Ireland Travel Tips: 25+ Things You Should Know Before You Visit!
Ireland is often said to be the land of a thousand welcomes. And, as a local, I have put together some of my top Ireland Travel Tips that will help you on your first trip to the Emerald Isle. We Irish are known for our unpredictable weather, witty, yet sometimes confusing sense of humour and for having the ‘craic’. In this guide, I will break down all there is to know before visiting Ireland for the first time. So, let’s dive in!
10 tips for Ireland travel that you may not know!
First, let me highlight my top 10 travel tips for Ireland that first-timers may not yet know. These tips may not be obvious but they are things you should know before you visit. In this section of the post, we will discuss a range of things from driving on the other side of the road, to our unique choice of words and our love for potatoes (trust me, it’s not just a stereotype).
1. We drive on the other side of the road
One of the most essential tips for travelling to Ireland has to do with driving. Unlike, most countries, we drive on the left-hand side of the road. However, don’t let this scare you. We have signs EVERYWHERE reminding tourists what side they should be driving on. Especially at the airport once you arrive in the country.
When visiting Ireland, I always recommend renting a car – there is so much to see, especially in the countryside. We mostly drive manual (or stick), so if you want an automatic make sure and ask at the rental desk – otherwise you will be crunching the gears and grinding the clutch as you meander the country.
All you need to do is forget everything you have ever known about driving in the US and reverse it, then you’ll be fine! It’s easier said than done though…
In a nutshell, be careful when on Irish roads. It is also important to note that it is not legal to turn right on red in Ireland!
2. We say one thing but might mean another.
When it comes to tips on travelling to Ireland, there is one thing you should be aware of sometimes we say one thing but might mean another. Let me explain!
You will definitely hear someone say ‘crack’ in shape or form. Don’t panic! It is not addictive drugs being discussed. It is actually ‘fun’ we speak of, and it’s spelt ‘craic’ by the way. So ‘what’s the craic?’ is ‘whats going on?’ or ‘what’s the story?’ – Just let them know your ‘grand‘ (another way of saying good!).
As well as meaning “fine”, or just “okay”, “grand” can also mean substantial and pleasant, however, such as “grand stretch”, noting the brightness of an evening.
You will encounter a smattering of the Irish language as you tour the island, especially down south and in the west of the country. that said, you might come across it anywhere. Phrases such as ‘beal bocht’ (pronounced bail buckd) means the poor mouth or moaning as in, ‘Ah, he’s always got the beal bocht!’ – he’s always moaning.
Here is a few more Irish sayings to help you along:
- Gaff – slang for “house”
- Nixer – is a side job or side hustle, more than likely paid for in cash, so the taxman never gets sight of it.
- Going on “the sesh” – going drinking
- Mar Dhea (pronounce mar ya) – sceptical Irish term, essentially meaning “yeah, right” or “as if”
- Jacks – toilet
- Eejit – idiot
- Sleeveen – sly person.
- Dose – An awful dose of an illness, as in a large measurement of something, but that can lead to having a bad dose itself, which in term can lead to someone else having an awful dose.
- ‘I will, yeah’ – I won’t
- A guy is ‘your man’ – A guy walks into a bar / your man walks into a bar.
- Pants are underwear – not trousers
- We don’t say ‘Top of the morning’
There are loads more and probably too many to mention but you’ll figure it out and return home with a few words yourself, you never knew.
3. Our concept of distances is flawed.
When you stop along the road and ask for directions, be wary! The Irish have a rare sense of distance and you might find yourself more confused than before you asked. Phrases such as ‘just down the road’ and ‘not far’ are fraught with danger, to the point where the concept of the ‘country mile’ was found.
A country mile is not like a regular mile, and how far it is has never been exactly determined. So when asking for directions and someone says that ‘its just around the bend…’ it more than likely isn’t.
This is probably one of the tips for Ireland travel that you will 100% experience on your trip. You have been warned if an Irish person tells you ‘it is only around the corner’ that could mean anywhere from a 5-minute walk to a 20-minute drive away. Distance and time is not really our strong point.
Also worth noting is that locals expect you to know the area and may describe directions in terms of being ‘just passed Sean’s house, or take a right and when you get to Murphy’s farm, it just passed there and not far really’.
