English is spoken everywhere but Irish (Gaeilge) is the first official language. Contrary to a common misconception, the Irish language is not simply a dialect of English. Unlike many other European languages (including English), Irish is neither a Germanic, Romance nor Slavic language. Rather, it is part of the Goidelic family of languages.
Most people have some understanding of Irish but it is used as a first language by only about 30,000 people, most of whom live in rural areas known as the Gaeltacht. About 40% (c. 1,500,000) of people in the Republic claim to understand and speak the language, although some people will exaggerate their fluency in Irish when discussing the matter with foreigners.
As the Gaeltacht are generally scenic areas it is likely that visitors will go there. Tourists will not be expected to speak Irish but it will be noticeable on road signs, etc. For instance, a law was recently passed that changes the name of Dingle, County Kerry to An Daingean, the Irish version. This should not confuse visitors, as almost all recent maps carry placenames in both languages in Gaeltacht districts.
In order to enter certain Irish Universities, it is necessary for Irish citizens to have taken Irish to Leaving Certificate (Examinations taken on leaving secondary or high school) level, and passed. Indeed it is a compulsory language at school in the Republic, although its method of teaching has come under criticism. Nevertheless, although it has come under threat, and some resent being forced to learn the language, others see use of the language as an expression of national pride.
There is some Irish language broadcasting on TV and radio. Irish is related and very similar (but not identical) to Scots Gaelic. Of the Four Provinces, only one (Leinster) does not have its own dialect in the language. The Ulster dialect has most in common with Scots Gaelic. However, some Irish people may take offense if you call Irish "Gaelic" as this is seen as being an incorrect term and refers to the entire family of languages that includes Irish, Manx, and Scots Gaelic. Referring to it simply as "Irish" is a fine alternative. It is not necessary to know any Irish in order to get around in Ireland. See also: Irish phrasebook
A very immediately noticable aspect of English spoken in Ireland is high usage of swearing in conversation. Visitors should not consider this as hostile, especially if not in a hostile context. Insults are generally no more than friendly banter, although they can be quite colorful in their description, as well as original.
The Republic of Ireland is part of the Eurozone, so as in many other European Union countries the currency here is the Euro (symbol: €). Stand Alone Cash machines (ATMs) are widely available in every city and town in the country and credit cards are accepted in 90% of outlets. Fees are not generally charged by Irish ATMs (but beware that your bank may charge a fee).
Along border areas, as the UK pound sterling is currency in Northern Ireland, it is common for UK pounds to be accepted as payment, with change given in Euro. Some outlets, notably border petrol stations (fuel is much cheaper in the Republic, resulting in many Northern motorists purchasing their fuel in the Republic) will give change in sterling if requested.
ATMs are widely available throughout Ireland. Even in small towns it is unlikely that you will be unable to find an ATM.
Mastercard, Maestro and Visa are accepted virtually everywhere. American Express and Diners Club are now also fairly widely accepted. Discover card is very rarely accepted and it would not be wise to rely on this alone. Most ATM's allow cash withdrawals on major credit cards and internationally branded debit cards.
Food is expensive in Ireland, although quality has improved enormously in the last ten years. Most small towns will have a supermarket and many have a weekly farmers' market. The cheapest option for eating out is either fast food or pubs. Many pubs offer a carvery lunch consisting of roasted meat, vegetables and the ubiquitous potatoes, which is usually good value. Selection for vegetarians is limited outside the main cities. The small town of Kinsale near Cork has become internationally famous for its many excellent restaurants, especially fish restaurants.
Irish cuisine can charitably be described as hearty: virtually all traditional meals involve meat (especially lamb and pork), potatoes, and cabbage. Long cooking times are the norm and spices are limited to salt and pepper. Classic Irish dishes include:
- Boxty, potato pancakes
- Champ, mashed potatoes with spring onions
- Coddle, a stew of potatoes, pork sausages and bacon; a speciality of Dublin
- Colcannon, mashed potatoes and cabbage
- Irish breakfast, a famously filling spread of bacon, eggs, sausages and white and/or black pudding, a type of pork sausage made with blood (black) or without (white)
- Irish stew, a stew of potatoes and lamb
But the days when potatoes were the only thing on the menu are long past, and modern Irish cuisine emphasizes fresh local ingredients, simply prepared and presented (sometimes with some Mediterranean-style twists). Meat (especially lamb), seafood and dairy produce can be of a very high quality.
Try some soda bread, made with buttermilk and leavened with bicarbonate of soda rather than yeast. It is heavy, tasty and almost a meal in itself!
Only basic table manners are considered necessary when eating out, unless you're with company that has a more specific definition of what is appropriate. As a general rule, so long as you don't make a show of yourself by disturbing other diners there's little else to worry about. It's common to see other customers using their mobile phones - this sometimes attracts the odd frown or two but goes largely ignored. If you do need to take a call, keep it short and try not to raise your voice. The only other issue to be concerned about is noise - a baby crying might be forgivable if it's resolved fairly quickly, a contingent of adults laughing very loudly every couple of minutes or continuously talking out loud may attract negative attention. However, these rules are largely ignored in fast-food restaurants, pubs and some more informal restaurants.
