Plan your trip to Ireland with Insight's travel information on visas, embassies, transport, health care, currency and what to read.
Passports are required by everyone visiting the Republic except British citizens (though most airlines insist on a passport for ID). Visas are not required by citizens of eu countries, Australia, Canada or the USA. Citizens of these countries can enter Ireland for three months with just a passport (see www.inis.gov.ie), and Northern Ireland for six months (see www.fco.gov.uk).
Australia: Fitzwilton House, Wilton Terrace, Dublin 2; tel: 01-664 5300; www.ireland.embassy.gov.au
Britain: 29 Merrion Rd, Dublin 4; tel: 01-205 3700; www.britishembassyinireland.fco.gov.uk
Canada: 7–8 Wilton Terrace, Dublin 2; tel: 01-231 4000; www.canada.ie
New Zealand: None. www.nzembassy.com/united-kingdom
South Africa: 2nd Floor, Alexandra House, Earlsfort Centre, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2; tel: 01-661 5553; www.dfa.gov.za/foreign/bilateral/ireland.html
US: 42 Elgin Rd, Dublin 4; tel: 01-668 8777; www.usembassy.ie
American Consulate General, 223 Stranmillis Road, Belfast; tel: 028-9038 6100; http://london.usembassy.gov/nireland
There are flights from Britain and Europe to Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports, with over 30 airlines flying from 70 destinations. The flight time from London to Dublin and Belfast is about 1 hour and 10 minutes; to Cork it’s 1 hour. The flight time from Amsterdam to Dublin is 1 hour and 45 minutes, and from Paris 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you plan to visit mainly the southwest of Ireland, use Cork Airport. There are also frequent flights from British airports to regional airports in Kerry, Galway, Waterford and Knock (County Mayo).
There are direct flights from the US to both Dublin and Shannon airports and Belfast International Airport. The main carriers are Aer Lingus, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines and US Airways. There are direct flights from Boston, Chicago, New York, Newark, Orlando and Philadelphia. The flight time from New York to Dublin is 5 hours and 30 minutes, from Boston 7 hours, and from Chicago 8 hours.
Travel from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa is generally via London or one of the European or Gulf cities that have direct flights to London (eg Frankfurt or Abu Dhabi). From Australia or New Zealand it takes more than 24 hours to reach Ireland. From South Africa it takes at least 13 hours.
The best way to get a cheap flight from the UK or the European mainland to Ireland is to book online as far ahead as possible. Competition is intense, and prices can be very low – often below €50 each way. On the other hand, booking at the last minute can mean that the same flight will cost you around €180 each way.
Ireland’s main airports are:
Dublin Airport (DUB); tel: 01-814 1111; www.dublinairport.com; 10km (6 miles) north of the city centre. Transatlantic flights and flights from Europe and the UK; domestic and holiday charters.
Cork Airport (ORK); tel: 021-431 3131; www.corkairport.com; 5km (3 miles) south of the city centre. Flights from the UK and the rest of Europe; domestic and holiday charters.
Shannon Airport (SNN); tel: 061-712 000; www.shannonairport.com; situated on the west coast, 25km (16 miles) to the west of Limerick. Transatlantic flights, and flights from Europe and the UK; domestic and holiday charters.
Ireland West Airport (NOC); tel: 094-936 7222; www.irelandwestairport.com; 40km (30 miles) south of Ballina; 55km (34 miles) southeast of Sligo. Daily flights from the UK (8 destinations), flights to summer-sun hotspots, and holiday charters.
Belfast International Airport (BFS); tel: 028-9448 4848; www.belfastairport.com; at Aldergrove, 24km (15 miles) from the city. Local and UK flights, and all international traffic.
By sea. If you are visiting mainly the southwest of Ireland, Rosslare is the best port to use. The longer sea crossing from Swansea to Cork saves a considerable amount of driving on both sides. For the rest of the Republic of Ireland use Dublin or Dun Laoghaire. For Northern Ireland, head for Belfast or Larne.
