except maybe for getting used to riding on the left). Cyclists have no special right of way over cars, particularly when using shared use paths by the side of a road, but share and get equal priority when in traffic lanes. Helmets are not legally required, but widely available for those who wish to use them. Dublin Bikes has 400 bikes available to the public in around 40 stations across the city centre. The bikes are free to take for the first half hour, although a payment of €150 is required in case of the bike being stolen or damaged. When finished, return the bike back to any station and get your payment refunded.
Ireland is small enough to be traversed by road and rail in a few hours, so there are few flights within the Republic, and none to Northern Ireland.
Aer Lingus Regional fly two routes from Dublin:
- - to Donegal (CFN) near Carrickfinn in northwest County Donegal, twice a day taking an hour. Fares start at €30-€36 each way (as of Jan 2020).
- - to Kerry (KIR) near Farranfore, midway between Tralee and Killarney, twice a day taking an hour. Fares start at €47-€49 each way (as of Jan 2020).
Aer Arann Islands fly from Connemara Airport (NNR) near Galway to the three Arann Islands of Inis Mór (IOR), Inis Meain (IIA) and Inis Oírr (INQ). There are at least three flights to each island year-round M-F and two at weekends; more in summer. The flights use rinky-dinky BNF Islanders and are ten minute there-and-back turnarounds with no inter-island flights. Adult fares are €25 one way or €49 return, with various discounts. Connemara has no other flights so it's disconnected from the global network.
By cable car
The Dursey Island Cable Car operates across the Dursey Sound, connecting Dursey Island off the south coast of Ireland with mainland County Cork. It is Ireland's only cable car and is the only cable car that traverses open seawater in Europe.
The cable car operates every day except Christmas Day, St Stephen's Day and New Years Day, and runs continuously from 09:30 to 12:45, and from 13:30 to at least 16:30, up to as late as 21:30 some days in the summer. Return fares are €10 for adults and €5 for children.
Almost everyone speaks English as their first language, though often in a way that reflects the influence of Irish. Irish or Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) is the first official language according to the constitution. It belongs to the Goidelic branch of the Celtic family of languages and is strikingly different to English.
The main dialects of Irish are those of the provinces of Ulster, Munster and Connacht (with the last being historically a central dialect which stretched eastwards into Leinster). The Ulster dialect has most in common with Scottish Gaelic. Some Irish people may take offence if you call Irish "Gaelic," as this really refers to an entire branch of the Celtic languages including Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic. Refer to it simply as "Irish" or “the Irish language”.
There are still thousands of fluent Irish speakers, all of them bilingual. Some of them are traditional native speakers in remote (and usually scenic) rural areas known as Gaeltachtaí. They are now outnumbered by urban Irish speakers, who are especially numerous in Dublin, and are often young, middle-class and well educated. Irish speakers are served by a number of radio stations, an online newspaper, numerous blogs and an innovative television station (TG4). They have an impressive modern literature and a popular annual arts festival known as the Oireachtas.
Irish is a compulsory language in mainstream English-speaking schools in the Republic, and is required in order to enter certain Irish universities. About 40% (c. 1,500,000) of people in the Republic claim some knowledge of the language as a result, but the real number of proficient speakers is probably closer to 300,000 (about 7% of the population).
Notwithstanding this, English is the only language you are likely to encounter while travelling in Ireland. This means that visitors are often unaware that habitual Irish speakers can be found throughout the country, with a thriving (though not so obvious) culture of their own. Such speakers usually use English in the presence of strangers, but most Irish people see the language as an integral part of their culture.
As many place names and personal names are in Irish, some knowledge of Irish pronunciation can be useful for foreigners, and even locals who are not fluent in Irish typically know how to pronounce Irish words.
Tourists keen to learn a few words of the Irish language can fall for a prank whereby they are taught to swear while being assured that they are learning a greeting or similar phrase.
Both Irish and English are spoken in Ireland with several different accents, and it is easy to distinguish the accent of someone from Northern Ireland from that of someone from the Republic. You can often even distinguish between different cities within the Republic of Ireland (e.g. Dublin vs Cork). Accents also vary by social class, and in the city of Dublin in particular you will notice distinct upper-class and working-class accents.
It is important to remember that many Irish speak English quite rapidly compared to speakers from the UK or North America. In Ireland some words are different, and may have different meanings. For example, "deadly" in Hiberno-English usually means "cool" or "awesome", (e.g. "That's deadly" means "That's wonderful") instead of "dangerous". Irish loanwords and idioms are also common in Hiberno-English.
