If you’re wondering what not to do in Ireland, this guide will come in handy.
While there are endless things to do in Ireland, there are countless things to avoid.
From cultural faux pas and breaking the law to handy tips to help you make the most of your visit, here are 18 things not to do in Ireland!
1. Don’t drink and drive
The most important point in our guide on what not to do in Ireland relates to drink driving.
Hopefully, this goes without saying, but drink driving in Ireland is a definite no-no and it’s one of the handful of laws in Ireland that we’re constantly asked about.
By law, a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.05 is the legal limit.
The Gardaí (Irish Police) often carry out roadside breathalyser tests, so besides the increased risk of causing an accident, you also run the risk of getting fined.
So, if you’re going to have a drink, make sure the car is parked up for the night!
2. Don’t let tipping confuse you
Ireland doesn’t have the same kind of tipping culture as the U.S., but that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen at all.
While tipping in Ireland generally not expected in many industries, it’s normally appreciated if you do leave a tip. The main thing to remember is that tipping isn’t mandatory in Ireland.
Instead, tip at your discretion. The most common places you’d be expected to leave a tip would be at a pub or restaurant if you’re having a sit-down meal with table service.
Here, you’d generally leave 10%, or if you’re in a large group, perhaps 20%, but only if the service was good!
When drinking in pubs, you don’t need to tip each time you buy a round but feel free to leave something at the end if you’ve had a good time.
3. Don’t arrive without a clear itinerary
When I was a younger lad I never made plans when I was travelling. I wanted the freedom to go anywhere on a whim. While I had a good time, looking back now I see that I missed out on a lot of great things!
There are so many incredible things to see and do in Ireland, and if you really want to make the most of your time in the country, it’s really important to create an itinerary before you arrive.
4. Don’t opt for gastro pubs over old-school trad bars
To be fair, there are some superb gastro pubs across Ireland. But, in many cases, they could be anywhere in the world.
The truly unique and culturally rich pubs in Ireland are the old-school, traditional boozers, typically found tucked away down narrow lanes.
You won’t find Michelin Starred food at these places, but you’ll often find good-quality traditional dishes like stews, pies, and chowder.
And, it’ll normally be much more affordable. In these older pubs, you’re more likely to strike up a conversation at the bar or stumble upon an impromptu trad session of an evening.
5. Don’t’ get caught out with Irish slang
In of the things not to do in Ireland that’s often hard to avoid is to get caught out by slang.
The Irish certainly have a way with words, with a veritable treasure trove of Irish slang terms and expressions to choose from.
Some of these are pretty well known, like ‘what’s the craic’ or ‘eejit’, but others can be pretty confusing when you hear them as a visitor.
You don’t need to understand everything, but it’s a good idea to check out some of the most common slang terms if you want to avoid coming across as a bit of a melter when someone asks you where the jacks are!
6. Don’t drive without proper planning
Another key tip with regards to what not to do in Ireland is for those of you planning on renting a car in Ireland.
It’s a bad idea to try and wing it when it comes to driving in Ireland for the first time. The country is filled with narrow lanes and country tracks, as well as motorways and toll roads.
Knowing the rules of the road is essential, but it’s also well worth getting to grips with general driver etiquette.
Getting your head around this stuff makes it far less likely that you’ll end up breaking the law and getting fined, but also causing accidents through dangerous driving.
7. Don’t be afraid to step off-the-beaten-path
There’s a lot to be said for the major towns and cities in Ireland like Dublin, Galway, and Belfast. But, you’d be missing out on a huge slice of Irish culture by not straying from the beaten track every now and then.
Ireland is filled with hidden gems and some of the best attractions and most vibrant little towns aren’t all that well-known.
So, when planning your trip, be sure to explore the lesser-known places as well as the major attractions. You won’t regret it!
8. Don’t forget to learn the differences between Ireland and Northern Ireland
You’ll see this pop up in many guides on what not to do in Ireland and it’s an important one to note.
A surprising number of people who visit Ireland for the first time don’t realise the differences between Ireland and Northern Ireland – they are two separate countries on the one island.
They have their own currencies (Ireland uses Euros and Northern Ireland uses British pounds), their own flags, their own governments, and even use different measuring systems (road signs in Ireland use kilometres while those in Northern Ireland use miles).
There are many more differences besides these, but it’s good to know the basics before you embark on your trip, especially if you plan to visit both countries.
9. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to get around everywhere by bus and train
Another of the things not to do in Ireland is to assume that, as the country is small, getting around Ireland will be easy.
Ireland is full of contrast. It’s a real melting pot of old and new, with modern cities sitting side by side with old-school towns and villages.
So, while it’s easy enough to get around Dublin or Belfast using trams, buses, and trains, reaching some of the more remote areas is a little trickier.
To be blunt, the public transportation in Ireland can be awful. Places like County Donegal and southwest County Cork are packed full of incredible attractions, but you’ll almost always have to drive to them.
Travel between larger cities is normally easy enough by bus or train, but elsewhere, it gets a bit more complicated.
10. Don’t smoke indoors or drink in public
This is another what not to do in Ireland tip that can land you in big trouble if ignored.
On 29th March 2004, Ireland became the first country in the world to ban indoor smoking in public. Since then, pubs, restaurants, shops, and other public places have been smoke-free.
