If you are traveling to Ireland or dream to do so in the future, this will help provide you with all the information you may need to know prior to your travels! I road tripped the country for 2 weeks and found out a lot of things the hard way… so I’m here to help 🙂
If you are looking for specific things to see and places to go in Ireland- click here instead!
- Ireland uses Euros. Northern Ireland uses Pound Sterling. Although you would never know you entered a new republic while driving from one to the other, they are not the same country and do NOT use the same currency. If exchanging from USD, Euros exchange at about $1 = .89€ and Pounds exchange at about $1 = .78£
- ATM’s are the best place to get cash. Depending on your bank you could have NO foreign fee at all or up to a 3% fee. Do research if your bank is affiliated with any banks in Ireland. My personal bank happened to be affiliated with Ireland’s “Barclays” bank, so I had no fee to withdrawal money from there.. but all other banks I did have a fee.
- VISA & MasterCard are widely accepted everywhere, but Discover and American Express are not accepted!
- ENTRY TO COUNTRY
- Coming from America, I only needed a valid passport for entry. (Fun fact!: If traveling TO the US from Ireland, they have pre-clearance for US in the Dublin airport so you do NOT go through customs when you arrive in the US).
- A lot of passports from certain countries DO require a special VISA to enter Ireland… to see if your country of origin requires a VISA to enter Ireland, please click here for VISA requirements
- RENTAL CARS
- If you only plan on staying in big cities (please don’t plan on that) but if you do, you won’t need a car.. you can walk everywhere or take public transport and parking is a pain in the butt in the cities. BUT I highly recommend getting a rental car in Ireland as you will be able to see WAY more of the country than you would with a tour company or public transport. You can go at your own pace and drive as much or as little per day as you wish. HOWEVER:
- Manual cars are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than automatic cars (as with most countries). If you can drive stick, you’re in luck and your rental will be very cheap. (I had to get an automatic as I don’t drive manual, lol).
- There are plenty of rental companies with the airport shuttle. I used thrifty/dollar rental car because they had the best prices I could find and I had no issues. EuRopcar & SixT are also cheap, but reviews aren’t as good.
- DOWNFALL: INSURANCE. Some companies require you to purchase it. Others you can opt out of insurance if you wish, but they will require a €5,000 hold on your credit card if you opt out! If you don’t have this limit or availability on your card, be prepared to buy the insurance. Because they didn’t accept my 2 American credit cards with high limits, I had to buy insurance and it was notttt cheap.
- ^HOWEVER: You will be driving on the left hand side of the road, in the right hand side of the car, on VERY narrow roads.. so insurance is probably recommended. In the end, it was a blessing in disguise that I was forced to buy it because the roads were so narrow that my entire left side of my car got scratched from front to back by branches on the side of the road as I passed oncoming traffic so we could fit on the road.
DRIVING & GAS PRICES
- As I just mentioned, you will be driving on the left hand side of the road. You will go left around roundabouts (and there are roundabouts everywhere).
- The roads are super narrow… especially on the west coast. I now understand why hatchbacks and narrow cars are popular in Europe. I often had to pull over on the side to let an oncoming car pass me as we both would not fit.
- GAS: Gas is EXPENSIVE. It is sold in euros/litre or pounds/litre. In May 2017, I would say it was about €1.30/litre for unleaded and €1.20/litre for diesel…. on average this translates to about $4.72/gallon! *Get a car with good gas mileage.*
- It rains. A lot. It rained nearly everyday while I was there. But it’s not torrential downpours and they don’t have thunderstorms. It will rain for 20 minutes then be sunny for 20 minutes, repeat. People are used to it and carry on about their day. Just bring a raincoat with you and you will be fine. I hiked in the rain, boated in the rain, walked in the rain.. alls I needed was the raincoat.
- In May, the highs were in the 60s and lows in the 50s. It wasn’t the temperatures that were cold, it was the wind. On the coasts the wind is very intense and you will definitely want a jacket. But in places with no wind, it was quite warm and I didn’t even need long sleeves. Just wear layers that you can put on and take off as needed.
