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Planning A Trip To Ireland? Everything You Need To Know

September 16, 2019 14 Comments

Are you planning a trip to Ireland and not sure where to start? If so, then you have come to the right place!

Ireland is a country with incredible scenery, super-friendly people, delicious food and lots of things to see and do so it’s no wonder that it is a dream tourist destination for so many people.

Ireland is ideal for families, couples and solo travellers and of course those with Irish heritage. This guide is full of useful tips and insider knowledge to help you get the most out of your trip to Ireland.


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First time Guide to Ireland

The Land is Split in Two

Most people planning a trip to Ireland will probably already know that Ireland is divided into two – Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There is a long and arduous history behind this and it’s certainly not something I plan on even trying to attempt to explain in this post!

There are no major impracticalities to this as you can freely travel over the border *(for now – who knows what Brexit will bring). But what you should make note of before visiting Ireland is that the currency, measurement system and some laws are different in the North and South.

How To Get Around Ireland

In big cities such as Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Limerick you can get around easily on foot, by bus or by train and most of the main tourist sights in Ireland can be reached by public transportation. But if you plan on exploring places off the beaten track, then I would strongly consider renting a car.

It’s important to know before visiting Ireland that public transportation definitely has its limits. You may find yourself at a dead end with no connecting transport, buses are notoriously often late and you could end up spending 5 hours travelling by train that would take 3 hours in a car. Check out this detailed itinerary for the Republic of Ireland to help you plan your trip.

If you do decide to rent a car, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Some country roads in Ireland are very narrow and windy – my tip as a local is to flash/beep when approaching a bend in case of oncoming traffic.
  • Don’t rent a monstrosity! Go for a car that you can fit into comfortably but is also relatively small – you do not want to get stuck on a narrow Irish road!
  • The metric system is used in the Republic but as soon as you go over the border, it will convert to miles so be mindful of your speed.
  • Most cars in Ireland are manual but choose a car that you are used to – if that’s automatic, the car hire company will have one to suit your needs.
  • Ireland drives on the left-hand side of the road, so it can be confusing if you’re used to driving on the ‘right’ side of the road – keep this in mind when at roundabouts too.
  • You must notify the hire car company if you plan on driving to Northern Ireland as some car rental companies don’t allow this.
Irish country road. what to know before visiting Ireland

All About The Money

The currency in the Republic of Ireland is Euro and in Northern Ireland, it is the pound sterling. However, what is good to know when planning your trip to Ireland, is that most large stores in the North will accept Euro notes and give change in sterling.

Be careful though – as sometimes there is a small charge attached to this. I highly recommend using a Revolut card when travelling to avoid all unnecessary banking fees.

In Ireland, all major credit cards are accepted and ATM’s can be found in most big cities and towns. ATM’S can be found in petrol stations, shops such as Centra and Spar and on the high streets. I would advise always having some cash on you though in case you cannot access an ATM is smaller towns and villages.

What Food Is Eaten In Ireland

Ireland’s location in the Atlantic ensures that our waters are teeming with the most delicious seafood and all of that rain produces luscious fruit and vegetables. So it is no wonder that Irish food is mouth-wateringly good.

There are so many incredible restaurants, cafes and pub grub places dotted around the island that it can often be hard to choose what to eat. Ireland is also very allergy-friendly and you will find that most menus will include what is in each dish and this includes take-aways (take-out) food too.

While we do of course love our potatoes, there is so much more to Irish food than that. Irish food is all about experiencing the freshest food you could possibly imagine.

When visiting Ireland for the first time, I highly recommend that you try: soda bread with real Irish butter, seafood, Irish stew, a big Irish fry-up (especially if you’ve had a few drinks the night before) and a carvery (a big Sunday roast dinner). Go local as much as possible and avoid big chains and you can’t go wrong. Check out this post for top dining experiences all across Ireland which were chosen by the public in 2019.

Know About The Voltage Before Visiting Ireland

The voltage in Ireland is 230V / 50Hz and all plug sockets require three prongs (same as the U.K) so don’t forget your adapter. You are unlikely to find a plug socket in the bathroom – it’s a safety regulation – but most hotels and B&B’s will have specially designed shaver outlets.

Get €15 off your hotel booking by clicking this link here.