Traditionally, tipping was never considered to be a necessity and was entirely optional. However, recently it has become common to tip up to 10% of the bill total. Some establishments will add a 10-15% service charge on top of the obligatory 13.5% Government VAT charge, especially for larger groups. If a service charge is levied, a tip would not normally be left, unless to reward exceptional service.
Ireland is the home of some of the world's greatest whiskey, having a rich tradition going back hundreds if not thousands of years. With around fifty popular brands today these are exported around the world and symbolise everything that is pure about Ireland and where a visit to an Irish distillery is considered very worthwhile. Another one of Ireland's most famous exports is stout, a dark, dry beer. The strong taste can be initially off-putting but perseverance is well-rewarded! The most famous variety is Guinness, brewed in Dublin and available throughout the country. Murphy's and Beamish stout are brewed in Cork and available mainly in the south of the country. Murphy's is slightly sweeter and creamier-tasting than Guinness, while Beamish has a strong, almost burnt taste. Several micro-breweries are now producing their own interesting varieties of stout, including O'Hara's in Carlow, the Porter House in Dublin and the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork. Ales such as Smithwick's (pronounced "Smiddick's") are also popular, particularly in rural areas. Bulmers Cider is also a popular and widely available Irish drink. It is brewed in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. The other competitor for national drink of Ireland is tea. The Irish drink more tea per capita than any other people in the world. Cork, Dublin and Galway abound with slick, stylish coffee bars, but if you visit any Irish home you will probably be offered a cup of tea (usually served with milk, unless you explicitly state otherwise!). Coffee is also widely drunk in Ireland. (If you don't drink tea, you drink coffee!)
You can learn many interesting facts about Ireland's history and culture. One of the things Ireland is most famous for is Irish dancing. (Riverdance, a popular show centered on Irish step dancing, started in Ireland.) Irish traditional music is also world renowned, with The Chieftains musical group being its international ambassadors.
Ireland has internationally-respected universities, including the venerable Trinity College Dublin (the only college of the University of Dublin). The National University of Ireland has constituent colleges in Dublin, Galway, Cork and Maynooth. Other colleges/universities include Dublin City University (DCU), University of Limerick (UL), Institues of Technology in the larger towns/cities around the country and other higher education colleges.
Literature has many great Irish authors (writing in both Irish and in English), including James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan and Oliver Goldsmith. The writer of Gulliver's Travels, Dean Jonathan Swift, was from Dublin, and poets W. B. Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh also hailed from Ireland. There are many literary tourist attractions and tours in Dublin, especially.
OPW Heritage Card - Any visitor can purchase one of these cards for admission to any of the Heritage Sites in Ireland which is funded by the Office of Public Works. This card can be used to see many historic castles throughout Ireland
Blarney Castle- Located in Country Cork, this historic castle is known for its "Blarney Stone." Tradition is that if the Blarney Stone is kissed, one will have good luck. One kisses the stone by laying back and being held by an employee of the castle. Photographers are there to capture the moment!
Cliffs of Moher loacated in County Clare - One of Ireland's Biggest and Most Visited Tourist Attraction. The Cliffs are 230 meters in height and tower over the Atlantic Ocean. There is a souvenir shop. Safety is at visitor's discretion, there are no safety barriers, because it would ruin the natural tourist attraction. The Cliffs are an absoulte site to see
Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands Cruises has a daily direct passenger ferry from Doolin Pier, Co. Clare to view the Cliffs of Moher from sea level. It is a brilliant way to view the awesome nature of the Cliffs.
Kilkenny, one of Ireland's favourite tourist spots, the Medieval Capital just 1 hour 40 minutes train out of Dublin City is a must see. Its beautiful buildings and of course imposing Norman Castle - not to mention the numerous festivals including the Arts Festival and Rhythm and Roots Festival - make Kilkenny a most desirable location.
Ireland is part of the European Union/European Economic Area, and as such any EU/EEA or Swiss national has an automatic right to take up employment in Ireland. Non EU/EEA citizens will generally require a work permit and visa. Further information can be found on Citizens Information, the Irish government's public services information website.
The police force is known as An Garda Síochána (or just "Garda"), and police officers as Garda (singular) and Gardaí (plural, pronounced Gar-dee), though informally the English term Guard(s) is usual. The term Police is rarely used, but is of course understood. Regardless of what you call them, they are courteous and approachable. Uniformed members of the Garda Síochána do not, unlike the Police force in Northern Ireland, carry guns. It is a proud tradition of the service that standard policing is carried out in both rural and urban areas by uniformed officers equipped only with a modest wooden truncheon. Firearms are, however, carried by detectives.
