There’s nothing like experiencing the Emerald Isle for the very first time — peaking over epic cliffs, pondering on top of endless green pastures and dipping your toes into the Irish sea. Visiting Ireland for the first time is truly enchanting experience. But, there are some travel tips for Ireland you need to know.
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After this article, you will be fully equipped to pack for Ireland, drive on the other side of the road, exchange currencies, speak Irish and taste your way through Eire. (That’s how you say “Ireland” in Irish.)
Here are 20 travel tips for Ireland that could make your break your entire trip.
1. Travel Outside of Dublin
As someone who grew up outside of Dublin, this is always the very first travel tip for Ireland I give: get the heck out of Dublin.
Don’t get me wrong, spending a day or two in Dublin to check the city off of your bucket list is not a bad idea. You can visit iconic places like the Temple Bar, Trinity College Library, Guinness Storehouse and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
However, if you want to truly experience the version of Ireland you see in photos, films and magazines, you need to travel outside of Dublin. We’ll talk about how to travel outside of the city logistically throughout this post.
Travel Ireland Off The Beaten Path
So, now that you know you shouldn’t spend your entire Ireland trip in Dublin, here’s where you should travel instead.
To travel Ireland off the beaten path, I highly recommend traveling to southwestern Ireland, western Ireland or Northern Ireland.
Southwestern Ireland is home to Cork, the Ring of Kerry and Skellig Michael. Western Ireland is home to Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara and Kylemore Abbey. Lastly, Northern Ireland boasts attractions like Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle.
You can read all about these unique places to visit in Ireland and more here.
2. Pack Warm Clothes And A Raincoat
In addition, as you probably already know, it rains a lot in Ireland. A weatherproof jacket with a hood is a packing list must-have. (I think this raincoat looks great in travel photos.)
Similarly, error toward the warm side of the clothing spectrum when you’re packing. Pack layers, pants, sweaters and sweatshirts for every season. I lived in Ireland for two full years and, trust me, it’s chilly (and windy) year-round.
You should consider bringing a raincoat that is lined, too, for extra warmth.
3. Don’t Let The Rain Ruin Your Plans
Go into your Ireland vacation knowing that it will inevitably rain. If you mentally expect rain and pack accordingly, the rain will not ruin your trip.
If anything, rain in Ireland just adds to the mystic nature of the country. Without Irish rain, the pastures and rolling hills wouldn’t be green, the views wouldn’t be magically misty and it simply would not be an authentic Irish experience.
And, if you happen to be lucky enough to see sunshine every day of your trip, you’ll have a pleasant surprise.
4. Travel To Ireland Any Time Of The Year
That all being said, don’t be afraid to travel to Ireland any time of the year.
In the summertime, you definitely have a better chance of seeing sunshine and not having to wear a coat, but the cost of travel will be a lot higher. And, there will be more crowds.
While the winter is a little colder and windier, the weather is still fairly mild. Plus, flights and accommodations will be a lot cheaper, and tourist attractions will have fewer crowds.
5. Rent A Car
When it comes to traveling around Ireland, the best mode of transportation is, by far, to rent a car (or “hire a car,” as they say in Ireland).
When you have your own car, you have the freedom to take the incredible scenic routes Ireland has to offer, witness Irish countryside first-hand, and explore small-town restaurants and shops. You really can’t fully experience Ireland from public transportation or tour buses.
Of course, if you’re terrified of driving on the other side of the road — although, it’s not as scary as it seems — then it may be in your safest interest to take public transportation and tour buses. We’ll talk more about driving in a moment.
6. Get Rental Car Insurance
Sequentially, if you rent a car in Ireland (or any country), make sure you have rental car insurance. Many credit cards nowadays cover rental car insurance, but it is worth it to double check with your credit card company.
Many of the roads in Ireland outside of major cities are tiny, bumpy and accident-prone.
In fact, during one of our many Irish road trips, we hit a bump in a road so hard that we completely blew a tire. We had to pull over in the middle of the countryside and change it with our spare. (This most likely won’t happen to you, but it’s important to have rental car insurance, nonetheless.)
7. Study Ireland’s Rules Of The Road
Now, when it comes to actually driving in Ireland, it’s advisable to read Ireland’s rules of the road before driving.