In everyday interactions Irish friends and relations engage in a style of conversation surprising (if not alarming) to unprepared tourists. The insult, putdown or sideswipe, known as 'banter,' is a highly nuanced art-form aimed at showing affection. It's all in the timing and tone and not to be attempted unless you are visibly in a good mood. High-spirited and friendly teasing is also known as craic and is generally inseparable from the consumption of alcohol.
It's more than just a stereotype: Ireland's highlights are indeed the stuff of knights' tales. That's at least true for its myriad of fascinating castles, dramatic cliff shores, lush rolling pastures and rugged hills. Many of the country's main attractions are of a sturdy kind of beauty. There's the megalithic tombs of Brú na Bóinne, older than the Egyptian pyramids and the inspiration for some of the famous Celtic symbols of later times. Of much later date is the beautiful Blarney Castle in County Cork, known for its "Blarney Stone." According to tradition, kissing the Blarney Stone will bless a person with "the gift of the gab", or a remarkable eloquence. Achieving it requires lying back while a castle employee holds you and a photographer captures the moment. Equally interesting is the Rock of Cashel, the remains of a majestic 12th century castle overlooking the green surrounding plains.
The island's rough coast line is one of its main tourist attractions. The stunning 230m high Cliffs of Moher are a spectacular place and the most popular of the cliffs to visit. It's surely among the most dramatic spots, but only one of many scenic parts of the Irish coast. Head to Achill Island to see the Croaghaun, the highest of them all, as well as the lovely Keem Bay and other beaches. Visit the beautiful Aran Islands, where local culture has survived the test of time and green pastures are dotted with castles and churches. Drive the Wild Atlantic Way to take in more of the scenic shores, stopping for breaks in charming coastal towns. More inland there are a number of national parks worth exploring, including the limestone karst landscapes of the rest of the Burren (of which the Cliffs of Moher are part). The vast peatlands of Ballycroy National Park offer another great place for hikes, as do the lakes and forests of Killarney National Park. The pleasant town of Killarney itself is home to Ross Castle but also serves as a popular starting point for the Ring of Kerry.
Kilkenny, an old city which once served as a capital, is easy to reach from Dublin and one of the country's favourite tourist spots. Its beautiful buildings and imposing Norman castle - not to mention the numerous festivals including the Arts Festival and Rhythm and Roots Festival — make Kilkenny a most desirable location. If you have or can rent your own vehicle, explore the amazing area of Co. Donegal. Expect to see plenty of low stone walls, thatched roof houses, rugged hills, cliffs and golden sand beaches in this traditional region. Best visited during Spring or summer, it offers plenty of hill walks and photo opportunities.
Limerick has the majestic King John's Castle, but Cork and Galway also make for popular summer destinations full of lively nightlife and historic heritage. And then... there is of course Dublin. Quintessentially Irish and a fine place to sample the country's famous beer culture, it's also home to some excellent sights. Dublin Castle is a fine choice, and Trinity College has a wonderful library where you can see one of the oldest manuscripts in the world, the Book of Kells. While any sightseeing may be topped off with a pint, many beer lovers do so at the Guinness Storehouse.
- Prehistoric Ireland: Brú na Bóinne in Meath is the best known, built around 3000 BC. Trouble is, it's mobbed with tourists, with very limited access slots, and you lose the atmosphere. But Ireland is studded with equally fascinating sites, often in out-of-the-way places so they were never built over or the stone re-used, and with small risk of you having to share them with a babbling tour group. Seek them out, eg at Ahenny in Tipperary or on the wild Burren. And between the stones were the bogs. Start exploring their fascinating discoveries at the National Museum in Dublin: ornate gold jewellery and contorted bodies.
- Cells and wells, the forerunner to "Bells 'n Smells". A series of major religious leaders appeared in Ireland following 5th C St Patrick. Any place name prefixed "Kil" or "Cill" indicates their hermit cell or abode. They needed to live near a water source, which would become venerated as a holy or healing well. There was a second wave of monasteries in Norman times, built on the same sites, and ruins of these grander buildings are common though they were smashed after the 16th C Dissolution. Clonmacnoise, Glendalough and Rock of Cashel are fine examples. After they were ejected from their former churches, the Roman Catholics were only allowed to re-establish from the 19th C, with a wave of church and cathedral building mostly in neo-Gothic style: every major town has one.
- Round towers are to Ireland what minarets are to Turkey. Pencil-thin and dating from 9th to 12th C AD, the best intact examples are 30 m tall with a conical cap; they have only one or two windows and a doorway several metres above ground. They were bell-towers for adjacent churches, and the high doorway was simply to avoid weakening the tower base. Some 20 are in good condition, with the best at Clondalkin (Dublin), Ardmore (Waterford), Devenish (Fermanagh), Glendalough (Wicklow), Kells (Meath), Killala (Mayo), Kilmacduagh (Galway), Rattoo (Kerry), Swords (Dublin), Timahoe (Laois) and Turlough (Mayo).