Be As Flexible As You Can

When visiting Ireland it is important to be as flexible as possible. I didn’t really notice how laid back us Irish are until I went travelling. We try to be on time but if you’re planning on meeting a local, waiting for a bus, starving for your meal – we will most likely be late. Keep this in mind when planning your visit to Ireland so that your patience is not tested too much! It’s not the case everywhere but you will notice it.

If you want to know what’s happening during your visit, click this link and enter your dates. It is an amazing resource for anyone coming to Ireland as It highlights famous landmarks, experiences and travel tips in your location.

What To Wear In Ireland

Ireland is well known for its unpredictable weather and rain is a common occurrence throughout the year. It’s why we have those luscious, green hills that people love to gaze at when landing on Irish soil so you gotta roll with it I’m afraid!

Before visiting Ireland, what you need to know is that it’s very possible to experience all four seasons in one day depending on the time of year! While you’ll never see snow in July or experience humid weather in December, it’s still best to be prepared for any eventuality. And the best way to do that? Pack layers! Plus, an excellent raincoat, sturdy, waterproof boots and comfy tops and bottoms.

colourful houses cork ireland. what to know before visiting Ireland. useful tips for your first trip to ireland

Tipping Is Nice but Not Always Necessary

Ireland doesn’t have a strong tipping culture but there are certain services where tipping is expected – especially if the service has been good. Some restaurants will add a service charge to the bill which you can check before paying. Otherwise, around 10-12% of the bill is a good place to start, you can go higher if the service has been exceptional.

However, I would strongly advise that you ask where your tip goes as some restaurants do not share tips with serving staff especially if you pay by credit card or add it to your room bill. It’s not uncommon to hand cash directly to your server and you can be sure that it will be greatly appreciated by them!

Other service providers that are often tipped by locals and visitors are taxi’s, takeaway (takeout) deliveries and hairdressers but this is at your own discretion.

Flag Down The Bus

This may not seem like a big deal but come back to me when you’ve been stood at a bus stop for what seems like an age and the bus whizzes past. In fairness, this is most likely to occur in Dublin but it does also happen in other Irish cities. How to stop this? Stick your arm out when you see your bus approaching. Also, it’s a very common thing in Ireland to say thanks to the bus driver as you get off the bus.

Tax-Free if You’re Non-EU

What you should know before visiting Ireland is that if you’re travelling from outside the EU, you can shop ’til you drop tax-free! Before your trip, apply for a Fexco Horizon card and each time you purchase something at an affiliated store, swipe your card. The card keeps track of all your purchases which then makes the process of claiming back tax in the airport an incredibly smooth and easy one.

Not only that, the Fexco Horizon card also offers great discounts in a lot of major outlets across Ireland such as Newbridge Silverware, The Guinness Storehouse shop and Dublin Zoo. They have recently released an app for both Android and Apple where you can locate affiliated stores, track what you’ve bought and read specific information about various discounts.

Dublin shopping street. what to know before visiting ireland

We’re A Friendly Bunch Of People – Most Of The Time

Ireland is known for its Céad Míle Fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes – and generally, this statement rings true. Irish people are definitely a warm, friendly bunch who will go out of their way to help you but we can also be a little reserved too. You most likely won’t hear a greeting whenever you enter a shop/cafe/restaurant but that doesn’t mean we’re not happy to help.

Don’t let this stop you from interacting with Irish people. We love to chat so approach us, ask a question and you’re sure to be told a hilarious tale or two. Once the Irish get going, especially in the pub or if you’re sitting in the back of a taxi, it’s hard to get us to shut up.

The Island of Roundabouts

If you are planning to rent a car during your visit to Ireland, you will soon notice that roundabouts are everywhere in Ireland. Large roundabouts are found frequently on national roads and major junctions and small roundabouts can be found pretty much anywhere else.

I strongly advise you to learn how to use a roundabout before visiting Ireland as they can come across quite intimidating even for the most experienced driver. Make sure that you position yourself in the correct lane before you arrive at the roundabout. Some roundabouts can have up to four exits plus traffic lights! Always indicate which direction you are heading into and remember – all traffic from the right, has the right of way.

Summer Days Are Long and Winter Days Are Short

Due to Ireland’s high latitude, it’s important to keep daylight savings time in mind when planning a trip to the Emerald Isle. What you must know before visiting Ireland is that during the winter months, days are incredibly short. The sun doesn’t generally rise before 8am and sets just after 4pm and this can be problematic if you want to visit certain tourist spots.

