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Posted by on Mar 13, 2010 in Budgeting, Q&A | 45 comments

101 Irish Travel Tips

This week we’ll be recording our 101st podcast episode AND celebrating St Patrick’s Day… I’d say, that sounds like an awesome week.

To make things even better,  we want to compile a list of 101 IRISH TRAVEL TIPS for our readers to read and share… a whole list of pointers covering various aspects of travel to the Emerald Isle

Add your tip in the comments section below, and let’s see our list grow! >>

(We’ll add the numbers later)

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45 Comments

  1. 1 – As a pedestrian crossing a street, look RIGHT. Heck, look both ways to be safe!
    As a driver turning at an intersection, it’s “sharp left and wide right. ”

    2 – Don’t buy Euro currency at currency exchanges; use the prolific ATMs when in Ireland.
    Use your credit card instead of cash when possible, and have the charges made in euros.

    3 – Layer your clothing; Ireland has four seasons…usually in the same one day.
    4 – A hood or a hat is much more convenient than an umbrella.
    5 – Wear comfortable shoes.

    6 – Bring plenty of film / memory cards!

  2. 7 – Bring warm jammies and bedsox. Central heating in Ireland bears little resemblance to what you have at home (unless you live in Ireland!) On cold/cool days you will be comfortable in layers during the day while out sightseeing, climbing around ruins, exploring castles, etc. but when you slow down the activity in the late evening you will definitely feel chilly.

    8 – And lay tomorrow’s socks and undies on the radiator to make bearable getting up and dressed in the morning chill.

    9 – Don’t forget that journal and a good pen. Little pocket calculator is helpful, too.

  3. 10 – Giving out Cadbury and Butlers candy bars will make you popular when you get home… inexpensive, easy to pack and available at Duty Free.

  4. 11 – Definitely agree with the layering, and never going anywhere without an umbrella.
    12 – A spare pair of shoes and socks are also a must to keep in the car if you are out for the day. Cold wet feet are no fun!

    13 – Don’t regale the locals with stories of your great great great grandmother being from Ireland. They don’t care and will likely make fun of you after you leave :) Its more fun to listen to their stories anyway.

    14 – Irish food can be good, especially if you are seeking out local, fresh ingredients like salmon in the West. Restaurants are often very happy to accommodate vegetarians and may already have a number of yummy options on the menu.

    15 – If you are staying at a home or hotel where an electric blanket is an option, take it! My mother in law always has an electric blanket switched on before we get home at night, and it is the only thing that warms you on those chill to the bone raw nights (that even happen in summer)

    16 – Dublin is fine, but for a real taste of Ireland venture away from the more touristy areas and find yourself on Achill Island, Clare Island, or Glenties in Donegal. In my opinion its in these places you have experiences you can not duplicate anywhere else.

    Could go on and on, what a fun topic :)

  5. 17 – First, don’t wait for the sun, bring rain gear and keep on going. I find that the rainy weather gives an intensity to colors. Breathtaking moments are framed with wet weather…

    18 – And second, relax, and be ready to talk to anyone you meet as you travel. Other tourists, local guides, B&B hosts, everyone has something to say and if you have a rigid schedule you will always feel rushed.

    19 – Third, do some research before you go. Look up things on the internet, check out some local history. Most of the towns have their own websites showing museums and parks, walking trails, church ruins and the hours for various places to be open. If you are taking kids, this might be something fun for them to do before you all leave home.

    20 – We have had good luck with a travel method requiring a bit of research beforehand. We prepare a list of sites in a given area, then select a central location and stay at a B&B for 4-5 nights. We also ask around for other points of interest locally. Then, we see as much as we feel like seeing each day, leaving time to enjoy restaurants and pubs, shopping or local boating and walking tours. We may move to a second B&B for another 4-5 nights, depending on the length of the trip. Many places offer discounts on 5 day stays, and we enjoy a more relaxed pace.

    21 – Note that the sunlight lasts far longer during summer months in Ireland than in most US locations, so enjoy long days and an extended twilight throughout June, July and August.

    CapallGlas

  6. Two tips for you!

    22 – Taking a guided bus tour on one day to visit a particular landmark is great–Taking a guided bus tour for your entire visit to Ireland is not so great. It’s difficult to separate yourself from the tour to see something else and then rejoin the tour at a later time or day. Besides, you are stuck with all those people for your entire visit to Ireland on a bus, and they may not be the kinds of folks you’ll want to hang out with. My experience–Someone on the bus had the flu and it spread to everyone else by the end of the tour.