- Islands: a historic handful lie off the east coast (Dalkey near Dublin may have been a slave market) but most lie off the fractal west coast. Some are nowadays connected by road or are tidal, but substantial places that you have to fly or take a ferry to include the three Aran Islands, with a remarkable cluster of prehistoric sites. Not to neglect freshwater islands in the rivers (eg Cahir castle, and we'd best draw a veil over Lady Blessington's ablutions at Clonmel Tipperary) and in the lakes. Inis Cealtra in Lough Derg above Killaloe in Clare has a cluster of medieval sites, and Innisfree on Lough Gill near Sligo is where WB Yeats yearned to be.
Irish people love their sport. The largest sporting organisation in Ireland, and the largest amateur sporting organisation in the world, is the Gaelic Athletic Association, more commonly referred to as the GAA. The GAA governs Ireland's two national sports which are Gaelic football and hurling.
To those that have never seen it, Gaelic football could at its simplest be described as a cross between football and rugby, but there is much more to it than that. Hurling is the fastest field game in the world. If it could be categorised into a group of sports, then it would be closest to the field hockey family, but hurling is unique. No visit to Ireland, especially during the summer months, would be complete without seeing a Gaelic football or hurling match, ideally live but at least on the TV. The biggest matches of the year take place during summer culminating in the two finals which are both in September, on two separate Sundays. The All-Ireland Hurling Final is normally on the first Sunday of September and the All-Ireland Football final is on the third Sunday of September. These are the two largest individual sporting events in Ireland, so tickets are like gold dust. Croke Park, the venue for the two finals, has a capacity of 82,300 people, making it one of the largest stadiums in Europe. Those that can't get tickets will crowd around televisions and radios, and around the world Irish people will be watching or listening to the finals.
Horse racing: there are some three dozen race tracks around the country, almost every county has one or two, with Curragh and Punchestown the two big courses near Dublin. These tracks have both flat racing in summer and National Hunt (jumps / chases) in winter. There are stud farms and racehorse training stables on the lush pastures of the Irish midlands, some of which you can visit. And then there's Enniscrone in County Sligo, where they race on pigs.
Golf is another huge sport in Ireland. Ireland has many great professionals, but for the visitor there are many golf courses around the country. Golfing holidays are popular.
In Rugby Union Ireland plays as a united island, with Northern Ireland included. There are four professional teams representing the historic provinces playing in the Pro14, the top European (predominantly Celtic) league: Leinster Rugby in Dublin, Ulster Rugby in Belfast, Munster Rugby mostly in Limerick with some games in Cork, and Connacht Rugby in Galway. International games are played in Dublin: those for the annual "Six Nations" tournament are likely to sell out.
Football is less well supported, though the national team does respectably in Euro and other FIFA tournaments. Most large towns have a football team, though their quality is generally low as nearly all the top Irish players play for English clubs.
Being an island, Ireland has many water sports. Sailing is big in Ireland. On the west coast in particular Ireland has very high seas, ideal for surfing, even if the weather isn't always great. Kitesurfing is growing everyday in Ireland, from the East to the West coast. Check Dollymount in Dublin City, Rush, Bettystown, Blackrock/Dundalk on the East Coast and Sligo (Rosses Point), Donegal, and Kerry on the west coast.
- Ireland has a bustling scene for folk and popular music; see Music in Britain and Ireland.
- Bus tours: For those wishing to experience Ireland on a budget, there are a variety of inexpensive bus tours in almost every part of the country. These tours can range from hop-on hop-off buses in major cities such as Dublin and Cork to 5-day trips through some of the most scenic parts of the country. The bus drivers/guides are generally well informed about Irish history and enjoy sharing local legends and songs with anyone happy to 'lend an ear'.
- Look up your Irish ancestors. From 1864 all births, marriages and deaths in Ireland (and Protestant marriages from 1845) were recorded by the General Register Office in Dublin, which you can search online free. Before then, those events were recorded only in parish church registers, of variable completeness. Many records have been lost, but others are well-preserved and digitised - County Clare is one good example. Tracing events pre-1864 is more difficult, especially along the female line. Sources include the parish church registers, property records, newspaper "hatches matches & dispatches" columns, Wills, trial verdicts, workhouse denizens, tombstone epitaphs, and emigrant passenger lists.