The main ferry routes include Dublin/Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead (Wales) or Liverpool (England); Rosslare to Pembroke or Fishguard (Wales), Roscoff and Cherbourg (France); Larne to Fleetwood, Cairnryan or Troon (Scotland); Belfast to Stranraer (Scotland); and Cork to Swansea (Wales). Many routes vary by season; seas can be rough in winter.
The main ferry operators are:
Irish Ferries; www.irishferries.com; tel: 08717-300 400. Services: Holyhead–?Dublin North Wall, two crossings daily (3 hours 15 minutes); Holyhead–Dublin, fast service, four crossings daily (1 hour 49 minutes); Pembroke–Rosslare (3 hours 45 minutes). There are also sailings every second day between Rosslare and Roscoff and Cherbourg.
Stena Line; www.stenaline.co.uk; tel: 01-204 7700 in Dublin, 08705-707 070 in the UK. Services: Holyhead–Dublin (3 hours 15 minutes); Holyhead–Dun Laoghaire (1 hour 39 minutes); Fishguard–Rosslare (3 hours 30 minutes or 1 hour 50 minutes); Stranraer–Belfast (1 hour 45 minutes); Larne–Fleetwood (8 hours).
Fastnet Line; www.fastnetline.com; tel: 021-437 8892 in Cork, 0844-576 8831 in the UK. Services: Swansea–Cork (10 hours).
P&O Irish Sea Ferries; www.poirishsea.com; tel: 0871-664 4777 in the UK. Services: Cairnryan–Larne (1 hour 45 minutes); Troon–Larne (1 hour 49 minutes, mid-Mar–mid-Oct); Liverpool–Dublin (8 hours).
By bus. Bus companies run through services from various locations in England and Wales via the ferries. The ride to Galway from London, for example, takes around 17 hours by Bus Éireann/National Express, tel: 01-836 6111 in Dublin or 08705-808 080 in Northern Ireland; www.buseireann.ie or www.nationalexpress.com.
Public transport provision is not comprehensive. While there are plenty of intercity trains and buses, local services within each region are minimal. The best way to get around Ireland is therefore by car. Without a car, the best bet is to base yourself in a regional city and use public transport for day trips into the hinterland.
In the Republic, there are two national bus service providers: Bus Éireann Expressway (serving provincial areas nationwide) and Iarnród Éireann (operating intercity trains as well as the DART, the Dublin Area Rapid Transit system).
For information on bus travel within Dublin, contact Dublin Bus, tel: 01-873 4222; www.dublinbus.ie. Buses are plentiful, and dedicated bus lanes keep the traffic moving. The LUAS tram system, tel: 1-800-300 604; www.luas.ie, offers a handy connection between Connolly and Heuston train stations. Aircoach.ie, tel: 01-844 7118; www.aircoach.ie, has daily services from Dublin Airport via the city centre to Cork. Citylink, tel: 091-564 164; www.citylink.ie, links Dublin Airport to Cork and to Galway via Shannon Airport.
Eurailpasses are valid for bus and train travel in the Republic, excluding city services. Reduced-rate Rambler passes provide unlimited travel on buses and trains (excluding city services) for either 8 or 15 days. Tickets can be bought from any bus or train station in the Republic, or through a travel agent in your home country.
Domestic flights. There is a limited network of domestic flights linking Dublin with Cork, Shannon and the following regional airports: City of Derry, Donegal, Galway, Ireland West, Kerry, Sligo and Waterford. There are flights from Cork to Dublin, Donegal, Galway and Ireland West. Flight times for most domestic routes are around 30 to 40 minutes. The main operators are Aer Arran, Aer Lingus and Ryanair.
Trains. Trains in Ireland are clean and well run, and generally arrive on time. Trains radiate from Dublin on different lines, terminating in Waterford, Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Westport, Ballina and Sligo. The journey from Dublin to Tralee takes approximately 4 hours, and the route from Dublin to Sligo about 31/2 hours. A new line links Limerick and Galway via Ennis, and there are commuter lines from Cork to Cobh and Midleton, and from Dublin along the coast.