    23 – Tip to musicians: Interested in playing with others? Consider looking into renting an instrument from a reputable dealer upon your arrival, rather than having the concern of flying with an instrument, with the worries of putting it in baggage and dealing with TSA. Just make sure the instrument dealer is very reputable, or else you’ll be renting a piece of junk.

    24 – To add to Judy’s tip above, I save up all my undergarments that have holes in them and can’t stand just one more wash before they fall apart. Then I wear them when I travel on any lengthy trip. I wear them once, then toss them out! No dirty undies in my baggage, making more room for souvenirs and other gifties.

    25 – My favorite gifts to bring home are bookmarks. They are inexpensive, pack well, and most of my friends are avid readers and can use them. They sell pretty lace and woven woolen bookmarks in Connemara!

  7. Ooops. Actually I left more than three tips above….

  8. 26 – eat your main meal between 12:30 and 2. many restaurants have hearty meals at a great price at that time.

    27 – don’t just drive the burren. walk it. even if you only walk off the side of the road a ways. it’s a very different experience on foot.

    28 – my wife loved the burren perfumery. i was happy they had a nice cafe with homemade desserts.

    29 – drop some coins in the jar for street performers. they are making their living by entertaining us.

    • re # 27 – definitely WALK the burren – worth it! best for those of steady gait … rugged but beautiful

  9. 30 – If you rent a car (hire a car, as they say) try out all buttons and switches before you hit the road. Turning on your windshield wipers when you are trying to signal a turn is a dead giveaway you’re a tourist.

    31 – Outside the cities, on the country roads, you will often see that people passing in cars will raise one finger as a greeting. No, not that finger. It’s usually the index finger and they do it without taking their hand off the wheel. Feel free to give the finger back.

    32 – Bring, barrow or buy some wellies (rubber boots) if you are going off road by foot. The weather changes and you will want clean, warm and dry shoes to put back on after tending the cows, or whatever else you find yourself up to off the beaten path.

    33 – Be prepared if buying rounds of drinks. It can become very expensive and painful depending on the size of the group. Practice saying “No, thanks. I’ll have another next round,” as sweetly and forcefully as possible. The Irish are hard to say no to. Another option is leave a nearly full glass of whatever in front of you for most of the evening/night.

    34 – Mostly, enjoy every story, note and vista you can feast on!

  10. LOVE these!

    how about this one:

    35 – JUST GO!

  11. 36 – If this is your first time driving on the left in Ireland, you may as well just remove the side mirror as soon as you rent the car. It’s bound to come off along your journey; at least this way you’ll know where it is.

  12. 37 – Don’t overplan your day or your drive! Sure, do all the research you want before hand, but be prepared to toss half of it. You’ll want to stay longer at that church, or explore that back road, or linger on that cliff. If you have planned your day by 15 minute increments, with no leeway, you won’t get a chance. Be flexible!

    38 – Do go to the local pubs, rather than the ‘touristy’ ones. Sure, there are shows at the touristy ones – but the local pubs have the real music sessions, and the real craic. And if you show up more than one night, you are likely to be welcomed into the conversation.

    39 – Do be careful driving, and only plan on 35mph at the MOST. The roads can be twisty, windy, narrow, and sometimes filled with sheep. That’s part of their charm. There are few true highways in Ireland.

  13. I live here (in Donegal on the north west coast of Ireland) but have to say I really enjoyed the tips posted here. We do indeed have 4 seasons in a day and our daylight hours during summer are very long (which is good).

    40 – And have to add, umbrellas can be a tad redundant if as often happens, we get wind with the rain. (inside out umbrellas anyone?).

    The points here are so good ~ and btw, we don’t laugh at people saying their gggggggggggrandparents from Ireland, but we would rather you spoke to us.

    Catherine

    • Catherine -
      I liked your comment on this travel site and would love to visit Donegal, not in a tourist way, but in a way to meet genuine people and experience the real Donegal. Everywhere I travel, I enjoy feeling as if the world is connected more closely than we thought possible, as if all are family.

      I would appreciate any advice you have to share if I would like a more genuine experience of Donegal. And if there are any local pubs that are more relaxing and possibly away from touristy crowds, or if you have in mind any local musicians you’d recommed, I’d love to hear about that as well =)

      Amanda

  14. 41 – Be sure to buy an Ordnance Survey map for the area you are visiting, available everywhere. These gems reveal the locations of the many National Monuments and show the terrain in great detail. (see this website http://www.osi.ie/)

  15. I like the comments so far. I would add or reinforce just a few:

    42 – I try to go to a pub every day, – without fail (but don’t plan on it if you are there on Good Friday). A pub is a great place to talk to people (and get a drink). Many have good to very good food and the music in many can be good to incredibly good. We’ve had a few almost magical nights in pubs and I’ve never had a bad time.

