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Travel guide for Ireland

Ireland! The land of myth and mystery combined with relaxation in Europe’s most authentic pubs. One of the world’s longest coastal roads, ancient castles and impressive monuments are just a few of the elements that make up the country’s unique landscape. You’ll see the cities’ intense rhythms, their crazy fun and listen to hours of Irish music. Below in our comprehensive travel guide, you’ll find all the information you need before your first trip to the country.

General Information

  • See the documents you need for your trip to Ireland here.
  • The voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50Hz. Socket type G.
  • The national currency in Ireland is the Euro (€).
  • You can purchase a sim card for data once you arrive at the airport. You can buy a surfroam sim if you travel frequently. It is used for global internet with very low charges and use it in over 200 countries including Ireland. For more information see here.
  • It is a large island in North West Europe. Most of the island belongs to the Republic of Ireland, while the northeastern part, called Northern Ireland, belongs to the United Kingdom.
  • The capital of the Republic of Ireland is Dublin, while Northern Ireland’s largest city and capital, Belfast.
  • The population of the country is about 6.5 million according to the latest estimate.
  • The first official language in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is Irish. English, however, is the main spoken language.
  • In terms of religion, the majority of the population is Catholic, followed by various minorities in much smaller proportions.
  • Driving in Ireland, as in England, is done on the left hand side.

Budget

People usually opt for the well-known and touristy Dublin, which is one of the most expensive places in the country in terms of accommodation. In other cities and in the provincial part of the country, the landscape is different. However, the accommodation options are numerous and can cater for all available budgets. Prices vary obviously depending on the time of year you visit the country. Below we list some prices based on our own quick research in different areas in Ireland.

Low budget: In the first category you can find accommodation starting from as little as 33€ per night in Dublin. In Belfast, respectively, one can find a room for as little as 22€ per night. These rooms usually have private bathrooms and if you are lucky, they may include breakfast.

Mid budget: In the middle category prices start from 60€ and can even go up to 90€ per night.They usually include free internet and breakfast in their amenities.

High budget: finally we have our most expensive category. A night in something more comfortable like the 5-star Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin can start at €200 per night, but can go over €400 as well. Here, accommodation includes everything from breakfast and Wi-Fi to a fully equipped gym and even a bar.

*The above prices are for double rooms.

For availability and room prices see here.

Traditional Food

Irish cuisine has it all. Almost all traditional dishes include meat (especially lamb and pork), potatoes and cabbage. It is common to cook them for a long time and the only spices are usually salt and pepper. Also famous drinks in Ireland are their beers, most famously Guinness, and their whiskies, which are world famous. Classic Irish dishes will be mentioned below.

Seafood Chowder: This rich soup is made with cream and seafood, which some people call poor man’s food. It is one of the top choices when it comes to the country’s traditional food. Soup is so old that its name comes from the Latin caldera, which originally meant a place to heat things, and later meant a cooking vessel. Every restaurant has its own variation in terms of the recipe.

Guinness Brown Bread: Traditional bread ideal for breakfast or served alongside a meat dish.

Oysters: They are famous for their large oysters on the west coast. In fact, in September there is an entire oyster festival in the town of Galway.

Irish breakfast: It includes bacon, eggs, beans, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns and sausages. To accompany the already heavy breakfast some have the well-known Irish coffee. This coffee stands out from the others you know because they pour whiskey in it. Irish breakfast is commonly known as fry up and is served in restaurants much later than the common breakfast time, compared to other European countries.

Irish Stew: Traditionally made with mutton, onions and potatoes (some people add carrots). To avoid the stew being too watery, most people let it simmer for a long time. Of course nowadays most people use lamb in the recipe. Sheep meat is definitely tastier, but harder to find. Some people even put in thyme, parsley and bay leaves to make it more flavourful.

Colcannon and champ: Potatoes completely changed the Irish diet when they were introduced to the country in the late 16th century. Potatoes are still a staple in most meals today. Colcannon is a classic mash of potatoes, cabbage and butter (or cream), flavoured with spring onions. Champ is a similar mashed potato, flavoured with onions, milk and butter.