Remember, if you’re coming from the USA or continental Europe, the Irish drive on the opposite side of the road, and steering wheels are on the opposite side of the car. Not only will reading through the rules of the road make your driving safer, but it will also make you feel insanely more comfortable driving abroad.
Also, be sure you have an international driver’s license before departing your home country.
8. Make Sure You Have A GPS
Lastly, before we move on from these transportation travel tips for Ireland, ensure you have access to a GPS if you are renting a car and driving in Ireland.
Odds are, your current cell carrier does not support international service (at least, not without a per-minute fee), which means you will not have a phone GPS outside of WiFi. It can be extremely easy to get lost on Irish backroads without a GPS, so here are a couple of options.
How to have a GPS while abroad:
- Ask your car rental company if your car will have a built-in GPS.
- Buy a temporary SIM card at the airport upon arrival with enough data for your entire stay (recommended).
- Pay for one month of international service from your carrier.
- Upgrade your phone plan to international if you travel a lot. (Most recommended; I have international service and absolutely love it.)
- Download your maps on your hotel’s WiFi and carry a backup physical map (not recommended).
9. Know That Northern Ireland Is A Different Country
Transitioning, it’s also important that you know the difference between Ireland, otherwise known as the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland.
Ireland (Republic) and Northern Ireland are separate countries that are governed by different government bodies and that use difference currencies. Ireland is an independent country in the European Union and, therefore, uses the euro. Northern Ireland is a part of the UK and, therefore, uses pounds.
Both Ireland and Northern Ireland are worthy of travel. My personal favorite Irish destinations are mostly located in Northern Ireland.
10. Bring A Travel Credit Card
Obviously, different currencies can cause a major problem when in Ireland. So, the easiest way to eliminate this problem is to travel with a credit card rather than cash.
Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Ireland. There’s really no reason for you to bring cash unless you’re concerned about international transaction fees.
As long as you tell your credit card company that you’re traveling abroad before your trip, you won’t have any issues using a credit card in Ireland. Moreover, if you have a travel credit card (like the Capital One Venture card I swear by), you likely won’t be charged international transaction fees.
11. Don’t Exchange Currencies Before Your Trip
Speaking of currency exchange fees, don’t exchange currencies before your trip to Ireland.
Again, there is no need to carry cash in Ireland, so by paying to exchange your money for euros/pounds at a local bank or airport, you’re wasting money.
The only time I recommend exchanging currencies before a trip is if you have severe travel anxiety and want to do everything you can to make your trip as fun and comfortable as possible.
12. Don’t Be Surprised If You Can’t Understand The Locals
Moreover, don’t be surprised if you can’t understand the locals’ Irish accent — even if English is your first language.
The Irish accent and slang terminology can be extremely hard to understand, especially in the southern, southwestern and more remote areas of Ireland. The Donegal accent is notoriously indecipherable. Just politely ask the locals to repeat if you need to.
13. Know What ‘Slainte’ And ‘Failte’ Mean
Two Irish words that you should know before you visit Ireland are:
- “Failte” (or “Cead Mile Failte”) = “Welcome” (or “a hundred thousand welcomes”).
- “Slainte” = “Cheers!”
Other than these two words, basically everyone speaks English in Ireland.
14. Bring An Outlet Adapter
Did you know that not all countries use the same shape outlet? You definitely don’t want to forget to bring an outlet adapter with you!
Without a Type G outlet adapter, you will not be able to charge any of your electronics while in Ireland. You can buy an afforable Type G adapter on Amazon. Or, if you regularly travel internationally you can buy this universal outlet adapter.
Bonus travel tip for Ireland: if you bring a power strip (like this travel-friendly retractable power strip), you can save money by buying only one outlet adapter and plugging the power strip into the adapter.
15. Try Irish Foods And Snacks (Travel Tips For Ireland)
Next, although foods that are native to your home country can more than likely be found throughout Ireland, don’t neglect to try Irish foods and snacks.
Irish foods you need to try in Ireland include:
- Fish and chips from a local chipper (fish and chips shop).
- Guinness stew.
- Shepherd’s pie and other pot pies.
- Full Irish breakfast.
- Bangers and mash.
- Seafood chowder.
- Irish soda bread.
- Tayto chips (AKA “crisps” in Ireland).
