As always when traveling, there are multiple things to do, research, and consider. It’s always helpful to receive the advice of someone who has experienced what you’re about to experience, no matter what the subject. This short list of my best Ireland tips will hopefully enable you to have a much more smooth and enjoyable trip.
Many of the tips in my 34 Tips to Travel Europe Like a Pro article apply to Ireland, but there are a few extra tips to add and specifications to make. Therefore, I present my top ten tips to travel Ireland like a pro!
1.) Count on getting wet
It rains a lot in Ireland, which is why the grass is so green and lush. Plan ahead and bring a rain jacket with a hood. Umbrellas can be a pain in the wind, and a rain jacket will keep you dry and warm. Also, pack some waterproof shoes like boots. Nobody wants to go sloshing around all day in wet shoes.
2.) Easy on the tipping
The tipping culture isn’t as strong in Europe as it is in the United States, and this includes Ireland. For example, it’s not customary to tip a bartender if just ordering drinks. However, if you just can’t stand not tipping, a Euro or two is generally okay. When ordering food at the bar you can just round up a Euro or two, and when in a sit-down restaurant 10-15% of the bill is customary if a service charge hasn’t already been added. Pretty much everything else is at your discretion like taxi drivers, hotel porters, etc.
3.) Be friendly
At home we might just smile at someone we pass on the street, but in Ireland you might have more than a couple people greet you and ask how you’re doing. They don’t want anything, I promise! They’re just being nice. Reciprocate the greeting and you might just make a buddy. Also, if you’re up for having some good craic (having a good chat) then sit at the bar when at a pub. You’ll definitely make a buddy there.
4.) Don’t forget your refund
For non-European Union citizens, if you make a purchase greater than 30 EUR for goods, you are eligible for about 10% back. This is known as the value added tax (VAT) that is added on to purchases. Applying for the refund is a simple process, so don’t forego your opportunity to get some cash back. When making a purchase over 30 EUR in a shop, the merchant will either give you a VAT receipt with an envelope or hand you a Horizon Card. The receipt will show your purchase information and you will then have to fill out some basic info on the receipt and provide a credit card number (your refund will be applied via your credit card). Simply put all of your VAT receipts in the envelope and drop off at the airport before your departing flight. Some merchants accept the Horizon Card, which the merchant will swipe for your large purchases, and all relevant purchase information will be placed on the card. Register the card online and apply for your refund at the airport.
5.) Consider your transportation options
When renting a car, don’t plan on driving it into Dublin because parking is expensive (about 20 EUR per day) and while traffic is bad, public transportation is cheap and easy to navigate. However, if you plan on venturing out of the city, a rental car will likely be necessary. Unless you are a seasoned driver on the left hand side, consider upgrading to an automatic transmission because shifting on the left can be tricky. Also, think about purchasing additional insurance because the roads are narrow, with barriers of stone or bushes on both sides of the road, and most credit cards don’t provide additional insurance in Ireland like they do in other countries.
6.) Reserve in advance
Especially during the busy season make reservations in advance for popular attractions like the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol, the Book of Kells, and any walking tours that interest you. Even in the off season, tickets for Kilmainham Gaol sell out days in advance, so it’s a good policy to reserve as much as possible no matter what time of year you travel.
7.) Wear protection
In the form of a money belt! A money belt can ensure your valuables are safe like your passport, extra cash and credit cards. While I didn’t see any pickpockets in action in Ireland, big cities with lots of tourists are always vulnerable.
8.) Place travel alerts
Alerting your bank of travel plans is always a must, but don’t worry about ordering cash through your bank. Because many small businesses don’t accept credit cards, ATM’s are plentiful even in remote towns, so you can always pull out cash when needed.
Additionally, it’s generally cheaper to use cash than pay with a credit card. If your bank charges a 4 USD fee to take out 500 EUR in cash, that’s far superior compared to a 1% fee charged by most credit cards for currency conversion. The 1% fee charged by your credit card on that same 500 EUR would rack up to over 50 USD in fees.
9.) Adjust to Irish time
Adopt the Irish time table to take advantage of the most cultural experiences. Instead of getting up at the crack of dawn, start your day closer to 9 or 10 am. Many shops and attractions don’t open until then, and sleeping in a little will allow you to stay up later at night. This way, you will position yourself properly to mingle in the pubs late enough for the trad sessions (traditional Irish music sessions), which start around 10pm.
10.) Plan your departure
If flying out of the Dublin airport in the morning, arrive at least 3 hours early. It took us 2.5 hours to return the car, stand in line to get our boarding passes (you can’t use the phone as a boarding pass), get through security twice, and then through customs. Our flight began announcing final boarding 30 minutes before the plane was set to depart, so if you don’t wish to think the plane is going to leave without you, you’ll need every bit of 3 hours to get to your departure gate.
Follow these tips in order to have a smashing time in Ireland. However, Ireland is such a fun place to travel with friendly locals and beautiful scenery, so no matter what, I’m sure you’ll have an amazing trip!
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