Boxty: The recipe calls for mixing grated raw potatoes with mashed potatoes. Then there are 2 alternatives. Either it is mixed with flour and salt and boiled before being shredded and fried in butter (boxty dumplings) or it is added to a pancake and then shredded and fried (boxty on the pan). No matter which way you choose, your boxty can be paired with almost anything. Try it with bacon and eggs or smoked salmon and cream.

Coddle: A speciality of Ireland’s capital city. The name coddle comes from the slow boiling or Coddling of the ingredients in the pot. They use pork sausages, potatoes and bacon for the recipe. It is served with the guinness brown bread mentioned above.

Transportation

By air: Ireland has 4 international airports. Dublin Airport is the busiest for travellers, but you can also reach Ireland via various combinations of air and rail routes as well as by ferry from Britain. It will take longer, but it’s often cheaper depending on where you’re travelling from. Find your flights here.

Buses and Trains: With Ireland being a fairly small country, getting around is fairly easy and affordable. If you’re only travelling mainly to the major cities, then a bus or train is the best way to get around. Train costs vary depending on the distance, but to get from Dublin to Galway can cost 13€ and take around 2.30 hours. Further costs and timetable availability, depending on where you want to go, can be found here.

Car: The most flexible way to discover the country is by renting a car. Prices range from 35€ per day. With your personal car, you have the opportunity to see the most charming small towns that you would otherwise not be able to discover. Just remember that they drive on the left side of the road. Availability and prices for rentals can be found here.

What to do in Ireland

The Coastal Route

The Wild Atlantic Way, 2600 km long, is one of the longest coastal routes in the world. It runs along the west coast of Ireland from the Inishowen Peninsula in the north to the picturesque town of Kinsale in the south. This start-to-finish route unfolds the wonders of nature and the power of the ocean on the west coast of Ireland and the stunning countryside in all its glory. Along the route you will find charming and picturesque villages, as well as various ancient monuments. It is preferable to have rented your own car so that you can follow your own itinerary just as you wish.

Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland
Galway

It is the cultural heart of Ireland. It is a well-known student town with a lively student life, young people and great pubs. There are many festivals and cultural events, especially during the spring and summer. In 2020 it was chosen to be the European Capital of Culture along with Rijeka, Croatia. In the region you can still visit the famous Kilmacduagh Monastery. You can admire the beauty of the landscape as well as the tower itself, the ruins of the temples and the Celtic crosses.

Finally you can visit the castle of Leeds. The castle is a medieval, fortified, four-storey house with carved windows and gargoyles. Built by the powerful Lynch family as protection against raids of the time, parts of the limestone building date back to the 14th century, but most of it was built in the 16th century. The Lynches, of Anglo-Norman origin, were one of the powerful 14 tribes that ruled Galway. More information about the town can be found here.

Galway in Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway

One of the most impressive sights in Northern Ireland is the Giant’s Causeway. A masterpiece of nature created by the rapid cooling of lava at this particular spot, following intense volcanic activity in the area. The columns present on the site reach up to 12 meters high. There are of course several people who are not convinced and argue that the symmetry of the site is a creation of nature alone with various myths floating in the air. The columns start from the foot of the mountain and reach down to the sea. This area has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is number 4 on the UK’s list of natural wonders.

The giant's causeway
Belfast

Belfast, as we mentioned at the beginning, is the capital of Northern Ireland, but also its largest city. The name of the city is derived from the Irish words Beal Feirste meaning the mouth of the Farsett, a river in the region of great importance for navigation at the time. The area was also home to the great shipbuilding company that built the Titanic, which later sank in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage.

Belfast has now left behind hostilities and clashes with the IRA and has entered an era of economic growth and prosperity. In Belfast you can see the majestic Belfast City Hall, Belfast Castle, stroll through the city’s botanical gardens and do your shopping and eat at St George’s market. This market, is the last Victorian market to exist in Belfast. Don’t miss the Crown Bar or The Crown Liquor Saloon, one of the most popular establishments.

