Ireland is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations for a reason. And while the Emerald Isle is a relatively easy place to visit, there are still a few Ireland travel tips that you should know in order to make the most of your visit to this enchanted land – especially if it’s your first time visiting Ireland!
I’m a full time traveler who has been to over 70 countries. And, while I usually prefer less popular destinations, I have to admit that Ireland has captured my heart. To help other travelers fall in love with the Emerald Isle too, I put together these quick things to know before traveling to Ireland. Hopefully these tips for visiting Ireland will help you to make the most out of your Irish trip!
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17 Travel Tips and Things to Know About Ireland
Tip #1 – Be Prepared for Every Season … In the Same Day!
Ireland is famous for its damp but unpredictable climate. It can be bright and sunny one minute, and windy and rainy the next. So be sure to pack for multiple climates, wear layers, and to always keep a raincoat or a travel umbrella nearby. You should always expect that it might rain, even on a sunny day. Most importantly, keep a good attitude through it all: the shifting weather is all part of the fun of traveling to Ireland, and all the rain is why Ireland is so green and lush!
Tip #2 – Know the Difference Between Ireland and Northern Ireland
Ireland is the name of Europe’s second populous island, and it is home to both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The latter is much smaller and, depending upon who you ask, Northern Island has been described as either a country or province. The important thing to remember is that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, which means that you’ll have to cross a border to get there from the Republic of Ireland.
Tip #3 – You May Need Euros and Pounds
Ok, so we just went over how the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are in separate countries. So this next Ireland travel tip logically flows from that: the two use different currencies! Northern Ireland uses the Pound sterling, while the Republic of Ireland uses the Euro. Fortunately, ATMs and currency exchanges are widely available on both sides of the border – and credit cards are pretty widely accepted to boot – so currency should be a pretty frictionless experience for most travelers.
Tip #4 – Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Covering Ireland
Traveling was fraught with risk even before the global health crisis, but these days you really don’t want to take any chances. While travel to Ireland is very safe, and crime rates are quite low, you never know what might happen in a foreign country. That’s why I personally chose to get Ireland travel insurance. I used a company called World Nomads, which is a popular brand I’ve used for years, but be sure to do your own research!
Tip #5 – A Week is the Perfect Amount of Time for Ireland
There are so many things to do in Ireland that you could easily spend an entire month on the island and never get bored. But most tourists to Ireland visit for an average of about 7 days, which I happen to think is more or less the perfect amount of time to soak in the Emerald Isle. If you need help planning your itinerary, check out my pre-planned 7 day Ireland itinerary – I’ve already done all the work for you!
Tip #6 – Resist the Temptation to Spend All Your Time in Dublin
Look, Dublin is a popular tourist city for a reason. It’s got an incredible pub culture, charming architecture, and enough to keep you busy for a few days. Dublin is so charming, in fact, that it can be tempting to spend your entire trip there. There is just so much to do, even on rainy days in Dublin (of which there are many), that the city tends to suck people in.
But even most Dubliners will privately admit, if asked for tips for traveling to Ireland, that the best parts of Ireland are outside of the city. And while the island is small and it is perfectly possible to sample Ireland’s green landscapes on day trips from Dublin, to really immerse yourself in Ireland you should plan to stay in any one of Ireland’s other awesome cities, towns, villages, or hamlets.
Plus, Dublin is more expensive than the rest of the country, and you’ll find better deals in the countryside. If you need some inspiration, check out our guide on what to see in Ireland in 7 days.
Tip #7 – Enjoy the Craic!
You won’t be in Ireland long before you hear the word “craic” bandied about somewhere. So what does it mean exactly? Well, I’ve heard a number of different translations depending on context, but it usually means something like “good times,” “party,” or “entertainment,” though it can also mean “gossip” or “chatter.” See here for a primer on the various levels of craic – it’s definitely one of the things you should know before traveling to Ireland!
In any event, craic epitomizes Ireland’s sociable culture. So saddle up on that pub stool, put away your smartphone, and prepare to actually — you know — talk to the people around you. You never know what kind of craic you might get into!
Tip #8 – Try Ireland’s Other Stout – Murphy’s
I don’t think there is a brand that is more intertwined with a single culture than Guinness is with Ireland. And Guinness, for all its mass-marketing, is still definitely something you’ll want to partake in while in Ireland. But did you know that there is another stout that rivals Guinness in Ireland?
Murphy’s Irish Stout maintains a loyal following throughout much of the country, and especially in its hometown of Cork. You can find it next to the Guinness in most Irish pubs and you’ll find that it has its own unique dark flavor. People tend to have a strong preference between the two stouts, so try both early on and be prepared to choose a side in the great Irish stout war!
Tip #9 – Go to the Cliffs of Moher, But Go Early!
The Cliffs of Moher are the most popular attraction in Ireland for a reason, and you should definitely visit. But, if you can, try to time your visit to the Cliffs of Moher so that you arrive right at 8 am when they open, before the tour buses start to roll in. You’ll be less likely to have to fight with another tourist for that perfect Instagram shot!
Tip #10 – Tip 10-15% in Irish Restaurants and Pubs
Ireland does not have as heavy of a tipping culture as you’d find in the United States, but it’s still customary to leave 10-15% of your tab for service at a restaurant or pub. Note that sometimes for large groups a service charge will already be added. For taxis, tipping is usually not mandatory or expected, though it never hurts to round up the tab.