Crime is relatively low by most European standards but not very different. Late night streets in larger towns and cities can be dangerous, as anywhere. If you need Gardaí, ambulance, fire service, coast guard or mountain rescue dial 999 or 112 as the emergency number; both work from landlines and cell phones.
Since March 2004 almost all enclosed places of work, including bars, restaurants, cafés, etc., in Ireland have been designated as smoke-free. Rooms in Hotels and Bed & Breakfast establishments are not required by law to be smoke-free. Even though they are not obliged to enforce the ban, owners of these establishments are, however, free to do so if they wish. Most hotels have designated some bedrooms or floors as smoking and some as non-smoking, so you should specify at the time of booking if you have a preference either way. The smoking ban also applies to common areas within buildings. This means for example that corridors, lobby areas and reception areas of buildings such as apartment blocks and hotels are also covered under the law.
Most larger bars and cafés will have a (covered) outdoor smoking area, often with heating. If one does not exist be aware that it is illegal to consume alcohol on the street so you may have to leave your drink at the bar.
Any person found guilty of breaching the ban on smoking in the workplace may be subject to a fine of up to €3,000.
Often, in smaller towns and villages and especially on a country road, if you walk past somebody it is customary to say hello. They may also ask you "how are you?", or another similar variation. It is polite to respond to this greeting but it is not expected that you would give any detail on how you really are, if the person is a stranger - a simple hello or "how are you?" or a simple comment on the weather will suffice! In this regard, try something like "Grand day!" - if it isn't raining, of course. To which the response will generally be "It is indeed, thank God".
When driving on rural roads, particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave a thanks to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel. This is particularly prevalant in rural areas of the West of Ireland where many drivers will automatically wave at everyone who drives past them. A polite hand wave (or even with just the index finger raised from the steering wheel) is customary and will be appreciated.
When accepting gifts, a polite refusal (such as, "no really you shouldn't") is common after the first offer of the item. Usually, this is followed with an insistence that the gift or offer is accepted, at which point your answer is likely to become more recognized. However, some people can be very persuasive - this isn't meant to be over-bearing, just courteous.
One thing which some visitors may find disconcerting is the response an Irish person may give to a "thank you". Most Irish people will respond with something along the lines of "It was nothing" or "not at all". This does not mean that they didn't try hard to please, but rather it is meant to suggest "I was happy to do it for you, so it was not any great difficulty" (even though it may have been!).
The Republic of Ireland and Britain undoubtedly have notable similarities, but Irish people generally take pride in the cultural differences that exist between Ireland and Britain, and can be quite offended by tourists who do not acknowledge or show respect to these differences. Indeed it is not uncommon for foreigners (both before and after arrival into the country) to foolishly assume that Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom like Scotland or Wales; this incorrect assumption will generally cause strong offence to locals in the Republic of Ireland who take pride in Ireland's status as a state independent of the United Kingdom.
Following from this of course may lead to curiosity around the differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Public or semi-public discussions about religious differences, political views and 20th century troubles are generally avoided by Irish locals on both sides of the border; for the reason that opinions between individuals can be so vastly divided and unyielding, that most Irish people of moderate views have grown accustomed to just avoiding the topics in polite conversation. Tourists who often are quite fascinated by the history of the division, would be advised to show respect and caution to the differences of opinion that still exist on historical matters.
The Irish are renowned for their upbeat sense of humour, which can often be difficult to understand to the more unfamiliar tourists. Joking on almost any topic will be welcomed, although even mild racism is not appreciated by the majority. Most Irish people are quite happy for friendly jibes regarding the Irish love of potatoes and drinking alcohol, however any jokes regarding the potato famine of the 19th Century could in some instances cause a similar amount of offence as joking about the September 11th attacks would in the United States. This can be quite a surprise considering the time scales involved but it is a subject most Irish people still feel strongly about.
Ireland, also known popularly as the Emerald Isle, is an island in north-western Europe which has been divided politically since 1920. The Republic of Ireland (Irish: Éire or Poblacht na hÉireann) , the primary focus of this article, is a nation state of Western Europe. It constitutes the main portion of the island and is bounded to the northeast by Northern Ireland (Irish: Tuaisceart na hÉireann) which is part of the United Kingdom.
The island of Ireland historically consists of 32 counties, of which six, collectively known as Northern Ireland, have remained as part of the United Kingdom since the rest of Ireland gained independence in 1922. The name "Ireland" applies to the island as a whole, but is also the official name in English of the independent state (i.e., the 26 counties which are not part of the United Kingdom), since 1937. The name Republic of Ireland is commonly used to distinguish the Republic from the North. In the United Kingdom, 'Southern Ireland' is the commonly used term for the Republic, despite the fact that Northern Ireland occupies only a small portion of the island's landmass; 'Southern Ireland' thus occupies about 70 % of the area of Ireland.