So, when visiting, please don’t light up at the bar! Many people still do enjoy a smoke and there are usually designated areas outside to do so.
Likewise, while public drinking in Ireland isn’t banned outright in Ireland, most cities and towns do have by-laws that prohibit it.
11. Don’t assume the weather in summer will be grand
Summer is by far the most popular time to visit Ireland. But, there’s no guarantee that the weather will behave! Ireland gets rain throughout the year and even in June, July, and August you can typically expect at least 11 (and as many as 25) rainy days per month.
It’s a difficult country to plan a motorcycle tour or camping trip for sure, but it’s not impossible. Just be aware that there’s a good chance you will have rainy days, and plan accordingly.
Pack wet-weather clothes and gear as well as your sunscreen and swimsuit.
12. Don’t be afraid to miss some of the ‘main’ attractions
This may seem like an odd tip in a guide on things not to do in Ireland, but bear with me.
Ireland boasts a number of ‘main’ attractions, like the Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway and the Ring of Kerry. These certainly are all fantastic places to visit, but Ireland is far from a one-horse town!
There’s no need to plan your entire trip just around the main attractions, and it’s not worth overextending yourself in an effort to see them all.
You’ll find plenty of incredible, less-well-known sites to explore instead without careening around the entire country in an attempt to catch all the main ones.
13. Don’t feel that you have to drink to attend a trad session
Many visitors to Ireland want to enjoy a traditional live music session or two during their stay. The best sessions are often found in vibrant pubs and bars.
But, that doesn’t mean you need to order an alcoholic drink to attend. It’s perfectly fine to sip on a soft drink, a cup of tea, or even a coffee while you enjoy the tunes.
And, if bustling pubs aren’t really your cup of tea, you’ll also find traditional music being played live elsewhere, though admittedly not quite as frequently.
Check out things like Galway’s ‘Tunes in the Church’ to enjoy exquisite traditional Irish music in a more relaxed environment.
14. Don’t forget to book time and availability-sensitive tours
Some of Ireland’s best attractions are well worth seeing on a tour. However, places like Newgrange can be fully booked out weeks in advance.
So, if you’re really keen to take a tour somewhere, be sure to secure your spot in advance to avoid disappointment. Leaving it until the last minute is a gamble at best, especially when it comes to day tours.
Even places like the Guinness Storehouse are worth pre-booking, especially in summer and if your time in Ireland is limited and you want to pack in as much as possible.
15. Don’t assume expensive accommodation or restaurants mean quality
The cost of a trip to Ireland tends to come down to the accommodation. It’s generally the highest cost you incur, so you want it to be great.
Just because somewhere is expensive doesn’t mean it’s worth the cost. Unfortunately, some parts of Ireland are super pricey even though the quality of the service or product is sh*te.
Don’t get me wrong, many of the castle hotels in Ireland and the various 5 star hotels in Ireland are worth splashing out on, but just never assume that a high price equals a great experience.
16. Don’t expect many stereotypes to exist
A guide on what not to do in Ireland wouldn’t be complete without addressing stereotypes. Ireland seems to be cursed with several stereotypes that just don’t really exist.
Unfortunately, some visitors to the country come looking for these stereotypes and can be pretty obnoxious, and occasionally insensitive, about it.
When you visit, come with your eyes open and realise that Ireland is a place with deep cultural roots and a long and fascinating history.
Not everyone spends the day downing pints of Guinness and the diet consists of far more than bland stews.
In fact, you’ll be amazed at the quality and diversity of dishes on the menu, especially if you’re a fan of seafood, succulent beef, and fresh, local produce.
17. Don’t be insensitive to Ireland’s past
Ireland’s past has been turbulent, to say the least, and many visitors forget just how recent the history actually is. A lot of Irish people have been directly affected by The Troubles and the scars have yet to heal fully.
Discussing Ireland’s political history with a stranger just isn’t something a lot of locals really want to do. Instead, opt for lighter topics when you get talking to people.
If you do want to learn more about Ireland’s past while you’re visiting, there are some fantastic tours with guides that are open to discussing it. Belfast’s Black Cab Tours, in particular, is excellent.
18. Don’t be easily offended
Last but by no means least in our guide on what not to do in Ireland relates to Irish insults.
People slag each other off all the time in Ireland. Don’t worry, it’s not normally done in a nasty way. In fact, taking the mickey out of someone is generally a sign of endearment.
A little light banter can also be used to break the ice. So, if someone calls you a daft eejit at the bar when you insist on leaving a tip for the umpteenth time, don’t take it as an insult!
Obviously, there are exceptions. Like anywhere, some people in Ireland just aren’t very nice and might give you a bit of hassle.
It’s usually easy enough to tell the difference between someone who’s trying to offend you and someone who’s just having a laugh with you though.
What things not to do in Ireland have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some obscure things not to do in Ireland from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about what not to do in Ireland
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What should first time visitors avoid?’ to ‘What not to do in Ireland that’s OK in the US?’.
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.
What is considered disrespectful in Ireland?
This is a very hard question to answer. What’s considered disrespectful by some will be fine by others. We always recommend to play it safe, avoid politics talk and stick to safe topics, like the weather and your trip.
What should you not say in Ireland?
Again, this will be subjective to the person you’re speaking to. If in doubt, play it safe. Ask for recommendations on things to do or focus on neutral conversations, like the weather.
Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he’d still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.