Most people outside of Ireland are familiar with only one of Ireland’s airports — the country’s largest in Dublin. However, there are other options that may suit a traveler’s needs. Let me take a moment to introduce you to them and offer a few “insider tips.”
Ireland’s capital city hosts the country’s largest airport. Dublin Airport offers the most flights to and from the greatest number of destinations in Ireland, Europe, and abroad. The opening of Terminal 2 in 2010 provided a much-needed expansion that made flying through Dublin a little easier, especially for international travelers.
PROS – serves the largest assortment of destinations and the most flight options, excellent Duty Free Shopping and dining options, access to Dublin City (and in turn access to the public transportation system), US Customs and Immigration Pre-Clearance (you get your passport stamped before you leave Ireland rather than in the USA).
CONS – busy, greater traffic and driving challenges
Ireland’s west coast airport offers a full range of flights to the US, Europe, and other parts of Ireland. Shannon’s small size and more rural setting gives it an edge for holiday-makers looking to avoid Dublin’s hustle and bustle.
PROS – easy access to Ireland’s west coast and the Wild Atlantic Way, a more relaxed driving experience, extremely manageable airport, excellent Duty Free Shopping and decent dining options, US Customs and Immigration Pre-Clearance (you get your passport stamped before you leave Ireland rather than in the USA).
CONS – fewer flight options and some seasonal flights
Two airports service Northern Ireland’s largest city and connect the capital with airports around the Emerald Isle, the United Kingdom, and beyond. Unfortunately, Belfast’s only US route ends in early 2017. Flights in this area provide easy access to the Glens of Antrim, the Causeway Coast, Belfast city, and other northern destinations.
Although it connects with no North American destinations, Cork airport links to many European cities. Cork offers easy access to the Ring of Kerry and sites along Ireland’s southwestern coast.
OTHER IRISH AIRPORTS
Smaller airports in Ireland can provide links to other parts of the island and beyond. They include Derry, Donegal, Galway, Killarney, Knock, Netownards, and Waterford.
More Airport Advice
We asked a few our Ireland travel expert friends to offer their suggestions on Irish airports.
We flew from Dublin to Cork a while back and it was a brilliant 27 minute flight! It’s a lovely little airport and surprisingly modern… and, of course, peaceful!
Remember that once you’re through security, if you’re going to anywhere in America you have to go through pre-clearance as well. We’ve found it to be a pretty big nuisance and takes a while. It’s take your shoes off, laptops out of bags, etc., two full times before you get on your flight. It always eats into my Butler’s hot chocolate enjoyment time, which was my favorite reward for getting through security at Dublin airport! (FYI – Shannon Airport has now combined Irish and US security, so only one trip through the scanners)
- Read Emily’s recommendations for Dublin Airport: : Dublin Airport.
If travelers can swing it I think arriving in at Dublin and departing from Shannon is ideal. Why? Because you can visit Dublin first, get on Ireland time, then pick up your car and explore the country. Leaving from Shannon is so much easier- many (MANY!) fewer people, less crowds, and so much less stress.
Family travelers will love Shannon Airport for the less frantic pace- Dublin can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to leave.
Because the Dublin airport is so close to the city, I love that I can save a little extra cash by not renting my car for a few days while exploring. Access into the capital (and back to the airport) is really easy and inexpensive via the AirCoach bus or the Airlink 747 line. Saving on the rental allows us to splurge somewhere later in the trip.
I love how calm the roads are outside of the Shannon airport. For the driver navigating Irish roads for the very first time, it is great to be able to slowly approach a roundabout with few or no other cars on it.
I always recommend driving less than a couple of hours on your very first day. Shannon Airport is particularly well suited for those who want to get on the road and see the countryside without having to go too far. The Burren is my favorite area to explore just outside of Shannon. With iconic sites like the Cliffs of Moher and off the beaten path places like Kilmacduagh Monastery, it is very easy to get lost in the magic of Ireland within minutes of stepping off the plane.
- Read Stephanie tips on Shannon Airport vs Dublin Airport
COREY TARATUTA – www.IrelandTravelKit.com
I feel spoiled going through Irish Customs and Immigration when arriving in in Shannon — it usually takes 5 to 10 minutes. In contrast, my last two trips though Dublin had me in line for 45 and 65 minutes.
Feel free to add your airport tips in the comments below…