- St Patrick's Day , on 17 March, is celebrated worldwide and especially here.
- Observe centenaries: after the Great War ended, the Anglo-Irish conflict intensified as described above, leading to the partition of Ireland in 1921 and a civil war, all against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic. This means that many events are reaching their centenary, eg the Croke Park massacre of Nov 1920, which in normal circumstances would be publicly marked. Ceremonies and recognition are inevitably subdued in 2020 / 21 but visitors (especially British) should be aware of upcoming anniversaries.
Exchange rates for euros
As of 23 June 2020:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Ireland uses the euro, the plural of which is also "euro", thus for €2 say "two euro".
Stand-alone cash machines (ATMs) are widely available in every city and town in the country and credit cards are accepted most outlets. Fees are not generally charged by Irish ATMs (but beware that your bank may charge a fee).
Along border areas, as the UK pound sterling is currency in Northern Ireland, it is common for UK pounds to be accepted as payment, with change given in Euro. Some outlets, notably border petrol stations will give change in sterling if requested.
There's a lot of cross-border shopping. It's partly driven by differences in VAT or other tax, for instance fuel has usually been cheaper in the Republic, so Northern Ireland motorists fill up south of the border. It also reflects swings in exchange rate, so Republic shoppers cross to Derry or Newry whenever their euro goes further against the UK £.
ATMs are widely available throughout Ireland. Even in small towns it is unlikely that you will be unable to find an ATM. Many shops and pubs will have an ATM in store, and unlike the UK, they cost the same to use as 'regular' ATMs on the street. Though in-shop ATMs are slightly more likely to run out of cash and be 'Out of Service'.
MasterCard, Maestro and Visa are accepted virtually everywhere. American Express and Diners Club are now also fairly widely accepted. Discover card is very rarely accepted and it would not be wise to rely on this alone. Most ATMs allow cash withdrawals on major credit cards and internationally branded debit cards.
In common with most of Europe, Ireland uses "chip and PIN" credit cards. Signature-only credit cards, such as those used in the US, should be accepted anywhere a chip and PIN card with the same brand logo is accepted. The staff will have a handheld device and will be expecting to hold the card next to it and then have you input your PIN. Instead, they will need to swipe the card and get your signature on the paper receipt it prints out. Usually this goes smoothly but you may find some staff in areas that serve few foreigners are confused or assume the card cannot be processed without a chip. It is helpful to have cash on hand to avoid unpleasant hassle even in situations where you might have been able to eventually pay by card.
Tipping is not a general habit in Ireland. The same general rules apply as in the United Kingdom. It is usually not customary to tip a percentage of the total bill, a few small coins is generally considered quite polite. Like most of Europe it is common to round up to the nearest note, (i.e. paying €30 for a bill of €28).
In restaurants tipping 10-15% is standard and for large groups or special occasions (wedding/anniversary/conference with banquet) tipping becomes part of the exuberance of the overall event and can be higher, indeed substantial. Tipping is not expected in bars or pubs and unnecessary in the rare bar or 'Superpub' that has toilet attendants. In taxis the fare is rounded off to the next euro for short city wide journeys, however this is more discretionary than in restaurants. In hotels a tip may be added to the bill on check out, however some guests prefer to tip individual waiters or room attendants either directly or leaving a nominal amount in the room.
In all cases, the tip should express satisfaction with the level of service.
If you are a tourist from a non-EU country, you may be able to receive a partial refund of VAT tax (which is 23%.) However, unlike some other countries, there is no unified scheme under which a tourist can claim this refund back. The method of refund depends solely on the particular retailer and so tourists should ask the retailer before they make a purchase if they wish to receive a VAT refund.
One scheme retailers who are popular with tourists operate is private (i.e. non-governmental) VAT refund agents. Using this scheme, the shopper receives a magnetic stripe card which records the amount of purchases and VAT paid every time a purchase is made and then claims the VAT back at the airport, minus commission to the VAT refund agent, which is often quite substantial. There are multiple such VAT refund agents and so you may need to carry multiple cards and make multiple claims at the airport. However, there may not be a VAT refund agent representative at the airport or specific terminal where you will be departing from, or it may not be open at the time you depart. In which case, getting a refund back could become more cumbersome as you may need to communicate with the VAT refund agent from your home country.