On the upside, the summer months experience the opposite – it can be bright as early as 5am and in the height of the summer, darkness falls at 10pm. This makes visiting outdoor recreation centres such as the newly built CenterParcs in Longford a pure joy.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, Northern Ireland

Be Prepared for Lots Of Irish Slang

The Irish love to curse and our version of the English language is unlike anything you will have ever heard before. You probably won’t understand 50% of the conversation you hear as we talk so fast and use so many random but hilarious phrases. I never really realised this until I lived abroad and received the strangest looks when speaking. Each county has their own slang words but there are a few that are used all over the country.

Here are a few of our most commonly used slang phrases that I dare you to use during your stay – you will shock the locals, that’s for sure!

  • What’s the craic? – How are you?
  • I’m knackered/wrecked! – I’m extremely tired!
  • Grand – simply means okay and is used a lot! “I’m going out”…”Grand”
  • He’s locked/twisted/polluted/ossified – He’s drunk
  • Brutal – Awful, Dreadful, “That was a brutal tackle”

a view outside

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First Timers Guide To Ireland

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14 Comments

  • Lori @ CircleSquareOval September 21, 2019 at 1:14 am

    I visited Ireland almost thirty years ago, and loved every minute of it. We drove north, south, east and west – our favorite area was the northwest coast, very rural and lovely. I remember the roundabouts (I let my husband drive!!) and the thick accents, and most of all, the friendliness. I would love to go back, and your post was a sweet reminder of my time there. Thank you!

    • Ciara September 29, 2019 at 12:00 am

      Let me tell you – the roundabouts are worse!! Honestly, they’re everywhere. I’m so glad you had a good time in Ireland, come back soon!

  • Nicole Claesen September 21, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Love this list so much! Thank you for such great tips and hints. When we visit Ireland I’m keeping this list handy.

    • Ciara September 29, 2019 at 12:00 am

      I hope you get to visit soon – i’m glad you liked the post!

  • Emma September 21, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    I want to go to Ireland so bad. I thought I might get there this year finally but the plans has to change a bit unfortunately so hopefully soon

  • Vanessa Shields September 21, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Such a great post with so many useful tips! I have always wanted to visit Ireland and find reading this to be so helpful. So many of these are not obvious such as needing to flag down a bus, who knew! Lol 🙂

    • Ciara September 28, 2019 at 11:59 pm

      Haha yes our buses are notorious for not stopping or speeding off. I’m so glad you found this post helpful, it means a lot that you commented!

  • Kay September 21, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Omg wait, I had no idea there were “two” Irelands….THANK YOU hahah

  • Kelsey September 21, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    I love Ireland so so much!! Love that you included slang in this haha – I learned some new things I’ll plan to use next time I visit (because there WILL be a next time!)

    And so true about layers – I felt like I experienced 4 seasons in one day soooo often when I was there haha.

    • Ciara September 28, 2019 at 11:57 pm

      Yeah our weather is pretty crazy haha – I mean right now it’s freezing in the morning and then warm by the afternoon with some rain thrown in. Pack those layers for when you come back!! Irish slang is something else, I need to do a whole post on it. Thanks so much for commenting!

  • Catherine @ To & Fro Fam September 22, 2019 at 1:13 am

    I can’t wait to go to Ireland – ideally with some of my family, since we have a lot of Irish heritage. These local tips are great – especially the translations of some Irish slang!

    • Ciara September 28, 2019 at 11:55 pm

      Awh I love hearing things like this, I hope you come to visit Ireland soon! Thanks for the comment!

  • Andrea Peacock September 23, 2019 at 12:31 am

    Oh my gosh some of those phrases are so funny!! Good tip about bringing layers, you never know what the weather will be! I’d love to get to Ireland one day 🙂

    • Ciara September 28, 2019 at 11:55 pm

      Haha us Irish love our slang – there are literally hundreds more I could share but some are way too rude haha! Thanks Andrea x

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    Welcome to my blog! I'm Ciara, a native of Dublin Ireland. I'm an introverted wanderer who loves to explore this gorgeous planet of ours. I try to live by the motto 'Feel the fear and do it anyway' which has led to some ridiculous mishaps along the way. Join me as I try to complete my never-ending bucket list. Read More

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