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How To Get Around Ireland Without A Car

How To Get Around Ireland Without A Car

If you asked us 4 months ago was getting around Ireland without a car easy, we’d have said… “No… No it isn’t”.

Then we spent €10,000+ euro researching and writing Ireland’s largest collection of public transport itineraries.

And after that… We’d have still said “No!”

In fact, the time and money it cost us to plan trips that rely on getting around Ireland without a car made us realise how tricky it really is.

However, we’re now confident that, by using these itineraries, you’ll be able to get around via bus or train with ease.

But this guide isn’t dedicated to us tooting our own horns, it’s to give you the low-down on how to explore Ireland without a car!

Some quick need-to-knows about getting around Ireland without a car

If you read the points below, first, they’ll get you up-to-speed quickly on what Ireland without a car is like:

1. If you’re visiting main cities/towns a car isn’t needed

Most of the main towns and cities in Ireland, like Dublin, Limerick and Galway, are, for the most part, wonderfully walkable. You will, at times, need to use public transport, but a car is by no means necessary.

2. It’s possible to get around without a car, but you need to plan

If you’re planning a trip to Ireland and you’re going to be relying on public transport to get around, a finely tuned itinerary pays dividends. Public transportation in Ireland has its limitations, especially when you step off-the-beaten-path. Find hundreds of Irish Road Trip itineraries that only use buses/trains here.

3. Public transport availability varies greatly

You’ll be grand getting around Ireland’s cities and towns on public transport, but services are heavily reduced in certain parts of the country. The likes of Donegal, in particular, can be a nightmare to get around without a car.

4. Buying tickets in advance has pros and cons

When you decided on your Ireland itinerary, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of buying your bus/train tickets in advance. The advantage of buying tickets ahead of time means a guaranteed seat but also often, in the case of trains, a cheaper fair. Buying a ticket on the day gives you flexibility to change your plans, but you’ll also risk higher fares and limited seating.

The advantages of exploring Ireland without a car

Buses in Ireland

There are plenty of pros and cons to travelling in Ireland without a car. We’ll tackle the pros first, as there are several.

1. Car rental is expensive

While you’ll find hire companies all over the country, renting a car in Ireland is expensive and even more so in the high season months of July and August, so book well ahead.

Most cars are manual; automatic cars are also available, but tend to cost more to hire. 

Additional petrol and parking eat into your spending money and make the cost of a trip to Ireland skyrocket.

2. Ireland has a good train network

Ireland’s train network is good and serves all major cities and towns (though you may have to change trains in some spots).

Belfast, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford are all reached direct from Dublin and it’s a much faster way to travel than by bus or coach. 

Prices are reasonable too, but time and comfort are train travel in Ireland’s best attributes. 

3. You can use a combination of public transport and day tours

There will invariably be some places that public transport won’t reach (or, if it does, will take far too long). A good way to combat this is to book a combination of public transport alongside day tours. 

Use public transport where it’s logical, and then book on a day tour to visit more remote but famous attractions in Ireland such as the Cliffs of Moher, for example.

The disadvantages of exploring Ireland without a car

cost of public transport in ireland

Many guides on how to get around Ireland without a car are packed with negatives, and we can’t blame them.

There’s definitely a lot of limitations to public transport road trips, as you’ll discover below.

1. You’ll find it much harder to go off-the-beaten-path

From spectacular mountains to gorgeous fishing villages, some of Ireland’s greatest treasures lie well off the beaten path and reaching them without a car is almost impossible, unfortunately. 

This isn’t a densely populated country, and if you want some great experiences outside of the major cities and towns then you may have to look into car hire (some of Ireland’s coastal roads and mountain passes are stunning, after all). 

2. Some organised tours only run during the peak season

Organised tours are a great way of seeing sights that are difficult to reach without a car, but if you’re travelling here outside of the peak season then you may run into a spot of bother. 

Some tours won’t be running in off-season months like January and February, so bear that in mind if you’re planning a car-free trip to Ireland. 

3. Certain counties have terrible public transport

Parts of Ireland remain incredibly rural and, while in some ways that’s a good thing, it’s a nightmare if you’re attempting a car-free trip.

There’s no train service in West Cork for example, and entire counties like Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan have no network at all (buses are equally slow and unreliable). 

Again, plan ahead and use day tours when possible if visiting these more rural spots.

FAQs about how to get around Ireland without a car

We’ve had endless emails over the years from people about traveling in Ireland without a car.

Below, we’ve answered the most FAQs, but feel free to ask away in the comments section.

Can I get around Ireland without a car?

Traveling in Ireland without a car is 100& possible, you just need to plan carefully to take into account the limitations of buses and trains. It’s completely doable though.

What is the easiest way to get around Ireland?

We’d argue that a car is the easiest way to explore. Or, if you’ve cash to splash, a private driver. Alternatively, organised tours take the pain out of planning and getting around.

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Cammie Edgar

Thursday 29th of December 2022

I sooo appreciate your site as we plan for our 2023 bucket list trip to Ireland! I may be missing something, but the links above for the public transport itineraries takes me to the road trip itineraries and I don't see how to figure out which are public transport and which are car tours.

My other question is if you can recommend a way to find accommodations in the Gaeltacht (mostly looking around Galway) where we could stay in an Irish-speaking household. My Gaeilge is not great, but I'd love to have practice opportunities!

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