We get emails in from people asking for Ireland travel tips/things to know before visiting Ireland every single day, without fail.
It wasn’t until today – a cold and windy May morning (I’m currently sat freezing the arse off of myself in my attic…) – that I actually sat down and jotted out the guide below.
As far as Ireland travel tips go, there are a handful of need-to-knows, that’ll save you a lot of stress before visiting, and there are heaps of good-to-knows, which are handy to be aware of while you’re here.
Ireland travel tips that’ll come in handy
1. Planning your road trip properly will make your trip waaaaay more enjoyable
I get that this sounds very obvious, but it’s incredible how many people (and I’m including myself here) look forward to a trip for months or years but never spend the time to plan things out properly.
If you, like me, tend to wing it when you’re exploring a new country, it’s time to get organised. The biggest problem that I see people visiting Ireland encountering is that they don’t map out a proper itinerary.
As you’ll see if you read our guide to the perfect Ireland itinerary, your road trip route is mapped out for you the minute that you choose what airport in Ireland you’re going to fly into.
If you need help organising your Irish adventure, nip into our detailed (and BS-free!) guide to planning a trip to Ireland – it’ll help you map out a trip that you’ll remember for a lifetime.
2. Going off the beaten path will make you happy!
Go and visit the Cliffs of Moher, the Guinness Storehouse and all of the other tourist favourites (if you want to, that is) – but make a conscious effort to step off the beaten path.
It’s only when you do this that you really start to discover how mighty our little island really is. Places like the Beara Peninsula in Cork, the North Mayo coast and the Mourne Mountains in Down tend to get left off of many Ireland itineraries.
Which is a shame. As it’s in these lesser-known/visited corners of Ireland that you’ll discover how powerful the combination of natural beauty and peace and quiet can be.
3. There’s a LOT more to Irish culture than drink
Many people traveling to Ireland for the first time are completely unaware of how rich Irish culture really is. Yes, many of us enjoy a pint and yes, pub culture is a thing, but there’s so much more to Irish culture than you might have been led to believe.
Ireland’s culture has benefited from sport, music, literature, art, language, storytelling (see our section on Irish mythology), farming and food.
If you’re not familiar with many of the wonderful things that make Ireland tick, jump into our guide to Irish culture. It may surprise you.
4. Some visitors can shop VAT-free (one of the more useful Ireland travel tips if you’re on a budget)
If you’re traveling to Ireland from a non-EU country, you’re entitled to a VAT refund on eligible purchases made during your visit. Now, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t apply to things like hotels, food or car hire.
In fact, it’s intended to only apply to items that you can carry home in your hand luggage. In our guide to claiming a VAT refund after travelling to Ireland, you’ll find out everything you need to know.
5. Public transport can be a farce
Ireland’s public transport is notoriously bad, for the most part, so beware. Planning on only using buses and trains to get around when you visit Ireland? Expect them to be, at times, delayed, late or cancelled.
Now, with that being said, some services are pretty decent. I got the train to Galway recently and it was brilliant. Brilliant, but expensive.
If you’re weighing up renting a car and using public transport, it’s worth jotting down the pros and cons of both along with the total cost. Personally, I’d never use public transport to get around Ireland, as it’s too limited.
6. Renting a car can be stupidly expensive if you don’t do the research
I wrote a detailed guide to renting a car in Ireland recently. If you nip into it, you’ll see me rant… quite a bit. Personally, I believe that the car rental industry makes renting a car as confusing as possible.
I’m not the only one to think this, either. There has been a number of consumer reports outlining the shady practices of the car rental industry in Ireland.
Don’t get me wrong – you can rent a car in Ireland without much hassle if you take time to understand the ins and outs of, but if you don’t do the research, you can end up paying a LOT more than you have to.
7. Driving in Ireland (yes, there are narrow roads) can be daunting, but it’s fine once you’re prepared
A lot of people put off driving in Ireland as they’ve seen pictures of certain roads, like Conor Pass, that terrify them. Now, there are plenty of crazy roads in Ireland, but they aren’t nearly as bad as they look.
If you plan on driving during your Ireland trip, you can do so safely and with confidence, if you one, ensure that you understand the rules of the road and two, take some time to practice after you’ve picked up your rental.
In our guide to driving in Ireland for tourists, you’ll find plenty of Ireland travel tips for first-time drivers. It contains the basics (yes, you drive on the left side of the road!) to more useful info, like how to drive without the stress.
8. A Heritage Card is a solid investment (one of the best Ireland travel tips for families on a tight budget)
If you’re looking for money-saving Ireland travel tips, this should tickle your fancy. The Heritage Card is a very handy little money-saving tool to have tucked away in your arsenal.