4. Tipping is not obligatory anywhere.
In Ireland, it is not obligatory to leave a tip. It is a nice thing to do but, rest assured, it is not compulsory by any service provider in Ireland. Whilst it is a nice thing to do in restaurants and bars, staff in those establishments will not chase after you if you just pay the bill and leave. They might not like it, but will accept it.
The idea of a minimum gratuity of ten or twenty percent is not necessary either. A tip of 10% is probably the average amount left in restaurants, assuming you are happy with the food and service. However in bars, if you do decide to leave a tip – the balance of change is fine. So if you buy a pint and it costs €4.80 the balance of 20c is fine. Small but grand.
5. We eat potatoes with (almost) everything.
What rice is to Asia, potatoes are to the Irish. Roasted, boiled, fried or baked, potatoes are served pretty much with everything, sometimes even breakfast.
Our love of the humble spud probably harks back to famine times, when we had none! In the Great Famine or Great Hunger between 1845 and 1849, Ireland suffered from mass starvation and disease. This dark time in Ireland’s history saw a million people die and another million people emigrate. The famine came about from crop failure caused by potato blight.
As a result, when the crop righted itself and potatoes became plentiful again, we couldn’t get enough of them, and that has continued through the centuries. So prepare yourself for a carbs overload when visiting Ireland.
6. Crack is a totally different thing from what you think it is.
This is a serious one – well kind of! We know that around the world, crack usually means crack cocaine. Paradoxically here in Ireland, all we want is the ‘craic’.
On arrival to Ireland, almost every single person visiting Ireland will not know what the ‘craic’ is, but I guarantee you, by the time you are returning home, you will have had the ‘craic’, want more ‘craic’ and understand why every single Irish person everywhere in the world enjoys the ‘craic’. Strange? Yes, absolutely but you’ll know it when you feel it. This might seem crazy but if you have a look at the video above, things might become a little clearer.
7. Gas is petrol, and Fries are chips!
French fries are chips. Chips are crisps. Trash is rubbish. I know it’s confusing but that’s just the way we speak. You will get the hang of it, and even if you don’t, we know what you mean because Americans have been coming to Ireland for many years and we all watch American TV.
You might get a little bit of harmless ‘slagging’ (banter) about it but no harm is meant. We tend to make fun of people as a national way of saying we like you. If you have a self-deprecating response, we’ll love you all the more.
8. Summer is not (always) the best time to visit
You would presume with Ireland’s track record with the weather that the summer months would be the best time to book your trip. However, that is not entirely true. Yes, we do see more sun in May, June and July than say November and December but… September is one of my personal favourite months in Ireland. There are far fewer crowds in the tourist spots. The Irish children are back in school. And the weather 9 times out of 10 tends to be somewhat sunny.
If you are looking for a winter escape then consider visiting Ireland for Christmas. The cities and towns will be dressed up in beautiful lights and everything seems that extra bit special. Just be mindful, it gets dark before 4 pm in December.
9. Layers will become your best friend!
If you take away anything from this travel tips Ireland post let it be this. Pack layers!
I already mentioned how our weather can be unpredictable and yes, while we experience A LOT of rain. It is not actually raining all the time. In reality, we never really know what kind of weather we will get.
In the morning we may experience some sleet, by mind day it is windy but dry and in the evening it is sunny and 18+ degrees. That is why it is important to pack layers. That way you can adapt to whatever the Irish weather decides to throw your way. Don’t worry by day 3 of your trip you will adjust to the concept of 4 seasons in one day!
10. Bring an adapter
In Ireland, we do not have the same electrical voltage as they do in mainland Europe. Our sockets (outlets) take an electricity flow of 230 volt AC. Therefore, if you are travelling to Ireland from anywhere other than the UK you will need an adapter to charge your devices.
Another important thing to note is it is not common to have a charging point in Irish bathrooms. Some hotels will have the option to plug in an electric razor, however, a main outlet will not be present.
Things to know about Ireland before visiting for the first time!
If this is your first visit to the Emerald Isle, you may have some concerns before your trip. Luckily, you have a local guide like me to keep your mind at ease.
I have listed down below some handy Ireland Tips that will make your vacation as carefree as possible. After all, a trip to Ireland is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I will walk you through Irish traditions, customs and social behaviours.