Belfast the capital of Northern Ireland
Dublin

Capital of the Republic of Ireland and the place most tourists choose to visit. The energy of the city is something special. You’ll notice it as soon as you pass through the famous alleys of the Temple Bar district. The area is mainly known for its nightlife, which lasts until the next morning. There you’ll find locals and tourists alike making their regular weekend rounds from Victorian pubs to trendy cocktail bars. What the area has in common is a good mood and a love of fun. In the same district you’ll find the famous Temple Bar of the same name. Live traditional music, a cosy atmosphere and plenty of booze all add to the image of this legendary pub. Finally, you can walk around the medieval churches, the picturesque alleys and get some fresh air in the city’s beautiful parks.

PERSONAL FACT: Dublin was the destination my friends and I chose for my Bachelor’s party. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a similar place for a similar situation! The options are many, the people are friendly and the city in general is overflowing with energy and fun.

Killorglin

Visit Killorglin in the heart of Kerry. The town is small and you can get around relatively quickly. Discover stories of days gone by at the Underground Museum and pick up fresh, local produce at the weekly farmers’ market. Plan your visit to the Puck Fair, one of Ireland’s oldest street festivals held in August. Steeped in mystery and legend, experience the vibrant carnival atmosphere with storytelling, traditional music and parades. The beer in Kilorglin is made by the locals and served hot, which is strange to most people. A landmark is the statue of a goat that many people run to take a picture of.

 Killorglin in the heart of Kerry
Ballycarberry Castle

Ballycarberry Castle is situated in an area known as “over the water” by the locals in Cahirciveen. This impressive castle, with the tower now choked with ivy foliage, was once the home of the McCarthy clan and was built in the 15th century. It is probably the largest and most impressive castle built on the Iveragh peninsula and is still very impressive, thanks to the nature that has literally embraced it. It’s not so well preserved anymore, but that doesn’t mean it goes unnoticed. Access is obviously available as several walls have now fallen down. The highest point is the first floor, which can be reached by stairs, also not well preserved.

Ballycarberry Castle is situated in an area known as “over the water
Cahersiveen

Cahersiveen with a population of about 1200 people is one of the westernmost towns in Ireland and, therefore, one of the westernmost towns in Europe. The town is situated at the foot of Mount Beentee, on the River Fertha and overlooks Valentia Harbour. It has remained a town based on its local market for centuries and has never fully enjoyed the benefits of the tourist industry, making it perhaps one of the most authentic towns in the Kerry Ring. The name Caherciveen can be spelt 3 different ways, Caherciveen, Cahersiveen and Cahirciveen.

A beautiful marina has been added to the town in recent years and if you are a boating or a sea enthusiast, it is well worth a visit. Horseback riding is also very common in the town. Finally, other sights to see are the old city camp, as well as the stone forts of Leacanabuaile and Cahergal which steal the show and are definitely worth a visit.

Cahersiveen with a population of about 1200 people is one of the westernmost towns in Ireland
Cliffs of Moher

One of the most iconic coastal landscapes in Ireland. During your visit, you can learn about the formation of these famous cliffs. Facts such as why they are of such great natural and geological importance internationally, and why the cliffs are a protected area. Birds make colonies in the area, nesting and flying under the cliff edges. The cliffs are made of hard sand and mud. These layers of rocks are supported by an older series of limestone rocks, with a thin layer of shale between the rocks. For more information about the rocks, and to book, you can visit the page here.

Cliffs of Moher! One of the most iconic coastal landscapes in Ireland.

Packing Tips & When to go

Ireland’s weather is mild all year round. In fact, the country’s weather can be perfectly summed up in three little words: mild, wet and variable with lots of rainfall. Among the required things that are good to bring with you to Ireland, we recommend the following:

Waterproofs and an umbrella: The chances that you will experience some rain regardless of the month you are travelling in are high. It is highly recommended that your raincoat is also windproof to avoid wind issues.

Boots: Whether you want to explore Ireland’s rocky countryside or spend the day exploring the country’s cities on foot, it’s safe to say you’ll be doing a lot of walking. To be safe from minor injuries, and for the potential rain you’ll encounter, boots are the best solution. As long as they are waterproof and hold your foot firmly.

Power Bank: No one wants to run out of battery either on their phone or on the photographic equipment you’re likely to bring with you.