Celtic tribes settled on the island in the 4th century B.C. Invasions by Norsemen that began in the late 8th century were finally ended when King Brian Boru defeated the Danes in 1014. Norman invasions began in the early 12th century and set in place Ireland's uneasy position within England's sphere of influence. The Act of Union of 1800 - in which Catholics, 90% of the Irish population, were excluded from Parliament - saw Ireland joining the United Kingdom. In the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century the subject of Irish home rule was a major debate within the British parliament. After several failed attempts, a Home Rule bill finally passed through parliament in 1914 though the start of the first world war saw its indefinite postponement. A failed rebellion on Easter Monday in 1916 showed a hint of things to come with years of civil war to follow beginning with the Irish war of independence (1919-1921) and continuing with the Irish civil war (1922-1923).
Eventually a somewhat stable situation emerged with the independence of 26 of Ireland's counties; the remaining six, located in the north of the country comprising two-thirds of the ancient province of Ulster, remained part of the United Kingdom — a status that has continued to the present day. In 1949 the Republic of Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth.
Ireland's history post-partition has been marked with violence, a period known as "The Troubles" generally regarded as beginning in the 1960s saw large scale confrontation between opposing paramilitary groups seeking to either keep Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom or bring it into the Republic of Ireland. The Troubles saw many ups and downs in intensity of fighting and on many occasions they even spread to terrorist attacks in Britain. Both the government of the UK and Ireland were opposed to the terrorist groups. A peace settlement known as the Good Friday Agreement was finally approved in 1998 and is currently being implemented. All signs point to this agreement being lasting.
Though a relatively poor country for much of the 20th century Ireland joined the European Community in 1973 (at the same time as the United Kingdom) and since then has seen massive economic growth placing it amongst Europe's richest countries today.
East Coast and Midlands (County Dublin, County Kildare, County Laois, County Longford, County Louth, County Meath, County Offaly, County Westmeath, County Wicklow)
The Irish heartland, home to the capital and vibrant metropolis of Dublin.
A home nation of the United Kingdom, covered in its own separate article.
Shannon Region (County Clare, County Limerick, County Tipperary)
A region often visited for its castles and the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher.
Southwest Ireland (County Cork, County Kerry)
A scenic and rainy section of Ireland with a beautiful coast and popular Ring of Kerry and Blarney Castle.
West Ireland (County Galway, County Mayo, County Roscommon)
Ireland's least populous region, home to the Irish "Cultural Capital" of Galway and the beautiful Aran Islands.
Northwest Ireland and Lakelands (County Cavan, County Donegal, County Leitrim, County Monaghan, County Sligo)
A region with relatively little tourist activity, but a lot to offer by way of natural beauty.
Southeast Ireland (County Carlow, County Kilkenny, County Waterford, County Wexford)
A rather cosmopolitan section of Ireland, famous for its Waterford crystal
- Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath) - the capital and the country's largest city. With excellent pubs, fine architecture and good shopping, Dublin is a very popular tourist destination and is the fourth most visited European capital.
- Cork (Corcaigh) - second largest city in the Republic of Ireland - located on the banks of the River Lee. Founded c.600 by St. Finbarre and known for good food, pubs, shopping and festivals.
- Galway (Gaillimh) - a city on the river Corrib on the west coast of Ireland. Famous for its festivals and its location on Galway Bay. Known as the City of Tribes, Galway's summer is filled with festivals of music, food, Gaelic language and culture. Galway hosts over fifty festivals a year, including the Galway Oyster Festival. The locals seem to give off a positive Bohemian vibe. Galway is split between two types of beautiful landscape: the gorgeous mountains to the west, and the east's farming valleys.
- Kilkenny (Cill Chainnigh) - attractive medieval town, known as the Marble City - home to the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, held annually in early June.
- Letterkenny - Main town in County Donegal, designated gateway status and reputed to be the fastest growing town in Europe. Good base for traveling in Donegal.
- Limerick (Luimneach) - a city on the river Shannon in the south-west of the country.
- Sligo (Town and County)- Home to W.B. Yeats, internationally renowned poet. Mountains and beaches, scenery in general are the best points of Sligo.
- Waterford (Port Láirge) - Ireland's oldest city. In the south-east and close to the ferry port at Rosslare. Waterford is a popular visit for those who want to learn more about the most ancient history of Ireland. It is quite possibly one of the best cities in the country as it is not too large and is full of history. Many festivals take place throughout the year including ((Spraoi)). The food is good and the Granary Museum is the best for ancient Irish history in the country. Don't forget to try a blaa before you leave. (A floury bread bun peculiar to this area of Ireland).
- Wexford - Town and county in the "Sunny South-East"
- The Aran Islands (Na hOileáin Árann), Co. Galway - located in Galway Bay
- The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, both located in County Clare
- Brú Na Bóinne some of the finest neolithic monuments in the world, situated in Co. Meath
- Connemara (Conamara), in Western County Galway
- Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark in Co. Fermanagh
- West Cork - Mountains, coves, islands and beaches at the very south of the country
- Kinsale in County Cork - Gastronomic excellence in Ireland's oldest town
- The Ring of Kerry and Skellig Michael in County Kerry
- Glendalough fine ruins and hiking trails in Co Wicklow
- The Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne), Co. Kerry - a Gaeltecht region (Irish-speaking district) in the very SW corner of the country.