In most cases, however, it is cheaper – and a more flexible option – to travel around a region using bus services. All the same, booking online with Irish Rail can lead to worthwhile savings if you can book early and travel at off-peak times. Trains from Dublin to Cork, for example, can cost as little as €10 each way off-peak, compared to the standard fare of €71 return. Full-rate tickets can be bought immediately before travel from the ticket offices at stations. For information on rail travel, contact Iarnród Éireann, tel: 01-836 6222; www.irishrail.ie.
In Northern Ireland, trains run from Belfast northwest to Derry via Ballymena and Coleraine, east to Bangor and south to Dublin via Newry. For rail information, call Translink in Belfast, tel: 028-9066 6630; www.translink.co.uk.
Intercity coaches. The state-owned bus company, Bus Éireann, is the major operator of intercity coaches. Express bus timetables are sold in newsagents. Most towns have a central bus station, which can often be found adjacent to the rail station. Bus fares are generally much cheaper than rail fares, but the journey time is longer. Cork to Dublin by bus takes up to 5 hours, and costs about €18, compared to 2 hours 50 minutes by train at a standard fare of €66 one way (cheaper deals can be found online, and return fares offer better value for money).
Once off the main routes, small towns and villages may only be served by a couple of buses a week. The Bus Éireann website is excellent for route planning and also provides information on fares. For details of Expressway services, contact Bus Éireann at tel: 01-836 6111; www.buseireann.ie.
Other coach operators include:
Citylink.ie, tel: 091-564 164; www.citylink.ie, a private bus company linking Cork to Galway and Clifden via Shannon Airport.
Aircoach.ie, tel: 01-844 7118; www.aircoach.ie, runs daily services from Dublin Airport via the city centre and six stops en route to Cork.
In Northern Ireland buses are operated by the state-owned Ulsterbus service, with good links to those towns not served by trains. An Irish Rover bus ticket from Ulsterbus can be used in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and costs about £56 (€64) for 3 days, and £127 (€146) for 8 days. It also includes city centre bus travel everywhere but Dublin. For more details, contact Ulsterbus, tel: 028-9033 3000; www.translink.co.uk or www.ulsterbus.co.uk.
Boats and ferries. With over 4,800km (3,000 miles) of coastline and 14,480km (9,000 miles) of rivers and streams, Ireland is a boater’s paradise. You might rent a fishing boat to take advantage of the excellent freshwater and sea fishing, or enjoy the country’s scenic splendours in a rented cruiser (normally available with two to eight berths).
No boating permit is needed for navigating the Shannon, and all companies offer a free piloting lesson. Popular points of departure are Carrick-on-Shannon, Athlone, Banagher and Killaloe.
Reputable boat-hire companies can be found at www.discoverireland.ie and www.discovernorthernireland.com. For information on boating in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, contact Waterways Ireland, tel: 028-6632 3004; www.waterwaysireland.org.
The rugged islands off the coast of Ireland are rich in folklore, antiquities and spectacular natural wonders (especially birdlife). Fáilte Ireland’s publication Explore Islands of Ireland lists details of all accessible islands and provides contacts for scheduled ferries. See www.irelandsislands.com.
Cycling. Ireland is a good destination for cyclists, and many enthusiasts visit the country to take to its highways and byways. For those to do come, it is vital to bring wet-weather gear – and to be prepared for hilly roads.
Throughout the Republic, rent-a-bike outlets hire out sturdy Raleigh Tourer bicycles, which can sometimes be delivered to airports. Expect to pay upwards of €70 a week for rental. For a list of Raleigh rent-a-bike dealers, see www.raleigh.ie. In Dublin, you can hire bicycles and accessories from Cycleways, 185–186 Parnell Street; tel: 01-873 4748; www.cycleways.com. Another organisation is Dublin Bikes (www.dublinbikes.ie). Their bicycles can be hired and returned to 44 stations around the city. A three-day ticket costs €2, payable by credit card.
Organised cycling holidays are increasingly popular, either travelling in a group with a back-up van, or cycling independently to pre-booked accommodation, with baggage transfer. Irish Cycle Hire (tel: 041-685 3772; www.irishcyclehire.com) will rent you a bike, as well as offering self-guided tours with luggage transfer. Dublin-based Irish Cycling Safaris (tel: 01-260 0749; www.irishcyclingsafaris.com) offer routes on the Antrim coast, the highlands of Donegal, the Ring of Kerry, Wicklow and west Mayo.
