Visiting the Emerald Isle? We dive into the top things to know about visiting Ireland so you are prepared when you go.
From its stunning landscapes to its rich history, Ireland offers a range of experiences that captivate every type of traveler.
However, before you pack your bags and head for this beautiful island, there are a few important things you should know. This comprehensive guide will cover essential aspects like visa requirements, local currency, transport, culture, and more, to ensure your trip is as smooth as it is memorable.
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Visa Requirements – Things to Know About Visiting Ireland
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, understanding the visa requirements is crucial. For travelers from the European Economic Area (EEA), the United States, and many other countries, a visa is not required for short visits up to 90 days. However, some nationalities do require a visa, so it’s essential to check the Irish immigration website or consult your local embassy for the most current information. If your trip includes work or study, or if you plan to stay for an extended period, different visa conditions will apply.
Currency & Payment Methods – Things to Know About Visiting Ireland
Ireland uses the Euro (€) as its official currency. Major credit and debit cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are widely accepted, especially in cities and tourist areas. However, it’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller establishments or if you’re heading into rural areas. Currency exchange services are available at airports, banks, and exchange bureaus. Contactless payment methods like Apple Pay are also increasingly common in the country.
Weather & Best Time to Visit – Things to Know About Visiting Ireland
Ireland is known for its often unpredictable weather, so packing layers is advised. The most favorable time to visit is between May and September when the weather is milder and the days are longer. If you prefer avoiding the tourist crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder months of April and October. For winter sports or to experience Ireland’s famous coziness, the colder months offer their own unique attractions.
Local Culture & Etiquette – Things to Know About Visiting Ireland
The Irish are globally renowned for their friendliness and hospitality. Casual greetings are the norm, and it’s common to engage in small talk with strangers. Tipping is not a requirement in Ireland, but it is appreciated, especially for excellent service. Around 10-15% is customary in restaurants, while rounding up to the nearest Euro is standard for taxi fares.
Transportation – Things to Know About Visiting Ireland
Ireland boasts a comprehensive public transportation network, featuring buses, trams, and trains. The national bus service, Bus Éireann, and the Dublin-based DART and Luas tram services are some of the most commonly used. For more freedom and flexibility, especially for exploring the countryside, consider renting a car. Note that Ireland drives on the left-hand side of the road.
Health & Safety
Ireland is generally a safe country to visit, but standard travel precautions apply. Travel insurance, including health coverage, is highly recommended for all tourists. The country has an excellent healthcare system, though it can be costly for non-EU citizens. It’s advisable to have EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) if you’re an EU citizen. Also, always pay attention to your belongings to avoid petty theft, particularly in busy areas.
Communication & Language
While English is the predominant language in Ireland, Irish Gaelic is also recognized as an official language and is spoken primarily in designated regions known as the Gaeltacht. Street signs are often bilingual, and public services are available in both languages. In terms of digital connectivity, Wi-Fi is widely available in most hotels, cafes, and public spaces.
Food & Drinks – Things to Know About Visiting Ireland
This hearty dish is synonymous with Irish cuisine and is perfect for those chilly days. Originally a peasant dish made with mutton or goat, modern versions often feature lamb or beef. The main ingredients – tender chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots – are slowly cooked to perfection, resulting in a thick, flavorful broth. Some variations also include barley or turnips. The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity, with each ingredient shining through.
This iconic bread is a testament to Irish ingenuity. Made without yeast, it uses baking soda as the rising agent. The result is a dense yet soft bread with a slight tang. The crust is often golden and crunchy, while the interior remains soft. Typically, it contains just four ingredients: flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. Currents or raisins are sometimes added for a sweeter version called “spotted dog.” Slices of soda bread slathered with rich Irish butter are a treat unto themselves.
Blessed with an extensive coastline, Ireland offers a bounty of fresh seafood. Oysters from Galway Bay, wild Atlantic salmon, and cod are just a few staples. The seafood is often cooked in straightforward manners to retain the fresh taste – think grilled, baked, or in simple chowders. Coastal towns often host seafood festivals, celebrating this rich marine harvest.
