We fell in love with the Emerald Island the first time we visited for our 6th wedding anniversary. So much so that we moved there and called Dublin home from 2011 to 2014. We recently re-visited in October 2018, giving us the opportunity to re-connect with friends and the country. Friendly locals, a picturesque landscape and a vibrant pub culture make Ireland a popular place to travel. We’ve helped many travelers plan their trips there over the years, through articles like How to Spend the Perfect Week in Ireland. Here are some of our best Ireland travel tips.
Best Time to Visit Ireland
July and August are the most expensive months to visit Ireland because demand is high and flights and accommodation are at a premium. If you want to save money, avoid those months. Great times to visit are the second half of May and late September as you can save money and possibly have good weather.
Ireland is generally rainy and cool year round anyway, with average summer highs in Dublin only around 66 Fahrenheit (18 Celsius) and lows averaging around 54 Fahrenheit (12 Celsius). Average winter highs are around 46 Fahrenheit (8 Celsius) and lows around 37 Fahrenheit (3 Celsius). As you can see temperatures do not change drastically from season to season in Ireland.
Buy Train Tickets in Advance
Train tickets in Ireland are significantly more expensive when purchased last minute at the train station. Purchase your tickets in advance on the Irish Rail website. Utilizing trains is an excellent option for those who don’t want to rent a car or take tours the whole time. Ireland is not a difficult country to travel around independently, but guided tours offer an opportunity to learn more about the nation during your visit. We recommend considering to combine train travel with day tours.
Guided Tours from Dublin
You’ll most likely be starting your Irish adventure in Dublin. If you’re looking to see as much of Ireland as possible in a week, with the least amount of hassle of navigating tricky roads and looking for accommodation, consider this 6 day All Ireland Tour combining train travel with guided bus tours. Prices start at $1,360 per person.
A 3 day Southern Ireland Tour including Galway and Kerry from Dublin starts at $298.67 and includes visits to Connemara, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, Killarney and Ring of Kerry. Those are several magnificent places, if you just have a week in Ireland, spend a couple of days exploring Dublin, then this tour would be a great idea for days 3-5 of your trip.
A day tour to Giant’s Causeway and Belfast in Northern Ireland is another great option, but it is a full 8 hour day. A Northern Ireland Highlights Day Trip Including Giant’s Causeway from Dublin starts at $89.26. Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a picturesque highlight of that tour.
Ireland Rental Car Tips
1) You can use a US license to drive in Ireland so you don’t need an international drivers license.
2) Drivers need to be a minimum of 21 years old to rent a car in Ireland.
3) Two people should consider choosing the smallest rental car. Irish roads are very narrow and in cities you’ll probably have to parallel park. Gas is also more expensive in Ireland so most Irish people are also in small cars. If you’re a family or group of friends be sure to pick a larger vehicle so there’s room for your stuff.
4) Most rental cars in Ireland are manual and cheap rental car prices are for manual vehicles. Automatic cars are not so common in Ireland so expect to pay upwards of $40 per day extra for automatic cars.
5) Make a car rental reservation in advance to save money. If you want until the last minute, especially during the busy summer months, expect to pay much more.
Weather in Ireland
As mentioned the weather in Ireland tends to be cool and rainy year round. So even if you visit in July and August, be sure to pack a couple of warm sweaters and bring a rain jacket. It’s also a good idea to bring comfortable waterproof footwear for the trip.
Ireland uses the euro and the current rate is around 88 euro cents = $1 US. This is currently a favorable exchange rate for American travelers visiting Ireland.
Keep in mind that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and they use British sterling pounds. A US dollar is currently worth 75 British pence.
Border Between Ireland and Northern Ireland
The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is currently open, so you do not need to go through immigration there. Politicians are currently debating how to handle the Irish border after Brexit materializes. A quick Google of Ireland and Northern Ireland border before you leave will be a good idea as it is still very uncertain as to what will happen after Brexit.
Credit cards are widely accepted in restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and shops. They are more widely accepted in Ireland compared to many other countries in Europe. Not all credit cards require you to let them know which countries you will be in, but it is a good idea to call your credit card and debit card banks to let them know you will be traveling.
Irish Food and Dietary Restrictions
Ireland is known for high-quality meat and dairy products. Beef and butter are major exports. If you enjoy lamb, Ireland is a good country for that too. The smoked salmon is also high quality and is typically served with delicious brown soda bread.
Restaurants generally cater well to vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions like gluten allergies. So fear not if you’re planning a trip. Like usual, just inform the staff in advance.
The English Market in Cork is historic and the best market in Ireland. Go there if you visit Cork, Ireland’s second largest city and the culinary capital of the country.
If you are a chocolate lover, Butler’s Chocolate is very good and they have several locations in Dublin. They also prepare good espresso based drinks. If you enjoy mochas, they don’t get better than the ones from Butler’s.