    43 – Stay in B&B’s and while you’re there, talk to the proprieters. Not only are most of them very nice people, they are also great sources of information. I’ve never stayed in the equivalent of a four star hotel, but I bet we have had a better time staying in the B & B’s than we would have otherwise.

    44 – Climb a mountain if you can. The view from the top is beautiful (we went up Croagh Patrick this last summer).

    45 – Embrace the history, there’s a lot of it.

    46 – Don’t drive too much.

  16. 47 – walk everywhere

    48 – cross the border. many people are hesitant about visiting Northern Ireland. as Jessie said about about the whole trip, just go!

    49 – and if you have concerns about visiting the North, take a day trip across the border to start.

  17. 50 – Pack wisely/minimally – true for all air travel, esp. international. My wife & I take one small suitcase and one carry-on bag each and carry on both, never checking – no extra charges, but most important, no lost luggage. Saves time at the airports as well.

    51 – Use vacumn bags for all shirts, slacks, etc.

    52 – Take wash and wear. We stay 3-4 weeks doing laundry maybe twice. Ireland’s informal.

  18. 53 – Eat in pub whenever possible – same food but less expensive. Fisherman’s stew is excellent in most places as are soups which tend to be more creamy rather than chunky. Some claim beef to be best anywhere.

    54 – Check tipping policy – generally less than U.S.

  19. 55 – B&B’s generally the best way to go. Personal touch, friendly and big breakfast will take you through to dinner. Nice way to connect with locals as well as at music sessions at pubs.

    56 – If traveling with larger group (4-12 or more) check out self-catering cottages/apartments. Savings are significant especially if sharing 3-4 bedroom place with stove, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer/drier, etc. Some are even next to a hotel that give you free access to amenities like fitness center, playroom, swimming, restaurant & pub. “Dream Ireland” has places in key locations throughout Ireland.

  20. 57 – Visit some of the “other” peninsulas… Dingle, Beara, Achill Island, Inishowen, Cooley, Hook Head… to name a few.

    58 – The Book of Kells is nice, but WOW to the Chester Beatty Library attached to Dublin Castle… the ultimate for lovers of old books.

    59 – When going to Dublin, stay in one of the towns along the DART… cozy seaside atmosphere and only a short train ride from city centre.

    60 – Do your homework on car rental insurance. Most credit cards don’t cover it in Ireland, and it’s confusing when the person at the desk is trying explain things after an overnight flight.

  21. 61 – Three words…FLY SHANNON AIRPORT!!!

    It’s so much more manageable than Dublin, especially if you’re driving. Even if you decide to fly into Shannon and out of Dublin, it’s a better experience.

    Sadly, they keep cutting flights from Shannon.

  22. 62 – Study the history, culture and geography of Ireland before going. There is so much to see and in a country so rich with centuries of history, it will help you better appreciate what you see.

    63 – Visit a pub daily!!!! The Irish socialize in the pub versus in the home. There are real women in Ireland who drink real beer (Guinness) instead of Miller Lite!!!

    64 – Don’t plan on Fishing in Ireland until after St. Patricks day. Hire a guide, they treat you very well!

  23. 65 – Don’t expect a lot from the average mass in holy Ireland. Each one I attended lasted about 30 minutes… we were in and out of there in no time.

  24. 66 – Stay up as late as you can after arrival with no or only a short nap (1 – 2 hours max) if needed. Getting to bed around 10 or so will help adjust your body clock to Irish Time.

    67 – Get a decent start every morning to fit in as much as you can through the day (aim to be ON the road by 9am)

    68 – When staying in town or city, if you are a light sleeper, ask for a room not on facing the street.

    69 – Make sure your Dublin hotel rooms are Reserved ahead of time.

    70 – Speaking of Dublin, you will not need a rental car while staying in the city – it’s expensive to park and you don’t want to drive around Dublin anyway.

    71. And speaking of Overnight stays, make sure your first and last nights are reserved.

    72 – Dublin is a Big City! Stay safe especially at night and when visiting ATMs.

    73 – When heading out for the night, grab some business cards from your hotel/B&B. Finding your way back “home” in the dark can be more difficult than you think. A name or phone number can be useful.