In a nutshell, the Heritage Card gives you access to heaps of Heritage Sites across Ireland, like Kilmainham Gaol. You pay a set fee (€40 for an adult €90 for a family) and you have access to all of the sites for a year.
If you’re a family traveling to Ireland, the Heritage Card can save you a tonne. Find out more about what sites it gives you access to and how much you can realistically save in our guide to the Heritage Card.
9. The Dublin Pass is a handy one for saving €€ on Dublin’s top attractions
Another solid Irish travel tip is for those of you visiting Dublin that are looking to save a few quid. The Dublin Pass is a sightseeing card that can save you a serious bit of money.
Unlike some sightseeing cards, the Dublin Pass gives the holder access to many of Dublin’s top attractions, like the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle and the EPIC musuem.
If you’re visiting Dublin for two days, the pass can save you over €60. Nip into our guide to the Dublin Pass to learn more.
10. Irish slang can be pretty damn tricky to understand
I’ve been living in Ireland for just under 31 years and I still hear bits of slang every few weeks that I’ve never heard before. As is the case in many parts of the world, Ireland is home to a good dollop of slang words.
To add to the confusion, slang tends to vary GREATLY depending on the part of the country that you’re exploring and the age of the person that you’re chatting to.
In our guide to the most popular Irish slang words, you’ll discover many of the most frequently used slang terms and phrases, like ‘Yer Man’ and ‘It’s grand’, along with some of the lesser-known ones.
11. Tipping in Ireland isn’t always expected
Many guides on Ireland travel tips spread misinformation about tipping in Ireland, stating that it’s seen as rude if you don’t tip everyone from the bartender to the staff in your hotel.
In Ireland, aside from in places that serve you food (table service only), tipping isn’t custom. Is it appreciated? Sure! However, there isn’t a tipping culture in Ireland like there is in the USA and Canada.
In our guide to tipping in Ireland, you’ll find out where to tip and when along with how much to tip and when you really don’t have to.
12. Planning for every type of weather will pay off in the long run
Yes, you heard correctly – the weather in Ireland is mental. If you’re thinking, ‘Sure, I’m visiting in June – I’ll just pack shorts and t-shirts – it’ll be grand’, think again.
Summer in Ireland can go from dry and toasty one minute to cold, wet and windy the next. One of the best travel tips that I can give you if you’re visiting Ireland is to pack for every kind of weather.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, make sure to bring summery clothes, but also pack a light rain jacket and a warm hoody or cardigan.
13. There’s much more to Irish tradition than St. Patrick’s Day
Yes, St. Patrick’s is widely celebrated in Ireland and across the world, but we’ve plenty of other traditions in Ireland that are worth knowing about.
Some traditions, like the Puck Fair, are celebrated in just one part of the country while others, like Christmas and the many festivities that accompany it, are celebrated right the way across the island.
Hop into our guide to Irish traditions to discover some of the brilliant (and at times strange!) traditions, many of which have stood the test of time.
14. Visiting Ireland and fancy a drink? Make sure all of your party are of the legal drinking age
Some people visiting Ireland with their children tend to (not always) want to visit a pub during their time in Ireland, but they can often be unsure about what is and isn’t legal.
Drinking laws in Ireland may prevent some of your party drinking when they visit Ireland.
Ireland’s drinking laws are pretty crystal clear – the legal drinking age in Ireland is 18. In our guide to Irish drinking laws, you’ll discover the ins and outs.
15. Understanding the differences between Northern Ireland and Ireland
One of our final travel tips relates to the differences between the Republic of Ireland vs Northern Ireland. In a nutshell, the 6 counties of Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom.
The remaining 26 are part of the Republic of Ireland. Now, there’s no ‘hard’ border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – you can drive from one to the other without noticing.
The things you need to be aware of are:
- There are different currencies (hop into our guide to the currency in Ireland)
- You can be charged a hefty fee from crossing into NI if you have a rental car (more info in our guide to renting a car in Ireland)
16. Irish humour can be tricky to get your head around
I chat to a lot of people that are in the middle of planning a trip to Ireland or who have just returned home after being here. One of the things that tends to get mentioned often enough is the Irish sense of humour.
In Ireland, you could ramble into a bar and watch a group of aul lads that have been friends for 50 years abuse each other in a light-hearted manner for hours on end.
This is known as ‘Slagging’ and it generally isn’t meant in an offensive way. Hop into our guide to Irish jokes to see how good (and bad) Irish humour can be.
Have any other tips for travelling to Ireland you’d like to share?
If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘This clown is after forgetting to tell them about X’, or ‘I can’t believe he didn’t mention Y, it’s so useful to know’, please feel free to shout in the comments below.
The more useful travel tips for Ireland that this guide contains the better.
If you found this guide useful, make sure to drop into our tourist information hub – it’s packed with info that’ll ensure you have an enjoyable and stress-free time in Ireland.