Citizens of EU and EEA countries, most of North and South America, Japan, Israel, Australia and New Zealand do not require a visa to visit Ireland.
Citizens of other countries should check the visas lists at the Irish Dept. of Foreign Affairs. The visa application process for tourist visas is reasonably straightforward and is detailed on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website.
Because of an informal agreement between the United Kingdom and Ireland, known as The Common Travel Area, there are no passport controls in effect for UK citizens travelling to Ireland. On arriving in Ireland from the UK, however, you will be asked for valid official photo-identification such as a passport or driving licence which shows your nationality. This is to prove you are an Irish or EU citizen who is entitled to avail of the Common Travel Area arrangements.
The Republic of Ireland is served by 4 international airports, Dublin (IATA: DUB), Shannon (IATA: SNN) in County Clare, Cork (IATA: ORK) and Ireland West, Knock (IATA: NOC) in County Mayo. Dublin is connected to several cities in the US, Canada, the UK and continental Europe and the Middle East. Shannon, close to the cities of Ennis and Limerick, also has flights to the US, Canada,Middle East the UK and Europe. Cork has flights to most UK destinations and a wide variety of European cities. It is easily accessed from any of the major European hubs, including all of the London airports. Knock Airport has daily scheduled flights to several UK cities as well as to Boston and New York in USA, as well as various chartered flights to (mostly) holiday destinations in Europe.
Smaller regional airports that operate domestic and UK services include Donegal (IATA: CFN), Galway (IATA: GWY), Kerry (IATA: KIR), Sligo (IATA: SXL) and Waterford (IATA: WAT).
The City of Derry Airport, and both Belfast airports (both the City and International) are within a relatively short distance from the North/South border, especially the former. (These three airports being located within Northern Ireland).
Aer Lingus concentrates on providing cheap fares from central airports, with good service, and has cheap deals available from the UK, continental Europe, the USA and Dubai. It often compares favourably with Ryanair for flights booked close to the travel date. Ryanair is another source of flights to Ireland, particularly from the UK, however extras such as baggage charges, taxes and other charges can add a considerable amount to the total price. Comprehensive listings of airlines flying directly into Ireland, along with destinations and timetables, can be found on the Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock airport websites. A regional service is also provided by Aer Arann which provides domestic flights within Ireland and international flights mainly to and from the United Kingdom.
The only cross-border train is the Enterprise service jointly run by Irish Rail and Northern Ireland Railways from Belfast Central to Dublin Connolly. A Rail-Sail Scheme is also available, linking Stena Line or Irish Ferries Ferry companies with Train Companies in Great Britain and Ireland. They mainly operate from UK cities across the various Irish and British Rail Network via the Dublin-Holyhead routes.
Cross border services are operated by Ulsterbus and Bus Éireann.
Eurolines operate services to Great Britain and beyond in conjunction with Bus Eireann and National Express (Great Britain). Bus Éireann also operates frequent services to and from Eastern Europe, in particular Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Ireland is served by numerous services to Great Britain and France:
Swansea-Cork Ferries provide a daily service from the United Kingdom between Swansea in South Wales and Cork. This service is suspended for 2008.
Irish Ferries travel from Holyhead, North Wales to Dublin and from Pembroke, South Wales to Rosslare.
Stena Line connects Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire (Co. Dublin) (about 8 km south of the city centre) and Fishguard, Southern Wales to Rosslare.
Irish Ferries and Brittany Ferries provide services from France (e.g. Roscoff) to Rosslare and Cork. Irish Ferries is sometimes significantly cheaper than Brittany Ferries, so compare prices.
Other operators to Ireland include:
- Irish Sea Express - Liverpool to Dublin
- P&O Irish Sea - North West England to Dublin
- Steam Packet Sea Cat - Operate services between the North West of England (Mainly Liverpool) to [[Dublin
- Norfolkline (www.norfolkline.com)- operate Freight and Passenger services to Dublin from the North West of England
From Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Due to ROI's long relationship with the UK, anyone travelling anywhere between Britain and Ireland (GB, ROI, and NI) does not require passports. As a consequence, there are no passport controls at land border crossing points. In fact, the border is rarely signposted and it is often difficult to tell when you have crossed from the Republic into the Northern Ireland and vice-versa. The most obvious signal is that the roadsigns on the Republic side are mostly bilingual, in Irish and English, and speed limits and distances are shown in kilometres. Occasionally, the police (Garda or An Garda Síochána) or customs officials may set up random checkpoints at or near border crossing points and may stop and question drivers exiting and entering,but you may notice changes in lines in the road -yellow thick lines in the south and white thin line in Northern Ireland and Indeed the Rest of the United Kingdom. but are usually friendly and will normally wave tourists through without any trouble. When arriving at an Irish airport from Great Britain, you will be required to produce photo ID (drivers licence or passport) to prove that you are a British or Irish citizen.
