Planning your trip to Ireland? Awesome-you are going to love it! Here is what you need to know in advance to help make your planning process easier.
Travellers from Canada and the USA do not need a visa to enter Ireland for tourism purposes. As long as you hold a Canadian or American passport, you can stay for tourism purposes for a maximum of three months. You may be asked to show that you have sufficient funds for your stay, or to show your exit ticket.
As with most European countries, travellers are not required to get any vaccinations before visiting Ireland. If you are travelling with prescription drugs, it is recommended to carry them in their original bottles with labels. Ireland has a good health care system with plenty of pharmacies should you need any medical help during your trip. However, it is highly recommended to purchase travel insurance before your trip.
Irish Gaelic is the official first language of Ireland, but only about 30% of the Irish population speak it, and of that 30%, only about 5% use it regularly. English is spoken everywhere, though many road signs are in Irish Gaelic, especially in the smaller areas along the west coast. That being said, the Irish definitely have some interesting slang. Pick up the basics in my post about common Irish phrases.
Since the island of Ireland is divided into two separate countries, there are two different currencies. The Republic of Ireland uses the euro, while Northern Ireland is on the sterling. Both currencies are used in other countries as well, but both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland mint their own money. Using any euros in the Republic of Ireland is fine, and using sterling from Scotland or England in Northern Ireland is fine. However, for future travels you should know that Northern Ireland’s sterling aren’t always accepted in England and Scotland.
Renting a car is one of the most popular ways to get around Ireland, but there a couple of things you should know before you pick up a vehicle. Firstly, Ireland drives on the left side of the road which is the opposite of what we are used to in North America. Secondly, most cars in Ireland are standard, not automatic. Renting an automatic car in Ireland is possible but will cost significantly more. Thirdly, many of Ireland’s roads are very narrow and winding. If you are a nervous driver, you might be more comfortable relying on public transportation. If you are planning on renting a car, you do need an international drivers license.
Renting a car allows for the most freedom, but Ireland does have a good public transportation system for getting around the country.
The train is a popular way of travel for those looking to go to major cities. However, the train route in Ireland is limited and can be expensive. Tickets should be purchased ahead of time and can be bought online at http://www.irishrail.ie.
Ireland also has a great bus network. There are several companies but the largest is Bus Eireann. Their routes allow travel across the country, to bigger cities and smaller towns alike. However, some of these trips can be time-consuming and require multiple transfers. You can look at routes and prices online at: http://www.buseireann.ie.
Pubs and Drinking
Pubs are a huge part of Irish culture and definitely a must-have experience. The drinking age in Ireland is 18, though children may be allowed into some pubs (mainly those that serve food) during the day and in the evenings for the live music sessions. It’s best to ask ahead of time. For more on Irish pub etiquette and pub culture click here.
Tipping is common practice in Ireland for some services including dining, taxis, and personal services. At restaurants, be sure to check the bill ahead of time to see if a service charge has been included, if not 10-15% is the recommended tipping amount.
Tipping at pubs is not common, if you do have a good bartender you can offer to buy them a pint in thanks. Chances are, they will accept or ask if they can take it for later (in which case they will accept the cash).
Ireland is a safe country for travel. While no place is perfect, Ireland has been ranked as one of the top ten safest countries in the world (as of April 2017). This makes is a great destination for all travellers, including solo travellers, female traveller, and families with children.
When to Visit?
Ireland has four seasons, but summer is definitely the busiest (June-August). This is when the weather is warmest, most of the festivals take place, and all attractions and sites are open. That being said, it is possible to visit Ireland year round though some sites, attractions, and accommodation options are seasonal and do close in the winter months (mostly in smaller towns and villages). Personally, I love visiting Ireland in the shoulder season: April/May or September/October. Its less crowded, cheaper, and the weather is still comfortable. Whatever season you visit, wearing layers is always a good idea. For more tips on what to wear in Ireland check out my Irish packing list.