- Prawn cocktail flavored chips (crisps).
- Aero mint chocolate bar.
My personal favorites, which I consume tenfold every time I’m back in Ireland, are fish and chips, Guinness stew, prawn cocktail chips, and Aero mint chocolate bars.
16. Steer Clear Of Black Pudding (Travel Tips For Ireland)
Black pudding is a blood sausage comprised of beef or pork blood (yes, blood), fats and spices.
Some people say you should try black pudding while in Ireland, but I personally have yet to brave it. I’ll let you judge whether you should taste test or steer (pun not intended) clear.
17. Learn How To Properly Drink Guinness (Travel Tips For Ireland)
Likewise, not everyone has a palette for Guinness. That’s why it’s important to learn how to properly drink it.
Guinness will taste better if you don’t drink foam. Instead of taking a sip mindlessly, places your lips on the pint glass and tilt your head until the foam is past your upper lip. That way, you’re only drinking the liquid.
If you’re a visual leaner, watch this video on how to properly drink a pint of Guinness.
18. Remember To Leave A Tip (Travel Tips For Ireland)
Ireland travel tip No. 18: tip!
In Ireland, it is customary to tip 10-15% for restaurant/pub wait staff and a few euro for hotel porters. However, you do not need to tip per drink at bars.
Vagabond Tours of Ireland has an excellent table with exactly when and when not to tip in Ireland here.
19. Give Yourself Extra Airport Time On Your Way Home (Travel Tips For Ireland)
Finally, if you’re traveling back to the United States from Dublin, give yourself extra airport time when you’re leaving Ireland.
You’ll probably be flying from the Dublin airport (DUB), so you’ll pre-clear US customs before you get to your gate. This means you have to go through security twice before you get to your gate: once for Irish security regulations and once for US security regulations.
While this makes arrival in the US a lot easier and quicker, it does take twice as long in Dublin. Once you’re through the second set of security, you’re legally in the US!
20. Travel Tips For Ireland FAQs
Do I need a car in Ireland?
Yes, you need a car in Ireland. As discussed, there are public transportation and tour buses available, but rental car is definitely the best way to get around Ireland.
What side is the steering wheel on in Ireland?
The standard steering wheel is on the right side of the car in Ireland, which is opposite of most countries.
Also, remember that the Irish drive on the left side of the street, so remember to look both ways before crossing a street. Your muscle memory may mislead you to look only one way — the wrong way — before you start crossing.
How much money should I take to Ireland for a week?
You should bring $500-$1000 USD to Ireland for a week to cover a family or group’s car rental, gas, tours and shopping, as well as $500 USD per person to cover food.
Of course, costs can always be cut when needed. For example, manual car rentals are cheaper than automatic car rentals. Furthermore, food will be less expensive if your accommodations provide breakfast.
Also, remember that credit cards are better to bring to Ireland than cash.
What are the dangers in Ireland?
There are basically no dangers in Ireland; pickpocketing, street scamming and other common European city dangers are not as prevalent in Ireland. The biggest dangers you’ll encounter in Ireland are deadly cliffs.
That being said, always use common sense and be aware of your surroundings.
Can you swim in the ocean in Ireland?
You can swim in the ocean in Ireland, but you’ll be freezing.
The beaches in Ireland are beautiful, so you should definitely visit them. But, expect the water to be really cold.
Do I need rain boots for Ireland?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need rain boots for Ireland. Locals do not where rain boots (locally known as “wellies”), and boots will take up too much of your precious suitcase space.
The rain in Ireland is usually more like a mist than a downpour, so you won’t have to walk through deep puddles or thick mud anyway.
What is the first thing to do in Ireland?
The first thing to do in Ireland is to go through Irish customs, pick up your luggage from baggage claim and pick up your rental car. Then, venture into Dublin city or head to your first itinerary destination.
Remember, you won’t want to spend more than one or two days maximum in Dublin.
Need any more travel tips for Ireland or have any specific questions? Leave a reply below or send me a message on Instagram. I’m happy to help!
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[…] While major cities in Ireland like Dublin, Belfast and Galway get the majority of tourist attention, you really need to leave the cities in order to truly experience Ireland. This is one of my biggest tips for travel to Ireland. […]