There are many car hire companies in Ireland and you can pick up in the cities or at the airports, though it may cost more to pick up at an airport. Note that most Irish car hire agencies will not accept third party collision damage insurance coverage (for example with credit card) when you rent a car.
Conventional wisdom suggests renting (hiring) a car that is an automatic transmission model. This is because many roads in Ireland are narrow, requiring the driver's full attention, so an automatic transmission allows the driver to focus on the road instead of the machine. However, selecting a manual transmission (stickshift) model will allow the driver to select a smaller vehicle which better fits the small roads and saves gas (petrol) without a noticeable loss of power. In addition, most roads in Ireland employ the "traffic circle" rather than the "intersection". Navigating the traffic circle is easier with a stickshift because you downshift for extra power to speed up coming out of the turn.
It is highly recommended that you call ahead to book a taxi. The hotel, hostel, or bed and breakfast you are staying in will usually call the cab company they work closely with for your convenience. Taxis should be reasonably easy to pick up on the streets in Dublin, Belfast and Cork but may be harder to find crusing the streets in smaller cities and towns so it is often best to telephone for one. It is recommended to call the cab company in advance if possible and give them a time to be picked up, no matter if it's 4 hours in advance or 30 minutes in advance. Work with the same cab company your hotel does and let them know your final destination if there is more than one stop. You will also need to give them a contact phone number over the phone, so if calling from a pay phone, be prepared for them to deny your claim for a taxi cab. The average waiting time may be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on demand and time of day. All Taxis in Republic of Ireland operate on a National Fare basis, so the price should be relatively easy to calculate. For more information, see the Commission of Taxi Regulation website. Always ensure that the taxi you use has a meter, and that it is used for the duration of your journey.
Rules of the Road/Road User Etiquette
Driving and road rules in Ireland are similar to those of the United Kingdom - e.g. drive on the left and yield to the right on roundabout. The most noticeable difference is the fact that distances are displayed in kilometres and speed limits in kilometres per hour (km/h) in the Republic of Ireland. This can be confusing to anyone travelling across the border from Northern Ireland, which, like Britain, uses miles and miles per hour. The legal blood-alcohol limit is low so it may be best to abstain. Drivers often 'thank' each other by flashing their hazard lights or waving - this is purely a convention. Road signs in the Republic are nominally bilingual, with place names displayed in Irish in italic font, with the corresponding English name in capitals immediately below. In the "Gaeltacht" areas (Irish-Speaking districts in the far west), road signs are written in Irish only. In Northern Ireland road signs are in English only and all distances are given in miles. There are five types of road classification:
- M-roads (Motorways, indicated by white on blue signs)
- N-roads N1 - N50 (National Primary routes, main arterial routes indicated by white/yellow on green signs)
- N-Roads N51+ (National Secondary routes - green signs)
- R-roads (Regional roads, indicated by black on white signs)
- L-roads (Local roads, white signs - rarely marked)
Ireland has a small but steadily growing motorway network which centers around Dublin. The main motorways are:
- The M50 (ring road around Dublin)
- The M1 (from Dublin to Newry) goes towards Belfast.
- The M4 (from Dublin to Mullingar) heads towards Sligo and Galway.
- The M7 (from Dublin to Port Laoise) goes in the direction of Cork and Limerick.
- The M8 (from Cork to Fermoy) heading towards Dublin and Belfast.
- The M9 (from Junction with the M7 near Naas to Waterford)
- The M11 (from Dublin to Wexford) along the east coast
Note that most motorways in the Republic have some tolled sections. Tolls are low by French or Italian standards, and vary from €1.70 upwards, depending on which motorway you are traveling on. Tariffs are displayed a few kilometers from the plaza. For the visitor, it's important to note that the only tolled road that accepts credit cards is the M4 between Kilcock and Kinnegad. All others (except the M50) are Euro cash only, so take care if you're arriving from the North via the M1. The M50 is barrier free and excepts no cash. Cameras are located on overhead gantries between J6 & J7 which read your number plate. If you have registered before online or by phone €2.50 will be taken from your credit card. If you have not registered, you must go to a Payzone branded outlet and pay the toll there. This option costs €3.
For 2007, the tolled sections and their charges (for private cars) are as follows:
- M1, Drogheda bypass section, €1.70
- M4, Kilcock to Kinnegad section, €2.60
- M8, Fermoy bypass section, €1.70
- M50,Prices vary €2 with tag, €2.50 with video a/c and €3 with no a/c
- M50, Dublin Port Tunnel, €3 to €12 (for cars - depending on time of day) (free for trucks and large busses)
There are numerous routes of high quality dual carriageway, which are very near motorway standard; Dublin-Ashbourne (Derry), Dublin-Wicklow, Sligo-Collooney (Dublin), Mullingar-Athlone, Limerick-Ennis (Galway), and Cork-Middleton (Waterford).