Ireland has a strong tradition of road racing, and there are races most weekends, organised by Cycling Ireland (tel: 01-855 1522; www.cyclingireland.ie).
Outside the cities, Ireland’s roads are still amongst the least congested in Europe – although it’s hard to believe it when stuck in a traffic jam in Dublin’s ever-expanding suburbs or on the ring roads of Galway, Cork or Killarney. Irish drivers – especially outside Dublin – are generally courteous.
Road conditions. Roads linking the main cities are mainly motorway or dual carriageway. Most secondary and regional routes are smaller, two-lane roads (one in each direction).
There are toll charges for using the M50 Dublin orbital motorway, the M1 northern motorway, the Limerick tunnel plus three roads outside the Dublin area. Visit www.eflow.ie for information on barrier-free tolling.
In some areas finding a petrol station open on a Sunday morning may be a problem, so it’s best to top up on Saturday for weekend excursions. Petrol (gas) is sold by the litre.
Regulations. The rule on both sides of the border is to drive on the left and give way to traffic coming from the right. Drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seat belts; back-seat passengers must also wear belts if they are fitted.
In the Republic, the speed limit is indicated in kilometres, and is 45kmh, 60kmh or 80kmh (28mph, 37mph or 50mph) in urban areas, and 80kmh or 100kmh (50mph or 62mph) on National Routes (green signposts), with 120kmh (75mph) permitted on motorways. Remember when entering Northern Ireland that speed limits are indicated in miles – 30mph (48kmh) in built-up areas, 60mph (96kmh) on country roads and 70mph (113kmh) on motorways and dual carriageways. On-the-spot fines can be issued for speeding offences. Drink-driving laws are strict. It is an offence to drive with a concentration of alcohol exceeding 80mg per 100ml of blood.
Motoring associations. The Automobile Association of Ireland is affiliated to its UK counterpart, and has a reciprocal membership agreement, so if you are a member, be sure to take your AA card with you. Otherwise, contact your car-rental company for assistance. In the Republic, AA Ireland can be contacted at tel: 01-617 999; www.aaireland.ie. Contact details in Northern Ireland are tel: 0800-887 766; www.theaa.com.
Car hire. If visiting in July and August, be sure to book in advance. Car hire is expensive in Ireland, and advance booking as part of a fly-drive or train-ferry-drive package often leads to a better deal, as does booking online. Drivers under 25 and over 70 may have to pay a higher rate. Most companies will not rent cars to people over 76. If you intend to drive across the border, inform your rental company beforehand to check that you are fully insured. The big international car-hire companies have offices in all major cities, airports and ferry terminals. Local and international car hire companies in both the Republic and Northern Ireland are listed on www.carhireireland.com.
Both Ireland and Northern Ireland are part of the European Union, and have standard reciprocal healthcare arrangements. Australian Medicare has an arrangement with Ireland and Britain (Northern Ireland) that covers emergency hospital treatment but not GP surgery visits, which cost on average around €50 per consultation. None of these reciprocal arrangements will cover all medical costs, or repatriation, so it is advisable to take out travel insurance. Most travel policies exclude certain adventure sports unless an extra premium is paid: take note if you intend to go horse riding, kayaking, mountaineering, diving or windsurfing while in Ireland.
Ireland has a similar standard of medical care to the rest of western Europe. General practitioners expect payment in cash or by credit card at the conclusion of the appointment, as do the out-of-hours services that operate in most areas. Pharmacies generally display a green cross. Pharmacists or your accommodation providers will recommend a doctor. Treatment in one of the 35 public hospital accident and emergency units is free to those who have been referred by a GP, and to those who are entitled to hospital services under EU regulations or other reciprocal agreements. Others may be charged €100. If you are admitted to a public hospital, normal charges of €75 per day apply.
