Visitors to Dublin all seem to make the same mistakes. So we’re going to lay out those errors and offer some travel-wise alternatives.
The challenges of driving on the left side of the road are only made worse by Dublin traffic and aggressive urban drivers. Having a car in city centre also means you’ll be faced with parking in a city that was never intended for automobiles.
Instead, drop the rental car at the airport or stay outside of city centre and take the train or bus into town (towns along the DART – train line – are excellent options). Sites in Dublin are generally within walking distance of each other, so take advantage of your own two feet as well.
Don’t expect breathtaking views from Guinness’ Gravity Bar
If Ireland’s rainy weather isn’t clouding your view, the truth is, Dublin’s skyline isn’t particularly impressive. On a clear day, this bar atop the Guinness Storehouse gives an interesting perspective of the city and the Wicklow Mountains, but it’s really the Black Stuff that draws the crowd.
Instead, see the city from the top of the hop on/off bus. Dublin is much more appealing from street level, and riding atop a double-decker bus is my favorite quick-fix for experiencing the city. The trip is even more engaging when the drivers provide their live commentary… not all tour companies have talking drivers, so you’ll need to make sure you’re on the Dublin Bus tours (green buses) and confirm the narration is not pre-recorded before you buy your ticket.
Don’t choose a traditional music session from a flier
There are several places promoting live, traditonal music… many with Riverdance-style dancing. They’re easy to spot, colorfully printed brochures with a pretty girl dancing, a guy with a fiddle and a promise of diddle-dee-dee six nights a week. Most are quite entertaining, but they’re not as authentic as what you’ll find at a night not intended for tourist consumption.
Instead, look for traditional sessions in smaller towns or ask the locals for their recommendations. In Dublin, you might prefer spending your evening with Irish Folk Tours, the Literary Pub Crawl or the Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl.
Don’t expect to see much of the Book of Kells
The illumninated manuscript is under glass and you only get to see two pages per day… keep your fingers crossed that the day you arrive will be a day when they have it open to one of the most elaborately decorated pages.
Instead, take in the information displayed on the walls before you reach the book, and when you’re done there, spend extra time in the phenomenal Long Library before you are released into the extensive gift shop.
Don’t take a cab from the airport
Unless you’re staying in an obscure location, you need door-to-door service or you’re traveling with several people who will split the bill, a cab from Dublin airport to city centre isn’t necessary.
Instead, take the Dublin Bus Airlink or one of the other bus companies with routes between the airport and city centre. The buses I’ve taken have been clean, roomy and peaceful, and the drivers were quick to remind me when I was nearing my stop. Then again, skipping the cab ride will eliminate your chance at getting a Dublin cabbie’s world view, so it might be worth the extra price just for the conversation.
Don’t eat or drink in Temple Bar
It’s been crowned Dublin’s Cultural Quarter, but it’s also charging tourists insane prices for a pint or some food. Add to that its nightly flow of young and often drunk tourists and you might lose your appetite, anyway.
Instead, visit Temple Bar during the day to check out the sites. Then, wander a few blocks down the street or visit another part of city centre for some grub and a pint.
Don’t cross the street like a local
Dubliners are notorious for jaywalking and disobeying traffic signs. This practice may work for an experienced resident, but for visitors, especially those who aren’t used to traffic coming from the right, it can be deadly.
Instead, be patient and obey traffic signals. It’ll feel like you’re waiting an eternity for the lights to change, but the alternative could actually last an ETERNITY, so stay safe.
Don’t fly into Dublin Airport
If you have the choice, opt for one of Ireland’s smaller airports. You’ll save yourself some stress and if you’re renting a car, you’ll be on the road much more swiftly. When it’s time to visit Dublin, it’s pretty easy to take public transportation into the capital from just about anywhere on the island… of course, if your itinerary keeps you close to the capital city, then Dublin Airport offers your best bet.
Instead, see if you can get a flight into Shannon (the only North American alternative), Cork, Killarney, Knock, Waterford or even Belfast.
Don’t limit your shopping to Grafton Street
It’s Dublin’s premiere shopping street, but Grafton Street and St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre are not the end-all in Irish shopping.
Instead, wander north of the Liffey and explore some of the shops on that side of the city, and be sure to save some money to spend at the fine shops in other parts of the country. Much of the best shopping is available outside of the city. Pat Preston even has written a book on the topic called “The Smart Shopper’s Guide to Ireland.”
Let us know if you have any of your own Dublin Don’ts.