11. Our most popular beer is black (not green)!
We do like our beer. Oh and we like spirits too. In general, there is a stereotypical persona that Irish people are heavy drinkers. That, perhaps, is a little unfair, but we do put whiskey in our (Irish) coffee. Suffice to say that Guinness is a very popular beer (not beer, it’s stout!) in Ireland but it is an acquired taste. And when it comes to giving travelling in Ireland tips, I advise trying Guinness while you visit.
Even if it’s just one pint. We Irish joke that Guinness does not travel well, we strongly believe it tastes best in Ireland vs other places around the world. Give it a try, and let us know what you think!
Guinness is like no beer that you are used to, but it does look as good as it tastes. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is the number one visitor attraction in the country so you will probably end up there at some if visiting Ireland. It is worth a visit and best to finish the tour with a drink in the gravity bar – the views over the city of Dublin are terrific.
We also have microbreweries distilling all sorts of fine Irish whiskey too. Lots are sold in the many pubs around the country, so be sure and try one. And on whiskey, across the river from the Guinness Storehouse, you’ll find the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street – this is also worth a visit.
12. Our country is old, like really old!
There is no denying. this little island has been around a very very long time. The earliest evidence of the human presence in Ireland is dated at 10,500 BCE (12,500 years ago). The island was Christianised from the 5th century onward.
From the 9th century, small numbers of Vikings settled in Ireland, becoming the Norse Gaels. Anglo-Normans conquered parts of Ireland in the 12th century, while England’s 16th/17th-century (re)conquest and colonisation of Ireland brought many English and Lowland Scots people to parts of the island, especially the north. So it’s a bit of a mixed bag really. Suffice to say we’ve been here a long time.
To put those timelines in perspective, the Vikings came from the north in the 800s AD. Contrast that with the fact that the USA would still be waiting another seven hundred years to be discovered. As a result, the country is steeped in history and mystery. All waiting to be discovered by you!
That means I have some great news for those looking to see the magical side of Ireland. Due to the country’s history, we have A LOT of famous castles, from the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary to the beautiful Barley Castle in County Cork. And…that is not all. It is possible to spend a night in one of Ireland’s many castle hotels. Talk about a bucket list moment!
13. We are very friendly and open and always happy to help.
Ireland hasn’t been badged with the name ‘Land of a thousand welcomes’ for nothing. If you find yourself lost or stuck somewhere, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are a friendly bunch for the most part. Always open to having a chat and am interested in you. So don’t be afraid of strangers asking you all about yourself. We are genuinely interested.
14. For the most part, private citizens don’t own firearms.
We have a simple rule for the most part; ‘Only Bad Guys Have Guns’. Even our police force doesn’t carry guns. No good guys have guns. Well except for maybe a farmer who has a licensed shotgun, or the enthusiast who goes hunting birds, but these are all rifles – there are NO handguns in the hands of law-abiding citizens…we just don’t have them.
In the unlikely event that you come across a person with a handgun you are (i) very unfortunate, (ii) in the wrong place at the wrong time, (iii) involved with bad people or (iv) you are a criminal consorting with criminals.
So in a nutshell, if someone has a handgun they are probably a criminal. If you are lucky, they could a member of the special branch of An Garda Siochana (that’s what we call the Irish police force). Regardless of who they are, get yourself away from them. It’s unlikely to be a terrorist, we don’t have many of those.
15.We have lots of things to see if you are visiting Ireland.
One of my favourite travel tips for Ireland is to make use of the country’s size! There are a lot of things to do and see on this small island. So much so, that you could spend the morning hiking a mountain and by evening time be in the ocean for a scenic dip.
Dublin City is very compact, born from a Viking settlement thousands of years ago, and is quite easy to navigate on foot. And while there is so much to see and do in the city itself I recommend exploring beyond the city walls. Spend a day or two taking part in some of Dublin’s beautiful walks, or perhaps enjoy some of the many active breaks that are within close driving distance of the city. As I mentioned earlier, I would recommend hiring a car if visiting Ireland as it makes your trip far more flexible.
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The Wild Atlantic Way is one of the world’s best coastal drives with some incredible places to stay with scenic views of the ocean. We visited Mayo for the first time last summer, and as you can see from the image above, you can’t afford to miss this when visiting Ireland.
