Like every country in the world, there are endless laws in Ireland.
However, most (hopefully!) will be common sense, e.g. don’t steal load of magnets from a gift shop.
Others, like the smoking ban and the different Irish laws around drinking, tourists need to be familiar with.
Some quick need-to-knows about the laws in Ireland
Now, a quick disclaimer – this is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the various laws in Ireland.
This is a collection of some of the Irish laws that we have found tourists tend to get most confused about.
1. The visa requirements
Like most countries across the globe, there are laws in Ireland around visa for residents of certain countires.
The most common visa is a short-term holiday visa that covers stays of up to 90 days. You can complete the application online and a fee is usually charged.
You should apply at least 8 weeks before your trip to ensure your visa application is processed in time.
British and Irish citizens do not need any travel documents when crossing the land border between the two countries (see the differences between Ireland and Northern Ireland).
Residents of the EU/EEA also do not need a visa, but holidays are limited to 3 months, maximum
2. The legal drinking age
Ireland is famous for its pub culture and it is one of the big attractions for any visitor. However, you need to be sure of the law before ordering alcoholic drinks in a bar or buying alcohol in a store or off-license.
The legal drinking age in Ireland is 18, and this applies even if someone older buys the drink. It’s also illegal for anyone under 18 to buy alcohol.
The penalties are severe for anyone who sells or serves alcohol to a minor, so most pubs and stores ask to see proof of age for anyone who even appears to be underage.
3. Smoking isn’t allowed in certain places
One of the best Irish laws (the opinion of a non-smoker!) was the introduction of the smoking ban in 2004.
Smoking is banned in most public places in Ireland including restaurants, bars, hospitals, shops and on public transport.
Exceptions to the ban include hotel rooms (unless the hotel stipulates it is a non-smoking room) and outdoor areas.
Smoking in the workplace has been illegal since 2004 and this includes private homes if tradespeople are present.
The penalty for smoking in an enclosed public place is severe, with a maximum €3,000 on-the-spot fine for offenders or even a prison sentence in extreme cases.
You are permitted to smoke in your own private vehicle as long as there is no-one under the age of 18 in the car.
4. The many driving laws
Driving in Ireland can be tricky for many tourists. However, if you take the time to 1, understand the rules of the road and 2, practice caution, you’re setting yourself up for success.
You need to be familiar with driving laws in Ireland before getting behind the wheel. Some of the more notable Irish laws for driving are:
- You must have a valid full driving license or an international driving permit to drive
- Everyone in the car MUST wear a seat belt at all times
- Children are required to use safety seats suitable for their age/size.
- Speed limits must be adhered to
- Never drink and drive
- See our guide to renting a car in Ireland
5. The often confusing M50 toll
If you’re driving on the M50 toll road around Dublin, you may be surprised to find there are no toll plazas/booths.
Instead, it uses a barrier-free toll system that captures your vehicle registration plate between junctions 6 and 7.
If you have an electronic toll tag or video account, the charge is made to your account. If you do not have one of these auto-payment methods you need to pay the toll before 8pm the following day to avoid late penalties.
6. There are curfews on when kids can stay in pubs
Families with children are welcome in most pubs after 10.30am but there are some restrictions.
Children under 15 must be supervised by an adult at all times and they must leave before 9pm (10pm from May to September).
There is an exception to this time restriction if children are attending a private function where a meal is being served.
The licence holder can refuse to allow children to stay if they feel the child’s well-being or safety is at risk.
7. Use common sense
The last of the laws in Ireland in this guide isn’t really a law – it’s about what not to do in Ireland.
Although you’re unlikely to get arrested for any of these things (here’s a list of them), they are well worth being aware of.
FAQs about Irish laws
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Can you drink under the age of 16?’ to ‘Can you smoke on a private tour bus?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Can a 16 year old drink in Ireland?
No. You need to be 18+ to buy an alcoholic drink in Ireland from both an off license and from a premises serving alcohol, e.g. a pub or restaurant.
Can you smoke indoors in Ireland?
No. The only exception is if you book into a hotel that has dedicated smoking rooms. Smoking in public places and in indoor workplaces is prohibited.