With 32,000 square miles full of incredible scenery, buzzing cities and the friendliest locals, it’s no surprise that Ireland attracts more than 11 million visitors annually. If you’re considering a trip to the Emerald Isle and you’ve never been before, here are a few things to expect and plan for.
If you’re going solo, then hiring a car is a good option for travelling around Ireland, as the train network is rather limited. Alternatively, group tours around Northern Ireland are great fun and will help you meet people along the way. A tour will also save you having to navigate to your destination and find a parking space!
You won’t be short of accommodation options in Ireland. From cosy, traditional B&Bs to awe-inspiring castles, there’s somewhere to suit all tastes and budgets.Glamping is popular, or you might choose to stay on a college campus or even in a lighthouse.
Eating and drinking out isn’t cheap, especially if you’re in Dublin. Try to find the less touristy areas for the more affordable, authentic dining experience. You’ll find atmospheric pubs and experience great live music every night of the week – an important part of Irish culture – but expect to spend decent cash.
If in doubt, ask the locals. People don’t come much more friendly than the Irish, so get chatting to them. They’re incredibly proud of where they’re from and will delight in telling you the best places to eat, drink and shop. So whether you’re waiting for the bus or in line at the supermarket, don’t be afraid to make new friends.
Be aware that because it’s still part of the UK, Northern Ireland uses Pound Sterling, whilst in Southern Ireland you’ll spend Euros – something to be prepared for if you’re touring both the north and south.
Ireland wasn’t nicknamed the “Land of Eternal Winter”by the Romans for nothing. The weather is changeable, to say the least, with plenty of year-round rain – but you’ll be rewarded with sunny days too. Summers are generally on the cool side while winter remains mild, thanks to the Mexican Gulf Stream from which Ireland gets its weather. And be warned that it can get windy on the coast.
If you see a sign on the road that says “An Ghaeltacht”, this means you’re entering an area that speaks only Gaelic. Just 4% of Ireland speaks Gaelic, although they do teach it in schools. Google Translate will be your best friend, but some useful phrases include: “Dia duit”, which means God to you, but translates to “hello”. And, importantly, “Sláinte” means health, but translates to “cheers!”.
See the Sights
The Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, Killarney National Park, The Ring of Kerry… there are countless attractions to visit while you’re in Ireland. But try and discover off the beaten track, too, because the country’s full of hidden gems that you may not have read about. From Blackhead Lighthouse to Belleek Castle and Conor Pass, seek out Ireland’s lesser known attractions and you’ll be rewarded.