    74 – Speaking of “the dark”, try not to be driving after dark. In particular, try not to be looking for your B&B to check in after dark.

    75 – When eating out, don’t expect the wait staff to be overly attentive. You may even need to ask for your bill. It’s not poor customer service, it’s the culture of not being too intrusive on your meal.

    76 – Coffee (and soda) is charged by the cup; tea is charged by the pot. A pot of tea will usually have 2 to 3 cups worth of hot water.

    77 – If you take cream with your coffee ask for milk – otherwise you may get a plate full of real whipped cream (and a funny look when ordering.)

    78 – Whenever you park your car, fold in your mirrors!

    79 – Weekends are the best time to find: a) Gaelic games and b) music in pubs

    80 – Summer mornings in Ireland come early! Hair clips or clothes pins or even safety pins work great to keep curtains closed.

    I really could keep going… ;o)

  25. 81 – Climb fences, climb hills, and go through gates to get to sites. Ask permission if there is someone around. If so, you may be charged a nominal fee. Most of the good stuff isn’t where the tourists go. Watch for small road signs indicating landmarks, monastic sites and other points of interest. Watch for interesting stone piles on a hill or in a field. Take the back roads, you’ll see a lot more.

    82 – Take reusable grocery bags to the grocery stores. You will be charged for shopping bags (as much as a Euro each), and it is easier to bring your own (sturdier) ones. We brought a couple nylon mesh grocery bags from home and kept them in the car. The bags at IKEA that sell for .59 are great as well. Dunnes Stores have bags you can purchase for about 2 Euro that are large and reusable and make a good souvenir.

    83 – When you get your rental car, open the boot/trunk. Check to see that there is a spare tire. Then check if it is the spare tire that fits the car. Don’t find yourself out on the Beara Peninsula at 10pm on a Sunday night with a flat and the spare won’t fit!

  26. 84 – Priority – a very good pair of walking shoes (previousely “broken-in”). Walking around Dublin, and all parts of Ireland, bring you to the people!

    85 – If possible, locate in mid-South, Southeast and Southwest Dublin. Easier for daily trips to the various locations.

    86 – Don’t miss a walk to and through Trinity College(S.E. Dublin)…Old Library (the Long Room), Book of Kells, and much more.

    87 – Rest and relax with a picnic (sandwich and drink) in nearby St. Stephen’s Green; then walk throug the beautiful grounds.

    88 – After the food and rest, head back “home” via Grafton Street – plenty of fine shopping.

    89 – In S.W. Dublin be sure to visit City Hall, Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral. Also, nearby the Chester Beatty Library and Gallery of Oriental Art.

    90 – Take a rest and head down to Temple Bar, a fantastic arts and entertainment district.

    Ahhh…the memories…

  27. I haven’t been to Ireland since 1992, but I’m going again this summer and struggling not to overplan.

    91 – The best times I ever had were just enjoying the small things.

    92 – The high point was probably a weekend trip to Donegal, hitting Sleive League during the day, pubs at night, my friend and I getting up to sing and play guitar, totally welcomed by the locals. Even the bus ride from Dublin was fun and interesting.

    93 – So I guess my tip (especially to myself) is: take it easy!

  28. 94 – Take the horsedrawn carriage ride a Birr Castle. The gardens are just too big to enjoy any other way.

    95 – Pull off the road when you see a holy well or a brown heritage sign.

    96 – Listen to every episode of the Irish Fireside podcast. They’re great.

    • what is holy well or a brown heritage sign

  29. 97 – Many stores will pack and ship your purchases for a reasonable price… and you won’t be charged the tax if you ship out of the EU.

    98 – Don’t let stores charge your credit cards in dollars – a processing company will make money of the transaction. Instead, ask for it in euros… or pounds sterling in the North.

  30. 99 – When you’re coming back from your trip expect a question in the airport about whether or not you’ve been around a farm or in fields. If you have, (and you should be) they’ll want to disinfect your shoes. We put those shoes in a plastic bag in a easy to open piece of luggage so we can pull them out quickly and be on our way. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to find something in your luggage and no remembering where.

  31. 100 – if you stay in self-catering, bring a handful of rubber bands to deal with those food packs. If you know what I mean, you know what I mean.

  32. 101 – Invest in moisture-wicking socks. While out and about walking, even if the temps may be on the cool side, our bodies warm up with movement. Some people’s feet tend to sweat, and then the feet may cold. These wonderful moisture-wicking socks will keep your feet comfortable and also help prevent blisters.