I am a big fan of the Causeway Coast, not only is the drive spectacular but with the Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and all the Game of Thrones filming locations – you might need to stay a night or two on the Causeway Coast to fit it all in!
Killarney is another town that should be on your list if visiting Ireland, and the Munster Vales has some top-class attractions including the Waterford Greenway.
Read: Top Things to do in the Munster Vales.
I could go on but your holiday would have come and gone if I was to tell you all you need to see in Ireland. Best grab a lonely planet or check out some more of our holidays in Ireland here.
16. There is not that many of us, but traffic can be bad.
There are quite a few cars in Ireland and not the best infrastructure, especially in cities. This is primarily due to the fact that the cities grew from towns and villages and spread out.
Most of the roads hark back to ancient times and have been ‘upgraded’ from then. So expect narrow streets and traffic. It is probably best to explore on foot where possible, and if you must drive from location to location, have a leisurely breakfast, avoid peak rush hour traffic times, and then set off to your next destination. It will save a lot of frustration.
Having said that, Ireland is not a big country and you will get to most destinations in under four hours. In fact, you can drive from the most northernly point of Ireland which is Malin Head in county Donegal, to the most southern point of Ireland which is Mizen Head in County Cork, in eight hours according to Google maps – but you will have to stop for tea!
Just bear in mind that Dublin’s own ring road, the M50, is similar to LA freeways at peak traffic times – then you’ll be just fine!
17. We do like a good ‘session’.
Travelling in Ireland can be a lot of Craic (fun). Especially if you plan to take part in the nightlife scene while visiting. Irish pubs are the best in the world, FACT! That’s why we even export them with ‘craic’ enclosed.
In almost every major city in the world from Dubai to the streets of Manhattan, you will eventually stumble upon an Irish bar. But the best ones are still homegrown. We like to think our beer/stout (Guinness) is superior and we like to think that our Jameson Irish Whiskey is the best in the world. But one thing is for sure, we absolutely love our pubs. When visiting Ireland, I have no doubt that once you walk into any pub, you will be greeted with warmth.
‘Its like coming home’ someone once said. There are big ones and small ones, city pubs and country pubs, and there is one if not more in every town.
If you get out of the city and find yourself in a small village in the evening, you will inevitably come across two lads (or ladies) in a corner of the pub with a banjo in hand. Beside him will be a lad with a fiddle and usually to finish the threesome, a guitar player.
Here they will play late into the night, doing so for a few pints to keep the throat from becoming dry. You will hear a nation’s history told in song with songs about rebels, war, emigration and long-lost love. So find a country pub in the evening. Order a pint and a small one (a pint of Guinness and a glass of whiskey) and enjoy songs and stories until the small hours.
You might even get locked in. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing! Ask anyone.
18. We speak very quickly. It is English but accents might confuse you!
There is no denying it, Irish people speak quite fast. When you combine that with an Irish accent, especially from the north, south, or west of the country, you might find yourself at a bit of a loss interpreting what we say. Don’t be afraid to ask us to slow it down a bit. We know that we speak English, but we also know that we speak in what might seem like a foreign language.
So when you find yourself sitting in a bar, hotel or coffee shop in Kerry, beside a local gentleman with a peaked cap, rest assured it will be a colourful albeit ‘hard to understand’ conversation.
I’m sorry to say that you will more than likely have the same problem in across all Irish counties. My advice, is just rolls with it. It may seem that they are speaking in Irish to you, but believe me, it’s probably English. 🙂
19. Our climate is odd. It rains a lot and is often cold, even in summer.
It really doesn’t matter when you come here, its cold. I don’t mean ‘Iceland in winter’ cold but temperatures rarely exceed 30 degrees celsius. That’s right, we use the Celsius method to measure temperature, not Fahrenheit. And when I say 30 degrees celsius is the temperature, that is a very rare occurrence!
Ireland’s hottest-ever temperature recorded is 33.3 celsius (92 degrees Fahrenheit) and that was way back in June 1887. So if travelling to Ireland during the summer, it is best to err on the side of caution and pack a sweatshirt and a raincoat into your suitcase, because chances are you will find it cold and will experience a soft day otherwise known as a rainy one!