Travel adapter: It’s a good idea to carry a travel adapter for power outlets. We suggest it be for all countries so you don’t have to buy a separate one each time. There are several commercially available ones that convert accordingly.

Rain and clouds are present almost all year round in Ireland. The best seasons to visit the country are from March to May and from September to November. During these periods temperatures are more favourable and the tourist season is not at its peak. This means equally favourable prices and better conditions in carrying out your activities. We personally had visited Dublin in the month of December. The temperatures were quite low, however the atmosphere of the city was incredibly “warm” so it was not a deterrent for us.

Useful Words

The predominantly spoken language in Ireland is English. You won’t encounter any communication problems in the provincial part either. However, for those who want to know some words in the Irish language, we have listed a few below.

YesHow much it costsCé mhéad
NoGood MorningMaidin mhaith
HelloDia duitGood NightOíche mhaith
Thank youGo raibh maith agatMy name is…Is mise ..
You’re welcomeTá fáilte romhatGoodbyeSlán

Useful Sites & Apps

Throughout the years we have been travelling we usually look for apps or websites that help us to get around better, either before or during the trip. In this way we have access to useful information like where can we get the best deals and expand our options. We usually make our choices on what activities we are going to do and where to go with help from those apps and follow the best ratings. Some we used are:

Booking.com

With a plethora of choices, traveller points that help you get better deals the more you travel, promo codes for you and your friends, with available credit options as well and much more. Start booking and see for yourselves. For available rooms and prices look here.

Air Bnb

With more than a million properties around the world and still growing. A very popular choice for those looking for more affordable options even at the most expensive locations. Having the choice to pick an apartment or even a whole villa would make you feel more at home while you travel.

Hotels.com

Registering here is free and easy. Every hotel on this platform will grant a free tenth night, so if you stay for ten nights the tenth night is free.

Trip Advisor

I don’t know anyone that has ever travelled and not used this platform for reviews or information about almost any location around the world. Hundreds of millions or reviews are available for most interesting locations when one is traveling. It can even help you find interesting things to do where you live and haven’t noticed yet.

Omio.com

Anything you need a click away. Find the best deals on trains, buses, flights, or even ferry tickets. Travel to thousands of destinations in Canada, the USA, and Europe. I often check here when I am already on a trip and I need to visit some neighbouring town or city. Check available routes here.

Kiwi.com

The first place to visit before any trip for advice on the fastest and most efficient search engine for flights, especially when you are trying to find the best deals. We love the option to choose any location and get the cheapest options for a fixed timeframe. This way you don’t even have to pick where to go, save money and have a spontaneous trip. For available flights and prices look here.

GetYourGuide

And for whomever likes activities and adventures or are even interested in museums and historical locations there is anything available to do and can be mostly found on this platform. You can even set a time and location to find what to do and not waste time waiting. Only make sure you check the reviews to know what to expect at each different activity or visit. We have used it many times throughout Africa, Asia, and the USA without any issues. For available activities and tours check here.

Discover Cars

For car rentals at the lowest prices, servicing in over 150 countries and with the best deals and support in over 12 different languages for your own leisure.

Hotel Tonight

Here you will find last minute discounts on vacancies from hotels. This is an amazingly simple app and it doesn’t take long to book a room. You may search in each town for sights and maps. Furthermore, you can check the reviews and photos of other travellers in order to be sure about the trustworthiness of each hotel. It also has a 24/7 customer service. If you’re stuck somewhere and you need a room desperately, this is the perfect app for you.

City Maps 2Go

Maps for travelling, hiking, mountain cycling and many other activities. A necessary app for every adventure, activity or touring abroad. You may only download one map per country, whereas it was possible to download two in the past. For an additional map you need to pay.

You can mark all the places of interest on the map you have downloaded. Whether they are sights, shops, or restaurants you can use the directions guide to get there. The great advantage to this app is that you don’t need to have internet connection although it might get stuck a few times. Nevertheless, it is quite a reliable and useful app.

EXTRA TIP

Once you have marked all the places you want to visit prior to your trip, you can also book your accommodation accordingly. This way you can be sure you’ll be staying somewhere close to all places of interest.

iVisa.com

More information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and destination can be found here.

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