Full Irish Breakfast
Often referred to as a “fry-up,” this breakfast is a substantial meal designed to fuel a full day. It typically includes sausages, crispy bacon, eggs (often fried), black and white pudding (a type of sausage made with pork meat and blood), baked beans, and tomatoes. Mushrooms and hash browns might also make an appearance. It’s usually accompanied by toast or, better yet, soda bread. Wash it all down with a cup of tea or coffee, and you’re set for the day.
This world-famous stout has its roots in Dublin’s St. James’s Gate Brewery. With its distinctive dark color, creamy head, and rich flavor, it’s a must-try when in Ireland. The taste is often described as having a slight malty sweetness balanced with a bit of bitterness. Many claim it tastes better in its homeland, perhaps enjoyed beside a crackling fireplace in a traditional Irish pub.
Known for its smooth and slightly sweet profile, Irish whiskey differs from its Scottish and American counterparts. Brands like Jameson, Bushmills, and Redbreast have made a mark on the global stage. Whether you enjoy it straight, on the rocks, or in a warming Irish coffee (coffee, whiskey, sugar, topped with cream), it’s a drink that embodies the spirit of Ireland.
Tea holds a special place in the heart of the Irish. Typically a robust black blend, it’s drunk throughout the day and often served with milk and sugar. Whether it’s breakfast time, an afternoon break, or an evening wind-down, tea is often at the center of it. Brands like Barry’s and Lyons dominate the market, with many Irish swearing loyalty to their preferred brand.
From the wholesome goodness of a traditional stew to the rich flavors of Guinness and whiskey, Ireland’s food and drink scene offers a tantalizing array of tastes and experiences, reflective of its cultural heritage and natural resources.
Top Places to Visit – Things to Know About Visiting Ireland
The capital and largest city of Ireland, Dublin is a vibrant urban hub steeped in history and modernity. The city is home to some of the nation’s most famous landmarks, including Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is housed.
The Guinness Storehouse is another must-visit; it offers an immersive experience about the making of the iconic Irish stout and rewards visitors with panoramic views of the city from its Gravity Bar. Dublin also hosts a plethora of museums, art galleries, and parks, making it a perfect destination for history buffs and art lovers alike.
Cliffs of Moher
Situated in County Clare along the Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most spectacular natural wonders. Towering at a maximum height of 702 feet, they offer awe-inspiring views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Aran Islands. Visitors can walk along designated pathways and platforms, capturing breathtaking vistas and photographs. The on-site visitor center provides informative exhibitions about the cliffs’ geological formation and local wildlife, including the colonies of seabirds that call the cliffs home.
Ring of Kerry / Kerry Cliffs
A picturesque loop in the southwestern part of Ireland, the Ring of Kerry is renowned for its scenic landscapes that encompass mountains, lakes, and coastal views. The drive is about 111 miles long and is best enjoyed over a couple of days. Along the way, you’ll pass through quaint towns, encounter ancient ruins, and see some of Ireland’s most beautiful natural landscapes. Whether you’re into hiking, photography, or simply soaking in the view, the Ring of Kerry offers something for everyone.
Ireland’s second-largest city, Cork is often considered the food capital of the country. Known for its culinary delights like artisanal cheeses and fresh seafood, the city’s English Market is a feast for the senses. Cork is also the gateway to some of Ireland’s most scenic areas like West Cork and Kerry. The vibrant arts scene here is another major attraction, with numerous galleries, theaters, and live music venues that bring the city to life. Don’t forget to visit the famous Blarney Castle nearby to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the “gift of gab.”
Located on the west coast, Galway is a harbor city known for its energetic atmosphere and youthful population. The city is a hotbed for the arts, frequently hosting festivals that celebrate music, film, and literature. The Latin Quarter, with its cobbled streets and colorful buildings, offers an array of shops, pubs, and cafes, making it a hub of activity day and night. Galway is also a gateway to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, offering visitors the chance to explore some of Ireland’s most iconic landscapes.