20. There is more than one Irish accent
Contrary to what Hollywood may have you believe, the Irish accent is not that high-pitched melodic sound that we are used to hearing in the movies. In fact, it can be painful to listen to for Irish people. For such a small country we have a wide range of accents. You can drive 5 minutes down the road, or meet two locals who attended the same school yet they speak with a different accents. Sometimes it even gets confusing for us Irish to understand each other.
The moral of the story is if you don’t understand us to ask us to repeat ourselves. I promise we will not be offended. It is something we are used to!
21. Bring a good pair of walking shoes
Everyone’s itinerary while in Ireland will be different, however, a large portion of our tourist attractions are outdoors. And, with the typical Irish weather, odds are you will come across a rain shower or two. Therefore, I recommend packing a good pair of walking shoes that a waterproof.
If you plan on hiking on your visit then hiking boots are essential. Even for less strenuous walks as most of Ireland’s nature trails consist of ‘boggy’ terrain. Not only do we have some fantastic walks to enjoy we have a range of outdoor activities, from cycling along our beautiful greenways to adventure day trips like kayaking on the Wild Atlantic or walking along the daring Gobbins Cliff path.
22. Do not forget your waterproofs!
Most people will own a good rain jacket for those less favourable days. However, you may forget to pack waterproof trousers, and while they are not the most fashionable piece of clothing, they may just make or break your trip to Ireland. If the weather is not on your side while you visit, a good pair of waterproofs will allow you to still explore the beauty of Ireland without dampening your spirit (yes, that pun was intended).
23. Don’t forget your camera
Nowadays, with our phones, we all have access to a great camera and this point is just a simple reminder to not forget them! After all, it would be a shame to miss out on pictures of some of Ireland’s top Instagram spot!
It also can be a great idea to bring an action camera such as a go pro, especially if you are travelling with your family. That way you can capture the fantastic memories you make in Ireland and look back at them in years to come.
24. You should check out the music scene (not just in the pubs)
A trip to Ireland is not complete without checking out the amazing musical talents our little island has to offer. We Irish are known for our storytelling, and we like to do it in a melodic way. So, whether you are walking down Grafton Street listening to the buskers playing a tune or perhaps you buy tickets to our comedic pantomimes.
One thing is for certain: you will fall in love with Ireland even more when you listen to our musicians play. Sometimes you may even be asked to join in, so warm up those vocal cords.
25. Do not skip out on Ireland’s beaches!
You may not consider Ireland a beach destination due to the weather. However, we have some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, particularly on the West Coast. My favourite is Keem Bay on Achill Island in County Mayo. In fact, there is some special about Mayo’s coastline. The white sandy beaches are often left untouched, especially those in more rural areas.
Another great spot for beaches is the stunning county of Donegal. This is the perfect destination for those looking to stay near a beach while in Ireland. While you are there be sure to check out the Wild Alpca Way on the Inishowen Peninsula, where you can quite literally walk Alpacas while taking in the incredible views of Five Fingers Strand.
26. Don’t just visit Dublin
Don’t get me wrong, Dublin is a must-visit place when planning a trip to Ireland. It is the capital after all! However, I advise leaving the city at least once on your visit if time allows. Not too far away from Dublin is the Beautiful Wicklow National Park, home to incredible hiking trails and adventure activities.
Another great day trip option from Dublin is a day exploring the Boyne Valley, home to Newgrange, Trim Castle and Ireland’s only theme park, Emerald Park.
27. You will feel like you belong.
Travelling to Ireland tips are best delivered by a local, so I wanted to finish on an important one. No matter when you visit you will receive a warm and friendly welcome. We want you to experience our country and all that it has to offer. Forget about the rain if you experience it (and you probably will), and shake off the jet lag. And have fun!
Walk our narrow winding streets, rent one of our strangely small but economical cars with the steering wheel on the other side and take off on the roads of Ireland.
Travel north, south, east or west and you will experience scenery, fun and craic, warmth and hospitality that we are so proud of. You will take home stories to friends and family that we hope will see you coming back or them travelling for the first time. There is always a céad mile failte (one thousand welcomes in the Irish language) waiting around every corner for you.
I thought I’d try my hand at writing on Sarah’s blog and see how I’d get on. I hope you like my twist on our fair nation and it helps you when visiting Ireland. I might even see you for a pint…..