Where to Stay in Dublin:
Budget travelers and families will find the best deals on short term apartment rentals. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for free and receive $40 credit off your first stay!
Book a hotel with free cancellation when you know your dates of travel. Then if something comes up, you can easily cancel your reservation. Here are some hotel and B&B recommendations for Dublin:
Shelbourne Hotel is Dublin’s most historic 5-star luxury hotel. Several US Presidents and many foreign dignitaries have stayed there. Shelbourne is a 5-minute walk from many of Dublin’s famous attractions, like Trinity College, Grafton Street, National Gallery, National Library and National Museum. They have a wonderful cocktail lounge and great dining options. Even if you’re not a guest, swing in for high tea and enjoy a lovely view of St. Stephen’s Green.
The Merrion Hotel is a 5-star hotel furnished with Georgian decor and Italian marble bathrooms. Awarded 2 Michelin stars, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud serves elegant French-influenced cuisine overlooking the gardens. The hotel also has an infinity pool and spa. Rooms feature city or garden views.
Kilronan House is a family run, award-winning B&B in Dublin’s Georgian Quarter that offers good value. Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green are a 5-minute walk away. Trinity College and Dublin Castle are within a 15-minute walk from the house. The rooms are a little dated but include breakfasts in their charming dining room, which are fantastic. They offer free parking too if you have a car.
Clayton Hotel Burlington Road is a popular hotel for conferences. It’s location is walking distance from St. Stephen’s Green and Grafton Street. This is also a good mid-ranged price hotel in Dublin for those that don’t like bed and breakfasts. We stayed there on our most recent visit to Dublin in October 2018.
ABC House Dublin and Egans House are good Irish bed and breakfasts in quiet neighborhoods in the north of Dublin. They both offer reasonable comfort for those that want to save on accommodation. We spent a week at ABC House Dublin while searching for our apartment when we first moved to Dublin. We stayed at Egans House on our first visit to Ireland. A downside of both B&B’s is that they’re not centrally located. Breakfasts are purchased a la carte.
Generator Hostel is conveniently located right next to the Jameson Distillery (fun!). Generator is a reputable chain of hostels in Europe known for being clean and having a fun atmosphere.
Free and Low-Cost Attractions in Dublin
Many of the museums and galleries in Dublin are free. Take advantage of this to save some money on your vacation!
Dublin Castle was the seat of the United Kingdom’s government until it was handed over to the Irish. You can take an hour tour to see beautiful staterooms, including the ornate room where the President of Ireland is inaugurated.
National Gallery of Ireland is home to an impressive collection of works. It was recently renovated and is a state of the art gallery. Admission is free too!
Chester Beatty Library is a great museum featuring one of the best private book collections in the world. Exhibits focus on the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Free admission.
Natural History Museum is home to an impressive and extensive zoological collection. The museum’s decor has changed little in over a century so it’s a throwback. All ages can appreciate this museum and admission is free.
National Museum of Ireland- Archeology has a huge collection of artifacts from pre-historic Ireland as well as the Viking and Medieval periods. Free admission.
Kilmanhaim Jail previously housed many Irish political prisoners who fought for the nation’s freedom. The museum offers an important and moving history lesson for those interested.
Tipping in Ireland
Irish servers are generally paid a livable salary, so tipping is not expected. However, if the service is very good in a restaurant you can reward staff with a 10% tip. Rounding up is also appreciated for wait staff and taxi drivers.
Don’t Drink the Guinness in Tempe Bar
The Temple Bar area in Dublin is good fun, and many locals enjoy it too. But you won’t see the Irish drinking Guinness in Temple Bar, and many advise against it. Guinness is best poured very slowly, and many bartenders in Temple Bar are too busy to pour it properly. Almost any local Irish pub is better for a Guinness, but Dubliners have their favorite spots. O’Donahues is one local favorite.
Be sure to try Irish pudding while in Ireland. Full Irish breakfasts typically come with both black and white pudding. Keep in mind this is sausage, and not what Americans consider to be pudding. So this is not suitable for vegetarians as they are primarily pork based.
Saint Patrick’s Day
If you travel to Dublin for Saint Patrick’s Day be sure to book your accommodation around 6 months in advance. Most Irish people do not dress up for St. Patrick’s Day. So you won’t see actual Irish people lining the streets dressed as leprechauns or green fairies. Dublin puts on a good parade though, and there’s a solid party in Temple Bar. Consider going to historic Croke Park for a Gaelic Athletic Association match after the parade. There is a hurling match (think a cross between hockey and lacrosse) and a GAA football game (a little like rugby).
Fly to Ireland for Just the Taxes!
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Questions on Travel to Ireland?
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