Until relatively recently, the road network in Ireland was very poorly maintained and road signage sparse. Things have changed markedly on the major arterial N-roads which have seen major renovation work with help from EU funding. Lesser roads, however, are still, in many parts, poorly signposted, the only indication of what route to take often being a finger-sign at the junction itself. The road surfaces can be very poor on the lesser used N-, R- & L- numbered routes.
Driving in Ireland requires etiquette, courtesy and nerves of steel. Roads are generally narrow with little to no shoulder or room for error. Sight lines can be limited or non-existent until you are partway into the road. Caution should be taken when entering onto the roadway as well as when driving along it, with the understanding that around the next turn may be another motorist partway into the road. This is especially true in rural areas. Parking along the road, farm animals, as well as large lorries or machinery may also appear around the bend and be the cause for quick thinking or braking. It is not unusual for oncoming cars to navigate to a wide spot in the road to pass each other. On the other hand, when driving slower than following cars, it is common for drivers to allow others to pass or signal if the way is clear. Calculating driving time can be slower than expectations, due to the large increase in motorists and road conditions/hazards.
As mentioned above, speed limits in the Republic of Ireland (but not in Northern Ireland) are in kilometres per hour. The general maximum speed limits are as follows:
- Built-up area (e.g., in a residential or shopping district) - 50 km/h and sometimes 30 km/h
- Regional or Local Road (e.g., R292, R134, L12345, etc.) - 80 km/h
- National Road (e.g., N7, N17, N56, etc.) - 100 km/h
- Motorway (e.g., M1, M4, M50, etc.) - 120 km/h
Local Councils may apply other limits in specific areas as required. Also when roads are being maintained or worked upon in some way, the limit may be temporarily changed.
Car rental companies
There is no shortage of car rental companies in Ireland with all of the major airports and cities throughout Ireland being well catered for, while the ports of Rosslare and Dún Laoghaire are served by Hertz and Dan Dooley respectively. Renting a car in Ireland is very similar to the processes elsewhere in that you need a credit card in your own name and a full driver's license for a minimum of two years without endorsement. Most car rental companies in Ireland apply an age range of 25 - 72 in order to rent a car, but in many cases you will need to be 28 in order to rent a full-size car. There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are not advertised. If you prebook over the internet then read your contract carefully. Car rental companies are notorious for adding on extra charges such as a fuel surcharge for providing the car with a full tank and then asking you to return it as close to empty as possible. If you use an overseas credit card and do not advise them otherwise, they will bill you automatically in your home currency using a conversion rate which may be worse than what your card issuer would provide.
|Car rental company
|Thrifty Car Rental Ireland (AKA Malone Car Rental and Dollar Car Hire)
||Cork Airport, Dublin Airport, Dublin City Center and Shannon Airport
||€68 one-way fee, €22 airport fee
||Cork Airport, Dublin Airport, Dublin City Center, Galway Airport, Galway City Center, Ireland West Airport (AKA Knock Airport), Kerry Airport, Killarney and Shannon Airport
||€25 "city center location surcharge" (Galway or Dublin center) or "standard airport surcharge" paid at pickup. One way fee of €25 to/from Galway Airport, Galway City, Kerry Airport, Killarney and Knock Airport
||Cork Airport, Donegal Airport, Dublin Airport, Dublin City Center, Galway Airport, Kerry Airport, Knock Airport, Mullingar and Sligo Airport
||€26 airport surcharge, €25 Dublin city surcharge. Apparently no one-way fee
||Cork Airport, Dublin Airport, Dublin City Center, Galway Airport, Kerry Airport, Knock Airport and Shannon Airport
||€23 "tax" fee, apparently no one-way fee except for premium model cars
|Carhire (AKA Alamo and National Car)
||Cork Airport, Dublin Airport, Dublin City Center, Galway Airport, Kerry Airport, Knock Airport and Shannon Airport
||€25 "location fee" plus €4 "credit card transaction fee" not included in quotes, €50 one-way fee ("optional extras")
||Cork Airport, Donegal Airport, Dublin Airport, Dublin City center, Galway Airport, Kerry Airport, Knock Airport, Rosslare Harbour Office, Shannon Airport, Sligo Airport, Waterford Airport and Ferrybank, County Wexford
||€25 one-way fee
|Irish Car Rentals (also agents for Sixt and Argus)
||Cork Airport, Dublin Airport, Dublin City Center, Kerry Airport, Knock Airport, Limerick City Center and Shannon Airport
||€22 airport collection fee (if collecting from city, they add a €20 "collection charge" instead!) and €1.32 per day "road fund tax" not included in quotes. €6 personal insurance added to initial quote. No one-way fee for 3 day rentals, or certain times of the year (especially mid-week)
||Cork Airport, Cork Ferryport, Dublin Airport, Dublin City Center (3 locations), Dún Laoghaire, Kerry Airport and Shannon Airport
||wide range of locations, but expensive
|Atlas Car Hire
||Cork Airport, Cork City Center, Dublin Airport, Dublin City Center and Shannon Airport
||€50 one-way fee applies
Chauffer driven travel
Ireland Chauffeur Travel with Driver Guides –Private Chauffeur and Driver Guided Transportation all over Ireland.