If the retailer does not operate the VAT refund agent scheme, they may tell you that all you have to do is take the receipt they produce to the airport and claim the refund at the VAT refund office at the airport. However, this is incorrect. Irish Revenue does not make any VAT refunds directly to tourists. Tourists are responsible for having receipts stamped by customs, either in Ireland upon departure or at their home country upon arrival and then send these receipts as proof of export directly to the Irish retailer which is obligated to make a VAT refund directly to the tourist. Therefore, for example, if you have made 10 different purchases at 10 different retailers, you will need to make 10 separate claims for refunds with every single retailer. However, some retailers do not participate in the scheme all together and so you may not be able to get any VAT refund from some retailers. Therefore, if you plan on receiving VAT tourist refund on your purchases in Ireland, you should be careful where you shop and which refund scheme they operate, if any.
Further details on VAT tourist refunds can be found in the document Retail Export Scheme (Tax-Free Shopping for Tourists) .
Food is expensive in Ireland, although quality has improved enormously in the last ten years. Most small towns will have a supermarket and many have a weekly farmers' market. The cheapest option for eating out is either fast food or pubs. Many pubs offer a carvery lunch consisting of roasted meat, vegetables and the ubiquitous potatoes, which is usually good value. Selection for vegetarians is limited outside the main cities. The small town of Kinsale near Cork has become internationally famous for its many excellent restaurants, especially fish restaurants. In the northwest of the country Donegal Town is fast becoming the seafood capital of Ireland.
Traditional Irish cuisine could charitably be described as hearty: many traditional meals involved meat (beef, lamb, and pork), potatoes, and cabbage. Long cooking times were the norm in the past, and spices were limited to salt and pepper. The Irish diet has broadened remarkably in the past fifty years and dining is now very cosmopolitan.
Seafood chowder, Guinness Bread, Oysters, and Boxty vary regionally, and are not common throughout the entire country.
However the days when potatoes were the only thing on the menu are long gone, and modern Irish cuisine emphasizes fresh local ingredients, simply prepared and presented (sometimes with some Mediterranean-style twists). Meat (especially lamb), seafood and dairy produce is mostly of an extremely high quality.
Try some gorgeous brown soda bread, made with buttermilk and leavened with bicarbonate of soda rather than yeast. It is heavy, tasty and almost a meal in itself.
Only basic table manners are considered necessary when eating out, unless you're with company that has a more specific definition of what is appropriate. As a general rule, so long as you don't make a show of yourself by disturbing other diners there's little else to worry about. It's common to see other customers using their mobile phones — this sometimes attracts the odd frown or two but goes largely ignored. If you do need to take a call, keep it short and try not to raise your voice. The only other issue to be concerned about is noise — a baby crying might be forgivable if it's resolved fairly quickly, a contingent of adults laughing very loudly every couple of minutes or continuously talking out loud may attract negative attention. However, these rules are largely ignored in fast-food restaurants, pubs and some more informal restaurants.
Finishing your meal
At restaurants with table service, some diners might expect the bill to be presented automatically after the last course, but in Ireland you may need to ask for it to be delivered. Usually coffee and tea are offered at the end of the meal when removing dishes, and if you don't want any, the best response would be "No thank you, just the bill, please." Otherwise the staff will assume you wish to linger until you specifically ask for the bill.
Pints (just over half a litre) of Guinness start at around €4.20 per pint, and can get as high as €7.00 in tourist hotspots in Dublin.
One of Ireland's most famous exports is stout: a dark, creamy beer, the most popular being Guinness which is brewed in Dublin. Murphy's and Beamish stout are brewed in Cork and available mainly in the south of the country. Murphy's is slightly sweeter and creamier-tasting than Guinness, while Beamish, although lighter, has a subtle, almost burnt, taste. Opting for a Beamish or Murphy's while in Cork is sure to be a conversation starter and likely the start of a long conversation if you say you prefer it to Guinness.
Several micro-breweries are now producing their own interesting varieties of stout, including O'Hara's in Carlow, the Porter House in Dublin and the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork. Ales such as Smithwick's are also popular, particularly in rural areas. Bulmers Cider (known outside the Republic as 'Magners Cider') is also a popular and widely available Irish drink. It is brewed in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.
That "e" in the name is as important as the barley and the sparkling waters in the distillery promotional video, the bit before they ask you to confirm your age. Whiskey / whisky is a distilled spirit of 40% alcohol, and a protected trade name - products so described may only be produced by specific methods and regionally-sourced ingredients, justifying their price premium. Ireland has several big-name brands such as Jameson and Tullamore, and very drinkable they are too - sláinte! But what's been lacking is the character of single malt whiskey as found in Scotland, though Ireland certainly has the ingredients and know-how to make these. These are gradually coming to market (bearing in mind the minimum 3 year sojourn in cask) from, for example, Teeling in Dublin and Athru in Sligo.