Condoms can be purchased at supermarkets and in pharmacies and in pub toilets across Ireland. The pill, including the morning-after pill, is only available on prescription. Note that abortion is illegal in Ireland.
Dublin: Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Eccles Street; tel: 01-803 2000; www.mater.ie.
Belfast: Royal Victoria Hospital, 274 Grosvenor Road, Belfast; tel: 028-9024 0503; www.belfasttrust.hscni.net.
Cork: University Hospital, Wilton; tel: 021-454 6400; www.cuh.hse.ie.
Limerick: Limerick Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle; tel: 061-301 111; www.hse.ie.
Lifeguards are only on duty at Blue Flag beaches during the summer months. In their absence, ask other surfers or swimmers for local knowledge about safe places to surf or swim, riptides and other hazards. Do not attempt to surf near the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands without local knowledge; the water is dangerously shallow.
Be sure to carry a mobile phone when walking: coverage is good even in relatively remote areas. Check the forecast before setting out, as weather can change dramatically in a very short time owing to the Atlantic weather systems. The most reliable meterological service is the official state one, Met Eireann – www.met.ie.
Irish way-marked routes are often in remote parts of the country, and way-marks can become hidden by vegetation. Walkers are advised to carry a compass and a detailed map. Be sure to wear strong hiking boots or shoes.
Crime and safety
In Ireland the police are known as Garda Síochána – Guardians of the Peace – and in the normal course of duty they do not carry arms. In Northern Ireland policing is carried out by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. All officers are routinely armed.
In Dublin, report any crime to Store Street Garda Station, tel: 01-666 8109.
In Northern Ireland contact the local police station or tel: 0845 600 8000; www.psni.police.uk.
Currency: Euro € notes in denominations of 500, 200 100, 50, 20, 10, 5; coins are 1 euro, and 50 cents, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1.
Exchange rates are US$ = €0.75, and GB£ = €1.15.
Northern Ireland uses the British pound. In border areas, both currencies are accepted at most large establishments including petrol stations and supermarkets.
Amounts of currency that exceed €10,000 must be declared on arrival or departure.
Tipping in restaurants and cafés is common, but not obligatory; about 10 percent of the bill is standard. Bar staff do not expect tips, and most people do not tip when served bar food. The exception is Dublin lounge bars, where drinks are brought to your table, and a small tip (20–50 cents) is expected. Tipping taxi drivers is optional; about 10 percent of the fare, or rounding up to nearest full euro is the norm.
Budgeting for your trip
Ireland is generally an expensive destination for visitors coming from the UK and the US, and also for visitors from elsewhere in the Eurozone. Alcohol and tobacco are far more expensive than in the rest of the Eurozone; eating out also tends to work out to be relatively pricey.
A cheap return flight from the UK costs approximately £60 (€69); a standard flight costs around £90 (€103). There are currently no business-class flights on this route.
A cheap return flight from the US costs approximately US$460 (€320); a standard flight costs around US$870 (€605) and a first-class flight in the region of US$2,900 (€2,016).
For a budget, backpacker-style holiday you will need to set aside €490 (£430/US$693) per person per week. A standard family holiday for four will cost around €2,400 (£2,106/US$3,393) per week. A luxury, no-expense-spared break can cost over €3,600 (£3,159/US$5,050) per person per week.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Dubliners; Ulysses by James Joyce. His coming-of-age novel and the collection of Dublin stories will help you decide whether to tackle his magnum opus, Ulysses.
Collected Poems by Seamus Heaney. Superbly crafted lyric poems by Ireland's latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change, 1970-2000 by Roy Foster. An enjoyable analysis of how the Celtic Tiger came to growl and how everyday life was transformed.
McCarthy's Bar by Pete McCarthy. Humorous account of an Englishman's discovery of his Irish roots. Excellent on pubs.
Georgian Dublin by Desmond Guinness. Enduring illustrated study of Dublin's 18th-century architecture.
Read more about planning your trip to Ireland in Insight Guides: Ireland
With its unique mix of jaw-dropping landscapes, lively cities, friendly people and buzzing nightlife, it's hard to beat a holiday in Ireland. This book is the perfect companion to this alluring countr...Read full description