- I stayed in a lot of bed & breakfasts and AirBNBs. They were significantly cheaper than the hotels and the hosts were sooooo friendly. You may not get quite as much privacy as a hotel, but if you are a budget traveler like me, I highly recommend them to save some money. Browse AirBNB.com to search specific areas you want to stay in. I only paid $30/night (€26) for my AirBNBs!! *2 of Bed & Breakfasts I stayed in and highly recommend would be*:
- Both places listed above had super nice hosts, beautiful views, private ensuite bathrooms, and delicious hot breakfasts.. all for no more than $50/night(€44).
- I did stay in average hotels a couple of the nights. My favorites were Torc Hotel in the south (Killarney) and The Lodge Hotel in Northern Ireland. Browse Hotels.com for others.. in all price ranges! Plus, booking online through a website like that makes sure to avoid any international fees.
- ^There are plenty of castles and upscale hotels to stay in too for the experience! I chose not to to spend my money elsewhere, but there are plenty of them that are beautiful!
- You will be charged for plastic bags. This is something I didn’t know prior to going. When I purchased multiple things at a gas station and then paid, I asked for a bag because I couldn’t carry it all and had to pay 20 cents more per bag. As my trip continued, I realized that this rule applied everywhere. Not a huge deal, just something to know. It’s a very environmentally friendly “green” country.
- There are sheep everywhere. Maybe not in the big cities, but everywhere outside of them. Like, everywhere. I had never loved sheep so much until I was there. The fact that they just roamed freely in some places and I had to stop my car to let them cross the street, melted my animal-loving heart.
- You don’t have to tip in restaurants. Being an American this always makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong when I don’t tip.. but don’t feel bad. Wait staff get paid for their work without depending on tips. I was told if you really felt you had exceptional service from a bartender or something, just 10% tip will do.
- The Republic of Ireland has been an independent country since 1922. Northern Ireland is a republic of the United Kingdom. They are separate!!!
- SAFETY= As a solo female traveler, I never once felt threatened or scared. I mean I don’t go roaming streets at night, but I honestly felt perfectly safe my entire trip. And also random, guns are illegal there, the cops didn’t even carry them on them.
- ELECTRONICS= The wall port is 3-pronged and looks like this↓
- RECOMMENDED CITIES/ITINERARY
- The most populous cities in Ireland are Dublin, Limerick, Cork & Galway, and Belfast in Northern Ireland. These are where you will find a lot of active churches, museums, pubs, shops, restaurants, etc. However, you will find yourself driving through many many small towns as you drive between the larger cities. In between those small towns you will see beautiful countrysides, sheep, cows, horses, mountains, and wonderful landscapes.
- Depending on your time limit, it is up to you how much of the country you will get to see. I spent 2 weeks in the country which was the perfect amount of time to road trip almost the entire country without being rushed. Granted, I didn’t spend more than 1 night anywhere.. but I feel as though I still got to experience the most by doing so. If you are able to do this, the general map of my drive is shown below↓↓ —I basically started in Dublin, moved southwest, then up the entire west coast south to north, then across Northern Ireland and back south to Dublin:
- Dublin-Killiney-Wicklow-Cork-Blarney-Killarney-Ring of Kerry Coastal area-Limerick-Doolin/Cliffs of Moher-Burren NP-Connemara NP-Sligo-Donegal-Slieve League-Northern Ireland coast-Coleraine-NE Coast-Antrim-Belfast-back to Dublin. (its a horrible map job that only lists a few places, sorry). Stopping at many small places along the way.
- *If you don’t have time to do all areas of the country, please refer to my other blog post for specific places and pictures, so you can pick and choose which areas are most appealing to you!↓↓
*FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SPECIFIC PLACES I went and loved (and a bunch of pictures of them) refer to my other blog post:
******** 25 Beautiful Destinations in IRELAND ********
-IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS AT ALL, please feel free to comment on this post, email me at KellyNicoleTravel@gmail.com, OR message me on one of my social media accounts!
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Happy Travels! 🙂