Nearly all pubs in Ireland are 'free houses', i.e. they can sell drink from any brewery and are not tied to one brewery (unlike the UK). You can get the same brands of drink in all pubs in Ireland across the country.
Alcohol can be relatively expensive in Ireland, particularly in tourist areas. However local weekly events magazines will carry information on 'Happy Hours' when some bars loss lead with €3 beers or offer two for the price of one. Happy Hours can start as early as 15:00 and go on until 21:00. Some bars may offer pitchers of beer which typically hold just over three pints, for €10-€11.
Bars must serve their last drinks at 23:30 Sunday to Thursday and 00:30 on Friday and Saturday, usually followed by a half hour 'drinking up' time. Nightclubs serve until 02:00.
It is illegal to smoke in all pubs in Ireland. Some pubs have beer gardens, usually a heated outdoor area where smoking is allowed.
Only in Ireland: legendary pubs include McCarthys the Undertaker in Fethard, County Tipperary, who'll see you right one way or another; Stone the Crows in Sligo, which alas no longer accepts dead crows as payment, though you could always try swiping one across the contactless machine; Carroll Auctioneers in Kilmallock, County Limerick have somehow got their business listed as a pub, just be careful how you signal for another round; and O'Loclainn's in Ballyvaughan, County Galway for a remarkable global selection of whiskey.
There are hotels of all standards including some very luxurious. Bed-and-breakfast accommodations are widely available. These are usually very friendly, quite often family-run and good value. There are independent hostels which are marketed as Independent Holiday Hostels of Ireland, which are all tourist board approved. There is also an official youth hostel association, An Óige (Irish for The Youth). These hostels are often in remote and beautiful places, designed mainly for the outdoors. There are official campsites although fewer than many countries (given the climate). Wild camping is tolerated but try and seek permission—especially where you'll be visible from the landowner's house. Never camp in a field in which livestock are present. There are also specialist places to stay such as lighthouses, castles and ring forts.
Some Useful Irish Phrases:
It is fun to learn a few phrases of Irish, but it is unnecessary, as everyone speaks English. Visitors who want to learn Irish can take advantage of language courses specifically designed for them. The best known are provided by Oideas Gael in Donegal and the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge), which is based in Dublin. They employ experienced teachers whose aim is to equip you with basic fluency and give you an introduction to the culture. You will often find yourself sitting with people from a surprising variety of countries - perhaps as far away as Japan. Even a short course can reveal aspects of Ireland which more casual tourists may miss. But you are strongly advised to check the dates and book beforehand.
Ireland is part of the European Union/European Economic Area and, as such, any EU/EEA/Swiss national has an automatic right to take up employment in Ireland. Non EU/EEA citizens will generally require a work permit and visa. Further information can be found on Citizens Information, the Irish government's public services information website.
The police force is known as An Garda Síochána, (literally, 'Guards of the Peace'), or just "Garda", and police officers as Garda (singular) and Gardaí (plural, pronounced Gar-dee), though informally the English term Guard(s) is usual. The term police is rarely used, but is of course understood. Regardless of what you call them, they are courteous and approachable. Uniformed members of the Garda Síochána do not carry firearms, but the police in Northern Ireland do. Firearms are, however, carried by detectives and officers assigned to Regional Support Units and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), a tactical unit similar to SWAT. Police security checks at Shannon Airport can be tough if you are a solo traveller.
Crime is relatively low by most European standards, but not so different in kind from crime in other countries. Late-night streets in larger towns and cities can be dangerous, as anywhere. Don't walk alone after sunset in deserted areas in Dublin or Cork, and be sure to plan getting back home, preferably in a taxi. Fortunately, most violent crime is drink- or drug-related, so simply avoiding the visibly inebriated can keep you out of most potential difficulties. If you need Gardaí, ambulance, fire service, coast guard or mountain rescue dial 999 or 112 as the emergency number; both work from landlines phones and mobile phones.
In the unlikely event that you are confronted by a thief, be aware that Irish criminals in general are not afraid to resort to violence. Surrender any valuables they ask for and do not resist, as hooligans are bound to have sharp or blunt weapons with them. If you are the victim of a crime, report it immediately. CCTV camera coverage in towns and cities is quite extensive, and a timely phone call could help retrieve your lost belongings.
Many roads in the country are narrow and winding, and there has been an increase in traffic density. Ireland is improving its roads, but due to financial constraints many potholes do not get mended in a timely manner. If using a rented car, keep your eyes peeled for any potholes in the road as even the smallest of them could precipitate a rollover or a collision.
- "Blessed are the pacemakers" - Seamus Heaney, recovering from a stroke in 2006
Tap water is generally drinkable. In some buildings you should avoid drinking water from bathroom sinks, which may be recycled or drawn from cisterns.