Privately Guided Adventure Tours of Ireland - Wolfhound Adventure Tours have great small group adventures all over Ireland and they explore more with a mix of bikes, hikes and history.
Campervan Hire from Bunk Campers- Budget Campervan Hire in Ireland available from Belfast & Dublin. Online Booking.
Campervan Hire Ireland - Campervan and Motorhome Hire in Ireland. Located near Shannon Airport.
- Bicycle hire - in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, the biggst, enclosed, urban park in Europe.
Aer Arann operates an extensive domestic, and international air network from Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Kerry, Galway, Knock, Sligo and Donegal. British Airways operates a route from Dublin to Derry. Ryanair also operates flights from Dublin to Cork and Shannon rivaling Irish Rail and bus providers.
Most trains in Ireland (all operated by the state-run Irish Rail also known by their Irish name, Iarnród Éireann) operate to and from Dublin. Enormous expenditure on modernising the state-owned Irish Rail system is ongoing, including the introduction of many new trains. The frequency and speed of services is being considerably increased, especially on the Dublin-Cork line. If you book on-line for Intercity travel, be aware that there may be a cheaper fare option available to you at the office in the station itself. Not all special rates, e.g., for families, are available on line.
Note that there are two main stations in Dublin - Connolly Station (for trains to Belfast, Sligo and Rosslare) and Heuston Station (for trains to Cork, Limerick, Ennis, Tralee, Kilarney, Galway, Westport, Kilkenny and Waterford.)
In the Northern Ireland , almost all services are operated by NIR (Northern Ireland Railways).
In the Dublin city area the electrified DART (acronym for Dublin Area Rapid transit) coastal railway travels from Malahide and the Howth peninsula in the North to Bray and Greystones in Co. Wicklow via Dún Laoghaire and Dublin city center. An interchange with main line services and the Luas Red line is available at Dublin Connolly.
Dublin has a tram system, known as Luas (the Irish word for 'speed'). There are two lines. One (the red-line) operates from Dublin city centre (Connolly Station) to a large suburb south-west of the City (Tallaght) and the other (the green line) runs south-east (to Sandyford) from St Stephen's Green. Tickets must be puchased from machines before boarding the tram. Tickets are checked in the Luas at random by guards but generally ticketing works on a trust system. Thus free rides are possible, although not advisable, as the fines for fare-dodging can be quite high. The Luas tram provides a very useful link between Dublin's Connolly and Heuston railway stations.
Dublin has an extensive, city-wide bus service operated by Dublin Bus (or, in Irish, Bus Átha Cliath). Season tickets and all day tickets are also available.
JJ Kavanagh & Sons operate an extensive intercity network directly from Dublin Airport and Shannon Airport to Limerick , Carlow , Waterford , Clonmel ,Kilkenny and Dublin city Center plus local services in major towns.
Bus Éireann (or Irish Bus) operates an extensive intercity network plus local services in major towns. Bus Eireann's website provides various options for buying online bus tickets which offer a good discount compared to buying them at the station or on the bus.
Ulsterbus opperate bus services throughout the North.
Citylink provides frequent service from Galway to Shannon, Dublin, and Dublin Airport.
Busnestor runs the Galway to Dublin and Athlone to Dublin routes.
Aircoach connects Dublin with Cork and Belfast.
- Coach Hire & Tours Ireland provide private Coach & Minibus Hire and also run specialist golf tours around Ireland
- Shannon cruises are a leisurely way of traveling from one town to another. Dromineer and Carrick on Shannon are good bases.
- There are many canals in Ireland, and it is possible to travel by barge on some of them.
- Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands Cruises has a daily direct passenger ferry from Doolin Pier, Co. Clare to the Aran Islands and they also do sightseeing tours to view the Cliffs of Moher from sea level.
Ireland is beautiful for biking, but have a good touring bike with solid tires as road conditions are not always excellent. Biking along the south and west coasts you can be prepared for variable terrain, lots of hills and often into the wind. There are plenty of campgrounds along the way for long distance cyclists.
The planned Eurovelo cycle route in Ireland will connect Belfast to Dublin via Galway, and Dublin to Rosslare via Galway and Cork. Visit their website for updates on the status of the path.
Dublin has some marked bicycle lanes and a few non-road cycle tracks. Traffic is fairly busy, but a cyclist confident with road cycling in other countries should have no special difficulties (except maybe for getting used to riding on the left). Note that, in Ireland, left turning cars have right of way over cyclists to their left. Cyclists have no special right of way over cars, particularly when using shared use paths by the side of a road, but share and get equal priority when in the traffic lane. Helmets are not legally required, but widely available for those who wish to use them.