Located in County Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula is famous for its rugged scenery, sandy beaches, and rich Gaelic culture. A drive around the peninsula on the Slea Head Drive will introduce you to some of the most stunning vistas in Ireland. You can also take a boat tour to see Fungie, a wild bottlenose dolphin who has become a local icon.
Often referred to as the “Marble City” for its well-preserved churches and public buildings that use local limestone, Kilkenny is a medieval town that offers a mix of a rich cultural heritage, scenic river walks, and modern-day amenities. It’s home to the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle, one of the most visited heritage sites in Ireland.
Situated in northwestern County Clare, The Burren is a unique karst landscape known for its rare species of flora and fauna. It’s also rich in archaeological sites, including megalithic tombs and medieval churches. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike through the Burren National Park to admire this unique geological phenomenon.
Founded in 914 A.D., Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city. It is world-famous for its crystal ware, and visitors can take a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal to see craftsmen at work. The Viking Triangle, the city’s historical center, offers a glimpse into ancient Viking and medieval Ireland.
Known as the Land of Heart’s Desire, Sligo was the inspiration for much of W.B. Yeats’ poetry. The county offers a stunning blend of lakes, waterfalls, and mountains like Benbulben, often referred to as “Ireland’s Table Mountain.” Surfing enthusiasts will find the beaches of Strandhill and Enniscrone perfect for catching waves.
As the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast has a rich history and offers attractions like the Titanic Belfast museum, a state-of-the-art facility that provides an immersive experience about the doomed ocean liner. The city also serves as a gateway to the Giant’s Causeway, another must-see natural attraction.
Connemara National Park
Located in County Galway, Connemara National Park covers nearly 3,000 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heaths, grasslands, and woodlands. It’s a haven for walkers and nature lovers who want to explore the wilderness of western Ireland.
Brú na Bóinne
This is one of Europe’s most important prehistoric landscapes. Located in County Meath, the site is home to three large passage tombs—Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth—and various standing stones and henges. Newgrange, dating back to around 3200 B.C., is especially famous for its winter solstice phenomenon.
Known for its medieval architecture, Limerick is home to one of the country’s most visited attractions, King John’s Castle. The city is also a great starting point for exploring the Shannon Region, including the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.
The largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore offers a taste of traditional Irish culture. Known for its ancient forts and beautiful cliffs, it’s a popular destination for tourists looking to experience Ireland’s natural beauty and historical depth.
How Expensive is Travel in Ireland – Ireland Travel Tips
- Accommodation: Prices can range from €50 for budget hotels to €200+ for luxury stays per night.
- Food: Expect to spend around €10-€20 for a casual meal and upwards of €40 for a three-course dinner at a mid-range restaurant.
- Transport: Public transportation costs are reasonable, with bus fares around €2-€4. Car rentals can vary greatly, from €30 to €100 per day.
- Attractions: Many natural attractions are free. Museum and site entry fees can range from €5-€20.
- Overall: Ireland is considered a moderately expensive European destination, particularly in Dublin and other major cities.
Digital Nomad Scene – Ireland Travel Tips
- Co-working Spaces: Cities like Dublin, Cork, and Galway offer a range of co-working spaces.
- Internet Speed: Ireland generally has fast and reliable internet, suitable for remote work.
- Community: There is a growing digital nomad community, particularly in larger cities where networking events are common.
- Visas: Ireland currently doesn’t offer a specific digital nomad visa, but the standard tourist visa allows for a 90-day stay.
- Quality of Life: With its friendly locals, beautiful landscapes, and modern amenities, Ireland offers a high quality of life for digital nomads.
Final Thoughts on Things to Know About Visiting Ireland
Ireland is a land of contrasts, where ancient history blends seamlessly with a lively modern culture. Whether you’re after the tranquil beauty of its landscapes or the hustle and bustle of cities like Dublin, knowing what to expect will enhance your experience. Hopefully, this guide on things to know about visiting Ireland has equipped you with the essential knowledge to make your trip unforgettable.