Almost all enclosed places of work in Ireland, including bars, restaurants, cafés, are designated as smoke-free. Ireland was the first European country to implement the smoking ban in pubs. Rooms in hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments are not required by law to be smoke-free. Even though they are not obliged to enforce the ban, owners of these establishments can do so if they wish. Most hotels have some bedrooms or floors designated as smoking and some as non-smoking, so you should specify at the time of booking if you have a preference either way. The smoking ban also applies to common areas within buildings. This means for example that corridors, lobby areas and reception areas of buildings such as apartment blocks and hotels are also covered by the law.
Most larger bars and cafés will have a (covered) outdoor smoking area, often with heating. This is a great way to meet up with locals. A new concept called "smirting" has been developed: "smoking" and "flirting". If an outdoor smoking area does not exist, be aware that it is illegal to consume alcohol on the street, so you may have to leave your drink at the bar.
Any person found guilty of breaching the ban on smoking in the workplace may be subject to a fine of up to €3,000.
Visitors to Ireland will find that the Irish are one of the world's more welcoming nations. When lost, as may often happen, given that the road signs are quite different to those of other countries, ask in a local shop for advice. Let them know where you are trying to go and be as specific as possible. Often the directions are by local landmark, so don't be afraid to ask for very specific directions.
In smaller towns and villages, and especially on a country road, if you walk past somebody it is customary to say hello. They may also ask you "how are you?", or another similar variation. A simple hello or "how are you?" or a simple comment on the weather will suffice.
When driving on rural roads, particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave a thanks to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel. This also applies when walking, if there are no traffic lights and a driver lets you cross the road.
When accepting gifts, a polite refusal (such as, "no really you shouldn't") is common after the first offer of the item. Usually, this is followed with an insistence that the gift or offer be accepted, at which point a refusal will be taken more seriously. However, some people can be very persuasive — this isn't meant to be overbearing, just courteous.
The Irish usually respond to a "thank you" with "It was nothing" or "not at all" ("Níl a bhuíochas ort" in Irish). This does not mean that they didn't try hard to please; rather, it is meant to suggest "I was happy to do it for you, so it wasn't a problem" (even though it may have been). This can often also mean that they expect that they can ask for a favour from you at some point or that you are in some way indebted to the person who did something for you. There is a significant amount of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" entrenched in the Irish culture.
Public or semi-public discussions about religious differences, political views and 20th century troubles are generally avoided by locals on both sides of the border. Opinions between individuals are so vastly divided and unyielding, that most Irish people (of moderate views) have grown accustomed to simply avoiding the topics in polite conversation, especially since almost everyone in small towns knows each other well.
Foreign nationals claiming they are ‘Irish’ just because of an ancestor will likely be met with amusement, although this may become annoyance or anger should they then express their views related to The Troubles.
The Irish are renowned for their sense of humour, but their humour can be difficult to understand for tourists not familiar with it. The Irish will joke about themselves or other cultures, and may appear to be tolerant of non-nationals joking about the Irish, but beware it is easy to cause offence.
LGBT visitors will find most Irish people to be accepting of same-sex couples, although overt public displays of affection are rare except in Dublin and (to some extent) in Cork City. Ireland introduced civil partnerships in 2011 and voted to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015. Conservative values can still be found in Ireland, especially with the older generation. As in many other countries, the younger generation are generally more accepting. Ireland has anti-discrimination laws that are predominately for the workplace, though few cases have been brought forward. Common sense should prevail in all areas, and acceptance has become far more widespread. In 2015, opinion polls leading up to the marriage equality referendum repeatedly showed, almost without variation, that about 75% of Irish people supported gay marriage rights.
Phone numbers in this guide are given in the form that you would dial them from outside Ireland. When using a landline within Ireland, the international dial prefix and country code of +353 should be substituted by a single 0. However, most landlines and mobile phones will accept the prefix 00353 or +353 to call Ireland numbers.
By mobile phone
There are more mobile phones than people in Ireland, and the majority of these are pre-paid. Phone credit is available in very many retailers, usually in denominations from €5 to €40. Be aware that some retailers charge a small commission on this credit, while many others don't, so it does pay to shop around.
All mobile numbers begin with 087, 086, 085, 083 or 089 (this code must be dialled regardless of location or operator of dialler). Mobiles are cheap by European standards to buy, and if staying for more than 2 months, it could be cheaper to buy a phone than phone cards.
A tri- or quad-band GSM phone will work, but you should check that your operator has a roaming agreement. It can be expensive to receive and make phone calls while roaming.