    102 – It should be noted again to not bother with an umbrella. A hooded raincoat is much more practical!

    103 – Pack light and plan on doing laundry a time or two while on your trip. You could also pack clothing that you may have considered donating at home, and at the end of your trip, donate it to a charity shop in Ireland (after laundering, of course). Loads of luggage space freed up right there!

    104 – Many B&B’s do not provide wash cloths so I always pack Olay Daily Facial Cleansing Cloths for this use. I use it to first wash my face, then it works fine as a wash cloth for the rest of my shower.

  33. 105 – If you fill up your memory cards, check at the chemist/pharmacy and see if they’ve got the handy-dandy machine that will copy everything to a CD-ROM for you. I took a lot of pictures, so we had to stop in 3 times to get the cards copied. (And this was with my poor old 3-megapixel camera. The new one is 10-megapixel.)

    106 – If you’re going to lots of historic sites, get the Heritage Card (or whatever they’re calling it now). Ours were paid for after the third or fourth castle, everything after that was icing on the cake.

    107 – If you bring home Jaffa Cakes, don’t hoard them in the ‘fridge too long. After 4 months, they get kind of dry. Pims makes a good imitation, and I can find it here in Missouri.

    108 – If you have a digital camera, take pictures of the explanation signs for the interesting sights. It’ll help jog your memory later, when you try to remember which castle that picture is of.

  34. 109 – If you can’t find your way, don’t stress. Put your mind in the “we’re not lost, we’re on an adventure” mode. You’ll see many things you wouldn’t have noticed under stress.

  35. I brought a variety of t-shirts from home – and offered one to anyone I had a wonderful conversation with – and to the owners of the two self catering places we stayed. I brought shirts from our local botanic garden, National parks, local sports teams and such. I also threw in a number of the reversible “pinnies” from my son’s lacrosse days. Kids really loved that.

  36. I usually drink wine and I don’t like beer, ale or Guinness (sorry!) but wanted to “fit in” at the pubs. So I drank a lot of their hard cider – Bulmers in the Republic and Magners in the North. VERY good and looks like beer. Don’t forget to look for the apple in the bottom of the glass – AFTER you finish of course!

    • I loved Bulmers. It is a good option for a non beer drinker in the local pubs. You can also find it in North America marketed under the Magners name.

  37. Well, for the more adventurous of you driving Ireland, consider LOST the best place to find yourself, especially if you’re spiritually inclined to the wonderfully unexpected and magnificently awe-inspiring … most usually found down hidden bohreens and high up, death defying, single track mountain passes.

    A word of caution before venturing forth … never take a shorcut you think will get you where you’re going faster … because it won’t (especially the one east of Killarney to Ballylickey) … but oh the rewards! I’ve been places even the brave Irish, along with my white-knuckled passengers, have harshly scolded me for going, and here I beware you the sudden descending mists, as they can come on extremely fast, leaving you wondering if there’s a side to the road you’re perched on, or not. The good thing is that as swiftly as the sky falls it can lift, and leave you slack-jaw wondrous at shafts of light punching holes in clouds and moving over the hills like an ephemeral freight train on a mission. If you have to, just stop and wait for the second or third season of the day … it shouldn’t take long before it appears. Take along plenty of snacks, water, wooly jumpers, socks, pillows and blankets as well, if you’re set on exploring. And, like “jessiev” stated above … JUST GO!

    Oh, and do keep an eye peeled for the children of roaming ewes, that have been placed alongside mountain roads (tracks? paths? trails?) where, for some reason, the earth seems to hold the days heat much longer than grass does …and, locals … you know, the ones with the birthright “right-of-way”, who would never expect some foreign idiot to be travelling his/her hinterland road … head-on, at any time of day, gloamin’ and certainly not night! I know it’s not on the “hero list” to honk whilst rounding a bend, but do it anyway! That way you’ll have yet another chance to get blissfully LOST!

    And by all means do give the “pointer finger lift” to those you pass along the way, out of respect that they have mastered their fear and trusted fate enough to let you loose driving on the wrong side of their lovely island.

    BTW … be sure not to miss No. Ireland, no matter what you’ve been led to believe! And, B&B’s rule … but not as much as a house at the edge of Roaringwater Bay!

  38. Doolin is a hidden wonder always a great place to stop of course weekday nights/days not as busy but always great music and Gus OConners makes one of the best Irish Coffee’s in Ireland, the other great place is the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis they make a great strong one too!!

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