Tip #11 – Tourism in Ireland is Highly Seasonal
Planning a trip to Ireland is very different during the summer peak tourism seasons versus the less popular winter. Typically, July and August are the peak months for Ireland’s tourism season. If you choose to visit Ireland during this time, you might find it a little pricier and you definitely will want to book your hotel in advance. Alternatively, considering visiting Ireland during shoulder season (April, May, June, September or October), which prices are a bit lower and attractions a bit less crowded. The weather is still ok though (well, as “ok” as it gets in a country that’s constantly overcast). Note that if you travel Ireland in the winter months you may find some of the more rural attractions to be closed or have limited hours, though the major sites should all be open.
Tip #12 – Ireland Has 5 International Airports to Choose From
If you’re looking for cheap flights to Ireland, you’re probably just pricing out flights to the Dublin airport. One of my favorite Ireland travel tips is to be sure to also look at flights from the island’s other international airports: Cork Airport, Shannon Airport, Knock Airport, and Belfast Airport. Sure, there are loads more flights to Dublin, but some of the alternative airports also run direct routes to the United States, so it’s worth checking!
Tip #13 – You Can Travel Ireland Even on a Budget
Sure, Ireland isn’t the cheapest place to travel in the world. But, as destinations in Europe go, Ireland is surprisingly manageable for budget travelers. There is a pretty healthy backpacking circuit, plus lots of students studying abroad, so that means that most of the major cities have hostels and budget inns that cater to the shoestring budget crowd. If you take public transport (Ireland has a pretty great bus system), cook your own food, and stay in hostel dorms, you could reasonably get by in Ireland for as little as 50 euros per day.
Tip #14 – Rent a Car to Fully Experience Ireland’s Countryside
Sure, it’s entirely possible to travel around Ireland by bus and train. Public transport in Ireland is pretty good. The trains are really nice and, even where they don’t run, the buses are pretty plentiful. Plus, there are plenty of tour companies willing to shuttle you around to the country’s many sites. So, renting a car in Ireland isn’t mandatory.
But the best parts of your trip to Ireland are probably going to be things like finding your new favorite pub in some random country village, stumbling upon an under-touristed castle set against green rolling hills, or doing a road trip to explore the many incredible Game of Thrones filming locations in Ireland. These sort of spontaneous adventures are much easier to have if you have your own wheels. Plus, Ireland’s roads are of good quality and are incredibly scenic. There is nothing quite as exciting as driving through Ireland’s green countryside!
If you need a car rental, I suggest using Discover Cars. It’s like a search engine that pulls quotes from many different rental agencies, and lets you compare prices and customer reviews of those agencies.
Tip #15 – Drive on the Left Hand Side!
Oh, and one last critical tip for traveling to Ireland with a car: remember they drive on the left side of the road in Ireland (both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). It’ll require an adjustment if you’re used to driving on the right, but you can totally handle it!!
Tip #16 – And Look to Your RIGHT When Crossing
As a corollary to our previous travel tip, crossing the street in Ireland means turning your head to look to the right. If you’re coming from a right-side driving country, you might be instinctively used to looking left, so this is one of those Ireland travel tips you’ll have to remind yourself of for safety’s sake!
Tip #17 – English is Not the Only Language in Ireland
No, don’t worry: you’ll be able to get by just fine with your English in Ireland, which is a predominately English-speaking island (although I’ll admit I’ve often had to strain to understand the Irish accent). But you should be aware that in the Republic of Ireland both English and Gaelic are considered official languages under the country’s Constitution. So don’t be surprised to find signs in roads or shops that are in both English and Gaelic!
Common Questions About Travel to Ireland
What is the best month to travel in Ireland?
The most popular months to travel Ireland are July and August, which are the peak season for tourism. You may be able to find better deals, and fewer crowds, during shoulder season: April to June, and against from September to November.
How should I travel in Ireland?
There are many ways to travel around Ireland. One popular option is to rent a car and drive yourself. Alternatively, Ireland has a robust public transit system with many buses and trains, making it a fairly accessible place to travel without a car.
What should I avoid in Ireland?
There are few places in Ireland that require avoiding, and just about all of Ireland is worth a visit if you have time. In terms of common taboos, avoid incorrectly referring to the Republic of Ireland as part of Great Britain or the United Kingdom.
Is travel to Ireland safe?
Ireland is comparatively safe country to visit, with relatively low crime levels compared to other countries in Europe. Be sure to check the latest public health situation and consider getting travel insurance for Ireland.
Can you drink the tap water in Ireland?
Ireland has pretty clean water, and it is generally safe to drink from the tap in Ireland’s cities. If you are visiting a rural area, be sure to ask around to make sure that drinking tap water is safe, as water quality may vary locally.
Is Ireland expensive to visit?
Ireland is a relatively expensive country to visit, but it is also budget friendly at the same time. If you are willing to stay in hostels, use public transport, and cook your own food, it is possible to travel Ireland for as little as 50 euros per day.
That’s it for this list of things to know before your trip to Ireland. Let me know your best tips for traveling to Ireland in the comments. And be sure to let me know if you have any questions about visiting Ireland, things to know when traveling to Ireland, or just general tips for traveling to Ireland. It’s an incredible, gorgeous country, and I hope you have as much fun there as I did.
Lastly, before you go to Ireland, my final tip is to be sure to read my Guide to Ireland in 7 Days! It’s packed with detailed itineraries, plus loads of more things to know about traveling to Ireland.