You can also buy a cheap prepay SIM card if you have an unlocked handset. This can be considerably cheaper as it means that you will be assigned an Irish number on which you can be called during your trip, and your outgoing calls are charged at normal Irish mobile rates. If you have a European or American phone, it is likely the charger accepts both 120 V and 240 V power (but check the rating on the plug or transformer lest you fry it), but you will still need a cheap plug adapter that you can pick up at many convenience or grocery stores after you arrive, or a department or travel accessory store before you leave, to be on the safe side. (Ireland uses the same voltage and plugs as the United Kingdom; see Electrical systems.)
If you do not have an unlocked tri- or quad-band GSM phone then it is possible to buy a mobile phone in Ireland from any of the mobile phone companies. If you need a mobile phone number before you travel, you can rent a phone from Rentaphone Ireland.
If you do not have a "chip and PIN" debit card (most U.S. debit and credit cards do not have a chip) and permanent contact information in Ireland (landline, address) then in some cases you may have problems paying for phone service. Having cash on hand in Euros may make this process considerably easier, and you might want to try that first to speed things along.
Phones that have the 1800 MHz band but not 900 MHz will work but coverage is extremely poor outside urban areas.
Ireland has 12 mobile networks as outlined below. The prefix numbers are owned by each network, but can be ported to another network at the customer's request, so that the customer can change network but keep their number.
|Three||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||083 & 086||The 086 prefix previously belonged to O2 Ireland.|
|BlueFace||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||083||Uses Three network.|
|Meteor||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||085|
|eirMobile||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||085||Uses Meteor network|
|Vodafone||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||087|
|Postfone||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||087||Uses Vodafone Ireland network.|
|Tesco Mobile||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||089 2 & 089 4||Uses Three network.|
|48||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||089 2 & 089 4||Uses Three network.|
|Virgin Mobile||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||089 60 & 089 61||Uses Three network.|
|iD Mobile||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||089 70 & 089 71||Uses Three network.|
|Lycamobile||GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100||089 9||Uses Three network.|
Non-geographic numbers are those which are not specific to a geographical region and are charged at the same rate regardless of where the caller is located.
|Call type||Description||Dialling Prefix|
|Freephone||Free from all phonelines||1800|
|Shared Cost (Fixed)||Cost one call unit (generally 6.5 cent)||1850|
|Shared Cost (Timed)
(also known as Lo-call)
|Cost the price of a local call||1890|
|Universal Access||Cost the same as a non-local/trunk dialling call||0818|
|Premium Rate||Generally more expensive than other calls||1520 to 1580|
Pay phones have become quite rare, but they are still available in limited numbers. Most take euro coins, prepaid calling cards and major credit cards. You can also reverse the charges/call collect or use your calling card by following the instructions on the display.
To dial outwith Ireland: 00 + country code + area code + local number. For example, to call a Spanish mobile, it would be 00 34 6 12345678.
To dial Northern Ireland from Ireland a special code exists; drop the 028 area code from the local Northern Ireland and replace it with 048. This is then charged at the cheaper National Irish rate, instead of an international rate. Some providers accept +44 28 as a national rate when calling to Northern Ireland.
To dial an Irish number from within Ireland: Simply dial all of the digits including the area code. You can optionally drop the area code if you're calling from within that area and on a landline phone, but it makes no difference to the cost or routing. The area code is always required for calls from mobiles.
Fixed line numbers have the following area codes:
- 01 (Dublin and parts of surrounding counties)
- 02x (Cork)
- 04xx (parts of Wicklow and North-East Midlands, excluding 048)
- 048 (Northern Ireland)
- 05x (Midlands and South-East)
- 06x (South-West and Mid-West)
- 07x (North-West, excluding 076)
- 076 (VoIP)
- 08x (Pagers and mobile phones)
- 09xx (Midlands and West)
Operator service is unavailable from pay phones or mobile phones.
Emergency services dial 999 or 112 (Pan European code that runs in parallel). This is the equivalent of 911 in the US/Canada and is free from any phone.
Directory information is provided by competing operators through the following codes (call charges vary depending on what they're offering and you'll see 118 codes advertised heavily):
- 118 11 (Eir)
- 118 50 (conduit)
- 118 90
These companies will usually offer call completion, but at a very high price, and all of them will send the number by SMS to your mobile if you're calling from it.
Postal services are provided by An Post. The costs of sending postcards and letters are:
- Inland mail (island of Ireland): €1.00 (up to 100g)
- International mail (all other destinations): €1.70 (up to 100g)
These rates are correct as of August 2019.